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Mrs. Sundberg's Recipe Collection - 12 tried-and-true--one for each month of the year--featuring an introduction and tips from Mrs. Sundberg herself

Decadence Doesn't Have to be Pricey

January 16, 2007

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I heard it all from what I'd call the lap of luxury — a hotel room with a king-sized bed, a view of the city, a pile of fresh towels in the bathroom, and a phone with a button for room service. Since the kids were at their grandmother's in Owatonna for the weekend, and Mr. Sundberg was hard at work on a new series of motivational talks, I figured an afternoon of window-shopping and a night in a hotel would suit me just fine.

I'll be the first to say I'm a frugal person for whom a life of decadence has little appeal. I was raised that way, but I have learned that if you don't give yourself a break now and then and indulge yourself a bit, you run the risk of a meltdown and you don't want that. For my friends, decadence ranges from yoga workshops to occasional massages to monthly dinners at the Chinese buffet across town. Nancy takes a trip a year with her sister (she just returned from Tuscany) and Carol goes on cruises with hiking excursions and a room with a little balcony. But decadence doesn't have to be pricey. The kids love a good snow day when they can stay in their pajamas until noon and watch their favorite movies and eat pancakes and fried side pork for dinner. And Mr. Sundberg enjoys, on occasion, an afternoon at an auto show and tater tot hot dish for dinner, served up with a glass of red wine.

For me, a night away now and then is a glorious thing, and Saturday night was no exception. I checked in early, took a long walk downtown, and got back in time for the show. I unpacked the things I'd picked up on my walk - a bottle of Riesling and some spring rolls, a small loaf of Ciabatta bread and a round of Gouda, and a dessert made of raspberries and mascarpone. Oh, and two magazines, one travel and one cooking. So I poured a glass of wine and took a bath, ate my dinner and read while I listened to the show, watched Pride and Prejudice on the movie channel, had dessert and more wine and took another bath just before midnight.

I had all the towels I needed, and wouldn't have to wash and fold them later. I had lots of soap, too, and food, and things to read, and a color TV with my own remote, and a loaf of fresh banana bread I'd brought from home, just in case. That's the fine thing about room service. I never did push that button, but what decadence to know it was there. Same with the banana bread, which I left for the lovely woman with the glowing smile who stopped by to clean the room Sunday morning. I have a late check-out, I told her, and enough towels for just one more hot bath. Which was long and hot, and during which I thought good thoughts about home, and what I might cook for dinner.

This recipe has changed completely since I found it in a cookbook a couple years back. You can't really mess it up, and there's a lot of freedom to make it your own. Something I'd recommend you do with every good recipe you try and try again.

Sesame Beef
Get a good, lean top round steak and slice it into thin strips. Put it in a bowl, and pour over 1/3 cup of each: sugar, soy, and oil. (You can use 2 T oil if you're watching fat content.)

Marinade for a few hours or overnight.

An hour or two before dinner, toast about 1/3 c sesame seeds and set aside.
Pour meat/marinade into a skillet with 1 T oil. Cook on medium until meat is brown. Mix 3-4 heaping tablespoons cornstarch with 1 cup water. Add to meat and stir frequently. Add more cornstarch/water mixture to thicken as desired. Sauce should be brown, not pale, and have a rich strong flavor. About 15 minutes before serving, throw a handful of baby carrots sliced in half on top of the meat. Stir in. Carrots should be more crisp than tender.

Sprinkle sesame seeds over and serve on a bed of white or brown rice.


This is good with a boxed mix of teriyaki noodles or fried rice as a side dish, or egg rolls, and homemade blueberry muffins.

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