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Lumpy or Not, Gravy is Great

Picture a crispy country-fried steak smothered in thick brown gravy. Or homemade biscuits covered in white sausage gravy. Conjure up the aroma of fried pork chops topped with crispy pan drippings gravy. Likewise, chicken breasts drizzled with herb gravy; a glistening turkey with a side of perfect giblet gravy and a meatball sandwich of peppers, onions, and mushroom gravy.

I'm a little hesitant about jumping onto the gravy train. It's not exactly healthy or advisable to eat in any form if you have serious health issues. However, there are ways to enjoy it without ending up in the ER. The best way is to make your own, specifically a healthier version. Generations of cooks have mastered gravy-making, so I believe you can, too.

But first, what about the dreaded lumps? Our grandmothers may have been okay with lumpy gravy, but these are modern times. We’ve figured out a way to make gravy that’s not only healthy, but requires a spoon to collect every delicious drop.

A restaurant chef's gravy-making tutorial was enlightening. Gravy lumps can be avoided by combining equal amounts of flour with butter, margarine or vegetable oil, not water, which makes glue, not gravy. Making a flour-fat roux ensures the mixture is smooth, not lumpy. For healthier gravy, simply substitute a low-fat butter product.

Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching, until it becomes a darkened paste. Stirring in beef or chicken stock, whole or skim milk, along with pan drippings, mushrooms or herbs, is the final step to delicious, lump-free gravy.

From-scratch gravy is the optimal version, but packaged gravy mixes are an acceptable substitute. And canned gravy is perfectly fine for a quick stir-fry meal. The aromatic gravy is the perfect binder for sliced beef, broccoli, peppers and onions. Even better, the results are lump-free.

Easy Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

1 pound thin-sliced boneless beef sirloin steak, sliced into long strips

1 (12-ounce) jar home-style beef gravy

1 (12-ounce) package frozen broccoli florets, defrosted

1 large yellow onion, julienned into strips

1 green pepper, julienned into long strips

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

Garlic powder to taste

1 cup brown rice

While vegetables and meat are cooking, cook rice according to package directions.

In medium skillet over medium-high heat, pour one tablespoon of oil, enough to cover bottom. Add beef strips and cook until browned and juices evaporate. Remove beef from skillet and set aside.

Coat bottom of skillet with oil, then add broccoli, onion, and pepper slices. Sauté a few minutes until tender but still crisp.

Return beef to skillet and stir in gravy, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder until heated through and bubbly. Place cooked rice in serving dish and top with stir-fried beef and vegetables.

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