Best Stew Ever

So this one was worth the wait…

And I got to use my new knife (a lot).

Here’s the Recipe:

Hearty Beef Stew, Cook’s Country Magazine

5 pounds boneless beef chuck-eye, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

3 T vegetable oil

4 medium onions, chopped fine

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

2 c low-sodium chicken or beef broth

3 T soy sauce

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 1/2 t minced fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 T Minute Tapioca

2 c frozen peas, thawed

1. Dry beef with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 T oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add half of beef and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to slow-cooker and repeat with remaining beef (you shouldn’t need more oil).

2. Add 1 T oil, onions, and 1/4 t salt to empty skillet and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring well, for 2 minutes.  Add broth and soy sauce, bring to simmer, and transfer to slow-cooker.

3. Toss carrots, parsnips, potatoes, 1/2 t thyme, and remaining 1 T oil into bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wrap vegetables in foil packet that will fit in slow cooker.  Stir bay leaves and tapioca into slow cooker; set vegetable packet on top of beef.

4. Set slow-cooker to high, cover and cook for 6 to 7 hours (Or cook on low for 10 to 11 hours.) Transfer vegetable packet to plate.  Carefully open packet (watch for steam) and stir vegetables and juices into stew.  Add remaining 1 t thyme and peas and let stand until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

As you can tell, there was a LOT of chopping and cutting involved.  I was really excited to use my new knife – and it cut like a dream!  I do have to say, though, I think it’s still a bit too big for my hands – but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

I also learned that, apparently, according to Hubby at least, stew is a tandem cooking event.  Or at least he treated it as such. 

In other words, he stood by me the whole time, assisting me with my cutting, measuring, stirring, etc.  For the most part, that was fine.  I was a tad irritated that when I was not chopping my onion properly, he made me start over on a new onion.  Seriously?  He’s lucky I let him stay in the room after that.

Here are a couple of pictures of my cutting handiwork:

My arch nemesis, the onion

Meat (and yes, I got in trouble for using the same cutting board — in my defense, I did cut my meat after all the veggies)

The Results:

So I decided to halve the recipe because it would only be serving 2 (and a quarter, if you count my picky four year old).  That made plenty for us all and left lots for yummy leftovers.

I skipped the parsnips because frankly, I have no idea what they are or what they taste like, so I thought I’d be safe.

Everything went really well (how could it not with Hubs standing over my shoulder the whole time!)…

And surprise to you all, it was absolutely amazing (the title didn’t give it away, did it?). 

Tender, flavorful.  So, so, so good!  Even my four-year old and 11 month old loved it.  That’s a sign of a good meal.

I highly recommend this recipe.  Enjoy!

Black Bean Soup and Homemade Flatbread

Oh, yeah.  The bar is raised – and I met the challenge.

Here are the recipes – (yes, with an s):

Black Bean Soup (from The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker Cookbook)

1 pound dried black beans     

1 onion, chopped    

3 cloves minced garlic   

2 stalks celery, minced  

1 minced jalapeno pepper 

1 T chili powder  

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1/2 t salt 4 c chicken stock

4 c water

2 T masa harina

1/3 c water

1. Sort and rinse black beans and cover with cold water.  Let stand overnight.  In the morning, drain beans, discard soaking water, and combine in a 4 to 5 quart crock pot with remaining ingredients except masa harina and 1/3 c water.

2. Turn crock pot to high.  In small bowl, mix masa harina with water and blend well.  Stir into soup, mixing well.  Cook on high for 30 minutes, stirring once during cooking, until soup is thickened.  Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Homemade Flat Bread (from foodnetwork.com, Kathleen Daelemans)

1 package active yeast     

1/2 t sugar      

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour     

1 t coarse salt

1 T fresh thyme leaves

3/4 c water (might need more)

1 t oil

1. In the bowl of a food processor combine the yeast, sugar, flour, salt and thyme. Pulse to combine. Add the water in a steady stream until the dough begins to form a ball, turn it on to a board and knead with the heel of your hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.

2. Coat a bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Put in a warm spot to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

3. When the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough, scrape it onto the counter and knead it lightly into a smooth ball. Cut into 20 pieces and with a rolling pin roll out to form very flat 5 to 6-inch circles.

4. Preheat a stove top grill pan over medium high. Do not oil. Place bread on hot grill and cook without touching it until you see bubbles on the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and continue to cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until bread has puffed up. Serve immediately.

The Process:

Well, the black bean soup turned out to be so easy.  I even remember to soak the beans the night before.  My husband also attempted to show me the anal retentive proper way to cut an onion that night.  Considering I was fighting a kidney stone and on a high dose of pain pills, I stayed in good spirits – though I can’t remember a thing and am just thankful I still have all my digits.

The next morning was super simple, and I even minced my jalapeno without gloves (gasp).  It was not a big deal at all.  I did pretty much double the salt and chili pepper, as I’ve realized this cookbook is geared toward the conservative when it comes to flavoring.

After that, I was pretty bored.  I was stuck at home for the day, as our car was in the shop, so I needed some more stimulation (I know, two kids just isn’t enough for me.)

So, I decided to try my hand at  making flatbread.  I looked it up online using the term easy which led to me to the recipe on FoodNetwork.com.  

Overall it was a cinch.  My only struggle was with the making the dough into round pieces.  Couldn’t quite get that working for me — and my four year old sous chef wasn’t helping much as he rolled out “turtle” and “car” bread, just for him.

Definitely not round

Grilled to perfection

The Results:

The black bean soup turned out pretty good.  I actually had the great idea to add fresh cilantro which turned it into amazing!  It made a ton, so tonight will definitely be leftovers.

The bread wasn’t exactly what I was going for, but I think that’s because I’d misunderstood what flatbread was.  I was hoping for a crispy, cracker like bread instead of a denser, chewy kind of bread.  It still tasted good, and according to Hubby, it was perfect.  I’ll take that compliment any day.

Yummy

Dinner is served

Stealing my Thunder

Please join me in a little rant. 

My husband, the amazing cook, recipe designer, and general overachiever in the kitchen, has many tools at his disposal.  He has his expensive, chef-grade pots and pans.  He has an amazing Viking range.  He has thousands (okay, maybe dozens) of kitchen gadgets and doo-dahs to help him make the perfect meal.

I have a crock-pot.

Guess what he decided to cook his meal in today?  Guess what smells amazing in my house?  Guess what’s going to blow out any and all recipes I might try?

Haven’t figured it out?  Well, he decided that he’d try cooking in my crock-pot today.  And not some easy recipe from a book.  No, he had to design his own special Pork Carnitas recipe.  And it already smells like heaven.

Crap.

Hashbrown Casserole

This week I wanted to try something a little different.  We’re a family that loves breakfast.  Every type of breakfast – sweet, savory, yum! – we’re in.  One of the things we enjoy doing is having breakfast for dinner.  It’s a treat – that can still be somewhat healthy and balanced.

This week I decided to make the Hash Brown Casserole from The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker Cookbook.  Here’s the recipe:

1 T butter                                      1/2 t salt  

1 onion, chopped                      1/8 t pepper

2 cloves minced garlic            1/2 t dried thyme leaves

6 c frozen hash browns             5 oz evaporated milk

3/4 c shredded mozzarella    1/2 c shredded cheddar

6 eggs

1. Spray inside of 3 1/2 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.  In skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until crisp-tender.  Let cool about 10 minutes.

2. Place 1/3 of the frozen hash brown potatoes in the slow cooker.  Add 1/3 of the onion mixture and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers, ending with the cheese.

My good news/bad news for the recipe: good news – no raw meat; bad news – I have to chop another onion.

The onion thing drives me nuts for a lot of reasons, not just because I can’t cut anything well (except my own hand, that is), but because I have very sensitive eyes.  I always end up with burning eyeballs and tears running down my face.  I figured there has to be another way!  When I looked up ideas online, I saw a suggestion for grating onion on a cheese grater.  Perfect – it will eliminate the need for a knife, and if I go fast enough, maybe less tears.

I kinda forgot the whole cheese grater – sharp cutting grates thing and ended up grating the tip of my finger.  Can I just tell you that normally that would hurt a lot, but add the joy of onion juices searing the wound, and you kinda get the picture.  Ouch, ouch ouch!

I ended up switching back to a knife awfully fast, and it didn’t seem so bad.  Big chunks, like always, but I wasn’t as scared as usual.

I added the butter and onion and garlic to the skillet and then realized I had no idea what cook until “crisp-tender” meant.  Seriously?  Aren’t these opposites???  Oh, well.  I cooked until the onions turned kinda brown and had some crispy edges.

I added the ingredients exactly as written, and it didn’t look too bad.  It cooked all day…

The Results:

Well, honestly, I wasn’t very impressed.  The casserole did not have a lot of flavor – some roasted peppers or sausage or both would really have made a big difference.  And maybe thinner hash browns instead of the small cubes.  Oh, and a lot more cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella.

So basically, a complete change may have saved this dish.  We ate it.  It was food.  I’m proud everything went fairly well, but not of the dish itself.

Hoping for better results next week.

French Dip Results

Well, it wasn’t bad.  Not exactly what I was hoping for either.  But, actually, that wasn’t my fault.  Yay!

Let’s start with the rest of the meal cooking…

Overall, it went off fairly well.  I removed the beef from the crock pot and set it aside to rest.  (I learned about resting beef in one of the thousands of hours I’ve been forced to watch Food Network).  I went to strain the broth — and was almost met with disaster!  Usually when I’m straining something (like boxed mac’n’cheese) I just set the strainer in the sink becasue what I’m keeping is in the strainer.  Not thinking clearly – or at all! – I did what I usually do, place the strainer right over the sink.  Just as I was about to pour the broth into it, my husband yells, “WAIT!”

And then I realize what I was just about to do – dump all my good au jus right down the drain!  Phew, that was a close call!

Next, I went to cut the beef roast.  (And this is where my meal became something other than what I wanted).  Instead of being able to be cut into nice beef slices, my roast ended up more like pot roast.  Big chunks of beef were not what I was expecting.  But, and this is amazing, my husband said that it wasn’t my fault.  He admitted it was his fault for purchasing a different cut of meat than what was suggested.

I swear I almost fell over when he admitted that a cooking mistake was HIS fault.  I wish I’d had a video camera for that.

While all this was happening, my buns were toasting in the oven with some tots for our veggie.  (Sidenote, I’m thinking I may have to work on the healthy veggie side idea…)  And the only reason I knew to toast the buns in the oven and not our toaster was because I asked.  That’s how clueless I am.

Everything ended up tasting great, but I was a bit disappointed in the meat texture.  Next time I will definitely have to follow the recipe’s suggestion for the meat.

Bon Appetit!

Very Lemon Chicken

My husband is such a nice guy.  He bought me a crock pot cookbook for Christmas.  Just what I always wanted in my stocking.  (Can you hear the sarcasm?)  Really, though, it does give me a nice place to start.  So today, I decided to try making Very Lemon Chicken from The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker Cookbook.  Here’s the recipe:

1 1/2 pounds chicken parts, skinned                         1/2 t dried oregano leaves

2 T olive oil                                                                           1 onion, chopped

1/3 c lemon juice                                                               1/2 t salt

2 T vinegar                                                                            1/8 t white pepper

1 c chicken stock                                                                1/2 t paprika

2 T slivered lemon zest                                                   2 T cornstarch

1/2 c sour cream

1. Place chicken in 3 quart slow cooker.  In small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, stock, lemon zest, oregano, onion, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Mix well.  Pour over the chicken, cover, and cook for 8-9 hours.

2. In small bowl combine corn starch and sour cream; mix well.  Add to slow cooker and stir. Cover and cook on high for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is thickened.  Serve immediately.

And that’s it.  Looks easy, should be no problems, right?

Well, on the plus side, I did not have to touch the raw chicken (yay!).  I just slid it into the slow cooker.  Though, I really have no idea how much 1 1/2 pounds is.  It came in a 3 pound pack, so I just estimated.  That’s what a real cook would do – I told myself that, anyways.

Oil, juice, stock, spices – easy!  Vinegar…hmmm.  Could we be more specific?  I found rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and more in my cupboards (my husband apparently has a vinegar fetish).  The apple cider one had the label The natural choice for food.  And hey, I’m making food, so I went with that one.

And I only zested off a tiny bit of my thumb.

Then the dreaded onion.  Good news, no hand slicing.  Bad news, really really really big onion chunks.  Oh well, it’ll cook down.  Right?

(By the way, this easy prep took me well over 45 minutes to complete.  That’s how challenged I am.  Just sayin’.)

It’s all in the pot for now and smells good…