Easy Red Beef Stew

I was headed out to do some holiday shopping recently and decided that I wanted to make a simple crockpot dinner so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to rush home and make something that evening.  I had a nice piece of beef in the fridge and had picked up a package of baby potatoes at the store, so this was a really easy dinner to create.redbeefstew

Ingredients:

  • Beef – I don’t know much about cuts of beef, but I knew enough to get a “chuck roast”.  The one I chose was on sale, so I grabbed one that was on the smaller side so we wouldn’t have much waste.
  • Flour – I tossed some into a plastic bag to coat the beef before putting it into my crockpot.  Don’t honestly know how much… just enough to coat the meat.
  • 1+ onion – I cut this into thick chunks and used one whole vidalia onion and one half a red onion that I had in the fridge
  • 1 packet country gravy
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 package (or similar amount) of baby potatoes (see photo of what I found at the store… this one included a few cloves of garlic and two sprigs of rosemary)
  • Red wine – the original recipe simply called for water, but that won’t cut it in my house.  WHY USE WATER WHEN YOU CAN USE WINE??
  • Frozen peas – I didn’t measure, but you could use whatever vegetable you like best here.  NOTE: If you’re planning to use carrots, I would allow them to cook with the beef instead of popping them in at the end.

Directions:

  1. Slice onion into chunks and put in the bottom of a large crockpot.
  2. Toss the meat in a plastic bag with some flour and then shake to cover.  Place meat on top of onions to cook.
  3. Open package of potatoes (or chop up large potatoes to fit around roast) and lay them around the meat in the crockpot.
  4. In a separate bowl, open the packets of gravy and onion soup and mix together with red wine.  I did not measure the amount of red wine used – I simply poured the wine and mixed it with the dry ingredients until it looked like enough.  I have a habit of adding too much liquid to my crockpot recipes, so I went a little lighter than I might have otherwise, which ended up working out well.
  5. Pour liquid over the roast.
  6. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
  7. During the last half hour (or 15 minutes before serving), stir the roast a bit and add your frozen peas.  These won’t take long to cook and you don’t want them to disintegrate into the gravy.
  8. Serve with some crusty bread to soak up the gravy… it’s delicious!

This was one of the most simple of meals but such a crowd pleaser.  If your family is picky about onions, feel free to slice them a bit smaller, but I liked the chunks of onion with the bites of meat and potato.  Feel free to experiment with other vegetables or seasonings… it’s your meal for your family, so use what you like!

Enjoy!

Sausage and Pepper Casserole

My neighbor had a health issue with her mom last night and I thought that the nicest thing I could do for her would be to make dinner and dessert for them tonight.  I know her mom loves sweets, so I had to make sure to have some sort of dessert included, so I made a platter of chocolate chip cookies, since I already had the dough in the fridge… the question was now “what do I make for dinner”?

I looked through my freezer and found a package of turkey kielbasa and a half package of bacon, so that became the base of my recipe.  Since I also had some green peppers and an onion in the crisper, I decided to make a turn on a “sausage and pepper sandwich” and add some linguine and a creamy cheese sauce to pull it all together.  Here’s how I went about making dinner. NOTE: Remember that I was making two dinners for two people each, so these could have easily been made into a single 9×11 casserole instead of two individual 9″ round casseroles.

I crisped up the half package of bacon and then removed the bacon to a plate, leaving the bacon drippings in the saute pan.  I diced one package of turkey kielbasa and crisped that up in the saute pan as well before removing that to a plate. I sliced one green pepper and half a large onion and sauteed these in the bacon grease until softened.  While cooking all these individual pieces, I cooked 3/4 package of linguine (broken in half) until just al dente, then drained the pasta, saving some of the water in case I needed it for the sauce that would top the entire casserole.Sausage&PepperCasserole

I then assembled the casseroles, placing a little of the bacon and half the kielbasa and half the vegetables on top before adding half the pasta.  Once this was done, I was able to turn my attention to the sauce.  I wanted something that was creamy and slightly cheesy but didn’t just want to throw cheese on top of the pasta and hope it melted correctly.

I started the sauce by simmering 2T butter and 2T flour together to make a roux.  I then added some white wine (using chardonnay was my choice this time… crisp and clean) and chicken stock to start a great tasting sauce.  To make the taste unique to this particular dish, I added half a can of cream of mushroom soup (leftover from Christmas dinner), some parmesan cheese and some cheddar cheese for creaminess and a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce for flavor.  Once the sauce tasted “right” (you HAVE to be willing to taste your sauces during the cooking phase so they balance out once they’re added to a dish), I poured half over each casserole and topped each with a sprinkling of leftover bacon.

I have no idea if my neighbors will enjoy this casserole, but I hope they feel the love that comes from wanting to do something nice for others in times of stress.  Karma is a tricky thing… but I believe that if you always reach out to others in a positive way and from a place of kindness and love, that same thing will come back to you tenfold.  I’m not expecting them to do anything in return…. I just know that they shouldn’t have to worry about feeding their family when they’re facing a difficult time.

May we all approach life in this manner… give when you can and your life will be made better for the effort.

Happy New Year Blessings to you all, my friends.  Wishing you health and happiness as 2015 begins!

Fish in a Flash

I’ve written this recipe a few times, but wanted to update it a bit for everyone.  This is one of the easiest and fastest three-course meal recipes I’ve ever written and I love that it’s also incredibly versatile.  The basic premise is the same but the specific ingredients can be adjusted, depending on your preference and what you have available.  I hope you love this recipe as much as me!fishinaflash

  • I call this recipe “Fish in a Flash” because you’re only going to need 15 minutes to make this three-course meal for your family.  It’s full of flavor, cost-effective, and adjustable… what more could you want in a recipe?

Ingredients:

  • Fish (Feel free to use whatever fish is on sale or what you happen to have in your freezer)  In this case, I used two tilapia fillets, but I’ve made this dish with flounder, haddock, or any other light, flaky fish.  I haven’t used salmon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t!
  • Crackers (Ritz crackers, Cheese crackers, club crackers, saltines, etc) crushed
  • Salt, Pepper, and any favorite seasoning (I like Paprika)
  • White wine (use whatever you have on hand or you can substitute water)
  • Broccoli flowerettes (I used a half bag of Broccoli-Wokly from the local grocer)
  • Bag of microwave brown rice (or your favorite starch)

Directions:

  • Spray a microwavable dish with cooking spray and arrange your fish fillets on dish.
  • In a small bowl, crush the crackers and mix in your seasonings.  Sprinkle fish with seasoned cracker crumbs.
  • Using your thumb as a stopper, gently “thumb” wine over the crumbs to lightly wet them  to create a coating on the fish.  You can also spoon the wine (or water) over the fish.
  • Top fish with broccoli flowerettes – I did them in a decorative fashion for these photos, but I typically just add a layer of broccoli over the fish.
  • Wet a paper towel and lay on top of the broccoli – this will help to steam the veggies.
  • Pop your dish into the microwave and cook on high for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is flaky and well-cooked.
  • Remove the fish from the microwave and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
  • Cook the 90-second brown rice in the microwave.
  • Remove rice and divide onto individual plates.
  • Serve meal with brown rice on the plate, topped with fish and vegetables.

This has been a staple in our menu selection for most of my 28-years of marriage.  I’ve adjusted and altered the recipe to the point where this is the cleanest and most simple rendition.  The original recipe (from my first year of marriage) included a half stick of butter and lots of lemon juice… this version is much healthier and the flavors really seem to pop.

I hope you’ll try this recipe and see how your family likes our Fish in a Flash.  It might just become a favorite in your house too!

Shrimp and Peas with Pasta

We were looking for something easy and delicious for dinner tonight.  I knew I wanted to use shrimp, so I started there.  Scrounging around the fridge produced grape tomatoes and some frozen peas, so I came up with this yummy meal.

ShrimPeasPasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen shrimp, thawed and shelled.  Salt and pepper shrimp before cooking.
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Coconut oil
  • White wine
  • Savory nutritional yeast flakes
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta water
  • Thin Spaghetti, cooked al dente’
  • 1 Egg yolk, whipped with a fork and tempered with a few spoons of pasta water

Directions:

  • In boiling, salted water, cook your pasta, saving 1 cup of pasta water
  • In a large saute’ pan, heat coconut oil and sear shrimp on both sides until toasty.
  • Add peas and tomatoes, saute’, then add some white wine and allow to cook through.
  • Season dish using dashes of yeast flakes, parmesan cheese, and a bit of pasta water. Taste after each addition before moving forward, adjusting as needed.  Pasta water will add a bit of thickening, so take your time with this step.
  • Drain pasta and add cooked pasta to shrimp mixture and toss to combine.
  • Remove from heat and add whipped egg yolk to add in a bit of creaminess.
  • Toss well and serve.  I like to top with parsley or minced chives.

This is one of those meals that can be thrown together fairly easily.  I like to keep bags of frozen shrimp and peas on hand.  If you don’t happen to have grape tomatoes in your fridge, you can substitute a small amount of sun-dried tomatoes (sliced thin) or leave them out altogether.  Play with your ingredients and come up with your family’s favorites. Enjoy creating your own version!

Glazed Salmon and Scalloped Potatoes

I have a confession to make… I’m usually lousy at cooking salmon.  Since I found two pieces on “mega-sale” at the store today, I thought I’d give it one more try to see if I could come up with something really yummy.  I have to say that this entire meal ended up being one of my favorites… and it was ridiculously easy!  This post isn’t just a recipe for dinner, it’s also got a great side dish (I serve these potatoes for Easter EVERY year) and a salad dressing.  If you’re looking for an easy and impressive dinner, this is it.  Yum!

GlazedSalmon_ScallopedPotatoes

Glazed Salmon

Ingredients for Salmon:

  • Salmon fillets
  • Salt/pepper
  • Coconut oil (or your favorite fat/oil)
  • Glaze
    • 2T jam (I used Loganberry jam)
    • 2t balsamic vinegar
    • 2t white wine (I used a lightly oaked chardonnay)

Salmon Directions:

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper.  In a hot saute’ pan, melt coconut oil and then sear the seasoned side of the salmon filets.

  • As the salmon sears in the hot oil, blend the glaze.  You’ll need to warm the jam for 10 seconds in the microwave.  You’re not trying to melt the jam… you just want it loose enough to blend with the vinegar and wine.  You’ll want to adjust the seasonings with a little salt and pepper…. make sure to taste the glaze before using it.
  • Once the one side of the salmon is nicely browned, turn the fillet over and pour the glaze over top. Since the salmon won’t be thoroughly cooked, I put the entire pan into the oven and allow the fish to roast until dinner is done.
  • NOTE:  I started the potatoes about 30-40 minutes before I began making the salmon, so the house already smelled amazing before I started on the fillets.

Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients for Scalloped Potatoes (This recipe serves two/three.  You can add/subtract as needed to serve more people)

  • Three medium potatoes (I like to use Gold potatoes)
  • Half an onion
  • Flour (1/4-1/3 cup)
  • Salt/pepper
  • White wine
  • Shredded cheese (I used 1/2 bag of sharp cheddar)
  • Milk (I only have skim in the house, so that’s what I used)

Directions for Scalloped Potatoes

  • Slice potatoes thin (I use a mandolin, but that’s not necessary as long as the slices are all equally thin)
  • Slice onion in half (you only need 1/4 onion for each layer) and slice as thin as potatoes
  • Layer your dish:
    • Half potatoes
    • Half onions
    • Sprinkle with flour (this will ultimately thicken your cheese sauce, so don’t skimp)
    • Season lightly with salt and pepper
    • Thumb wine lightly over mixture
    • Top with a light layer of cheese
  • Repeat layer, ending with cheese
  • Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender and the top is bubbling and browned.

Bal

This recipe showed me that, with a little ingenuity and imagination, I could create a fabulous, easy, “guest-worthy” meal that would satisfy all my expectations.  This is a starter recipe that will impress the pickiest visitor… try it and see what YOU think!

BONUS RECIPE:  I’d like to share my absolute favorite salad dressing recipe with you.  This recipe makes an impressive amount of dressing that is much lower in calorie than you’d ever imagine. I have NEVER actually measured the ingredients for this dressing, so you’ll have to forgive me for not including any.

Blend the following ingredients:

  • Balsamic Vinegar (a small puddle in the bottom of a salad bowl)
  • Mustard (I tend to use horseradish mustard or dijon mustard)
  • 1 envelope of sweetener (Equal or Splenda, depending on what’s in the house)
  • 1T of a prepared dressing (I typically use a creamy dressing of some sort)

Mix ingredients together and toss with thinly sliced romaine.  This is full of flavor and better than you’d expect!

 

Starter Recipe: Healthy Shepherd’s Pie

I have been making some version of “Shepherd’s Pie” for ages, but I wanted to try and make something that would be a simple recipe for others to duplicate.  This recipe is pretty healthy, has lots of “hidden vegetables”, and tastes absolutely divine… a perfect comfort food dish for those who are just learning to cook and those who are proficient.  HealthyShepherdsPie

Ingredients:

  • 1 package ground turkey
  • Coconut oil – I used about a Tablespoon
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 handful of baby carrots, diced
  • 1/2 sweet pepper, diced (I used 2 small yellow peppers)
  • 3 mushrooms, diced fine minus stems (I was trying to hide them)
  • 1 handful of frozen peas (added at the very end)
  • red wine (I like the flavor when added to ground turkey)
  • granulated garlic (or use fresh, if you have it)
  • salt/pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dollop ketchup
  • flour (use as a thickener – I just sprinkled some over the pan)
  • mashed potatoes (I used a batch of leftover potatoes, but use what you’ve got… if you don’t have any on hand, just boil two or three potatoes and mash with milk/butter)

Directions:

  1. Brown onion and carrots in coconut oil over medium heat until onions are translucent.  I then added the peppers and mushrooms but feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand.  This is a great way to use up things in your fridge!
  2. Once veggies are cooked, add the ground turkey and brown thoroughly.  I use a potato masher to get all the meat separated so it browns evenly.
  3. You’re now going to flavor your dish.  I always use red wine when I’m cooking ground turkey – I feel it adds a depth of flavor to the turkey and gives it a more “full” taste.  Once the wine was incorporated, I sprinkled granulated garlic, added salt and pepper, and flavored things with the Worcestershire sauce and ketchup.  I like to add the ketchup in something like this because it adds a touch of sweetness without getting a cloyingly sweet/sugar taste.
  4. When the flavors are balanced, I sprinkled on some flour to thicken the dish and tossed in the frozen peas.  Stir all to combine and put into your serving dish.
  5. Top your dish with mashed potatoes.  I love to use this dish when I have leftover mashed potatoes but it’s not difficult to make a small batch of mashed potatoes if necessary.
  6. Bake this dish for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, in a 350 degree oven.  I love to serve this with garlic toasts (made from sliced ciabatta rolls, this is a simple side that can add a lot to the meal).

I hope you find this to be an easy recipe that makes your winter a little “warmer”.  Comfort food that doesn’t take hours to make is something that makes me very happy!  If you have any questions, as always you are welcome to message me and I’ll do my best to help walk you through the process.  Cooking should be fun and enjoyable… don’t stress over making it too “perfect”… it’s simply food and you’re feeding the ones you love.

Enjoy the process!

Cheesy Red Chicken Enchiladas

In case I’ve never mentioned this, you should know that I love rotisserie chickens.  I take advantage of any chance I get, to pick one up and throw it into my freezer for use at another time.  It truly calms me to know that I can pull one out to make dinner on any given day.  I’m not sure when that started, but a full freezer and pantry can make me feel ready to tackle any obstacle that life may throw at me.  Maybe that’s why I love heading off to Sam’s Club or the local grocery store… but I digress… I want to share a great, easy recipe for chicken enchiladas that can be made from a rotisserie chicken and some staples from the pantry/fridge.  Doesn’t this look delicious??CheesyRedChickenEnchiladas (1)

Here are the ingredients:

  • a chicken from the freezer
  • dry red wine (use what you like or have on hand)
  • one can of pinto beans (or refried beans, your choice)
  • your favorite salsa – one jar
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt/pepper
  • flour tortillas (regular size, your favorite type)
  • cheese (I used an entire bag of 2% milk shredded sharp cheddar)

I pulled one of my frozen chickens out of the fridge and popped it into a large saucepan.  I added about an inch of water and about the same amount of red wine and let the liquid simmer around the chicken (flipping the bird over once or twice) until the meat was warmed and the liquid was nicely seasoned from the chicken.  I then lifted the chicken out of the liquid and allowed it to cool a bit before picking/shredding all the meat off the bones and poured the (now) broth into a measuring up for later use. NOTE: You can also use leftover chicken for this recipe.

I began to make the chicken mixture for inside the enchiladas.  Since I didn’t have a can of refried beans, I popped a can of pinto beans into a small chopper and pulverized the beans until they were *mostly* smooth. Since I had already used the large saucepan to cook the chicken (and so I didn’t have another pan/bowl to wash), I put all the shredded chicken back into the pan. I then added the smashed beans, some salsa, a little of the reserved broth mixture, and seasonings to complete the mixture for inside the enchiladas.

To assemble the dish, I put a bit of salsa and broth mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish to keep the enchiladas from sticking.  Put a heaping 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of a flour tortilla, fold the close end over the mixture and pull it back to make a “roll”.  Fold each side in, toward the center, and then roll the enchilada over to enclose the filling.  Place the enchilada, seam-side down, in the coated baking dish and repeat until all the chicken mixture is used and the baking dish is full.  I was able to make a total of 6 enchiladas with this amount of chicken/bean filling, but much will depend on how much you want to put inside each enchilada.  Once all the individual enchiladas are in the baking dish, coat lightly with salsa and sprinkle with lots of cheese (I used an entire bag of shredded cheddar).

You can pop this dish in the freezer at this point if you’d like.  I made this dinner in the morning and my family popped it into the oven so they had a hot dinner while I was at work.  You’ll pop this dish into a preheated 350 degree oven and cook it for 30-40 minutes… cover with foil to bake and remove foil for the last 5 minutes of baking to brown the cheese a bit.

You can serve this dish with a side salad, if you like.  My guys prefer to simply eat the enchiladas by themselves, so they each ate two, while I ate one when I got home.  It was great to have a home-cooked meal after work and I was so glad to have taken the time to put things together.  If you have the time, feel free to make this dinner in two separate dishes and pop one into the freezer for cooking later.  I’ve done this often and it’s a huge help to have a meal available for those days when you don’t feel like cooking or if you want to share a meal with a friend or neighbor.

Remember… I’m never far away if you’re having trouble with one of my recipes.  You can message me on Facebook (From the Bottom of a Wine Bottle) or via Twitter (@alisportshots) and I’ll get back to you asap!  Enjoy!