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!

Recipe: Easy Wine’d Beef

Since the weather was so chilly last week, I was searching out a way to make something for dinner that would warm us up.  Stir-fry would have been tasty, but since I don’t have a good non-stick pan at my disposal yet (still in the apartment), I opted to make a faster version of a traditional Beef Bourguignon.  EasyWine'dBeef

I started with a piece of beef that was on sale at the local grocery store.  I’m not exactly sure what cut of beef I purchased… I just know that there was some great marbling of fat (for yummy flavor) and it was boneless.  I popped it in the freezer for a bit to make it easier to cube, then tossed the cubes of beef with some flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

In the meantime, I heated some olive oil in a large stock pot and then sauteed a diced onion, a little green pepper, and a few handfuls of celery until they were softened and fragrant.  I love the way the smells in a kitchen can permeate the entire apartment and make the place smell “homey”, don’t you?

Once everything had a nice browned glaze to it, I moved them over and added the flour/seasoned beef to the pot.  I added a little more fat (some olive oil and a little margarine) to start the browning process for the beef.  This took some time, but it was well worth it.  NOTE: You’re not trying to cook the beef the whole way through, you’re just browning it in preparation for the slow cooking it will do in the liquid you’ll add next.

Once the beef is nicely browned, you are now going to add liquid.  I like to add a half bottle of a delicious red wine (like James River Cellars Merlot, Meritage, Rad Red, or even Hanover Red).  I also add about a cup of water and a beef bouillon cube to add some depth of beef flavor to the meal.  Your seasonings can be added now – I like to use a bay leaf or two, some herbs de provence, some worchestershire sauce, and a glop of ketchup.  Mix everything together, pop a lid on the top, and put the entire pot into a preheated 300 degree oven for an hour or two.  Stir it occasionally, to make sure that you’re getting the right blend of thickness and flavors… feel free to add more liquid if it’s getting too dry and don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving.

When you get close to dinner time, choose and cook a vegetable and a pasta of your choice.  As you can see by the photo, I used spaghetti noodles and broccoli.  Since my pantry is limited at the moment, I have an abundance of spaghetti, so I just broke the noodles in half and cooked them in salted water.  I then put a small bag of broccoli into the microwave and cooked it until it was bright green and cooked through.  I love serving this meal with wide egg noodles, but those didn’t make the cut when I was choosing what to bring to the apartment… feel free to use whatever pasta (or even a baked potato) you and your family like best.

I hope my recipes give you some ideas of meals you can make for your family, even if you don’t have a lot of “extras” at your disposal.  Play with what you’ve got on hand, pick up one or two essentials, and you can make a delicious dinner at home instead of spending extra money on dining out every night.  I have a hard time going to a restaurant and ordering something that I know I am able to make at home.  While I believe that going out should be a special experience, I do believe that staying in and making dinner for your family can bring about some pretty wonderful satisfaction as well.  It’s all in how you frame the experience.

Wishing you fun as you re-frame your own cooking experiences with your family!

 

 

Easy Beef Bourguignon

Note: This recipe is an homage to “Bob’s Short Ribs Bourguignon”, by one of my favorite chefs from the Outer Banks.

A few years ago, I was privileged to spend some time with a chef during a group cooking class.  He cooked in a way that was very similar to my own, using his hands/eyes as a way of measuring ingredients and his intuition as a way of creating a dish that was both delicious and flavorful.  Having a trained chef share his take on a traditional, classic recipe was a gift beyond compare and I’ll always be grateful to him for opening my own eyes to cooking this way.  This recipe used some basics from Bob’s recipe and added my own twist, allowing me to use my own intuition (The Force) to create a new dish.

I was at a wine/food festival recently and was asked if I had a Beef Bourguignon recipe on my blog.  Since I hadn’t “formally” cooked and blogged about this recipe, I decided to remedy that problem as quickly as possible.  EasyBeefBourguignon

I started with a package of beef that I found on sale at my local grocery store. NOTE: I try and pick up packages of meat anytime they go on sale, that I can use in various recipes, and keep them in my freezer until needed.  This helps keep my costs down and I can “shop” in my freezer for dinner inspirations most any day.  I sliced the beef into 1-2″ chunks and, using my favorite large stock pot, browned them in a bit of olive oil after dusting them with some flour, salt, and pepper.  Since I had so much beef, I did this step in two stages, removing the first half of the beef once it was browned and repeating the process.  

Once all the beef was crispy, I placed it all back into the pot and added the following ingredients:  1 sliced onion, 4 diced bacon slices, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 beef bouillon packet (I like G. Washington Brown), a few globs of ketchup, and covered everything with a lovely red wine (think James River Cellars Monitor).  I stirred everything to combine it nicely, popped the lid on the pot, and put the entire dish into a 300 degree oven to cook for awhile.  I think it cooked for about 2 hours, but I was really waiting for the entire recipe to reduce and mesh together well.  You could easily reduce the heat on the stove top, pop the lid on, and cook it for the two hours, but I prefer to use the oven when I can for this sort of meal.

Once the wine had reduced and the sauce was thick and rich, I added half a bag of frozen peas to bump up the color factor on the meal.  The final touches involved adding a few dashes of worchestershire sauce and a small bit of butter to gloss the sauce.  It looked delicious!

As we got closer to dinner time, I cooked some egg noodles and sliced some crusty bread to complete the meal.  The final product was deep, dark, and rich… a perfect meal for a cold, snowy evening, even if it *was* March.

I hope you’ll try making your own version of this wonderful recipe.  Using short ribs (when on sale) is a great alternative to a piece of pot roast, but you can use most any meat that will handle this sort of long, slow cooking process.  Changing up the vegetables by using carrots, pearl onions, or any other favorite vegetable is a great way to add nutrition and tailor the recipe to your family’s preferences.

Remember, cooking is about sharing your love with the ones you love.  Enjoy!

Crock Pot Recipe: Beef and Broccoli

This basic recipe popped up on my Facebook feed one day and I knew that I just had to play with it… it seemed a crime (to me) not to see any red wine listed for this dish!  Thankfully, this was a fairly simple dish to use for my family… they love any sort of meat and vegetable dinner.

Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

I gathered my ingredients and went to work assembling everything before I left for work in the morning.  I used a large package of thin cut beef strips that I’d picked up on sale at the local grocery store a few weeks prior and popped the frozen meat into the bottom of my crockpot.  I then mixed 1 cup James River Rad Red Wine (you can use any red wine that you like to drink in this recipe – if you’d drink it in your glass, it’s perfectly fine to use for cooking), 1 packet of G.Washington Rich Brown Seasoning, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup honey, 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil, minced garlic to taste (I use the pre-minced packages, but feel free to add or subtract as you like) and turned on my crockpot to cook on low for 6-8 hours.

When I got home from work that afternoon, the house smelled fabulous.  All the sweet, salty, garlic-y smells combined to make my mouth water as soon as I walked in the house.  I could hardly wait for the guys to get home!  I set about making up some rolls to go with dinner and waited for them to be ready to eat.

There wasn’t much I had to do to complete this meal.  I had purchased a bag of broccoli at the store, so I pierced the bag and popped it into the microwave for 4-5 minutes to steam the broccoli.  As soon as the broccoli was done, I swapped the bag of veggies for a bag of microwaveable brown rice that would cook in 90 seconds and turned the microwave back on.  Now for the sauce…

To complete this meal, I needed to turn the cooking liquid for the beef into a delicious sauce… so I removed it from the crockpot, saving 2 cups of the broth in a small bowl, and added 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken the broth.  I whisked the cornstarch into the broth until there were NO lumps and then stirred it back into the crockpot of beef.  I then added the broccoli and stirred everything together before serving it over the brown rice.

This was simple… it was easy… and it was so VERY tasty.

Enjoy making this recipe your own – it’s worth it!

Recipe: Simple Shepherd’s Pie

Maybe I’m just strange, but I really love the challenge of making a totally new meal out of leftovers from a previous meal.  Such was the case with how this dinner came about.

I made shredded beef sandwiches for dinner on Sunday night and, since I used a large London Broil, had lots of cooked beef left over.  I was coming up with lots of different ways to use this meat but the decision was made for me when I got a huge response from my guys when I suggested making a Shepherd’s Pie.  Unfortunately, for me, my husband’s idea of a Shepherd’s pie was “meat, peas, gravy, potatoes”, so that became my recipe.

The first thing I did was start making the mashed potatoes by dicing a few potatoes and putting them into a pot of water to boil.  While they cooked, I layered the beef in a casserole dish and topped it with frozen peas.  Now all I needed to do was make a gravy so dinner wouldn’t just be dry beef and cooked peas.

Making a gravy is so much easier if you start with the cooking liquid of the meat you’re using – it adds flavor without having to rely on bouillon packets.  Sadly, I totally forgot to reserve the liquid after dinner on Sunday, so I had to start from scratch.  Not my favorite way to do things, but not a huge deal.  I have learned to love making gravy, so it’s always a fun creative way to add my own little touch to dinner.  I always start with a roux…. equal parts butter (fat) and flour, simmered long enough to cook off the raw flour taste.  Liquid is the next ingredient.  I typically stick with the idea of using red wine for beef dishes and white wine for chicken or fish dishes, but this is definitely something I don’t mind mixing up.  For this gravy, I used a packet of beef bouillon, water, and James River Meritage red wine (‘cuz that’s what was in my fridge… I could have just as easily found James River Merlot or a random Pinot Noir from a recent trip to the Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival).   I seasoned the gravy with salt and pepper, and let it simmer a bit until it was thick enough.  I then poured the gravy over the beef/peas already layered in the casserole dish and got to work on making mashed potatoes.ShepherdsPie

Please know… if you prefer using instant mashed potatoes, this meal will be just as tasty.  I’m not really a purist that has to make homemade mashed potatoes anytime I need them… I just don’t have any instant potato flakes in my pantry.  Who knows… I might have used them instead.  Honestly, I tend to make mashed potatoes often enough that I almost always have potatoes available in my pantry, so it’s just easier to make them rather than search for a packet of the instant stuff.

For my homemade mashed potatoes, I use an old potato masher that my mom gave me instead of using my electric mixer – I like the chunky feel of the finished product better than the more whipped consistency I get when I put everything into my KitchenAid mixer.  I use varying amounts of margarineLaughing Cow light original cheesea touch of horseradish, salt, pepper, and maybe some milk.  It really depends on my mood when I’m cooking, so using The Force really comes into play on this recipe.   Once the mashed potatoes are finished, I spooned them on top of the casserole, sprinkled a bit of paprika for color, and then popped the casserole into the oven.  After 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven, this dinner is ready for the troops to dig in.

Feel free to experiment with this recipe to make your own family happy – if they like cooked carrots, feel free to add them.  Want a whole mess of veggies?  Go ahead!  Want to swap out the beef for chicken or a vegetarian option you like?  Try it!  There’s no “dinner police” who will come by and take your food from you, so enjoy coming up with your own options on this recipe.  I just like the tastes of beef, peas, and mashed potatoes all baked into a sublime concoction that makes my family happy.

Ultimately, that’s the goal… make something that will feed your family and keep a smile on their faces.  My heart is full every time my guys declare a “winner”… may you have the same experience with your dinners!

Recipe: Easy Beef Stew

I love making a dinner that cooks long on its own…. something that takes short bursts of attention and ends up being incredibly tasty. This recipe could probably have been done in the crockpot, but I chose to start it in my large Calphalon skillet and just cooked it that way for the afternoon.

I started with two packages of “sale beef” – one was a packet of beef strips for stir-fry and the other was a packet of stew beef. Since I pulled both out of the freezer in the morning, I chose to slice the beef while things were partially frozen so the cutting would go faster. Once the beef was sliced, I sliced a vidalia onion and left both items on my cutting board for a moment.

Using my large Calphalon skillet, I heated one T of butter and one T of olive oil. When this was sizzling, I popped both the beef and onions in the skillet to brown. The kitchen started to smell wonderful, so I popped in three or four garlic cloves and then put the skillet into the oven at 350 degrees for an hour or so.

When I went back to the skillet a little later, the meat and onions had started to carmelize, so I added some James River Cellars Rad Red (you can just as easily use a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Franc, or a Meritage for this dinner), as well as some salt and pepper, and popped it back in the oven. At the next look, dinner was looking a little soup-y, so I shook a spoonful of flour over top and stirred it into the sauce. Note: make sure to taste your food along the way – it’s much easier to adjust the flavors throughout the cooking process than to dump in a spoonful of garlic salt at the end.

When dinner was almost complete, I tossed in some frozen peas, stirred them into the sauce, and returned the skillet to the oven until the peas were cooked and dinner tasted “ready”. I warmed up some rolls, but you could also use pre-made rolls or breadsticks, depending on your family’s preference.

My favorite part of this dinner was the fact that I could be doing other things throughout the afternoon and dinner still turned out fabulously. The beef had a rich, deep flavor and the sauce that I had at the end was perfect when served over a baked potato (as pictured) or over pasta (as my husband preferred). Either way, dinner was a success and this recipe became an instant favorite. I hope you’ll try making this for your own family and see if it doesn’t become a favorite for you as well. Enjoy!

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Recipe: Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie

My younger son came home from college this past weekend and, as luck would have it, I was working on Sunday… so I decided to make an easy dinner in the crockpot that we could use for a day or two.

For Dinner #1, I put a sliced onion, two fairly large pot roasts (on BIG sale at my local grocery store), salt, pepper, and a half bottle of James River Cellars’ Rad Red wine into my crock pot.  I then turned the thing on as low and slow as it would go and let it cook the entire time I was at work.  **It’s ok, really…I was only working a 6 hour shift.

When I got home, there wasn’t much more I had to do before dinner was ready.  I ladled out all the liquid into a fridge-friendly container (this stuff is gold… like a beef consume that I didn’t have to babysit?  Awesome!) and set about shredding the beef for sandwiches.  I’d already bought rolls and M sweetly went out and picked up some BBQ sauce (would have sworn we had some in the house), so this weekend dinner was a quick fix for everyone.

For Dinner #2, I started with 2 Tablespoons of flour and 2 Tablespoons of margarine.  Once the margarine was meltDeconstructed Shepherd's Pie2ed and the flour was bubbling away, I began to add some of the reserved beef consume that I’d saved from Dinner #1.  I added enough, slowly to allow things to gel nicely, until I had a good amount of sauce.  I also added a splash of worchestershire sauce and some Viognier white wine to add some depth to the sauce.   I could have eaten this with a spoon… turned into such a yummy gravy.

While playing with the sauce, I made a small, quick batch of mashed potatoes.  You could certainly use instant mashed potatoes if you’d prefer, but making homemade seems easier to me (as long as I have a little time).   When the potatoes were “mash-able”, I added some milk, margarine, and a half teaspoon of horseradish before mashing them for the topping and setting them aside.

Into the gravy went a nice amount of the shredded beef from Dinner #1.  I stirred it into the sauce and then sprinkled frozen peas on top everything.  Since the peas were frozen, I stirred them into the mixture and then topped everything with the homemade mashed potatoes and a liberal dash of paprika (for color).  It looked so tasty!

Your Shepherd’s Pie is now made… and just needs to bake a bit.  I popped the entire skillet into the oven and added a package of frozen biscuits, using the time and temperature needed to bake the bread.  Once everything was done, I plated dinner for the four of us and sat down to eat… simple, filling, and really comforting.

There’s something so great about being able to turn out an old-time dinner on a “new age” time schedule.  If you have a favorite from your childhood, there’s nothing better (IMHO) than being able to create it using some current cooking tips.  I love coming home to a house that smells of something baking in the oven.  It makes me incredibly happy to create meals for my family that remind me of when I was a child.  This dinner was one of those meals.

I hope you’ll try something like this for yourself… and may the warmth and comfort of “home” bring you a few moments of peace in an otherwise hectic day.