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!

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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!

 

Recipe: Red Breakfast Hash

I’m sending this recipe to The Today Show for a segment by Joy Bauer on healthy apple recipes. The writing below is a bit different than my typical babbling about how to make something (I thought this might sound more professional) but I wanted to share this recipe with you all first.  It’s just so darn tasty… I hope you agree!

I make a Red Breakfast Hash that is a great brunch recipe – full of flavor and color!  I’ve put a few variations on my wine blog (www.fromthebottomofawinebottle.wordpress.com) but this is one of my favorite offerings.  The recipe can be increased or decreased as needed and it uses up any leftover baked potatoes or extra veggies left in your fridge, so it’s healthy AND a good value.RedBreakfastHash

Basic Ingredients for two:

*1 tablespoon butter

*one baked potato, diced

*one onion, diced

*one apple, cored and diced (I like to leave the skin on)

*Red Wine (I use whatever is in my fridge at the time)

*Salt/pepper to taste

*2 eggs (plus some white vinegar to poach eggs)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a non-stick skillet and saute’ potato, onion, and apple until browned and a little crispy.
  2. Add red wine to your skillet and give your potato mixture some time to soak up all that flavor and color. Add salt and pepper to taste
  3. While you’re working on #1 and #2, boil some water with some white vinegar added and drop the eggs in to poach just before your wine is totally absorbed.
  4. To serve, divide the red potato mixture onto two plates, top with the poached eggs and break the yolk to share that yummy goodness with the rest of your food.
  5. ENJOY!

I came up with this recipe while working at a winery in VA.  There’s an old joke that goes “what do you call a meal without wine?  Breakfast”, so I decided that I had to fix that problem.  This can be made healthier by using more of the onion/apple mixture, but I really like using a 1:1:1 ratio so the flavors are easily recognizable.  You can also add sautee’d peppers into the mix, if you’d like.  If you’re not a “poached egg fan”, feel free to fry the egg or simply use Fat-free egg substitute as your egg choice.

Note:  the photo mashup I included was created on Picmonkey, using iPhone photos of the food in various stages of creation.  I like to use these on my website to entice people into trying to make my recipes, since they tend to be fairly easy and enjoyable to make.

Recipe: Asian Wine’d Salmon ‘n Veggies

Here’s a basic recipe that I used last night for dinner.  It’s a very classic “Using the Force” sort of recipe, where I started with a single ingredient for dinner and then started pulling things from the fridge/cabinet, blending them until the sauce tasted the way I wanted.  I actually went to a few recipe sites, but wasn’t finding the sort of ingredient list I could pull together, so I “Used The Force”.  If this term is new to you, please check out my explanation at the very beginning of this blog (almost <gasp> two years ago).

I started out with two packets of Salmon for our dinner.  Seriously, these are 4-oz packets of frozen salmon that I picked up on a “super deal” at the local grocery store… awesome for a quick meal and easy to add/subtract as your guest count changes.  I  let the salmon thaw in the fridge during the day so it was easier to handle when dinner time rolled around.  NOTE: It might have thawed faster if I had taken it out of the packaging, but I didn’t want to worry about the mess.

Looking in my fridge, I found four small Yukon Gold Potatoes and a head of broccoli.  For two of us. this seemed like the perfect amount to roast for dinner, as long as the potato pieces were thin enough and the broccoli was sliced into bite-sized pieces.  Again, these are items that you could easily increase to serve more people if necessary.  NOTE: If you end up doubling this recipe, I would separate the vegetables from the salmon and roast them in different pans so that you can control the cooking times of each as needed.  You can also substitute your favorite vegetables for this dish… just be aware of size and cooking times of whatever you choose.AsianWine'dSalmon&Veggies

Once I had my main ingredients picked, I needed to create a sauce…and here’s where The Force came into play.  All-in-all, I used the following ingredients:  Hoisin sauce, dijon mustard, white wine (I used a Chardonnay I had in the fridge), balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.  Using a medium bowl, I spooned some hoisin (asian BBQ sauce) into the bowl, poured in some wine. and squirted in some dijon mustard.  These were not equal measures, but I went light on everything so I could add more if needed.  I like using hoisin because it’s got a bit of a kick and it thickens up things nicely.  I then added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a generous portion of soy sauce, and sweetened everything up with a bit of honey.  After whisking everything together, I tasted the result and added another bit of honey so the sauce didn’t have too much bite.

I chose to make this recipe on one sheet pan, so I covered a baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray so the sweet/sticky sauce wouldn’t be difficult to handle after cooking.  I sliced each potato in half, length-wise, and sliced each half into very thin half-rounds that would cook fairly quickly before layering them on the baking sheet.  I then cut the broccoli into thin slivers, cutting small stalks in half as needed, and layered them on top of the potato thins.  I decided to top the veggies with a bit of sauce before adding the salmon because I wanted to make sure I got most of the veggies touched with the sauce… not necessarily coated, but a little bit would go a long way with this flavor.

Once I had spooned sauce on the veggies, I laid the salmon fillets on top and spooned sauce over them as well, using up all the sauce.  It smelled rich and flavorful, even as it hit the oven, which was my intent… I love when the house smells like something delicious when we’re getting ready for dinner!

Dinner cooked for 30 minutes in a 375-degree preheated oven and was really tasty.  The potato thins were cooked, the broccoli was crisp-tender, and the salmon was delicious. I reheated rolls to have along side this meal, but it really wasn’t necessary.  Just follow your instincts and see what your family prefers.

Remember, this is a recipe that you can change up in a million ways to suit your family’s individual tastes so have fun with it.  We thought it was a hit!

Recipe: Twice Baked Wine Potatoes

As promised, here is the recipe for my favorite Twice Baked Wine Potatoes.  I have been making these for quite awhile now.  I alter the recipe each time, depending on the flavor blend I want to have for the meal it might accompany, so it really does work for so many meals.  I’m sharing the basic idea, but please feel free to adjust and play with the recipe to suit your own family’s tastes and preferences.

I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe.  NOTE:  the number of potatoes you bake depends on how many servings you want in the end, but for the two of us, I tend to bake three potatoes so I end up with six small twice-baked potatoes.  Feel free to bake your potatoes however you like, but I typically will cut a small slice in the side of the potato (this will end up being the start of my cut to slice each potato in half) and bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Once the potatoes are cooked, I remove them from the oven (remember that they’re hot, so use oven mitts so you don’t burn your fingers) and slice them in half, lengthwise.  Using the oven mitts and a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato and collect it in a bowl large enough to mix any/all ingredients.  NOTE: If you want to use a mixer for this part, you can put all your potato innards into your mixing bowl… I just like the more rustic feel I get from using a hand masher, similar to one my mom used to use.TwiceBakedWinePotatoes

Once you’ve scooped out all the potato skins, your cooking fun begins!  For the recipe pictured here, I first added the following ingredients:  shredded cheese, one egg, a spoonful of margarine, some great tasting white wine,  and a wedge of Laughing Cow lite cheese.  Once I mashed these together, I needed to adjust the seasonings so I added a spoonful of Greek yogurt, salt, and some freshly ground pepper.  NOTE:  I have used a spoonful of Bourcin Cheese on occasion and this has also been a great addition.  The egg can be omitted, but I find that it adds a touch of richness to the final product that is otherwise lacking.  Feel free to use a Fat-Free Egg Substitute if you prefer, but using only the egg whites won’t produce the same texture – experiment with your favorite ingredients on this one.

Once the mashed potato mixture is to your liking (make sure to taste this part), I use a small cookie scoop to fill the potato skins so I know that I’m filling everything evenly.   You can simply line up the filled potato skins onto a baking sheet, but I have found that I really like to place the potato skins into a muffin tin and fill them inside so they don’t end up rolling off to the side and are easy to store until you’re ready to bake them.   I’m one of “those” people who thinks about dinner early in the day, so if I have the completed Twice Baked Potatoes sitting in my fridge for the day, it’s so much simpler to have them contained in a muffin tin.

NOTE:  This is a recipe that you could easily double and make over the weekend – freeze anything you don’t want to use right away and then you have a perfectly simple side dish available for any night of the week!  I’m a huge fan of “make-ahead” foods that can be stored in the freezer.

To bake these little darlings, just pop them into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until they’re cooked through and lightly browned on top.  I love the crispiness of the potato skin and think that it’s a wonderful complement to any meal.  I’ve served it with BBQ chicken, steak, lobster, shrimp, burgers… almost anything looks fancier when you put these out as your side dish!

Hope you’ll try this and see just how easy it is to make such a fun side dish… our family loves them and I’m sure yours will too!

Recipe: Red Mashed Potatoes

Yes, this is a strange way to use wine, but I was curious.  I had time on my hands, two potatoes, and some red wine… so what else was I to do, but to try out this recipe?RedMashedPotatoes

I started with two potatoes, a small amount of crushed garlic, about a cup of James River Cellars Hanover Red wine, and some herbs de provence.  I diced the potatoes into even cubes, added them along with the garlic and the herbs into a small saucepan, and then poured in the wine to almost cover the potatoes.  I cooked the potatoes in the wine until much of the wine had been absorbed.  NOTE: Next time, I think I’ll add a small amount of chicken stock along with the wine… the potatoes didn’t cook quite as much as I would have liked before the wine was absorbed.

Once the potatoes were ready, I mashed them until they were fairly smooth before adding a touch of margarine and some milk to turn this into a rather unique side dish.  NOTE: I wasn’t thrilled with the final purple color – next time, I think I’ll smash the potatoes and then just add a little butter, to allow the red and white colors to show through.  When the potatoes were totally mashed, they turned purple…. before that, they were really pretty.  I might even just toss the cooked potatoes with a small bit of olive oil and roast a touch so the colors don’t change.

Sometimes we all have “less than favorite” final results when trying out a recipe.  I wanted to post this so you know that we’re all in that same boat.  I have the occasional flop, just like everyone else… the idea is to learn from any mistakes and keep trying.

Enjoy the journey and keep cooking!

Leftover Recipe: Leftover Breakfast Hash

Dinner recently consisted of roasted potatoes, chicken tenders, shrimp, bacon, and a few other items but I ended up with enough leftovers to play a bit with breakfast the next morning.  As you can see in the photo, this is a rendition of my previously posted Breakfast Hash recipe.  I didn’t have to run to the store for anything and it was a great start to my day.  Hopefully, you’ll find this to be a recipe that you can re-create for your family.

LeftoverBreakfastHash (1)

I started by sauteing a singe leftover piece of bacon (honest… it really was left over) until it was crispy.  I then added a cup of leftover roasted potato and allowed it to crisp a bit.  The “fun” addition here was a bit of James River Cellars Petit Verdot red wine and some frozen pieces of peppers (red, yellow, and green).  Once I let the wine incorporate into the potato and the peppers cooked, I added 1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute and tossed that with everything so the cooked egg would end up all over the recipe.  The final addition was 1/8 cup of 2% milk shredded mild cheddar cheese.  Once the cheese melted, I plated my breakfast.

This was a fun and tasty way to use up leftovers.  Chopped peppers freeze very nicely, so it’s easy to have them on hand for a touch of color in a dish.  This is something that I’ll be incorporating more often, since I love seeing the bright additions to dishes that can sometimes become a bit bland.

Next time someone tells you the old joke, “what do you call a meal without wine… Breakfast”, feel free to share this idea for a yummy turn on using wine in your cooking.  Enjoy!