Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Braised Beef with Rich Gravy and Rice

I'd love to show you a picture of this instant favorite, but the truth is my picture taking abilities leave much to be desired and instead of beautiful shots of bowls of fantastic deliciousness it looks more like steaming bowls of dog food.


We came back from our Georgia vacation into cold and blustery Central New York (though this winter has been especially mild, we still managed to land home on a quite bitter and windy day).

We have a small side of beef sitting in our freezer (local friends, it's from CNY Beef in Homer - I haven't used much of it yet, but have been very impressed with what I have used so far!) so I have several cuts of meat that I am unfamiliar with.

I have quite a few packages of cube steak, which I had never heard of before. After some quick internet research, I realized it would work just fine for this recipe. I was slightly concerned, since the consensus was either Love it! or Hate it!

I'm thinking I'm in the Love it! camp.

The kids devoured second and third helpings (next time, no almonds mom!) and the simple rice made a fantastic leftover side dish for a second night.

I got the recipe from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook: in which it is attributed to Marcia LeClair from Rocky Meadow Farm, but I see it on several other websites as well so I'm not sure where the original recipe originates.

on my counter this week

Braised Beef with Rich Gravy and Rice

  • 2 lbs round steak cut into 1-inch cubes or stew beef
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 3 cups beef broth plus 1 cup, if needed for gravy
  • 4 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup ice water
  1. Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the meat and saute until well browned; remove to a bowl, and keep warm. In the same skillet, saute the onions, mushrooms, and garlic until the onions are translucent.

  2. Add 3 cups of broth and bring to a simmer, stirring the mixture often and scraping up any browned bits. Return the beef to the skillet, cover tightly, and simmer for 1 hour or more until the beef is tender. If the liquid starts to boil over, turn the heat down slightly.

  3. Periodically check the stew to make sure there is ample liquid for cooking the meat and for making the gravy afterward. If too much has boiled off, add the fourth cup of broth. If you still need more liquid, add a cup or two of water ( you'll want nearly 2 cups of liquid left in the pan after the meat has cooked). During this time, prepare the rice and vegetables.

  4. Once the rice and vegetables are ready, in a separate glass, whisk the flour into the ice water until smooth. Gradually stir this thickener into the simmering beef and broth. Bring the mixture to a slow boil and cook for a few seconds, stirring, until the gravy thickens. Serve over the rice with vegetables

     Rice and Vegetables

    • 2 cups brown rice
    • 2 cups warm water
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 Tbsp butter
    • 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 3 carrots, scraped, shredded
    • 2 sweet bell peppers, green or red, diced (I omitted these)
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • ½ cup blanched almonds, sliced
    1. Bring rice to a boil, skim off any residue that rises to the top, stir in the salt and butter, cover, lower the heat, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 30-45 minutes.

    2. Just before all the water is evaporated, saute the vegetables in the olive oil until crisp-tender. Stir them into the cooked rice and add the sliced almonds. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.

one good thing 2/28

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

These two, actually getting along. Even if it means I'll be finding the socks they are supposed to be matching under and behind furniture for weeks. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

all the good things

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday, most days, some days, every great once in a while .

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below. 

Somehow, February got away from me. I'm still not quite sure where it went. There was seed ordering, a 10 year anniversary and a 3000 mile round trip to Georgia. And now here I suddenly am at the very end of February wondering how it managed to go by so quickly!

The same can be said of this strange, mild winter we've had. I don't know if we've seen more than 6 inches at a time and it certainly hasn't been more than once or twice if we have. 
I spent much of the last week offline completely, and realized how very wonderful that feels. 

There have been many, many good things sprinkling the past month here. Most notably (or at least the most everyday in our faces noticeably!) is that we now have an 8 month (8 months!?) old baby who has grown in leaps in bounds. A baby who is standing, who is walking along furniture and climbing stairs (oh my).

A baby who is quicker than we imagined and had a small encounter with a wood stove that required a trip to the ER (though luckily, not a very serious one!). A baby who now has one full tooth and several more in the coming. Who has decided that he very much likes food, but only if he can feed himself
thank-you-very-much. A baby who babbles and smiles and as of last week has even started a magical little trick of napping - alone! I must admit that I might like that part the best. 

The Husband and I celebrated 10 years together mid month. Funny how that both feels like a very long time and no time at all. 

We spent some time in Georgia visiting my husbands brother and his family, they recently moved back from Germany. The car ride went surprisingly well considering we had a 13 yr old, 8 yr old and 8 month old. We had a lovely, lovely time - though I can't say I'd be anxious to spend that much time in the car again anytime soon! 

Evan shot his first gun at a military shooting range. I'm not very much a fan of guns, at all. He is apparently an excellent shot, hitting the bulls-eye quite easily. I'm supposing that if he is interested in guns, and shooting, it makes more sense to have him be trained by responsible people in appropriate atmospheres. He's not interested in hunting, but I can't say I'm not hoping that maybe someday he'll provide his mama with some venison. 

I'm beginning to feel Spring creeping in. Getting ready to start seeds, planning another garden bed, dreaming about fresh fruits and vegetables. Though our winter has been incredibly mild, the markets are always bare this time of year. I'm looking forward to the first signs of the harvest. Asparagus. Rhubarb.
Soon, soon. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

homemade takeout :: sweet and sour chicken and crab rangoon

I used to make chinese food once every couple of months. More recently it's been pretty much every week.

I actually worked in an Asian Wokery at Wegmans for several years when I was younger (if you don't have a a Wegmans I am so very sorry for you). I didn't cook though. I loved (who am I kidding -LOVE, still love!) the wokery food at Wegmans, even though it's totally Americanized. One of the cooks I used to work with would cook 'real' Asian food for us sometimes and would tell me how "American" all the food was they cooked for the bar. Too much sugar, he said. Which I'm sure is true, but it's still totally delicious.

So my homecooked Chinese simply doesn't compare to Wegmans. But it's pretty darn good for homemade 'takeout.'

I find that it's a pretty good process. Chinese night means a good 1.5 hours of food prep and cooking, so I try to only do it on nights that The Husband is home as well.

I also find I probably do too much frying. I baked eggrolls last week. Not as good. I justify it by saying that we probably eat less fried foods than the average american family getting fast food several times a week.

For a few weeks I was just doing a quick pork and veggie stirfry and eggrolls. But the last couple of weeks we've been branching out a little more. I'm thinking I need to get us some chopsticks and some authentic asian recipes.

Last nights dinner was sweet and sour chicken, veggie stirfry, rice, and crab rangoon (um. sans crab so just rangoon?)

Colin told me it was better than Wegmans. That's one heck of a compliment around these parts!

Sweet and Sour Chicken 
6 boneless skinless breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups flour
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 1/2 cups water

Combine dry ingredients and slowly add water until a thick batter forms. Add the chicken pieces and mix to coat.

Drop one by one in fryer preheated to 350 degrees. I did 4 batches total, each one taking about 10 minutes. You'll want about 1 quart of oil (vegetable, coconut, peanut  - whatever you want)

Keep finished chicken pieces on baking sheet in 200-250 degree oven to keep warm and crispy will frying additional batches.

1/4 cup pineapple juice (or 8 oz can crushed pineapple - use all the juice and about 1/2 the pineapple)
1 3/4 cup water, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
red and yellow or orange food coloring if desired to look like takeout sauce

In a saucepan mix 1 1/2 cup water, sugar, pineapple, vinegar and food coloring if using. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add to saucepan (I would halve those amounts next time) - stir until thickened (I kept this on simmer while everything else cooked up)

Serve sauce over chicken

Non Crab Rangoon. 
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese, softened
garlic powder to taste (I used around a tablespoon)
1/2 tsp paprika
dash of pepper
green onions, sliced (as many as desired)
1 pkg wonton wrappers

Mix all ingredients except wrappers (obviously)

spoon mixture into center of wrappers (about a tablespoonish)

wet edges of wrappers with water, fold in half and pinch closed

Fry at 350 for about 5 minutes. Can keep warm and crispy in oven on 200-250 on baking sheet.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

one good thing 2/1

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below. 
Clearly, I haven't been posting everyday - as sniffles and coughs made their way around the house these last couple of weeks I count it a success just to make it through each day without collapsing. 

We're still a bit foggy headed and congested, but things are clearing up a little bit. 

Now. Let me tell you about my very good thing. I'm not even waiting until the day is done. 

You may remember I have a baby who does not sleep. He rarely naps - and if he does at all it's for about 45 minutes in someones arms. Then he's up, on average, 10 times a night to nurse. He's 7 months old and so this makes for a very sleepy mama. 

Luckily, I have a kind of awesome husband who gets up with the older kids and gets them on the bus before heading out to work himself. Little guy sleeps his longest stretch from about 5-7am each morning. 

Naps have become increasingly frustrating for me. Most days I suck it up, hold him in my arms and smile while I watch him sleep. But some days, I am desperate for an hour of mama time - no baby attached. 

As I write this, baby boy has been sleeping mostly soundly BY HIMSELF for a whopping 50 minutes. 

I started to clean. I did a quick tidy. Then I grabbed a handful of trailmix, plopped down and got online. It feels a little dirty. Sort of like sitting home and eating bon-bons. 

It's not like I don't spend time catching up on blogs, pinning and googling around while I'm nursing. I do. But it's a whole new level of luxury to do all this baby free! Guilty pleasure, for sure!

I don't suppose if napping becomes a habit, that vegging out online will become a habit for me. I'm anxious to dig into some projects. But man, this little sliver of time has felt absolutely refreshing.

And as I type that I hear someone stirring. And for the first time in quite a long time, I'm not feeling too bummed out by that!

A very good thing, indeed. 

my nap-time companion