Dinner Menu: Food for a Fall Evening

JeffW sends along some garlic bread. ETA: JeffreyW posted recipe in the comments

Tonight’s menu is pretty simple. Use the soup recipe as a starter and add whatever inspires you to supe it up (hee-hee, see what I did there?). I like the ease of frozen vegetables, but use fresh if you’re so inclined. Squash is a nice addition, put it in when you are simmering the meat, it will need the extra cooking time. Turnips, parsnips, maybe some barley. Go crazy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Beef Vegetable Soup
  2. Hearty Bread
  3. Pumpkin Apple Butter

Beef Vegetable Soup

  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat, small cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp crushed basil
  • ½ tsp dry dill
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp fennel seed (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into 8-10 pieces
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables

large saucepan

Heat oil in saucepan, add onions and sauté, add beef and brown. Add water, spices and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook 20-25 minutes, until beef is tender. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Apple Butter

  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz apple sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

saucepan

Add all ingredients to saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook down for 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Store in the refrigerator. Serve on bread.

Shopping List:

  • Hearty Bread
  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz applesauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar

Also: ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, bay leaf, rosemary, basil, dry dill, olive oil crushed garlic, fennel seed

Friday Recipe Exchange: Slow-Cooker Recipes for Busy Days

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JeffreyW’s Slowcooker Italian Pork

This has been a busy holiday week, so this is a quick and dirty recipe exchange. But first, I want to take a moment and thank all of you for the outpouring of love on the loss of my cat. They’re tiny, they’re furry and they really work their way into your heart. I cannot believe how much your comments and emails helped. You rock.

Now back to our scheduled recipe exchange:

This time of year I’m always looking for recipes I can have in the slow-cooker and everyone can serve themselves. My favorite is the featured recipe this week, Portuguese Beef and Pasta, which I usually only make when the extended family gets together.

Slow-cookers are one of the most versatile appliances in the kitchen, you can make a nice pot roast dinner, or recipes as simple as soups and stews. The best part is coming home from work or a day of holiday events and know dinner is ready to go and the house smells wonderful.

For recipes, let’s start with JeffreyW’s Italian Pork, pictured above and the recipe here.

Then something different, and a childhood favorite meal, Brunswick Stew, recipe here. (Posting this makes me smile, because the last time I posted the recipe, commenters informed me that REAL Brunswick Stew is made with squirrel. You’re welcome to substitute as needed).

And finally, a Chunky Vegetable Soup,  recipe found here.

What’s on your menu this weekend? Any fun holiday plans? I have a couple of things I’d like to do – Zoo Lights or Blossom Lights (at the botanical gardens) and the Christmas parade.  What are some of your favorite meals around the holidays? Do you have go-to recipes when the family descends?

I really like tonight’s featured recipe because it is very simple, but so very tasty. If I make it when the family gathers, I always double it. The recipe below serves 4.  This is a great recipe to make and let everyone help themselves when they are hungry. I toss the pasta with olive oil and put it in the refrigerator and leave the beef simmering in the slow-cooker on low for the entire day. They mix the two when they are hungry. I must say, the longer the beef cooks, the better it gets. It’s always a hit with everyone.

Portuguese Beef & Pasta

  • 1 lb round steak, cut into thin strips, remove excess fat
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (reserve ¼ for beans)
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz dry macaroni**

Slow-Cooker and saucepan

Add beef, salt, pepper, onion, green pepper, garlic, paste, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf & red pepper to Slow-Cooker. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions (usually 8-10 hours on low) until beef tears easily with a fork. In saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well (you don’t want any water in your beef mixture) and mix beef and pasta in serving bowl.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Let’s Talk Stews

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Phew, almost forgot about the recipe exchange – was out house hunting and lost track of time.

I am just not sure how it got to November 1st already. I am not ready for the holiday season to begin. I am thinking about Christmas Eve dinner menu, though, because I am hosting again this year. Suppose to visit family for Thanksgiving, but that may not happen, so I might have to begin to think about that menu, as well.

BTW, in case you missed it – and if you visited the blog anytime in the last week, how could you have – my beloved Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions.

I decided it was stew weather. When things get chilly and busy, stew is one of those things I love to have slow cooking when I get home in the evening.  In my mind, stew is best when it’s simple: meat, potatoes, carrots, turnips or rutabaga, onions, salt, pepper and a bay leaf.  But I understand that there are as many stews as there are families who enjoy them. With that in mind I have a few recipes and the featured recipe will be a simple one that you can add anything to that suits your fancy.

Let’s start with the Dinner Menu this week, which is Spicy Chicken Stew and Sweet Potatoes with Apples (click here).

Tes at Home had a Beef Stew with Apples, link here.

I have a Beef Stew in Wine with both pressure cooker and slow-cooker instructions here.

And finally JeffreyW does a Guinness Lamb Stew, pictured above and recipe here.

What’s on the menu for the weekend? How do you dress up your stew recipes? Hit the comments and share your tips.

Now for the featured recipe with bonus biscuits:

Beef Stew

  • 1 lb chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 4-6 small potatoes, quartered
  • 2 small turnips or rutabaga, peeled and quartered
  • 8 oz baby carrots, halved
  • pinch of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 tbsp flour

slow-cooker, skillet

Heat oil in skillet and brown beef (you can do this the  night before and refrigerate with all the pan drippings). Place meat, onion, turnip or rutabaga, potatoes, carrots & spices in the slow-cooker,  add 6 cups water and cook according to slow-cooker directions, (usually 8 to 10 hours on low). Before serving, turn heat to high, mix 1 cup water and flour completely, add to stew, stirring constantly, and cook additional 10-15 minutes.

Wheat Biscuits

  • 1-1/2 cups white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup milk

large bowl and baking sheet

Mix dry ingredients together, cut in shortening, add milk. Stir quickly with a fork until completely moistened, don’t over mix. Knead gently on floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll out to ½ inch thick, cut into biscuits. Place on baking sheet and bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

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Guinness Lamb Stew

DSC_5396 [1600x1200]We had plenty of lamb left over from that crockpot leg of lamb yesterday so it seemed a no brainer to make an Irish stew for St Pat’s Day.  This one started with browning bacon in the pot.  Remove the bacon to a paper towel and cut up a carrot and potato to brown in the bacon fat.  I had plenty of onion from the dish yesterday or I would cut one up to go with the other veggies here.  (If you are starting with fresh lamb pieces you would brown them in the bacon fat before the veggies go in.)  Let the potato get a little color,  then add a tablespoon of tomato paste and a good sprinkle of flour and stir that for a minute to cook the flour a bit.  Now add beef broth and a bottle of Guinness or whatever other dark beer you have, and then dump in the leftover lamb that you’ve pulled apart or cut down to bite sized.  Add back the bacon and a spring of fresh rosemary and a bay leaf.  Simmer for a couple of hours, then serve with some nice crusty bread.DSC_5397 [1600x1200]

Slowcooker: Beef and Pasta Soup

A bit of snow today, so I thought soup sounded like a good plan. Add some garlic bread and you’re all set for dinner.

Originally published January 2003 (our very first recipe here):

Beef & Pasta Soup

  • 1 lb stew beef or beef chuck, cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • 2 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz sliced carrots (frozen or fresh)
  • 8 cups water
  • 12 oz bowtie or rigatoni pasta

Cookware:  slowcooker and saucepan

Combine all ingredients, except pasta, in slowcooker.  Cook according to manufacturer’s directions (usually on low for 8-10 hours).  30 minutes before serving, in saucepan cook pasta according to package directions, until it’s al dente (firm and still a bit chewy).  Drain and add to the soup, let simmer 10-15 minutes (the pasta will continue to cook and absorb flavors from the soup).

TIPS:  when using dry spices, crush them between your fingers before using, to bring out the flavors.  For added flavor, marinate beef in 1/2 cup red wine for 1 hour (or overnight in the refrigerator).

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes    Cooking time: 8 to 10 hours

Summer Rerun: Guest Recipe: Cabbage Rolls

I am reposting this because John Cole had a birthday last week and his dad made him cabbage rolls again and everyone was asking for the recipe. Here it is. Originally published August of 2010:

I was catching up on my Balloon-Juice reading one afternoon, when blog host John Cole mentioned that his dad was making cabbage rolls that night for dinner.  It so happens I’ve been looking for a good recipe for cabbage rolls for a while.  I figured if it was served in the Cole household it must be good.  John was kind enough to fulfill my request, so here is Dad Cole’s recipe:

Dad’s Cabbage Rolls

  • 1 medium size head of cabbage
  • (If you use Savoy cabbage, the cabbage will cook faster and the rolls are more delicate.)

Stuffing:

  • 1 pound ground beef mixed with ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 small to medium onion, chopped small
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley, oregano, and basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Sauce

  • 1 large can of tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp parsley, oregano, and basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in a cup of hot water
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small can of sauerkraut

Boil three quarts of water in a large pot. Cut the core out of the cabbage and remove each cabbage leave carefully. When the water is boiling, drop the cabbage leaves into the water. Leave for at least two minutes. Remove and cool in ice cold water. Drain and then use a pair of shears to remove the hard ridge that is the spine of leaf. Set leaves aside on a paper towel to drain.

In a bowl, mix the beef and pork with the eggs, seasonings, rice, and tomato paste as though you were making a meatloaf.

Take a leaf, place a large tablespoon of the meat mixture at the core end of the leaf. Roll once, then fold each side over the mixture and complete rolling the filling to the end of the leaf.

Place rolls in a crock pot or baking casserole. As you layer them, spread the sauerkraut and any leaves not used after (chopped into fine strips). Mix sauce ingredients and pour over the rolls. Make certain there is enough liquid to cover the rolls. If using a crock pot, select the time. They can be cooked slowly over a 6-8 hour period, or within 4 hours. If baking, set the oven at 350 and bake for at least 1 ½ hours or until a fork can easily pierce a top roll. If more liquid is needed to keep the rolls covered, mix a small can of sauce with an equal amount water and add during the cooking time.

Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated aged Parmesan.

I can’t wait to have an occasion to try these out.  And I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I only hang out at Balloon-Juice because I have a huge crush on this guy:

Balloon-Juice Lord and Master

John, I had to go back 4 months to find a good picture of Tunch,  which means one thing, MORE TUNCH please.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Portuguese Beef and Pasta

Years ago, when I was first learning to ski, I was very frustrated by the amount of time I spent on my ass and not skiing.  Someone told me that if I wasn’t spending  a lot of time picking myself up, I wasn’t really skiing. I needed to push my limits to get better. In other words, it was all good.  I find that information works for a lot of things in life.  Cooking is no exception.

This week, I spent a lot of time on my figurative ass, playing with the new crock-pot making various recipes.  There were epic failures.  The first thing I tried was a slow cooker meatloaf.  It called for a basic meatloaf recipe – I have a favorite – and then cook all day on low.  The results were not stellar.  More like steamed meatloaf.  An unappetizing color and texture.  Not the nice deep brown of a good baked loaf.  I was able to salvage it by cutting it into thin slices and frying it up for sandwiches.

I'll stick to these scalloped potatoes from now on.

The next failure was the scalloped potatoes.  This called for a slightly modified recipe, a bit more moisture than in the baked method.  The flavor was fine, the texture was horrible.  Kind of like if you reheated some that you baked.  Rubbery and chewy.  I’m not sure how you could modify the recipe to get a creamier texture.  I’d love to hear any ideas in the comments.

The rest of the week was spent making traditional slow cooker foods – soups and a lovely pot roast.   It wasn’t a total loss.  I did learn that for a fool-proof slow cooker recipe it’s best to have a recipe that can cook, unattended, all day without risk of ruin.  Both the potatoes and the meatloaf really could not have cooked any longer than they did.  They would have turned out even worse.

So that was adventures in cooking this week.  What foods do you use your slow cooker for successfully? Anything usual that we’ve never thought of?  Hit the comments.  Next week I think our theme will be Mardi Gras, and I’m hoping you’ll come prepared to share some favorite drinks as well as Cajun food recipes.  Someone should bring the King’s cake recipe, too.

Here’s one of my favorite fool-proof slow cooker recipes:

Portuguese Beef & Pasta

This works best if you cook the pasta separately and either add it to the beef the last 15 minutes or serve the beef over the pasta.  This is one of those slow cooker recipes that the longer it cooks, the better it gets, usually 10 hours minimum for best flavor.

  • 1 lb round steak, cut into thin strips, remove excess fat
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz dry macaroni**

Slow-Cooker and saucepan

Add beef, salt, pepper, onion, green pepper, garlic, paste, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf & red pepper to Slow-Cooker. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions (usually 8-10 hours on low) until beef tears easily with a fork. In saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well (you don’t want any water in your beef mixture) and mix beef and pasta and serve.

**Ditilani works really, or any tiny pasta, like tiny elbow macaroni or tiny bow-ties.

Tuscan Bean Soup

Winter is all about soups and stews for me.  There is nothing like a kitchen filled with the smells of a simmering pot of goodness. Who cares about the gloomy day outside when you can serve a steaming hot bowl of soup or stew with a nice loaf of  bread or biscuits.

Bean soups are high on my list of favorite soups.  And since discovering the joys of cooking with a pressure cooker, using dried beans are snap.  I know many people are purists and say that dried beans are the only way to go, but honestly I have never found canned beans to be lacking.  They are quick and easy and I like the flavor just fine.  So by all means, if you want to make life easier, use canned beans.

And to get us started, here is a nice bean soup.  I’m not a big kale fan, so I only added 2 cups and added spinach as well.  You can easily add as much kale as you like, the original recipe called for 2 whole heads.

Serves 6 easily.  Serve with a nice garlic bread.

Tuscan Bean Soup

  • 14 oz canned kidney beans, or 1/2 cup dried, soaked overnight*
  • 14 oz canned cannellini beans, or 1/2 cup dried, soaked overnight*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound diced pancetta, or bacon
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • Salt and pepper
  • 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock (low-sodium)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 sprig rosemary (remove before serving)
  • 1 tsp dried basil, or 1 tbsp chopped fresh
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, for serving

Place the beans in a medium pot, add water to cover by 2-inches and bring to a boil. (If using canned kidney beans, skip this step.) Turn the heat down, let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until just-tender.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, rendering the fat and cooking until slightly crispy about 3 minutes. Sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add the diced tomatoes, the cooked and drained beans and the chicken stock and water. Add spices, salt and pepper. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the kale and spinach. Continue cooking until the beans are completely tender.

Pressure Cooker instructions:

*At this altitude, soaking does nothing, so I skip that step. I rinse them well and then I pressure cook the beans for 30 minutes before starting the soup. It can be done the night before and refrigerate the drained beans. They will be just tender, drain and add to soup as per directions above.