Make Ahead

Slow Cooker Beef and Vegetable Stew

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Slow-Cooker Beef and Vegetable Stew

2 T vegetable oil, divided

3 lb beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes


2 medium onions, diced

1/4 t salt

6 oz can tomato paste

2 T soy sauce

1 1/2 c beef broth

1/2 c red wine

1 t dried thyme, divided


2 bay leaves

2 T Minute tapioca


1 T olive oil

2 large Russet potatoes, cubed

3 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4 inch thick moons

2 c diced carrot


2 c frozen peas

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in medium stockpot until it is shimmering hot. Work in batches and sear beef on several sides, then remove to slow-cooker. After browning and removing all the beef, heat another tablespoon of vegetable oil and then add onions and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to pan. Cook over medium-high heat until onions begin to brown. Add tomato paste and stir constantly for one minute, then add soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, wine and beef broth. Whisk to combine, then pour over beef in slow-cooker. Add tapioca and bay leaf.

In a separate bowl toss carrots potatoes and celery with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme. Tear a sheet of aluminum foil that is roughly twice as wide as your slow-cooker. Place vegetables on aluminum foil and then fold over, crimping aluminum foil to seal. Put vegetable pack directly on top of beef in slow-cooker. Replace lid and cook on high for 6-7 hours.

Carefully open aluminum foil packet and stir roasted vegetables along with 2 cups of frozen peas into beef. 

Printable version here

Notes: Sorry for the lack of posts recently; nothing reduces ones desire to cook (or eat for that matter) faster than a sinus infection. For two weeks everything tasted like dust.

I have lots of recipes for stew and I like them all for different reasons. This was particularly nice when I didn't feel well because after an initial rally to get the beef done I didn't have to worry about dinner again all day. The techniques of using the tapioca as a thickener and of putting the vegetables in aluminum foil are both compliments of Cook's Country. Patrick liked this recipe, Caroline and Edward did not. I had lots of leftover stew so I put it into mini loaf pans and covered it with a pie crust and froze it to have as pot pies later. 

   


Freezable French Toast

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Freezable French Toast

2 loaves sliced bread

6 T butter, browned

3 c half-and-half
4 eggs
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T flour
2 T vanilla extract
1 T real maple syrup
2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° unless you are going to use the broiler to toast the bread, in which case you can wait to turn on the broiler and then reduce the heat to 350° for the baking cycle.

Heat butter in a saucepan until it has browned, about five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about five to ten minutes - you want the butter to still be liquid but not so hot it that it causes the eggs to cook when you add them. Then whisk in eggs, half-and-half, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Pour into a wide, flat container (like a lasagne pan or a big Tupperware container.)

Spray a wire cooling rack with cooking spray (or grease lightly with oil or a little butter) and place it inside a baking sheet. Two if you have them.

Start toasting the bread. You can either use a toaster or arrange the bread on the racks and broil for a minute or two on each side. The idea is to toast the bread and then soak the warm toast in the egg/half-and-half mixture so that it absorbs.

Take two pieces of warm toast at a time and submerge them in the custard for about sixty seconds (you'll start to see air bubbles as if you are drowning them - drowning them in GOODNESS.) Shake excess liquid off and arrange pieces on the wire cooling racks. Mine fit eight perfectly and I baked two sheets at once. Bake at 350° for fifteen minutes, turning after seven minutes (if you are baking two sheets switch their positions in the oven at this time.) Repeat with toast, custard soak and bake until both loaves and the custard are gone.

Let cool on the racks for thirty minutes, then place in freezer for an hour. Transfer frozen toast to Ziploc bags and freeze to store.

To reheat simply pop into the toaster and toast.

Makes 32 pieces. Serves: 1 Patrick.

Printable version here

Notes: Did that make any sense? It seems so obvious when I was doing it (toast soak bake freeze) but I am not sure if I didn't just garble things a little. The idea came from Cook's Country (a magazine I like) but I tweaked it a lot. The process takes time and is a nice weekend project, I think. The payoff comes on weekday mornings when you can create really good french toast in thirty seconds with the toaster. Ta DA! 


Jan Hagels

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Jan Hagels

1 c butter, softened
1 c sugar

1 egg, separated white from yolk
1 t almond extract

2 c flour

1/2 c sliced almonds
1 T sugar
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and almond extract. Then add flour and stir until just combined.

Turn dough into ungreased 15X10X1 inch pan (jelly roll pan.) Using your fingers spread the dough until it evenly covers the entire pan.

In a small bowl whisk egg white until it is frothy. Brush egg white over dough and then sprinkle the almonds on top. Finish by sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over the dough.

Bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool and then cut into pieces. Traditionally these cookies are served in diamond shapes so cut into diagonal strips that criss-cross the pan. Or, you know, squares taste the same.

Printable version here


Notes: The most time consuming part of this recipe is pushing the dough into the pan. When you first start to do so you will swear that I am  crazy and it will never be enough to cover the pan. But I'm not and it does.

My mother's best friend was German (still is, last I heard from her) and she used to make these cookies at Christmastime. For the first thirty seven years of my life I only considered eating these in December. But I have recently realized that life is too short to relegate things that taste good to tiny windows of time and my new plan is to start drinking at breakfast. Oh, and to make Jan Hagels whenever I feel like it.

Last week I was standing in the grocery store about to buy a package of Oreos when I decided that I should bake more often. What could be more comforting and loving than a homemade cookie in one's lunchbox, I reasoned. So I virtuously returned the Oreos to the shelf and I picked up a big bag of chocolate chips and a small ditto of sliced almonds on my way out. Then, as I do, I forgot about it until about nine o'clock on Sunday night. Jan Hagels come together very quickly and they bake quickly so it wasn't THAT much of a hassle but I still felt like I had been particularly selfless when I told Patrick on Monday morning that I had made cookies for his lunch.

"Great!" he said. "Chocolate chip?"

"No! Jan Hagels!"

So he looked at them and made a face and said, "oh. I don't like almonds" and then Steve said, "oh no not those ALMOND cookies again" because Steve doesn't like almonds either (I think he had a bad marzipan experience as a child.) The end result is that I got six dozen cookies all to myself and Patrick took one of those vile little shelf stable puddings we had left over from his tonsil surgery.

There is no moral to this story but if you are not weird and you like the delicious taste of a well-sugared almond then you will no doubt enjoy this recipe. 

PS Someone requested printable versions of the recipes and I think this is an excellent idea and I am working on implementing it. So... I'm trying.

PPS I froze some of the cookies after I baked them because... well I could eat 6 dozen Jan Hagels but should I? I defrosted them later and they were pretty good.


Grilled Pizza, Part Two

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I am shocked by how all consuming Patrick has been, post-tonsillectomy. Technically only one out of the six of us (my mother is visiting) is surviving on popsicles, buttered noodles, soggy french toast and tiny sips of blue Gatorade but somehow all normal meal planning has gone flying out the window. My poor mother had to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich today for lunch when it became obvious I was not going to rally; and Caroline and Edward had a packaged Dal Bukhara (lentil and tomato curry) on toast that I finished - I am  not proud of this - with my fingers when the effort of heating up frozen naan seemed beyond me.

So this is what I made for dinner when I had no time to cook* and this is what I post when I have no time to post.

I had five leftover pizza dough balls the other day and a goodly quantity of sauce. We rolled out and grilled the dough, then let it cool for a couple of hours before putting the crusts into a ziploc bag. Meanwhile, I had put about 1.5 T of pizza sauce into each cup of a silicon mini muffin pan and put the pan in the freezer. The next day I popped the sauce rounds out of the pan and threw them into another freezer bag.

To make the pizza straight out of the freezer I put the crusts on top of the (unlit) stove burners to thaw without condensation making the bottoms gummy. It took less than ten minutes. Then I microwaved a few pizza sauce portions. Topped the crusts with a little olive oil, the sauce, cheese and whatever else we liked and put them under the broiler just until the cheese melted.

Notes: The crust was flabby after it was frozen and then defrosted and broiled. Sad but true. However, as a dinner that took almost no effort and was ready in less than fifteen minutes it was more than adequate.

Any protein ideas for a kid who can only eat soft foods but who hates scrambled eggs?   

*Patrick feels so bad he didn't even care that we had his favorite dinner without him. Poor kid.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These are Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. You don't need me to tell you how to make them - just get a package of chips, read the recipe and put your butter out to soften. Or use your own recipe, which is just as good or better (is it? want to share it?)

I did, however, think it might be helpful to tell you what I do to maximize my homemade chocolate chip cookieness while minimizing my access to eating, say, twenty cookies in the course of a single afternoon.

Double the recipe. Get a cookie sheet and a spring-loaded, two tablespoon sized ice cream scooper (if you're feeling fancy; otherwise a spoon and your thumb work just fine.) Create as many dough balls as you can and then put the cookie sheets into the freezer for an hour or two. Pop the now frozen cookies off the sheet and store together in a ziploc bag in the freezer for a month or two.

To bake, preheat oven to 350°. Place cookie dough balls (make a couple at a time or make a bunch) with plenty of room between them because they spread a lot when you bake them frozen. Bake 14-16 minutes until the bottoms are just beginning to brown and the tops are no longer wet.     

Notes: I should be ashamed of myself for posting this but it's what I did today and who knows? Maybe it never occurred to you to freeze the dough pre-clumped. Besides, last night we had fried egg sandwiches for dinner: toast, dijon mustard, sliced tomato, egg over easy topped with swiss cheese and then put under the broiler for a minute - delicious but you wouldn't want a picture of it.


Chilled Corn Soup

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 Chilled Corn Soup

6 ears fresh corn, cooked, kernels removed and set aside

6 c water


2 T butter

2 c diced celery

1 medium onion, diced

2 c diced carrot

2 T minced garlic

1 t salt


1 lb red potatoes, diced

2 c corn stock

2 c chicken broth

stalk of fresh basil (stem with a bunch of leaves attached)


Snap corn cobs in half and place them in a stock pot. Cover with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about two hours. Let cool and then refrigerate (cobs and all) overnight.

The next day remove corn cobs from stock. Scrape cobs with a spoon to remove any remaining pulp (I held them directly over the reserved corn kernels) and then discard cobs. Strain stock into medium bowl. Melt butter in stock pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, and salt and cook over medium heat until vegetables soften. Add garlic and cook another three minutes. Then add 2 cups of corn stock, 2 cups of chicken broth, potatoes, basil and 2/3 of the reserved corn. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft.  

Let cool. Remove basil. Then use an immersion blender (or a regular blender, working in batches) to carefully puree soup. Finally, push soup through a fine-mesh sieve held over a large bowl and refrigerate until cold.

To serve garnish with the reserved corn, fresh basil, black pepper and (if you have any on hand) coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes.

Notes: I took your advice and triaged the CSA box. Corn definitely had to be used first so we grilled all twelve ears. Ate half with dinner that night, used the rest in this soup. Technically there was enough corn stock to skip the addition of chicken broth but I am sort of a chicken broth junkie. Swanson's Natural Goodness reduced sodium being my aseptic package of choice. This was not quick - especially the final straining which I did with the back of a wooden spoon - but if you have some time and are feeling fussy it was really lovely. I saved the leftover solids and gave them to Caroline and Edward; nothing like a little potato carrot corn mush for lunch. They were skeptical but it tasted good so they overlooked the potential insult inherent in something that looked like baby food for babies. 


Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

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There is a lot to be said for these pancakes. They are (practically) healthy. They freeze (moderately) well. You can make them (almost entirely) the night before. And they are (emphatically) delicious.

Beebo's Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

2 c rolled oats
2 c buttermilk*

Stir to blend. Refrigerator overnight.

2 eggs
1/4 c butter (melted & cooled)

Mix together in separate bowl:

1/2 c flour
2 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t table salt

Add flour mixture to oat mixture and stir until moist.

Preheat griddle. Use about 1/4 batter for each pancake. Flip when air bubbles start to appear.

Makes about 14 pancakes.

Notes:

I usually make the flour mixture at the same time I put the oats into the buttermilk to soak. Then in the morning all you have to do is combine the flour and oats, break two eggs and microwave half a stick of butter for 20 seconds. Not being a morning person I appreciate having to do as few things as possible before I get to eat.

*My grandmother used to drink buttermilk sprinkled with ground black pepper - this is a taste I never managed to acquire. However, I have a shameful weakness for Hidden Valley Original Ranch dip. Not the bottled stuff that tastes like paste but the little packets that you mix with buttermilk and mayonnaise. I just laughed aloud because it suddenly occurred to me to check the nutritional content on a packet in my pantry and I thought, "Huh, 100 grams of fat? That's not terrible." Then I noticed the serving size: 1/4 teaspoon. AS IF. No wonder it's so good.

All of which is to say I usually have buttermilk in my refrigerator and the stuff keeps forever. Seriously. But if you do not have any on hand here is a little trick for this recipe:

Buttermilk Substitute: Combine 2 T white vinegar or lemon juice with 2 c milk and let sit for five minutes.

Did you make it? Change it? Have a better idea? Tell me what you think in the comments.