Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 13

Do you hate beans but like chili? Do you like beans but also like chili that’s a little different? Do you like chili? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions then this chili is for you. It’s beanless and beefy and incredibly satisfying, which is good because though it may be spring SOMEWHERE, in Ottawa we’ve had some major flooding and on Monday it stopped raining enough to SNOW. ALL. DAY. So we kind of need something cockle-warming. This chili is adapted from one my parents found on the internet and printed out and that I stole off their fridge in Florida and smuggled across the border.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 1

Start with 2lbs cubed beef chuck or stewing beef, and huck that in a non-stick skillet on high to sear all the sides. Chuck the browned beef into a large slow-cooker pot.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 4

Next, add in 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (“wooster”) sauce, 1 cup beef broth, a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Now, the recipe did not say to drain the tomatoes so I didn’t and I found my chili ended up a bit on the watery side (I also added twice as many tomatoes as the recipe asked for). I thickened the sauce with some cornstarch later on and it turned out super awesome, but I’ll leave it to your discretion to either drain the tomatoes or use a smaller can.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 7

Dice up the following: 1 white onion, 2 red bell peppers, 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks, and a couple large green chilis. I used Anaheim chilis because they are huge and not too hot and I wanted to be able to feed this to LongJohn. Gather as well 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika (ours is smoked), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Chuck all that in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 5

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 8

Don’t forget to give it a bit of a stir.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 9

Cook that sucker on low for 8-12 hours, or on high for about 6.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 11

Before serving, juice 1 lime and add the juice to the mix.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 16

Serve garnished with either grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, or chopped cilantro (or all of the above, who are we kidding?).

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 15

Meals en Masse: Beef Lasagna

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 16

In preparation for the fact that in two months my life is about to get turned upside down and I won’t have any time or energy to do much, I’m trying to make it a little easier on myself. At least once a week I’m trying to prepare a meal that I can do in triplicate, where we eat one version and store the other two in the freezer. This week I made up a hearty lasagna to feed Papa John and Mrs. Nice, and the other two went into the freezer for some night this summer when we’re willing to brave the heat to get our pasta fix.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 1

Of course I never measure anything when I make lasagna, but I’ll try to give you some approximations here for a triplicate recipe if you’re interested in trying it for yourself (and feeling very smug later when you realize you have two giant lasagnas sitting in your freezer).

First I mixed up the cheese layer, which was 2 750g tubs of cottage cheese (you can use ricotta if you prefer, but if you’re buying in this amount the cottage cheese is way cheaper), 3 rectangular packages of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained, the equivalent of 2 heads minced garlic (or however much you prefer), and a smattering of freshly ground salt and pepper.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 2

Creamy cheesy goodness.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 3

Then you can chop up your veg. I like to choose vegetables that add substance to the lasagna without competing with individual flavours, so mushrooms (8-10), eggplant (1), and zucchini (2 small) are favourites of mine, together with sweet red peppers (2) to boost the colour.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 4

Next, a giant sweet onion gets chopped up and added to a large stock pot with a few tablespoons olive oil and a knob of butter.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 5

Once those are soft and fragrant, break up your ground meat with your fingers and tip it in. This is about 2kg extra lean ground beef. If you use medium ground you’ll probably want to drain the fat off once it’s cooked.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 6

When it IS cooked, tip in your veg and let those soften. Add in some of your favourite spices, like oregano and basil.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 7

Next, about 3 jars tomato sauce.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 8

Let that simmer down for a little bit.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 9

Grate up about 2 large bricks mozzarella. When in doubt, err on the side of too much cheese. Always.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 10

Now get your stuff organized for assembly. you’ll also need 2-3 boxes uncooked oven-ready lasagna noodles. Be smart and spray your pasta dishes before you use them. The glass one is the one I’m making right away, but the disposable aluminum pans are for the freezer – I don’t own enough Pyrex to put them all in the freezer at the same time. Plus the aluminum ones make great frozen tasty gifts for those of your friends who are in a similar situation to myself. HINT, HINT.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 11

Layer on some noodles, flat in the bottom, then a generous helping of tomato sauce. You’re aiming for about 1/6th of your sauce for each pan.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 12

More noodles, and then divide your cheese evenly between your three pans.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 13

More noodles. I ran out of noodles at this point because I only had two boxes, so I had to run out and get more. And it was cold. Hooray for expectant mother parking spots.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 14

Finally add in the rest of your sauce and smother it lovingly in cheese.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 15

The ready-made version can be cooked in about 45-60 minutes at 350°F.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 16
I’m putting in this same photo again so you can see how saucy and liquidy the sauce is, despite its thickness – that extra liquid means the noodles will cook through properly without drying out the dish.

The others need to be wrapped well and frozen. I recommend thawing them before cooking, and they’ll probably take about twice as long to cook through because they won’t already be nice and warm. Enjoy!

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 17

Wingin’ it Wednesday: Standard Stirfry

Me: What do you want for dinner?

Pie: I dunno. What do YOU want for dinner?

Me: I dunno. Stir fry?

And that, ladies and gents, is how 85% of our weekday meal conversations go. Usually we end up making a stir fry – it’s an easy, relatively easy, and healthier alternative to a whole bunch of the pre-made meals you get at the grocery store.

DSCN8727

First, cube up some chicken. Or beef. Or tofu. Whatever floats your boat.

DSCN8712

Then brown it in a pan with a dash of olive oil, some minced ginger, and minced garlic.

DSCN8711

While that’s going on, chop up some vegetables – any kind you like. Slice them thin so they will cook quickly. We used carrots, sugar snap peas, red peppers, onions, and broccoli here. If you want, you can also cook some rice or noodles to serve as a base for the stir fry.

DSCN8718

When the chicken is cooked, haul it out of the pan and put it aside in a bowl.

DSCN8720

Tip your onions into the pan to soften first.

DSCN8719

Then add in the rest of the veggies.

DSCN8723

Whip up a quick sauce of about 2 tablespoons plum sauce, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, and 1 teaspoon peanut oil. Feel free to experiment with proportions and different sauces – we’ve experimented for a few years and this is the combo we like the best.

DSCN8715

Pour the sauce over the vegetables, stir it in, and pop a lid on the pan so the vegetables have a chance to steam a bit. How long this takes obviously depends on the amount of vegetables you have. You want them tender but not soggy.

DSCN8725
Toss your chicken back in to re-heat, then serve immediately over your rice or noodles.

DSCN8726

Yum!

DSCN8729

Guinness Lamb Stew with Wild Rice

Guinness Lamb Stew 26

I know you all think I’m weird because I don’t like soup.  But spooning hot liquid into my mouth (and spilling it down my face, because that’s how I roll) is not my idea of a good time.  I do, however, have a fondness for stew.  Especially stew with beer in it, because beer is a great tenderizer of things.  And because I like beer.

Guinness Lamb Stew 7

I’ve had this stewing lamb in my freezer for a while and I decided it was probably time I do something about it.

Guinness Lamb Stew 1

So I took it out, put it on a plate, and patted it dry with a paper towel.

Guinness Lamb Stew 2

Then, in a bowl, I took a small scoop of flour, added salt and pepper, and gave it a stir.

Guinness Lamb Stew 4

Into that I hucked the lamb cubes, and gave them a stir as well.

Guinness Lamb Stew 6

I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons olive oil inside.  Then, shaking the excess flour off the lamb, I plopped it in the skillet to brown.

Guinness Lamb Stew 8

While that was going on I cut up some vegetables: carrots, an onion, and a package of mushrooms.

Guinness Lamb Stew 3

I didn’t have any potatoes, that classic stew thickener, so I decided to use rice.  This wild rice blend from Trader Joe’s is excellent.

Guinness Lamb Stew 10

Guinness Lamb Stew 11

I took the browned lamb cubes out and put them on a plate to rest a few minutes.

Guinness Lamb Stew 13

Then I added a bit more oil to the pan and chucked in the vegetables, giving the onions a wee bit of a head start in the cooking.

Guinness Lamb Stew 14

Once they’ve softened you can add the rest.

Guinness Lamb Stew 15

Now you can chuck the meat back in.  Then I plopped in some parsley, Newfoundland savoury, rosemary, and thyme.  If I’d had sage I would have used that, just to make up the lyrics to that “Scarborough Fair” song.

Guinness Lamb Stew 16

I also added a few more tablespoons flour.

Guinness Lamb Stew 18

At this point I ran out of space in my pan so I transferred the contents of the skillet to a larger saucepan.  I used a bit of beef broth to deglaze the pan a bit and poured that into the pot, along with the rest of the beef broth (about 3 cups).

Guinness Lamb Stew 19

Guinness Lamb Stew 20

Then came two cans of Guinness stout (minus a sip or two, for quality control of course).

Guinness Lamb Stew 12

Guinness Lamb Stew 21

Then the rice.

Guinness Lamb Stew 22

Then I brought it to a simmer, lowered the heat, and let that gently bubble away, stirring every so often, for about an hour.

Guinness Lamb Stew 23

Excellent. Even more so the next day.

Guinness Lamb Stew 25

Wingin’ It Wednesday: Rooty Toot-Toot Soup

Root Soup 3

I made this as a fridge clean-out soup back before Christmas.  I had some beets left over from making lip gloss and I sure as heck wasn’t going to eat them as-is (because beets, to me, taste like dirt).  Couldn’t waste them, though.  Nope.  So I thought I would chuck them in a soup, hide the flavour that way, while revealing the lovely colour that they do have going for them.

First I chopped up an onion and sautéed it with garlic in olive oil until it was soft.  Then I added in chopped carrots, parsnips, and a sweet potato.

Root Soup 2

We’d had some steaks the night before and I’d fried up three from the package.  The leftover one had been rather runty and was so marbled I thought the Pie might find it too tough, so I basically minced it and chucked that in as well, with some beef broth.

Simmer that down until the vegetables are soft, then purée them with an immersion blender and shazam, cheery, rosy soup! If you find it a little thick, feel free to thin with water or more broth.

Root Soup 1

Guinness Beef Stew

Guinness Beef Stew 6

Oh yeah.  The fact that my fingers are going numb with cold right now tells me it’s comfort food season.  And what’s more comforting than a nice beef stew?

Guinness Beef Stew 6

The other day at Costco I went a bit nuts and purchased one of their large packages of excellent stewing beef.  “I’ll make boeuf Bourgignon,” I said, forgetting two important things: 1) I am horribly allergic to red wine; and 2) I do not own a Dutch oven.

So scratch that.  Let’s cook with beer instead.  I took a bit of inspiration from the Guinness Storehouse website, and a little from Jamie Oliver, but other than that I just kind of winged it.

Guinness Beef Stew 1

First I started off by roasting some of my vegetables.  That’s 1 head garlic, with the top chopped off, 1 package white mushrooms chopped in half, and 1 package pearl onions, peeled.

Guinness Beef Stew 2

Drizzle those with olive oil and roast at 400°F for about half an hour, and give the onions and mushrooms a good stir about halfway through.

Guinness Beef Stew 5

Then I peeled and roughly chopped 3 parsnips and 4 carrots, and a small bunch of celery.  And some potatoes, which aren’t in this shot.  How many potatoes?  I don’t remember. I didn’t take a picture of them.

Guinness Beef Stew 4

That all goes straight into the pot.

Guinness Beef Stew 7

You can tip in the roasted onions and mushrooms, too.

Guinness Beef Stew 9

Save the garlic on a plate for a little bit.

Guinness Beef Stew 8

Now you can work on your meat, and this is going to take a while.  This is whatever size the package of stewing beef is that comes from Costco, which is extremely large, but the beef is truly excellent and I highly recommend it.  I cut my chunks in half just to make them more manageable with a spoon.  Then  you pat them dry with a paper towel and put them on a plate.  You could use a clean tea towel to dry your meat if you were feeling environmentally conscious, but let’s face it: ew.

Guinness Beef Stew 10

In a bowl, mix together some flour (I used buckwheat just in case a gluten-free person came over for dinner sometime in the future – but then the Pie pointed out that Guinness has gluten in it so I’m an idiot), salt, pepper, and cayenne seasoning.

Guinness Beef Stew 12

Spill some of that onto a plate and spread it out.  Roll your meat chunks in the flour.

Guinness Beef Stew 13

Brown the meat, working in small batches, in that skillet you already used on medium heat.  Add some more olive oil if it starts to dry out and smoke.  Chuck the browned beef into the pot with the vegetables.  This is probably the most tedious step, and takes a while.

Guinness Beef Stew 14

Once you have browned all the meat, pour about 3 1/2 cups beef broth into the vegetable/meat pot.  I found this concentrated stuff at the grocery store. All you have to do is add boiling water. Sure takes up less space in my cupboard!

Guinness Beef Stew 3

Tie a bundle of thyme and rosemary together and chuck that in as well.  I find if you tie the bundle string to the handle of the pot it makes getting it out later a lot easier.  Bring the contents to a simmer.

Guinness Beef Stew 23

In the skillet that you have been using, plop a little butter and more olive oil and let that melt.

Guinness Beef Stew 18

Add in the garlic you roasted earlier and mash it with a wooden spoon.

Guinness Beef Stew 19

Then pour in 2 cans Guinness stout beer and bring that to a simmer.

Guinness Beef Stew 21

Scrape the bottom lots with your wooden spoon.

Guinness Beef Stew 22

Pour that whole lot into your bubbling stew and let that simmer with the lid off, stirring occasionally, to reduce for a while (at least an hour).  You may find you have to add in a bit of corn starch after a while for thickening if you used a gluten-free flour.

Guinness Beef Stew 24

We served ours with some beer bread made out of Mill Street’s Oktoberfest.

Guinness Beef Stew 5

You can simplify all this by doing it all in a slow cooker, but I find I prefer the sharper flavours of the roasted vegetables and the constant stirring — you’d still have to brown the meat before slow-cooking it anyway.  But boy it is time-consuming.

Guinness Beef Stew 4

Worth it, though.

Guinness Beef Stew 1

Wingin’ it Wednesday: Comfort Ramen

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

The week before we left for Vancouver, the Pie, poor thing, got tonsillitis.  After the fever went down and he’d rested a bit (read: slept all day and all night for two days), he still had a raging sore throat and came home from the doctor’s with an enormous jar of amoxycillin pills (sorry folks, when you’re grown up, they don’t give you the banana-flavoured liquid anymore).

To tempt his appetite (hard to be hungry when every swallow is like eating razors), I made him all sorts of his favourite soft foods, and this was one of them.  Ramen is the sort of thing we eat when one of us is out for the evening and the other doesn’t want to be bothered with really cooking.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Of course, the ramen as it comes in packages with salty broth and dried noodles cooked in coconut or palm kernel oil is an unhealthy choice, and I haven’t yet learned to make it from scratch.  So we try to add a few things to it in the hopes that it will be nutritionally redeemed — somewhat.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

This means that there’s a bit of prep work involved in making what is normally an almost instant meal, but it’s totally worth it.  Just remember that any vegetable or meat or anything you put in the ramen must be fully cooked or sliced super dooper thin, because it will only be in the boiling water for a very short time.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Accordingly, tonight I thinly sliced up a small onion, an Italian sausage, and about six mushrooms.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

I’m trying to get more protein in small packages into the Pie’s stomach (when you’re a large man and you’re barely eating, you tend to get very tired), so I’m also adding two eggs to this mix.  Beat those up and let them wait in a bowl until you’re ready.  Other things that work well in ramen are things like thinly sliced roast beef, green onions, pre-cooked baby shrimp, chopped hard-boiled eggs, red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, spinach … anything small, pretty much, will work.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

So the first thing I do when cooking packaged ramen is I measure the water into a pot and I add the powdered broth.  I like to give it a chance to simmer a bit.  I also add a healthy dollop of minced garlic.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

When the water is boiling, I slide in the blocks of noodles and cook them for about a minute.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Then I pour in the vegetables and sausage and give them a stir (cooking chopsticks are very handy here, but a regular pasta spoon will work as well), and let that cook for another minute.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Then carefully pour your egg in, in a thin stream, so it cooks and forms strings on the surface of the soup.  Give that a stir as well, and then you’re ready to serve.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Garnish with fresh herbs if you like, or chili flakes or whatever floats your boat.  Smooth and simple!

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen