Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Traveler's Grace

I dislike flying as much as the next person - hurtling through the air in a claustrophobic missile - not my cup of tea. On the other hand, I enjoy the prospect of flying because I often see the hand of God a little more clearly than I do on a daily basis. Problems? Delays? Missed Flights? No money? No speak-a-the-language? No Problem. He's got it. He's God.

 I call this Traveler's Grace.

I could rattle of a few awesome stories for you, but that's a post for another time. This post is about how I'm feeling a whole lot of Traveler's Grace from the comfort of my recliner, in my living room. My living room that wasn't supposed to be mine anymore come Nov. 3rd, but is suddenly mine for an indeterminate amount of time longer.

We've outgrown our current house. After months of house-hunting, we found our dream home. It needs some serious work, but there's so much about it that is just amazingly dreamy. I definitely have a house-crush on that house. Big. Time.

We put our current house on the market and got a full-price offer 4 hours later. Maybe it was 5. You get the point. FAST. We were beyond thrilled. Everything was moving forward. Until it stopped. Cold. As these things occasionally do. Our buyer's financing fell through. I'm sure their hearts are breaking, too. I'm praying for them.

I'm a pessimist. That was my first explanation as to why I was so peaceful when I found out that not only were we not moving into our dream home in less than a week, but suddenly our buyers weren't our buyers anymore and we have to start from scratch selling our house. Staging, showing, leaving at a moment's notice with 4 kiddos (and it's getting cold - playgrounds aren't much of an option anymore). Peace. I was simply peaceful.

As we started picking up the pieces: cleaning, re-staging, putting the kiddo's bunkbed back together, I realized that the peace I was feeling had a particular flavor to it. I recognized it - peace tinged with a touch of adrenaline.

Traveler's Grace.

God is up to something. I don't know what, I don't know how, but I'm along for the ride and I get to see it play out. I'm excited.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pasta Sauce. The Secret is...Green Pepper?

I'm sorry to say, I love Doritos. I know they're laden with all sorts of goodness, like neurotoxin MSG, artificial colors, etc. So, what's a girl to do, but scour the ingredient list for what makes them so darn good (well, you know, besides chemicals).

I was surprised to discover green bell peppers on the ingredient list. It's one of those veggies that I've always placed in the no-flavor-just-crunchy category. Like cucumber.

Well, wouldn't you know, after reading that list, I've started to become more aware of the nuances of green pepper and I when I was at Aldi, I picked some up with the express purpose of adding it to things.

Tonight's dinner includes homemade pasta sauce. I had 1/2 lb leftover browned ground beef (grass fed, 'cause you know, snobbery) that I dumped in my trusty dutch oven along with finely diced 1/2 green pepper and 1/2 onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic. A bit of sautéing later and I added:

- 2 more cloves of minced garlic (for a total of 4)
- 1 pint crushed tomatoes
- a tsp or so of Italian herbs
- a dash of cayenne pepper
- a pinch of baking soda (cuts the acidity of the tomato)
- a pinch of sugar
- quite a bit (1 tsp?) of salt [to taste]

After all these additions, I pulled out my handy stick-blender and pureed the whole lot. I have a child with texture issues, and this is one small way to make dinner more pleasant.

I had a taste and let's just say, it's not doritos (good thing!) but the green pepper and garlic provide the flavor that I love!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Beef Stew with Roasted Root Veggies

Ingredients:

1.75 lb beef, cut into 1-2 in. pieces
couple Tbs. Olive Oil
1 1/2 Tbs or so (generous splash) Red Wine Vinegar [for deglazing]
4 cups Chicken Stock (next time I'll do 1/2 chicken, 1/2 beef if i have it on hand)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 bay leaves
1 stalk celery, chopped in half
1 large onion, chopped into large chunks
5-6 small potatoes, cut into large chunks
3 carrots, cut into 3rds
another couple Tbs Olive Oil to coat veggies for roasting
generous splash Red Cooking Wine (1-2 tbs)
Salt and Pepper to taste


Directions:

- pat-dry beef with paper towel
- heat dutch oven on med-high heat, pour in olive oil to coat bottom.
- Sear beef briefly in batches, remove
- pour vinegar into pot, scrape pot
- pour Chicken Stock into pot and scrape some more
- lower heat
- Return beef to pot; add bay leaves, garlic and celery stalk
- bring to gentle simmer while heating oven to 325
- Place covered dutch oven in oven for a couple hours

An hour before serving...

- Remove pot from oven and place on burner on low heat
- Increase oven temp to 425

In roasting pan, combine onion, potatoes and carrots. Toss with olive oil. Roast until caramelized (onions will be done first). Cut into bite-size pieces and add to stew pot.

Remove and discard bay leaves and celery.
Splash in the Cooking wine and salt and pepper to taste.

Keep warm at a gentle simmer until ready to eat.

Celebrate a happy husband who ate thirds.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Quick and Simple Chili

So, I guess I'm on a soup kick. It's Fall, I'm allowed.

I really like Wendy's chili. I've tried and failed at copycatting it in the past. Today I came close and in the end, I think I prefer my version. Mark wasn't thrilled with it. He said it lacked flavor. He also says that about my taste in Chinese take-out (I like broccoli and chicken, he likes the deep fried stuff).

Here's the secret to my chili: No tomato anything.

It almost sounds heretical, right? If you must call it something else, feel free. "Delicious beef soup" works, but people might wonder why you're boasting about your own cooking and, "What is it really called?"

Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground beef
(extra oil for sautéing everything, if needed)
2 tsp - 1 tbs ground cumin
1-2 tbs paprika
1 large green pepper, chopped
1med/large onion, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, (I use 2 Trader Joe's frozen minced cubes)
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef stock
4 cups chicken stock
1 can beans of your choice, rinsed (I used Great Northern 'cause that's what I had on hand)
salt and pepper to taste

Start cooking the ground beef in a pot. Once there's some oil in the pan, add everything down through garlic. Cook until onions are wilted.

Pour in stocks, beans, and add bay leaves. Simmer for 30 min or so. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves when serving.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Amazing Chicken Soup

I don't know about you, but when I create a new dinner dish that turns out to be repeatable I think, "That was easy, no need to write it down, I'll just file it away in the old memory." Fast forward a month and I think "How did I do that?" Yeah. Every time.

Today that changes.

Equipment: Crockpot, saute pan

Ingredients:

8 cups water
1 small whole chicken, raw, skin removed
2 carrots cut to fit in crockpot
2 carrots chopped or diced
2 stalks of celery cut to fit in crockpot
2 stalks of celery chopped or diced
1 med/large onion, quartered
1 med/large onion finely chopped
3 or 4 bay leaves
2 cloves of minced garlic (or equivalent)
coconut oil for sautéing
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In crockpot combine
- water
- chicken
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- quartered onion
- bay leaves

Crockpot it until chicken falls of bone
Discard veggies, bay leaves and bones*
Place shredded/chunked meat back in broth in crockpot
Add 1 clove of garlic to broth/meat (this is what I did - in the future I might add both cloves to the sautéd veggies, see below)

Sautee in coconut oil: chopped carrots, celery and onion. When onion looks wilted, add remaining garlic. Continue sautéing for a few minutes. Add enough broth to cover veggies and simmer until somewhat soft - maybe 8-10 min? Add veggies and all liquids to soup.

Stir to combine and generously season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with grated cheddar cheese. Yum!

*Or save the bones and make bone broth - Thanks Sarah S. for the tips about that. I've yet to try that, but if/when I get my hands on some organic chicken, I'm sure I'll give it a whirl.