Monday, May 19, 2008

The World's Easiest Beef Stew

If there's anything in the world easier than cooking in a crock pot then I don't want to know about it. I already feel sinfully lazy when using my crock pot as it is. I have a recipe for beef stew that you simply cannot screw up. You can make it with as little or as much meat as you want to (even none) and with just about any vegetables that you like. If you've never tried crock pot cooking before this recipe is a great place to start! You will need:

4-6 potatoes, any variety
2 small yams
3 cups of carrots
2 cups of beef stock
1/2 large onion, any variety
red wine
Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
bay leaf

Cut the potatoes into medium sized chunks. I prefer to leave the skin on but you could certainly peel them.
Peel the yams and chop them into medium chunks.
Peel the carrots and chop them into medium chunks. Or be lazy like me and buy a bag of baby carrots to toss in.
Chop up the onion into small pieces.
Add all the veggies to the pot. The veggies need to be on the bottom!
Cut up the beef (pretty much any kind will work) into small-medium pieces. Add it to the pot.
Pour in the beef stock, a splash of red wine, a splash of Worcestershire and a bay leaf.
Set crock pot on low and let simmer for 6 hours. Don't peek! Opening the crock pot causes it to lose the heat and adds to the cooking time.
After 6 hours open the crock pot (I know I just said not to) and pull out the bay leaf. Mix everything up and season with a generous amount of black pepper and just a pinch of salt.
Simmer for another two hours or so until everything looks "done".
Serve with buttered crusty bread for dipping.

Be sure to use your best chipped bowl when taking pictures of your stew.

The best part about this recipe is that you can change it up so much. Instead of beef stock you can use vegetable stock or water or even apple juice. You can use sweet potatoes in place of the yams or in addition to them. Sometimes when I make beef stew I throw in a handful or two of frozen peas just before serving. This stew is a great way to get veggies into a picky eater. Even my finicky Joseph just gobbles it up and that's really saying something.

For more crock pot recipes visit A Year of CrockPotting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chocolate chip banana bread

No matter how you slice it (a pun!) bread from a breadmaker is not very pretty to look at. It's the only way I make bread though because it's pretty much fool proof. Once you've got some basic recipes down you can experiment a little bit and come up with some yummy stuff. This is a recipe I came up with for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Note this recipe is for a 2 pound loaf but you could probably half it without any problems.

1 egg enough water to equal 1 cup
1 and 1/2 very ripe bananas
1 TBLS oil (can substitute 2 TBLS applesauce)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 TBLS milk
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
3 TBLS sugar
4 cups bread flour (or 3 cups bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
2-4 TBLS ground flax seed (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Add all the ingredients except the chocolate chips. Start your machine and wait for all the ingredients to combine. If you add the chocolate chips during the first kneading the chocolate will melt into the dough and your entire loaf of bread while have a chocolaty flavor. (This is the way I like to do it.) If you prefer that the chips stay intact then add them during the second kneading. Sit back and try to rip the bread out of the maker halfway through baking. Yes, it will smell good enough that you'll consider eating half-raw bread.

I like to add flax seed to most breads that I make. It doesn't really affect the texture and I don't think you can taste it at all but it boosts the health factor a bit.

You can see some swirls of chocolate. That's the result of adding the chocolate chips early in mixing process.

This is a great breakfast or snack bread. Unlike many breadmaker breads it does not form a thick, tough crust. It's very moist and dense. I think this bread tastes best with butter on it but peanut butter would also be good on it.