Yet Another Crock Pot Beef Stew

  • carrots* – 1 cup
  • sweet potato cubes* – 1/2 cup
  • parsnip cubes – 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • mushrooms – 1 cup
  • stew meat cubes – 1 pound
  • chicken broth – 1 cup
  • 1/2 onion – sliced thinly
  • Mississippi Mud Black & Tan beer (or Guinness) – 2 cups+

-Boil the barley in the chicken stock (I also put the parnips in as well.) for about 5 minutes.

-Brown the meat in a skillet with a bit of the beer.

-Pour everything into the crockpot; if there’s room add beer to top off the bowl

-Set on HIGH for 5 hours.

-Stir the ingredients for consistent cooking.

-Set to LOW for another 3 hours.

Its done when the stew meat is tender. The beer will add a little bit of sweetness and works well with the sweet potato.

*bonus if you have a Trader Joe’s that has precut sweet potatoes, as well as bag of mini carrots to reduce prep time. I also just get their stew meat already in cubes-its very good quality.

Crock Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal

There are loads of recipes out there for this in varying sizes.
I may be an artsy type, but my training comes from a science background (thank you rocket-scientist parents) and so I like to understand the formula to make things work rather than just rote memorization. (This also drove my mother to distraction with me asking Why? Why? Why? all the time.)
Anyhoo, the real issue here is the proportions and a few things to make the steel cut oats turn out correctly.

The primary ratio/things you want to remember are:
1/4 cup steel oats to 1 1/8 cups liquid
and
The smaller amount of oats you want to make, the smaller the crock pot you need to cook it in…(this is why multiple crock pots come in handy…also for the easy clean up/storage factor.)
The rest is negotiable.

Here’s what I used to make mine this morning:
In a 2 1/2 qt crockpot…

  • 1 cup steel cut oats (NOT rolled oats…McCann’s or bulk aisle please)
  • 4 1/2 cups liquid (2 cups water, 2 1/2 cups cream-I added a bit more liquid as I was paranoid, but it turned out pretty good.)
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • dried cherries and golden raisins

It filled the pot to about 2/3 full (which is the optimum fill ratio for crock pots in general.)

If you want to cook it for a long time (overnight) set it on LOW for about 6 hours…add another little bit of liquid to keep it from drying out overnight.
To make it a bit quicker, I put it on HIGH after being woken up at 5 a.m. (ugh) and then stirred and watched it. It took about 3 1/2 hours, and then I turned it off and let it soak with the residual heat left in the crock.

Good stuff.

Yes it is so OK to have more than one crockpot.

(but I’m no longer tempted by the 3 in 1. Too many ‘what if’s’…what if the electric dies and all three are useless? what if I actually want to have counter space? what if i want three different sizes?)

Crisis averted.
And one more small one on the way… I already am having to manage the time for cooking in the pot itself.
;)

$20 well spent.

Also, this is pretty cool…
417uuikck0l_sl500_aa280_
– Versatile 3-in-1 slow cooker with stainless-steel electric base
– 3 heat settings; 3 stoneware vessel sizes–2 quart, 4 quart, and 6 quart
– Glass lid fits all 3 vessels; dishwasher-safe crockery and lid
– Cooking vessels nest into base for easy, compact storage

New Year’s Day and beans.

I grew up with the dictum that you had to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day for some reason (there actually is a reason, it just never made it into my skull) also I hated them, so I would eat 1 pea and run away.
Then I found a cheap store brand of canned black eyed peas that didn’t taste like playground sand and suddenly I put them in lots of things.
And when recently broke out my crock pot [black beans, beef stew] that had been languishing in a cabinet as it didn’t have room to work anywhere until I cleared off some things… and made some black beans that were utter heaven, I decided to try my hand at black eyed peas for New Year’s Day.

O. My. Gawd.
They were fantastic…and when I put a little brisket juice in there I just about wept.

We also put up the Stolmen in the kitchen (in between me eating huge serving spoonful’s of beans and Tex gnawing on the brisket like a great white shark on a dead whale); it looks rather nifty. (My arms don’t work very well anymore, but such trifles…)
I got one more stacking shelf on top of the one I have already, tucked it in to the area that the freezer doesn’t take up, and now I have a nifty set of shelves for my 400,000 pound cast iron enamelware pot that I… um… can’t currently lift, my other enamelware pan that is mocking me as well and my electric kettle that doesn’t get used too terribly much lately, the rice cooker (a.k.a. quinoa cooker) and some odds and ends.*

crockpot1I also broke down and spent $11 on a wee tiny crock pot (<— 1.5 qt ChefMate @ Target, that image isn’t exactly it, but it is close.) so that I can lift it, clean it quickly and store it in the shelves easily.

crockpot2I returned the 1.5 qt crockpot in favor of a 2.5 qt version. It isn’t as pretty, I did like the all white, but I needed that extra quart.

I’ll be doing little batches of beans here and there so this should make it lots easier. I’ll still have my monster crock (6qt) for parties and potlucks at work (I’ve been recently adopted by the Sales team who seem to like my cooking) and the occasional meal, but frankly, I think the size of it in my small kitchen kept me from using it more often.. not to mention that it doesn’t really fit in my sink to wash and it is stoneware, so it weighs a ton. After all that buzzing around, I’m too pooped to wash it immediately.
Bad.
It gets soaked with some soap in it more often than not.

(Also, I can’t wait to test the little guy with the Kill-A-Watt to see how it performs. I bet I could run it easily on a solar panel.)

I need to put together the last two magazine storage boxes from Ikea that will house things like travel mugs, tea cozies and other infrequently used linens, my KitchenAid mixer attachments (juicer, meat grinder), party ware (cups and plastic ware that I still have after years) and a few other odds and ends that I don’t need to get to on more than a monthly basis. I put a clothes rail on the long section so that I can hang my veggie hanging basket, but otherwise, aside from still being cluttered from the rearrange, its almost done.
Yes, I will post a picture soon.

Black Eyed Peas
Mine were done in a 6 quart slow cooker, it filled about half the pot when all was said and done.

  • 1 pound dried black eyed peas
  • 1/3 pound bacon
  • 1/4 white onion chopped
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp (?) minced garlic

1. Put the peas into a large pot covered with 2 inches of water over the tops of the peas.
2. Bring peas to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Turn off heat and let peas sit for 1 hour
4. Drain peas, remove unpretty and icky looking peas from the bowl.
5. Pour peas into slow cooker (its still off at this point)
6. In a pan, melt butter and saute onion and garlic until onions are translucent
7.enamelware In another pan (or the same one if big enough-I do all of this in my cast iron enamelware pot.) cook the bacon, then chop into 1 inch pieces.
8. Pour ALL of this onto the beans in the crockpot (bacon grease and all)
9. Add water to cover about 1 inch over top of beans, set to LOW and cook for 12 hours.
NOTE: I tend to start these around 8 pm the night before and then add a bit of water just before I go to bed to make certain they don’t cook off too much water and dry out.
10. In the morning, about an hour before you are ready to spoon them, up, taste the beans. They may need some salt. I usually add about a tbsp of coarse sea salt and give it a good stir. Adding salt at the table for individual tastes at this point usually is pretty easy to make it right.
BONUS: If you have a brisket cooking as well, add a spoonful or two of juice to each bowl of beans you spoon up…
Black Eyed Peas

I’m seriously pondering using the big pot again next weekend and making a soup of collard green’s, black eyed peas, brisket meat and naming it New Year’s soup.
Spicy cornbreads to accompany it, natch.

Next experiment might just be a gumbo.
My uncle makes them so I guess its in my genetic makeup to be able to cook them (as well as being genetically a smart-ass and having a predilection for puns).
[Mom, send me Unc Gary’s number please. Thankyouvermuch.]

*I’m not experiencing any strange neuralgia or weakening in any weird medical sense, but I go crazy cooking, cleaning and rearranging furniture after not doing it for a while then my poor little arms get sore. But really, those damn enamelware pots are fekkin’ heavy regardless.

after n’at

(Hi Eden!)

After all that stupid fluster over acorn pans and crap customer service, guess what showed up on my door on xmoose eve?
Yup.
I have no idea how they managed that since 1. it was supposed to be shipped to the store so I wouldn’t pay shipping and 2. I told them to cancel the order in my digust-I suppose the order wasn’t truly canceled nor were they actually paying attention.
I left it in its box and glared at it for a few days to let Williams-Sonoma know that I haven’t quite forgiven them for that whole FUBAR transaction (my guess is that they haven’t noticed), then broke it out on the 27th and made little spicy cornbreads for the party.
Yum… and yes, they were adorable…and no, of course I didn’t remember to take pictures of anything.
Some food blogger I am.
Party menu always fluctuates, since, in my haste (and in my teeny tiny nigh to overflowing kitchen) I inevitably forget something. Its not the end of the world, but I think I need to design a print out page for party planning for myself (I’ll post a PDF when it is done).
The menu turned out like this:

Black beans: with a can of Guinness, 1/2 pound of applewood smoked bacon and half an onion, slow cooked for 24 hours.
Wee Acorn shaped cornbreads: made with honey, sweet corn, Zatarain’s, heavy cream and parmesan cheese all on top of the Jiffy cornbread mix
Chicken salad: (based on Costco’s Chicken Sonoma salad which wasn’t in fekkin’ stock) chicken, cranberries, poppy seed dressing, pasta shells
baked brie
deli meats
french bread
chips and spinach dip
a giant cupcake
chocolate chip cookies

The little puff pastry appetizers that I got and baked stuck to the foil on the pan and WOULD NOT release, so i didn’t put them out, though I noticed that they got eaten anyway.
Still, disappointing.

Xmoose meal had to be portable, so i decided to try my hand at a brisket. I called the world’s expert in brisket making (my dad) and he told me the ‘recipe’ over several days (several different calls saying “Did I tell you this? No? Well, do this.”)
Effectively it ended up being this:

  1. get a brisket
  2. stick it in a pan, fat side up (one of those disposable turkey pans is fine)
  3. cover it in pepper (who does he think he’s talking to? I skipped that step)
  4. cover it in garlic powder (now we’re talking)
  5. cover the pan in foil
  6. cook it at 225 for 8-10 hours (or till it falls apart when you poke it)

I think I got a substantially larger brisket than he does usually because mine took 12 hours.
I popped it in before I went to bed around 11:30pm, poked at it when I got up to feed Bunny then went back to bed for a few hours while it finished up, then let it cool and packed it up to go to Mikey’s.
It was yummy. So very tender (and fatty, but I have ordered a gravy separator to combat this…and considering I like my moo cow well marbled, this is saying something. I also bought a real roasting pan as this will start being a regular food in the house. Just have to plan the timing around overnight cooking. I wonder if I could do this in the crock pot…?) and it seemed to go over well at the dinner.
…and Tex keeps asking for more.
So, as it is cheap, easy and even *I* didn’t screw it up, I will do another…especially as I got that nifty roasting pan on sale and with a coupon. ;) Its not an especially heavy pan, but I just didn’t want to start buying and going through those disposable ones unless I really needed to (like traveling with the food); it just seemed a waste. But I think it will be ok if I am nice to it.
Last night I stood in the kitchen (doing a post mortem on my party) and looked at my current configuration of the dining area. I can’t do much to the kitchen itself (but if I ever bought this apartment – do you do that? mentally list the structural changes you would do if you owned the place you live in now and money wasn’t an issue? (provided you don’t own the place you live in already and are richer than Croesus?) as it is a mess o’ built-ins, cheap appliances and not plumbed or wired for much interesting stuff. Not to mention plaster and lathe walls that don’t support anything without crumbling. Plus, there’s that whole earthquake thing that you have to plan for just in case… though I’ve never had anything fall, the minute I put something up precariously, we’d have a big fucker.) Anyhoo… I looked at my options and they involved going up and being freestanding. I wanted that corner maple unit that I tried to order ages ago (with a couple of bookshelves, a corner storage area and closed storage) but it still isn’t orderable. I didn’t find anything else that suited my tastes. So Tex suggested Stolmen.
I like that idea, as it is modular, it can work in another space and he seems to like it. Fine by me.
So over the next few weeks, we’ll build a set that straddles the chest freezer, a clothes rail high enough to open the freezer door (and I’ll hang my veggie baskets on it which can be moved easily out of the way to open the freezer door), a couple of high up shelves for deep storage (like xmoose decorations and other things that aren’t too heavy. I might put a string around the top shelves to keep the magazine boxes from Ikea from sliding off if we have a shaker.).
stolmen
Then I’ll get one more pole and do a short set of shelves where the Mac Mini is now with a clothes rail at the very top for hanging a paper lantern for light.
I got some pieces last night at Ikea… so I’ll bribe Tex with brisket, and we’ll put up the shelves (and snipe at each other while we do this as we always do) on New Year’s Day.
Living room still needs some tidying but I’ll get pics posted eventually along with the progress in the kitchen.
Also, I want a dishwasher. I’m just saying.
Also also, these parties are starting to kick my ass, I feel hungover after them… am I getting old? Arg.

I was trolling around Facebook for apps and found an iTunes gadget, it purports to post what you are listening to on iTunes in your status, however, as I am currently listening to a 3 song playlist *on repeat* for at least 5 hours a day (yeah, I know.) it probably is of limited interest to the Facebookians who watch my status updates with bated breath. But then again , most of my updates aren’t that startlingly interesting.

Last week, as you know, my aunt died and while virtually everyone in my family piled into cars and  airplanes to get to a tiny town in West Texas, I did not.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t love her, but I would have been a mess and would have probably spent the weekend hiding in a closet blubbering incoherently and missing Bunny (as well as getting psychotic over my cat’s well-being) hence, my lack of movement.
I did spend about 50% of each day on mom’s iPhone or the house phone at my grandmother’s talking to anyone there. I got text messages, pictures and wildly incoherent voice-mails documenting late night cookie making processes and the subsequent torment of my grandmother by her older grand children and her daughter (this is not unusual, we do this anyway. And since Meme hasn’t smothered any of us in our sleep, we have to assume she likes it since she has had ample opportunity to put us out of her misery.)
Mom said the funeral and the memorial service was brutal, so while I will always feel guilty about not going, I am glad I made that policy and don’t go to these things anymore.
I did extract a promise from my cousins that we would all go there when someone wasn’t dead (though I phrased it as “during a happier time”).
Lots of good pictures came out of it… and some video I will be squirreling away for blackmail at a later date. ;)

Am back at work now, and its kind of a relief. Sad.
Though I do get to start my new Moleskine 2009 calendar book this week! Hooray!

Issues

I think its hilarious (and sad at the same time) that the main roadblock I have in making new foods to inflict on have people try is the fact that their mothers butchered some recipe in their childhood.
I made chicken corn chowder and someone had nightmares about creamed corn.
I made beef stew and someone assumed that I made it tomato based and then promptly wrote off mine (mine is essentially Guinness beer based).
..or even the person who wouldn’t eat vegetable AT ALL due to his mother’s crimes against humanity wielding canned veggies.

Mom made me try everything (well, except liver, and even she wouldn’t eat liver) at least once. If I didn’t like it I never had to eat it again… I do that to some extent, but as much of a pushy broad as I am sometimes that doesn’t work.
Ah me…I guess some people will just have to trust me that I am not mean (and won’t make them eat icky things… I hate those kind of jokes.) and that my stuff tastes ok because I never met a stick of butter that I didn’t like.

Post Turkey Day Post

Sorry, I couldn’t resist (and I suspect that that very fact is the root cause of MANY of my issues.)

Anyhoo, iTunes playlist running on infinite repeat, Shiba Inu Puppy Cam on the screen (best tv show EVER… even better than the rotisserie tv show), coffee is on the drip and I am back in my Sock Monkey jammies.
I doubt it will be an all day thing like yesterday, but yesterday was very nice. I do need a nap day every once in a while.

Kitchen is finally getting clean. Tex and I have been tag-teaming on dishes (I wash 3 then he washes 10, but I put everything away so I can find it again. Seriously, after 4 years of him being here all the time and he still doesn’t really know where everything goes.)

Oh look, one of the puppies is biting the other one on the winkle. Ouch.

I didn’t end up making Guinness Beef Stew yesterday, we were both so full from Turkey Day proper that, at most, we nibbled on the very little pie leftover and warmed up turkey for tortillas.

…later…

Proto-Guinness Beef Stew
OK, today is the day for Guinness beef stew, also apparently, to watch The Quiet Man and speak in an atrocious Irish accent…

I didn’t have any beef broth (as the recipe called for) so I just put two cans of Guinness in there… what?
We’ll see how it turns out. My cooking is always an adventure.
Smells good though.

…8 hours later…

Yum!
The beef is where the Guinness flavor ends up, the broth smells really good but not really Guinness-y.
Guinness Beef Stew