Posted by: thewoobdog | February 26, 2013

Food Frenzy

Cooking it, not eating it.  I had some serious kitchen wins this weekend – I cooked all our meals for the week on Sunday (that’s the only way I can manage to fit workouts into the weekdays), and for once I picked all winners in the recipe department and all my modifications worked perfectly.  I present the following for your inspiration (alas, this is a pictureless post – words will have to suffice):

Seeing as it’s looking like a cold, wet/snowy week here, I really wanted to make a hearty stew so I turned to my friend Doug’s Slow Cooker Beef Stew – I actually bought an eye of round roast and cut into cubes rather than buying packaged stew meat.  I’ve been disappointed with stew meat lately – it always seems to have weird fatty bits and connective tissue, and is cut completely randomly with some pieces being huge and some just little flaps – so I thought by trimming and cutting a lean roast myself I could produce a better stew.  Boy, was it worth it – because the meat is browned slightly before putting in the crockpot, it holds its flavor and moisture and the result is amazingly tender.  Another change I made was adding some paprika to the flour before dredging the beef, and substituting about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of dried oregano for the cloves (personal preference – having grown up with a certain flavor profile in beef stew, I tend to prefer it; I’ve tried the recipe as written with the cloves and it was tasty, I just happen to prefer the oregano).

In my small crockpot (yes, I have two – since a lot of times I’m only cooking 2 – 4 servings of recipes, having the small crockpot pays off) I made Potato and Canadian Bacon Chowder, which turned out to be delicious.  At the end of cooking, I removed about 2/3 of the vegetables, pureed what was left with a hand-blender, and then added the vegetables back – this made the broth a little heartier but left plenty of chunks for that chowder feel.  Also, I portioned this into four servings rather than six to make for more substantial dinners.

I figured I’d do salads with dinner each night to get our veggies in, so I whipped up a batch of Roasted Yellow Pepper and Basil Vinaigrette, a recipe I found this summer and fell in love with (I had about eight varieties of basil growing in my raised garden bed this summer, having given up on trying to raise vegetables).  Since I really didn’t feel like roasting my own peppers (so not gonna happen), I used jarred roasted bell peppers (in water, not oil or vinegar, patted dry before using).  The one caveat here is that the first time I made this, I happened to have jarred roasted yellow bell peppers handy (courtesy of a random TJ Maxx purchase), but this time all I could find in the supermarket was roasted red bell peppers.  They are not as good in this vinaigrette as the yellow bell peppers – they’re a bit more assertive and the dressing is a bit on the acidic side, whereas the yellow gave a milder flavor to the dressing and was more balanced.  That said, I threw together some butter lettuce (my favorite), baby spinach, fresh chopped orange bell pepper, and feta cheese and tossed it with this vinaigrette last night (and less is more – too much dressing overpowers, whereas slightly underdressing the salad works perfectly) and it was amazing.  The fresh bell pepper gave a juicy sweet crunch to the salad and the feta balanced the dressing out perfectly, while the addition of the baby spinach helped the butter lettuce hold up to the assertiveness of the vinaigrette.  My husband actually finished his salad before his potato chowder, which borders on the miraculous (normally he’ll eat a few bites of salad then snarf whatever else is available, leaving most of the salad until last and only eating it if he’s not full by then).

It is so much more rewarding to spend an entire day (and a weekend-day, at that) cooking when you get good results and actually look forward to eating what you’ve made.  Too often lately the new recipes I’ve picked (we will not speak of the horrible pureed broccoli sauce-on-linguine) or the adjustments I’ve made have been awful, and it’s a real letdown to spend a lot of time on something and have it turn out to be crap.  I’ll just be off basking in this week’s successful glow for a bit if anyone needs me…

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