Thursday, May 5, 2011

Awkward and Awesome Thursday


It's a showdown at Kitty Coral! This is Pepper who always drinks water from the faucet in the tub. He is staring at Cinnamon who decided  to climb onto the tub ledge, like "How dare you?"
Cinnamon is staring back at Pepper as if to taunt him.
Ahh!! This is what I was waiting for!!


Can you imagine being able to fall asleep anywhere by just flopping or hanging your "paws" off the sofa? Ohh, to have the life of a, sleep, play, repeat. Where do I sign up?

On a side note for Awkward and Awesome best girlfriend, Lauren, watches her niece for her sister when she needs it. On Monday, it was a gorgeous day out and she had the back door open at her home watching her niece and doing schoolwork. She text me and said, "Soo, there is a blue jay who keeps flying in from the back door and keeps eating out of the dog bowl!" I told her, "Be careful. Blue jays are mean birds!" She said, "I just threw a lemon at him. That'll teach him!"   After that, no sign of the blue jay. HA!
 On Tuesday, Lauren text me this message, "Haaaa! So Steve (her brother-in-law) told me a blue jay flew in the house, pooped on the floor, and left!"  Guess the blue jay had the last say!!

I think that qualifies as both Awkward and Awesome!! :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baby Love

I am just recently back from a family visit to see my 3 sisters, my brother, and my mom.  It was a great time, and I also got to enjoy my nieces and nephews.  They all have such chipmunk cheeks, I want to smoosh them with kisses!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Liven Up Leftovers

Tonight is all about quick and easy. I cook for two, and for convenience sake of being able to have quick and easy nights, I almost always make dinner portions for four and freeze the leftovers. Tonight I decided we would have leftover beef stew. Beef stew is so tasty, especially the next day, all those yummy flavors having married together in beef bliss.

The one thing I do to make it seem as if I slaved all day over a hot stove is to add a few simple, but fresh ingredients. Although, my hubby has no idea what's in the freezer except for his mint-chocolate chip ice cream. I could literally heat up frozen leftovers everyday and he would not have a clue! Hmm... I may be on to something. 

But back to "freshening up" my beef stew.

Three simple and quick ingredients I like to add right to the reheated stew are mushrooms, onions, and garlic. More onions and garlic, you say? Aren't there already onions and garlic in the stew? Yes, yes, there are. But nothing smells as good as sauteed onions and garlic. (And again, don't forget we're tricking your hubby into thinking you've been cooking all day, and leading him to say the four most romantic words I've ever heard: "I'll do the dishes.") 

And I really enjoy the earthiness mushrooms add to beef stew. I saute cremini (mini portabellas) mushrooms in a little olive oil and butter. DO NOT salt your mushrooms, whatever kind you use, before they are cooked. Mushrooms release water when they cook and salting them draws the water out, not allowing the mushrooms to brown. After you have that nice golden brown to the mushrooms, I add in one shallot or half an onion and let that soften up. Finally, I add one clove of garlic. 

Now, from sauteing these ingredients, there are flavorful brown bits on the bottom of the pan. I just add enough beef broth to scrape all those tasty bits up. Once those ingredients are cooked, I add the frozen beef stew and let it heat through. If you find that the stew is a bit too liquidy (yes, that is a technical chef term-ha ha) from the additional beef broth, and just in general from the stew being frozen, you can add in butter and flour mixed together forming a paste.

Now my beef stew does not have potatoes in it because I have found that reheated potatoes in stews become too mushy for my taste. Plus, I like to have the option of what kind of potatoes I can make with the stew. Options are limitless. Mashed, roasted, tater tots, even rice is very tasty. Tonight I decided on making steak fries with rosemary and garlic, enhancing the flavors of the stew even more. I put the fries in the middle of plate and scooped the stew right on top. 


Beef Stew 
(I am the kind of cook that does not follow recipes except when baking. So please feel free to adapt this recipe to your palette.)

Serves 4

3-4 lbs. boneless beef chuck cut into cubes (I like a lot of meat in my stew)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 large onion or 2 larger sized shallots, chopped
6 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 1/2 cups approx. of beef broth or stock
2 cups of red wine (preferable Burgundy, but must be a wine you would drink)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of butter
1 - 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cups of pearl onions
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (cremini's are my choice, but any kind will do)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons of fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons softened butter mixed in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons of flour (This is used to thicken the stew so you may or may not need this.)

1. Saute the beef in a dutch oven or large cast iron pan until all sides are browned. Don't crowd the beef or it will steam and not brown properly, so cook it in batches if necessary. Season with salt and pepper after browning. Reserve meat and set aside.
2. Add the butter and one turn around the pan of olive oil to the pan and saute the mushrooms over medium high heat for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer cooked mushrooms with the stew meat.
3. If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the pan and add in onions (season with salt and pepper) and saute until slightly caramelized or light brown in color. Now add in garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add the wine to deglaze the saute pan, then the beef stock, and then whisk in tomato paste, bay leaf, and rosemary. Cook for a couple of minutes and add in meat and mushrooms.
5. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.
6. Add the carrots, pearl onions, and half the chopped parsley and continue cooking until the meat is tender. (approximately 30-45 minutes)
7. In last 10 minutes, depending on how thick you like your stew, now is when you could add the butter/flour mixture to thicken up the stew.
8. Remove bay leaf and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed.
9. Serve with potatoes, rice, or over a piece of hearty bread and butter and top with remaining parsley for garnish.

Linked up to Beauty & Bedlam - Tasty TuesdayAll the Small Stuff - Tuesdays at the Table

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

After a long days work... need antioxidants, right? 

Well, what's better than dark chocolate and hot tea?
Chocolate is more than just a decadent treat. Research has shown that chocolate -- especially dark chocolate -- is rich in healthy antioxidants. Chocolate, like red wine, contains substances called phenols, which are powerful antioxidants, and have been shown to help prevent LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) from building up in the arteries.

There are dramatic differences between types of chocolate. Milk chocolate contains the lowest amount of antioxidants; dark chocolate has far more concentrated amounts of phenol per gram. In general, the darker and more concentrated the chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains.
  And what about tea?
Consumer Reports tested the antioxidant punch of 15 brewed, bottled, and instant teas, it found most teas brewed from tea bags scored highest in antioxidant content. In fact, the magazine reported, “Brewed tea appears to have more antioxidant action than almost any whole fruit or vegetable — and more than most commercial fruit or vegetable juices, too.”

No one can live on chocolate and Constant Comment alone. (Trust me, I have tried.)  But when the day calls for it, I can feel a lot better about having it.

At least that's what I tell myself.