Guinness Beef Stew

I’m not really a meat eater. Ever since I was a little girl the texture of meat, both beef and chicken, has grossed me out. The thought of biting into and consuming a muscle is sometimes just too much for me. To this day I still will not touch raw meat with my bare hands. I either use tongs or, if there is no way around touching the meat, I wear some of my lab gloves to handle the raw meat. However, meat is full of protein and minerals, so I do try to eat it on occasion. I usually crave red meat about once every 3-4 months. I figure my body is crying out for a boost of iron. Well, yesterday was one of those days. But I haven’t been feeling well, so I wanted an easy meal that would require little to no prep work nor be too involved. I bought some ingredients that I thought would make a simple, tasty stew. I tend to cook more by ratios rather than by exact amounts, so I can’t really say for sure what amounts I used. But the end result was so good, exactly what I wanted. I get my meat from Whole Foods; at their meat counter they have lean stew beef that is already chopped so all I have to do it put the meat in the pot (carefully avoiding actually touching the meat, of course). Perfect. I wanted pearl onions so that I could just dump them in the pot, but they were out of them at Whole Foods.Instead, I bought a container of shallots that were already peeled, since I was feeling too lazy to peel my own. I love a dinner that just requires dumping everything in a pot and walking away.

Guinness Beef Stew
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Serves 4

2 lbs chopped lean stew meat
1 can/bottle Guinness
5-6 shallots, peeled (pearl onions would be good, too)
5 yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
Half a 16 oz bag of baby carrots
Your favorite seasonings, to taste:
dried thyme leaves
dried rubbed sage
dried marjoram
worcestershire sauce
sherry cooking wine
flour, to achieve desired thickness

Put everything in a crockpot and cook on low for several hours. I cooked mine for 6 hours and every couple hours would check the seasonings and give it a gentle stir. I like my stew thick, so I would toss in a bit of flour each time I stirred as well. Also, I didn’t cut the shallots up, I just added them whole and they melted down and were delicious.

Black Beans and Brown Rice

I’m sure everyone has some version of a recipe for black beans and rice. It’s so easy to make, the ingredients are inexpensive, the dish is filling, healthy and, most importantly, delicious. This recipe is based off a dish my aunt made for a family reunion years ago, after some members of the family became vegetarian. My sister used to make this for me during the two years we spent attending the same college, and it has always been a food staple for me. I make sure to have the basic ingredients on hand all the time because this is such a quick, easy dinner. My boyfriend has never been a fan of this dish until last night. He declared it to be the best black beans and rice I have ever made; therefore, I had to record what I did so I will remember it in the future.

Cuban Black Beans and Brown Rice
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Serves 3-4

For the rice:
1 c brown rice (preferably soaked all day or overnight to boost nutritional value and cut down on cooking time)
2 c water
1 tsp chili powder (opt)

For the black beans:
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 bell pepper(s), diced
2 cans black beans, partially drained
4 Tbls apple cider vinegar
Italian seasonings, to taste
Cumin, to taste
Lime (opt)

Optional toppings:
Fresh cilantro or parsley
Diced raw onion
Sour cream

First get the rice cooking. Rinse the rice and put it in pot or rice cooker with water. The chili powder is optional, but seasoned rice is so good.

Add about a Tbl or two of olive oil to a pot over med-high heat and sauté onion and garlic until soft and translucent, a few minutes. Add the bell pepper and sauté a couple minutes more.

Add the black beans, apple cider vinegar, about 2 Tbl of Italian seasonings, about 2 tsp of cumin, reduce heat to med-low, cover and let simmer about 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If there isn’t enough liquid when you go to stir it and the beans are drying out just add some water to m0isten things up. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Before serving, I added some zest from small lime, squeezed out the juice and stirred in some chopped parsley. I wish that I had cilantro instead, but oh well.

To serve, just put some rice in your bowl, then top with beans. I prefer a little rice and lots of beans, about 1/4 c rice to about 1/2 c beans.

You can top with cheese, sour cream, raw onion, and/or salsa. I eat mine plain with a fork, but my boyfriend likes to add salsa and scoop his up with tortilla chips.

Spinach and Lentil Soup

Lately I’ve been making a lot of soups/stews because they’re quick, easy, and we can eat leftovers another night, thus saving me a day in the kitchen. I have been looking through a lot of cookbooks, magazines, blogs, etc looking for soup recipes that look interesting. I read good reviews about Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie’s Diet Revolutionand decided to buy it. It’s really good. He gives great tips and the recipes are basic enough that you can adapt them to your own personal tastes; I love recipes that are adaptable to what you have in your kitchen. I’ve only had time to try a few recipes and thus far they have been great. However, this one really stood out as being extra delicious. I saw that it served 6-8 and decided not to halve the recipe because I planned on freezing some of it to have on a night that I didn’t feel like cooking. But once I made it, Mr.Surly ate so much of it that there wasn’t enough left over to save. I added some of my favorite spices to the recipe to liven it up a bit. We really liked the cumin flavor. I can’t wait to try more of the recipes in this book.

Lentil and Spinach Soup
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Serves 6

2 carrots, sliced (I used about 1 c sliced baby carrots)
2 celery stalks, sliced (I used about 1 c )
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 cloves because I love garlic)
1 ¾ quarts vegetable broth (I only had 1 qt veggie broth, so I used that plus 3 c water)
Thumb sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced (I grated mine with a microplane)
½ to 1 fresh red chile, sliced (I used a Serrano pepper)
10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 c red lentils (I used green lentils)
7 c (7 oz) spinach (I used a 10 oz bag of fresh organic spinach)
cumin, to taste
curry, to taste
ancho chile powder, to taste
turmeric, to taste
Sea salt
Olive oil

Add about 2 Tbl olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and water cover and simmer while you chop up the ginger, chile, and tomatoes.

Add the ginger, chile, lentils, to pot. Cover and cook until lentils are soft. I was in no hurry to eat, so I simmered on med low heat for about an hour. If you crank the heat up, it could be done sooner.

Taste the soup and season with salt, pepper, and any spices of your choice. I felt it needed some flavor, so I added a couple palm-fulls of cumin, curry, a bit of cayenne, turmeric, and some ancho chili powder.

When ready to serve, if desired, add a dollop of yogurt (I used greek yogurt). I had some chives that needed to be used up, so I chopped those up and sprinkled them on top for garnish.

Source: Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

Pork and Sauerkraut

Everyone, I’m sure has their own New Year’s traditions. Southerners eat black-eyed peas (which resemble coins), Italians eat lentils (which, again, look like coins), some eat fish (fish swim forward, therefore, by eating fish you can move forward in the new year), greens (kale, cabbage, collard greens, because green=money) and of course pork (since pigs root around and push their snouts forward). Growing up in my family, my grandmother, who is of German descent, believed firmly in eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day. Grammy’s secret to making sauerkraut more palatable was to sprinkle brown sugar over it. Any New Year’s that I stopped by for a visit this dish is what she would have in the oven. As kids, my sister, brother, and I were never really excited to eat sauerkraut. It smelled so bad, kinda like sweaty feet. But my sweet Grammy would make all of us eat at least one bite of sauerkraut (which was usually mixed in with mashed potatoes) to give us luck in the coming year. As I got older and my tastebuds changed, I began to warm up to sauerkraut, happily eating it on New Years. Sadly, to this day, neither of my siblings upholds the tradition of pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s. I have been faithful to this tradition, though. Even in college, I would make pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day for myself and any friends who wanted to join me. Grammy would be so pleased when I would call to wish her a happy New Year and to let her know that I was being a good German girl by eating my pork and sauerkraut.

Now, it’s my turn to make sure that my boyfriend, who isn’t a fan of sauerkraut, eats at least one bite on New Year’s for good luck. Usually, I’m the one who ends up eating the sauerkraut leftovers, but this year that all changed. My boyfriend actually willingly ate 2 servings of sauerkraut, and even ate most of the leftovers. I was shocked and happy. I tweaked my methods slightly this year and came up with how I will probably prepare my sauerkraut next year. Also, I noticed that this year my kitchen didn’t reek of cabbage, nor did the refrigerator. I’m not sure what my luck was, but I’m going to guess it was from the apple and apple juice I added this year.

Pork and Sauerkraut
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Serves 4

4 boneless pork chops
1 bag sauerkraut
1 apple, cored and sliced (I used a gala)
Brown sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
Apple juice or apple cider

Season both sides of each pork chop with salt and pepper. Sear in skillet over med-high heat until each side is lightly browned.*

Put some sauerkraut in the bottom of a baking dish, and sprinkle with brown sugar, then assemble the pork chops in dish. I laid the apple slices around the pork and sprinkled them with cinnamon and brown sugar. Then top the pork chops with the rest of the sauerkraut, and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Pour some apple juice or cider over everything (I didn’t measure, but I think I used about 1/3 c). Cover with foil and bake in oven at 350F until the pork is cooked through. My pork chops were thick so this took about 45 minutes.

When I check the pork for doneness (after about 30 min), I also test the sauerkraut to make sure it’s no longer sour, but nicely sweetened. If it still tastes sour I just sprinkle more brown sugar over it.

I baked the pork uncovered for the last 5-10 minutes to reduce the apple juice a bit. Serve and enjoy a New Year filled with luck.

*Note: sometimes I don’t sear the pork, I just put it into the dish and let it bake. It’s up to you and if you want to dirty another dish