Cooking with Suz – Round 1 – Beef Burgundy

Today I’m starting a new “series” on my blog entitled “Cooking with Suz”. I absolutely love to cook, and…. I truly enjoy making food that satisfies my hungry hubby.  I’ll also fully admit that I love to eat everything I cook, and yes, it may be a bit of a downfall of mine, but what good cook will simply prepare food, not really knowing how it tastes? I’m a full believer in tasting as you go, so you can adjust flavors along the way, not waiting till the end of the process and then hoping for the best.  So, that’s my philosophy – “taste as you go”.   Today’s recipe is an old family favorite that I have made literally hundreds of times, Beef Burgundy or, if you want to be fancy and attempt a French accent, “Boeuf Bourguignon”.  Yes, this recipe is modified from the original (I don’t mess around with Pearl Onions, carrots, or bacon), and it does incorporate the use of red wine.  Since it bakes in the oven for nearly two hours, all the alcohol is completely eliminated from the dish, but the incredible rich flavor lives on.  So let’s get started!

BB1

First off, you need some beef…. and I do NOT recommend your basic “stew meat” – I always buy top sirloin steak in the “Family Packs” at the store, it’s cheaper in bulk and you can freeze pieces individually and thaw as you need them. Top Sirloin is a cheap(er) steak that is flavorful and still nice and tender, much more so than round steak. Cut up your meat into bite-sized chunks, heat some olive oil or canola oil in your roasting pan (here I’m using my mom’s pan from her 1941 wedding – I love it!). Make sure the oil is hot so that your meat begins browning as soon as it hits the pan. Brown and stir, brown and stir.

BB2

Next we add a chopped up large yellow onion. Or sweet onion. Or red onion.  Chop up whichever large onion you happen to have and throw into the pan after the meat has browned a bit.  Stir that around nicely.

BB3

Now we’ll add some spices. Here I’m showing my thyme and marjoram. I use about a 1/2 teaspoon of thyme and 1 teaspoon of marjoram.  You’ll also want to add some pepper and possibly salt.  Why possibly salt? Well, you also need to use either beef broth at this point, or a bullion cube. If you use beef broth, you’ll need to add some salt. If you use a bullion cube (as I do), it’s usually salty enough – at least for now. I use Knorr bullion cubes (they are large and worth two of the other brands). So it’s not shown, but I put in 1 & 1/2 Knorr beef bullion cubes at this point. Give it a good stir.  Time to then add some water. I’m guessing but about two cups or maybe two and a half cups. If you use beef broth, you’ll need about the same amount 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups.

BB4

On now to the “star of the show”, the wine. You’ve probably heard the old adage — don’t use wine to cook with that you wouldn’t drink — and I agree.  Yet, I think it would be shameful to use your best wine to COOK with, so I go for something that is “cheaper” but still tasty.  In this case, I had some Yellow Tail (Australian) Shiraz and used that. I poured in about a cup, more or less.  OH MY… the smell after the wine goes in and starts simmering…. heavenly.

BB5

Put the lid on your roasting pan and place the glorious concoction in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Now’s a perfect time to pour yourself a glass, if you are the type that enjoys the juice of the fermented grape, as I do. 🙂

BB11

After about 45 minutes, it’s time to check your meat mixture to make sure there is enough liquid for simmering. If it looks rather dry, add more water – or wine – or both.  Also, this is the window of opportunity to add those mushrooms. I stirred in about a cup, or thereabouts of sliced crimini mushrooms. Regular white button mushrooms would be perfectly wonderful too. After stirring well, taste the spoon. You may need some salt. Then pop the lid back on and return to the oven for about one more hour.

BB8

In this picture you see the meat and mushrooms after they have baked/simmered another hour. Now is the time to thicken up the mixture a bit and for that we are using either flour and water or cornstarch and water. In the above pic, I’m using my favorite Wondra Flour mixed with water – about 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of water – or thereabouts. I love Wondra because it lives up to it’s claim of never clumping or leaving lumps in your gravy! The pan should be over the heat here, because to thicken this, it MUST boil again.

BB9

So, here we have it, the meat is SO tender, the mixture has boiled again and has reached the right “gravy-like” consistency. Give it one more taste test at this point, just in case you need a dab more salt or pepper. Of course you won’t eat this by itself…. you need something to put this magical medley of yumminess ON TO! Many people like to put it on top of cooked noodles, or even mashed potatoes.  But at our house, rice is the substance of choice.

BB10

So, here it is, the final product, Beef Burgundy on rice with one of hubby’s favorite veggies, Brussels Sprouts. I can honestly say that this is one of our favorite meals. SO tasty!

Hope you’ve enjoyed round one of “Cooking with Suz”!!

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A bad back, a bad tooth, and….. menu plans!

I’m going to preface this update by saying I think we are very lucky to live where we live….  much of the US is covered in snow and ice, power outages everywhere, and Australia is having a Typhoon.  Here in our little green corner of the world, no wind is blowing, no rain or snow is falling, and we’re thankful.  Yes, it’s good to start out by being thankful, because this has not been a stellar week so far.  On Saturday I was determined to get active on our Wii Fit.  I noticed the balance board wasn’t working, so of course the logical thing to do would be to  put in new batteries.  After all, it had only been 376 days since I’d had the thing on!!  (I know that because when I did get it up and running, that’s what it told me!)  While bending over, inserting the 4 new batteries, I pulled something in my back.  Oh glory be.  I’ve done it many times before, starting years ago when I was both young AND not-fat!  So, I’ve got a testy, persnickety back – that’s for sure.  Unfortunately this time it has kept me down for more than a day or two.  I spent all day Sunday pretty much on my back.  Monday I made it to the couch but not much further.  Tuesday my dear husband heard my pleas and got me an electric heating pad.  Tuesday was spent with said heating pad on back.  By the evening I was starting to feel semi-human again.  Yes, why not celebrate the healing of the back by indulging in a bowl of homemade popcorn?  Lovely idea.  Not.  While happily consuming the old-fashioned pop-in-a-pan-on-the-stove popcorn, I did it.  I bit down on something I shouldn’t have… and yes, you guessed it, cracked a tooth.  “When it rains, it pours” I’ve been known to say.  Lucky for me I’m able to walk again…. right into the dentist’s office today.  Found out I need a crown – no surprise I guess.

On another note, before I messed up my back and before I cracked my tooth, I made up my early February menu plan.  Call me crazy or call me organized, but I really DO like to make menu plans. It also is a big help when making up the weekly grocery list.  I try to pick out dishes that will make use of stuff we already have at home… sometimes I’m successful, sometimes less so.  I always have to keep in mind that hubby will not touch chicken in any form (unfortunately, as I love it).  The menus are not written in stone, they are a general guideline and if I don’t feel like cooking or we decide to go out – that’s what we do.  We live about 20 minutes to a decent restaurant, so it’s fair to say we don’t go out for dinner very often.  Since we are still trying hard to watch our caloric intake, I took most of my recipes from the Jan/Feb issues of my favorite foodie magazine, “Everyday Food”.  So, here’s how it looks for the next few days around here…….

FEB 2   Pasta with Roasted Veggies

 

 

The roasted veggies.

Roasted veggies mixed with whole wheat pasta

 

FEB 3  Grilled Steak (we got NY strip on sale this week for $4.99/lb – amazing!)

Kale with tomato, garlic and thyme

FEB 4  Tacos (whole wheat tortillas) & Vegetarian refried beans

FEB 5  Pork Curry on brown rice

FEB 8  Spicy Shrimp Caesar Salad (I’ve made this before, SUPER yummy!)

FEB 9  Homemade Hawaiian Pizza (using Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough)

FEB 10  Sweet & Sour Pork Stir-fry with brown rice

You may have noticed that some days are not addressed.  These are days that I am scheduled to work and hubby is ON HIS OWN!!!!   We have really tried to improve our eating habits.  Smaller portions, few snacks, drinking more water.  It’s working!  So far I’ve lost half a stone (look that one up, fellow Americans) – which for me is a great start 🙂

 

New paint, more food, and surgery

It’s been a busy January here in our FAR northwest home.  Since DH is laid off work during the winter, he has managed to accomplish some great painting projects!  The latest is our bedroom which, after much trepidation, we decided to paint purple. All I can say about the finished product is: I love it!!  We both are very very happy with the result.  You may recall in my previous post where I pictured DH getting the walls ready.  Well here are some more snaps of the now finished project…..

The beginning of painting the “feature” wall.

The finished darker “feature” wall and lighter side walls.

This shot shows my new purple/brown chair courtesy of Pier One, under the needlepoint picture my dear Grandma made for me in 1973.

The “dressing area” also a light purple.

We painted our tiny master bathroom an even lighter shade of this purple and are SO happy with the outcome.  I also have to put a plug in for Lowe’s Valspar paints.  They cover in one coat, have very little odor – which is totally gone the next day,  are reasonably priced, and are low in VOC’s.  One thing I haven’t finished is the curtains.  They are on hold until a great inspiration hits me as to what kind and what color!

As you may remember, I’ve been trying to make healthy food in smaller portions lately.  In some cases I’ve succeeded, in others… well I’ve again made more than we needed but at least we’ve been socking that away for future meals.  Here are three dinners that turned out particularly yummy!

Roasted Vegetable Pot Pie, on it’s way into the oven

Potpie on the plate – super yummy for a January day!

Hubby raved about this one for days – honestly! Spicy shrimp caesar salad 🙂

Then it was time to try something totally new —  QUINOA!  Anybody tried this tasty grain that is full of flavor as well as fiber?  Well it was all new to me… so here’s what I made…  The recipe is from Food Network Magazine and this is the dry quinoa before cooking.

Quinoa in the pan getting read to boil

Next, the scallops.  I am not a huge seafood lover, but scallops are nice because they have such a mild flavor and don’t (or shouldn’t) taste “fishy”.

Large sea scallops, gettin’ themselves a saute`

And finally the finished meal,  Scallops with Citrus and Quinoa; Dilled Zucchini on the side.  Very tasty indeed!

And now for our final subject for this post, surgery.  After a two and a half hour visit to the orthopedic surgeon’s office yesterday, we have a date set for dear hubby’s hip replacement.  March 2nd.  Lots of stuff to do prior to the big day such as pre-op classes, blood draws, etc etc.  No doubt there will be more on this as the date approaches.  It’s SO VERY necessary, but also quite scary, and we hope you’ll keep him in your prayers.

A new year, a fresh start

Here we are, a week into the new year already!  Hopefully it’s been a “happy new year” for everyone.  So far I’d have to say it’s been a promising new year here.  I think it could be a year that may very well involve a fair bit of change for our household.  First off, dear hubby will definitely be getting a brand new hip joint, most likely in early March.  This is a good thing I do believe – but of course I’m not the one undergoing the big surgery.  Or the rehab afterwards.  Still, the doc has told DH that without it, he can expect to say “bye-bye” forever to his beloved game of golf, and in a relatively short time,  “hello” to wheel chair life.  I’ll be taking some time off work to help care for my dear spouse after the big event.

Prior to the surgery, DH has been told that losing  a bit of weight would be a good plan.  So……. we have been trying really hard to not just “lose weight” but to make some definite changes in our eating and exercising habits.  I’ll admit I’m normally a bit of a slug, a couch potato … you get the drift.  Months ago we got a Wii Fit and we are finally trying to get some use out of it.  I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest workout ever, but we are moving more, and some of the stuff is actually fun!  Hey, it can’t hurt!  I take that back.  If you have a bad hip (as we both do) just skip over the hula-hoop activity!!  It’s a killer!  What’s not so fun is the little voice coming over the TV announcing your weight and BMI and then telling us we are “obese”.  YUCK, what a horrible word!  My goal is to get out of obeseland and into overweightville.  A good first step, anyway!

Another of the  changes I mentioned earlier has to do with our intake. We eat a lot of good food.  Key words: a lot.  I don’t mean to brag, but shoot, I do love my own cooking and so does dear hubby.  Most of the stuff I make is pretty healthy, but we consume massive amounts of this good stuff… and that’s not, well, good. So, we are making a concerted effort to eat less and that means I am training myself to cook less (portion wise).  I went through all my January/February issues of Everyday Food and cataloged all the “light” recipes that looked delicious.  This is what we had for dinner last night: Beef and Orange Stir Fry.  Oh my, it was delicious and I made brown rice instead of the white that is shown in the magazine photo.  When the recipe says “Serves 4” I am finally paying attention.  I’m cutting down most of the ingredients in half to feed the TWO of us, instead of making the full amount.  Now I know it might be smart to make the full amount and freeze the leftovers, but for now as we get used to our smaller portions, I’m simply NOT making the extra.  We need to re-learn what normal portions are, even if the food is super yummy!   Tonight I made a delightful pot of soup, some of which I shared with a neighbor who’d had some pretty extensive dental work done today.  I gave her a choice of what soup would suit her fancy and she chose Mushroom Barley.  Here’s how it came to be:  This turned out quite tasty, if I do say so myself 🙂  Hubby agreed.  We had a nice salad along with it too.  I do love to cook and plan nice meals, so you may be seeing more food showing up on my blog this year.

In early November of last year, dear hubby worked his behind off repainting our living room, dining room, kitchen and hall.  Finally we got rid of the stark ‘off-white’ that has been the mantra of this home since the day it was built, since the day we moved in.  Now it’s time to start in on the bedroom.  I used to love traditional, “Early American”, and “country” type decor… but for some reason, my tastes have changed a bit in my middle age.  I now like a bit more modern look and one thing I really can’t stand is clutter!  Not to say I don’t have my fair share of it!  I’m always struggling to try to make my rooms look “cleaner”.  So, in our quest for new bedroom color(s) we bought (not kidding here) at least 10 different samples from Lowe’s, brought them home and tried them out on the walls.  After much trepidation, we’ve come to a conclusion.  Purple.  Well, maybe more like a lavender-gray.  And the “make over” begins tomorrow!  Here’s the “before” snapshot… That’s dear hubby, prying the mirror tiles off the wall.  Not sure they are going back up.  The shelf that runs horizontally above the bed (the brackets are visible in this picture) will be repainted – black – and will go back up.  Even if it turns out horrific, I’ll be sure and post the “after” photos.  We have been so afraid of COLOR for so long… it’s a little scary to go-for-it, but the paint has been purchased, and we’re gonna do it!  Oh, the dark purple color on the right side of the bed is the color we chose for that wall… it will be the “feature wall”… all the other walls will be a lighter shade.  My darling husband says that if we decide we hate the darker color (right now we actually LIKE IT, but we’ll see…..) he will repaint it to the lighter shade we have picked out for the other walls.   More to come…. soon!!!

Autumnal hodgepodge

October 09 042You knew we lived in the midst of a forest.  You knew that there are mostly evergreen trees in the forest up here.  But did you know that some evergreen trees lose bits and pieces of their needles/branches?  Here’s a snap of a nearby Cedar tree… each fall, all the cedar trees have sections that turn a rust color and eventually drop off – normally during the wind and rain storms that come in November.   There.  An autumnal bit of etcetera.

Hey, it’s great living in a forest!  You get to see lots of wildlife… like these very tame and laid back deer, lounging in our next door neighbor’s back yard a few days back.  Some days I think the deer are cute.  Some days I’d like to make them all into deer jerky.  lounging deer

This happy little photo is of the mommy deer and twins that have spent the entire summer going from home to home, devouring every edible flower, tree, and plant  in the vicinity.  They look so content, don’t they?

Last week, on one of our truly glorious autumn days, we took a drive with our neighbors Irv & Elaine over to Anacortes, WA.  They took us to the top of a large hill where Cap Sante Park is located.  We’d never been there – and on a nice day (like we had) the view is stunning.  Here is a photo of our good friends with Fidalgo Bay in the background.  October 09 006

Irv and Elaine are now back in Florida, where they live most of the year.  You may remember we went to see them last March and had a fantastic visit!   Today we woke to 32 degrees and saw that it’s in the 70’s in Florida.  I’m going to try not to think too hard about that.

Here are a couple of shots of our cat, Jinx.  He wanted to show off his Halloween “Beastie Bands” collar so I told him, “just turn your head the other way so we can see it, Jinx”.  And he did.   By the way, in my humble opinion, “Beastie Bands” are simply the nicest (but definitely NOT the most expensive) cat collars.  Jinx likes to change his neckwear as the seasons change 🙂  October 09 034

October 09 035

I absolutely love Autumn.  It means I can start making more homemade soups and stews, roasts in the oven, and baked goods.  So far, I’ve made a pot of chili and an apple crisp.  I’m thinking tonight might be a great night for my homemade potato soup.  Lots of evenings in the fall and winter, we’ll make our dinner on soup and bread.  I still am intimidated at the thought of making my own bread… not so much in the technique exactly, but in the time it takes.  Ok, I’ll admit it, the technique scares me a bit also.   At any rate, I love to buy (at Costco in a pack of six) the small sourdough baguettes that are not completely baked.  They need about 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven to finish them off to perfection.  This time of year I keep them in the freezer to go along with the soups and stews.

Here is a snap shot of an open-faced sandwich I made for lunch a few days ago.  I got the idea out of my favorite “Everyday Food” magazine – I think it was in an issue about 5 years ago.  October 09 001

They are cheese, apple, and bacon on a nice whole grain brown bread.  I cooked the bacon first, then assembled the sandwiches and baked them in the oven at 350 for approx 12-14 minutes.  Long enough for the bread to get sort of crispy and the cheese to melt.  I used extra sharp cheddar and golden delicious apples.  You could use any cheese that you like and even change the fruit to thinly sliced pears.  Yep, that would be soooo good too!

On the subject of food, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of The Pioneer Woman and her website, and all the great food she makes.  Well, she’s started another website, the Tasty Kitchen– described as: “Favorite Recipes from Real Kitchens Everywhere!”  – where anyone can submit recipes that are tried and true family favorites.  It’s a great website and if you enjoy cooking like I do, you may discover a great recipe or two there!

The final subject for todays “Autumnal hodgepodge” is painting. An eight-letter word that describes perseverance and determination.  We moved in to our new home (yes, it was actually new when we moved in) in 2003.  The builder, bless his heart, painted (with a spray gun I am sure) every wall and ceiling in this house the famous off-white color.  Five years ago we ventured into the world of color and painted the guest room a sort of ‘whole-grain-mustard’ gold.  Sounds horrible doesn’t it?  Well, it looks okay and goes well with the “African” theme we sort of have in there.  It took two coats of color to cover the off-white walls.  Fast forward to 2009.  Finally, hubby and I agree that we absolutely must update the walls in our “great room” – which encompasses the living room, dining room, and kitchen.  I kid you not, we made FIVE trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s before deciding upon the two colors.  The painting has been in process for much of this past week.  It is not yet done.  But here are a few shots of the prep and beginning of the debacle!

Taping in the kitchen

Taping in the kitchen

The big wall in living room area

The big wall in living room area

Let the painting and 'cutting in' begin~

Let the painting and 'cutting in' begin~

Obviously, I’ll post some “after” pictures once we are done.  Having the house in total chaos is a yucky feeling, but it was definitely a must.  All I’ll say is we are very happy with the outcome — so far!

August delights

I think this time, more pictures and less verbiage!  First off, some of my FOOD pictures.

COOKING09 015 I do love to try a new recipe from time to time, and this one I found I had many versions of.  Italian Bread Salad, or “Panzanella”.   We thought it looked yummy for a warm summer’s day, so I gave it a try.  Seen in the picture are large bread cubes from what the recipe called “country” bread, but it was actually a round loaf of Italian rosemary bread that I picked up at Trader Joe’s.  English cucumber, red onion,  provolone cheese, plum tomatoes, cannellini beans, and fresh basil.  I made a simple vinaigrette as the recipe suggested, using red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper.  COOKING09 018

I tossed it all together, waited the suggested two hours (for all the flavors to mingle and the bread to soak up some of the dressing), and then served it up.  Dee-lightful!!  You can see the recipe I used by clicking here.

Recently (this past week) we took our motorhome out on another adventure.   Each time we go we learn more and more about the features of our newest acquisition.  This time we stayed away two nights and I got the chance to try out the microwave/convection oven.

COOKING09 022The motorhome does NOT have a “regular” oven, so I needed to see what baking in a convection oven might be like.  Well, here is the result!  My version of a Plum Tart.  It was nice and brown and properly baked – and was so tasty.  I only wish we’d had some vanilla ice cream to go with it.  I got my idea for this dessert hereCOOKING09 025

Yesterday we stopped by our favorite farm stand and picked up a HUGE bag of these “Romano” green beans.  We buy them every year and LOVE ’em!  This year I decided to buy A LOT and freeze some for wintertime.  So here they are, just out of their blanching, then ice water bath, waiting to be packaged for the freezer.  YUM!

Now for some motorhome  pics from our last trip.  We headed a little further away this time and ended up at an RV park on Willapa Bay, very near the open ocean.   We were able to park waterside, and this is the view we had!August 09 022The little island you see in the above picture seemed to attract a very large amount of seagulls–August 09 026Guess there really is something to that old saying… “birds of a feather, flock together….”

More  scenes of  “camp life”August 09 016 – just hangin’ out in our fold-up camp chairs…

August 09 035Dear hubby enjoying the campfire and the sunset. 🙂

We had a nice time and would have loved to have stayed longer.  Someday, yes someday if we are truly lucky and blessed, we’ll get to take a three-month trip around parts of the USA and Canada.  That dream is still way off in the future…. but there’s nothing wrong with having a few dreams!   Hoping you are enjoying your own “August delights”!

This and that – what’s on my mind

Plants Back in September ’08 I did a post on “plants around the house”.  I had a “mystery plant” that bloomed and was so excited to learn that it was a Hoya (thanks Jayne and Glenda!).   Well it is blooming again and I just have to post another picture of it.  This time it’s blooming in TWO different colors!  May 2009 002

Maybe I am easily fascinated, but I’ll admit it, I’m simply loving this Hoya plant!!

You may also remember if you click on my previous plant post here, that I started an experiment with my African Violets.  Following the advice in my o-l-d houseplant book “Crockett’s Indoor Garden”, I took four leaf cuttings off my healthy African Violet, dipped them in rooting hormone, and inserted them at a 45 degree angle into a pot.  Then I developed a hearty dose of patience and waited.  I watered, I watched, and I waited.  I have been rewarded!!  May 2009 001What was once just four leaves is now an abundance of leafy green!!  When I first noticed the little “plantlets” appearing, I was so excited!  It worked!  Of course the true measure of success is if/when this little beauty actually blooms. This was my purple and white specimen, so theoretically when it blooms, it will also be of the purple/white variety.  Obviously I’ll post a photo of that “exciting” event, should it happen.

Food Yesterday in the late afternoon,  I pulled up a stool next to the stove and made (with love I may add, as it’s rather time consuming) some particularly delicious risotto.  I’ve made risotto before and liked it, but this was love at firMay 2009 005st bite!  The recipe is from the Martha Stewart “Everyday Food” magazine – back in April 2004.  Shame on me for waiting this long to try out this fantastic side dish!  It’s actually called Spring Risotto with peas and zucchini.  If you hate peas and/or zucchini, I’m sure you could substitute other green veggies.  Click here (the Martha Stewart Everyday Food website) for the full recipe.  May 2009 006

Start by cooking some lovely chopped zucchini in a 3 quart saucepan. When it is soft and golden, remove it and add your Arborio rice.

May 2009 007

In risotto, Arborio rice, imported from Italy is a must. Well in my opinion, it’s a must.  It has a higher starch content and makes the creamiest risotto.  Our friend Martha Stewart says it’s possible to substitute medium grain white rice.  That would probably work too.  I get my Arborio rice from Trader Joes.  Gotta love that store … great selection of slightly unusual things at very reasonable prices.  May 2009 009

Now for the time consuming part.  You add the broth just one cup at a time, stirring until nearly all the liquid is absorbed.  Then, and only then can you add another cup of broth.  This part of the recipe takes approximately 30 minutes.   Ahhh, this is the “made with love” part!  Then, at the very end you’ll add the zucchini, peas, and some parmesan cheese (yum).  May 2009 011

Here it is, the final result…  Spring Risotto, a slice of ham, and some delicious steamed broccoli.  All I can say is that I’m so glad there’s leftover risotto for tonight!

So last night’s evening meal ends today’s tale of  “this and that”.  Has anybody else made risotto?  Propagated plants?  I’d love to hear all about it!!  🙂