Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lazy Girl Crockpot All Beef Chili

My second Lazy Girl post this month.
It says volumes, doesn't it?
We're all so busy, weather's sucky and we want comfort food.
Here's another one that's very easy, comforting and delicious.
A side benefit?  No beans while you are cooped up inside with your nearest and dearest...

This one is great on its own, over rice, or on a sandwhich.  Hearty, spicy and yummy.

I bought the beef sirlion tip steaks at QFC (Kroger) at a "Buy one, get one" which makes it pretty economical as I paid about $9 for over 3 lbs of lean beef.  Here's what I used in the photo below, but any kind of beef would probably work.

Serves about 8

1-2 Tbsp oil
3 lb Beef Top Sirlion Tip steak
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp Smoked paprika
1 teaspoon granulated garlic, or fresh chopped
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp Masa corn flour, mixed with 1 Tbsp water (optional)
Salt & Pepper

Salt and pepper the tip steaks on both side.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on both sides in a hot pan with a tablespoon or two of oil.  Remove and allow to cool, then cut into chunks and add to the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients (except the Masa flour mixture, and save the salt and pepper for the end).
(this photo is from my Lazy Girl Beef Barley Soup, but the technique is the same)

Cook on Low for 7-8 hours. 
Add the Masa corn flour/water mixture and stir into the chili.  Also to cook for another 20-30 minutes, uncovered, until it thickens a bit.

Here's what it looks like before cooking:

Other Lazy Girl Crockpot Posts:
Chicken with Coconut, Lime & Peanut Sauce
Greek Pork and Garbanzo Stew
Hot Links, Red Beans and Rice
Salsa Chicken
Sesame Chicken
40 Clove Garlic Chicken
Black Bean Chili
Mamacita's Mexican Chicken and Dumplings
Tuscan Pot Roast
Lazy Girl Beef Barley Soup


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lazy Girl Crockpot Beef Barley Soup

Here's an easy soup to make for a cold weekend, or a busy weekday dinner.
Set up your crock pot and head out for some fun... or work. 

I will admit it's a bit weird for me to include ketchup in any recipe, however, this recipe just called for a little sweetness and tang that ketchup easily adds.  We both agreed, the ketchup added something.
And... that... is... not... something you hear me say everyday.

I bought a very cheap cut of beef, a tip steak or bottom round, I think.  But you could use chili stew meat, or even leftovers like pot roast, or steak would work. 

Serves about 6-8

8 cups beef stock
1 1/2 lb beef, seared then cubed
1-2 Tbsp oil
3/4 cup barley, uncooked
1 onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced, or sliced
1 cup celery, diced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine (or water)
1/4 cup ketchup, or a couple tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup frozen peas (add at the end)
Salt & Pepper 
Chopped parsley, if desired

Heat a pan over high heat.  
Meanwhile, salt and pepper both sides of the meat. Add oil to a pan and sear the meat on both sides, cooking for 1-2 minutes each side.  Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. 
(Below is the meat before I cut the strips into chunks)
Add a 1/2 cup of red wine to the pan to deglaze it and get the pan juices released.  Add the liquid to your crockpot.  Cut up the beef into small chunks for the soup. Add to the crockpot.
Add in the following:  beef stock, onions, carrots, celery, dry barley. Cook on Low for about 7-8 hours.
Taste and add salt and pepper, add ketchup or tomato paste, frozen peas and chopped parsley if using.  Heat for another 15 minutes and serve.

Here's what it looked like before I set the temperature on the crockpot and headed out for the day...

Here's a bunch more Lazy Girl Crock Pot Recipes:

40 Clove Garlic Chicken
Black Bean Chili
Mamacita's Mexican Chicken and Dumplings
Tuscan Pot Roast

Chicken with Coconut, Lime & Peanut Sauce
Greek Pork and Garbanzo Stew
Hot Links, Red Beans and Rice
Salsa Chicken
Sesame Chicken

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My 10 Personal Favorite Posts from 2013

Blogging is weird.
You just can't tell what people are going to like.
Yeah, sure, some things are obvious like cookies and martinis.
But sometimes, something I just love, love, love, doesn't get the attention it deserves.

These are MY favorite things I made in 2013, not necessarily popular posts, just the ones that I like the most and I will make again and again. 
Sure, this list is to give you another chance to see them, and like them too, but frankly, this is a list for me to remember my favorites.

Above, is a favorite from a trip to Rome this Spring,
Cacio e Pepe, Cheese & Pepper Pasta, a simple 4 ingredient dish.  I made this dish 3 times in 2 weeks, and still wanted more.

In a nutshell, my Top 10 break out in the following:
1 appetizer
2 soups
2 burgers! 
1 pasta
1 side dish
1 entree
1 cookie
1 martini

In no particular order, they are:

Thai Turkey Burger
Inspired after a trip to Thailand.  So delicious, and good for you too.

Chicken with Apricots and Olives
Salty, tangy, sweet and spicy.  Just about everything I like.

 Clementine Cranberry Martini
This should be a year round martini, not just for the holidays.  Just make up a new name... Cupid's Arrow, Bunny Hop Hop Hop, Skyrockets in Flight.... stop me, I could go on & on.

Zuppa Toscana
I like this very spicy, but you can do what you like. Use Kale or spinach, but give it some green.

Scottish Shortbread
It took me decades to find a shortbread recipe that passed my spoiled Scottish standards.

French Green Lentils with Tomatoes and Onions
Ugly food for sure, but very delicious and easy to make.  Can I mention "good for you" too?

Creamy Artichoke Soup
This one took about 10 minutes, and was a light, tangy and delicious.

Chilled Prawns with Cilantro Sauce
I can't get enough cilantro, and this sauce can be used for SO MANY things.

Chipotle Corn Turkey Burgers
A terrible picture, but a delicious flavorful burger

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies- Gluten Free

I have to get on my soap box for a minute.
If you meet someone who is going gluten free... please, please do not mock them.
Why would you say "it's all in your head", call them a "glutard" or generally mock them for their choice???
Cuz' guess what?  
It's NOT a choice... 
Why in the world would you deprive yourself from fresh baked sourdough bread, chewy pizza dough, shortbread cookies and beer?
The only reason you would do it...?
Is- because- you- feel- better...

Luckily, I can eat gluten without an issue, but both our kids, my BFF and a co-worker, really have issue when they eat gluten.
Try having your heart break to hear your daughter say "I thought everyone's stomach hurt like that...". She was 21 when she said that, and we had no idea there was a problem.

It's real ailment, or even serious disease, for some people, and it's very, very uncomfortable.
Cut them some slack and stop trying to "tough talk them out of it".

Really, let them feel better and happier, and eat some gluten yourself if you feel so strongly about it.  And thank your lucky stars that you can...

Here's some fantastic little cookies that I made just for Paige, and Alex, and Rose, and Ashley.  Guess what?  Lots of people liked them, and no one missed the gluten either.
They are chewy and almost taste like an almond meringue!  I baked some for the maximum time, these were crisper, and some at the minimum, which were chewier.

I found this great site for lots of Gluten Free ideas, check it out here.

Makes about 12-18

1 cup almond butter (or 2 cups almonds + 4 Tablespoons butter, melted)
1 cup granulated sugar plus more for rolling
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. 
If needing to make your almond butter, toast almonds in a single layer in a baking sheet in a a 375°F preheated oven for 7 minutes. Place them in the freezer to cool for about 10 - 15 minutes. Process toasted almonds in a food processor until a ground well; add melted butter and process until a smooth paste forms, scrape sides as needed.

Add the almond butter and sugar to the bowl of your electric mixer; cream together using the paddle attachment. Add egg, sprinkle the baking powder and salt evenly over the top; add vanilla; and mix well. Scoop 1 tablespoon fulls of the dough; add in about 3 - 4 chocolate chips; and shape into 2-inch rounds with your fingers. Place them on the baking sheet and space them approximately 1-inch apart. Bake for approximately 9 - 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes. Transfer them to cooling rack to cool completely.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jamaica's Blue Hole and Jerk Lunch

What to do with one day on a cruise stop in Jamaica?
My advice is to check out things to do on Tripadvisor before you check to see what the cruise offers in shore excursions. We’ve had very good luck with hiring a local tour company for the day and to have a car and driver to take you around to the sites.  It’s amazing how much more you can see when you aren’t on a bus with 30 of your cruise “closest friends”; it’s faster and more nimble to get to the hard to reach places in a short amount of time.  Last year, we used guides in Turkey, Greece and Italy that all rated 5 stars on Tripadvisor, each one exceeding our expectations.

Multiple 5 Star ratings means these guides are at the top of the list, and frankly, these people want to stay there for obvious good business reasons. This luxury is often so much cheaper than the cruise excursions and you got a more cultural experience. We choose Marvyn's Paradise Tours. Our driver also met us with a cold Red Stripe beer… not bad on an 85 degree day. Ya Man!

I wondered why the “Blue Hole” of Jamaica was the #1 natural attraction and the cruise tours didn’t go there? Well, we found out.  The Blue Hole is an unlicensed “enter at your own risk” kind of attraction that is run by locals. The lumpy, bumpy one lane road was our first clue that this wasn’t something our fellow cruisers would be on.  As we approached the turn off to Blue Hole, there was a small group of teen boys gathered at the bottom of the road. The driver, Delton, stopped to speak in the local patois, which like British cockney, if you listen really hard, you might be able to understand. Unfortunately, I couldn't.  Before the conversation was totally over, we saw two of the boys dart for a trail on the right that snaked out of sight.  Hmmm… now what was that all about?
As we carefully ascended the hill, our driver carefully maneuvering to avoid huge pot holes, the two boys emerged on the side of the van.  “How on earth did they get up here so fast” I asked Delton.  He laughed and said there was a short cut through the fern and vine tangled hillside.  You see, these were “our” guides for the day at the Blue Hole.  The boys wait and “dibs” their people to help at the park, taking turns so everyone get to work for tourist tips that day.  It was $15 each to enter the Blue Hole grounds, and with our driver’s advice, we gave the boys $20 to share. Best $20 I spent on my vacation for sure. Everyone… everyone needs their help, and their showmanship and photography skills, not to mention their steady hand and care of some old broads like us helped a bunch.
Your first view of the first blue hole is from a 50 ft cliff and a thin rickety feeling railing. No one has to tell you to keep back from the edge, you just want to.  There is a 35 ft tall waterfall cascading into the pool.  Your gaze takes in the people standing on the top and inching their ways seemingly miraculously down the stone face, gushing with water.  Unseen is the stone steps cut into the rock, covered by pulsing water.  First thing I said?  “No way, I am not jumping off that!” Have I mentioned that cautious is my middle name???
The guides start you at a “gateway” jump about 15 ft up from the falls, where you can safely jump into the 36 feet deep pristine blue pool. My friend, brave and wonderful, volunteers to go first.  She hesitates, taking it all in, asking all the questions that I intended to ask.  Off she goes…. I approach the edge and jump quickly, before I can change my mind.  Woo hoo!  Cool, refreshing and fantastic… but still a little nerve wracking.  
Brendan, our adventurous guide, points the way to a small hole in the rock, where we squeeze our chubby bums backwards in a dark hole, not knowing what’s really on the other side.  Inside, you are in a small underground pool in a stone walled room, with a small opening showing the waterfall coming down.  Only way out?  Through the waterfall. Still, I am hooked. 

The guides beckon, and have us follow, up we go to some small trails to the top of the waterfall, all the while, me saying “I’m not doing it, but I will look”. 
As you get to the top there are more, and more, deep pools and smaller waterfalls. We jump into more pools, and sit in small “back massager” waterfalls.
Below the first Blue Hole, there is yet another big blue hole, with a rope swing and another cliff jump into the pool.  Oh yeah... by now, we’re into it!

As we wrap up our hour or so at the Blue Hole, we gather for one group picture with our guides, Dillon and Brendan.

Now it’s off to some other sites, Fern Gully, some shopping in Ochos Rios (8 Rivers) for some Jerk spice mixture (recipe below) and some Blue Mountain Jamaican Coffee and then off for some food at a famous site for food in Jamaica, Scotchies Jerk.
Having a guide was key at Scotchies Jerk, Delton had been talking up the local foods and produce during our tour (Breadfruit, Ackee, Jerk, Festivale Corn fritters).  He suggested what we should order as we approached, and even said he’d see what he could do to rush our order as we were running short of time, as the lines as Scotchies are usually long.   
This place is famous with locals, and tourists alike, and the grounds are beautiful with outdoor huts with tables of people enjoying themselves. We agreed on a half jerk chicken to share with each of the couples in our group, and then got one half order of the pork.  It was all delicious, but next time, we would have order a full order of the Jerk Pork. OMG, it was all so fantastic.  I’m going to see what I can do to come up with some ideas on how to recreate at home… but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to capture all that deliciousness.  

We ate in the van, as we jetted back to the cruise ship in time for the sailing.
What a great way to spend the day in Jamaica.Here's a recipe for Jerk seasoning, I intend to try as soon as I use up all the jerk spice I bought in Jamaica!

Jerk Seasoning
Makes a 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon onion flakes
2 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried chives

Mix together all the ingredients.
Store leftovers in a tightly closed glass jar.
It will keep its strength for over a month.
1- 1 1/2 tablespoon of seasoning for each pound of meat and grill as usual

*** If you have a smoker like a Traeger, I'd use that.