Chunky Beef Stew

I know that I am not going to get any sympathy from northern blog readers, but it’s been darn right cold in San Diego. It’s actually even been raining quite a bit. But to be perfectly honest, I kind of like it. There is something kind of nice about staying in to avoid the cold, wet weather and making the inside of my house warm and comforting. It also gives me a great excuse to break out one of my favorite cookbooks –  The Ski House Cookbook. Yeah I know, 50 degrees outside (it feels colder with the ocean breeze!) isn’t exactly snow ski weather, but it’s as close as I’ll get in San Diego!

This beef stew is a recipe that I have come back to every year since my aunt gave me this cookbook. One thing that sets it apart is the cooking of the vegetables and stew separately but at the same time. This helps to avoid mushy vegetables or having to keep an eye on the clock to add the vegetables at just the right time to cook them without overcooking them. You’re going to want a fork AND a spoon for this stew so you don’t miss any of the chunky vegetables/meat or delicious gravy.

 

Tangy Mustard Coleslaw

It seems like for the last few weeks I’ve seen Facebook status after Facebook status counting down the days until the end of school year. Friends that are teachers, parents and students… they’re all ready for summer! As far as school goes, I’m not quite as lucky. The BSN program I am in has classes that run through the summer. I could technically take it off, but I’d rather get my degree a few months earlier! Still, there are lots of things about summer that I am looking forward too. Warm (and hot!) weather, the tomato plants we have growing on our balcony, the abundance of in-season fruits, and of course summer BBQ type foods.

One of my top 10 favorite foods of all time is barbeque pulled pork. I can’t think of time when I was NOT in the mood (or easily swayed into the mood) for pulled pork. Especially after I discovered my new favorite rub and sauce last summer. And, to me, it’s not a proper pulled pork sandwich if there isn’t a fairly healthy heap of coleslaw on top.

I think there are a fair amount of people out there that think that they don’t like coleslaw. One of the biggest reasons I hear for people not liking it is the loads of mayonnaise that goes into many slaws. But people, there are LOADS of coleslaw recipes and many have little to no mayo. And to be honest, those are often the tangy kind that win my heart. Like this Tangy Mustard Cole Slaw.

The first time I made this recipe with the small amount of mayo it called for. This time I suspected since the amount was so small and the purpose was really to add just a hint of creaminess that I could replace it with Greek yogurt or sour cream and it would still work. And it did. If you think you don’t like coleslaw, give this one a try! It’s tangy and creamy and delicious, the perfect topper for a pulled pork sandwich!



Tangy Mustard Coleslaw


Ingredients
7 cups finely shredded cabbage, about 1/2 head (I like to use a combination of green and purple)
1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
2 Tbsp Greek yogurt, sour cream, or reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Salt to taste

Directions
In a large bowl toss together the cabbage, red onion, and carrot.  In a glass liquid measuring cup, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, mustard, yogurt, black pepper, and red pepper. (Wait until just before serving to add the salt, otherwise it can pull the water out of the cabbage and make everything runny). Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to evenly coat. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes before serving. Just before serving, add a sprinkle of salt to taste.

Adapted from Cooking Light June 2008, via My Recipes

Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Turkey


One of the problems I have with moving is that I have a LOT of stuff. Especially when it comes to the kitchen. I am not exageratting when I say that half of our storage unit is San Diego is kitchen stuff. Dishes, pots, pans, appliances, cupcake liners, cooking tools, towels, cupcake liners, baking tools, corning ware, cupcake liners…. See what I mean? So. Much. Stuff. But all of that is fine because it can be stored and it can and will all be used again (and I actually get to go through it when we are back in San Diego and pick out some of the more important stuff to bring back to China!) But what wasn’t so fine was the amount of food in my pantry and refrigerator that couldn’t very make it China, but also can’t be stored to wait for our return.

So during my last week in San Diego I was left with arduous task of sorting food. What could I give away to friends? What (if anything!) could be stored? What could I use before I left? What would (sadly) need to be pitched.

In the end I decided to make a box of dry goods that could safely be stored for 2 months and eventually go back to China with me. I also labeled a few bags and set them just outside of the trash area at the apartment complex (I went back and forth about this, but in the end I would see the same few homeless people going through and picking out bottles/cans every morning and I thought maybe they would appreciate a few boxes of [good] snacks and if not it was right there and could go out with the trash. I would have handed them to them myself but my schedule was crazy that last week). I also was able to give some things away to friends and very few things needed to actually be thrown away.

This meal actually started out as just an attempt to use up remaining perishable foods and it turned into something much more memorable. Warm and comforting. Rich and filling. As an added bonus, I really appreciated having the left overs in a time that may have otherwise been filled with fast food, as I did all of my last minute packing and moving.


Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Turkey

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 small-medium onion, diced
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped*
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
Kosher salt to taste
1 lb ground turkey**
3/4 cup frozen vegetables, I used lima beans, corn, and peas
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch (~1/4 tsp) nutmeg
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp corn starch
2 Tbsp cold water
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2-2 cups mashed potatoes***

* I think that the fresh herbs were what really made this dish shine. You can substitute dry if you need to (adjusting the amounts since dry herbs have a more concentrated flavor) but if you have access to fresh, use them!
**Typically Shepherd’s Pie is made with beef or lamb, but turkey is what I had on hand.
***I had leftover mashed potatoes, but I would guess 4-5 medium or 3-4 large potatoes for this amount of meat, mashed anyway you like, in my case with s&p, garlic, butter, milk, and sour cream.

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh rosemary and thyme cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground turkey, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then cook until the meat has browned and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the frozen vegetables and bring to a simmer. While the broth is coming to a simmer, whisk together the corn starch and cold water then stir into the simmering broth. Cook for 1 minute or until it starts to thicken then reduce the heat to medium-low, add the milk and cook for another minute.

If you were using a skillet, carefully transfer the contents of the skillet to a baking dish, other wise just make sure the mixture is evenly distributed around the bottom of the dutch oven. Carefully spread the mashed potatoes over the mixture (I found it was easiest to drop heaping spoonfuls all over then use the back of the spoon to “meld” the heaps together). Place the baking dish or dutch oven in preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes, then turn oven to broil and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the peaks of the potatoes start to turn golden brown.

Sunny Side Up original recipe, inspired by the many Shepherd’s Pie I’ve eaten throughout my life

Comfort Food

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Sometimes you can read a few simple words and your stomach will immediately sink. You don’t know what is coming next, but you know it can’t be good. That’ s what happened on Thanksgiving day when I went over to Annie’s Eats and saw, “Our Thanksgiving did not go as planned.”

As I read those words, I hoped that it was something food related, maybe her oven went out… But paired with the sweet photo of her father and daughter, I knew deep down it was more. And it was.

What was supposed to be a day of family, giving thanks, and delicious food, quickly turned into what I am sure was horrible nightmare with a phone call. That morning, Annie’s father passed away suddenly at the age of 59. You don’t need to read very far into her blog to find the words that will show what an amazing man he was and how much he meant to Annie.

When something awful like this happens, the first thoughts that usually run through your head are, “What can I do?” And when it’s someone close to home it’s inevitable that as you start thinking of ways to comfort that family, food has a way of coming right to the top of a short list of things that seem both comforting and appropriate.

The blogging community can be a really close one, despite the thousands of miles that can separate it. One such community that I belong to decided that since we can’t bring a covered dish right to Annie’s door, we would do the next best thing and bring a comfort food to her through our blogs.


It will never heal the hurt in Annie’s heart. It will never make her families sadness go away. But I hope that the thoughts and prayers we put into our comfort foods and blogs can close the gap between us and that Annie and her family can feel our support for her, from however far away we each are. If you haven’t already, maybe you can stop by her blog and leave some words for her.

Annie, I am so sorry. I know your dad was an amazing man.

As for my comfort food, this was the very first thing to come to mind. Chicken and Dumplings are one of my favorites, one of Jesse’s favorites and always warm and comforting.


Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients
3 chicken breast, roasted and shredded*
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 celery stalk, finely diced ~1/4 cup
1/2 of a small onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
salt and pepper to taste
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp butter
1 32-ounce carton low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp butter, just slightly softened and cut into chunks
1/2 cup of milk

*I always use my fingers to shred chicken. It feels like I’m better able to get rid of all of the gristly stuff that’s really unpleasant when you bite into it.

Directions
In a large stock pot melt the butter. Add the vegetables and garlic and cook for 5 minutes to soften, add salt, pepper and thyme to season. Next add the chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. While the broth is coming to a boil make the dumpling dough by whisking together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Use fingers to incorporate the butter into the flour, then stir in the milk. It should be wet and stick together, but not runny. Drop the dough one spoonful at a time into the boiling broth. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the shredded chicken and carefully stir. By this time the broth should have thickened but if it hasn’t, you can stir together equal amounts of flour and milk (a tablespoon or two) and add that to the broth.

Remove the sprigs of thyme before serving. Serve hot over mashed potatoes or by itself.

Sunny Side Up original recipe, dumplings dough adapted from Allrecipes.com