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.

 

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