Red Chile Beef

I thought I’d give you the low down on creating/adapting recipes by telling you my experience on this one. I should give a disclaimer that the pictures here are not from the recipe I actually ended up with. I’ll take new pictures and replace these….maybe. We’ll see how the day goes. (I just couldn’t stand not having new pics up, and the little one is napping..yippee!…so the picture above the recipe is the current picture of the actual recipe. The old picture is at the end, in case you’re interested in comparing the difference. Enjoy!)

I wanted a good beef recipe for Cinco de Mayo. One of my favorite dishes to order when we go out for Mexican is a shredded beef chimi. I’ve had them all sorts of ways, and generally, it’s mildly spiced shredded beef, sometimes with a few onions or tomatoes thrown in. What I always want is something with a sauce with some spice and flavor to compliment the beef, so I usually get it enchilada style, but I would love a plain chimi, with a red chile sauce mixed with the beef. So, I decided to find a recipe I could make myself. I wanted something that could be thrown in the slow cooker, and cook all day. I looked at several recipes, came up with a traditional flavor profile I like for the sauce (red chile base, with some garlic and cumin), and decided to make the sauce, and throw it all in the slow cooker. That’s what the pictures are of. The problem I ran into is that the roast creates too much liquid and fat. It results in a roast that is swimming in a liquidy, oily broth that mildly tastes like chiles.

Hmmm. I realized that the only two options I could come up with were 1. use a very lean cut of meat, and sacrifice flavor or 2. make the sauce separately, cooking the roast plain, then adding the sauce after the roast is cooked. I decided on the latter. One benefit of this method is that you can make the sauce the day before, or any time during the day. Another benefit is that you can set aside some of the plain beef for your picky eaters who don’t like the sauce. The final result is exactly what I wanted, a mild flavorful red chile shredded beef. I can’t wait to make chimis!

RED CHILE BEEF

3 pound boneless chuck roast
1/2 cup beef stock
3 ounces (about 12) dried new mexico chiles
1 TBS olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt

Place roast and beef stock in slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours, until tender and falling apart.

For the sauce: fill a medium pot 2/3 with water. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles. Add the chiles to the water, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and place a small plate on the chiles to keep them under the water. Cover the pot and let sit for 30 minutes. Place the chiles in a food processor or blender along with 1/2 cup of the soaking water. Blend until smooth. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any seeds and remaining tough skins. In a pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook until it just starts to brown, about one minute. Add chile puree, cumin, and salt. Cook, while stirring, for one minute. Remove from heat.

When roast is done cooking, drain the liquid into a bowl and return roast to slow cooker. Pull the beef apart with two forks, removing any big chunks of fat or gristle. Mix 1/4 cup of the juices from the beef into the (warm) red chile sauce and pour over the beef, stirring to coat. Serve or keep on “warm” or “low” setting until ready to serve. Use this beef in enchiladas, tacos, burros or chimis, or serve with fresh tortillas and beans.

REAL food alert: check your beef stock for MSG and additives.

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The New Picture

The Old Picture.

Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak

I love that “Salisbury” seems to have a superfluous “I” and I always pronounce it “SAL-is-burr-ee” in my head, and feel very British. We crazy Americans probably pronounce it wrong. When I was little, every once in a while we would be treated with T.V. dinners…we’d all go to the store and pick out our own Banquet brand T.V. dinner. (Funny how tasteless processed food was a “treat” from my mom’s delicious homemade cooking). I always picked out the Salisbury Steak meal, complete with a side of bland macaroni and cheese and apple dessert.

I make a slow cooker meal every Sunday. I love walking in the door from church and being hit with a delicious aroma and knowing that dinner is will be on the table as soon as we set it. Maybe we should start setting the table before we leave for church to eliminate that extra 5 minutes. This Sunday I decided to create a salisbury steak recipe in the slow cooker, complete with a savory mushroom sauce. I tried it two ways: breading the patties and pan-searing them before adding them to the slow cooker, and just breading them and stacking them in the cooker. I found that the difference in flavor was negligible and there was virtually no difference in texture, because the nature of slow cooking ruined any crispness I gained from the pan searing. I figured in the end, skipping the step and added oil was worth it to me. I also used panko bread crumbs, which adds more texture than your typical mushy bread crumb. If you have two slow cookers (hard core, I know…) you can pre-make your mashed potatoes and put them in your second cooker on “warm” or “low” if you’re out of the house, and you come home to a complete meal if you just add a salad.

SLOW COOKER SALISBURY STEAK

2 pounds ground beef
2 TBS dried onion
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
6 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups beef stock

In a bowl, mix together the ground beef, the dried onion and milk. Form into 8 patties. Dredge each patty in the the flour, then coat with bread crumbs. Stack in your slow cooker, alternating so they are not right on top of each other. Dump the raw mushrooms over the patties. In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for a few minutes until the mixture turns a light brown. Slowly add the beef broth 1/2 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Continue to cook over medium heat until thick. Pour over the mushrooms and patties. Cook on low 4 hours.

REAL food alert: check your beef stock for msg and autolyzed yeast extract.
ALLERGY alert: if you are allergic to dairy, gluten or wheat, skip making the roux with butter and flour, instead pour the beef stock into the pan and bring to a boil. Mix 3 TBS corn starch with 3 TBS cold water. Add to boiling stock and whisk until thick. Follow the recipe as directed. Also, substitute bread crumbs for a gluten-free bread crumb.

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Real Food Remake: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Slow Cooker)

Real Food Remake

I love finding a good slow cooker recipe.

The problem is that many of them, in the name of convenience, include cream soups or packaged mixes that have msg or other preservatives. A friend recently made this recipe, and I was excited that it didn’t include cream soups, but there were two things I didn’t like about the recipe. First, it used a rice-a-roni packaged mix that has autolyzed yeast extract (which is essentially msg), and second, it asks you to create a roux-based cream sauce on the stove top, add it to the soup and let it cook longer. I LOVE roux-based sauces, but it’s just an extra step that I don’t want to do on a busy day where I am using a crock pot recipe.

So, I changed a few things. First, I subbed the mix for real ingredients (seriously, it takes maybe an extra minute to measure out some spices than to open and pour a box). To avoid making the cream sauce, I added coconut milk to the soup. I picked coconut milk because it makes the soup dairy-free (shout-out to my allergic and vegan friends!!), plus it adds a nice flavor to the soup, especially with the turmeric. To thicken it, there is still an added step. At the end, you add a cornstarch mixture and let it cook and additional ten minutes. It’s still a lot less work than the cream sauce. If you’re allergic to corn, you can go the roux route, or simply take the lid off for the last 40 minutes of cooking and knock it up to high. It won’t be as thick, but it’ll be close.

When I served this soup, my picky one (who you met during this post) declared it “super-super awesome!” All of the kids loved it…until aforementioned picky kid said that the wild rice looked like beetles, then one of the others refused to eat it. So, use that knowledge to your benefit or harm, depending on the coolness factor of eating bugs in your family.

(Oh, I realized as I was typing this up that I completely forgot to add the carrots to the soup. We actually loved it without, and my kids hate carrots (I know, right?!), so I added it to the recipe, but it’s totally optional depending on your tastes).

CREAMY CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP (Slow Cooker)

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-14 oz cans unsweetened coconut milk
4 oz package wild rice (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 c uncooked brown rice (not instant brown rice)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup diced carrots (optional)

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
salt to taste

In the slow cooker, mix together everything except the cornstarch and cold water. Be sure to shake the coconut milk cans well before opening, and whisk together well. Cook on low for 4 hours. Combine cornstarch and cold water, add to the soup. Keep the lid off and cook and additional 10 minutes on high, stirring occasionally. Add salt if needed.

REAL food alert. Check your chicken stock for preservatives and msg.

ALLERGY alert: see above notes if you are allergic to corn. If you are allergic to coconut, use 2 cans of evaporated milk.

VEGGIE alert: easily make this vegetarian by omitting the chicken. You can add any veggies you would like, like celery, carrots, root veggies. You could also add kale in the last 10 minutes for a green boost.

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Lasagna Soup

I know that in my Zuppa Toscana Soup post, I said that I don’t go to Italian restaurants. That does not mean I don’t like Italian food. I mean, what’s not to like? A perfectly seasoned sauce over tender meat, topped with ooey gooey cheese?

Lasagna is one of my favorite foods in the world. I happened upon this recipe for Lasagna Soup and was blown away. It’s a tomato broth soup with big pieces of Italian sausage, plenty of onions and spices, some fresh basil to lighten it all up, poured hot over a ball of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Life Altering. Seriously. I served this with my homemade French Bread, and it was almost an out-of-body experience. I should mention that I don’t consider canned tomatoes “real” food, only because many cans are lined with BPA, which are of special concern for tomatoes, because the acidity in tomatoes makes them leach more BPA into the food. I tried to find an alternative, and didn’t. Using self-canned tomatoes from glass jars, or roasting some tomatoes in the oven (like in my Roasted Red Salsa) would both be acceptable substitutes for the canned tomatoes here.

LASAGNA SOUP

8 oz fusilli pasta, or lasagna noodles broken into bite sized pieces.
2 tsp olive oil
1 pound mild Italian sausage (or hot, if you like some kick)
3 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 TBS tomato paste
1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips.
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
more shredded mozzarella cheese for the top

In a large pot, boil your noodles to “al dente” (not super floppy) according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In your soup pot, drizzle the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until pieces are starting to brown. Add the onions and contnue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is fully cooked and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning and tomato paste. Cook for a minute or two, until the tomato paste darkens. Add in the tomatoes with their juice and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. When the soup is done simmering, add the noodles and basil into the soup. To serve, place a dollop of cheese mixture into each bowl and pour the soup over it. You can sprinkle more mozzarella on top, if you desire.

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Adapted from: A Farm Girls Dabbles

REAL food alert: Read above about canned tomatoes. Check your Chicken stock for MSG. Check your sausage for MSG and Preservatives .
ALLERGY alert: to make dairy-free, eliminate the cheese. For gluten-free, use rice pasta.
VEGGIE alert:  to make vegetarian, eliminate the sausage, use veggie broth and add zucchini, summer squash or eggplant. Also eliminate the cheese to make it vegan.
HEALTH alert: to make it healthier, use turkey sausage and wheat pasta.
For a freezer meal, or to make ahead, add everything except the cheese mixture and noodles. Freeze in gallon-sized freezer bags. To serve, defrost, add in cooked noodles and make the cheese mixture.
To convert this to a slow cooker meal, cook sausage and onions, place them in the slow cooker. Add the remaining soup ingredients (minus the cheese). Increase the chicken stock to 8 cups. Add in uncooked noodles. Cook on low 4 hours.

Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops

I love a good slow cooker recipe. The problem with many of those recipes, is that they use cream soups and packaged mixes that are full of MSG and Preservatives. We are an MSG-free family, and so I have found that I need to remake many of the recipes I find for slow cooking. This one I found and it originally used a package of dry ranch mix and creamed condensed soups. That’s a double dose of MSG, not to mention all sorts of stuff in the condensed soups that we steer clear of. It takes a little extra time making a condensed soup substitute from scratch, but it’s only 15 minutes or so. If you have a favorite recipe you’d like me to make over using REAL food, let me know!

SLOW COOKER RANCH PORK CHOPS

4 TBS butter
6 TBS flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
6 Pork Chops (whatever cut you prefer)

Make a roux, by melting butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk continually until it becomes light brown. Slowly add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time while whisking vigorously. Whisk out all lumps before adding the next portion of stock. When all the chicken stock is incorporated, stir until very thick. Add all of the seasonings. Place pork chops in slow cooker. Pour sauce over. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low 6 hours. The last hour, you can remove the lid to help thicken the gravy. Otherwise, when done, you can remove the gravy back to your saucepan and boil over medium heat until desired thickness.

REAL food alert: Check your chicken stock for preservatives and MSG. Check your seasoned salt for MSG or “natural flavorings”, which may be MSG.
ALLERGY alert: To make gluten-free, sub a gluten-free flour. To make dairy-free, use 100% vegetable margarine or oil in place of the butter.
You can make the sauce and freeze it for a quick slow cooker meal later!

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Slow Cooker Garlic Pork Roast

I’m almost ashamed to even call this a recipe. It’s so easy, with two ingredients. I bet many of you will just pass it by, thinking it can’t taste good in it’s simplicity. Well, my four kids would probably wrestle you to the ground and give you noogies if they heard you. It is one recipe that pleases every.single.kid of mine. This is one of my week-long recipes. From that, I mean that I use the leftovers once or twice during the week in various recipes. I will buy a pork roast, of any kind, when it’s on sale, make this roast in the slow cooker, serve it for dinner with potatoes and steamed green veggies. The leftovers, I’ll shred and use it in Shepherd’s Pie or add some green chilis to it and make burritos with Homemade “Refried” Beans. If it’s a big enough roast, I’ll make all three in one week. What’s better than having half of your dinners planned and prepped in one shot?

SLOW COOKER GARLIC PORK ROAST

Pork Roast, any type, any size, as long as it fits in your slow cooker
5-6 cloves of garlic

Remove the husks from the garlic cloves. Place the roast in your slow cooker. Add the garlic cloves. Put on the lid. Turn the slow cooker on. Wipe the sweat from your forehead from working so hard. Cook on high 3-6 hours, or low 5+ hours. The time will vary depending on your slow cooker and the size and cut of your roast. I tend to stick it in first thing in the morning, turn it on low and let it cook all day. It’s difficult to over cook this. It is done when you cut into the center and the liquid that comes out is clear, not pink. Pork has a pinkish hue, so don’t go by color. You can also check temperature with a meat thermometer. It should be 145-160 degrees when it’s fully cooked. If you are cooking a very large cut, you can cut it into smaller hunks part way into cooking to speed up the process.

revised: one reader had a 2 pound roast and it was overcooked at 5 hours on low. Ideally, a large roast (3 pounds and up) will cook for the time posted above. Also, if you are using a tenderloin roast, they tend to overcook easier. If you are cooking a smaller roast, definitely cook on low, but check after 3 hours. Slow Cooker cooking is not an exact science, every cooker cooks differently and exery cut of meat will vary as well. This involves some flexibility the first few times you use a recipe.