Beef Stew

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Beef stew is comforting. Don’t deny it. It’s also really easy to make. Mix all your ingredients together and let it do its thing. No babysitting. The problem is that it takes sooooo long to cook for the meat to become tender. Then again, it’s called stew for a reason. By definition, it means to cook something…slowly. Stewing is not fast.

There are a lot of methods to make stew, like using a slow or pressure cooker, which I do like, but the best stew I’ve ever had is braised in the oven for at least 2 hours. You could make this during the week if you had the time. Right. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have two hours between work (or taxiing the boy around to various extracurricular activities) and dinner time. Therefore, I like to make this dish on a lazy Sunday afternoon when I can smell the homey deliciousness of beef and veggies. There needs to be a candle for that.

For stew meat, I’ve learned to avoid the stew meat packages like the plague. Yes, it’s all pre-cut and very convenient, but you really have no idea what cuts of meat you’re ending up with. It could be a combination of different types, all that cook at separate times, so in the end, you end up with some tender pieces and some tough ones. Blah. Instead, buy chuck meat and cut it up yourself. I’m sorry, but trust me on this one.

Don’t forget to season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Unless you are on a medically prescribed low salt diet, you do not need to avoid salt. It brings out the flavor of meat. It’s also better to season as you go instead of all at the end so start now.

When you’re cutting up your veggies, try to cut them in similar sizes. Your carrots don’t need to be the same size as your celery, but your potatoes should be the same size to each other. I tried that here by cutting in half and then in quarters.

After you’ve chopped your meat and veggies, toss it all together in a baking dish.

Combine tomato juice (the secret ingredient!) instead of beef broth, water, tapioca (your thickener instead of flour), and seasonings. Pour it over the meat and veggies. Cover it with foil (to braise it) and pop it in the oven. Then, go find your happy place. Maybe that’s watching a TV show or reading a book. For others, it’s hiding in the closet, taking a nap. Not judging.

A couple hours later, check on it. The meat should be tender and your vegetables fork tender, but not falling apart or mushy.

Eat with bread. Yum. This is also a great dish to make ahead, chill, and bake later.

Beef Stew

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chuck beef cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 medium potatoes halved and then quartered into 1" pieces
  • 4 medium carrots cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 2 stalks celery cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1 medium onion large dice
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Coat a 9×13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In the baking dish, combine beef, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. Mix well.
  • In a large bowl, combine tomato juice, water, tapioca, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour over beef and vegetables.
  • Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 – 2 1/4 hours.
  • To make ahead, follow the recipe and then chill. Bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.
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Slow Cooker Halloween Stuffed Peppers

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Aka…spooky peppers. Yes, they were pretty scary alright.

For those of you who know me, you’ll know I love cute food. Give me a theme and like a person who dresses up at parties, I create cute food. What can I say? It’s ridiculous and brings a smile to my face. Someone once accused me of showing off, which actually hurt my feelings because I was having a good time just for being me. Can I help it if I made chocolate dipped strawberry footballs for the Super Bowl?

So it comes to no surprise when I decided to make something Halloween-y. I wanted to avoid making a dessert so I pondered on what dish I could make that is both cute and scary, without being disgusting. Stuffed orange peppers popped into my mind. I have no idea what inspired me.

First, I looked for a stuffed pepper recipe with an Italian bent. I also wanted to be able to make something that I wouldn’t have to babysit…the slow cooker! I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but close enough. I came across Crock-Pot Stuffed Peppers from Delish.

Take four orange peppers, slice off the tops, keeping the green stem intact. With a small, sharp knife, carve jack o’ lantern faces. Here’s an example of one of the scary dudes.

Because the original recipe was inspired by Mexican flavors and I wanted Italian, I skipped the black beans and frozen corn, and substituted Italian seasonings instead of cumin, chili powder, and oregano. I also bumped up the amount of garlic powder used.

I recommend using lean or extra-lean ground beef to avoid the grease. I prefer a 90/10 or 93/7 blend instead of a 80/20 blend, which is better for grilling cheeseburgers. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the next time you buy ground beef, look at the package. Ground beef is measured by the lean-to-fat ratio. 80/20 means that 80% lean to 20% fat. The more fat, the more flavor. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but not when you end up with a oily mess because the fat has melted into a pool of grease.

Mix all your stuffing ingredients together.

Use a spoon to scoop into your cute little pumpkins. Ohhhh…scary!

Stick them in the slow cooker for 3 hours on high. What you get is this little fella.

Ok, so he’s not as cute or as spooky as I had hoped. He’s kind of funny looking with rice oozing out of his mouth and looking a bit wrinkly. I did have to chuckle, but frankly, I was disappointed because the pepper was squishy. I want my cute food to taste delicious too. There’s no way these peppers should have been cooking for 3 hours. If I make them again, I would definitely check on them after 2 hours to see if the ground beef was cooked through and the pepper was soft, not mushy. If you make them, let me know how they turned out.

Happy Halloween! Boo!

Slow Cooker Halloween Stuffed Peppers

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 orange bell peppers
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 15 ounces fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups shredded jack cheese divided
  • 1 cup white rice cooked
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings

Instructions

  • Slice the tops of the peppers and keep the green top attached to the cap. Remove the seeds inside. With a small, sharp knife, carve little jack o' lantern on each pepper.
  • In a large bowl, combine beef, 1 cup cheese, tomatoes, rice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings. Stir until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
  • Stuff peppers with the beef mixture. Place them in a slow cooker, top side up. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours.
  • When the peppers are tender, top peppers with remaining cheese and cover. Cook on low for 5-10 minutes more, or until cheese melts.
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Beef Stroganoff

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This recipe is a favorite in the Deter household. Beef stroganoff is originally a Russian dish with beef sauteed in a sour cream sauce. It’s morphed into a dish that can contain any type of beef, sometimes has mushrooms, and is often served over egg noodles (although I have been known to serve it over cauliflower rice for myself). It’s incredibly retro and there’s absolutely nothing fancy about it.

My recipe has morphed a few times and probably resembles nothing like the traditional stroganoff of the 70s and 80s. First of all, no mushrooms. I happen to like them, but the boys don’t. So don’t even think adding them or using cream of mushroom soup. Mine doesn’t have any nutmeg, but you’ll find a ton of chopped rosemary. More than any normal person might like so feel free to use less. Finally, no beef tips. This one has ground beef.

I’m starting to wonder how this can even be called beef stroganoff, but let’s go with it because it’s tasty and filling and all that good stuff.

It starts out fresh rosemary, garlic, and red onions. It’s so much better with fresh rosemary, but you can use a teaspoon of chopped dried rosemary instead. Just don’t use that jarred minced garlic stuff. Always use fresh garlic. Never mind that it’s annoying to peel and chop.

Chopped these up and add them to your crumbled ground beef that’s been browning. I like to use the leanest beef possible to avoid a pool of grease.

Warning…the following photos you are about to see might seem scary and disgusting. Apparently beef stroganoff is not the supermodel of foods and looks rather unattractive. I swear it tastes better than it looks.

Add cream of chicken soup and some seasonings. Told you that no mushrooms would be harmed in the making of this dish.

Add sour cream and parsley. I use dried parsley, but fresh parsley works really well too.

Cook a little longer, toss with egg noodles, and this is what you end up with.

This recipe makes plenty for six people. Because there’s only three of us, I usually boil half of a bag (8 ounces) of noodles instead of a full bag, and use half of the sauce. Keep the leftover sauce and boil fresh noodles when it’s time for leftovers.

Beef Stroganoff

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped finely
  • 1 cup red onions diced
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 10.5 ounces condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 16 ounces egg noodles cooked
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley

Instructions

  • Crumble and brown ground beef with garlic, rosemary, and onion.
  • Add salt, pepper, paprika, and soup. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add sour cream and parsley. Simmer until heated through.
  • Mix with cooked noodles and serve.
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Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

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I love my Instant Pot. Seriously. Yes, I also love my KitchenAid mixer, my grill pan, my Crock-Pot, my apple peeler/slicer/corer, etc. but I REALLY love my Instant Pot. I would have never attempted pressure cooking without it. I wouldn’t say using it cuts cooking time in half, but between the way it tenderizes tough cuts of meat and that it’s such a cool gadget, what’s not to love? It’s sort of magical. In goes something and out comes something else. It just makes life easier in so many ways.

Like spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve seen Instant Pot pasta recipes and many swear by them, but I wasn’t all that impressed. Boiling over the stove is still faster. But throw in meatballs and that’s a game changer.

Meatballs are time consuming. Working with raw meat that is best mixed up with your hands, but not too much or your meatballs will end up hard like golf balls. Forming a few dozen of them into perfect shaped balls. I’d rather be making cookies, frankly. Frying them in batches in a pan…ok, I did find this awesome Roasted Italian Meatball recipe by The Barefoot Contessa that is out of this world and cuts out the frying part. But it’s still a lot of work and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. Making a beef sauce is so much easier.

But there’s something about spaghetti and meatballs that reminds me of a simpler time.

On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table
And onto the floor,
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door

But I digress. Back to the Instant Pot. I’ve made Instant Pot pasta. I’ve made Instant Pot meatballs. Now I make them together.

I couldn’t find a recipe so I made up my own.

First, peel and mince your garlic. Let’s talk about peeling garlic. I know there are a million and one garlic peelers on the market, but you only need one. Your knife. I swear it’s true. I like using a cleaver, but any wide knife will do. Just vent your frustrations of the day by pressing down hard on each clove of garlic to smash it to smithereens. They’ll look like this and you’ll be able to easily peel the papery thin skins off the garlic with no trouble at all.

Add your minced garlic, shallots, egg, cheese, breadcrumbs, milk, and seasonings to a large bowl.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the shallot. I like shallots. In my opinion, they are underused. When you don’t want the sharpness of onions, use shallots, which are milder, sweeter, and are reminiscent of garlic. And one can never have too much garlic so shallots are a perfect compliment to garlic.

Add your ground meats (you’ll be using both ground beef and sausage). Mix it all up with your hands. No, you can’t get around that. All power to you if you use a cooking spoon or fork, but I never get the right results. Next, form into balls until you have about about a dozen. They might seem a little sticky, but that’s ok.

Pour the water and sauce in. If you like a thicker sauce, use more than a jar of sauce. Gently place your meatballs in your Instant Pot, without stacking them, but they can touch a little. The point is to make sure the meatballs are covered with liquid. Next, disregard the cardinal rule of making spaghetti: break the strands in half. I don’t know who made up this rule, but professional chefs on those cooking shows seem to frown on that. Whatever. Just listen to me. This won’t work unless the pasta is flat in the pot.

Add more water. And whatever you do, resist the temptation to stir! Seal the lid and cook. When it’s done, open it up and now you can stir.

What I like best about this recipe is that the mess is contained to one pot and you don’t need to babysit sauce, meatballs, and pasta. Dinner is served!

Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 shallot finely diced
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces uncooked ground Italian sausage
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese finely grated
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
  • 2 cups water divided
  • 24 ounces marinara pasta sauce
  • 8 ounces dry spaghetti
  • grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

  • Lightly beat an egg in a large bowl. Mince garlic cloves and grate Parmesan cheese. Add both to the bowl. Add breadcrumbs, milk, kosher salt, and Italian seasoning. Add the ground beef and sausage to the bowl. 
  • Gently mix with your hands until well combined. Form and shape into 12 meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each). Set aside. 
  • Add 1/2 cup of water and sauce to the pot. Stir to combine. Add meatballs to the bottom without stacking them and with minimal touching.
  • Break the spaghetti in half and spread them in two layers over the meatballs. Do not stir.
  • Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water over the pasta. Remember not to stir.
  • Seal the Instant Pot. Set to cook on HIGH pressure for 8 minutes.
  • Open the pressure release valve (quick release) as soon as the 8 minutes are up. Open the pressure cooker and stir the spaghetti into the sauce. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
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Homemade Sloppy Joes

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I am child of the 80s, but I was deprived of Sloppy Joes. Sad, but true. Apparently my parents didn’t think much of it. I wished for that magical messy sandwich with the red sauce that came from a can because everything artificial was cool and I desperately wanted to be normal like the rest of the kids at the expense of taste. Put Capri Sun pouches and cheese handi-snacks in my lunch like the popular girls.

Wake up and move on to 2019. Everything is flipping healthy and homemade including Sloppy Joes. No cans. Tomatoes are locally grown. Beef is grass-feed and organic.

But I realized that my son had no idea what Sloppy Joes are (or Jello pudding pops, which I really need to address). To bring back a bit of my youth, I decided to make homemade Sloppy Joes, much to my husband’s chagrin. Apparently he’s blase about it too.

I found this recipe on The Kitchn and changed it up a bit like I usually do.

First, brown the ground beef.

I read somewhere that using a potato masher is awesome for crumbling meat. I tried it. Not so much. Could it be me? Not so much.

While browning the meat, FINELY chop up red bell pepper and onion (any type…I like red). I emphasize finely because I did not and my 12-year old son, the surgeon, dissected his meat to remove every damn single piece of vegetable. Argh.

By the way, I love this onion chopping trick. Cut the onion in half, but be sure to retain the root at one end. It holds on to the onion layers.

Slice lengthwise. Slice in 2-3 layers width wise. Chop. Voila! Diced onion. It’s a beautiful thing.

After admiring your onion handiwork, smash a garlic and minced it to smithereens. Throw the red bell pepper, onions, and garlic in a bowl and stage it for the next step.

Assuming your ground beef is cooked and crumbled, dump it in a bowl. In the same pan, add a tiny bit of olive if the pan is dry and throw in your pepper/onion/garlic mixture.

Let it do its thing and then add your seasonings. The kitchen should be smelling pretty good right now. Too bad there’s no fragrant candle to burn that would do it justice.

Add the tomato sauce, paste, sugar, and mustard. Add the meat back in.

Let it simmer for 15 minutes while the sauce thickens up.

Meanwhile, toast the buns. I love soft buns, but apparently using soft buns is the reason why my burgers end up soggy so just toast them. You won’t regret it.

When everything heated through and toasted, you’re ready to assemble.

Mmmmm…

It looks awful, but tastes amazing.

It also makes a lot. The boys had “sloppy tacos” the next night. LOL.

Sloppy Joes

Keyword: beef
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar packed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • hamburger buns toasted

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef. Crumble with a cooking spoon and cook until browned and cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the browned beef to a plate; set aside.
  • Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic. Cook until
    softened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, and salt. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, and mustard. Stir to combine. Return the ground beef to the pan. Stir to incorporate.
  • Simmer the sauce, stirring often, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Spoon onto the toasted buns.
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