For anybody out there who opens their refrigerator on a daily basis and thinks, “Oh crap. What are we going to have for dinner?” I am speaking to you today. I so admire the women (and men!) who meal plan. I am not one of those people. I have gotten better about being able to take a handful of available ingredients and concoct a dinner for my family. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love to cook, it’s just I don’t always have time to plan.
After Winnie was born, some wonderful friends realized my plight as a new mom of four, and set up a meal train for me before I had even left the hospital. They knew that for about the next month, my family was going to be having pancakes every night for dinner if they didn’t intervene. I am forever indebted to these ladies for their care of my family in the delivery of a simple meal.
Week Two: Pay It Forward
I told Henry and Harper that I was going to double last night’s beef stew recipe—a cold-weather staple in my house—and we could give two frozen quarts to anybody they wanted with the condition that they had to help make it. They chose their first grade teachers, one whose baby is due on Thanksgiving and the other who just returned back to school from maternity leave. I agreed that both of these ladies could use a frozen quart of soup to thaw and throw in a pot anytime they had the “oh, crap” moment in front of their fridge.
My beef stew is a time-honored tradition passed down from my grandmother who used to serve it every Christmas Eve. The two things that make it extra special are the low-temperature, slow-cooking tenderness of the beef (325 for an hour in broth), and the stewed tomatoes that give it a bit of extra flavor not typically found in beef stew. My Grandma served it with Bisquick dumplings on top; we do a crunchy baguette.
Grandma Sanna’s Beef Stew
1 lb stew meat cut in smaller pieces, salted and peppered
2 tbsp. butter
1 c. flour
1 tsp paprika
2, 15 oz cans stewed tomatoes
2, 15 oz cans beef broth
Liberal amounts of carrots, celery, potato and onions
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 325. Mix flour and paprika together in a small bowl. Melt butter in a dutch oven on medium heat. Dredge the beef in flour mixture, then transfer to dutch over to brown on both sides (5–6 minutes). Add a can of stewed tomatoes (I cut these into smaller chunks) and a can of beef broth, then transfer to oven and cook for one hour. Meanwhile cook potatoes, celery, carrots, and onions separately in salted water until tender. Drain. Remove pot from oven, add cooked vegetables, one can of beef broth and one can of stewed tomatoes. Simmer on low until ready to eat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The next time you make a fall soup or stew, double the recipe, pop a quart in the freezer and give to someone you know (or don’t really know!) who would appreciate an easy meal. Let’s pay kindness forward during these 30 Days of Gratitude.