Cold Weather Comfort

Final Stew
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Hi, I’m Michael. Nicholas’s boyfriend. I have to admit that as a home cook I was quite intimidated to date a professional chef. But I guess my food lives up to Nicholas’s standards because he really appreciates it when I cook. Today in Boston it’s freezing outside and what’s better than a slow cooked warm hardy meal. Nicholas doesn’t really get exicted for soup, it has no substance, but I’m a big soup fan. So a stew it is. My beef barley stew is a healthy mix of vegetables and chuck beef.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs stew chuck beef
  • 1 cup diced carrots (10 – 12 baby carrots or 3 – 5 regular carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery (6 – 8 stalks of celery)
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms (about 1 pack)
  • 1.5 cups diced onion (2 medium to large onions)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, fine dice.
  • 3 – 4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 – 1.5 cups pearl barley (depends on how much you want)
  • 42 – 48oz (4 – 6 cups) low sodium beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (Pref low sodium soy if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon worchester sauce
  • 1 Box onion soup mix (2 packets – I used Lipton Onion)
  • 12oz lager or ale (I used local brew, Shipyard from Portland Maine)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

I like to use up things I have in my fridge, so every recipe I do often is unique for that day. Remember to BYOC or Be Your Own Chef. If you don’t have fresh herbs, used dry or just leave them out. Don’t want to use beer, substitute with more stock. Adjust the salt and pepper to your tastes.

Beef Barley Stew Prep
Step 1: Prepping all the vegetables and get them ready.

Diced Beef Chuck
Step 2: Dice the meat into 1/2″ cubes.

Salt Pepper Flour
Step 3: Put the flour, 1/2 the salt, 1/2 the pepper on a plate or bowl and mix with your fingers. Then dredge the meat in the flour. You’ll probably have to do this in stages or you’ll get flour everywhere. Shake off the flour from the meat and place aside on another clean plate.

Browning Beef Chuck
Step 4: Put the vegetable oil in a large stock pot and turn the heat to medium high. I used a heavy duty 8 quart All-Clad stock pot to help with even heating and reduce splattering. When the oil starts to ripple, test with a piece of floured meat. If it starts to sizzle, it’s show time. Cook the meat in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. You want to brown the meat, not steam it. Place the browned meat aside on a plate until you’ve finished all the meat.

Brown Bits
Step 5: Turn off the heat. Notice all the brown crispy bits on the bottom of the pan? That’s the good stuff! CAREFULLY pour off the excess oil to a heat proof bowl. Then pour in the beer (and enjoy a nice beer facial… jk, don’t get burned by the steam!) and pour in stock. Turn the heat back on to medium. Using a wooden spoon, scrap the browned bits off the bottom of the pan until the pan is essentially clean. Add in the worchester sauce and soy sauce. Take off heat.

Vegetables in Slow Cooker
Step 6: In a 5+ quart slow cooker set to 6 – 10 hours depending on your time period (I did 6 hours to make dinner time), add the vegetables, meat, barley, herbs, and onion soup mix. Pour over the heated stock and beer. Be careful not to burn yourself. The stock mixture didn’t cover the vegetables and meat, but they will release water and strink as they cook. You can always add some more stock or water as it cooks. Add the rest of the salt and pepper to taste. ¬†You can always add more later if you want.

Step 7: Clean up and let it cook. I stir it every hour to make sure all the barley has access to moisture.

Note: I made this with 2 cups of barley and it was just too much for my tastes, but still very good.

So what’s for dessert? We have some pears and apples left over, so I guess I’ll be making a pear apple crisp.

Enjoy!

-Michael

“Greek” Two Ways

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Tomato soup and grilled cheese has to be one of the greatest American classic lunches of all time. It is comforting, satisfying and ultimately delicious. My tomato bisque gets a finish from “Greek” Cream Cheese and Greek Yogurt

Tomato Bisque

  • 2 28 oz. Cans of San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 quart vegetable stock or broth
  • 4 oz. “Greek” Cream Cheese and Greek Yogurt, softened
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

*this soup will make more than enough for one, so freeze the remainder for another day!

Saute celery, onion, carrot, garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes in olive oil until slightly softened. Add in the whole tomatoes and chicken stock. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Blend this mixture adding in the 4 oz. of cream cheese a little at a time. Return to the heat making sure to stir in any remaining cream cheese until melted.

Grilled Cheese

  • Non-stick cooking spray (trust me you don’t need the extra butter here!)
  • 1 oz. “Greek” Cream Cheese and Greek Yogurt, softened
  • 1 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 slices of any thick cut bread (I used a whole grain loaf)

*I also added thin sliced tomato and turkey bacon to my grilled cheese! #unreal

Beat together with an electric mixer the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper until combined and fluffy. Spread this mixture evenly onto the bread. Spray a non-stick cooking pan with cooking spray generously. Sear the sandwich on both sides until golden brown. If the cheese mixture isn’t warm enough, pop it in an oven for a few minutes. This will only benefit the sandwich and make the cream cheese gooey and delicious.