Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crockpot Beef Curry

When my northern Maine mama married my southern Kentucky papa, the first thing he did was introduce her to ways to cook food without boiling or creaming it. So I grew up with a very southern diet and my parents were smart enough to introduce us to all sorts of foods and flavors. I especially love ethnic foods with all their spicy goodness... Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Greek - you name it and I love it!

When I lived in Zambia, I was fortunate enough to make friends with some Indian ladies who taught me how to make curries.  I made them all the time there because the ingredients were easy to get.  To this day, when Little Helen visits Zambia, she brings me back curry powder.  It is usually hand blended and sold in the Indian grocery stores there and there is nothing like it.

Once I moved back to the USA, for some reason I didn't make curry as often and once I started trying again, I felt like I'd lost my touch.  About 18 months ago, I started making Beef Curry as I figured that might be one that Mr. Helen would eat (he loves beef).  I kept changing things in the recipe and this past week the curry I made had Mr. Helen saying, "This is it.  Perfect."  So I thought I'd share the recipe here... it's a nice dish to make around Thanksgiving just to have a break from all the turkey.

If you're scared to try curry, this is so easy because it's done in the crockpot.  Also, if you haven't figured it out yet, Beef Curry is pretty much the Indian version of beef stew!

Crockpot Beef Curry

2 pounds of cubed stew beef (usually top round)
1 pound white potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 medium red or white onion, diced
2 T tomato paste
2 T curry powder, hot or mild
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper

Put everything in the crockpot, give it a stir and cook it for 5 hours on high or 10 hours on low!  Serve over white or brown rice.  Makes 8 servings.


Notes:

I use mild curry powder because Mr. Helen doesn't like really spicy hot stuff.  If you do, use the hot curry powder.  You could also add cayenne pepper or chilis to the spice mix.

If you like, you can also add carrots to this curry.  I don't because I usually roast my carrots, so that I have them as a side dish for other things I'm cooking during the week.  But I ate many a curry with carrots in Zambia.  You can also leave the vegetables out completely and just make the beef.

Anyway you make it, this is a warm, delicious, and filling dish!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Talking Turkey

This is how much daughters control their fathers.  For years Mr. Helen's youngest sister has been hosting Thanksgiving at her house.  Each year she asks us to come, however, we live an hour away so we have to choose between going there or staying with my side who all live within a 15 minute radius from us.  I was willing to swap off each year but every year when I'd ask he would reply that he wanted to stay closer to home.  This year, Little Helen informed us that she and her fiance would be spending Thanksgiving with his family - who happen to live about 15 minutes from my sister-in-law.  She then says, "You know dad, if you would just be willing to go to Auntie's house this year, you'd get to see us."  He immediately replied, "Ohhhhhh.  OK Pumpkin, whatever you want, we'll go to Aunties."  Seriously?!!

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Speaking of the approaching holidays, my company closes the offices for the day after Thanksgiving, meaning you don't have to report to work.  However, it's not a paid day unless you are salaried or if hourly, use a vacation/personal day.  Of course if you don't want to do that, you're welcome to come to work but not required to.  My boss just told me that he is going to do the same for Christmas this year since it falls on a Thursday.  Color me deliriously happy!

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Here's some good news what with the holiday eating frenzy approaching:  You can't gain wait from overeating for just one day. This is probably the same thing that comes into play when someone is actually dieting and they have a cheat day they continue to lose weight.  On a personal level, having lived with Mr. Helen for well over 20 years now, and watching him eat/overeat/undereat, I know it's true.  You really don't gain weight from overeating just one day.

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I can't believe Thanksgiving is a little over a week away.  I feel completely unprepared for it this year - a combination of working my part-time job and just not having as much free time to do things and the fact that I'm not making one single thing I would normally make.  Since we're going to my sister-in-laws, she called and told me what she wanted me to bring and yeah, I'm on the hunt for recipes. Guess what Debby?  NO PUMPKIN CAKE this year, unless I somehow find the time to make it just for me and Little Helen.

Hey who knows, maybe I'll find some fantastic creative recipe for Butternut Squash that I can share here after it's all said and done.

Speaking of recipes, stay tuned if you like curry.  Over the last 18 months or so, I've developed a Crockpot Beef Curry that will make you want to slap your mama.  Even Mr. Helen, who can be hesitant when it comes to curries, absolutely loves this one.  As I now feel it's nearly perfected, I thought I'd share it as an antidote to all the turkey coming up!

Finally, here's my yearly reminder:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Best Ever White Chicken Chili

The weather is definitely turning with much cooler nights and bright sunny days for the most part.  We've actually had a couple of days that could qualify as winter weather as well, including this past Saturday. When I went out to run at 8:30 in the morning, it hadn't even hit 40 degrees yet.  Color me surprised then when I ran past this!

Yep, a November Hydrangea hanging in there.  What with the freezing temperatures we had overnight the past couple of nights and that arctic air that's in the midwest heading this way, I'd say they'll be gone the next time I go by.

Cool weather always makes me want soup and heartier food in general.  I really struggle with getting fruits in this time of year as well, since I tend to like summer fruits.  Since Thanksgiving is on the way, cranberries have been on sale and I thought why not make a batch of fresh cranberry relish to serve as my fruit.  It has been working out well - I love this combination of apples, pineapple, orange and cranberries - delicious all by itself or sometimes I put it over a bit of plain yogurt.

I also attempted a White Chicken Chili - a soup I've never made before.  I looked up a bunch of recipes online and sort of mixed them together to come up with a batch that would give me 4-6 servings as I knew Mr. Helen wouldn't eat it and I didn't want to have lots leftover.  If I do say so myself, this was super easy - ready in about 35 minutes and oh so tasty!

Best Ever White Chicken Chili
serves 4-6
  • 16 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cups chicken stock ( I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1  small can white beans (Cannellini Beans), do not drain
  • 1 small can diced green chilis, do not drain
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
Put the chicken stock in a dutch oven or large sauce pan.  Add the chicken breasts and bring to a boil then lower heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through and tender.

Remove chicken to plate and shred with two forks.

In a small skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat then add the onion and garlic to saute until clear.  Add in 1 tsp dried oregano and saute until fragrant.

Add the onion mixture, white beans, chilis, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper back to stock.  Bring to a boil, add shredded chicken then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes to blend flavors.

Notes: I used regular chicken stock so I felt the soup was plenty salty.  This is delicious with some tortilla chips crumbled into it as "crackers."  Other add-ins could be shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocado, chopped cilantro - so many possibilities.

So easy and delicious!