Monday, February 20, 2012

SRC: Beef Braised in Rooibos Tea with Sweet Potatoes

This month for the  Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Manu's Menu.  Manuela resides in Australia, but was born and raised in Milan Italy.  Her blog is very impressive.  Her pictures are beautiful and her recipes are very authentic and interesting.  Please stop by and visit her! 
I chose her braised beef in tea recipe.  I had seen braising in tea somewhere before but had never tried it. Well, of course, it was delicious!  I only wish my picture could do it justice.  I made this for dinner one night and being the middle of Michigan winter, there is just not enough light.  It is very hard to get a decent picture in my kitchen this time of year.  Even during daylight, it is often very gray here.  So, my apologies Manuela, for not doing your food justice here.  You can see her original post here.  The only thing I might have done differently is the tomato concentrate.  I used tomato paste, and in Manuela's picture hers looks more like a tomato sauce.  Otherwise, I did just what the recipe says.

1 1/4 lbs chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 2 inch chunks

2 Tbs flour

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato concentrate
5 Rooibos tea* bags
1 quart just-boiled water
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 strips unwaxed orange peel, pith removed (the peel of about half an orange)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup mild honey (optional)
Cilantro leaves, to garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

Rooibos tea can be substituted in this recipe by black tea, or try another dark herbal tea such as one containing licorice.
Season the beef with pepper and coat in the flour. Heat the oil in a large stock pot and then brown the beef on all sides.
Add the onions and celery. Put on a tight fitting lid and let them soften for ten minutes.
Add the garlic and tomato concentrate and cook for one minute.

Meanwhile, place the tea bags in a heatproof pitcher and pour the hot boiled water over them. Allow to steep for four minutes.

Then remove the tea bags and pour the tea into the stock pot. Add the red wine vinegar, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, and ginger.

Lower the heat and cover. Let the stew simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the beef is tender.

Add the sweet potatoes, honey (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft.

Serve with some steamed rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Please check out The Secret Recipe Club for lots of super yummy recipes.  And if you're interested in becoming a member of the Secret Recipe Club, all the info is on the site.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Valentine de-coder cookies

I first saw these 'stained glass' cookies at my neighbors house a few years ago.  I've been wanting to make them ever since, and finally got around to it.  I was browsing the web and found them as 'decoder' cookies. How fun is that?!  So, the recipe for the cookies is a Sour Cream Sugar Cookie which I got from my friend Becky.  Then I used my heart shaped cookie cutters and filled the middle with Jolly Ranchers.  If you have a 4 inch and 2 inch heart cookie cutters, you can probably just drop the whole jolly rancher in the center of the cookie and be fine.  My cookie cutters are a bit smaller, so I ended up crushing them and using about 1/2 tsp in each cookie.  If you're not sure, just try one to start.  To see how to make your own coded message, go to Family Fun, you can also find some to just print at Gourmet Mom on the go  (she's amazing).

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies

1/2 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sour cream

Beat & cream together shortening, sugar, egg & vanilla.
Mix & sift together salt, soda & flour; add to creamed mixture alternately w/ sour cream. Chill if desired.
Roll out & cut w/ floured cutters. Bake @ 400 for 8 min.  (line your pan with foil and cooking spray for decoder cookies)

Once you remove the cookies from the oven, let leave them on the tray to cool so the centers harden up.  

Valentine Chex Mix

I have had a sick little girl the past couple days, so that has put a damper on all the fun valentine's recipe's I wanted to try.  But, here's a quick and easy one from Betty Crocker.

4 1/2 cups Rice chex cereal
1/2 cup white vanilla baking chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbs butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup red, white and pink candy-coated chocolate candies (I used m&m's)
2 tbs red or pink jimmies sprinkles (I used red jimmies and some heart shaped sprinkles)

Place cereal in a bowl.  In a separate microwavable bowl, microwave vanilla chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered for 1 -1 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.  POur peanut butter mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.

Place 1/2 of the cereal mixture in a 1 gallon food storage bag.  Add powdered sugar.  Seal bag and shake until well coated.  Spread on waxed paper and cool about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir candies and sprinkles into remaining cereal mixture.  Spread on waxed paper and cool for 15 minutes.

In a serving bow, mix both cereal mixtures.  Store in an airtight container.

How festive!  For more valentine recipes, see the following post:

I hope you'll share with me your valentine's day ideas too.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentines Day Recipes

Yes, Valentines Day!  We don't do it real big over here, silly hallmark holiday and all, but I do love an excuse to make fun festive treats!  This year, I have not done anything yet!  I'm not sure why, it seems I would have more time with the kids in school part time, but apparently I don't.  I guess technically I do, since we all have 24 hours in a day.  :-)  Anyway, until I get something new posted, you can enjoy these posts from the past.  I'm hoping that by me mentioning I will make something new, it will keep me accountable.

P.S.  I'm happy to say my photography, for the most part, has improved!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

School Lunches

I'm just wondering... do you have any tips on packing school lunches?  How do you make it easier on yourself?  Of course, you might reply "get hot lunch".  And while that is convenient, probably most convenient, I'm more thinking about the moms that pack the lunches.  Does that even happen anymore, or am I in the minority?  Most of you know, I'm pretty passionate about real food, food that is natural, not processed and doesn't contain artificial ingredients.  Don't get me wrong, we're not perfect and its not like we never have sugar, but I really am intentional about eating well.  And, let's face it, I'm from W. Michigan, home of the Dutch, frugal (okay, cheap?).  :D

So, here's what I do to make my life a bit simpler.  I make a bunch of PB&J sandwhiches (my kids favorite) and freeze them.  Fresh fruit is always a good snack and easy to pack.  I can do some yogurts, and cheese, but we pretty much don't buy potato chips.  So, what ideas do you have?  I just love reading your comments and your input.  Even if you are a hot lunch person, I'd still love to hear from you.  I know

Do you remember the "uncrustables"?  They're probably still out there.  I heard they were patented because they actually put peanut butter on both sides of the bread, then the jelly.  This way the jelly doesn't soak into the bread and make it all mushy.  So, that's what I do too.  My kids will eat the crust though, so that's one less step for me.  You don't have to wrap these in plastic wrap, I just found it kept the bread a little nicer.  The first time around, I flash froze them and then put them in gallon sized bags.

So, there you have it.  All I have to do for packing lunches is reach in the freezer, grab a sandwhich and go.  It thaws out by the time they need to eat it.  

So, any tips out there?