Beef Stew with Red Wine // Homemade Crusty Bread

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My house is so silent during the day. Sometimes, like today, it is comforting seeing as it is cold and dreary outside once again, but other times, it can get pretty lonely.

In the past couple of months of change and adaptation, I think I’ve learned how to live with the silence and find things that will complement it instead. Like getting lost in the pages of a book or writing a posts like this to share on the Internet. When I really can’t stand it anymore, I turn on the television for a little background noise or the music player when I am motivated enough to clean and potter around a part of the house.

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Right now, Mark and I are playing the very challenging game of waiting. Each day seems slower than the one before and I grow so impatient, so quickly. They say everything is slower by the water and the living is easy, and I can’t disagree. It is to many extents. But now, I crave the intensity that life can bring. Some aches, soreness and true tiredness that people complain about so often. I must sound ungrateful but I suppose I miss having a purpose.

Somehow, I’ve managed to channel most of my energy to spending more time in the kitchen. From starting out as a novice college cook to finally accomplishing to baking my own bread, I’m not hesitant to give myself a small pat on the back for this tiny yet significant achievement.

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For Sunday supper last weekend, I wanted to fix a dish that would compliment my Sunday baking project, which was a homemade crusty loaf of bread. So I thought what better way to eat it with a rich hearty stew. Mark and I were more than content with the result. I lit candles all around the living room while the stew gently simmered away in the kitchen like a pot of liquid gold and the bread rising wonderfully in the oven.

I was ecstatic when everything came together so perfectly. We poured ourselves a glass of Merlot each, cozied up on the couch and watched episodes of House of Cards on Netflix while dipping bits and pieces of the bread into our bowls and savoring it’s deep flavors.

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Beef Stew with Red Wine
Recipe adapted from Food Network

1 pound beef, cut into cubes (I used some cuts of steak and it worked fine)
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cup red wine (I used Merlot, but recipe suggests dry red wine ie. Pinot Noir)
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian parsley for garnish (optional) 

Directions:

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in Dutch oven or deep pot. Brown cuts of beef until almost cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to bowl.

Add remaining butter to pot. Stir in onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper and incorporate flour to the vegetables and mix well. Stir in beef and pour chicken stock, wine and rosemary to pot. Turn heat up until mixture comes to a boil and then lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour partially covered. Stir occasionally.

Add potatoes to pot and cook covered for another 45 minutes until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

Homemade Crusty Bread

I followed instructions from Simply So Good for this recipe and it’s the best. She does an excellent job at explaining everything to a tee and even giving solutions or alternatives. My bread turned out great despite using active dry yeast instead of the instant kind. Mark loved it, and so did I.

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Slow Cooker Meat Sauce

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Well the supposedly long weekend came and left in a blink of an eye.

Why does time have the pesky habit of doing that? Or maybe it’s an indication that we should slow down and catch up with its pace instead. Regardless, I can’t seem to have enough lazy Sundays on the couch with Mark while he watches action films or plays video games or his guitar. One of the above.

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I celebrated Valentines Day for the first time in 23 years this year. I had been jokingly pestering Mark about his plans for me since it would be the first I actually had somebody to celebrate it but I knew I would be happy just having quiet time with him at home. But about a week before the 14th, he came home to tell me that we wouldn’t be gone the entire weekend for Valentines but he wouldn’t tell me where.

So on the morning of Valentines, I crept out of bed before he woke up and plastered the bathroom mirror with love notes written on yellow Post-Its and left a bag of chocolates right beside his razor. He brushed his teeth, shaved and came back into the room with a thank you. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with chocolates.

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We jumped into my car and was on the road almost as soon as he got off that evening. He said we had a four hour drive ahead of us, so we loaded the iPod with an audio version of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and a satirical encyclopedia by The Onion. Before I knew it, our drive had come to an end and I was greeted with a beautiful view of a resort in the Outer Banks and the salty taste of ocean air.

The next two nights were spent comfortably in a spacious hotel room that featured a king-sized bed and patio. We laughed, sang, drank wine and slow danced in the middle of our room to cheesy love songs. We also shared a bonfire with other couples, went for a morning run, indulged in a full-body massage and ate at a quaint local restaurant downtown.

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I couldn’t help but feel immensely grateful and happy for this love. In so many ways, it’s been the one I’ve been waiting for all my life. I’ve never really known what it’s like to have a partner, somebody to share every single aspect of my life with. Some days it’s daunting but mostly, it’s comforting.

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It’s a little embarrassing to say, but this meal was inspired by our empty pantry upon coming home. All I had was some ground beef, lots of canned tomatoes and some spaghetti noodles, so I decided to throw everything into a crockpot and see what happened.

The result was a rich, extremely flavorful sauce that I would make over again. Plus, it’s freezer-friendly!

Slow Cooker Meat Sauce

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced, or petite diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
*4 ounces cream cheese

Directions:

Brown beef, onion and garlic in a pan. Drain grease and transfer into slow cooker. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and seasoning. Cook on high for 3 hours and turn heat down to low for 2 hours after that. Stir in cream cheese until it melts and is mixed evenly with sauce.

Serve over buttered noodles and garnish with fresh basil and parmesan reggiano if preferred.

*You can substitute cream cheese with 1 cup of whole milk if you like. I used cheese because that was all I had on hand! 

Vegetable Medley Stir Fry

Weekends in this little town can be quite dull.

Mark and I decided to go to the movies after plans to go bowling fell through last night. I was happy with that but I didn’t think it was going to cost just as much (if not more) than bowling! It was probably close to $40 for two tickets and some popcorn. I thought that was quite a splurge but maybe it’s just because I’m used to watching an unlimited amount of movies on Netflix and over the Internet.

We picked American Hustle over all the other good movies in theaters currently and I really enjoyed the film. I thought Amy Adams’ character and acting was brilliant. It ran a little over two hours but I was hooked the entire time. I’d recommend it as a good drama to watch.

I was lucky to have Mark make dinner tonight. I think he likes cooking every now and then and he’s not bad at it at all! He’s the best at making breakfasts, especially eggs! I can always count on him to make a darn good omelette on the weekends. Mmm…

Tonight he came up with a vegetable turkey stir-fry. We had just bought a bunch of veggies so I guess it made sense to put it all together. He also picked up a cajun-rubbed turkey breast at the store. It came pre-cooked but I figured you could always substitute it with chicken or a meat of your choice. I think shrimp would work well too.

I thought it turned out well for how quickly put together it was. He said it was an original recipe and I suppose he’s right. The only oversight on our part was not seeding the jalapenos before adding them to the dish. Boy… it was spicy! Being away from home for so long and away from spicy food in general have substantially lowered my tolerance to heat. I can maybe only do some Tabasco now so the heat from the peppers kicked my butt.

He was constantly making sure that I took enough pictures of our dinner for the blog and stopped to ask if I had snapped a shot every other step of the way. I suppose it’s pretty fun having him in the kitchen with me. He’s not a picky eater and will eat just about anything (except seafood! sigh…) but it’s interesting to see what he comes up with.

He chose to add some sun-dried tomato dressing, which I thought was a little odd but in the turned out wonderfully because it brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes and toned down the heat from the jalapenos a lot. With that being said, I still highly recommend that the jalapenos be seeded, unless you’re the kind who particularly enjoys the burn.

Vegetable medley stir-fry 

Ingredients:
1 red, green or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 yellow or green zucchini, chopped
1 tomato, diced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 jalapeno, seeded (optional)
8 to 12 oz. of protein of choice (optional)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato salad dressing
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

On medium-high, coat the pan with oil and wait until heated through. Place onions, peppers and jalapenos into pan. Cook until onions are tender and translucent then add zucchinis. If using uncooked meat, add meat first and stir until meat is fully cooked. 

Close pan with lid and wait 1 to 2 minutes for the steam to cook and soften the vegetables. Stir in tomatoes, sun-dried tomato dressing and seasonings. Stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce. Let simmer for a couple of minutes before removing pan from heat.

Serve warm with rice or quinoa. Or serve chilled with penne pasta as a pasta salad.