Monday, February 14, 2011

The Lazy Girl and the Crock Pot

One thing I can say about January:  Great time for eating beef.  I guess with all of the New Year's diet makeovers, poor old beef gets poo-pooed in favor of lighter, leaner fare like fish and chicken.  Well, good thing I don't make New Year's resolutions, because I got some great deals on beef last month and went nuts.  Maybe a little too nuts, since I ended up with a freezer full of beef and a Lazy Girl can only eat so much Beef Stew.  So, with getting the house ready to put on the market, a gal needs something quick and easy and healthy and family-friendly if she's going to be able to put dinner on the table at all.  Since I am no longer able to luxuriate in the chopping of fresh vegetables and stirring them lovingly into a stock pot or tending to a beautiful roast beast as it slowly cooks to perfection in my oven, my crock pot came to mind:  It was time for some quick and dirty cookin' and the crock pot is PERFECT for those meals.
So, the first recipe was inspired by a friend's Facebook post.  Something about making "Flank Steak Fajitas" in the crock pot on a snow day.  Well, she sent me the recipe, and I promptly lost it, so I googled the title of the recipe and got some ideas.  BUT... you know how I am about spicy Mexican-inspired food:  I don't stick to the recipe.  First of all, I had a London Broil, not a Flank Steak and secondly, I had a bunch of those small sweet yellow, orange and red peppers and not a big old bell pepper.  And I didn't have fajita seasoning.  But I still ended up with a delicious meal:
Lazy Girl Somekindabeef Crock Pot Fajitas
1 big old London Broil
1 pack of taco seasoning (or your favorite combo of chili seasonings which should include coriander, cumin, oregano, etc.  Also, this can be low-sodium if you' like.  This had plenty of flavor)
1 large sliced sweet bell pepper 
1 medium sliced onion
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilis
2 cloves garlic minced
Gently lay the beef in the bottom of the crock pot.  Or throw it in.  I had blood spatter, so I tend to go easy.  Sprinkle with half the packet of taco seasoning.  Pour the can of Rotel over the beef, then add the peppers, onions and garlic.  Sprinkle with the other half of the seasoning packet.  
Cook on high for at least 5 or 6 hours or until the beef has been cooked into submission and falls apart when threatened with a fork.  
Serve with flour tortillas, sour cream, guacamole, and fresh salsa with some refried beans and Mexican rice on the side.  My family went NUTS over this.  It was sooo delicious, more like a lowbrow Carne Asada than Fajitas, but soooo deeelish.  Great as leftovers too!

So the cold weather continued and there was STILL a lot of beef left in my chest freezer.  One night, I pulled out two porterhouse steaks that I'd forgotten about and a big old chuck roast that I had intended for beef stew.   I really wasn't sure what to do, but in the morning, when the beef was mostly thawed, I started the kitchen sink approach with miraculous results:
Crazy-rich and Delicious [Crock] Pot Roast
Big old pile of beef (like I said, I used two porterhouse steaks and a chuck roast, but I really think any good beef would do)
As many sliced mushrooms as you can stand (I used a pint, but I wish I'd have used a quart)
1 sliced yellow onion
1 packet Pioneer Brown Gravy mix (or any brown gravy mix that makes 2 cups of gravy)
1 cup red wine (I used the rest of a bottle of merlot that I found in the fridge)
1/2 cup cooking sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Lay the beef in the bottom of your crock pot.  (Notice that I never brown my beef first.  I just don't.  It doesn't seem to mind not being browned and I don't have to wash a pan.)  Sprinkle the brown gravy mix over the beef.  Pile the mushrooms and onions on top.  Pour the red wine and cooking sherry over all of that.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Cover and cook on high for at least 5 or 6 hours or until the beef is super-tender.
OMG.  This was insanely delicious.  I wish I'd used a huge thing of mushrooms, as they were delightful; they took up all of the flavors and were just so indescribably good!  I served this with a thing of Uncle Ben's Original Wild Rice Pilaf and some boiled Fresh French Green Beans and it was such a rich, warming and strangely elegant meal.  I will say that for this recipe, make sure you trim fat if you're using a fattier cut of beef.  I think this would actually be perfect with a London Broil or Flank Steak because the mushrooms and gravy are so rich, the additional fat makes it super-rich.  I also think you could use or make a more simply-flavored rice pilaf or plain brown rice and this would be great.  There was almost too much flavor with the Uncle Ben's, but it was languishing in my pantry and needed to be used up.
So, both of these meals were gobbled up by my family, but what's really amazing is that both of these took about five minutes to prepare in the morning, and then I went about my business as they cooked themselves into greatness throughout the day.  As you can tell by my serving suggestions, the final meal was also very simple:  For both meals, I simply put the rice on to cook about a half-hour before dinner and then pulled everything else out (or cooked the grean beans) about five minutes before the meal.  Easy, simple, delicious!
So now we are in full-on kitchen remodel and I have no cooktop, so I need more crock pot recipes!  Send me some, Gentle Readers, and I'll report back and even give you props on the blog!

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