I’ve been meaning to do a post like this for a long time, and I’ve finally gathered together all of my meal-planning tips and resources and organized them into one place. This will hopefully be helpful for those of you who would like to show up to the grocery store with a list and a plan instead of a wing and a prayer. This post is loooong, so bear with me.
First, a couple of reasons why you should plan your meals.
1. You will save money. You’ve probably already figured this out. If you get to the grocery store with a list and stick to it, you will be less likely to succumb to random “deals” and shiny objects. When I go to the grocery store without a list my attention span is like that of a dog taking a walk in an unfamiliar place.
Bread! No, THAT bread! Wait that one’s on sale! But we should probably get so-English muffins!
You get the idea. Also, you will eat out less when you have a plan for what to cook at home.
2. You will eat healthier. Eating out less doesn’t just mean saving money – you’ll eat more homemade food, which is generally better for you.
There are a million ways you can do this. I’ve experimented with many methods and tools over the years and landed on a pretty good system. I use a few different desktop and iPhone apps to streamline the process, which I’ll detail here. I plan meals on a weekly basis and do a big HEB trip on Sundays. We sometimes have to pick up odds and ends during the week, but try to limit grocery store trips to once a week. Here goes!
On Saturday or Sunday, I start flipping through cookbooks and digging through websites to find recipes to make for the week. Hands down, the resource I use most often is Cooking Light magazine. I’ve been a subscriber since 2004 and love the magazine, which includes healthy recipes that range from fast and easy to Sunday-afternoon-lengthy. If something from a recent issue has caught my eye, I put that on the list for the week. If I’m not sure what I want to make, I dig around their website till something strikes my fancy. You can access most of their content without being a subscriber. Other sites I use often are Skinnytaste and Kalyn’s Kitchen. All Recipes is good if you have a few ingredients you want to use and want to search for recipes using those ingredients.
Food Network is a good site too, but keep an eye on the nutritionals, as not everything there is the healthiest. Of course, not everything we make would make your doctor happy, but I do try to keep most of our food on the healthy spectrum.
When all else fails, there are tried-and-true family favorites that often make it on the list for weeknights. A few of these include:
- All-beef hot dogs (Hebrew National are my favorite)
- Whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce
- Chili (I use Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm kit). Leftover chili can also go on hot dogs or Fritos.
- Chicken fajitas (HEB has great frozen preseasoned chicken breast fajita strips that heat up quickly)
- Baked pesto chicken
- Thai coconut curry shrimp
- Shrimp creole
How much to plan on making for the week? Well, I usually like to make things that have leftovers to take for lunches and to eat a few nights per week so I’m not cooking every night. Ideally, I try to make a big pot of something like lentil soup (this is a great recipe) solely for lunches, and 4 weeknight recipes. We eat out a few times during the week so I’m not trying to cover every single meal in my plan. On Sundays, I make something more time-consuming since I’m home, and the leftovers from that meal give us lunch for the first day or two of the week.
Do your kids eat everything you make? Sure, and I also have a pet unicorn that lives under a rainbow in my backyard. No, my kids don’t like everything I make. Nor do I search for explicitly “kid-friendly” food. My five-year-old hates pretty much everything and my 19-month-old will eat anything that’s not still moving, so we have both ends of the spectrum. Generally, I’m not a short-order cook and don’t usually make separate things for the kids and for the adults. However, if I’m making something really spicy, I will usually make PBJ or something like that for the kids since their taste buds aren’t deadened to spice like mine are. This doesn’t happen often, but I’m not going to not make spicy food for the next 10 years because of their sensitive palates. If it’s not a spicy food night, I do make them eat what I eat. With Ryan this takes forever since he has to tell me after every bite that it tastes funny, but whatever. He won’t starve himself so if he only eats a few bites that’s fine. I just tell him that he isn’t allowed to tell me he’s hungry later if he doesn’t eat much.
What about breakfast? Except for me, my family eats Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast, so that’s easy. My breakfasts change every few weeks, but my go-to meal is steel-cut oats in the rice cooker. I will post about my favorite appliances soon, and the rice cooker is in my top three. I add my ingredients at night and my oatmeal is ready for me in the morning, ready for whatever mixins I want. I’ve also done homemade breakfast sandwiches on English muffins with egg, cheese, and Canadian bacon. These freeze really well. I’m not averse to protein shakes for something grab-and-go, but I haven’t found any whose taste I love so I don’t drink them often.
What about sides? Sides are usually a grain and a vegetable. Bagged, frozen, unseasoned vegetables are great choices. If you want to spend a tad more, get the ones that come in the steamable bags. You just stick the entire bag in the microwave, cook, then season as desired. Frozen veggies are usually frozen very soon after harvesting, so they retain their nutrients, and don’t have the mushy texture of canned vegetables. For the grain, I keep big bags of quinoa and rice around that I just pop into the rice cooker.
How do you remember what you are planning on making? This brings me to my first tool: Evernote, a free note-taking desktop and mobile app. I’ve used Evernote for a while for organizing work notes, but about 6 months ago I had a lightbulb moment and realized it would be perfect for meal planning organization. Every week I make a note for that week’s menus and write down the name of each meal, and, if it’s a recipe, link to the recipe or note which cookbook it’s in and which page it’s on in said cookbook. Then I just refer to that week’s plan during the week. I can also look back on past weeks’ plans to get ideas. Here’s what it looks like this week:
How long does this process take? Maybe an hour? Sometimes less. It goes slower the first few times you do it, but soon you get the hang of it and get into a rhythm.
Making the List and Shopping
Enter tool #2: ZipList. How I love ZipList. Once I have my meals figured out, I start adding things I need to buy to ZipList online. One cool feature of this site is that you can add a button to your toolbar that, if you click it on a site that has a recipe you want to make, will automatically add all of the recipe’s ingredients to your shopping list. You can make different lists for different stores, and ZipList automatically categorizes the items into different groups (produce, dairy, frozen, etc.). If you’re especially organized, you can sort the categories into the order of the store you shop in. So if you do produce first, then dairy, then frozen, etc., put the groups in that order.
Here’s the toolbar pin.
When you click the clipper button, it adds it to your recipe box on the site. Click Add to List to add individual items to your shopping list.
ZipList tries to figure out what items you’ll need and what you may already have. Just check and uncheck as necessary:
And you’re done:
ZipList also has a free iPhone app, which syncs to the website. When I get to the store, I open the app and there’s my list, including a handy checkbox by each item. When you tap the checkbox after you’ve gotten each item, the item disappears, making it easy to see what all you have left to buy. This screen cap is tiny but you get the idea.
You can also use ZipList to find recipes, and it has a pretty extensive library of them. I don’t use this much, but it’s there if you want to check it out. It does save the recipes you clip into the aforementioned recipe box.
What about Costco/Sam’s Club? We do have a Costco membership. I go about once per month for a few staple items: coffee, flour (I make most of our bread products so I get the giant bags there), paper products, some meat/poultry/fish, and a few other things. I keep a pretty well-stocked pantry and add to it as necessary with bulk items that make sense.
So, that’s about it! It sounds like a long process, but it really isn’t once you get the hang of it. If anyone has other meal-planning tips or questions, let me know!
This post might make you sad, because you’re about to realize that your entire life you’ve been hoodwinked by Big Corn. The popcorn industry has led us all to believe that we either have to buy prepackaged bags of popcorn or buy popcorn machines to make popcorn at home.
Or maybe you all know this and it’s just taken me 30-ish years to figure it out. Anyway, for the similarly unenlightened, I’m about to show you how to make popcorn at home the super cheap, no-frills way. All you need is a microwave, a bag of popcorn kernels, and some basic brown paper lunch bags. Minus the microwave, which I’m assuming you already have, the popcorn kernels and paper bags will cost you around $2 total. This makes approximately a crapload of popcorn. I’m not so much for the math so that’s an estimate, but that $2 will get you far more popcorn than a box of microwave popcorn bags. I store the extra kernels in a quart-sized Mason jar.
Since I learned how to make homemade popcorn, Ryan has been requesting it pretty much every night. Here he is stuffing his face with some during tonight’s movie night (which was The Amazing Spiderman, if you’re wondering).
For a normal, family-sized bag of popcorn, you’ll need 1/4 cup of kernels. For a snack-sized bag, you’ll need 2 tablespoons. Once it’s popped, season it with whatever you like your popcorn seasoned with. I’ve been using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray and Kernel Seasons popcorn seasoning, but once I’m finished with the spray I’m going to start using olive oil sprayed from a Misto. You can get fancy with a little chopped rosemary or other herbs and spices. The popcorn world is your oyster, people. Go forth, and enjoy many movie nights in your living room knowing you saved money and aren’t eating all the trans fats that usually come in store-bought popcorn. Happy Friday!
- Popcorn kernels
- Seasoning of choice
Place popcorn kernels in brown paper lunch bag. For a family-sized bag, use 1/4 cup of kernels. For a snack-sized bag, use 2 tablespoons.
Fold up the bag tightly 2-3 times. Place in microwave and set the timer for 3 minutes. You will likely not need this whole time.
Pop until the popping slows down to 1-2 seconds between pops. I cannot overstate enough how you must stop the microwave AS SOON AS you get to this point. You WILL burn your popcorn if you let it go past this point. Take it from one who has burned many a bag of popcorn in her day.
When popcorn is finished popping, season as desired. I find I get the best results if I put the seasonings in the bag with the popcorn and then shake the whole thing up.
This weekend I got out a nice-sized hunk of marinated skirt steak, heated up the grill, and sliced up some fajita veggies before I realized we were out of tortillas.
Not to be deterred, I figured I’d just make some. I’d done it before, with ok results, and I knew I could do better. I also happened to be alone in the house and it helped my resolve knowing that I could at least have an hour or so to experiment in peace. The experiment, I’m very happy to say, was a resounding success.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, but it’s hard to make great tortillas using 100% whole wheat flour. The flour tends to make the tortillas dense and stiff, lacking that nice pliability you want in a tortilla. To help remedy this, I used whole wheat pastry flour, which tends to give baked goods a lighter texture. Also, I decided to just go whole hog (ha) and use lard as my fat.
People tend to get grossed out by the idea of lard, but it’s actually healthier than butter and has a cleaner taste. There’s nothing like it for adding tenderness to pastries and similar baked items. Also, if you render your own, you don’t end up with any trans fats AND you get cracklins as a by-product. As by-products go, you can do far worse.
Anyway, I happened to have rendered some a while back and recently defrosted a jar, which was sitting in my fridge waiting for such an occasion. The resulting tortillas were exactly what I was hoping for: sturdy but soft and pliable, full of whole-grain goodness and able to hold a whole mess of fajita beef, veggies, and fixins. Nom nom nom indeed.
- 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup lard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
Combine flour, lard, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a whisk until the lard is blended in and the dough has the consistency of small pebbles. With the mixer going, slowly add in the water and beat until everything is well-combined and you have a ball of dough.
Divide the dough into 12 balls. If the dough is sticky, refrigerate the balls for an hour or so to let them firm up. Don’t try to roll out the sticky dough – you’ll just get mad and end up yelling at it. Ask me how I know.
Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. On a heavily floured surface, roll out each ball into a thin circle, about 7-8 inches across. You want the tortillas about as thin as you can get them and still pull them up from the surface in one piece.
Place one tortilla at a time in the hot skillet. Let it bubble up (45 seconds – 1 minute), then flip over for another 30 seconds or so, till the surface is blistered. Repeat with each rolled-out tortilla. Store extras in the fridge.
I’ve missed blogging. Between the holidays, my job, and having two kids, I had to put Steph Cooks on the back burner for a while. We’ve been busy over here! I’ve been doing tons of bread baking (I hope to be able to write more about that soon), made it through Christmas, (when I took the longest vacation I’ve taken in several years), Henry’s first birthday, and now, today, his first haircut.
We’ve been looking at this for a few weeks now.
It was time for a trim. We headed over to the kids haircut place near us. We haven’t taken Ryan there in several years (he gets his hair cut by Mason’s barber), but I do like it for really young kids – they cut quickly and know how to keep them distracted long enough to get the job done.
We set Henry up in a truck-shaped chair.
He wasn’t a huge fan of the process, but bubbles helped.
After about 10 minutes, we had a little man!
He was obviously not as excited about this as I was.
And yes, I saved a few locks of his hair for his baby book because I have become that person. We are moving quickly toward toddlerhood – I’m waiting until he walks before I declare babyhood gone forever.
I may not be the most active member of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, but I try not be a complete dud. I participated in this year’s food swap with the Boston food blogger association, where we swap local goodies with each other to show off local fare. Who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail?
At the risk of getting sappy, I want to mention another reason I’m glad I participated in this. The one time I visited Boston I had a fantastic time, but a few days after I got home, this happened. So, while I enjoyed my trip, I will probably always associate Boston with a little sadness. While nothing’s going to change that, it was nice to get some new, good things to associate with the city.
Anyway, enough Debbie Downer stuff. I had a ton of fun putting together my package for my swap buddy, Aileen of 300 Threads. We had a $30 limit and I worked it right up to the last dollar. We shipped out our packages Monday, and mine arrived Wednesday. It took all of my restraint not to just house all the goodies at once, but I made Mason and Ryan back off long enough so I could take some pictures. They were none too pleased.
I realized through the process of trying to take photos for this post that I absolutely suck at product shots. I mean, check out the top photo (which I did Instagram, but still). Holy blurry, Batman. Then I thought I could camouflage some of the suckage by making little collages in Photoshop Elements. This one isn’t too bad:
But then there’s this one.
Me and PSE were fighting. Fighting. And it won. So, I’ll spare you my lacking photography/editing skills and just tell you about my New England goodies. They were all simply delicious.
First, we have Fat Toad Farm goat’s milk caramel. Oh my. This should be drizzled over ice cream or pound cake or banana bread, but as I had none of those things, I may or may not have just dipped a saltine in the jar and went to town. Heaven in a jar, I tell you. It’s rich and perfectly creamy. If I’m ever in Vermont I’m hitting up this place.
Then, there’s red pepper jelly from Bonnie’s Jams in Cambridge. I love a good spicy-sweet treat, and this jelly was just what I was hoping it would be – just the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavors. It would be best with a good stinky cheese, but I already had those saltines out, so….yeah. I think I have some shopping to do tomorrow.
Aileen also sent over these amazing salted rosemary shortbread cookies from Lark Fine Foods. Wow. A completely unusual treat – just salty enough, just sweet enough, with just the right amount of herbal flavor from the rosemary. They’re so buttery that they crumble when you pick them up, which is a plus in my book. I got these on Wednesday and the bag is just about gone. I think these are my favorite of all the things she sent.
Finally, I got Flaming Cashews from Q’s Nuts. Being a native Texan, I appreciate a spicy treat and these did not disappoint. Between Mason and I, there are about five nuts left in that bag. Yum.
So, there you have it – a successful swap! What a great way to try some new food and make a new friend. If any other AFBA food bloggers out there haven’t participated in this yet, I really encourage you to get on board next year. In the next few days, I’ll post about what I sent to Boston.
The lack of posts this week doesn’t mean we’ve been eating out every night. In fact, we haven’t eaten out on a weeknight in quite a while – go us! But Henry got a cold, which turned into a sinus-infection, which resisted his antibiotics, which turned into an ear infection, which led us to bring out the big-gun antibiotics, which he is currently taking. The illness gave him an impressive cough, which of course wakes him up around 4 am and keeps us up for at least an hour. Oh, I also caught his cold.
So all of that, on top of working, on top of Mason being gone most evenings because of tennis, means I’ve been kind of wiped. I’ve still been cooking though! My house may be a sty (you should see the pile of laundry on my couch), but by God we’ve eaten well.
I didn’t get pics of everything, but I’m still going to post a round-up of what I’ve made in the last week because it’s all good stuff. Above, you can see bbq chicken quesadillas. I shredded some chicken from a rotisserie and put it on top of a BonSavor wrap-sized whole wheat tortilla. I was out of shredded cheese, so I tore up some colby jack and put that on top of the chicken, and drizzled the whole thing with bbq sauce.
Folded the top and cooked for a few minutes on each side in a skillet coated with cooking spray, and voila. Quick, easy dinner. Fat-free refried beans made a great side. I really liked the BonSavor tortilla here – it cooked up nice and crisp, and it wasn’t mealy, like some whole wheat tortillas I’ve tried.
This meal made me think about a recipe for slow-cooker bbq beef quesadillas with mango I’d come across recently, so that is what I made the next night. And it was divine. You should check out the rest of the blog I just linked to, Can You Stay For Dinner?, especially her sidebar links about weight loss. She lost 135 lbs and has kept it off for several years, and her writing about weight and maintenance is beautiful.
We also had blackened catfish. Catfish was on sale again, so I wanted to do something different than the oven-fried version from the other night. I made a quick remoulade for dipping (the recipe is included in the link above) – this is a mayo-based Cajun sauce that I really love. Which is saying something, as you know how much I hate mayo. If you aren’t used to generous Cajun spices, you’ll want to at least halve the pepper in this recipe. If you’re one of those folks who thinks ketchup is spicy, cut it down more than that. I made grits in the rice cooker as a side.
I also made a version of this recipe for ground turkey with potatoes and spring peas, with several variations, and it was REALLY good. Absolutely a crowd-pleaser. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with meat and potatoes. I used lean ground beef and diced red pepper instead of peas, and parsley instead of cilantro. Served the whole thing over quinoa for a bowl of starchy goodness. I actually made this two nights in a row. It was that good.
Finally, tonight we had Hebrew National 97% fat-free hot dogs with turkey chili and cheese, with baked chips on the side. I know low-fat hot dogs are anathema to hot-dog lovers, but I am not one of those people. I like hot dogs if they’re grilled, not boiled, but see them mainly as a vehicle for the chili and cheese.
This gets us all caught up on weeknight dinners. Here’s hoping Henry gets better and we all get more sleep in the coming nights.
Another slow cooker meal tonight – carnitas. This is one of my go-to meals. The meat requires three ingredients (or two, if you forget the OJ like I did), cooks while you’re at work, and requires less than 30 minutes of prep once you get home. You don’t even have to shred the pork – it falls apart as it’s cooking on the stove when you start stirring it. Chop up some cilantro and serve on tortillas with salsa verde with some fat free refried beans on the side, and you have yourself one tasty weeknight dinner.
Since I still had a bunch of BonSavor flatbreads to try out, I decided to serve these on their Wheat Flour Soft Taco tortillas. They were about on par with Mission tortillas in terms of flavor, but I’d put them slightly above in terms of functionality, as I find Mission ones tend to get crumbly on me and allow filling to fall through. Neither brand holds a candle to the housemade ones you can get at HEB, or the delicious, doughy ones from Taco Cabana.
However, I wanted to point out a few things about BonSavor labeling. Which is closely tied to how they market their tortillas. Take a look at the link above – the tacos marked as “plain” all say “Wheat Flour” prominently above the world “tortillas.” It’s easy to glance at this and think you’re eating something that has whole wheat flour as its first ingredient, which I’m sure is exactly what the marketers over at BonSavor want you to think.
Alas, that is not the case. A glance at the ingredient label reveals the first ingredient as “enriched wheat flour,” which is basically just all-purpose flour. See, all-purpose flour is made from wheat, so it’s not inaccurate to say these are made from wheat flour – but it’s not the same thing as whole wheat flour. They do make whole wheat flour tortillas (which I have and haven’t tried yet), and they do prominently place “whole wheat” above “tortillas” in their labeling.
One more thing I noticed when I was reading the ingredient label was the use of partially hydrogenated soybean oil. This sent up a red flag, as “partially hydrogenated” is code for trans fat. But I was sure I’d seen something on the label saying there were 0 grams of trans fat in these tortillas. Turns out that the label says “0 grams of trans fat per serving.”
Ah. So this means that there are trans fats in the tortillas, but you’re probably looking at just a trace amount. The American Heart Association recommends that trans fats make up less than 1% of your total daily calories, and I’m sure these guys aren’t going to tip you over your limit, but the fat is still there – which is probably not what you think when you first see that “0 grams” on the label.
The whole point of all of this is that you have to learn to look past the marketing when reading food labels if you really want to know what goes into the food you’re eating. Many, if not the majority, of food in the supermarket is labeled like these tortillas, so I don’t mean to say that BonSavor is the only company out there doing this. Their stuff is just what I had on hand today to make an example of.
This probably goes without saying, but an easy way to avoid having to learn to be a food label expert is to make your own food, or buy really fresh stuff – things made locally that you might find at the farmer’s market. This food often doesn’t require as many preservatives, since small local companies’ products aren’t usually made to last for years on the shelf, and they often don’t have to go to great lengths to market their food to you, since you can meet the owners in person and talk to them about their products. Often, you can try out the food you get at the market, so that helps too.
I have probably gone on long enough, so I’ll leave it at that for now. Happy Wednesday!
I’ve been a little under the weather this week, thanks to the kids bringing home daycare germs. Luckily, this was also the week that the nice folks at BonSavor sent over a giant box of their flatbreads for us to try out. I decided to go with the low-carb tortillas tonight for soft tacos, which is just the kind of fast meal I want when I don’t feel like standing on my feet all evening, cooking.
But let me back up a bit. I have a lot of opinions about tortillas. Having eaten, oh, around a bajillion of them in my day (God bless Texas), I feel like I know a thing or two about what makes a good tortilla. It should be pillowy soft and smell wonderfully doughy, and of course, it tastes best warm.
However, real tortillas involve lard. Lard is actually slightly better for you than butter if you can find some without trans fats in it, but it’s still not something I can consume regularly and still have my pants fit. So there are times when I really just want a tortilla to be a vehicle for something else, and in those times, I often go with La Tortilla Factory’s low-carb tortillas. I figure, why waste the calories when I just want to taste the filling? The LTF ones are really the only low-carb tortillas I like, though. The other ones I’ve tried, like Mission, were super crumbly and tasted as good as the plastic bag they came in.
These guys were somewhere in between. The texture was certainly better than the Mission ones – they were soft and pliable, as long as they didn’t sit out of the bag for more than a few minutes before I filled them (then, they started to get brittle and crumbly). Taste-wise, they don’t taste like much, but I guess that’s ok as I really just wanted to taste the taco filling. They did have that plastic bag smell, though. Points off for that.
Overall, they were fine for free tortillas. I might buy them again the next time I’m in the market for a low-carb tortilla and I can’t find the La Tortilla Factory ones.
Anyway, about those tacos. I did a simple mix of beef and McCormick seasoning:
I was thinking that for a future vegetarian option I might try mixing this seasoning with chickpeas or lentils. Maybe? What do you think?
For toppings, we went simply with iceberg lettuce (I tell you, sometimes I just want that crunch) and tomatoes. That was all for Ryan’s taco, but Mason and I added a little Mexican blend cheese and salsa on ours.
Dinner was served at 6:30. Now I’m off to down some Benadryl and get some sleep.
Look how deliciously fluffy these are. Ryan loves pancakes and I didn’t do my usual weekly meal planning this weekend, so we just went with something simple tonight. This is my go-to pancake recipe, but I use half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour. Also, since Ryan can’t have dairy, tonight I tried these with vanilla almondmilk. It worked surprisingly well. When I’ve tried using non-dairy milks in pancake batter in the past, the batter is often really runny and doesn’t cook well, but these guys were perfect. Really, it was like I hadn’t changed a thing.
When I cook with recipes, I usually tape the recipe onto the cabinet, like so:
Keeps it off the counter and out of my way, but within sight. I’m sure there are fancy contraptions out there that serve the same function and look less ghetto, but I don’t have room on the counter for anything else, so this serves just fine.
Ryan asked to help cook, so he put on his dinosaur apron, climbed on his stepstool next to the counter, and did things like dump the flour in the bowl and ask to smell the vanilla.
He was intrigued by the new bacon-cooking method I tried tonight, involving the oven. I’ve heard great things about this method, and figured it would help me multitask, as it could cook undisturbed while I did the pancakes. I lined a baking sheet with foil, put my wire cooling rack on the foil, and put the bacon in a single layer on the pan. Then, just because I was feeling creative, I rubbed some maple syrup on each slice and cracked some pepper over them. It went in the oven at 400 for about 20-25 minutes.
All in all, it worked very, very well. I didn’t have to deal with splattering grease or flipping the bacon, and it cooked evenly all over. It probably could have gone another five minutes, but I was hungry and it was pretty crisp.
Dinner was on the table at 7:30, but probably would have been earlier if I hadn’t had “help.” But I wouldn’t have had much fun cooking, so I figure the tradeoff was ok.
Pot roast is a Sunday classic made weeknight-friendly by way of the slow cooker. Like I mentioned the other night, I don’t usually just toss stuff into the crock without some prep, though. For this lovely slab of meat, we seasoned well with Tony’s, then cut about 14 slits all over it. The slits were stuffed with garlic cloves. Then, we seared the meat on both sides in some oil in a hot cast-iron skillet. This ensures that you get a nice brown crust, which wouldn’t happen if you put it in raw.
After all that, it went into the crockpot, which was lined with one of these fantastic things (which are absolutely one of the best products ever if you regularly use the crock). Added 1/2 cup of water and let it go on high for 4-5 hours.
Normally I’d do the prep the night before, but I didn’t get a chance, and Mason was home in the morning so he did it then and got everything cooking. When I got home from work, I went on the hunt for some rice. Apparently I needed to give my pantry more than a cursory glance when prepping my grocery list, because I found all this:
So, brown rice went into the rice cooker. While that was going, the roast finished and I started on the gravy. I could have just used the drippings from the crockpot, but I wanted to fix it up a little. I skimmed off the grease and put the remaining drippings in a small pot, then added a little water mixed with cornstarch and a teaspoon or so of Penzey’s Beef Soup Base (which is another great product, far superior to bouillion but used in the same way) to add a little more flavor. Let it cook over high heat for 5 minutes or so, till the soup base dissolved and the mixture thickened up a bit. It boasts a rich, chocolate color at this point.
We ate around 6:30 – not bad for pot roast. TGIF!