Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Frugal Femme Two Week Menu #2: Week Two, Tuesday: Classic Beef Stew for Two, Strawberry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing, and Country Herb Croissants

Hello Everyone!
Sorry about the delay in the post.  I was still working on this blog after midnight, and I finally had to give up and go to bed.
So I had to wait to finish the blog until I was on my lunch break and then finish it up and post it right after I got off work.
Its strawberry season in Louisiana!  This means that gorgeous, yummy strawberries can be found in Farmer's Markets and road side stands all around town.  I want to grow strawberries one day in a berry garden.

I saw a structure a little like this at Costco and fell a little bit in love.  But all of the windows were screened sliding doors. My little mind just started buzzing with ideas.  Something like this will be a thing in my life and it WILL happen sooner rather than later.
Isn't that a beautiful garden nook?  I want to do something like that in my backyard and put berries all around it- along with perennial flowers and some evergreens.  It will be my outdoor reading nookI also love a recipe that doesn't just use strawberries as dessert.  The recipe below is one of those recipes/

Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

I am going to give you the ingredients for the super-healthy, low fat version of this salad AND I am also going to give you the ingredients for the not as low-fat version.
Both are equally delicious, it just depends on what I have on hand.

1 1/2 tbsp. Splenda  (I use this in both versions, or you can do 3 tbsp. sugar.)
3 tbsp. light mayonnaise (or plain Greek yogurt)           OR          3tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. fat free milk                                                         OR          2 tbsp. 2% milk
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 (10 ounce) bag romaine lettuce, roughly chopped  (Or you can do it yourself and not buy the bag.)
1 cup strawberries, sliced

1.  In a small bowl, combine the Splenda (sugar), mayonnaise, milk, poppy seeds and vinegar and whisk until all ingredients are combined.  Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the salad.

I love using my mini whisk for dressings and small amounts.  Here it is pictured with my tablespoon measure.  Isn't it cute?!?!?!

When you're finished mixing, it should like this.

2.  Place the lettuce and sliced strawberries in large bowl and toss to combine.

The strawberries were so big and beautiful.  And I have some more leftover to make a yummy dessert for two later this week!

You can leave them sliced like this, or you can slice them and cut them in half.  It all depends on the size of your strawberries.  I find if you leave the strawberries like this, there's more surface room to be covered by the dressing.

 Drizzle with the poppy seed dressing and toss until everything is evenly coated.  You can also put the lettuce and strawberries on individual plates and then drizzle with the poppy seed dressing.

I am always on the hunt for a week-night beef stew recipe.  Some stews involve marinating, which I almost never remember to do the night or morning before.  Other stews cook for 3-4 hours and I don't have time to wait that long during the week.  (My max week-night timing for a dinner is 1.5 hours. That way, since I get home around 5:30 I eat no later than 7pm.)  Other stews the serving proportions are enough to feed a bevy a hungry cowboys and, though I love stew, I don't want that much hanging out in my freezer.  So, after some experimenting, this is the recipe that finally fit my criteria.

Classic Beef Stew for Two

1/2 pound beef stew meat cut into 1 inch cubes, (I got mine left over from the roast that I did not cook Sunday.)
1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced (If you are not a garlic fan, cut down to 1 or two cloves, I LOVE garlic.)
1 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 cups beef broth (Possibly one more cup late during cooking)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2-3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1- 2 tsp. fresh dill, minced
1 large Yukon gold potato, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium sized carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch coins
1/4 cup flour
1-2 tbsp. milk
For the flour and milk you can substitute 1/4 water and a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch.

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Make certain that your rack is on the middle shelf so that you have room for your oven safe pot.
2.  Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with Creaole seasoning.  In a medium size, oven-safe, pot heat oil over medium-high heat.

These chunks are kind of large, they are more two inch than one inch.  But I was in hurry and the bigger pieces worked just fine.

3.  Once oil begins to "glimmer" add the beef cubes to the pot.  Brown beef on all sides, about 8 minutes; transfer to a bowl.

This is the meat just moments after I put it in the pot.  The meat will start browning very fast.

This is after the 8 minutes.  See the brown goodness at the bottom of the pan?   You want that to happen, that is where the flavor comes from.

4. Lower heat to medium and add onion to fat and oil left in the pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

As soon as you add the onions, they will start to look brown as they pick up the brown goodness left in the pot by the beef cubes.

5.  Stir in garlic, tomato sauce and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

6.  Stir in flour and cook for one minute.

Don't worry that parts of the pot are getting browner, this will be taken care of in the next step when you "deglaze" the pot.

7.  Slowly and steadily mix in the sherry, whisking constantly, scraping up any brown bits that may be on the bottom and smoothing out any lumps. 

Pour the sherry slowly while scraping the bottom with your spoon.  If you poor it in all at once quickly, it will boil away and you will lose the flavor.

Stir in broth, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, bay leaf, fresh dill and browned beef.  (Also pour in any juices that may have accumulated in the bowl the meat was sitting in.)

8.  Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
9. Stir in potatoes and carrots and continue to cook in the oven for another 30 minutes, until the beef and vegetables are tender. (You may need to add more beef broth.  You want enough liquid to cover the potatoes and carrots that were added.)

This all the carrots and potato that you will need.  I know it doesn't seem like enough, but trust me.

You can actually cut these however you would like, but I find they cook better and reach the best consistency when they are cut this way.
10.  Remove the pot from the oven and place on the stovetop on low.  The broth will be a little thin.
11.  In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup flour and milk.  You may have to add more flour or milk until you get the desired consistency for the slurry.  You want it to look a bit like Elmer's glue. I know that's not a food, but it is what it looks like.
12.  Pour the flour and milk mixture into the pot and stir until combined and smooth.  Simmer on low for another 15-30 minutes to allow to thicken.

If you want, or if necessary, you can skim the grease from the top with a large spoon.  This batch wasn't too bad, but some cuts of meat are greasier than others.

In my humble opinion, all good soups and stews need a bread so that you can dunk the bread into the broth.  This recipe is easy and goes very well with this stew.  Unfortunately, I have yet to manage the skill of making them look as pretty as the crescent rolls you see in commercials and on the package.

Country Herb Croissants

1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 tbsp. sour cream
1 tbsp. fresh green onion, minced
1-2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp.  dried dill, (If you use fresh, put in about 2 tsp.)
1// tsp. dried rubbed sage
1/4 tsp. celery salt

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Unroll crescent roll dough and separate into triangles.  (This is where my downfall is, my triangles always get stretched out no matter how hard I try for them not to.)

3.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix until all ingredients are integrated into the sour cream.

This mixture will be very thick and will almost have the consistency of room temperature butter.

4. With a small spatula, spread the sour cream mixture over in a thin layer over the dough.

5.  Roll each triangle beginning with the wide end, and place the pointed side down on a greased baking sheet.

I told you I wasn't any good at rolling.

6.  Place rolls 2 inches apart from one another on the baking sheet and turn the ends down to create a half moon or "crescent" shape.
           Optional Step!!!:  I like to do an egg wash at this point and brush it on the dough.  You do not have to do this step and the final product would be just as yummy.  To do this step, which is what I do, mix one egg with 1 tsp. water and whisk until combined.  Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture onto the crescents.

7.  Bake for 11-13 minutes, turning your baking sheet about halfway through the baking process.  Keep an eye on them, depending on your oven, they could take less time.  They are ready when they are a lovely golden brown color.

Here's a picture of the entire meal.  The bread may not look pretty, but it fits perfect on the side of my bowl.

These can be eaten just by themselves they are so delicious but I like to dunk them. :-)

Later this evening I will post the Frugal Femme Meal for Wednesday which will be Grilled Chicken, Carrot Curry soup and scallion pancakes

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