There is no doubt about the value of knowing how to cook quick meals. But in my opinion, when life gets real busy and you have a family to feed at home every day of the week, there is a better strategy than to come up with seven 15-minute meals!
For example, early afternoon last Sunday I started cooking a large batch of beef stew. I left it to cook in the oven for several hours while I did the things everyone likes (or has to!) to do on Sunday, such as play with the kids, do laundry, clean the house, watch a movie, catch up with e-mail, etc. Meanwhile, the house was being infused with the comforting aromas coming from the kitchen!
When it was almost dinner time, I simply prepared some brown rice and a nice salad to accompany the stew. We all ate it happily. I can’t tell you how much my kids love braised meats! I know that whenever I have slowly cooked beef or pork in the house they will eat their dinner or lunch with no problem!
Now the best part about investing the time to cook that stew was that, since I cooked a huge batch of it, I was able to freeze some and still have enough left over to be eaten on the following few days. To make sure we would not get sick of eating the same food repeatedly, I tried to reinvent the dish using other foods I had in the fridge and the pantry.
Today I want to share with you that basic beef stew recipe and a few ideas on how to quickly transform it into different meals that you can serve for lunch or dinner during the week. Incredibly time saving! And it will make you much more relaxed at meal time – if you are a parent, you know what I am talking about!
Basic Beef Stew
4 pounds beef stew meat, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
5 carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
3 celery stalks, chopped
8 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups white or red wine
3 cups beef broth, or more
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
2 large bay leave, fresh or dry
8 sprigs fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven) over high heat. Working in batches, add the beef and cook until meat has browned in all sides. It is important that you do not overcrowd the pot and that you do not stir the meat while it browns (just turn the pieces over as needed). Transfer browned meat to a large plate as they are done.
Reduce heat to medium and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook stirring occasionally until onion looks translucent (about 8 minutes).
Add wine to the pot, stir, and boil for 8 minutes. Add meat, 2 cups of beef broth, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme. Stir to combine. Cover the pot with a lid and place it in the oven to cook. Check the meat every hour and add more beef broth, if necessary. Cooking time may vary depending on the size of the beef cubes. Mine were a bit large so it took over 3 hours to cook. Meat is done when fork tender. Try the stew to judge if you need to adjust salt and pepper.
Basic Brown Rice Recipe
1 cup Basmati brown rice, rinsed
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. When water starts to boil, turn the heat to medium-low, add the rinsed rice and salt. Cover pot and cook until all water has been absorbed and rice is tender.
I buy the pre-cut stew meat:
Choose a heavy pot such as Dutch oven. Heat 1tbs of olive oil and, working in batches (you do not want to overcrowd the pot), sear the meat until brown on all sides:
Transfer seared meat to a plate, add 1 more tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and cook the vegetables for about 8 minutes.
Now add wine, scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, add cook for 8 minutes.
Put meat back into the pot. Add 2 cups of beef broth:
Add bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper:
Cover pot tightly with a lid and put it in the over. Cook until meat is fork tender (very tender!). This could take up to 3 hours depending on the size of the cubes of meat. Add more beef broth as needed.
Now for the rice. I love brown basmati rice - it is always fluffy, not sticky.
Bring water to a boil. Add rinsed rice and salt. Cover pot and cook over medium-low heat until all the water has been absorbed and rice is tender.
Nice and loose:
Serve the beef stew with the brown rice and a nice fresh green salad!
Here is what to do with your leftovers:
That Sunday after dinner, I froze two portions of bee stew. I simply used freezer bags:
I kept the remainder of the stew in an air tight container inside the refrigerator. Here is our dinner the next day:
I shredded some of the stew meat and put it in a skillet along with some of the cooking sauce from the stew and frozen peas. I heated it up, added some cooked multi grain pasta, grated Parmesan cheese, and some fresh basil. Tossed it all together, adjusted salt and pepper, and served along with some other veggies. It took me 10 minutes to get this pasta on the table!
I topped it with extra fresh basil. I love basil!
My super man approves it every time:
On the third day, I decide to make super yummy sandwiches with more of stew meet (shredded and heated):
I spreaded butter on both slices of multigrain bread. Then added grainy mustard, the meat, cheese, arugula, and slices of purple onion.
I put it in a panini maker (you can use a skilet over medium-high heat instead) until golden brown and until all the cheese was melted.