Stew Time!

On Monday, Ben and I FINALLY got rid of our Christmas tree.  As sad as I am to see it go, it certainly makes our apartment feel a lot bigger without it!

But the most exciting part was my first attempt at home-made stew!  Somehow, I am 25 years old, and I had never made stew from scratch.

Beef Stew adopted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.  AKA my cooking bible

makes 4-6 servings

  • slightly more than one pound of stew meat (I just put the whole package in.  It’s not an exact science)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups carrots, chopped
  • two stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 small-to-medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped/minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • basil
  • one can of 99 percent fat-free beef broth
  1. In a medium size stew pot (I used my new cherry red Le Cruset), add enough vegetable oil to clearly cover the bottom of the pan.  Bring the oil to a simmer.
  2. Brown all of the meat in the oil (if you need to add more oil as you work, that’s fine.  I just kept it so there was constantly oil covered the bottom of the pan).  Depending how wide your pan is, you may not be able to brown all of your meat at once, that’s fine as well.
  3. Remove all the meat once browned and put aside.  In the oil, add the garlic and onions and allow them to cook in the oil.  Cook until the onions are translucent – I think it took about 10 minutes for mine to cook.
  4. Add flour to mixture.
  5. Add the meat back into the pot, as well as the can of beef broth and 1/2 cup of water.  Add salt, pepper and basil per your liking.  (sorry, I didn’t measure).  Bring the mixture to a boil, then bring it down to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours.
  6. Taste broth, consider adding any more seasoning as necessary.
  7. Add potatoes, celery, carrots.  Bring mixture to a boil, then bring it back down to a “high simmer”.  Cover and let it cook for another 30 minutes.

ENJOY!  Sorry I was a bit of a failure and didn’t take any pictures, but trust me it was great.  And it was just as good the next day!  The stew was very hearty – if you prefer to have your stew last more than 4-6 servings or like more gravy in your stew, I would recommend adding two cans of beef brother and a cup of water.

 

I’m debating taking a bath right now while Benjamin watches the Duke game.  Last night at the gym, I was having such a great run that I decided it would be a wonderful idea to push my limits.  Lately, I’ve been sticking with 25-30 minute runs, which usually come out to be somewhere in the 2.5 mile range.  Last night, I pushed myself on distance (3.3 miles), time  (35 minutes), and speed (I actually had a 9:35 mile in there.  That’s fast for me).  Not so smart, and my legs are a bit tight now.  Considering I pushed all three, I guess I shouldn’t complain that I’m only a little sore.  Note to self: pushing all three limits is how people get hurt.  Chillax.  Although secretly I just want to go back to the gym and see if I can do it again!

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Weekend Update

This weekend, Ben’s brother and his wife we in town.  I hadn’t seen each other in a really long time, so it was great to just hang out.

They arrived Friday night, and we enjoyed some fancy beer, snacks and exchanged Christmas presents.  I got a cheese baking dish.  Additionally, they got us the Kodak Playsport video camera.  Its super small, about the size of a cell phone, and it has EXCELLENT quality.  We took a quick video and was about to put it on our 60 inch tv and the quality looked fantastic.  It also can record in HD.  And the best part – its waterproof!  They bought it so we can take it on our honeymoon and capture the whole trip!  Thanks Will & Debbie!!!

Kodak Playsport Camera

Saturday, we woke up and I made french toast casserole.  The recipe is below.  We then went and gave them the tour, showing the various monuments and hot spots around town.  We also showed them the collection of where we have lived during our time in D.C.  We had lunch at Good Stuff, which has quickly become our go-to place to take out of towners during the D.C. tour.  Afterwards, we hung out a bit before heading to Maggie’s improv show.  She did a great job – the girl is a natural at improv!  We came home, ordered wings and watched SNL before going to bed.

Now, I’m waiting for Ben to get home from a run so we can go to CCSP to watch the Eagles game with some friends.

French Toast Casserole

based on Planet Green recipe

  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 loaf Challah bread
  • 3 cups skim milk (the recipe says only 2 cups is necessary if you aren’t letting it sit overnight, but I was)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbspn splenda (or regular sugar – I used splenda because we were out of sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp liquer of your choice (optional – I didn’t add, but that was because we didn’t have anything on hand)
  • 1/4 cup raisins or almonds (optional – I didn’t add, again because I didn’t have any on hand)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 – 2 tbsp butter
  1. Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. Rip bread apart and arrange bread in two tightly-packed layers in the pan.  If you use raisins or almonds, you can add these to the bread mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and liqueur (if you are using) until well combined.  Pour mixture over bread and sprinkle with cinnamon. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  4. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
  5. Serve!

I don’t have any pictures, unfortunately, but it was really good.  I had some of the leftovers today for lunch, and it reheated quite well.

Five goals for 2011

2011.  Its a big year.  I’ll be a quarter century years old.  I’ll change last names.  And as expected, I’m working on a list of goals for 2011.  Here is what I have so far. 

 

1. Maintain a workout regimen: get at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week.  Since most of my exercise tends to be on the active opposed to moderate style, that puts me above what the government recommends for a healthy lifestyle
 
2. Cook more: Cook at least one new meal per week, and to have a dinner that does not focus around pasta at least 2 other days of the week. I can not eat pasta forever.  Ok, I probably can, but it wouldn’t be a good idea.  Maybe I’ll find a cook book to cook my way through (a la Julie and Julia!)

3.  Get married with as little stress as possible:  I try and make my goals measurable and concrete.  Not sure stress level is really measurable.  But I think this is an important one. I will do as much planning and organizing up to the wedding as possible to make things move smoothly during the weekend’s festivities.  Any idea how I can make this goal more measurble?

4. Blog Blog Blog: Keep on blogging.  Every day isn’t realistic right now for me.  But I will find a schedule that works for me and stick to it. 

5. Excel at work: Again, I don’t get too specific about work things on here, so lets just leave this here and ya’ll can trust me that I have a plan.  Cool?

Are you developing a list of goals for 2011?  What goals have you set for yourself?  Any ideas how I can make my stress free wedding goal measurable?

Baking Update

Well, I didn’t really get to blog about it, but a few weeks ago I made Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough cupcakes.  I found the recipe in one of the blogs I read (and actually, I can’t even remember which blog).  It sounded fantastic.

In actuality,they were only OK.  I took them into work for a co-workers birthday, and everyone seemed to like them.  But I think they were only OK.  I think they feel to the “too much of a good thing” category.  It was a chocolate chip cookie batter, with cookie dough filling and then cookie dough frosting.  I would prefer a regular vanilla chocolate chip cupcake with the cookie dough filling and frosting with a tad less brown sugar.

Now I’m debating what my next challenge will be.  I’ve been in the mood to make an apple cupcake (maybe I’ll use Amanda’s recipe).  Or…

Also, late last week, they announced the 4th Mystery Box Challenge – Orange.

The left the challenge a little broad this month.  That way people who want to do pumpkin/Halloween can, but those who want to do something different can make a fall themed cupcake.  I’m not a huge pumpkin person, so I’m thinking orange frosting would be the path I’d take.

mystery box challenge

As you may remember, earlier this month I discussed joining the Mystery Box Challenge

Well, I didn’t exactly enter.  After Val’s comment about the blueberry/maple cupcakes, I had to try and make them.  As I said before, I’m still perfecting the recipe.  But, I never got around to creating my own cupcake based on my childhood.  And I never entered Val’s idea. 

But just because I didn’t enter, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out all the cool cupcakes that DID take on the challenge.  Flav-R-Ice Cupcakes?  That sounds spot on for childhood memories.  I used to love playing baseball while eating those things.  I also think the cheeseburger cupcake is really creative.  Check it out.  And maybe next month I’ll enter!

Long Week

Sorry for the lack of blogging.  Last week was really really long week.It started last Sunday, when we got an email from our building saying the power would be out hour an hour. 12 hours later, at 4 in the morning, we finally got our power back.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep at all that night. 

Now for some life updates:

Wedding
  • Save the Dates: I was finally was able to pull together addresses so we can send the save-the-dates.  Benjamin should have his addresses soon as well.  Yay for checking this lingering thing off our plate!
  • Alcohol:  While our caterer does provide bar services, we aren’t required to use them.  Considering their bar pricing was outrageous, we have been looking for better options.  This weekend, we found our bar service.  Basically, we just need to check and make sure they aren’t gonna overcharge us for glassware and then we can send in the check!  
  • Invitations: We’ve narrowed it down to two invites.  Who knows which one we will pick.  You’ll find out when it appears in your inbox. 
Life in General
  • 10K Training:  This is still going on.  I’m not running quite as much as I would like, but I’m getting there.  This weekend Ben and I went for quite a long run.  It sucks, but was awesome at the same time. 
  • Baking:  Last week I attempted the blueberry maple cupcakes that Val suggested.  They were fantastic!  I frosted 1/2 with the maple frosting, and 1/2 with cream cheese frosting.  Ben preferred the maple frosting; I liked the cream cheese.  I want to play with the recipe a little bit.  I think the batter needs more sugar and definitely needed more blueberries.  Next up: chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes

Mystery Ingredient

As its just after the first of the month, Sweetest Kitchen has announced the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge for September.

This month, the mystery box challenge does not focus on an ingredient.  Instead, it asks bakers to create a cupcake based on a memory: childhood.  Sweetest Kitchen writes:

“this month you will need to create a cupcake that is based on your favorite childhood memories – this could be a particular flavor, or perhaps your favorite childhood dessert”
I’ve decided to participate in this month’s challenge.  Because making a cupcake based on a childhood memory sounds like such a fun, creative experiment.  I’m not quite sure what I’m going to make, but I’ve got some ideas floating around in my head.  
If you were to create a cupcake from your childhood, what would it be?

Oreo Strawberry Cupcake

I told you I’ve been inspired lately. 

After Ben was so nice as to turn on “Cupcake Wars,” I really had an itchin for some baking.  Ben mentioned that he loves the oreo/strawberry combination and *poof* I was ready to start baking.

I started with the oreo cupcake from Beantown Baker. I know you’re not supposed to eat batter, but this batter was FANTASTIC.  And the cupcakes were pretty easy to make.

I topped the cupcakes with strawberry frosting from Cupcakes Take the Cake.  I must have done something wrong with the frosting, as the consistency wasn’t quite right.  It was a bit too watery, but it tasted fantastic. 

Overall, the cupcakes were definitely a success!  I’m prob gonna take some into the office tomorrow (cause otherwise Benjamin and I would eat all 24 of these babies….)

Typical Sunday Morning

Good morning!  Ben and I are just hanging out, which means I’m playing around on various blogs and Ben’s playing video games.  Reading all the other blogs, I was inspired to write in mine.  So lets see.

Wedding Update

We haven’t made a whole lot more progress with wedding planning.  Although we are close to figuring out where my family and bridesmaids are staying, as well as securing blocks of rooms for our guests.  Once they are all finalized, I’ll get them up on the wedding website.

We found out last night that the Mills House, which is the hotel directly next to our reception location is practically booked for our wedding weekend.  It’s a little disappointing, considering the location is perfect.  However, the rooms there are super expensive; I didn’t expect many people to stay there anyway (we’re talking like $250+ a night).

Blog Update

Thanks everyone for suggestions on other blogs to follow.  I think I’ve become semi-obsessed with food/baking blogs.  No legit.  I’m following a ton now.  But it is inspiring me to bake/decorate, so don’t be surprised if you start seeing pictures of fun cupcakes on this blog.  Although first I need to buy a cupcake pan.  Cause somehow I don’t own one.

I may join the Mystery Box Competition from The Sweetest Kitchen.  Basically, they give you a “mystery” ingredient every month, and you have almost three weeks to create and submit a cupcake that includes that ingredient (in the batter, frosting, decoration, whatever).  I dunno if I’ll do it every month, but it gives me a good excuse to try and make something new.  Who knows – I may even like the ridiculous new cupcake that I make.