JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Usually, I do recipes on Sundays - it's an old tradition on the blog, and a good fit for a day when lots of readers are spending most of their time offline. But I wanted to tackle food today, because I'm going to give you the easiest weekend menu ever. Okay, ordering out would be easier. But this is a lot cheaper.
Recently, our stove stopped working. Ross and I were getting a good head of indignation up, because it wasn't that old, until he pulled it away from the wall and we discovered... mice had gnawed away part of the cord and casing the stove plugged into. The very old cord and casing, as it turned out, when the electrician came over to take a look. The electrical conduit for the oven begins in the cellar, disappears into the horrible crawlspace beneath the kitchen, and somewhere mysteriously changes into an entirely different cord. Rewiring it may involve removing and then rebuilding part of our back foundation wall, (ah, the joys of 200 year old houses!) so while we're waiting for that to happen, I've been cooking dinner daily in the crockpot. As a result, I've been planning menus ahead in a more organized fashion, since my default "Let's just boil some pasta," is a lot more time consuming now.
Here's one shopping list for Borscht, BBQ Beef and Rice and Corn Chowder for your weekend (with leftovers for lunches!)
3-4 pounds of chuck, the cheapest pot-roast grade you can find
5 pounds red potatoes
Three onions (but just get a bag)
5 or 6 beets
3 green peppers
Pre-minced garlic (I love this stuff. It saves so much time spent fiddling with papery cloves)
1 can tomato paste
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
Bag of rice
1 box each beef broth and chicken broth (I look for the low- or no-sodium versions)
16 oz bag of frozen corn OR one can each corn niblets and cream-style corn
The little bitty carton of whipping cream
I'm going to assume you have the pantry basics: flour, spices, etc. When you get home, cut the beef into thirds. 2/3 goes into the freezer for the BBQ Beef and Rice, the remaining 1/3 you dice into bite-sized bits for the Borscht. These are recipes for four, so adjust to your family size accordingly.
1 lb stew beef, diced into bite-sized pieces
5-6 beets, peeled and sliced
4-6 potatoes, diced
1 c sliced carrots
1 onion, finely diced
1 t minced garlic
Toss it all in the slow cooker with a bay leaf. Then whisk together
2 c beef broth
1 can tomato paste
6 T red wine vinegar
3 T brown sugar
1 T dried parsley
1-2 t dried dill weed (I used seeds for a more robust flavor)
Pour the liquid over the meat and veg. Cook on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours. In the last 2 (low) or 1 (high) hour, add in 3 c shredded cabbage. You can also substitute kale. Serve with dollops of sour cream. Don't tell the kids they're eating beets until afterwards.
I adapted a recipe from Damn Delicious, and it really is. The author of the site, Chungah Rhee, has some wonderful crockpot cookery ideas!
24 oz potatoes, diced (is what the original calls for. I basically fill my slow cooker about 2/3 with potatoes and call it good. My family really loves potatoes.)
16 oz bag of frozen corn or canned corn niblets
1/2 onion, diced fine
1t minced garlic
Toss the veggies with at least 3 T flour; you will need more if you use as many taters as I do. They should all be lightly dusted. Sprinkle with
Add 6 cups of chicken broth. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4. Add 2 T butter and 1/4 c whipping cream and serve. (Rhee points out the soup freezes well if you don't add the dairy products, so I gave every bowl a pat of butter and a splash of cream before ladling in the soup. She was right, it DID freeze well for later lunches.)
BBQ Beef and Rice
2 lbs chuck
2 onions, sliced
3 green peppers sliced into strips
Put the beef, onions and peppers into the slow cooker and generously cover with your favorite BBQ sauce. Cook on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours. 2 hours before serving, add 1 c rice and 1 1/2 c beef broth (I like to use a mix of water and broth.) You can bulk it up with more rice - I usually do. Just keep the proportion of 1 c rice to 1 1/2 c liquid the same.
You'll see I don't have any directions about adding salt in any of these recipes. Two reasons: 1) Ross has high blood pressure, and we're trying to go as low sodium as possible and 2) I've noticed the slow cooker intensifies flavor, so what salt is already in processed food (the canned corn, the tomato paste, etc.) really comes out. Please season to your taste (and blood pressure!)
Okay, dear readers, what are you going to do with all the time you'll save cooking this weekend?