Category Archives: beef

Bison-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than 2 weeks, you will probably have picked up on the fact that I often enjoy the challenge of using up what I already have on hand instead of just constantly buying new food.  So, every few months or so, I get the urge to do a complete pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory whereby I pull everything out, asses, and then either dispose or re-home my findings.  It’s a good way for me to see what I have, what I need, and what needs to be used up relatively quickly.

It’s also a good way for me to procrastinate from doing my laundry or cleaning out my car, both of which need to be done but neither of which you want to hear about.

During my last inventory session, I unearthed a package of ground bison in the freezer and a can of pizza sauce in the pantry.  I knew I could build a meal out of those two ingredients without having to run to the store, which is always a bonus since a certain manager at a local grocery store sees me so often he now calls me “trouble”.

So much for ever being incognito, huh?

I pulled out a few zucchini, some cheese, and an onion from the fridge along with some frozen red peppers, and got cooking.  Since it was almost midnight, I knew I had to work quickly so as to not wake M up.

Using up what you already have and making a quick and delicious meal? A good thing indeed.

Zucchini, red onion, garlic, red peppers, ground bison, cheese, pizza sauce, Italian seasoning

Wash and halve a few zucchini’s lengthwise, like so:

If need be, cut a small slice off of the bottom of each half so that the zucchini sits nicely.  Mine were ok, and I couldn’t be bothered to make them perfect so I didn’t.  Use a spoon to hollow out the zucchini, but leave a 1/4″ border or so for stability, and because zucchini is delicious.

Give the zucchini innards a rough chop, and set them aside.

Next, chop up a red onion, while trying not to cry.

I found a bag of frozen red pepper strips in my freezer, so I chopped up a few handfuls of those too.

Throw all of the veggies into a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, and saute for a few minutes.  Add a few cloves of minced garlic too, for good measure.  If you have any veggies that are knocking on deaths door, this would be a great way to use them up.

Surely I am not the only one that ever has vegetables go bad in their fridge.

When the veggies have started to soften, add the ground bison. If you don’t have any ground bison, try ground beef, or turkey, or chicken, or pork.  This is all about using up what you have, folks!

However, if you aren’t familiar with ground bison and would like a reason to be, you should give it a try – it’s fabulous!  Check out this post where I talk about some of it’s attributes, or just take my word for it.

Since bison is extremely lean, it doesn’t give off much fat (i.e. probably no need to drain the meat).  Open up a can of pizza sauce, or tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes, or whatever you find in your pantry, and add it to the skillet.

Next, a healthy sprinkling of Italian seasoning.  If you don’t have any of that in your posession, give a few good shakes or basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, or whatever sounds good to you.

Give it a stir, and reduce the heat to low.  Let the meat mixture simmer for about 20 minutes or so to allow the flavours to all blend together in a way that’s just magical.

I heard that said on TV once, although I’m not sure if it’s true or not.

Once the meat has thickened up like this…

…taste it for seasonings, and add more of whatever it needs.  I debated adding some cooked quinoa to the filling, but decided against dirtying another pot.  If you have any leftover grains already cooked in your fridge, now would be a good time to use them up.  It would also stretch the meat a little further, which is never a bad thing.

Grab the zucchini boats and put them on a baking sheet, and then fill with the meat mixture.

Sprinkle liberally with cheese, because cheese makes everything better.

Sing with me now…mozzarella and cheddar!

Up close and personal, just the way I like it:

After about 20 mins at 350-degrees, dinner was served!

And I didn’t care that it was 11:48pm; I dug right in!

Yummm…these bison-stuffed zucchini boats feel both healthy and decadent at the same time, which I will never complain about.  M and I both loved these (“These are fantastic!” he proclaimed the next day) and fought over who could have the last one.

He won, by the way.  I figured it was only fair to let him win since he often puts up with me cooking in the wee hours of the morning.

Please contain your jealousy.

Until next time…

xoxo

Jaclyn

 

 

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Chili For People Who Don’t Think They Like Chili

As a child, I was never really a fan of chili – likely because I had not yet acquired a sophisticated enough palate to fully enjoy any type of beans.  Whenever my Mom made it, she used to dish out a bowl before she put the beans in, and then laughed as I basically ate spaghetti sauce by itself.  Since then, my taste buds have evolved to the point where I can tolerate some types of beans, in certain circumstances.  Given that I’m not much of a fan of beans, chili doesn’t usually enter my radar screen.

However, sometimes I decide things on a whim; things that may not make sense to most people. Things like…dying my hair really dark brown. Or renting out my house and moving into a commune. Or painting my toenails orange. Or becoming a vegan. Or selling all of my stuff and living out of my car.

Or, in the case of tonight, making chili and instead of picking out all of the beans, liking it just the way it is.

Come join me on my journey 🙂

You’re looking at bacon, onions, red pepper, yellow pepper, celery, mushrooms, garlic, chili powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, cayenne pepper, lean ground beef, stewing beef, red kidney beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato puree.

As with many good things that are born from my kitchen, begin by chopping up 6-8 slices of bacon.

Place the bacon into a very large pot and let it start to crisp up over a medium flame.

Traditionally, chili is made with ground beef.  However, if I’m going to eat chili I want to have a little more textural interest, so I grabbed a 1.5 lb package of beef chunks to include.

Cut the chunks into bite-size pieces if needed, and season generously with salt and pepper.  BAM!

 

Next, start chopping up the veggies:

2 onions…

2 stalks of celery…

1 red pepper + 1 yellow pepper…

A handful of mushrooms – I used 8 buttons because they were forgotten in the produce drawer for too long, but you can use whatever you have.

And last but certainly not least, 9 cloves of garlic.

Now that that’s out-of-the-way, it’s time to check on the bacon.

Oooohhh baby – if love had a smell I’m pretty sure this is what it would smell like. In fact, I think I might try to bottle the smell of bacon and market it.

If you don’t hear from me for a few months, it’s probably because I’ve become a millionaire and am living on a tropical Island somewhere while my eau-de-bacon fragrance flies off the store shelves.

Remove the bacon and set it aside, and drain almost all of the fat into a separate dish.  Don’t you dare throw it out though!!!

My sources tell me that some people keep a jar of bacon fat in their fridges at all times.

I think I just discovered my New Years resolution. It’s important to have high aspirations in life, you know.

Add about half of the beef chunks to the pan that the bacon just came out of. I know what you’re thinking, and no, you cannot add all of the beef at once to the pot unless you have restaurant-sized cooking vessels at your home. Overcrowding the pot will allow the meat to steam instead of brown, and that would just be gross.

Now – listen up because this is very important – RESIST THE URGE TO STIR! I know that it’s hard, but we want to beef to develop a lovely outer crust and it won’t happen unless we give it it’s space.

After a few minutes though, you can stir. You have my permission.

See what I’m talking about?!?!

Good. Now remove the beef from the pot and repeat the whole process with the remaining beef chunks.

Add the onions, peppers, celery, and mushrooms to the pot, along with a tablespoon or so of the bacon grease if you feel so inclined.

Let everything sweat for about 10 minutes – the vegetables should be softened and starting to brown.

Add 1lb of ground beef and the minced garlic to the vegetables, and continue cooking until the beef is no longer pink.

Let’s talk about spices for a minute, shall we?  I wanted the chili to have a balance of flavour but not be too hot for my delicate palate, so I decided to go with cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and oregano.

I used 1/2 T of cumin, but if you like it more than me you could probably add up to 1T. I also only added 2T of chili powder because I figured I could always add more later if it needed it, but once again, if you like things spicier feel free to add up to 1/4 c.  A pinch of red pepper flakes and 1t of oregano sealed the deal for me, but if I had had any coriander I would have added a good shake of that too.  Oh, and for those of you that want to kick it up yet another notch – add about 1/2 t of cayenne pepper.  Go ahead, I dare ya!

Add the spices – whatever they may be – to the chili and give it a good stir while you open up the 4 cans that are going to join the party soon.

 

Since a chili really isn’t a chili without tomatoes, add 1 large can each of diced tomatoes and tomato puree.  I used the biggest cans my grocery store had – 28-oz I believe.  I also added 1 can each of red kidney beans and black beans that I drained and rinsed. Oh yes, and I added the cooked beef chunks and bacon back too.

All together now!

Bring it to a boil and then put a lid on it to simmer for an hour or so.  After an hour has elapsed (this is very scientific you know) take the lid off and allow it to simmer for another hour or until it’s at a consistency that you can live with.  Check for seasonings – too spicy? Too mild? Does it need more salt? Now’s the time to take care of business.

Eat your chili plain if you’re a purist, or top with sour cream, cheese, green onions, cilantro, avacado…well, you get the idea. Here goes nothing…

This chili is super flavourful, hearty, and textually interesting.  I really, really like it – I’m just full of surprises aren’t I?!?!  Truth be told, this is one dish where I can’t wait for the leftovers, since chili is supposedly better a few days later.  It’s official – I’ve been converted.

And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

Roast Beef

For some reason, people are always surprised when I tell them I don’t really know how to make something.  While I am definitely more proficient in the kitchen than most people, I’m not too proud (or foolish) to admit that I know how to make anything you could possibly think of, however simple it may be.  Take coffee, for example: I’m great at ordering it, not so great at making it. If you come to my house, I’ll make you tea.  If we go out, you can buy me a latte.  Sounds fair to me, so do we have a deal?

Beef is one of those things that I’m not very experienced with.  I eat more chicken and fish than red meat, and while I enjoy a good steak I don’t have one often…and if I do, it’s usually not prepared by me.  When I do feel like cooking beef, I usually just grab a beef tenderloin at the butcher because I know it will be super tender.  Unfortunately, it is also a pricey cut of meat so I figured learning how to turn a more economical cut (read: cheap) of beef into a tender roast would be a good idea so that I could buy more shoes with the difference.

The last time I made roast beef (not beef tenderloin) I tried a method I had read about whereby you heat the oven up and then turn it off as soon as the beef goes in…the theory is that the residual heat in the oven will cook the beef.  After a few hours, it was ok, but not great.  I’m not sure if it was the cut I used or the method,  so I figured I’d try something else this time in pursuit of the perfect roast beef.  Besides, I probably only cook with beef once every few months, and I forget the specifics in between attempts….so you are about to (visually) participate in one of those times so that next time I feel like beef I can pull up my blog and remember what I did.

Exhibit 1: Baron of beef:

Sidenote: you know how you should always trust your intuition? I went to the butcher with the intention of purchasing a sirloin roast, but walked away with a baron of beef because he said it would be equally good, and they were the same price.  I think I’d go with the sirloin next time because it’s more even in shape and would therefore cook better.

I don’t know for sure though; next time I might buy beef tenderloin.

Exhibit 2: Seasoned beef:

Exhibit 3: Hot oil + cold beef:

Exhibit 4: Seared beef:

Exhibit 5: Hot oven.

Sidenote: “hot” is a relative term here – this time, I thought I’d keep the oven temperature fairly low (250 degrees) so that the connective tissue in the beef had ample time (1 hr) to break down without drying it out.  Since I had already seared the exterior, I wasn’t needing any browning to happen.

Exhibit 6: Temperature time:

Since it had reached 110 degrees, I cranked the oven heat to 500 degrees and continued to let it roast for another 20 minute or so until it reached 130 degrees in the thickest part.

After resting for about 20 minutes (the beef, not me), we had dinner.

Exhibit 7: Roast beef!

And it was good, very good actually.  Sometimes, I impress myself!

Come back next week, we’ll talk about how to make tofu taste good.  Or maybe we’ll talk about cake; I’m on the fence.

Beef Barley Soup

I love soup. It’s the quintessential meal, especially when paired with some great bread and a salad.  While I can appreciate the convenience that canned soup offers, especially on busy days, I can do without the preservatives and sodium that it inevitably contains.  I try to make my own whenever I can so that I have more control over what goes in (and so that it tastes better), and while I love a lot of different types of soup, beef barley is one of my favourites.  It’s hearty, satisfying, easy, and delicious.   Whenever I make soup I try to make a large pot so that there are lots of leftovers for the week ahead, and for the freezer once I get sick of eating the same thing 4 days in a row.  Be warned – this makes a pretty big pot so invite your neighbours over for dinner and clear out your freezer, we’ve got a job to do!

Let’s make some, shall we?

The cast of characters:

~ 3 oz double-smoked bacon

~ 2.5 lbs cubed beef

~ 4 medium onions

~ 7 carrots

~ 7 stalks celery

~ 4 medium turnip

~1.5 c pearl barley

~ 14 c beef stock

~ handful parsley

Cut the bacon into small pieces, and saute in a large pot until the fat has rendered and its nicely browned. Remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Into the same pan, add about 1/3 – 1/2 of the beef cubes and brown them. Don’t crowd the pan – it will prevent the meat from browning properly.  Repeat until all of the beef is browned.  While I was browning the first batch, I thought that coating the remaining meat with a light coating of flour might be a good idea…so I did! You can do that too, if you feel so inclined, or just brown it without the flour.  When all of the beef is browned, remove it and set aside.

Not sure about you, but I find that the double-smoked bacon isn’t nearly as fatty as regular bacon, so I didn’t drain the little fat that was in there before adding the beef.  However, if you’re using regular bacon and find that there’s a lot of fat, drain some off before adding the beef.

Meanwhile, while the beef is browning, chop up all of the veggies. i went for about a 1cm dice for everything, because I wanted to ensure that every bite of soup would have a bit of everything in it.  Once the beef is done and removed, throw all of the veggies into the same pot and stir around, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Starting to smell really good now!

Once the veggies have started to soften a bit, throw in the barley…

…and stir so that everything is mixed together.  You know what this is missing? Garlic. not sure how that could slip past me! Throw in a few minced cloves for good measure – 4 should do the trick.  Yes, much better.  This soup is also missing parsnips, but the grocery store was all out.  Go ahead and add some with the rest of the veggies if you feel so inclined though; they’re a great addition! Cover the pot and let everything get acquainted for about 10 minutes or so.

Then, add the bacon and beef back into the pot…

…stir everything together, and then cover with the beef stock and the bay leaves.

Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for 45 mins or so.

While the soup is simmering, chop some parsley…

Perfect!

So, are you ready to eat yet or what?!?! I know I am. Taste the soup for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as desired.  Remove the bay leaves, and stir in some of the chopped parsley to brighten everything up.  Once the flavour is where you want it, ladle the soup into your bowl ASAP and garnish with additional parsley.  Bon appetit!