Tasty Tuesday #4: Pot Roast

Have I mentioned that I LOVE this time of year?  Cuz I do.

In the Summer, it sucks.  I live here in California where we have 1 season- Summer.  Sure, we might refer to it as different things throughout the year- Fall, Spring, whatever- but the fact of the matter is, we have ONE season.

Well, except at certain times during “Winter”.  Sometimes, when the Summer has been particularly horrific, Winter will come on with a vengence- I think, because it helps keep a balance.  But I’m ok with that.  In the Summertime, you can only take off so much clothing to get cool before you’re naked (and that doesn’t work very well when you’re at a park… which is what you DO in the Summer.  You go places.).

But in the Winter- ahhh.  Its lovely.  Once Summer’s flame dies down, and you start to feel that nip in the air, you can pile on as many hats, sweaters, mittens, scarves, etc. to keep warm.

And you can eat tasty warm food.  Like soups, stews, and roasts.

This week’s Tasty Tuesday is one of my FAVORITE Winter time meals.  Well, actually, it works well for any time of the year, but it just fits so well during those two days when Summer has decided to fool us into believing its gone until next year; all the while, its lying in wait until our guard is down and we’ve bundled up the kids in toasty outfits… and then pops out, springing 90 degree temps on us again.

But, I digress.  Here’s a meal for those few cool days (for us poor SoCal natives).  And for the rest of you who know what Winter REALLY is, hope this warms you to your toes.

Pot Roast

1 3-4lb. boneless chuck roast

1 tsp steak seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp. veg. oil

2 med. onions, cut into wedges

4-5 med. potatoes, quartered (I put 4 or 5, but honestly, when it comes to the veg, you can do as little or as much as you want- within reason.)

4-5 med. carrots, thick chunks

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 can mushroom soup

1/4 cup red wine (what kind?  Whatever you’d like to drink.  I found some 2 buck chuck that tasted good and it worked well, so do what pleases you.  You can replace the wine with beef broth if you just really don’t like wine, but it honestly tastes better with it, and you won’t taste a WINE flavor, just a rich flavor.)

2 tbsp. Worchestershire

1 tbsp. beef bouillon

3/4 cup water + extra to keep roast saucy

Add steak seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to a small bowl; rub onto the roast.

Put all the veg and the bay leaves in a roasting pan big enough for everything.

Heat oil in large skillet and brown the roast on all sides.  MAKE SURE the skillet is big enough and hot enough.  If the skillet is too small, it could just steam the roast, and if the skillet isn’t hot enough, the roast won’t develop a crust- and a crust is good.  Brown is tasty.  We like brown.

Once BROWNED, put the roast on top of the veg.

Add onions and garlic to the pan the roast had browned in to absorb the juices (1-2 minutes).  Pour over the roast.

Combine soup, wine (or broth), worchestershire, and beef bouillon  into a bowl.  Mix well and pour over the roast.  Add water to roasting pan.

Cover pan with foil and roast for 3-3 1/2 hours, or until tender.

*Check every hour or so to see if the roast needs more liquid.  If so, add 1/2 cup of water.

Once finished, discard bay leaves and let roast sit for 15 minutes or so to allow the juices to redistribute.

Enjoy!

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Tasty Tuesday #3: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Oh, how I love this time of year.

There’s something inspiring about this time of year- inspiration for doing good things for others; inspiration for family togetherness ideas; and -one of MY favorites- recipe inspirations!

One of my favorite restaurants is The Cheesecake Factory, and EVERY year, I wait with anticipation for their Pumpkin Cheesecake.  Yes, I know- I’m wasting a little bit of my kiddos’ college funds every time I spend the $8+ on a single slice of this amazing dessert, but it just always seemed so worth it… until I made it myself.  Now, I’m trying REALLY hard to figure out why I would ever do such a thing.  Here’s the recipe and let me know if you agree:

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crust

about 8 CINNAMON graham crackers, broken up

1/4 cup pecans

5 tbsp butter, melted

1/4  cup sugar

cooking spray

Filling

24 oz cream cheese

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla

5 large eggs

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (or fresh pumpkin- recipe to follow)

1 cup sour cream

Directions

***8 HOURS before you plan on making this, let the cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs sit out.  This will ensure that they are the proper temp.***

Preheat oven to 350 degrees(F).  Coat a 9 in. springform pan with cooking spray.

Combine the graham crackers, butter, sugar, and pecans in a food processor and pulse until they’re fine crumbs.  If you don’t have a food processor, try to crush the crackers and pecans as fine as possible before mixing with the butter and sugar.

Pat the mixture into the bottom and partway up the sides of the pan.  If you have a measuring cup nearby, it works really well for helping to spread things evenly across the bottom and up the sides.  Bake for 7-10 minutes and let cool.  Once cool, wrap the pan in a sheet of 18 in. foil (the pan will be placed in a water bath, so this will keep the water out of your cheesecake).

Reduce oven temp to 300-325 (depending on whether or not your oven is as wacked out as mine is).

Mix the cream cheese and sugar until its smooth.  Scrape the bowl and add the flour; mix until combined.  Add vanilla; mix until combined.  And one egg at a time, beating after each until combined.  Add spices; mix til combined.  Add sour cream; mix til combined.  Scrape the bowl to ensure everything is mixed together well, add pumpkin and -you got it- mix until combined.

Pour filling into the cooled crust.

Place pan in a 9×13 baking pan; pour water in til it reaches half way up the side of the cake pan.  Place in the center of the oven and do NOT open the oven for the first hour.  When the timer goes off, check to see that the cheesecake is doing ok (it should be starting to turn a golden brown on top) and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  The cake will still be a bit wobbly, but it will set with time.  Cool and then refrigerate at least overnight.

Yes- overnight.  You can smell it; you can look at it- but DON’T touch it for roughly 8 hours.

This cheesecake isn’t hard, but its time consuming when you take into account the wait times… but its SO worth it.

When you’re ready to serve, do your best to not eat it straight out of the pan.  Garnish with whipped cream and candied pecans… and a fork.  Or a spoon.

Or, if you’re like me, wait until everyone is gone and just pick up a slice and eat it.

Pumpkin Puree

Like everything else, the only reason most people buy canned puree is for the convenience, but -if you encountered the same issue I had (where the stores looked at you like you were weird for wanting raw pumpkin)- this recipe really isn’t all that hard either.

You’ll need:

a baking pumpkin (if your store is -once again- odd like mine, you can use a butternut squash -which is what most canned purees are made from anyways- or your kid’s jack ‘o’ lantern… if it isn’t too large.  The larger the pumpkin, the more fibrous and less sweet it will be.  You don’t want one TOO SMALL, though- you need to be able to make at least 15 oz of puree for the cheesecake.)  And butter.  You’ll need a bit ‘o’ melted butter.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the outside of the pumpkin to get off most of the visible dirt.  You won’t be eating the outside, but the last thing you want is to cut into the pumpkin and get dirt into the inside.

Cut the pumpkin into quarters and scrape out all the gushy stuff.  Yes, that’s a technical term.  Save the seeds, though- you can always make roasted pumpkin seeds later.

Coat the fleshy part of the pumpkin with the butter and place face side down on a baking sheet that has been wrapped with foil.

Place in the oven for 45 minutes-1 hour.  Check on it after 30 minutes just to see where its at, though (because, once again, if your oven is wacked like mine, the last thing you want is to ruin your pumpkin).  After 45 minutes, if a knife can slide in EXTREMELY easily, its done.  Let it cool, and then scrape out the insides.  Mash with a potato masher or  -my suggestion?- a food processor or a ricer.  Use a cheese cloth (or a tea towel you don’t care about) and try to get as much of the liquid out as possible.

Tada!  You’re done.  You can use this for the cheesecake or -as I found out- very nutritious baby food. (The Mini-Master will attest that it was muy bueno).  And just think- you’ll never again have to watch your kiddos’ jack ‘o’ lanterns rotting away… just turn them into puree Nov. 1st!

Birthday Parties and You- Part 1: Keeping up with the Jones’

Its October.

Mini-Master’s 1st birthday isn’t for almost 3 months.

However, on the hallowed ground of birthday land, I’ve broken the first cardinal rule:

  • Start planning for the first birthday the day you conceive.

People have asked me what we’re doing for the big 0-1, but sometimes (not always, mind you, but SOMEtimes) I think its so they can brag about what they did for their kids’ first or to inform me of what they DO have planned.

In a way, I think all this worry about first birthdays is kind of funny.  Its not like they now have the ability to get their driver’s licenses, the ability to vote, to rent a car, drink, move out…  First birthday’s aren’t for the kids.  You don’t hear babies down in the sandbox comparing first b-days and chastising each other because of a lack of bouncers, bands, and

*shudder*

clowns.

Nope, 1st birthdays are for the parents, family, and friends- to celebrate the day their lives suddenly became governed by another ruler.  Yay for the first year of dictatorship!

So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that people are shocked that I don’t have anything planned.  Its not that I don’t care, though- its that I’m overwhelmed.

Suddenly, its high school all over again, and I’m the only one without a Dooney and Burke bag.  How do you tell people that you’re planning on making the cake when they ordered theirs from an upscale bakery 6 months ago?  How do you tell people you don’t have a theme when they’ve not only decided on a theme, but found “just the cutest little invitations that so completely match the decor”?

My WEDDING was back yard pot luck style, but now I’m starting to question whether or not I’m insane for not picking a venue with full catering service.

I should probably know by now that none of this matters.  I’ve been here twice before.  Cameron isn’t in therapy because he has regrets over a less than extravagant first birthday bash, and Jacob hasn’t mentioned that he feels something is missing from his life because we didn’t party like its 1999 at his.

But when I go to parties where bouncers big and small grace the lawns; where cakes have monogrammed faces of the birthday kid; where every detail has been covered- down to what the guests are wearing… well, I start to feel like a bad parent and woefully inadequate.

True, I shouldn’t have to try and keep up with all the birthday expectations, but its still quite tempting to do so when everyone is telling the host or hostess,”Such a great party- I especially loved the elephant ride and the petting zoo!”  I know bouncers don’t buy happiness, but I find it to be a completely worthwhile attempt.

So, here’s my goal: a great 1st birthday for the Mini-Master.  I don’t recommend “following the crowd” for everyone, but if you choose to, here are some sites I’ll be checking out.  If you have some suggestions or pictures of YOUR greatest birthday bashes, then let me know- asoto0703 (at) gmail (dot) com.  I’d love to see/ hear about them.  Maybe I’ll show off your idea on here or my Facebook site… giving you ALL the credit, of course.

So, that’s it.  I’ll post periodic updates on Operation Rockin’ 1st and, hopefully, when this finally takes place, I’ll have an amazing post with pictures.

Wish me luck!