Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

They Call It The Winter Blues


Barbecue Pulled Beef Lettuce Cups

Winter has me in a funk. It has been so cold and I feel like I only see the sun about once a week. I have no motivation. I don’t feel like doing my schoolwork. I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning. I don’t feel like going to workout. I guess you could say I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I’m trying not to allow myself to be swallowed up by this grumpy weather-induced state, but it is extremely difficult.

winter blues

Although I have been doing pretty well with my food choices these past six months, I noticed that I was definitely eating better in the summer and fall. I also cooked more. I find it harder and harder with each passing cloudy, cold day to get up early and make my breakfast and pack my lunch. It’s harder to resist those treats that inevitably show up at meetings or say no to the office birthday cake. It’s harder to stick to the dinner menu I plan for us each week.

sorry

Isn’t it weird how the weather can have such a huge impact on a person’s mood? In the winter I feel like I am walking through life in a fog…doing what is only absolutely necessary (in layman’s terms…I become lazy!). Cooking is necessary…. and even though I may not cook as much as I should, it’s during times like these I like to turn to my slow cooker.

bad mood

Slow cooker meals are great because they are typically quick and easy with both preparation and clean up. I tend to avoid those slow cooker recipes I see that involve a lot of work or separate pans. This pretty much defeats the purpose, in my opinion. (Why do you need to sear the beef first? Is there really any difference in the taste? I don’t think so.) I also like slow cooker meals because you can make enough to ensure leftovers…thus you won’t have to order out with your coworkers everyday!

Barbecue Pulled BeefI made this paleo recipe the other night with a few modifications. If you check out the original it is one of those recipes that I usually wouldn’t consider making due to all of the extra work outside of the slow cooker. I ended up making a more flavorful, simplified version. I have to say it was really good! When I made it I used flank steak because that was all I had on hand, but you can pretty much use any cut of beef you like (the original calls for brisket). It will work well with cheaper cuts of meat because of the long cooking time and the wonderful flavor of the sauce and spices. It does have some non-paleo ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, but you can easily find a recipe to make a paleo version. I used this one. I recommend tasting it after about six hours to make sure the seasoning is how you want it. You don’t want to wait until the very end to add more seasoning because you want the flavors to really be incorporated into the meat. You can serve it in lettuce cups, on a salad, by itself or on a roll.

Barbecue Pulled Beef

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Beef

Modified from FedandFit.com

2-3 pounds boneless beef roast (chuck or round is ok), or beef brisket, flank steak, etc.

1 small onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic

½ tsp. black pepper

¼-1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/4 cup beef stock

½ cup organic tomato sauce

3 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. organic mustard

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. liquid smoke

1 tbsp. chili powder

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Lettuce, iceberg or bib

  • Place beef, onion and garlic in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the beef stock, tomato sauce, honey, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, chili powder, and apple cider vinegar. Pour sauce over the meat in the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  • After about 6 hours, taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to your preference. At this time, also remove the meat from the slow cooker allow to cool for about 10 minutes and shred, using 2 forks.
  • Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and finish cooking.
  • Serve in lettuce cups or as desired.

Don’t forget to “Like” me on Facebook!!

1 Comment »

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


It’s been 10 months since my last post. Very. Very. Sad. At least this time there are some excuses. The first being the adoption of our cute and crazy dog Gemma. That happened all the way back in March, but the adjustment phase for me was a bit long! Don’t worry I will dedicate an entire post to that heartwarming story in the next few posts. Let’s just say I’ve never owned a pet and being a first-time “dog-mom” was not easy some days.

photo 11          photo 10

The next thing that took me away from the blog was starting graduate school. In May I decided to go for it and so far have completed two semesters. I am currently in my third semester. I never imagined working full-time and taking two grad classes would be so hard. There are days when I absolutely feel I have no life other than go to work come home and do school work….weekends are now for school work as well. But I think I’m getting better with my time management and have dramatically decreased my procrastinating ways, which has allowed time for other things.

It is strange, though, what actually made me sit down and type this post. It is due to the loss of my kitchen! Recently we were hit hard by the infamous “Polar Vortex” that has been sweeping the U.S. and we had the misfortune of a frozen pipe that burst. When you wake up and start to walk down the hall and hear what sounds like rain coming from downstairs…you know what you are about to find is not going to be good! Water was coming out of the ceiling, down through the light fixtures, down the walls, all in the cabinets and drawers! It’s been a mess, but we are thankfully moving forward, however we have to get a whole new kitchen which has left me without for almost two weeks now and will probably be without for at least another week or two.

photo 3photo 1

Hubby set me up with a makeshift work station and so we haven’t had to eat out every night, but I feel like the only food I can make is the mediocre stuff I used to make before I knew how to cook. Although that is not entirely true…I’ve managed to come up with a few great meals thanks to my Nu-Wave Oven, Nu-Wave PIC, and my crockpot.

photo 4

But it’s just not the same. I’ve come to find cooking as something that makes me feel happy and de-stressed. I love coming home on a Friday and making a great dinner for Hubs and me. It is just what I need after a long week. (Although let me be clear, our number of take-out nights has drastically increased thanks to grad school!) I like being able to use fresh herbs and ingredients and trying new recipes…something that is just not possible right now.

photo 8

So to all of you out there who’ve had to suffer through this ridiculous cold today’s recipe is for a very delicious and hearty chilli. A few things with this chilli…although I used one recipe as my base I made a lot of changes. I also poured over the internet to learn about chilli. I definitely recommend adding your own touches, changing the amount of spices and tailoring it to your own preferences. Also, based on my (limited) research I would recommend using beer as the original recipe calls for. I am certain this will give a unique dimension to the flavor. Unfortunately we do not drink beer so I had none and didn’t see the point in buying any just for this batch of chilli so I substituted beef stock. It was still delicious but I’m definitely going to try it next time…even if it means asking for a bottle from a neighbor!

photo 6

Also this makes a huge batch…my slow cooker is smaller, only 3.5 quarts, and this recipe filled it all the way to the top. I was actually worried that it wouldn’t all fit in there, but luckily it did. If you have the same size slow cooker then you may want to cut the recipe down or just make this in a large stock pot on the stove (or get a bigger slow cooker!) or if you’re a risk taker just hold your breath as you add all the ingredients and hope it all fits!  

Hearty Slow Cooker Chilli

Source: Burnt Carrots

Ingredients: 

1 lb beef stew meat, cubed

2 lb ground beef

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, diced

1 green pepper diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles 

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

12 oz dark beer or 12 oz. beef stock

1 (14.5 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (or substitute diced canned tomatoes if you like chunks!)

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut beef cubes into smaller pieces. I cut each cube into fourths.
  2. Brown the beef stew meat and add to slow cooker.
  3. Brown the ground beef. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  4. Add the salt and pepper to the meat in the slow cooker. Then add the beans.
  5. Heat olive oil in the pan. Add diced onions, green peppers, and brown sugar. Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onions, keep heat on medium low. Add garlic towards the end of cooking. Once the onion mixture is done, add the chiles, chili powder, coriander, and cumin.
  6. Add onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the cocoa powder and stir well. Add tomatoes and beer. Stir. Cook chilli on low 8-10 hours.
  7. Serve piping hot with a side of cornbread.

photo 9

 

1 Comment »

Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker


Wow, I can’t believe how much I’ve slacked off on my blogging! First I hadn’t been feeling well…even having to call out sick from work, which I haven’t done in over 2 years!! Then life just got busy with a party for Hubby’s Motor Cycle Club & a girl’s getaway to Atlantic City…the Blog had to take a back seat! Anyway, despite my illness, fatigue and busy schedule, I still managed to cook a few good meals and even snap a picture here and there.

So what’s the best kind of meal to make when you don’t feel like cooking?? A Crockpot /slow cooker meal, of course!  My inspiration for this recipe is from the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummand. The original recipe, Penne with Chicken Thighs, call for the thighs to be cooked in the oven for 1 ½ hours, so I figured why not just throw it in the Crockpot. Be careful with how long you cook this in the slow cooker, though. Even with the low heat of a slow cooker chicken can and will get dried out if left in too long. So, I wouldn’t recommend this as one of those that you start in the morning so it’s done when you return home. It will only take about 2 hours on high (or low if your crockpot runs a little hot…which mine does.) After 2-3 hours use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken has been cooked through. Remember cooking times are approximate and you can never be sure if meat is cooked thoroughly without taking the temperature. Serve the chicken thighs with any pasta that you like or have on hand. I recommend using my Marina Sauce, but you can use jar spaghetti/marinara if you want to.

Crockpot Chicken Thighs

4 bone-in chicken thighs

1 tbsp. olive oil

Salt & Pepper, to taste

1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Marinara Sauce

¼ cup parmesan cheese

  1. Season the chicken thighs with the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken thighs on both sides (about 3-5 minutes per side).
  3. Transfer to the slow cooker and add the marinara sauce. Cook the chicken thighs in the slow cooker for 2 hours on high or 3-4 hours on low (this depends solely on your slow cooker).
  4. When chicken is cooked through serve over cooked pasta of your choice and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

 

2 Comments »

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches


 

There is nothing like the smell of something wonderful cooking in the crockpot all day. There is also nothing like throwing some meat and ingredients into the crockpot and coming home to a cooked meal.

French Dip is probably one of my favorite foods to order at a diner. Since I’m trying to cut back on eating out I decided to try it at home. This recipe is great for cheap cuts of beef since it cooks all day. The meat comes out extremely tender and super flavorful. I picked up some round eye steak since a whole roast was a little too much for just me and Hubby (although I could’ve bought a small roast and cut it down, but quite frankly I didn’t feel like going through all that work of slicing it and freezing it into smaller portions). I used two steaks which weighed a total of just about 2 lbs. but I didn’t change any of the amounts of the ingredients for the rest of the recipe.  Make sure you use low-sodium soy sauce or your meat and juice will be way too salty. To me, Crockpot meals are all about being quick and convenient so I just used dried herbs and spices but you could always substitute fresh since fresh is always better; just remember that you will need to increase the amount (rule of thumb: use three times the amount of fresh for dried). You can slice the meat thin or shred it. I prefer to shred it…there’s no particular reason for this, I just like it that way. Use “Mandy’s Marvelous Sandwich Rolls”, cutting in half and adding some garlic butter to each side and toasting before adding the meat.

 

French Dip Sandwiches in the Crockpot (Makes 12 servings)

1 4 lb. boneless beef roast

½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 cup beef stock or low-sodium beef broth

1 bay leaf

¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. garlic powder

12 Sandwich Rolls

12 slices provolone cheese (optional)

 

  1. Trim beef of all visible fat and place in Crockpot.
  2. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, beef stock, bay leaf, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder.
  3. Pour mixture over beef and cook on Low Heat for 8-10 hours (cook longer for thicker cuts of meat).  If desired, in the last hour of cooking, take out the meat, shred and return to Crockpot to allow flavors to soak through.
  4. Remove meat from broth and reserve broth for dipping.
  5. Distribute meat on rolls and top with cheese, if desired. Serve with small individual dishes of broth for dipping.
2 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: