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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Smothered Onion and Mushroom Beef Chuck Steak

Beef chuck under blade semi-boneless steak - that's a mouthful, a mouthful of very flavorful meat. Back in the day as they say, a friend and I who were still single young females looking for that perfect mate often went in together on freezer bundles to divvy up between us. It was a way to survive and eat well on a budget. We would also take turns cooking as it's awful just cooking for one person! Well she took the cut of meat that I mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph with the exception I think hers was full bone in and made it into a delicious pot roasted meal. The other main ingredient was a package of onion soup mix and some water. After searing the meat she added the soup mix and some water and slow braised the beef until it was succulent and tender. Winner, winner cheapo dinner back in the day.
Well that cut of beef isn't as inexpensive these days (nothing is, correct?) but this was the sale price at my store: $4.29 per pound for semi boneless. Bone in was $3.99 per pound. Not the greatest bargain in the world but this nearly 2 pound roast for $7.85 is enough for three large portions or four smaller ones.
Add some celery, onions and carrots for flavor and serve over mashed potatoes and you have a complete meal. After searing the meat on both sides you can add it to a crock pot or slow cooker and set it and forget it. That way you are not heating up the kitchen on an already warm day. The addition of spices makes this dish so packed with flavor.

Whenever I read recipes I often wonder about the size of the vegetables so I decided to take a shot of what I was putting in the dish to give you a point of reference.

  • 1 3/4 - 2 lb. semi-boneless chuck steak
  • 1 can Campbell's® Beef broth
  • 1/2 can of water
  • 1 large onion - cut in half moon slices
  • 1 - 10 oz. package sliced crimini mushrooms (or white button mushrooms)
  • 2 carrots - cut in large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks - cut in large chunks
  • 1 large clove garlic - smashed
  • 1 tbsp. parsley
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic + extra for the meat
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • onion powder to taste
  • 1 tbsp. shortening (for searing the meat)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch + 2 tbsp. water (for a slurry) 
  • 1/2 tsp. Gravy Master®  (or kitchen bouquet)

  1. Start out by seasoning your meat on both sides with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion powder.
  2. Get a skillet large enough to sear the meat and heat it over high heat with one tablespoon of shortening added to the pan. When it's hot enough turn the heat to medium high and sear the chuck on both sides for two minutes and transfer to a plate.
  3. To the slow cooker add the can of beef broth and a half a can or so of water, the thyme, granulated garlic and parsley. Quick stir.
  4. Next add in the chopped celery, carrots and the garlic clove.
  5. Add in the steak and the onions and mushrooms over the steak. Lid it and simmer on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours.
  6. When you are ready fish out the steak and put on a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
  7. Drain all the vegetables in a large colander so the juice goes into a pot.
  8. Place the liquid on the stove top and bring to a full boil. Add in 1/2 tsp. gravy master and stir and cook for a minute.
  9. Turn the heat down to medium and add in one half cup sour cream and whisk until fully incorporated.
  10. Make a slurry with cornstarch and water and whisk in while the mixture is boiling . Thicken to your desired thickness. As you can see I left my gravy or "sauce" a little looser.

Tender, juicy and flavor chuck steak is a fairly inexpensive meal. We served our with mashed potatoes. Now the carrots I put in at the beginning were to add flavor to the sauce but you could add extra carrots in and use for the other vegetable on the plate. This smothered chuck steak cost me $13.50 to prepare, feeding max four people for $3.37.
If you find a chuck roast on sale you can use that instead.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs with Creamy Gravy and Vegetables

Inspired by my friends Dan and Scott of Platter Talk, I decided to make some slow cooker Chicken Thighs with Creamy Gravy and Vegetables. The fact that it is Summer and it is hot is good enough reason to pull out your Slow Cooker, a.k.a. Crock Pot so you are not heating up the house with the oven on.
My way of doing this dish though is that I do like to get the skin brown. So a quick searing for a few minutes in a skillet before transferring everything to the slow cooker is the only extra thing you have to do with regard to cooking the dish in the beginning. I use a blend of butter and regular olive oil because I like the flavor and the fact the olive oil helps with the smoking point of the butter.
To make this easy on yourself, brown the chicken the night before, cool it down properly and refrigerate and pull it out the next morning and toss everything together in the pot, set it to low and let it simmer away while you are at work.
The alternative is buy skinless thighs or cut the skin away yourself and nix the browning process all together.
  • 4-6 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half cream
  • 1/2 package frozen baby peas
  • 1/2 package frozen pearl onions
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms
  • 4 large carrots - peeled and sliced on the diagonal in 2 inch lengths
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced garlic or jar garlic is fine
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  1. Wash your chicken under cold water. Dry thoroughly on paper towels.
  2. In a small bowl combine the granulated garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper. Season both sides of the chicken thighs.
  3. In a skillet over medium to medium high heat, melt the butter and olive oil. When the butter starts to bubble add in the thighs skin side down. Brown the skin for about 3-4 minutes. Lift out of the pan and set on a waiting plate.
  4. Add the soup, the chicken broth and half and half to the crock pot and stir well.
  5. Then add in the dried thyme and minced garlic and mix well. Add in the chicken thighs and the carrots and stir.
  6. Cover. Set the temperature to low and simmer for 4-8 hours.
  7. When you come home, toss in the peas and cook for about 5 minutes more.
Serve over broad egg noodles for a complete meal.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quick and Easy: French Vanilla Cookies

I love easy dessert recipes. And starting off with a cake mix makes these cookies fast and easy if you need a dessert to come together quickly.
  • 1 box French Vanilla Cake Mix ( I used Betty Crocker®)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 stick melted butter
  1. In a microwave melt the butter or use a sauce pan on top of the stove. Let it cool down a bit.
  2. In a large bowl add the cake mix, 2 eggs, vanilla and sugar and cooled down butter. Use a hand held mixer or wooden spoon and mix until incorporated well.
  3. Use a scoop and place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. I used a 1 1/2" scoop.
  4. In a preheated 350° oven bake for about 10-15 minutes until the center comes out clean when inserted with a toothpick.
While the dough was on a tray but husband said, but they are not chocolate. God forbid I don't make chocolate! So my mind raced and I thought, well at the end when they come out of the oven I'll use the chocolate fudge sauce and sprinkle some over them hoping to satisfy the chocolate craving.

Well I wish I could say I invited some children in the kitchen to decorate the cookies with the fudge sauce, but no it was all me. I never professed to have certain baking skills and talents and these show that fact - however they are delicious and so inexpensive. There ended up to be 22 cookies for $3.30 total cost. So get in the kitchen with the kids and make a batch of cookies from a cake mix. You can swap out the cake mix for any flavor you like.