A Foodie Blog Post

I made the most awesome soup last night. The house still smells good from all the yummy things I put in it. And ever since the fiasco that was my attempt at Borscht (you can read about that here), I had to redeem myself. I saw this picture on Pinterest

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I clicked my way over to thecafesucrefarine.com, made my shopping list and when I had everything I needed, I slaved over a hot stove to make it. (At least, that’s how I tell the story to my husband and kids!) For the original recipe, check out the awesome cooking blogger Chris at thecafesucrefarine.com. I, however, made some slight changes. Some by accident and some because it’s what I had in the cupboard.

Beef Bourguignon Soup – Tamara Style

Ingredients:
4 thick cut slices applewood smoked bacon, approximately 4 ounces 
2 tablespoons cornstarch 
1 ½ teaspoons salt 
½ teaspoon black pepper 
2 pounds stew beef meat, cut in 1/2-inch dice 
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice 
3 medium cloves garlic, minced 
6 ounces tomato paste 
2 cups dry red wine, a little more than ½ of a 750ml bottle 
6 cups beef stock 
1 large bay leaf
4 tablespoons pesto, prepared or homemade
2 teaspoons brown sugar 
8 medium carrots, peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces 
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces 
2 tablespoons butter 
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced 
season with thyme (I used about a tablespoon of dried thyme)

Instructions:
1. Cook bacon over medium low heat until golden brown and crisp, but not hard. Do not overcook. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove half of the bacon drippings and set aside. Since the original recipe didn’t mention anything about using the actual bacon, I handed out one piece to each member of the family and happily munched mine while doing step 3.

2. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add beef and toss with your hands to coat. 

3. In a large Dutch oven or heavy duty pot, heat bacon fat over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add ½ of the beef and spread out to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook, undisturbed until the beef is golden brown on the underside, about 5-7 minutes. With a large metal spatula, flip beef to uncooked side and cook until second side is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a clean plate. Add the rest of the bacon fat to pot. Heat until hot, add remaining beef and repeat cooking process as directed above. I added my diced onion and garlic at this point. I don’t like the raw flavor of onions and wanted to cook them in some of that bacon fat.

4. Once second batch of beef is browned, return first half of beef to pan. Add tomato paste and 1 of cup wine. Bring to a boil then lower heat to maintain a low simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally to loosen brown bits from bottom of pan. Simmer until most of the wine is absorbed, about 20 minutes, then add the remainder of the wine and simmer until almost completely absorbed. I wasn’t sure what “absorbed” would look like, so I went with, “the mixture isn’t brothy-looking anymore.”

5. Add the beef stock, thyme, bay leaf, pesto and brown sugar and return to a boil. Reduce to a low constant simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour or until beef is tender. Remove bay leaf. (I forgot to remove the bay leaf and pulled it off my spoon mid-slurp when no one was looking.)

6. Add carrots and potatoes, cover loosely and cook till tender, about 20-25 more minutes. (The original recipe has you adding 2 stalks of diced celery here too, but I hate celery and it didn’t make it into my soup.)

7. While vegetables are cooking, melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When butter is bubbly, add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Add mushrooms to soup and stir. If soup is too thick add a bit more stock or water. Taste and add salt and black pepper, if needed. Serve in bowls with warm crusty bread on the side.

I don’t usually add salt to recipes that have stock, but everyone has their taste preferences. I used a pretty cheap bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon because I’m, well, cheap. I don’t think it made a difference, but then again, I’m not a wine person so my palate isn’t very refined in that area. The original recipe called for 6 tablespoons of tomato paste, but I accidentally used the entire 6 oz can because tbsp looks like oz to me. And maybe I need to get my eyes checked. I served the soup with a crusty artisan bread I got in the bakery section of Hannaford’s that was made with rosemary and olive oil. It was pretty aromatic and the kids weren’t huge fans of it, but that just left more for me and Mike. The bread dipped in the broth of this soup took my taste buds to heaven!

There was so much soup left over that we are having it for dinner again tonight. I even have half a loaf of the artisan bread left. My housework is done, there are no dishes in my sink (this is your cue to gasp in shock), the laundry is folded and dinner is already made. I’ve got an hour before the bus comes and my afternoon chaos begins. I think I’m going to kick back and enjoy a book and a hot cup of coffee. Cheers!

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The Lazy Days of Freezing-my-ass-off Winter

I don’t know how I survived the last 6 years without school days. I love school days. I also love being a stay at home mom. Do I love it because I get to spend all day with my kids, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and pretending not to notice the dust bunnies crouched in the corner ready to eat my cat? No, not really. To be completely honest, I love it because I can be lazy. 

Yes, lazy. I can spend all day in a sweatshirt I’ve had for 15 years that has a big hole in the armpit. I can pair it with one of my 2 pairs of black yoga pants (which I consider part of my mom uniform) and out of control wild hair. And no one judges. Except maybe the mailman who, during the Christmas season, was delivering at least one package a week. But he’s super old, so who cares if he’s laughing at me in my comfortable ratty clothes, no bra, and crazy hair? I don’t.

I can read a book, play Candy Crush and Farm Heroes Saga (a shout out to Aunt Deb for hooking me on these games) and talk on the phone in between the loads of laundry, loading the dishwasher, sweeping up cat litter, and picking up dirty little socks that have been jammed up under pieces of furniture so that I can’t wash them. Sometimes I can even *gasp* take a nap! Life is good folks. Life is good.

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

On the first day of Christmas, father winter gave to me… a headache and a chest cold.

On the second day of Christmas, father winter gave to me… a son with a stomach bug.

I could go on, but hey, I’ll spare you. All in all, just a typical Christmas vacation. Everyone got sick, we ate too much pizza and cake (because that’s what my kids want on their birthdays) and spent lots of quality time with the family. My children each got a year older. I had the luxury of taking not one, but two naps on Christmas day. It snowed. And it snowed some more. I played lots of Candy Crush and am currently obsessed with making it past level 147, which I’ve been stuck on for, like, two weeks. 

Since this was my first Christmas break with a child in school, Monday was my first first day back to school after a long break. It sucked. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get the kids back into our weekday routine. I gave myself an extra 10 minutes, but I should have given myself an extra 20. We had about 4 different power struggles. My driveway was an ice rink (no word of a lie, it’s treacherous) and it was pouring rain. I fell on the ice, soaking myself in the process and dropped my daughter off at school as the tardy bell was ringing. (As were about 100 other parents.) Soaking wet. Dripping, soggy, soaking frigging wet. Caylie made me get out of the car to walk her to the door. I don’t even want to know what I looked like!

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Along with the rest of the country, it is really really cold in Maine. Yesterday morning, it was -15. I carefully walked to the garage, but the door was frozen shut. I gave the door a few shoulder bangs, like you see in the movies, and it worked. But the garage door was frozen to the cement under it and when I hit the button to open the garage door, my automatic door opener popped off its track. I ended up walking outside, swearing at the top of my lungs, and kicked the garage door all along the base of the door. My neighbors probably think I’m nuts. One of them was watching me from his driveway. But hey, I’ve got a kid to get to school on time and I don’t have time to deal with frozen garage doors. I pulled and pulled the door until it finally broke free and we successfully made it to school on time. Whew!

I hope all of you had a good holiday break and a happy New Year!