13 Best Foods to Keep in Your Freezer, According to Nutritionists

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13 Best Foods to Keep in Your Freezer, According to Nutritionists

By Christine Byrne |

When it comes to healthy staple ingredients, fresh isn’t always best. These frozen foods deliver key nutrients—and help you save time and money.

freezer foodsImagining delicious, nutritious meals is one thing. Prepping said meals? Well, that’s another story entirely. Somewhere between buying the right ingredients and carving out enough time to chop, measure, season, and actually cook is where those good intentions slip away.

“Time is one of the biggest factors that influences our ability to make healthy decisions,” says Emily Kyle, R.D.N., owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester, New York. “I love anything that takes the time barrier away.”

Enter freezer staples. While there’s no way to eliminate meal prep completely, having the right mix of frozen ingredients all ready to go is key for anyone who’s both hungry and busy.

First, food keeps far longer in the freezer than it does in the fridge or at room temperature. That means you can buy things in bulk, or do one big grocery trip to pick up staples for a whole month and stick them in the freezer for later. Fewer trips to the store means a lot of saved time and energy.

Second, many foods in the freezer section come already cut, cooked, or both. At the very least, it means you don’t have to waste time washing and chopping, or cleaning a knife and cutting board. At best, it means all that stands between you and dinner is a few minutes in the microwave, or a little more time in a pan or oven.

Not sure where to start when it comes to freezer staples? We asked Kyle and other nutrition experts about the ingredients they always keep in stock.

The Meal Builders

You’ll always have the foundation for a quick, healthy meal with these frozen options that deliver whole grains and lean protein.

Cooked Grains

Your favorite whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and barley, can now be found already prepared in the freezer section. Or you can cook a big batch of dry grains one day, freeze individual servings, and thaw them in the microwave whenever you want them.

“All you have to do is microwave a bag before enjoying your favorite quinoa bowl or easy dinner side dish,” Kyle says.

These whole grains, which contain all the parts and nutritional value of the original kernel, help you meet your daily fiber quota. For women 51 and older, that’s 21 grams of fiber per day, and for men, that’s 30 grams, according to the National Academy of Medicine. Hitting these targets helps keep your digestive system humming and cuts your risk for heart disease. Bonus: Whole grains are also one of the best carbs for weight loss.

Fish Fillets

Fish is a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like salmon and trout also pack a particular type of omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which helps safeguard your brain health. In fact, some studies show higher consumption of omega-3 foods is linked to a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least eight ounces of seafood, including fish, each week. But fish can be expensive, and its life in the refrigerator is short. Frozen, individually packaged fillets are often less expensive, and they cut the possibility of spoilage and waste.

“Pull out frozen fish in the morning, leave it in the fridge to defrost, then cook it when you get home at the end of the day,” says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness in New York. “I like to sauté or panfry fish, and add it into a soup, salad, stir-fry, or noodle dish.”

You can also make a delicious dinner with just three ingredients: salmon, Brussel sprouts, and lemon.

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Ground Meat or Lentils

Buy ground chicken, turkey, or beef in bulk, and divide it into smaller portions before freezing in airtight containers or bags. When you want to use a portion, transfer it from freezer to fridge in the morning, and it’ll be thawed by evening.

“When it’s completely thawed, prepare it as you like, and throw it on top of pasta dishes, salads, or stir-fries,” Rumsey says.

Ground meat is often overlooked in nutrition headlines, but these foods are prime sources of protein, a nutrient your body needs to repair cells, build muscle, and even fight infection. Watching your calorie and saturated fat intake? Look for lean ground meats.

Not a meat eater? Frozen lentils are terrific protein-packed vegetables that are incredibly easy to prep and can be used in place of meat in many dishes.

Meat or Veggie Burgers

“These are really helpful for quick weekday meals, as they take just a few minutes to defrost in a pan over medium heat,” Rumsey says. “They’re perfect to throw into a sandwich, or to break apart and toss with a salad to add a protein.”

Another idea: You can crumble the burgers up and mix them into tomato sauce to serve over pasta.

It’s easy to find protein-packed veggie burgers in the freezer section of your local store. Two popular options among dietitians: MorningStar Farms Grillers Original Veggie Burgers and Beyond Meat Beyond Burger. But you can also freeze your own homemade bean or turkey burgers—just cook a few extra the next time you’re firing up the grill.

The Nutrition Powerhouses

Struggle to hit your daily requirement of fruits and vegetables? These frozen options make it so much easier to get the produce—and nutrients—you need.

Bananas

Have you ever bought a bunch of bananas only to watch them slowly turn to black on your kitchen counter? Don’t let those ripe bananas go to waste! If you spot them turning brown, peel and freeze them before they turn totally black.

“You can toss them in the blender for a smoothie, or put them on top of oatmeal or yogurt,” Rumsey says. You can also let them thaw a little bit to use in recipes that call for mashed banana, like banana breads and muffins. Or slice and top them with a small dollop of dark chocolate spread before freezing for an easy grab-and-go treat.

Besides being versatile, bananas are a great source of fiber and potassium, which is an electrolyte that helps your heart beat regularly. They’re also easy to digest—a plus for anyone with stomach ailments.

Berries

“We know that raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are among the healthiest foods for us, but fresh berries can be pricey, especially when they’re not in season,” Kyle says. “Thankfully, frozen berries are available year-round and are often more affordable than fresh.”

Frozen at the peak of freshness, these berries still contain all of the important antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals their fresh counterparts offer. In fact, because fresh berries may lose some of their nutrients during transportation or on the shelf, frozen berries may be healthier.

Your heart, for one, may benefit. Women who ate blueberries and strawberries three or more times a week had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack, compared with women who only ate the berries once a month or less, according to a large study in Circulation. Researchers credit flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that helps keep blood vessels open.

Kyle likes to stir frozen berries into yogurt, oatmeal, and pancake batter, or blend them into smoothies. Defrosted, they also liven up salads and salsas.

Cauliflower

“One of the most versatile vegetables, frozen cauliflower can be steamed, pureed, and more,” Kyle says. You can even put it into the food processor or use a grater to make cauliflower rice, which you can substitute for regular rice.

Her favorite trick? Roasting cauliflower straight from the bag, using just a little olive oil and some spices.

You can feel good about this timesaver, Kyle adds, because eating more cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli have been associated with lower risk for heart disease and stroke. They’re also thought to help tame inflammation.

Green Peas

Stocking up on frozen peas is a no-brainer, says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., a culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.

“Fresh peas often come with their shells still on, so they require quite a bit of prep work before you even start cooking,” she says. “Plus, frozen peas add a pop of bright green color to dishes, and they require basically no cooking.”

Try stirring them into pasta or rice dishes, like pasta primavera, pesto gnocchi, or lemony risotto. Just add the frozen peas during the last couple of minutes of cooking, and you’ve got an incredibly easy one-pot meal.

On the nutrition front, with just a half-cup serving of green peas, you’ll get four grams of protein and almost the same amount of fiber, plus a host of vitamins and minerals. And all for just 62 calories.

Prunes

Tart yet sweet, prunes—also known as dried plums—are one of Newgent’s go-to flavorings for drinks. Skip the ice cubes, and drop a few frozen wedges into a glass of iced tea or sparkling water.

Newgent also likes them for blended beverages. “I make a cocoa smoothie that has gut- and bone-health benefits thanks to frozen prunes, which I use instead of ice cubes,” she says. “Just blend milk, frozen prunes, and unsweetened cocoa powder, strain, and enjoy.”

The gut-health benefits come from three grams of fiber in just five prune wedges. And a daily serving of prunes may help slow bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women with low bone density, according to a study in Osteoporosis International.

Vegetable Blends

“Precut frozen vegetables can be added to any meal and only require a few minutes to steam on the stove or roast in the oven,” Rumsey says.

Buying vegetable blends is a great way to add flavor and nutrient variety without having to think about it. “I love to toss them into a stir-fry, grain bowl, pasta dish, or put them on top of pizza or a fresh salad,” she adds. “They’re especially useful in the winter months when fewer fresh veggies are in season.”

The Finishing Touches

With these foods in your freezer, you’ll be ready to make an appetizer, side, or meal topping in minutes.

Bread

“Keeping bread in the freezer means it lasts longer,” Rumsey says. That’s especially great news if you love buying bread or bagels from a local bakery. These fresh breads don’t have the preservatives that most store-bought sliced breads have, so they’ll go stale pretty quick at room temperature.

If you’re freezing whole loaves, be sure to slice them first. “You can take slices of bread right from the freezer and stick them in a toaster,” Rumsey says. “There’s no need to defrost first.”

Newgent also suggests freezing whole grain pita rounds to use in a pinch as a pizza crust or appetizer for last-minute entertaining. “They take up little space and thaw quickly,” she says. “Cut a pita into wedges, and serve with hummus. Or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and thyme, and then bake into pita chips to serve with salads or to pair with a fancy cheese platter.”

Hash Browns

It’s easy to find ready-to-cook hash browns in the freezer section, and they really come in handy when you’re in need of a starchy side to a meal—breakfast or dinner. Take them right out of the freezer, and heat them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil until they’re crispy.

Nuts

“Nuts have plenty of unsaturated healthy fats, which can help protect against heart disease,” Newgent says. “But you’ll lose some of the power of those good fats if you keep them at room temperature for months and months. That’s why they’re ideal for the freezer.”

Because they’re small and high in fat, nuts thaw pretty quickly—about 15 minutes at room temperature, or less than a minute in a pan or the microwave. Sprinkle a small handful of nuts on everything from salads to rice pilaf for a boost of nutrition, crunch, and flavor.

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Free weights or Machine

What, exercise! If you eat,  you have to burn off those calories.

Summer is slowing down and I am finding time for Jonesing Food once again.

For those that don’t know me, I am and old fart that takes pictures of homes for a living.

Free Weights Versus Strength Machines: Which Is Best?

By K. Aleisha Fetters |

Both have unique advantages for your unique body—and your unique fitness goals.

free weights vs. strength machinesExercisers have strong opinions about free weights and strength machines—specifically, which they think is best. But the truth is one approach isn’t the best 100 percent of the time.

Free weights, including dumbbells and kettlebells, allow you to move freely forward and backward, side to side, and up and down, explains Ryan Campbell, a training specialist at Anytime Fitness of Southern Wisconsin.

Strength machines, however, are typically fixed to an axis, meaning your body can only move in one predetermined path.

Which you choose comes down to this fundamental difference.

Let’s take a closer look at which is best in different circumstances, so you get the best results every time.

Round #1: Which Is Better for Beginners?

Machines are approachable, particularly for people who are new to strength training. You need to know how to set them up, but most machines include instructions on them.

“You just hop on and you go,” says Susan Niebergall, C.P.T., a personal trainer and strength coach. “It’s in most people’s ‘safety zone,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

For newbies, she explains, getting in a basic workout can be as simple as choosing three machines and performing a circuit of three rounds. “That alone can help you leave the gym feeling good, more confident in yourself, and ready to take on more in future workouts,” she says.

With free weights, on the other hand, understanding form is crucial. “You need to learn good technique and how to properly brace yourself,” Niebergall says.

A great way to learn good form: Sign up for a few one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer to go over fundamental free-weight movements, including squats, lunges, presses, and pulls.

If you’re in a SilverSneakers class, your instructor will happily check your form. If you’re exercising by yourself at the gym, don’t be shy—ask one of the trainers walking around to quickly take a look at your form. At home, using your phone to video yourself exercising can be a great way to check out your form from all angles.

Winner: Strength machines

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Round #2: Which Is Better for Working Around an Injury?

Because machines allow you to move only in one specific path, they often target one or two muscles, letting the rest chill out. That can be good and bad.

Focusing on strengthening one certain muscle can be beneficial following injury or when addressing muscle imbalances. For instance, if you’re relearning how to properly activate your hamstrings or trying to shore up any weaknesses in them, machines will help you do that, Campbell says.

Machines are also great for letting you work around cranky hips, knees, or shoulders, Niebergall explains. You can strengthen the muscles that support them without overly stressing that joint.

The downside: When you zero in on just one or two muscles, you’re likely only developing one function of those muscles. A leg press machine, for example, strengthens your glutes so they can help you go from sitting to standing. But it won’t do much for the part of the glutes that helps you move from side to side.

Free weights, though, can adapt to your exact needs. Because there is no predetermined path with free weights, there’s more than one way to perform the move, Campbell says.

Let’s take squats as an example. Sure, there’s a difference between good and not-so-good form, but some people’s hips may do better with squats in a narrow stance or a wide stance.

For added resistance, some people may prefer the goblet squat, which require you to hold a dumbbell vertically at your chest, with both hands on one end of the dumbbell. But if that hurts your wrists, you can hold the dumbbell horizontally at your chest, with one hand on each end of the dumbbell.

To find your most comfortable position, you can simply adjust your feet or hands. The same holds true for other free-weight exercises. They are all modifiable to fit your exact body and goals, and don’t force your unique joints to move in ways that are painful.

Winner: Free weights

Round #3: Which Provides More Total-Body Benefits?

When you’re taking the stairs, getting up from the couch, or playing on the floor with your grandkids, there’s no axis supporting you. You are moving in all three dimensions, just like with free weights. Free-weight exercises train you how to coordinate various movements at once and treat your body as one functional unit.

“Over the long term, that is crucial for functional health, strength, and injury prevention,” Niebergall says. And since free weights get you on your feet and fighting gravity, they are also better at building bone density and strength, she adds.

However, for most people, the biggest benefit to moving multiple joints at once—and in real-life ways—is that it’s just so darn effective. “Most people are lucky if they are able to work out three to four hours per week,” Campbell says. “So, when you work out, you need to train the most musculature possible.”

Of course, you can mix and match strength machines so you’re hitting all the major muscle groups. But remember that these machines are training your muscles in isolation—you’re not coaxing your muscles to worth together in unison.

Winner: Free weights

The Bottom Line on the Great Debate

For overall strength, function, and health, free weights will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

But if you have a favorite strength machine, by all means keep it up. Just aim to mix in some free weights.

Also, if you’re new to strength training or want to focus on a given muscle, strength machines can be great tools for helping you reach your goals.

In the end, the best workout programs take advantage of both free weights and strength machines. Find your best combination with these resources:

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Leg of Lamb Sous Vide

The holidays? Bah Humbug!! I am so tired of the same old Turkey & another spiral cut ham just makes me want to take a vacation. Prime Rib? Okay, but not this year.

Actually this is how I felt at Thanksgiving as I was wandering around the meat department of Costco. When what to my wondering eyes did appear? A nice big boneless leg of lamb.

Ah, lamb, a little bit gamey and a big bit tasty. Home went the lamb and then I discovered it was just the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner. So, Porterhouse steaks won out. Off to the freezer marched the limping lamb (that’s what happens when the bone is gone).

Time has passed, the Morlocks have risen and fallen and another 25 or so days have passed. It’s time to plan Christmas dinner.

A couple of the kids and a grandchild will be present so we decide this will be a simple dinner. Not days in planning, endless hours in preparation and weeks of cleanup to look forward to.

Now, where did I put the leg of lamb?

Now I enjoy a little lamb with my garlic. Here I cut about 4 cloves into wedges.

Then I attack the beast with my steely knife, even although it was already dead.

I stabbed it many times and in each slit I stuffed a wedge of garlic.

Then I applied the rub. I used dry mustard powder, salt, pepper, rosemary and some sage. I ground it up and patted the lamb down with it.

Ah, how to roast it I ask?  I’m not going to roast it says I.  I am going to throw it in a pot of hot water for many, many hours.

Souse Vide to the rescue. That handy little water heater that maintains and almost exact temperature for a very long time. I tried to Sous Vide artichokes once and it was a disaster. The bags opened, the chokes floated and I ended up pressure cooking the mess.

I decided to double bag my lamb.  If you have a Food-Saver or other vacuum freezer toy you know that you insert bag till it trips the sealer into operation. So, after I sealed the bags, I trimmed down close to the seal and sealed once more, giving me 2 seals on the same bag.

The 5 1/2 pound leg fit perfectly in a 12 quart food service tub (or use any pot big enough to hold said lamb). Attach Sous Vide and add water to cover and circulate. A small cooler would also work well.

16 hours later and a water temp of 135 degrees (medium rare) the bagged lamb is removed and is ugly (wet rub all over it & not a nice roasted look at all).

Remove the elastic web and use the juices from the cooked lamb to rinse off the rub. I had about 1 cup of juice so I added another cup of balsamic vinegar, strained and reduced the sauce.

Now I take the time to check out what the better half has been doing. Francene found this great idea of cooking (or I should say roasting) sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts together. A little tossing with olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper then roasted at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (or when tender and tasty). They were yummy. Even our Jack Russell & a guest Chihuahua gave their approval.

Retie the lamb, pour our balsamic vinegar-meat juice glaze over the lamb and roast for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

Time to serve. The meat doesn’t need to rest so it can be carved upon removing from the oven and gives us a perfect medium rare from edge to edge with an attractive crust.

Stormy, our daughter in law, added a great cornbread dressing and cabbage with bacon side to round out our Christmas Eve dinner. Clean up wasn’t much more that washing a few dishes and letting the dish washer clean 2 baking sheets and one cooling rack. It doesn’t get any better than this.


Re Heat, Don’t Re Cook

We have tried so many different ways to reheat a good piece of meat and yet not overcook it.

A couple of Christmases ago Francene gave me a Panini pan and Panini lid as a present. The difference between a ribbed pan and a Panini pan is the inside of the pan and lid has also been coated.

The secret is to reheat the meat the same way you would cook a Panini sandwich. You preheat the cast iron until it starts to smoke, then turn the heat off, lay the meat in the pan, and place the lid on top of the meat.

The cast iron will give out heat quickly, and the meat will be warmed but not raised above the original temperature; 129 degrees in this example. Let meat sit between the cast iron pan and lid for 4 to 5 minutes.

As you can see here, we still have a rare steak, as the crust has been toasted and dried out (the absorbed moisture from the meat while in storage has been removed).


Red Beans and Rice, Cajun Style

Cajun Red Beans and Rice, once a Sunday stable. Sunday was wash day, and chores day. It was easy to put on a pot of beans and throw in the ham bone from Saturday’s dinner. Red Beans and Rice is a meal, not a side dish and goes very well with a nice green salad.

You can use red kidney beans or red beans.  I prefer red beans. I also make a double batch and freeze a couple of quarts for a surprise meal down the road.

Here are 2 pounds of red beans that have soaked overnight. The soaking softens the beans as well as removing the sugars that cause flatulence.

The drawback to the traditional soaking is the loss of flavor.

If you choose to not presoak your beans, be prepared to add more liquid during the cook and to extend the cooking time.

Either way, sort through the beans to remove all floaters, and foreign stuff like twigs, sand etc.

The next step is to saute the onions, garlic and green onions.

One of the fastest ways to ruin the edge of your knife is to scrape the cutting board, here I use the back of the blade, maintaining the cutting edge.

The recipe I am following came from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks dating back to the 1970’s. It should also be noted that this is a Cajun, not a Creole recipe.  Think of Cajun as country and Creole as city.

The recipe is located at the bottom

What prompted me to make this for dinner was a stop for a snack in Hubbard, Oregon, home of Voget Meats.  They make some of the best smoked sausages and smoked pork chops that have ever graced my table. In their showcase where these ham hocks and they they left with me, along with my beef stick.

about 20 minutes before the beans are finished, remove the hocks and let cool down, Strip off the meat and return the ham to the pot.

We served this with white rice and sprinkled a little green onion on top.

Earlier I mentioned that this was Cajun, not Creole. If it was prepared in a New Orleans restaurant then it would have been a fancier version, as there might be Andouilli Sausage, more peppers or additional hot, hot sauce.

Instead of the onions, the Holy Trinity would have been the base. Basil, sage, parsley would have added an additional layer of flavor. The list of changes could go on.

I feel if you want to really experience great Louisiana cooking you should start in the country and progress to the city.  I love it all, well maybe not Okra.

 

RED BEANS AND RICE
Serves 4-6

6 cups water
1 pound dried small red beans or 1 pound dried red kidney beans
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped scallions, including 3-inches of the green tops, divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 cups water
1 (1 pound) smoked ham hock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 cups freshly cooked long-grained rice (for serving)

In a heavy 3-4 quart saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans and boil briskly, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can soak the beans over night in water.) In either case, drain and rinse the beans in a sieve set over a large bowl. Set the beans aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy 4 or 5 quart casserole or stockpot. When the foam begins to subside, add 1/2 cup of the scallions, the onions and the garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Stir in the beans and 4 cups water, the ham hocks, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are quite soft. Check the pot from time to time and, if the beans seem dry, add up to 1 cup more water, a few tablespoons at a time. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, stir frequently and mash some of the softest beans against the side of the pan to form a thick sauce for the remaining beans.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Cut the meat away from the bones and remove and discard the skin, fat and gristle. Cut the meat into 1/4-inch dice and return it to the beans.

Taste the beans for seasoning and serve at once, directly from a large heated tureen. Place the rice and remaining 1/2 cup of scallions in separate bowls and present them with the beans.

Note: In Louisiana, red beans and rice are traditionally made with a leftover ham bone and you may substitute a ham bone for the ham hocks in this recipe. Without trimming off the meat, cut the bone into 2 or 3 inch pieces with a hacksaw, so that the marrow inside the pieces will melt and flavor the beans. Add the pieces of bone to the soaked beans and water and pour in enough additional water to cover then completely. When the beans are cooked, remove the bones from the pot, trim off and dice the meat, and return it to the beans. Discard the bones.


Flat Iron Steak crusted with Drunken Hazelnuts

Flat Iron or Butler’s cut is an incredibly flavorful steak.  It can be a little on the tough side as it may have a gristly fascia membrane that can be removed.

Flat Iron steak is not the same as a flank steak.

Here I am using a 48 blade meat tenderizer. The stainless blades are very sharp and leave very clean cuts into the meat. I am not a fan of pounding meat to tenderize it. Pounding is best used to flatten a piece of meat, generally a chicken breast.

Here you can see the small cuts

I cut one direction on side A  and the opposite direction on side B.

For a coating, I will be using Hazelnuts that have been soaked for a week in vodka. The Hazelnuts can also be used in baking cookies, Christmas cake etc..

Why do I have drunken Hazelnuts? Well I made a Hazelnut liqueur and didn’t want to throw away $50 worth of Hazelnuts.

The coating consists of 1/2 cup nuts and 1/2 cup of our homemade seasoned croutons.

Egg wash the steak and then pat the Hazelnut and crouton mixture onto and into the steak.

I am a huge fan of cast iron and use it whenever I can. Here the coating is browned and then the cast iron skillet and steak are placed into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until an internal temperature of 129 degrees has been reached.

Let rest next to a good red wine like our pictured Syrah. This doesn’t do anything to the steak but does help wet the appetites.

Slice across the grain and serve.

Served here with caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli and our bottle of Syrah.


Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew – Part 2

In part 1 we selected our beef, cut it into cubes, seasoned and then marinated it with a whole bottle of Chianti

After marinating the beef, I caramelized 2 yellow onions and 4 cloves of garlic. I wanted to extract the sugars and condense them. This is a sweet dish using only the natural sugars that exists in the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Burner was set to medium.

Remember my sun dried tomatoes? I chopped up about 3/4 cup of them and tossed in. Use a can of tomato paste otherwise.

I then added a pint of our canned tomatoes and Basil.

Transfer onions, tomatoes etc to a small mixing bowl and transfer about 25% of the drained beef into the Dutch oven and turn the heat to high. Transfer browned beef to another mixing bowl and repeat ’til all the beef has been seared.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the reserved Chianti to deglaze the Dutch oven. Scrape all the great flavors from the bottom and sides.

The beef was salt and peppered when I marinated it so the only seasoning to add now will be the herbs. I used a tablespoon of our Italian mix.

Place Dutch Oven in a 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours, check tenderness, remove when beef is tender. Different cuts take different times. This is one of those dishes that you prefer a stew cut because the longer the cook, the better the melding of flavors.

This is a stew cooked to the consistency  of a good chili, not thinned

Ready to serve? If you made our tomato and spinach pasta, this would be an excellent time to use it.  The added flavors of the pasta along side the Chianti and tomato beef go great together.

Of course a second bottle of Chianti would also go well with this dish.

Enjoy.

Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew – Part 1

This is more Greek than Italian,. Maybe if Odysseus had been lured by the wonderful smell of this stew he would not have had himself bound to the mast but would have succumbed to the Sirens. He may have never returned to Penelope.

I am a fan of good stew beef but sometimes a bargain comes along and you have to make do :-).

I lucked out and found on sale Choice Sirloin Petite steaks for $2.99 a pound. Of course you need to expect the hidden fat but that just adds to the flavor.

Assemble your tools, good cutting block, beef, a good slicer and of course a bottle of Chianti. Medium price works great. If you are thirsty, have a beer instead.

Cut steaks into 1 inch cubes trimming excess fat at the same time.

After cutting, weigh the remaining beef. I had 4 pounds 10 ounces so I separated out 2 pounds and froze for a good Astoria Stew.

 

I like to weight the trash so I know what to expect in the future. I also like to weight the meat being used as it will help me determine the amount of seasoning and herbs used.

Trash pickup was 3 hours ago, bag the garbage to keep the rodents away. After all there will be 7 days to attract them.

Now I use a gallon zip lock bag to marinate the stew in. Pour in the entire 750 ml bottle of Chianti or any other red blend you like, add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Double bag and refrigerate for several hours. I prefer overnight.

Most of the time a recipe will call for 1/2 to 1 cup of red wine. We use an entire 750 ml bottle here.  Think of this as a Red Wine Stew instead of a Stew with Red Wine. There isn’t any comparison between the two. I would have still used the whole bottle if this was a normal 2lbs of beef stew.

Please go to Part 2 for the actual assembly of the stew.

 

Good nutrition and good food for Fido

As some of you know, we lost a member of the family to cancer about 3 weeks ago. Max was our Golden Retriever and died at the age of 9.

It was a surprise!  He started getting very picky about his kibble, as he would just walk away after 2/3 of a bag or so of a brand or flavor. In the end, he would eat a doctored up bowl (could be gravy, pieces of left over steak etc,) only to turn his nose up on it the second feeding.

The cancer was discovered in a lymph node on his rear leg, and at that point in time he was given 2 to 3 months to live and that was accurate.

I have lost pets to old age and careless drivers, but not to disease. This prompted me to start doing some investigating.

After reading many articles regarding pet health, the bottom line always seemed to come back to nutrition and exercise. Pretty much the same as us.

The more I looked into pet nutrition, I realized that we had just taken the easy route,  we believed what was on the labels.

We  were also guilty of the old wives’ tales, kibble over canned, canned over kibble.  Probably from the wives of kibble companies and canned dog food companies. From what I gathered, you would be doing well to mix the two.

Max has left us, but Molly, our Jack Russell is still here. Her diet has already been changed. She is being fed supplements and vitamins, not just some fish oil for her coat.

She is also getting table scraps, or I should say, select table scraps. Remember that old wives’ tale, People food is bad for dogs. It’s a lie. Probably started by dog food manufacturers.

The left overs, or scraps are saved and supplement her regular meals, they are not treats from the table.

But some people foods are bad, like onions and garlic are bad, and apples are bad because of the high sugar content. But carrots and green vegetables are good. Just cook at little more for Fido and add to their kibble, NO, don’t add, but substitute a portion of their kibble.

Above all, don’t take my word for it, I’m not a nutritionist, but there are knowledgeable people on the web willing to share a wealth of research and not have a product they are trying to sell.

Here are a couple of sites to go to.

dog food ten scary truths

Dog Food Adviser

Kibble, chews and all that green stuff will not clean your dog’s teeth, Francene has brushed Max’s and Molly’s teeth on a weekly basis for the past year. We should have been brushing their teeth from the beginning, but we are learning as we go.

Do I think the dog food was the cause of Max’s cancer?  Well, I sure think it contributed to it. I do NOT believe our dogs’ nutritional needs were met because we believed the drivel written on the packaging.

Please do not believe that the high cost of designer foods are a guarantee of quality. There isn’t government guidelines that need to be followed and there isn’t any mandatory testing required.

There are bags and cans of good quality, medium quality and down right bad food available. Do some research, don’t rely on the labels and pay attention to your pet, you don’t need a vet to tell you something is wrong with Fido, they will do that themselves, you need the vet to tell you what is wrong.

Bottom line is if you love Fido, then take control of their diet instead of being at the mercy of the marketing departments.

Finally, why do we think they will be healthy and strong without exercise. Lying around eating bon bons doesn’t work for us, so why will it work for them?

 

Cranberry and Orange Scones to compliment that first cup of Coffee

Francene and I were picking up a few items at our local market and there was a package of Cranberry-Orange Scones on the marked down table. They looked great and we hadn’t eaten so they looked even better.

A summit conference was held in the aisle and we decided that nice bowl of soup when we got home would be a better choice, and then we could make our own scones.

Now the problem with making your own baked goods is that there is only the 2 of us, Molly, the Jack Russell doesn’t count here.

We found a few good recipes, and the one that sounded the best was from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  We especially liked the comments section where one Einstein said the recipe makes too many scones (16), so make the recipe, shape, mold and otherwise prepare everything for baking, then freeze most of them to be baked at a later date.

Duh, why couldn’t I have thought of that.

Ina Garten’s recipe is here.

When I bake I always rely on a recipe. To me, cooking is an art form and baking is a science. This means there is less room for error and substitutions, so I generally get everything out and measured before I start. It is better to stop and go to the store before the mixing begins.

Scones have a heavy yet flaky texture, and this is due more to the way the butter is added and mixed then most anything else.

The butter needs to be chilled and cubed, then mixed at slow speed until the butter has partially blended. There should be pea sized chunks in the dry mixture.

When you add the wet mixture, do so on the quicker side and mix at the lowest speed until just blended. Do not over mix or you will end up with biscuits instead of scones.

In addition to Ina’s recipe I increased the cranberry’s another 1/2 cup and added 1/2 cup coarse chopped pecans. I didn’t have a nice 3 inch cutter so I shaped three 7 inch circles and one 8 inch circle, then divided them into 4ths.

I then did an egg wash with the orange juice added and sprinkled some raw sugar on top so the glaze would occur during baking.

Before baking, I wrapped three of the rounds and put in the freezer, we sure didn’t need 16 scones beckoning to us at one time.

After baking at 400 degree for probably 22 minutes, the round was removed from the oven and left to cool, the 4 sections then pulled apart.

The rest of the rounds will be separated before baking as the first method left the center of the round or the end of each scone 3/4 baked. Not raw dough, but not evenly baked either.

The final verdict:  Easier to buy at the store, but taste better when you do them yourself. They where great with the first cup of coffee.