Friday, February 29, 2008

Generous Unload of Groceries

I went to my friend's place after she successfully received an undamaged computer screen as replacement for a defective one after an unacceptably extensive amount of time. A detailed review of her experience and the stores involved will be posted on my Great Finds and Not So Great Finds blog. Returning to my point, my friend's mother gave me an overly generous portion of groceries. It worked out great for both of us. After I asked her for the recipe of a delicious shrimp and melon dish, she offered me other foods that she thought I'd like and foods her family didn't normally touch. She was relieved and grateful that someone was interested in the food, knowing that it will no longer meet its uneaten, decaying fate. And I'm ecstatic by the amount of money I've saved and abundant food. She was selective in what she gave me to ensure that it didn't take anything away from her family, so it worked out well for both of us. Steamed pork buns, edamame beans, Chinese candy, Monterey Jack cheese, and a sweet, dessert ingredient used in scrambled eggs are my favorites.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Slow Cooker Beef with Root Vegetables

I bought a slow cooker with the belief that it'll make cooking much easier. I consider myself a neglectful cook. I prefer oven cooking because it allows me to do other things while the food is being cooked, whereas stovetop cooking requires my full, undivided attention. I like to be productive with my time and do as many things as I can. Because I don't have enough counter space, my slow cooker is tucked away. And considering how the preparation for the slow cooker (slicing and dicing) is similar to oven cooking, I don't use my slow cooker as often as I had originally anticipated. I expected to do a few days worth of slicing and dicing and put everything together early into the day, so the food would be ready for me when I come home. Or turn it on before going to bed and waking up to a nice home cooked meal. I never realized that in the morning, I don't make time to use the slow cooker, no matter how much time is available to me. At night, I have different taste preferences, so I make something else. I'm most interested in using my slow cooker in the afternoon, but I end up staying awake until it finishes cooking, throwing my sleep pattern off. After neglecting my slow cooker for some time, my boyfriend expressed an interest to use it. So I went online to search for a recipe.

I came across some promising choices but chose the Slow Cooker Beef with Root Vegetables. I got this recipe from the Food Network, but it was altered. I omitted onions, substituted red potatoes with Russets, couldn't get my hands on rhutabaga, and used baby carrots instead, according to what looked right, not what the recipe specified. The recipe didn't suggest or instruct adding water, but my boyfriend thought it would be a good idea. He suspected that without the water, the meat would dry out. But, more importantly, he thought that the recipe would be unsuccessful, and he felt uncomfortable by the idea of having something cook over a long period of time without any liquid. I imagine that's why the tomato sauce, a liquid form, was present, but he didn't think that would be adequate. He was open to following the recipe, but I wanted to try his method. What he said made sense, and at worst, the recipe would've been watered down, but everything would have stayed moist. You can always thicken something up, but trying to rehydrate a dry roast is more infeasible. I'm willing to correct the recipe, but I didn't want to risk coming home to a failed one.

It was easy to make, maintenance free, and flavorful. The meat just easily peeled apart. It was moist and tender. The vegetables were soft and transformed into a more delicate flavor. While I'm not put off by tomato sauce, I'm not the biggest fan, either. I find the flavor to be bland and yet dominant, at times. I love sweets, but I usually prefer sweet flavors to not be present in meat dishes. I was pleasantly surprised that the tomato sauce was soft in flavor and the brown sugar didn't leave any residual sweet flavors.

Slow Cooker Beef with Root Vegetables

3 Russet potatoes, chopped
A quarter bag of baby carrots
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 3-lb. chuck roast
Salt and pepper to taste
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Arrange potatoes, carrots, and turnips in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season beef all over with salt and black pepper. Place roast on top of vegetables. Whisk together tomato sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, mustard powder, and garlic powder. Pour mixture over beef. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours or or on high for 8 hours. I cooked it on 8 hours, but I kept it on warm until the next day. That's why the meat appears a little dry, but it was actually quite tender.