While digging around in my blog vault, I came across this unpublished post. Although it's from seven years ago (February 2013), and I now have an exciting and fulfilling job, during these uncertain days, it's a reminder that things can always get better and comfort food always helps.
Although there are times when I don't feel like coming up with something to make, once I get myself into the kitchen and begin working, I suddenly feel that I have regained some sense of control over my life again. Even when I feel like there is no hope of finding a job, of making things work, at least I have the confidence that I can produce a good meal, that is enjoyable not only to me but to the people I'm cooking it for as well.
That's exactly how I felt last Friday after a long week of trying to figure out my life. The kids were home on school vacation so between refereeing their fights and getting them out the door to the library, public skating, to a friend's house to play, and finishing Ava's science project, it wasn't really an ideal time to come up with a new fabulous career idea. I was frustrated with myself and at the end of my rope with the kids. I took a break and watched some mindless t.v. before getting out of my pajamas and getting on the with day.
"Slow Cooker" week on Rachael Ray....whoo-hoo! as I lay on my bed, half looking out the window at the dreary weather, half watching the show, the creative wheels in my head began to creak into motion. I came up with the brilliant idea to use the Crock-Pot to make a hearty stew. At least this was a mission I could motivate myself to get behind. Some good basic ingredients plus heat almost always yield the results I want, something delicious to eat and share with others.
It's funny I never realized that the kitchen has been my place of comfort for so many years. In college, after my dearest friend died, I cooked chili and bread from scratch every week and ate all of the meals that I prepared for myself at the tiny kitchen table by the window in our basement apartment that I shared with two other girls. Later, while living in Boston on a (frayed) shoe string budget, most nights I made it home from working in the mall after 8:00pm but I always managed to whip up some eggs with salsa and cheddar cheese, my own version of comfort food in a neat little omelet. Now especially when I feel I have no control over what life has to offer, I turn to the stove. Baking chocolate chip cookies, kneading bread, chopping vegetables, these are things that restore my sense of stability and help me to relax. When nothing appears to be going my way, at least the oven still works, the sugar tastes sweet and a hot meal reminds me that tomorrow is another day.
Rainy Day Beef Stew
2 lbs. stew beef, cut into 1 inch pieces
salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons flour
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 cup beef stock
1 cup red wine
3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 of a small can)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Dry meat with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Divide meat into 3 batches. Toss one batch of meat into skillet and sear on all sides. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour. Pour beef and juices into Crock-Pot. Repeat with remaining two batches. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet and cook carrots for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place carrots in Crock-Pot. Cook celery and onions until softened, season with salt and pepper and add to Crock-Pot. Add 1-2 teaspoons oil to skillet and cook mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place mushrooms in Crock-Pot. Place pan back on heat and add beef broth and wine, stirring and scraping the pan to loosen any cooked bits from the bottom. Clean pan with this process and pour entire contents into Crock-Pot. Add tomato paste, thyme and mustard and stir entire contest of Crock-Pot to distribute ingredients. Cook stew on high for 3 hours, then on low for one hour until meat is tender. Alternately, cook stew on low for 8 hours. Once cooking is complete, to thicken juices, mix one tablespoon cornstarch with one tablespoon cool water and add to stew. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add vinegar, stir and cook for 5 more minutes before serving over mashed potatoes or with a slice of bread.