admin / September 29, 2014

It’s Meatless Monday-Tofu and Mushroom Stew with Herbed Mashed Potatoes

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About this time of the year I begin craving soups and stews. However, I’ve often found vegetarian stews to be lacking in flavor and substance. My goal for this recipe was to have a thick flavor packed gravy that would cling to a comfort food like mashed potatoes. The key is three ingredients and one cooking technique. Slow cooking of the vegetables and then tomato paste, soy and Worcestershire sauce…and yes there is a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce.

I used already cubed tofu that you can buy just about anywhere now but regular block tofu works too, just cut it into bite size cubes after it’s been through the usual tofu ritual. Freeze it, defrost it, drain it, boil it for about five minutes, let it cool, drain and press all the water from it, and then cube it.

The mashed potatoes are a breeze to make and if you use non-dairy cream cheese and milk, this whole meal becomes vegan.

For the Stew

1 14 ounce package extra-firm tofu (see note above for preparation)

1 cup sliced mushrooms

3 carrots, washed, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch pieces

1 onion, chopped

1 cup frozen sliced green beans

3 cups vegetable stock

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Salt and pepper

Oil for cooking

For the Potatoes

4 large potatoes (about one pound…Yukon Golds are especially good)

4 ounce package cream cheese

¼ cup milk

2 tablespoon dried herbs, use whatever you like best, parsley, chives, dill, thyme etc.

Salt and pepper

For the Stew-

In a large saucepan and over medium high heat, heat about two tablespoons of oil and then add the tofu cubes. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and saute until they are slightly golden brown.

Add the carrots, onion, and mushrooms…you might need some more oil or you can use some of the stock. Saute for about 2-3 minutes and add a little more salt and pepper, and the thyme.

Add the tomato paste, soy and Worcestershire sauces. Stir well and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Slowly add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add the frozen green beans and cook until the liquid is reduced by half and you’re left with a thick gravy.

For the potatoes

Peel and cube the potatoes and cook them in boiling salted water until tender.

Drain, return to the saucepan you cooked them in. Don’t turn on the heat but put the pan back on the stove and let the heat dry them out while you mash them.

Add the cream cheese and once it’s melted add the herbs and then the milk.

Taste test and see if you need salt and pepper.

Serve immediately with the stew.

Serves 4

 

admin / February 23, 2011

Forget the steak… five reasons to love stews

 When the temperature dips there’s sometimes nothing better to eat than a bowl of hearty stew. It’s comfort food at its very best and some of my favorite food memories from childhood are indulging in a stew my grandmother had cooked. Meat, vegetables and a savory liquid that are simmered together for hours on top of the stove to take away the chill of a winter’s day. It’s not surprising that just about every cuisine in the world has its own version. However, the best thing about a stew is, apart from the fact it tastes so good, it’s the budget smart cook’s best friend.

Easy on the Cook

Stews are one of the easiest of dishes to prepare and there are just a few simple rules to follow. I know lots of people say you can skip browning the meat before  you add it to the saucepan or casserole dish but my grandmother taught me it’s the essential part of making a delicious stew. My grandma would put flour, salt and pepper onto a plate and toss the cubes of meat in the mix. I’ve found a freezer bag with the same mixture is quicker, clean up is easier and you can make sure every single piece of meat gets coated. Then all you to need to do is saute the meat in a pan.Don’t rush this part and be tempted to add all the meat at the same time because if you overcrowd the pan the meat doesn’t brown as well and that’s the whole point of going to this extra trouble. Turn the meat, with spoons and not a fork as you want to seal in the juices and flavor, until it’s browned on each side.

Easy on the Budget
Here’s one of the best things about stew, you can make it with cheaper cuts of meat. In fact, less expensive cuts of meat work the best with this slow cooking process. Plus, while the stew simmers the meat soaks up the liquid, making it even more tender. And another money saving trick is to use cheaper things like thighs and drumsticks when you’re making a stew featuring chicken. The bones add lots of flavor. And as most of us make stews during the colder months, root vegetables, which make ideal partners for the meat, are usually at their cheapest during fall and winter. And if you use your own homemade stock, that’s basically free, but even if you resort to store bought ones, it’s not going to put a too big a dent in your budget.

One Pot Cooking at its Best
I can’t think of an easier meal than a stew, everything cooking together in one pot. Apart from preparing the meat and chopping the vegetables, and of course checking everything now and then, it’s a snap to put together. Although my preference is to serve a stew with mashed potatoes, I sometimes add the potatoes or dumplings to the stew for the ultimate one pot meal. And if you want to cheat even further or want a ready cooked meal when you come home from work, opt for cooking your stew in a slow cooker.

Freezers Love Them
Stews are some of the best dishes to put in the freezer. You can make up two batches, eat one and freeze the other. Or, and I know leftovers aren’t a common thing when stew is served, but you can easily freeze what’s left. Talk about the ultimate cook once, eat twice dish.

Add Your Own Spin
Even if you’ve got a favorite recipe for stew you can add your own touches and family favorites to a stew. Nothing can basically go wrong with adding a bit more of this or that. If you want to stretch your budget even further you get add more vegetables and cut down on the meat, or you can add things like pulses. My grandmother always added pearl barley to beef stew. And when it comes to seasonings once again you’re in charge. One thing I never leave out of a stew is a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.

The Quicker Cooking Version of My Grandmother’s Beef Stew

Grandma never followed a specific recipe but this is one I remember from watching her put a stew together. Her version took most of the day but I’ve found this one can be put together in under two hours.

1/4 cup flour

Good pinch of salt and pepper

2 tablespoons oil

2 medium sized onions, chopped into bite size pieces

3 carrots, chopped into bite size pieces

3 cups beef stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Bouquet garni (she’d use cheesecloth and add a couple of bay leaves and sprigs of thyme and parsley)

1 pound of skirt or flank steak cut into small chunks

1 tablespooon of Worchestershire sauce

1/4 pearl barley (optional)

Mix the salt and pepper with the flour in a freezer bag and add the meat, shake it so everything gets coated. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the meat until it’s lightly browned, remove from the saucepan and set aside while you prepare the rest of the stew.

Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until they’re softened.

Add the stock and whisk in the tomato paste.

Add the bouquet garni and then the carrots and the meat and if using it, the pearl barley.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for gently  1 1/2-2 hours, checking on it occasionally.

I’ve also found this works well as a casserole in the oven too…if not better than the stove top version.

Serves 4-6.

Grandma would serve it with cabbage and mashed potatoes. I also like roasted parsnips too.

admin / October 8, 2009

Why A Budget Smart Cook Loves Stews

When the temperature dips there’s nothing better to eat than a bowl of hearty stew. It’s comfort food at its very best. Meat, vegetables and a savory liquid that are simmered together for hours on top of the stove to create a meal to take away the chill of a fall or winter day. It’s not too surprising that just about every cuisine in the world has its own version. But the best thing about a stew is, apart from the fact it tastes so good, it’s the budget smart cook’s best friend and here’s why.

Great Cooking Skills Not Required
Stews are one of the easiest of dishes to prepare and there are just a few simple rules to follow. I know lots of people say you can skip browning the meat before you add it to the saucepan, but I’ve always got the best results by doing just that. I take a freezer bag and add flour, some salt and pepper and mix everything together. I then add the cubes of meat to the bag and shake until everything’s coated well. Next I heat oil in a skillet over a fairly high heat and add about five cubes of meat at a time. Don’t rush this part and be tempted to add all the meat at the same time because if you overcrowd the pan the meat doesn’t brown as well and that’s the whole point of going to all this trouble. Turn the meat until it’s browned on each side, remove and put in the saucepan and continue with the rest of the meat.

They’re Made with Low Cost Ingredients
Here’s one of the best things about stew, you can make it with cheaper cuts of meat. In fact, less expensive cuts of meat work the best with this slow cooking process. Plus, while the stew simmers the meat soaks up the liquid, making it even more tender.
And as most people make stews during the colder months, root vegetables, which make ideal partners for the meat, are usually at their cheapest during fall and winter. And if you use your own homemade stock, that’s basically free, but even if you resort to store bought ones, it’s not going to put a too big a dent in your budget.

They Can be Made in One Pot
I can’t think of an easier meal than a stew, everything cooking together in one pot. Apart from preparing the meat and chopping the vegetables, and of course checking everything now and then, it’s a snap to put together. I almost feel lazy on the days I make a stew. Although my preference is to serve a stew with mashed potatoes, I sometimes add the potatoes or dumplings to the stew for the ultimate one pot meal. And if you want to cheat even further or you want a ready cooked meal when you come home from work, opt for cooking your stew in a slow cooker.

Stews Freeze Really Well
Soups and stews are some of the best dishes to put in the freezer. You can make up two batches, eat one and freeze the other. Or, and I know leftovers aren’t a common thing when stew is served, but you can easily freeze what’s left. Talk about the ultimate cook once, eat twice dish.

You Can Give Them Your Own Unique Spin
Even if you’ve got a favorite recipe for stew you can add your own touches and family favorites to a stew. Nothing can basically go wrong with adding a bit more of this or that. If you want to stretch your budget even further you get add more vegetables and cut down on the meat, or you can add things like pulses. My grandmother always added pearl barley to beef stew. And when it comes to seasonings once again you’re in charge. One thing I never leave out of a stew is a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.
And don’t think you have to use only red meat because I only used it as an illustration for this article. Other meats like pork, poultry and fish can be used, just remember they don’t need to cook so long. And if you what to go meatless, vegetables and beans like garbanzos make a really inexpensive but great tasting stew.

Recipe

Italian Fall Vegetable Stew
This is a great recipe for the slow cooker. It’s one of my favorites when the weather turns cold. And a special treat when you’ve been outside raking leaves.

(Serves 4 as a Main Dish or 6 as a Side Dish)

•1 ½ cups dried lentils
•3 cups of water
•2 cups chopped butternut squash
•1 cup chopped sweet potato
•1 26 oz. jar of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic pasta sauce
•1 small onion, chopped
•1 cup chopped zucchini
•1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
•½ teaspoon dried basil
•½ teaspoon dried thyme

1.Rinse lentils and place in at least a 3-quart slow cooker with the three cups of water. Add the squash, sweet potato, onion, pasta sauce, basil and thyme and stir together.
2.Cover and cook either 8-10 hours on high, or 4-6 hours on low. About an hour before serving stir in the chopped zucchini and just before serving stir in the garbanzo beans. Fresh chopped basil is a nice addition sprinkled on top when the dish has finished cooking.

You can serve this as a vegetarian dish with crusty Italian bread, or as a side dish with a grilled chicken breast or pork chop.

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