Beef, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

The slow cooked meal is such a wonderful convenience in all seasons. While at first thought, it seems that it is best served during the winter months as the slow cooker rewards you with hearty stews and belly-warming chilis, it can definitely be a summer blessing as well. An oven or even a simmering pot on the stove can make the kitchen uncomfortably warm on an already warm day, and a slow cooker silently cooking away in the corner is an excellent alternative to using your kitchen towels to wipe sweat from your brows every two minutes.

This week, Amanda and I wanted to go low maintenance. I had some obligations on the day of our skype date so a set-it-and-forget-it recipe was just what the doctor ordered.  Since it was an unseasonably cold day, I did opt for a heartier beef soup but it could easily be enjoyed during warm weather as well. As stated above, the reduced use of heat emanating appliances would definitely make me more receptive to a soup in the middle of July for sure. Regardless, this soup was tasty, easy and made plenty of leftovers for weekday lunches.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1 inch chunks.
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas but you could branch out with varieties.
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick clices.
  • 1 onion, diced.
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions (I know. See if you can keep up with me here):

  1. If desired (and you will be rewarded in flavor), brown the beef over medium heat before adding to the slow cooker. However, if you’re like me and and feel that the point of the slow cooker is not to dirty any other pans, add all ingredients to the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Enjoy with your favorite crusty bread or however you would like!

Wine Pairing: The umami flavor of the mushrooms and the rich beefy taste can stand up to a full bodied red like a syrah, which would warm the belly and bring even more comfort to a dinner with this soup. 

Beef and Beet Tajine

I got a lot of cookbooks over the holidays. A lot. Also some cool flavored vinegars, and food from the places that my family has traveled recently! The gift that came the farthest, though, was a tajine from Tunisia! Tajine (or tagines) are a traditional North African/Middle Eastern roasting pan with a conical top that keeps in the steam. I love it! This was the second dish that I made in my new pan and it makes my dishes taste more special.

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Merideth also received a new cooking toy for Christmas- a pressure cooker! Since we haven’t done a Distance Dishes dinner using the same recipe for a while, we decided to see the differences that our two new cooking methods would make on the same meal. We had a slight difference in ingredients too, depending on what we had on hand or available in our two hometowns. Delicious!

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil and 1 pat butter (or 2 tbs ghee)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion
  • 1 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 1-2 tsp red chile powder, to taste (or 1 red chile, chopped)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbs cinnamon (or 2 cinnamon sticks)
  • 1 lb lean beef, cut into chunks
  • 2 oranges, cut into segments and peeled
  • 2-3 tbs shelled pistachios
  • 1 tbs rosewater or orange flower water
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions (Tajine)

  1. Melt butter and olive oil in the bottom dish. Add garlic, ginger, and chopped onion and saute until onion is translucent.
  2. Add chili, coriander, and cinnamon and stir. Add beets and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add beef and saute until edges are browned, about 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover with tajine lid, lower heat, and simmer for an hour.
  5. After an hour, add orange segments, rosewater, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 15 minutes and top with pistachios.

Instructions (Electric Pressure Cooker)

  1. Melt butter and olive oil in the bottom of the pot using the saute/brown function. Add garlic, ginger and chopped onion and saute until onion and translucent and mixture is fragrant.
  2. Add chili, coriander, and cinnamon and stir. Add beets and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Remove this mixture temporarily from the pressure cooker and add the beef. Still using the saute/brown function, brown the beef for 3-4 minutes and then re-add the previously removed ingredients.
  4. Add about 3/4 of a cup of water or broth to the pot and add the oranges and rosewater/orange flower water.
  5. Set your pressure cooker to high pressure for 20 minutes and allow the steam to release naturally. Once the cooker is safe to open, serve over couscous, or some yummy Herb Saffron Rice and top with pistachios.

Wine Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon and other dark red wines are usually the go-to for beef dishes. In this case, I really liked a Syrah/Shiraz for its smoky and stronger fruit flavors to go with the roasted meat and sweet fruit and beets.

Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies

I got an annual pass to Disney almost specifically for EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival- its my happy place. The traditional World Showcase (Norway, Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, America, Morocco, France, UK, and Canada) is expanded to include additional countries and regions and now, exhibits demonstrating various new culinary trends and techniques. The menus change and grow every year (they now have a holiday food festival soon after the Food and Wine Festival ends in December!) but I also stop by the Australia booth for their grilled lamb chop with mint and potato “crunchies.” Who doesn’t love potato chips?!

I went back to the festival this year (“research!”) and visited Australia. I think the recipe turned out to be a pretty good homage!

Ingredients

Pesto:

2 gloves garlic

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup mint leaves, rinsed

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles

Lamb:

1/4 cup canola oil (or other high smoke point oil)

Salt and pepper to taste for lamb

4 lamb chops

Handful of salt and vinegar potato chips

Instructions:

  1. Blend garlic, salt, and 1/4 of the olive oil into a blender or food processor. Gradually add mint leaves, remaining olive oil, and finally the feta cheese.
  2. Heat canola oil in shallow frying pan or grill pan over medium heat. Season lamb chops with salt and pepper to taste and gently lay in oil once hot.
  3. Grill lamb chops approximately 5-7 minutes on each side to desired doneness (approximately 155 degrees for medium, 165 for well done).
  4. Allow lamb to rest. Serve with pesto spread on top of the lamb chop and crumbled chips (I crushed them in my fist).

Enjoy the Disney magic!

 Wine Pairing: Like the Disney menu, I paired the lamb with an Australian Shiraz (aka Syrah). Australia is the second largest producer of Shiraz behind France!