because i can. and because both these things turned out really well. and i’m WAY into soups these days, with almost the same intensity that rachael ray gives to burgers.

Beef Stew
disclaimer as usual: all ingredient amounts are give or take. i don’t do teaspoons and measurements. i spit on your measurements.

lean piece of boneless beef, cut into chunks (preferably smaller ones)
flour (for dredging the meat)
onion, chopped
mushrooms, sliced
garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, preferably roma, and chopped
beef broth
1 bottle dark beer (we used Shiner)
sliced carrots
peeled, cubed potatoes

Heat your oil in a stew pot, or dutch oven, or something big for soups. in a bowl, coat your meat in flour, shake off the excess and put it in the oil. cook stirring often until the meat is brown all over. remove the meat to a plate. if you need more oil, add some to the pan. heat it, then add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic. cook until the onion is tender. return the beef to the pot along with the tomatoes, the beer, and enough beef broth to cover everything. scrape up all the browned sticky bits on the bottom of the pan with your spoon. put in your carrots and potatoes. salt and pepper all this. cover and let it simmer on lower heat for about an hour. i, by the way, minorly freaked out when i tasted the soup after just a few minutes of simmering because the Shiner made it bitter, however, this taste does disappear after the stew is all done. It will NOT be bitter when it’s time to eat it. I promise. After you’ve cooked it an hour, and tested the potatoes for done-ness, remove about a cup of the broth only and put it in a bowl. whisk or stir in (really well) about a tablespoon of cornstarch into the removed broth. add all that back into the pot, stir it up, and let it heat through and thicken. if it thickens too much, just add more beef broth and heat it through. sprinkle it with parsley if you want to be fancy. alex wouldn’t touch this. but erik and i thought it was delicious.

Chicken Pasta Penne Bake

boneless skinless chicken breasts
garlic powder
olive oil
italian season (i like the mccormick’s grinders stuff)

Heat the oven to 375. drizzle the chicken with olive oil (in a baking dish), salt and pepper, garlic powder and italian season it. bake in the oven about 45 minutes (depending on how thick your breasts (ha) are. if youre cooking for three people, i used one medium size one and one small one that needed cooked up. after the chicken’s done, set it aside to cool on your chopping board. you’re going to cut this into small chunks.

lower your oven heat to 325.

a box of organic penne rigate pasta

prepare this according to the box (make sure you remember to salt your water before it boils). drain this and set it aside, too. i drizzle a little olive oil on pasta after i drain it, so it doesn’t get all sticky and clumpy.

3. easy spaghetti sauce
28 oz can of fire roasted (muir glen brand preferably) organic whole tomatoes (blend these in your blender til they’re all pureed and no huge pieces remain)
1 packet of mccormick italian spaghetti sauce seasoning (this is so anti- martha but seriously the easiest thing for spaghetti sauce)
1/4 cup onion, chopped
garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup carrots, chopped REALLY small
sliced mushrooms (like 1 big one, or a few small ones – the white button mushrooms is all i ever use)
olive oil
tomato paste (at least all of the small cans)

heat the olive oil. saute your onions, carrots, garlic, and mushrooms til the onion’s tender. add the pureed tomatoes all at once. heat it through a couple of minutes. add the seasoning packet a little at a time, tasting as you go. sometimes you don’t need the whole thing, sometimes you do. it’s up to your tastes. stir in the tomato paste really well, blending it in so no big clumps of it ruin your sauce. heat all this through. this stuff is good for pizzas, regular meat-less spaghetti, whatever you need spaghetti sauce for.

4. putting it all together
lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray. in a bowl, toss the pasta, sauce, chicken, a little salt and pepper, and some grated parmesan cheese altogether. spoon that into the dish. top this with grated mozzarella cheese. bake it until the cheese melts. serve it with salad or breadsticks or both. or forget to take out the frozen bread dough to make the bread like i did, and end up having to unroll canned crescent rolls b/c that’s all you have and brush butter with garlic powder on it and bake that. that’s not such a great idea. subpar side, at best. here’s my usual italian dishes side if you’d prefer:

garlic bubble ring

thaw 1 loaf of frozen pizza dough (i use the Rhodes brand that comes with 3 loafs in it). slice it into six equal slices. melt butter sprinkled with garlic powder in the microwave. dip the bread pieces into the butter. place into a cooking spray-ed tube pan or bundt pan. cover it and let it rise in a warmed oven for like, 30-40 minutes. bake at 375 (or 400 in if youre in a hurry) until the bread is brown. this is way better than canned biscuit dough stuff.

i think this pasta bake is a good kid dish. there’s cheese and the veggies are hidden by the sauce. alex ate it, anyway. p.s. you will have a lot of leftovers of this, esp. if youre using an entire box of the penne. oh well. erik ate it warmed the next day, and so did i.


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