Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What's For Dinner: My Best Beef Stew

It's definitely stew season in these here parts. Temperatures today were in the low 30's, with flakes of snow and a wind chill in the teens. It was 50 degrees a couple days ago...but that's how March is. Teases of spring mixed with serious winter.

I found a stew similar to mine on the Fun with Barb blog. She serves her stew with an Oat Wheat bread, which looked like a great combo, so I printed off the recipes as inspiration in October 2011.  I finally got around to making my stew, but mostly because my husband noticed the fantastic stew meat at a great price during our last trip to Meijer's grocery store.

My Best Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat (or cut your own chunks from sirloin)
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 - 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
Olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped into bigger pieces (1/2 to 3/4 inch), about 2 cups
2 tablespoons beef base
4 - 5 cups water
4 - 5 medium potatoes (I used red skin), cut into large cubes
1 pound baby carrots, halved
3 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 1-inch sections
3 ounces tomato paste (half a can)
Optional vegetables to include: green beans, green peas, etc.

Put the flour and seasoned salt in a large zipper food bag, and add about one-third of the meat at a time. Shake to cover beef with flour, and remove pieces, shaking off excess flour back in the bag. Repeat with the rest of the beef cubes.
In a large Dutch Oven, heat oil over medium, and add floured beef cubes, a small batch at a time. Brown on all sides and remove from oil as they are done and set aside to make room for the next batch.

Once beef is done, add onions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring to prevent burnt pieces. Add the cooked beef, water, and beef base to the onions in the Dutch oven, and stir to dissolve the beef base. Cover and simmer 1.5 to 2 hours. Then add cubed potatoes, carrots and celery and simmer another 30-45 minutes. Add the tomato paste to thicken gravy at the end (the dish does not look or taste like tomatoes, in case you are wondering). Makes great leftovers.

Makes about 12 cups of beef stew. Nutritional information per one cup:   222 calories, 19 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 19 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 582 milligrams sodium.

p.s. I did make the oat wheat bread from the Fun with Barb blog linked above, but had "yeast failure" (I was waiting for the yeast to bubble during the proofing stage, but it never did. I proofed a second packet of yeast --different brand--and that bubbled in 10 minutes. That put me behind and the bread was done after we were done with dinner (it should take about the same time as stew, as long as everything goes right).  It might be wise to start the bread an hour before you start the stew, if you want to serve them together.

Also, the bread baking directions say the oven temperature is 305, but I used 350F (the other number is likely a typo) and baked for 40 minutes. The bread turned out great.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tidbits: How Much Dark Chocolate is the Dose for Health?

Well, chances are that by now, you have worked your way through your Valentine box of chocolates.  No matter if you got the chocolate as a gift or you picked them up yourself the day after Valentine’s for a bargain.

You were probably thinking, “chocolate is good for me”, when you got them, especially if you listen to the news often enough.

So here are my questions for you, to get you to think a minute:

  • Did you eat the whole box within a week?
  • Did you share with anyone?
  • Did you make a vow to eat one piece per day until it was gone (because you always watch your weight)?
  • Did you ask for or buy dark chocolate? Or are you a milk chocolate fan? 

  • And last but not least, have you ever thought about how much chocolate you “need” in order to be healthy?

One thing amazes me in news stories about nutrition and food: The reporters give you the sound bite, “dark chocolate is good for (fill in the blank with either your heart, brain, blood pressure, cholesterol)”, but they neglect to mention “the rest of the story”, including the amount of chocolate that the study participants ate to get the good results.

According to the February 2013 issue of Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, yes, dark chocolate is good for you. But don’t take that as a license to eat a ton of it. Moderation may be a boring word, but that is the word of the day when it comes to chocolate.  Tufts reported that in one study, published in JAMA in 2007, it took just 6.3 grams (0.2 ounces) of dark chocolate per day to see a beneficial effect on blood pressure in people with mildly elevated blood pressure. 

So what is 6.3 grams of chocolate?  Half of a small square of foil-wrapped chocolate, or 7 Ghirardelli Double "dark" chocolate chips, or 13 Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips.
A piddling amount of chocolate is all you need each day. Pictured is the "dose" of Ghirardelli Dark chips with a "normal" chocolate chip in the middle to compare size.

As for the quiz questions above? If you were truly eating chocolate “for your health”, that box of chocolate should have lasted at least until now (2 weeks later). Unless, of course, you share.