Beef and Bean Chili

A few months ago (aka…summer…) some friends of ours had their 3rd baby, and I signed up to make them a meal and deliver it to their house, so they didn’t have to cook. A bunch of people signed up, I believe 3 nights a week for several weeks, to give mama a break while caring for an infant plus two older kids, while dad is at work. It was fun to meet her baby and treat her to a nice and hot dinner. They had requested low calorie and low carb, which is hard to find in easily-transported dinners (soups, stews, spaghetti, casseroles, etc.), but then I found this beef and bean chili from Weight Watchers that I had been meaning to try and it seemed perfect! I made a double batch so that I could have dinner for my husband and I, as well.

For their batch, I used the canned tomatoes as-is, but I blended the tomatoes for my husband and I’s batch (I HATTTTTE tomato chunks, which I’m sure everyone is well aware).  It was so good! And you can’t even tell that it’s “healthy.” I have found that some WW recipes are touch and go – some are just bland and flavourless, and then some are really spectacular.

Oh, and we STILL have cooked beans left over in the freezer from this…a bag of dried beans makes a lot. And by a lot, I mean A LOT.

I did not get a chance to snap a picture of my own creation, therefore the photo used below is not my own, it is owned by Weight Watchers was obtained from their website.

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Beef and Bean Chili

serves about 6-8

Ingredients:
-1lb lean ground beef
-2tsp olive oil
-1 medium onion, diced
-2 ribs celery, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (I omitted this, since I was cooking it for two kids as well)
-2tbsp chili powder
-2tsp ground cumin
-1tsp dried oregano
-2 bay leaves
-1/2tsp table salt
-1/2tsp red pepper flakes, or more to taste
-28oz canned crushed tomatoes
-1cu reduced sodium beef broth
-8oz tomato sauce
-30oz canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2cu shallots, chopped

Directions:
-Coat a large stockpot with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Remove beef from pot and set aside.
-Add oil to the pot and set over medium-high heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, celery, garlic and jalapeño. Sauté until tender, about 4 minutes.
-Add reserved beef, chili powder, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt and red pepper flakes, and stir to coat vegetables and beef with spices. Add tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce and beans, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.
-To serve, discard bay leaves, and ladle chili into bowls and top with chopped shallots (I omitted the shallots).

Note: According to the WW website, 1 heaping cup is 5 points. Sweet!!

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Slow Cooker Apple Cider Beef Stew

Happy December 1st!  It has been so cold all weekend and today is no different – a whopping 25 degrees outside!  I know some of you on the east coast or in the midwest may be laughing at me right now…I remember living in and travelling through the “Tri-Ota” region (MN, ND, and SD), this would be a heat wave.  In any case, cold is cold, amiright?
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Because of this, it is the PERFECT time to make beef stew!  What is better than coming home to a delicious-smelling house and then pouring a bowl of delicious-tasting stew?  This slow cooker apple cider beef stew recipe from Baked By Rachel packs quite a punch.  I actually made it a little while ago, on Halloween, for dinner for my husband, my mom, and my in-laws.  Everyone loved it, it served the 5 of us, plus about 2 containers of leftovers!
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Now, this recipe definitely has a “holiday twist” to it, and it’s not the apple cider.  In fact, I couldn’t even taste the apple cider, to be honest.  But the cinnamon was verrrrry prevalent, which was fine for all of us, except my mother (who tends to make “comments” on most dishes I make, haha).  My mother taste-tested the stew before we ate, and she informed me that she does not like cinnamon, unless it’s on things like oatmeal, but should not be in a stew.  Thanks mom. 😉  Because of that, I upped some of the other ingredients and added a bit more salt and pepper, and then let the flavour blend in the crock for another 20 or so minutes.  By the time we sat down to eat, the cinnamon flavour died down quite a bit.

If you’re among picky eaters, this may not be the recipe for you (or just use less cinnamon), but if you love traditional favourites, food adventures, and cinnamon, then I highly recommend you make this dish ASAP!  Especially while the weather is chilly!
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Slow Cooker Apple Cider Beef Stew

serves 6-8

Ingredients:
-2lbs beef stew meat, cut into small pieces
-1cu yellow onion, chopped
-1cu carrots, chopped
-3/4cu celery, chopped
-3cu russet potatoes (I used red potatoes), cubed
-1tsp ground black pepper
-1/2tsp dried thyme
-1/2tsp cinnamon
-1/2tsp cumin
-3cu beef broth
-3/4cu apple cider
-1/4cu flour

Directions:
-Add vegetables and then the meat to the slow cooker.
-Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, cinnamon, and cumin.
-Add the beef broth and apple cider and gently stir, making sure that all of the potatoes are covered by liquid (I think I had to add a bit more liquid at this point)
-Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours.
-In the last few minutes, remove 1cu of liquid, whisk flour (a spoonful at a time up to 1/4cu), then return it to the crock and stir to combine (this will help to thicken the stew). –Let it continue to cook for a few more minutes before serving.

If you enjoy more traditional beef stews, then you should definitely check out these recipes!:

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew

Bistro Beef Stew (best stew ever)

Barbecue Beef Sandwiches

Hot food season is definitely upon us!  Here in the Pacific Northwest it has dipped down into the 20s in the early morning and late evening, and I know that many parts of the country are getting their first snowfalls!  I have really enjoyed seeing the pictures circulating on Facebook from my friends in Albany, NY (where I used to live), as they got their first snowfall of the season a few days ago. 
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Soups and stews are GREAT, but in case you’re tired of “the usual,” then this slow cooker barbecue beef sandwich recipe is perfect!  The recipe comes from Eat 2 Gather’s website, however is a guest post by Just For Clicks, which appears to now be defunct (it looks like the recipe came from Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook originally).  This is an “easy-peasy” recipe (ugh, that saying really annoys me, but I know it’s really popular right now), that you can throw together in the morning and then have a delicious smelling and tasting dinner in the evening!

I apologize for the weird, glossy/shiny looking pictures.  I don’t know how that happened.  But this is really good. 
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Slow Cooker Barbecue Beef Sandwiches

serves about 8+

Ingredients:
-1 (3.5 pound) eye of round roast (or any kind of beef roast, really)
-2tsp salt, divided
-2 garlic cloves, pressed
-1 (10.5oz) can beef broth
-1cu ketchup
-1/2cu firmly packed brown sugar
-1/2cu fresh lemon juice
-3tbsp steak sauce
-1tsp coarse ground pepper
-1tsp worcestershire sauce
-whole wheat buns

Directions:
-Sprinkle roast with 1 teaspoon salt.
-Stir together remaining salt and all of the other ingredients (except buns, obviously).
-Add beef to slow cooker and then pour sauce over beef.
-Cover and cook on low for 8+ hours (ok, the original recipe said to cook on high for 7 hours, but I have NEVER seen that before…I cooked mine, already mostly defrosted, on low for 8-9 hours, and it was perfect).
-Shred beef and serve on buns.

 

Asian Inspired Steak

I have been sitting on this recipe for WAY TOO LONG.  Like two months.  Well…less than that.  But still a really freaking long time and I am just going to bang out this post right now to get it over with.  Deal?  Good. 
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This Asian inspired steak recipe comes from Savory Sweet Life and was really good!  As usual, I definitely recommend marinading it longer than just a few hours – overnight is always best!  The longer you marinade, the longer the flavours get to be mixed into the meat.  We also grilled this, because it was still summer aka “grilling season” – but if you’re like us, feel free to grill this steak year-round, or I am sure you can broil it, too.
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We paired it with green beans, but feel free to pair with another vegetable, stir fry, or rice!
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Asian Inspired Steak

serves

Ingredients:
-1/2cu soy sauce
-1/2cu cooking sherry
-1/4cu honey
-2tbsp sesame oil
-2tbsp minced ginger
-2tbsp (about 3-5 cloves) minced garlic
-2tsp crushed red pepper flakes
-2 flat iron steaks (or a similar steak of your choice)
-Garnish: 2tbsp roasted sesame seeds and 2 sliced green onions

Directions:
-Whisk all of the ingredients in a bowl, minus the steak and garnish. Then place the steaks and marinade in a ziplock bag and chill for at least 3-6 hours, or overnight (or in a bowl with a lid).
-Grill steaks on high heat for 4 minutes on each side for medium rare steaks (adjust cooking time based on your grill and preferred done-ness).
-Allow steaks to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds and green onion slivers on top to garnish.

Spaghetti Squash with Spaghetti Sauce

I have been meaning to try out spaghetti squash for over a year now.  My friend Alysha and I were discussing it recently and it turned out she had been intending to try it also.  We decided to get together last weekend to join efforts…this was actually a HUGE deal for her, as she is one of the pickiest eaters ever (by her own admission!)…and honestly, I have never been a huge fan of other squash.
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We were both a little nervous.  We also had no idea what we were doing.  I googled a lot of recipes and ways to prepare it and it seemed that roasting it was the most popular and reportedly tastiest method.  We merged this Dashing Dish microwaved spaghetti squash recipe with this Martha Stewart roasted spaghetti squash recipe, and adapted our own version from there.
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IT WAS SO GOOD!  I think we were both a little surprised at how much we enjoyed the final product.  It was a bit on the crunchy side, which I actually really liked.  Alysha observed that the slight sweetness from the squash made the sauce a bit sweeter, also.  Also: one squash will yield a TON of “spaghetti.”  We each ate large portions that night, and it created about 4-6 leftover servings.
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It was also really fascinating how it really does look like spaghetti!  I realize it’s called “spaghetti squash” for a reason, but was still neat to see how it literally came out in spaghetti-like strands when we scraped each half with a fork.  I have been told if you want to do a quicker version, you can simply nuke it for 6-10 minutes and it will be ready.
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The spaghetti sauce is a recipe that Alysha got from her mother-in-law and is now her and her husband’s go-to sauce – and it’s really obvious as to why.  It was delicious!!

Bottom line: if you are wary of trying out spaghetti squash – don’t be!  If a squash-disliker and a picky eater ended up loving it, then it must be a keeper! 😉
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Spaghetti Sauce

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-1lb ground beef
-1/2 an onion, diced
-2tbsp minced garlic
-salt and pepper, to taste
-a couple shakes of basil
-a couple shakes of oregano
-one shake of rosemary
-one shake of thyme
(note: there are no specifications for precise amounts – do it to your taste and what seems right for you)
-one small can of tomato paste
-one medium can of tomato sauce
-one large can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings (blend it ahead of time if you don’t like chunky tomatoes, like the two of us!)

Directions:
-In a frying pan, brown the meat with the onion, garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper.
-Once browned, drain the grease and add to the crock pot, along with the spices, tomato paste, one can of water (in the paste can), sauce, and diced tomatoes with the juice. Mix together.
-Cover and cook on low for as long as you like (about 8 hours at the most).
-This can be done on the stove top, as well.
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 Spaghetti Squash

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-one spaghetti squash (mine was about 4lbs)
-olive oil
-dash of garlic powder or salt

Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
-Puncture the squash a few times with a fork or knife.
-Microwave the squash for about 5-6 minutes, then cut it in half (it will be nearly impossible to cut if you don’t microwave it first). Scoop out the seeds and any gunk that you can see.
-Line a baking dish with parchment paper or foil (or just put it directly on, if you prefer) and set the squash in, face up. Using a basting brush, spread some olive oil on each side, and sprinkle some garlic over it.
-Roast it in the oven for about 30 minutes. It should be easily punctured with a fork.
-Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash to create spaghetti-like strands. You can keep scraping until you get down to the skin!

PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef (Copycat)

A quick and easy recipe is a great thing to have – if you’re short on time, short on energy, or even if you have tons of time! 😉  This PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef copycat recipe from Damn Delicious is exactly that!  I have found Damn Delicious to be one of my newest cooking blog addictions – the recipes are typically pretty simple with minimal ingredients.
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Moving right along – there is not really much to say about it, as it’s pretty straight foward!  I have to admit, though, that while I loooooove PF Chang’s, I have not been there in years, so I am not sure if it’s a true copycat.  Also, I added some green beans for a vegetable.

Enjoy!
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PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef (Copycat)

serves 4

Ingredients:
For the steak-1lb flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain
-1/4cu cornstarch
-1/2cu vegetable oil (I used as little as possible)
-2 green onions, thinly sliced
For the sauce
-1/2cu soy sauce
-1/2cu brown sugar, packed (I only used 1/4cu, though the original recipe did call for 1/2cu)
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2tsp grated fresh ginger
-2tsp vegetable oil

Directions:
-In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/2 cup water.
-Heat the mixture in a medium saucepan until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes; set aside.
-In a large bowl, combine flank steak and cornstarch.
-Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add beef and fry until browned and cooked through, about 1-2 minutes.
-Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and discard excess oil.
-Add beef and soy sauce mixture to the saucepan over medium heat and cook until sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in green onions.
-Serve immediately.

Thai Beef Tacos

I spent 3 days at the Watershed music festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre near George, Washington (yes, that is really what it’s called).  It was my first time at the Gorge and it was truly an epic experience.  There were so many amazing performers, musicians, and entertainers.  And the entertainers weren’t only on stage!  There were definitely the crazy kids walking around trying to shock everyone (guys wearing daisy dukes and sporting bikini tops, guys wearing speedos with dollar bills stuffed in them, girls in teeny thong bikinis, and even a guy that shaved his chest hair into a bikini shape – that one was actually pretty original).
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Before my mini vacation, I made these AMAZING Thai beef tacos from How Sweet It Is‘s blog.  I have been waiting for ages to make this.  It is a bit more costly than the average dish, because I had to buy fresh mango and it has a lot of ingredients, but it was SO, SO, SO, SO, SO worth it.  I had bought some thin steak on sale recently, so just had to stock up on some of the fresh produce to pair with it.
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The “serving” is about 3 tacos (using the little corn tortillas), but I think I ate 4-ish.  I could have eaten about 10, if we had enough meat for it.  These were seriously amazing.
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How Sweet It Is has been the inspiration for many of my favourite meals, and this one was no exception.  I marinated the meat for 24 hours (longer is better, people!).  I also added the jalapeno to my salsa separately, as my husband can’t handle that kind of spice.  Speaking of the mango salsa, I may or may not have just eaten the salsa by the spoonful when there were no more tacos, but still some salsa left over…divine.
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Thai Beef Tacos

serves 2

Ingredients:
-1/2 to 3/4lb thin flank steak
-1tsp salt
-1tsp pepper
For the marinade
-3/4cu light (canned) coconut milk
-1tbsp sesame oil
-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
-2tsp freshly grated ginger
-2tbsp brown sugar
-3tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
-1/3cu sweet chili sauce
For the mango salsa
-1/2 mango, chopped
-1 shallot, diced
-1 jalapeno, diced
-2tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
-sprinkle each of sugar, salt & pepper
For the tacos
-1tsp canola oil
-6-8 corn tortillas
-1/2cu sweet chili sauce
-1/4cu peanuts, chopped
-green leafy lettuce + fresh cilantro for topping

Directions:
-Sprinkle flank steak with salt and pepper. Combine coconut milk, sesame oil, chili sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar and cilantro in a bowl and whisk. Add flank steak to a ziplock bag or a shallow baking dish and pour marinade overtop. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
-When ready to prepare, remove steak from fridge and let sit for 20-30 minutes, to reach room temperature.
-In a bowl, combine mango, shallot, jalapeno, salt, sugar and pepper, mix thoroughly, then set aside.
-Heat a large oven-safe skillet (like cast iron) over high heat. At the same time, preheat the broiler in your oven. (You can also grill the steak if you wish.)
-Using a pastry brush, brush oil onto the skillet so there is only a very thin layer. Remove steak from marinade with kitchen tongs, placing in the skillet. Sear on both sides for 2-3 minutes.
-Remove skillet and place is the oven directly under the broiler. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook for 3-4 minutes more (for a 1-in thick steak, this results in medium to medium well, but broil for less if you’d like it less done).
R-emove skillet from over, and place steak on a cutting board to rest for 15-20 minutes. At this time, assemble your tortillas (warm them if desired), salsa, extra chili sauce for drizzling and -cilantro. After the steak has rested, slice it into thin strips. Assemble tacos as desired and eat!
**Side Note: I did not broil my steak at all, because it was SUPER thin stir fry steak, and broiling would have literally charred it – so use your best judgment if you decide to broil/grill, as it totally depends on what kind of steak you have.**