Sunday, January 30, 2011

Recipe: Beef Stew with Beer

I made Beef Stew with Beer for the first time the other day, only because we had a bottle of beer that had been sitting in our fridge for months.
[The recipe, from Pioneer Woman, is here.]
I’ve never considered myself a fan of beef stew. It always seemed like a so-so meal. But, this recipe was SO delicious that it has completely changed my view on stew (rhyme unintended).
Usually when I first taste a new recipe that I’ve made, I’m quick to critique it. (“It needs more salt,” “The flavor isn’t right,” or “I should have cooked it longer.”) This is one of the first times that I’ve made something and said, “It’s perfect!”
A couple of quick notes:
- The package of stew meat I had was only 1.5 lbs, so I used less beef stock (3 cups instead of 4 cups).
- I actually doubled the tomato paste (4 tablespoons instead of 2 tablespoons), partly because I wanted a thicker sauce and partly because it seemed like such a waste to only use 2 tablespoons of a can of tomato paste.
- I threw in more potatoes because, well, why not?
- Because of time constraints, I cooked it for only a little over an hour and I did not need the additional water.
Everything else I kept the same. The flavor is really rich and so tasty. We had the leftovers the next day for lunch, and they were even better.
And I liked the recipe so much that I made it again for dinner tonight.
Husband didn’t complain. After all, does a recipe get more guy-friendly than meat, potatoes, and beer?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Add this to the list...

...of things that I never thought I would be able to say: This weekend I made elk chili. (Weird, huh?)
The other day Husband called from work and said, “Hey, one of my buddies is going to drop off some samples of jerky (meat) that he made after hunting. He should be there any second…”
As if on cue, that second our doorbell rang, and sure enough, there was Husband’s friend. I was expecting a couple small packages of jerky, but instead he brought a huge shopping bag full of elk, venison, and other meat. It was really generous of him.
When Husband got home from work and saw our freezer stocked with all the meat, his face lit up. He was ecstatic. (I joked with him that this was his version of Girl Scout cookies, except that the goods were delivered by a stocky military man instead of a shy little girl.)
Initially, I wasn’t sure what to do with the meat, but decided that I would make some chili with the elk meat.
I cooked it just like regular ground beef, and the chili turned out to be pretty tasty! After using this exotic meat (or what I consider to be more exotic than beef or chicken), I felt like a rugged hunter. Or, at least as rugged as you can feel when you pull pre-packaged game meat from your freezer and cook it in your modern kitchen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Well, it’s not even Spring, but I’ve already started cleaning.
Ever since the calendar hit January 1, 2011, it was like a switch turned on in my brain, realizing that we are moving this year. Though we likely won’t be moving until towards the end of the year, we’ll probably put our house on the market within a few months.
I’ve already made it a priority to start getting rid of the stuff we don’t want. There’s nothing worse than arriving in a new home and trying to get it in order, when you’re unpacking box after box of things that you never wanted to bring in the first place.
Today we made a trip to Goodwill to donate a pile of household items that we’ve already set aside.
Among the pile was the ever-talked-about-but-only-used-once Deep Fryer. Soon after we got married, Husband gave me this enormous Fryer as a birthday gift. I was speechless when I opened it. Husband nodded and smiled, thinking that I loved it. “Think of all the good food we can make!” he said.
The problem is that even though I do like fried foods occasionally, they make my stomach sick for the most part. Giving me a Deep Fryer was like giving someone that is lactose intolerant an Ice Cream Maker. I ended up keeping the gift, only because my Mom guilted me into it. When I told her on the phone that I wanted to return it, she said, “You can’t do that! This is the first birthday gift he gave you as your husband! You have to keep it!” In 3.5 years of owning it, we only used the behemoth of a Fryer once. Then we realized that for all the money we spent on the oil, we could have just bought the fried foods at a restaurant cheaper and with less mess. Also among the pile was a S’mores maker that I gave Husband for a gift. (Don’t ask – I’m still not sure what I was thinking.) I think we used that only once, too. It, too, took up a lot of valuable space in the kitchen. I decided before I gave it away, I’d open the box to make sure all the pieces were there. That’s when I found a Hershey’s chocolate bar (which, surprisingly, still looked fine), and a bag of hard-as-a-rock marshmallows that, oh by the way, expired in 2006. (Eeek!)

I almost feel 10 pounds lighter after getting rid of bags and bags of stuff we don’t want. Plus, the Goodwill volunteers were very grateful.

I’m sure we’ll have more things to donate. As for the marshmallows, they were donated to the trash.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

3-Day Weekend

Even though we just had a lot of time off over Christmas, I definitely still appreciated having a 3-day weekend this past weekend. Husband and I took a little road trip, which included a trip to a huge bookstore (so huge that it took me 30 minutes of active searching to find Husband at one point), a sushi lunch, and a seafood dinner. It was fun to get out of town and have a couple dinner dates with Husband. But really, my favorite memory of the weekend was waking up to fresh-made waffles. Husband surprised me with breakfast in bed yesterday. Bonus: The kitchen still smelled of sweet waffles for hours afterwards. A girl could get used to this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Favorite Books

I’ve been meaning to write about my favorite books I read in 2010, but seeing that it’s already 13 days into the new year, it might be a little late for that. So instead, I’ll just call it some good books that I’ve read somewhat recently (which may or may not have been in the last 378 days). 1) I think my favorite book that I read last year was “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. I was hooked from the very first line: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.” The story is about the author’s unusual childhood, where her family lived a rather unstable, nomadic lifestyle. I had to keep looking at the front cover of the book to see the word, “memoir,” to remind myself that it’s actually a true story. I could not put the book down, and I couldn’t stop rooting for the young girl in the story, who is now the best-selling author today. 2) Of the humorous variety, I loved “When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home” by Erma Bombeck. If her name sounds vaguely familiar, you might have read her column in your newspaper decades ago, before she passed away. Even though this book was written in 1991, the anecdotes and witty observations about travel are just as funny and true today. I laughed out loud at many points. The more I read her books, the more surprised I am that you don’t hear more about her because she has such a gift for turning ordinary life events into hilarious stories. 3) I already devoted a whole blog post to this book, but I couldn’t go without mentioning “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. It was a tragic story, but a gripping read that I highly recommend. 4) “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows gets the award for the longest name (I had to look it up because I can never remember the full title), but it’s really a delightful read. It’s written as a series of letters, and I could definitely relate to the book-loving characters. The story takes place right after WWII, and the history woven in was really fascinating, too. 5) Finally, I’m cheating a little because I technically didn’t read this last year, but I never wrote about “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell. This is a non-fiction book that looks at the scientific side (or the “how”) behind success, and it uses real-life examples of everyone from Bill Gates to the Beatles. I swear that this book changed my thinking, and I wish I could have read it years ago. The bottom line of the book (or at least for me) was that rarely are people “born” with a talent, but most successful people have devoted 10,000 hours or more to their craft. It puts in perspective that we should not give up so easily if a new skill or task is difficult at first. What are your favorites of 2010?

Monday, January 10, 2011


This weekend, Husband and I watched our first subtitled movie together. I’m embarrassed to say that the movie was actually in English. It was the movie Inception, which Husband had been dying to see.
After about 15 minutes of us struggling to figure out what was going on (“Wait, what did he say?”), Husband paused the movie and change the settings to display English subtitles. Husband laughed and said that maybe he is becoming an old man. I must be becoming an old woman because I thought the subtitle idea was genius.
I’ve always said that I want to grow old with Husband. I just didn’t realize that the “older” part would be here sooner than we thought.
P.S. Even with the subtitles (although they helped quite a bit), I nearly gave up on trying to figure out what was going on. I’m not usually a big fan of science fiction anyway, but I will admit that the movie was interesting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Just Say Yes

Out of 3.5 years of marriage, I think Husband made his biggest mistake yesterday. I was finishing some work in our office yesterday evening, when I heard the doorbell ring. Husband, who had the day off, answered the door. All I heard was him say, “No, we’re not interested,” and close the door. I didn’t think anything of it. A couple minutes later, he poked his head in the office and said, “You didn’t want Girl Scout cookies, right?” I think I’ve said here a time or two or three how much I love Girl Scout cookies. I gave him the “that’s-really-not-funny” look, expecting him to say, “just kidding!” But he gave this scared smile, and I realized he wasn’t joking. Then, in a very mature way, I said, “WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” He said, “Oops,” and ran off. In the end, he redeemed himself. A few minutes later he came back into the office, almost out of breath, and said, “We’re getting 2 boxes of Thin Mints.” It still makes me laugh to think of my six-foot husband running after a tiny Girl Scout on the street, saying, “I made a mistake! We want Thin Mints!” In the end, it all worked out. But to be on the safe side, I’ll be answering the door next year come Girl Scout cookie time.