Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

Life around here is getting into a making-it-through-fall-with-1-broken-foot-and-a-pregnant-woman groove. Basically, that means we’re always on the hunt for recipes that are tasty, nutritious, easy, and economical. Now that we’ve become one of “those families” with a variety of food allergies–dairy for Jolene, Anne, and Kailen, soy (for sure) and gluten (perhaps) for Tad–the recipes also need to be adaptable to those restrictions.

This slow cooker beef ragu is tasty, easy, nutritious, economical, dairy-free, soy-free, and with the right noodles, it's gluten-free, too.Today’s recipe for beef ragu was found in a free magazines distributed by Hy-Vee, a regional grocery store chain. Made in a slow cooker, it meets the “easy” requirement. The main ingredients listed were nutritious, inexpensive ones like tomatoes and carrots. I substituted an inexpensive chuck roast for the flank steak to make it even more economical. Four of the five of us thought it was mighty tasty. The Man of Steel warmed up to the flavors once he, as our token adult dairy eater, sprinkled it with parmeseon cheese. The only modification made was preparing gluten-free noodles for Tad.

 

The only fail of the night was when the cook forgot to take a picture before she started eating. But I managed to prepare the entire meal and set the table with no help (other than asking someone else to drain the noodles) despite a broken foot, so I’m feeling good. We all agreed this recipe is a keeper that can be doubled or tripled to make freezer meals. So it’ll hit our table again, and I’ll snap a picture then. In the meantime, here’s the recipe:

Slow-Cooker Beef Ragu

1 1/2 pounds chuck steak
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced Italian-style tomatoes with onion and garlic
1/4 cup water
2 medium carrots, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons tomato paste
12 oz. wide egg noodles, cooked and drained

Cut chuck roast into chunks and place in slow cooker. Add tomatoes, water, garlic, carrots, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning. Stir well. Cover and set cooker on low for 5-6 hours. Discard bay leaves and stir in tomato paste. Serve over cooked noodles and enjoy!

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Clean Out the Vegetable Drawer Bolognese Sauce

Clean Out the Vegetable Drawer Bolognese Sauce

Whip up this bolognese sauce during late summer when the tomatoes are threatening to take over the kitchen. It's so tasty!Once again, this recipe comes to you courtesy of multi-generational living, via my daughter. During July and August she prepared this bolognese sauce whenever the tomatoes threatened to take the kitchen hostage. The wide variety of vegetables make the sauce a banquet of flavors mingling together. And it’s a good way to clean out the vegetables languishing in the fridge. Just remember that the secret of good sauce is to let it simmer for several hours. So you’ll be wise to start it right after lunch. But be warned–smelling the sauce all afternoon will work up a big appetite. So make plenty!

Clean Out the Vegetable Drawer Bolognese Sauce

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced very fine
2 carrots, diced very fine
2 stalks celery, diced very fine
2 cloves garlic
1/2 small head of cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons or more olive oil
2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
1/4 cup red or white wine
balsamic vinegar (optional)

In deep, heavy pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté onions, carrots and celery until onions are translucent. While sautéing the vegetables, add the salt. Add the cauliflower, chopped into small pieces, roughly the size of cooked ground beef.

When the vegetables begin to brown, add the ground beef. Cook until the beef is browned. Add in the garlic, pressed or chopped finely. Add the tomatoes. Stir and let the mixture come to a simmer. Simmer the sauce until the tomatoes and the juice reduce and thicken, 2–3 hours.

Once reduced, add wine. Simmer for a bit and taste. Add more salt if needed. Keep in mind that favors will be stronger in the end. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for about an hour more. The end product shouldn’t be chunky but not watery, rather than saucy like marinara. The tomato and red wine should stick to the meat and vegetables much like stir fry sauce does. Taste again. The flavor should be rich and savory. If it’s a little weak ,add 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, stir and let cook for 10 more minutes. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

No Futter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

No Futter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

This recipe replaces butter or shortening with oil to make the most delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookies ever.Along our gravel road, cookies are considered an art form. Within that art form, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies sit at its summit. I thought I had scaled that particular peak with a wonderful dairy-free recipe that uses “futter,” Gravel Road’s affectionate term for all non-dairy shortenings. However, my daughter found a no shortening recipe from the Half-Baked Harvest website. The daughter’s version cuts the sugar and chocolate chips by half and uses dairy-free chocolate chips (this time from Trader Joe’s) so it is really, truly a non-dairy delight.

No Futter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Put eggs, sugar, oats, flour, soda, salt, canola oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix them well by hand. Mixture will be crumbly. If it is too dry, add a few tablespoons of rice milk, cashew milk, or some other milk substitute. Add the chocolate chips and mix well.

Use your hands to make balls of dough and place them on heated baking stones. Press the balls down with your hand. Bake 10-12 minutes. Let them sit on the baking stone a few moments before removing them from the baking stone.

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Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

The surprise ingredient in this chicken salad adds a delicious crunch to this lunchtime favorite.Sharing the kitchen with my daughter and her family has many advantages. One of the greatest advantages is that I am in charge of only half the meals. Another is the opportunity to learn new recipes from the cook who’s in charge of the other half of the meals. Here’s her take on chicken salad. I never would have guessed how much cauliflower can add to this simple dish.

Anne’s Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 large pickle spears, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Saute cauliflower in olive oil until some pieces begin to brown. Remove from heat.

Combine chicken, onion, celery, pickles, and cauliflower in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate 2-4 hours before serving with your favorite bread or on a bed of lettuce.

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Our Latest and Greatest Fake Butter (also known as Futter)

Our Latest and Greatest Fake Butter (also known as Futter)

This dairy-free, soy-free butter substitute offers several variations that are perfect for high maintenance dietary needs.A new conundrum has arisen in our Gravel Road kitchen. In addition to having several adults in the house who have dairy allergies or lactose intolerant, the toddler has begun to sprout a terrible diaper rash when he’s fed soy. So the most available version of Earth Balance, our favorite butter substitute known affectionately as “futter,” is off limits to him. (Earth Balance has a soy free version, but it is almost impossible to find where we live.)

Thankfully, my daughter discovered a recipe for a very good vegan butter substitute created by Miyoko Shinner. Her recipe offers variations for baking futter (regular and hard versions), spreading, futter, and unsalted futter. The daughter has fiddled with the recipe and perfected a version that is very good for baking and meets all our high maintenance dietary needs.

Gravel Road Futter

Ingredients

1/2 cup rich, unflavored, unsweetened cashew milk (our recipe for a DYI version is coming soon)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cups refined coconut oil (don’t use extra virgin, or it will taste like coconuts!),
2 teaspoons liquid lecithin

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender and process at a medium speed for about one minute.
  2. Pour into a container of your choice*
  3. Set it in the refrigerator for a few hours until hard.

For a Harder Futter substitute ¼ cup of the melted coconut oil with ¼ cup melted cocoa butter. Reduce liquid oil by 1 tablespoon.

For Whipped Futter increase the liquid oil by one tablespoon, and process at high speed in the blender for about 2 minutes to incorporate as much air as possible. (We have tried this version several times without success.)

For Unsalted Futter leave out the salt.

*We use mini-loaf pans that hold 1 cup each. Once the futter is hard, it can be cut into 1/2 cup sticks the same size as regular sticks of butter or margarine.

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Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp Tacos

These shrimp tacos are dairy-free, filled with summer veggies, and a perfect meal at the end of a hot day.It’s takes a village to feed a high maintenance eater like me. So I’m thankful my village is populated with people like my big sister who keep their eyes open for delicious dairy-free recipes. She’s the villager who sent an email with this recipe for shrimp tacos. The dish is packed with vegetables that are plentiful during the summer months. Plus, it uses olive oil rather than butter to cook the shrimp and doesn’t suggest using cheese or sour cream as a garnish.

Because this recipe is truly dairy-free, there was no need to substitute ingredients or to omit others. Everyone at our house agreed it was delicious and a perfect meal to enjoy at the end of a lovely summer day. The tweaks I made are designed to keep the heat out of the kitchen in case a lovely summer day is also a hot one.

Shrimp Tacos

ingredients

1 pound raw shrimp. peeled and devaeined
1 lime, juiced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dry Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
12-6 inch tortillas

Directions

  1. Turn slow cooker on high. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in the slow cooker to warm for 30 minutes.
  2. Gently mix tomatoes, onion, avocados, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Saute for about 3 minutes, turning often until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  4. Put shrimp, tortillas, and vegetable mixture in separate serving dishes for diners to assemble at the table.

 

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