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!


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


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


  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.