Sunday, October 18, 2009

Braised beef for a cold (premature) winter night

This season the plan is to make one crock pot meal a week. Most recipes make plenty for two people so a Sunday night meal with the crock pot means leftovers for one more night during the crazy work week. Plus, as much as I love to cook on the weekends I find that time seems to fly by. If I am out and about in the afternoon many a times I am crunch for time when it comes to making dinner. And there is nothing fun about making a fast dinner to just have food on the table.

One of my favorite magazines is Real Simple. I call it my housewife guidebook. It kept me sane during my Bryn Mawr days and certainly it keeps me entertained now planning for holiday fests occurring in the near future. In the age of the Internet I also get weekly emails with yummy, and more importantly simple recipes to make. Last week I received this one and Sunday night dinner was planned.

Spiced braised beef with sweet potatoes

1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1/2 cup dried apricots
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
kosher salt
1 10-ounce box couscous (1 1/2 cups)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
2 cups baby spinach (1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the beef, potatoes, tomatoes (and their juices), onion, apricots, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water.

Cook, covered, until the meat is tender, on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Ten minutes before serving, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.

Add the chickpeas to the slow cooker and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Serve with the couscous and sprinkle with the almonds.

I got a little heavy handed with the spices and the meal had a bite. Although the Real Simple recipe says it is easy to reheat, I found the first time around was the best. It was like a Mediterranean beef stew and I really think that you could mix and match some of the ingredients with your own tastes.

Giada has a similar beef stew recipe with sweet potatoes. I have also tried another recipe with lamb that had many of the same flavors and ingredients. Hopefully with a winter full of weekend crock pot meals I will find some real winners.

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