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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Beef Stew and Salad with a Homemade Vinaigrette

Aaaah so much has happened since I stopped blogging regularly, the biggest event being the birth of our first child!  Tony and I became parents on April 30th, to an adorable baby boy, whom we named Jordan Anthony.  I still can't believe I had a baby.  Looking at him is just so surreal, like I can't believe he is all mine!  And he's 8 weeks, ALREADY.  Time is flying by.  I'm loving every minute of it...even after his occasional meltdowns (like last night, ugh), I'm trying to savor every moment because I know he won't be a cute little baby for long!  Perhaps in the near future I will spill a little more details about our experience, but for now, I'll just leave you with this adorable picture I managed to snap yesterday during my "patticake" time with Jordan. 

Yesterday we visited the annual Pirate Invasion and Mermaid Festival at the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in Long Beach.  I feel like every year it keeps getting bigger and bigger. At the festival, there were plenty of things to see and do; food, live music, arts and crafts for the kids, contests, and vendors selling goods or services.  The vendors were lined up along the pier and also on the sand on the beach.  Usually I have no interest in most of these booths, but this year Farm Fresh To You, a type of CSA, captured my interest

A CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture) is a type of program in which subscribers receive regular deliveries of fresh produce that is grown locally and sustainably. I've always wanted to join one, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try.  All of the produce delivered through Farm Fresh To You is certified organic, not only through USDA standards but also CCOF.  Your boxes can be set up to be delivered weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly, and can be fully customizable using the easy web-based account manager.  This is great because each week before my scheduled delivery, I can log onto my account to see what fruits and veggies are being included in my upcoming box, and swap anything out that I don't like or think we would use.  This is a huge perk, being that most CSAs I've heard of in the past don't offer this, so every box would be a complete surprise...I mean, what if I don't know what to do with 2 pounds of chayote?  No problem with Farm Fresh To You!  

The fact that Farm Fresh To You delivers right to your door is also a huge plus, because having a newborn baby makes even a small trip to the grocery store quite a chore.  I can't wait to receive my first box next month; hopefully I'll have a chance to share more about this with you soon.  (If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, you can use the code: KIMI2147 to receive $10 off your first box!)

Overall I was really impressed with this year's Pirate Invasion event.  There were SO many people dressed up in really elaborate costumes! I thnk there were almost as any people dressed up as there were people in regular street clothes.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has a thing for pirates...or mermaids, or even fairies (they extended it to include fairies too this year, hence Tinkerbell, who made it into the photo below). 

The one strange thing about yesterday was the weather.  It was surprisingly gloomy considering we're about to head into July.  In fact, it even rained a little bit before we ended up going to the festival.  Thankfully, it ceased by the time we went.  Although the weather wasn't the greatest for this outdoor event, it was perfect for what I had planned for dinner last night:  homemade beef stew, with a green salad served with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Ever since having Jordan, it's been really difficult for me to continue cooking the way I used to pre-baby.  It's been quite the learning experience to figure out how to still manage to make it work in the kitchen while also caring for Jordan.  Some recipes I've had to put aside for days when Tony is home to watch our son, because they'd be impossible for me to do right now by myself.  However, I've slowly managed to collect some recipes that are do-able, even with a 2 month old.  One of them is this recipe for beef stew.  

When I found this recipe, I knew I could make it work, because although it takes a lot of time, most of it is simply cooking time.  It doesn't require much effort from me after the initial prep work is completed, so it was the perfect recipe to attempt.  Needless to say, this recipe was a success!  It's a great keeper recipe for classic beef stew, and it was so easy!  It paired perfectly with the green salad and vinaigrette I had prepared, and we enjoyed eating it after our adventurous day at the pier.  The best part is that the recipe yields 6 servings, so I have plenty of leftovers!

Beef Stew 
Print this recipe
Yield: 6 servings
Original recipe by Marlene Sorosky Gray.

1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 to 3 lbs. lean beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks 
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
3 cups beef cooking stock
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bag (16 oz.) baby carrots
2 cups frozen petite whole onions
2 cups (10 oz.) frozen peas
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a plastic bag, mix flour, salt, pepper to taste.  Add meat; seal bag and shake to coat.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in wide deep saucepan over medium-high heat.  Saut√© half the meat until browned.  Remove to bowl.  Add more oil and brown remaining meat.  Stir in tomato sauce, beef stock, and Worcestershire sauce.  Return meat to pan.  Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 75 minutes.  Stir in potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Simmer 45 minutes or until meat and vegetables are tender.  Stir in peas and vinegar.  Simmer 5 to 10 minutes.  Serve in soup bowls.

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Print this recipe
Yield:  about 1 cup
Original recipe by Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk, or into a screw-top container and shake, to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.  

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