Tag Archives: beef

Homemade Beef Stew (Not to mention…the transformative power of a cleaver!)

Right off the top I have to say that my mother makes the best stew EVER! This likely doesn’t come as a surprise though, that’s typical of mothers. They make the best version of all your favourite meals and you can never quite get your recipe exactly the same…even when you use the exact same ingredients!

You stir it differently. Add ingredients in a different order or at a different time. Own non-stick fry pans that are *nothing* like your mother’s cast iron pans.

And regardless of all this…there’s a dash of affection and a pinch of motherly love that you just can’t recreate…unless you love yourself like a mother does her child which just sounds odd.

So we request such meals, like stew, when we go for a visit.  Even if said visit is in the middle of summer and it’s 30 degrees (86 F), bring on the boiling hot stew!

This doesn’t mean we don’t try to make our mother’s recipes…we do. But in the end, we come up with our creations…a new take on an old favourite.  And thus, we come to this post…one of my many attempts to recreate my mother’s delicious cooking!

Not to mention, this post involves a cleaver!! (Admit it, that’s why you’re reading this post, isn’t it?)

It changed me for all time…that lovely, shiny, sharp cleaver…but I’ll get to that part of the story later….

Okay, OKAY…how about a picture for now?
I can’t just jump ahead to the cleaver part because it’s halfway through the recipe!!! But I suppose I can share a picture….

There!  Happy?  More to come further in the post…but for now…

I shall start with a shot of my wee little kitchen prepping for some BIG flavours!

Ready to begin!

I bought two packs of stewing beef which you can see on the left…approx 2 lbs worth.  In the black bowl is a couple tablespoons of flour.

Before dealing with any vegetables, I prepped my beef.  It came already cut into chunks but I wanted to make them smaller…more bite-sized.  Sadly, underneath what appears to be some lovely red beef, I found whole pieces of gristly tendon that I didn’t think I could use. (Or perhaps I could?? There wasn’t enough to make a broth, but there was enough to piss me off when I looked at the size of the mound of unused bits…What do YOU do with big white chunks of gristle?)

Hmmm…I thought I was buying stewing beef…NOT stewing tendon.

Disappointing lack of beef!

In a way, the disappointing state of the meat was my own fault. The meat counter in my neighbourhood is closed on Mondays and I ALWAYS seem to get my cooking inspiration on a Monday. So, I walked down the street to the grocery store which is generally quite cheap and crowded. The meat was on sale, who knows where it came from…..

I got what I paid for.

Lesson learned.

Once I got over my tendon disappointment, I got on with my stew prep. I removed the annoying bits, cut the beef into smaller pieces and coated it lightly with flour.

Then I browned them in a fry pan with a bit of oil, salt, pepper and a dash of soy sauce.

While the beef browned, I prepped my slow cooker with a mix of water and…ahem…a packet of stew spice mix.

Yep…I cheated!

Yeah yeah, I know! After all that talk about trying to recreate my mother’s stew…what do I do? Take a shortcut…a spicy shortcut!
What can I say? I’m a rebel!

Slow cooker prepped with a mix of water and stew spices

Added the browned beef and then left it in the slow cooker on high for an hour.

While the beef stewed in my crock pot for an hour…I started to chop up my vegetables.

This is where the cleaver comes in…for those of you who have been patiently waiting 😉


Have you ever tried to cut up a rutabaga? (If you have no idea what a rutabaga is…think turnip-from-hell).
I would say it’s one of the most difficult vegetables to deal with…all covered in wax…rock hard at times…using a regular knife on a rutabaga is like trying to do hand sewing with a bone sliver.  It works but it’s difficult, annoying, can take forever…and why would you when you have more fun and efficient options? 😉

I wasn’t looking forward to chopping this sucker up until I remembered that B had a cleaver in our kitchen drawer.  Had he been around, I would probably have asked him to hack it up for me but instead I got to experience the pleasure that comes from swinging a cleaver at a defenceless, well almost defenceless (stupid rock hard rutabaga), vegetable.


The cleaver was much sharper than I expected and the first swing cracked the rutabaga in half.


It took a few more whacks but in mere minutes, I decimated that rock-hard vegetable into manageable chunks!
Also in mere minutes, I found myself utterly transformed…

from a dorky, rutabaga-fearing, newbie cook into a MAD, CLEAVER-WIELDING KITCHEN QUEEN BEFORE WHOM ALL VEGETABLES TREMBLE!!!!!

“So shiny!” says the newly initiated cleaver fan, standing over her most recent victim. Muahahahahaha!

The other vegetables…carrots, celery and potatoes…didn’t require cleaver-oomph…but I really wanted to!

Chopped celery and some rutabaga remains!

I washed the carrots but didn’t bother peeling them. Chopped all the veg into fairly large pieces.

Roughly chopped up an onion and used tiny new potatoes that I simply cut in half.

Once I’d added all the vegetables to the pot, I decided to add 1/3 a can of dark ale.  No real reason except “why not?” 😉

At this point, settle into a good movie  or two as your stew is going to need a few hours to cook.  One initial hour to start the beef, then after adding the vegetables, I let it cook for another couple of hours.  It was getting late at that point so I turned off the slow cooker, let the dish cool a bit and then put it in the fridge overnight.  The next day, when I arrived home after work around 4pm, I put it back on high and left it for about four hours, as I was out for the evening.

The broth was still a little bland for me so, before heading out, I added the following: some garlic powder, a few bay leaves, as well as a splash of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Not to mention, salt and pepper, which I added a few times…all to taste.

Upon my return home, the apartment smelled amazing!!! This is what greeted me in the slow cooker!

The vegetables were soft and tender, the meat fell apart in my mouth and the shortcut-broth was amazing!  It wasn’t my mother’s stew, that’s for sure, but it had a goodness all its own 🙂

Mom, be warned, I’ll still be asking for stew next time I visit!

I’ll also be making this recipe again too.  It’s a wonderful meal for those cold winter nights.
And if you forgo the rutabaga, it’s an incredibly easy and straightforward recipe.  If you keep the rutabaga, for god’s sake use a cleaver!

And keep in mind, if you’re working with a slow cooker as I did, make it early and give it 6+ hrs to cook





Homemade Beef Stew


  • 2 lb stewing beef
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 10 cups chopped, cubed vegetables (carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, celery, onion)
  • Garlic powder
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire
  • Bay leaves
  • Pepper and salt
  • Dark ale
  • Stew spice mix


  1. Lightly coat your beef bits in flour.
  2. Brown the beef in a fry pan with a bit of vegetable oil, a dash of soy sauce, salt and pepper.
  3. In your slow cooker, mix your spices (I cheated and used a Stew Spice Mix) with the water.  Add the browned beef and leave on high for an hour.
  4. Chop up all your vegetables…I used celery, onion, potato, carrot, and rutabaga (Pull out your cleaver for the rutabaga!!) Add all the vegetables to the slow cooker.
  5. Add 1/3 to 1/2 a can of dark ale, as well as bay leaves, garlic powder, soy and Worcestershire sauces. Salt and pepper to taste. Leave on high for 4-5 hrs or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Serve!


Easy-Peasy Slow Cooker Chili

Click here for the recipe or scroll to the bottom of the post.

Chili is one of those dishes that you have to work hard to ruin.  I’ve done so twice.  That’s talent!

That isn’t to say that I have never made *good* chili…just that I have *bad* chili experience to build upon.

I remember the very first time I made chili…I drowned it in cumin.  (At that point in my life, I also pronounced it “come-in”….don’t do that unless you want to be laughed at! Loudly saying something like “I put too much cum-in!” in front of a bunch of people is something you never live down!)

The reason for the second failure is unclear…I think I went a little wild on the spices.  One outweighed the other, too much of this, not enough of that…It was one of those dishes that made your tastebuds go “WTF?” and simply shut down.

As I have said, though, I HAVE made good chili and this past weekend is an example of  that.

For the actual recipe I followed, visit my twin blog: Recipes from Edible Noir

Cue the ingredients….

The first step was to dice up some cloves of garlic and onions and then caramelize them over med heat.  I forgot to take a picture of this…so use the artistic rendition of that step below to help you visualize the process.

A frying pan, sort of. I think the onion and garlic bits are quite accurate. 😉


Once the garlic and onions were tender and softened, I added the ground beef.  I used extra lean to reduce the amount of fat I would have to deal with later on.  As the beef browned, I added a few drops of hot sauce and a dash of oregano for some zip and flavour.

One cool thing about chili is its flexibility.  You can choose to add or avoid pretty much whatever you wish.  The vegetables I decided to add were all I had in my fridge at the time and it worked out quite well.  As the beef browned, I chopped up some carrots, celery, peppers and mushrooms.

The beef didn’t take too long to brown completely, at which point I used a slotted spoon and added the mixture to the slow cooker.

Followed by the two cans of beans and the vegetables…

Finally topping off the whole thing with the can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and various spices I wished to add…(hot sauce, chili powder, cumin *that’s cue-min, NOT cum-in*, chili flakes, paprika, salt, pepper).

I left my chili in the slow cooker on high for a couple hours, stirring occasionally, and then let it sit on low for another couple of hours.

Chili is SO easy and straightforward! (Says the girl who has messed it up a couple of times!) It took me barely an hour to get everything in the slow cooker, and then you simply leave it to cook.


One thing I have learned during my various experiences with chili is that you really need to have fresh chili powder.  The older it is, the less potent and the more you have to add (which still doesn’t have the zip that new powder would).

Also, DON’T over-add cumin!  I speak from experience when I say…Ugh!

Add a bit at a time.  That actually goes for all the spices.  Each time you add some spices, give them a bit of time to sit in the chili, as it cooks, and allow the tastes to mix before you decide to add more.


* 2 small onions
* 2 lbs ground beef
* 2 cloves garlic
* 2 carrots
* 2 celery stalks
* 1/2 red pepper
* 1 cup mushrooms
* 1 can black beans, strained and rinsed
* 1 can red kidney beans, strained and rinsed
* 1 can crushed tomatoes
* 1 can tomato paste
* oregano
* hot sauce
* Chili powder
* Cumin
* Chili flakes
* Paprika
* Salt/Pepper
* Can add cayenne pepper for some extra heat if you wish

1. Fry onions/garlic until softened

2. Add ground beef plus a bit of oregano and a few drops of hot sauce and cook until the meat is completely brown

3. Add meat mixture to your slow cooker with a slotted spoon

4. Chop up your vegetables of choice. (I decided to add carrots, celery, peppers, and mushrooms.) Add them to the slow cooker.

5. Add your strained and rinsed cans of beans, followed by the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste.

6. Finally add the spices (hot sauce, chili powder, cumin, chili flakes, paprika, salt, pepper) and gently stir the mixture together.

7. Cook in slow cooker on High for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

8. Turn slow cooker down to Low and allow to continue cooking for another 3 hours or so. Again, check/stir occasionally.

NOTE: If you find you are low on sauce, as I was, consider adding another half can of tomatoes/ready-made sauce/etc.

Goth Cabbage Rolls

Click here for the recipe or scroll to the bottom of the post.

Ah, cabbage rolls.  The thought of them brings back a lot of memories.  My mother has made cabbage rolls as long as I can remember.

And as long as she has made them, I have picked them apart and only eaten the beef stuffing. *grin*

I was never a big fan, but at least they were easy to pry apart and the cabbage was easy to disregard.  (Granted, that was until she started making Lazy Cabbage Rolls which were a mix of all the same ingredients, just with the cabbage chopped up…creating more of a stew.  Very difficult for this stubborn child to separate meat from greens…but I managed.  It would take me awhile…but I did it!)

Anyway, since my Changing of the Buds post, where I considered how my food preferences have changed over the years, I have thought about my mother’s cabbage rolls and whether those too would have now migrated to my list of ‘acceptable’ food.

So, the other day I called my mother and asked for her recipe.  I figured I’d try making them, the experience alone would be worth it, and if I didn’t like them, B said he would eat them…so it was a win-win situation!

Turned out it wasn’t a completely foolproof plan.

I made them, had fun doing it, tasted them, loved them…and now I still have to share with B.  🙂 It would seem I didn’t think this through completely. *wink*

Okay, so enough rambling…Let’s get into this Goth Cabbage Roll adventure, shall we?

What’s that?….Ohhhh, you’re wondering about the ‘Goth’ part of this equation, are you?

Let me clarify.

Yeah…the store only had purple cabbage and I thought, “What the heck?  They’ll be different!”  They most certainly were.  My kitchen was different too for the experience.  Sort of a blue-purple colour before it was all over.

So, to begin…


I cored my cabbage.  Sort of.  Semi-cored…or more accurately, quarter-cored…is that even a word?  I cut around the core and created a hole about an inch deep.

Then I had to decide how to cook it.  I knew the idea was to cook it to the point that I could peel off the softened leaves fold/roll them.  I looked for cooking suggestions online and saw numerous references to boiling it.  Unfortunately, my pots were all too small so I decided to try roasting it in the oven.

Don’t bother.

I put it in a roasting pan with about an inch or so of water and put it in the oven…at 350 degrees.  Upon checking it, about 30-40 minutes later, all I found was that the top was starting to burn so I nixed that idea.

Eventually, I returned to the boiling idea.  I put it in my less than adequate pot with water and starting boiling it, turning it fairly often so all sides would soften.  It took awhile, and a lot of turning…not to mention good eye-hand coordination, two forks to turn it, a lovely blue-purple mist all over my stove and counter, and several near-miss burns.

I actually had fun preparing this dish, believe it or not, but it was a lot of work.

Big Cabbage...Lil' Pot

Big Cabbage...Lil' Pot

Big Cabbage...Lil' Pot

Getting the heat going

Boiling the Cabbage

Separated Leaves...oh and a lovely mess!

As the leaves separated from the cabbage body, I placed them in another pan to cool

Allowing the leaves to cool before handling

To make things even more complicated…while the boiling was going on , I created the ground beef mixture.


I put on my rice (no pic) and chopped up my onion.

This mixture was the easy part.  I based it on my meatloaf recipe with the addition of cooked rice and some tomato soup, which my mother’s Cabbage Roll recipe called for.

Stuffing: ground beef, onion, egg, spices

Completed Stuffing: added cooked rice, tomato soup


Now we come to the fun part!  I’m sure there are many ways to fold a cabbage roll.  It some cases, I ended up using toothpicks to hold a couple of them closed.

Step One

Step Two

Step Three

Step Four

Step Five – My first Cabbage Roll!

Once you’ve folded them all, fit them into a casserole dish.  I found I had to pin a few with toothpicks to ensure they would stay closed.

Pour your sauce overtop of the rolls…they should be fairly covered.

Once they are ready, I simply baked them in the oven for about an hour!  They smelled SO good…and tasted even better!!


Stuffing (similar to a meatloaf recipe)

  • 2 lbs Ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup of rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lipton onion soup mix
  • ½ cup tomato soup
  • Garlic (used powder)


  • 2 cans spaghetti sauce Dilute it with water
  • thyme
  • garlic powder
  • pepper
  • used a generic Ms Dash seasoning to add flavour
  • Plus one head of cabbage



Put on your cabbage and rice at the same time.  They are many ways to prepare rice. Here’s how I do it: I put the rice in a pot, and then I put water so that it covers the rice about 3/4” of an inch deep. I usually measure it with the fingertip section of my index finger. I bring it to a boil, and then leave it on min/simmer for about 20 minutes. If all goes well, at 20 minutes there is no water left, just rice.

Head of cabbage

  • Cut out root, about an inch or more deep and place the cabbage in a pot with water.
  • Bring water to a boil.
  • I had a small pot and had to keep rotating the cabbage.  Whether you have to do that or not, remove leaves as they soften and fall off the cabbage.  Set them aside to cool.  (Soft leaves: They should be limp enough to roll but not too limp as to be soggy)


  • For filling, combine ground beef, chopped onion, egg, rice, salt and pepper, onion soup mix, tomato soup, garlic.
  • Place a portion into the center of each cabbage leaf.  I put two heaping spoonfuls per leaf. Roll leaf around filling; if needed, fasten with toothpick. Place in a baking dish.  (Check out my Edible Noir blog for folding photos)


  • For sauce, combine tomato sauce, thyme, garlic powder, pepper, any other seasonings you wish, and pour over cabbage rolls. They should be just covered.

Set oven to 350.  Bake covered for an hour.

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