Don't let that exclamation point fool you. Mondays are tough for everyone, including me.
It's even stranger now that I'm not in an office. Working remotely from the East Coast with mostly West Coast colleagues has it's own unique time challenges. It's terrific in the morning when I have three glorious hours of uninterrupted 'to-do' time. But from noon to 5pm, I'm basically in meeting (aka: phone/GoToMeeting) mode. Then I'm trying to shut the day down while my email continues to ping away.
I'm realizing I miss my commute too. Not the BART part (especially being pregnant), but the chance to be out and about in town and get things done. I no longer pass three grocery stores, CVS and my dry cleaner twice each day. I actually have to plan on when I'll go to those places.
I know, I know. I sound ridiculous.
Then again, this is a major shakeup in my old routine. It's strange to have to re-learn when and how to leave the house.
Easiest Beef Stew
Since I can no longer easily run to the grocery store five times a week, menu planning is becoming more important. With carrots, celery and onions in my fridge I am proud to say I 'planned' to make beef stew at some point. This version from TheKitchn's cookbook sounded fantastic.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons paprika
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 pounds stewing beef, beef chuck, or shoulder roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup olive oil, or as needed
2 cups red wine
1 14.5 ounce can tomato puree*
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 large yellow onions, peeled, cut into eighths, roots left intact
2 medium russet potatoes (about 6 ounces each), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 10-ounce package broad egg noodles and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for serving (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)
Flaked sea salt (optional)
*I used petite diced tomatoes
Combine the flour, paprika, and 2 teaspoons of the black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Toss in the beef cubes and carefully turn the mixture over several times until the meat is well coated.
Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed casserole or a 6-to 8-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, making sure the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. Being careful not to overcrowd the pan, brown the meat over medium heat in batches, adding more olive oil as needed, using metal tongs to turn the cubes of meat so that each side is browned.
Remove pan from heat. When pan is cool enough to handle, wipe out any burnt flour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Over high heat, return pot to burner and pour in red wine, tomato puree, tomato paste, salt, and remaining teaspoon of pepper, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan while stirring. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the liquid begins to thicken (about 5 minutes). Remove pan from heat.
Place half of the meat in pot and sprinkle with half of the garlic. Add half of the carrots, half of the onions, and half of the potatoes. Add remaining browned meat, and remaining garlic, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Top with rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf. Lightly press everything down into the liquid with the back of your spoon.
Cover pot and place it in oven for at least 3 hours, removing cover for the final 20 minutes of cooking.
(This is right after I took the pot out of the oven and gave it a stir.)
If serving stew over noodles, cook noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and toss with butter.
Discard rosemary, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf from pot. To serve, place a handful of noodles in each serving bowl and ladle stew over noodles. Top with parsley and sea salt.
This dish can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
About an hour before the stew was supposed to come out, the most incredible smell in the recorded history of meat and red wine began wafting through my home.
I started getting hungry so I nibbled on an orange. One of the babies started kicking. She knew I was just trying to fool us both.
But back to the stew. It was good. Oh so good.
I skipped noodles and sopped up all the juices in my bowl with a piece of crusty bread. Heaven.
PS. I thought about making polenta to put this stew over, but got lazy. AND, it turns out I have been cooking my polenta too quickly. I really though that 10 minutes was enough. Not so according to this helpful Cooking Lesson from The Kitchn.