Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday Treats and Slow-Cooker Beef and Mushroom Barley Stew

My parents arrived safe and soundly Friday night as we make are way towards the beach for this coming week. Mom and I had fun together yesterday running several errands: Daisy Cakes for breakfast, Durham Farmer's Market, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, World Market, BJ's Wholesale Club, and the best stop - a 60 minute massage and 30 minute facial!

At Daisy Cakes (I've been wanting to try her cupcakes for months!) we shared a Vanilla Chai with Chai Spiced Buttercream and Pumpkin Spice with Orange Buttercream - they were outstanding.

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The perfect moist and thick cupcake base and a real butter, extra creamy icing - the flavors speak for themselves. We also picked up a strawberry preserve "Pop-t-Art" for an afternoon snack - mmm.

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Then it was on to the Farmer's Market - here we picked up Fig and Honey Goat Cheese, Camembert Cheese, Dolly Mama's Roasted Pumpkin and Chile Dark Chocolate, freshly ground Whole-Wheat Flour, and a gorgeous yellow bell pepper, for slicing later.

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We each had a goat cheese sample.

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And Sara Foster was the "Chef in the Market" - we caught her setting-up for the demo.

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I move into Durham Centre (right next to the market so I snapped a shot) the Monday I get back from the beach!! It going to be a lot of fun working in the Downtown Durham atmosphere: walking at lunch, snacking at the locally owned eateries, and being amongst all the night life entertainment. At work on Friday I packed up 28 crates before leaving - 20 of which were general HR files and 8 crates of my own items.

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In advance, I browned the beef and prepped the other ingredients for the stew so that we could enjoy ourselves all afternoon. This was great to come home to and we served it with some re-heated crusty bread for dipping.

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1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons EVOO oil
1 onion, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups low-sodium beef broth
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
2/3 cup pearl barley
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves, garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; season beef with s&p, brown, and add to the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients in order to the slow cooker.

Cover and cook, on either low or high, until the beef is tender, 6 to 7 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high. Before serving, stir in the parsley.

To Make Ahead
The night before (or a day in advance), brown the beef and store in a container in the fridge. Wash and dice all the vegetables store in a separate container in the fridge; be sure to store the browned meat in one container and the vegetables in another container.

In the morning, add the chilled ingredients to the slow cooker, then add the tomatoes with their juice, the broth, thyme, and barley to the slow cooker. Proceed with the cooking instructions above. The cooking time will run to the high end of the range given in the recipe.

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