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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011

DESPERATION DINNERS

Cook in advance to speed meal prep

BY ALICIA ROSS, WITH BEVERLY MILLS

Cooking ahead can seem like a daunting task. Cooking one meal is sometimes overwhelming: How do you cook several at the same time? What if I told you that with only a 15-minute investment, you could have dinner simmering for tonight and possibly several more meals down the road?

Batch cooking the protein speeds dinner to the table faster than you can call for takeout, and it's so much healthier. Today's Italian Stewed Beef is a slow-cooked wonder that can simmer on your countertop all day.

The tender, flavorful beef can then be served atop your favorite cheese ravioli tonight for dinner. Leftovers refrigerate for up to four days or will freeze for up to three months.

That means dinner is just minutes away another night, too.

Contact Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross at Desperation Dinners, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or send email to tellus@kitchenscoop.com.

Suggested menu:

Italian Stewed Beef over Cheese Ravioli

Chopped Romaine with Italian dressing

Crusty Italian wheat rolls

 

ITALIAN STEWED BEEF

Start to finish: 15 minutes prep, 8 to 10 hours slow cooking on low (see Cook's note)

Yield: 8 cups beef mixture

3 1/4-3 1/2 pounds well-marbled beef, cut for stew

2 cans (14 ounces each) Italian-style stewed tomatoes, with juice

4 cups water

4 large cloves garlic

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Stir and cover. Cook for 8 to 10 hours on low setting.

When beef is fork-tender, turn off heat and serve, or cool to store. Beef may be refrigerated for up to four days or frozen (in 1-cup increments) for up to three months.

Cook's note: Most slow cooker recipes call for 8 to 10 hours on low or 4 to 6 on high. But I found in testing this recipe that the meat was not nearly tender enough even at 6 hours on high. I strongly suggest using the lower temperature for only the longer period of time.

If you prefer to cook stove-top, bring the ingredients to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer on low, watching the liquid levels for 4 hours or until beef is fall-apart tender. Add water as necessary.

Approximate values per 1/3 cup: 92 calories (28 percent from fat), 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 38 mg cholesterol, 14 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, 145 mg sodium

 

ITALIAN STEWED BEEF OVER CHEESE RAVIOLI

Start to finish: less than 15 minutes

Serves 1 (easily doubled, tripled, etc.)

For each serving:

5 frozen cheese ravioli

1/3 cup Italian stewed beef and juices

1 tablespoon shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese

snipped fresh or dried rosemary, optional, to taste

Cook ravioli according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the beef mixture in a small pot on the stovetop or in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave. Drain ravioli and place in a pasta dish. Top with warmed stew mixture, cheese and rosemary to taste, if desired. Serve immediately.

Approximate values per serving: 297 calories (40 percent from fat), 13 g fat (6 g saturated), 84 mg cholesterol, 27 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, 520 mg sodium



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