Old Clothes for Dinner?

What were you doing at 6 a.m. today? While you may have been sleeping or working out, I was up, in the kitchen, slicing vegetables for tonight’s dinner. I got too tired last night to throw together tonight’s crockpot meal, so I got up early this morning and got to chopping! It really didn’t take long, but it was about 4:15 when I finally realized that I didn’t need to cook!

Now you may be wondering what the heck I mean in my title… Dinner tonight was a traditional Latino dish called “ropa vieja” which literally means “old clothes” and this is because, when made properly, it looks like a pot of wet, old clothes! I’d always heard about this dish, and was curious, and until a few years ago, I had no idea what it was. My friend Anna and I went to a Cuban restaurant for dinner, and I saw Ropa Vieja on the menu! Of course I had to order it…and I was hooked. I had just started cooking, and I went about trying to recreate the recipe, but I couldn’t get the meat as “fally-aparty” as it had been in the restaurant. I had just joined Weight Watchers and had found Heather’s Recipe Site, and I was DELIGHTED when I found the recipe for crockpot Ropa Vieja! One problem…no crockpot. I went out not long after that, and bought a crockpot and made the recipe and I was thrilled…it was BETTER than the restaurant’s!

I’ve made it several times since then, and it seemed like just the thing for a cold day today. I ate mine in a low-carb flour tortilla with a touch of fat free sour cream. DELICIOSO!

Beef...onions...peppers...YUM!

Beef...onions...peppers...YUM!

Crockpot Ropa Vieja (From http://freewebs.com/hwc1973)

Ingredients
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c red wine vinegar
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1.5 TBS ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
9 dashes hot pepper sauce
1 (2 lb) flank steak
1 c vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro

Combine onion through pepper sauce in a large bowl. Transfer half of the mixture into 5 or 6 qt slow cooker (crockpot). Place steak on top. Spoon remaining mixture over steak. Pour broth around steak and then tuck in bay leaves. Cover and cook until steak is tender. 5-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.**

I cooked this for literally 11 hours, and when I went to take the bay leaves out of the pot, the meat fell apart. I overdid the veggies a little bit and used twice the amount of peppers. If I do that again, I’ll cut the broth a bit because there’s too much liquid in the pot. It was still delicious, and only 5 Points® per serving, plus tortillas!

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I’ve had a couple of you ask me about this stuff called PB2, so I thought I’d just talk about it here.

from bellplantation.com

PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that has 75% less calories and fat than regular peanut butter, but with all the taste. It’s fantastic in smoothies, oatmeal, other hot cereals, puddings… yeah, just about anything that normal PB would go into! I love normal peanut butter, and as much as I love it, I can’t really have it in the house. I tend to take spoons to it and just go to town. If I want a spoonful of peanut butter, with PB2 I can mix it with water and it gives me PB2  the flavor and texture satisfaction without the calories or Points. I’m working on getting some jars to send out as a giveaway…more to come on that!

From the Bell Plantation Website:

Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, salt, and sugar

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons (12 grams)

Servings Per Container: 16

Amount Per 2 Tablespoon Serving (*when mixed with water):

Calories                             53.2

Calories from Fat           16.8

% Daily Value*
Total Fat

1.87 g

Saturated Fat

0.34 g

Trans Fat

0 g

Unsaturated Fat

1.53 g

Cholesterol

0 mg

Sodium

77.6 mg

Total Carbohydrate

3.4 g

Dietary Fiber

0.48 g

Sugars

1.66 g

Protein

5.65 g

Vitamin A (IU)

0%

Vitamin C (mg)

0%

Calcium (mg)

1%

Iron (mg)

2%

On that note, a QOTD: What’s your favorite “almost” food that helps you stay on track? For me, its either PB2 or Morningstar Farms corn dogs. They taste so “bad” but they’re seriously healthy!

Zesty Slow-Cooker Italian Pot Roast

It’s apparently Italian Week in our house… with the pizza chicken yesterday, and this amazing pot roast today! Before I get to the recipe, just a quick health update: I finally made it to the doctor today after a week with this lovely intestinal issue. My doc thinks I have a bacterial infection in my gut, so she gave me some heavy-duty antibiotics to get rid of it. I hope it does the trick because I’m DARN SICK of not feeling well!

Now, onto this recipe… back in my pre-crockpot days, I used to long for a tender potroast, but never had the equipment to make one. I didn’t have a crockpot, a dutch oven, or even a deep roasting pan in which to make said potroast. I finally caved and bought a high-tech crockpot with a timer, and the FIRST thing I made was a potroast. And it SUCKED. I scoured my favorite websites for recipes, and finally found this one. It was a hit with Adam because it didn’t have onions in it. I liked it for the roasted garlic. This recipe is from my absolute favorite recipe website, maintained by a wonderful woman named Heather. She’s famous on the Weight Watchers message boards!

Zesty Slow-Cooker Italian Pot Roast

Ingredients

This was so delicious!

This was so delicious!

4 medium potatoes, cut into quarters (4 c)
2 c whole baby carrots
1 stalk celery, cut into 1″ pieces
1 medium Italian plum tomato, diced*
2.5 lb lean beef round
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 can (10 3/4 oz) Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup
1/2 c water
1 TBS chopped roasted garlic ** OR chopped fresh garlic
1 tsp each dried basil leaves, dried oregano leaves and dried parsley flakes, crushed
1 tsp vinegar

Directions

Place potatoes, carrots, celery and tomato in 3 1/2-qt. slow cooker. Season roast with pepper and place on top.

Mix soup, water, pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley and vinegar. Pour over all.

Cover and cook on LOW 10 to 12 hr (or on HIGH 5 to 6 hr), or until done.

*I used a 16 oz can of petite diced tomatoes, drained.
**To roast garlic, place whole garlic bulb on piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with vegetable oil and wrap. Roast at 350°F. for 45 min. or until soft. Peel and chop garlic.
Serves 6

One note: I’ve tried this multiple times, and one time I didn’t roast the garlic. It is SO WORTH the extra time to roast the head of garlic instead of using raw! It adds a whole new dimension of flavor! This also works well with bone-in chicken breasts.

Comfort in a Crock

It’s officially fall here in Chicagoland, and the cooler weather has me wanting nothing more than beef stew and pot roast. At the grocery store yesterday, I picked up a package (about 1.5 lbs) of very lean stew meat, and made the decision that today would be a beef stew day.

Growing up, I always knew it was fall and winter when, after a day at school, I would come home to the unmistakeable smell of my mom’s beef stew. Her recipe was perfect, and only after I started cooking did I truly understand the time it took to make it. It was an hour on the stove with just the meat, onions, celery, and about 2 cups of wine. Then another hour with the rest of the ingredients, then it only got better as it sat.

I knew that when I got home from work today, I was not going to want to cook a 2 hour dinner. So I decided, I’m going to crockpot mom’s recipe! Alas, I had forgotten to get wine at the grocery store, so I substituted extra beef broth. Here is the full recipe:

Perfect Beef Stew

Ingredients

1.5 lbs. lean stew meat (I used bottom round)

2 cups beef broth (or 1 cup wine, 1 cup broth)

10 small red potatoes, washed and halved

2 medium yellow onions, cut into small chunks

1 small bag baby carrots

2 ribs celery, cut into a few pieces

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 c. ketchup (or tomato paste)

Directions

In a large crockpot (mine is 5.5 quarts), place all ingredients and mix well. Cook on low for at least 6 hours, but the longer, the better. Stir well before serving. Enjoy!

Simple. Perfect. And so satisfying. This hit the “exhausted teacher” button, in that I came home to dinner being done. It also hit the “my mom’s going on a 2-week vacation to southeast Asia and I’ll miss her” button in that it was so nostalgic, and I feel very accomplished that my stew tasted so much like hers.

One other thing I’m realizing as I’m cooking more family recipes, is that both my mother and grandmother were not only outstanding cooks, but they were healthy cooks too! I never thought it was odd that my mom would’ve rather served us “Egg McMimis” instead of Egg McMuffins…hers were real eggs, real cheese, and a whole wheat english muffin with a slice of smoked turkey. Grandma always measured her oil, kept her chocolate in the freezer out of reach, and saved baked goods for special occasions. Grandma’s “special occasions though, included “The grandkids are here, break out the banana-chocolate cake!”

I’m quite mellow and nostalgic today… *sigh* …