Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cleaning......Can It Be Fun?????

Well I think not unless you are deranged......just kidding.  :-)  I do enjoy cleaning sometimes but most of the time I have to bribe myself to get the job done.  I do Love clean so there's got to be a compromise in there somewhere.  This quandary prompted me to try a new vacuum cleaner yet again.  Yes I go through vacuums like most people do paper towels.  I'm not sure what the answer to this is.  Do I abuse them, use them too much, or are we just too dirty.  No answer....

These questions motivated me to try something new.  I know everybody has heard the cheers for Dyson Vacuums and I would love to own one too.  Sadly that's just not in the budget right now.  I also like the ones that have a detachable hand vac - there are just so many places to get into when you live with pets.  I found a kind of a combination vacuum that I truly love.  I am just getting to know it but so far it is wonderful.  If you have any issues with arthritis, etc., like I do, then this really is a great way to go.  Full disclosure - I am receiving no compensation, etc for talking about this machine.  I just wanted to share something that works for me.  It is the Shark Rocket and believe me it earns it's name.  You can find them here at their web site.  They are also available at Amazon and other retailers.  If you use their site, they are giving away one of their steam mops for trying the little guy and if you don't like it after using it, you can return it for a full refund and they will pay the shipping.  I shop online a lot so this is a super deal.

Here are a few things that I learned about trying it.  The dust cup is small but it is big enough for me because I can just empty it regularly and I tend to vacuum in shifts anyway.  It detaches easily enabling you to use it freely without the tube.  It has an extra long cord which I love and I don't have to worry about it running out of battery power since it is electric.  It is extremely maneuverable - I can get under my bed, tables, chairs, etc. with ease.  The unit is tall which keeps me from bending and saves my back.  It comes with some awesome tools - crevice, brush, and a regular vac tool.  There are also more available on the site.  It has a switch to move from carpet to bare floors and that works great.  So I have to rate this little powerhouse at about a 4.5 out of 5.  We will see how durable it is since our house seems to be the place vacs come to die.

Also the little steam mop that was sent to us free of charge is no slouch either.  It came with two durable tough pads and it quickly steams up and works well.  Time will tell on the durability of this one as well.

I still don't necessarily find cleaning fun but these two little machines are making it a little less painful and easier.  Now if I can just convince the dogs that it didn't come here to kill them.  Ugh.....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What Can You Do with a Super Heavy Pot???

Last year we gave ourselves a dutch oven for Christmas since we didn't have any pots that were oven proof with a lid.  We decided on the enameled cast iron type by Lodge.  We just love using cast iron and this is so awesome because it washes up really well and and it cooks like a dream.  I ordered it online from Amazon and when it came in I was unprepared for how very heavy these pots actually are.  So in a pinch you can cook awesome food with it and use it as a weapon as well.  Just don't drop it on your foot - there will be dire consequences.

The first recipe we christened it with was Beef Bourguignon.  I so love this French stew and have been obsessed with it since I saw the movie Julie and Julia.  Now I am by far not that precise and I don't use the Julia Child recipe but it is delicious just the same.  I am convinced that this dish is especially tasty because of this remarkable pot!!  The recipe is below and a link to print.  The pot takes meat that is not usually very tender and makes it divine!  There are lots of dutch ovens out there and I would like to add another to our collection.  The only other we have is my Grannie's very old one and it is the original cast iron type.  Hard to clean and smelly.  It works well for some things but not so much for stews.

So here we go - let me know how you like it.  It is so very simple - let the pot do all the work for you.

Beef Bourguignon
Cook time: 3 Hr  Prep time: 30 Min  Serves: 6-8
3 lb beef chuck, boneless or stew beef
6 slice bacon
2 c chopped carrots
1 large onion chopped
4 clove garlic
1 pkg mushrooms
2 large bay leaves
beef bouillon, cubes or beef stock
3 c red wine, dry, full bodied or cooking wine
3 Tbsp corn starch or flour
1 stick butter
4 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
olive oil - optional
1. I make this stew in an enameled cast iron dutch oven and I do believe it makes all the difference. It turns out delicious every time. First I brown the bacon until crispy and remove it from the pan and leave the drippings.
2. Now brown the beef on all sides. Sprinkle pepper and salt on the meat while browning. After all pieces are browned on the outside, remove them from the pot.
3. Add 1/2 the stick of butter to the pot and sprinkle in about a tablespoon of olive oil. The olive oil is optional but I believe it does add to the flavor. Add in the onions and saute until softened; then add garlic and continue to saute until it is softened. I use a couple of tablespoons jarred chopped garlic but fresh is fine too. Remove these from the pot and set aside.
4. Add the mushrooms and more butter and olive oil if needed. Saute until browned and remove. Add and saute carrots until softened.
5. Add the beef and all vegetables back to the pot. Add 2 cups of water and bullion to pot - beef stock may also be substituted as well. I use 4 cubes. Bring this to a boil and add 4 tablespoons of tomato paste, 3 cups of wine or cooking wine, salt, pepper, garlic salt to taste and stir well to combine. If the mixture does not have enough liquid, add more stock until it almost covers the meat.
6. Add the bacon back to the top of the pot along with the bay leaves. Cover and place in the center of the oven and cook for 2-2/12 at 350 degrees. I normally do not open the oven or lift the lid during this time.
7. After the stew is tender and done, place back on the stove top and skim about 3 tablespoons of the broth into a jar along with 6 tablespoons of flour or corn starch (whichever you prefer) and mix together. Add more water or stock to make about a cup. Stir the stew completely and add the thickener. Simmer on the stove top stirring regularly until the stew is thickened and ready to serve. We usually service with white rice and crusty bread. It is also great with egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Link to Printable Version