Crock a Chuck Roast

In my previous post Crock a Roast, I used a top round roast. Although the techniques used to make the roast were OK, the meat itself came out tough. A coworker who had done butchering work in a past life recommended I use either a chuck roast or bottom round – with chuck roast being preferred. The top round is too lean for the way I’m cooking it but the chuck roast has good marbling throughout.

While I’m not an avid fan of fat – I decided to try the chuck roast. Am I glad I did! It turned out beautifully. Here are the steps:

  • Step 1: Chop the vegetables. Today I used carrots, Vidalia onions and potatoes. Put them into the crockpot. TIP: Vegetables go into the bottom of the crockpot – meat goes on top.
    Vegetables ready for crockpot

    Vegetables ready for crockpot

    Vegetables in crockpot

    Vegetables in crockpot

  • Step 2: Season the roast. I prefer to keep it simple and let the flavor of the meat shine through. I use salt, pepper and garlic power. I oil the roast and then rub the combined seasonings on the meat prior to putting it into the pan to sear.
Chuck roast rub

Chuck roast rub

  • Step 3: Sear the roast. Select a pan into which the roast just fits; this helps sear the edges. Heat the pan and add the meat. Let it cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Make sure you sear the sides and ends as well. You will have a nice brown color on all sides when you are finished. TIP: Use a large meat fork to hold the roast up to sear the edges.
Begin Searing Chuck Roast

Begin Searing Chuck Roast

Seared Chuck Roast

Seared Chuck Roast

Seared Chuck Roast ready for Crockpot

Seared Chuck Roast ready for Crockpot

  • Step 4: Add liquid and cook. Add 1 cup of lower sodium beef broth to the crockpot and place the roast on top of the veggies in the crockpot. Set the temp to low and the timer for 6 hours.
Crockpot liquid for chuck roast

Crockpot liquid for chuck roast

Chuck roast atop vegetables in crockpot

Chuck roast atop vegetables in crockpot

  • Step 5: Make the gravy. About twenty minutes before the roast is done, gather the ingredients for the gravy. This gravy is actually called ‘Quick Brown Sauce’ from the Joy of Cooking cookbook. I leave out the wine and port which gives me a sweeter gravy – you can adjust as you want. I use the cooking liquid from the crockpot as the broth base for my sauce. When the crockpot is done, remove the roast and veggies to a large serving dish and pour the cooking liquid into a measuring cup – you need about 2 cups for the gravy.
Joy of Cooking Cookbook

Joy of Cooking Cookbook

Gravy Seasonings

Gravy Seasonings

The ingredients are flour, sugar, butter, onions, olive oil and thyme. The recipe calls for vegetable oil; I prefer olive oil. In the picture you see 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the crockpot.

  • Step 6: Following the recipe (I halved it), you will make a roux on the stove. Melt the butter and cook the onions for about 3 minutes, add the flour and cook until it is brownish – about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cooking liquid and cook until it thickens. Strain out the onions if you wish. Because I halved the recipe and left out some liquid, I had to adjust the amount of flour until the gravy was as thick as I liked.
Boiling the gravy base

Boiling the gravy base

Strained gravy base

Strained gravy base

Gravy aka Quick Brown Sauce

Gravy aka Quick Brown Sauce

  • Step 7: Serve. TIP: I didn’t eat this at all this day – I packed it into individual lunch containers for the freezer. It made 9 servings so I estimate it would save me about $90 by eating this for lunches at work instead of going out.
Chuck roast and gravy ready to serve

Chuck roast and gravy ready to serve

Some alternatives to my method:

  • Substitute other vegetables – I use celery instead of potatoes. In that case, serve with a side of noodles or make mashed potatoes
  • Use the cooking liquid as-is instead of making a gravy
  • Use store bought gravy instead of the cooking liquid

Let me know how you do on this…

Veggie Freeze Out

Vidalias Are Here! Just in time! I’ve waited a whole year and I just ran out of my stock from last year.

Vidalia Onions are the sweetest, best onions on the planet – IMHO — and well they are endorsed by Bobby Flay – check it out here.

So when I spied those lovelies in my store, I grabbed a 5 pound bag and couldn’t wait to put them to work. I also bought some carrots and potatoes that day. As you know, I like to make big batches and use my freezer to store my creations. So today, I chopped and peeled and bagged and froze. It was all good. I’d like to share my process with you in case you would like to freeze some veggies too.

I made two general batches — one roasted and one diced — for the freezer. Here are the steps for the roasted batch:

Step 1: Peel and wash six large russet potatoes, six large Vidalia onions and a bunch of carrots and then chop them into approximate 1 inch pieces. I usually put the carrots and onions in one bowl and the potatoes into a separate bowl. TIP: Larger, thicker pieces take longer to roast than skinny ones – keep the same sized pieces together on one pan for roasting; this allows you to remove all the skinnier pieces at once to keep them from burning while allowing the others to continue roasting.


Step 2: Bag and season the chopped veggies. TIP: You can do the chopping and seasoning ahead of time by putting the veggies into bags for the refrigerator. Of course you could just season in the bowls to save the bag. I had an appointment so I had to make these ahead today.


When seasoning, use olive oil and your choice of herbs and spices. I use half a teaspoon each per bag of rosemary, dill weed, salt and pepper. Seal the bag and shake it up to mix and distribute the oil and seasonings.


Put the bags in the refrigerator for later or continue on with the roasting.

Step 3: Ready pans and oven. I use foil lined cookie sheets. There is no need to oil the pan as we use olive oil in the seasoning bag. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Step 4: Put the veggies on the pans.

spill_carrot                                                                       spill_pot

Spread them out evenly on the pans, making sure they are laying as flat as possible. TIP: Try to keep the onion in chunk form rather than letting it separate into its layers; individual layers may burn during the roasting.



Step 4: Roast. Put the pans into the preheated 325 degree F oven. The length of time you let them cook depends on the vegetables you use and their thickness. In this case, I set the time for one and one-half hours. At that time, I’ll test the carrot and onions. The onions should be done at that point. Because these carrots are skinny, they may also be done.

I’ll leave the potatoes in for about 2 hours and then check them using a fork or knife. You should be able to pierce them to find a soft center – that’s when they are done.
Step 5: Remove from the oven. When they are done, remove the pans and let cool on their pans. You can use them immediately or bag them up for the freezer. I usually put them in quart freezer bags and then put the quart freezer bags into a gallon freezer bag. This minimizes freezer burn when removing a small amount at a time from your freezer stock. TIP: Use them for your sides with dinners by warming in the oven or microwave. So good.

I’m sitting here writing this with the wonderful rosemary and dill smell floating around me. Nice!

While the Vidalias are in season, I dice and freeze them in one cup bags for use in recipes throughout the year. It’s very easy; I say that –  I use my Kitchen Ninja to do the dicing. You can do it with a knife or other food processor just as well – just takes longer. (That reminds me, I cracked one of my Ninja pitchers with hot liquid (potato leek soup)  – have to order a replacement.) Here are the steps:

Step 1: Peel and coarse chop the onions. Put them in the Ninja.



Dicing is done! I do a few pitchers so I empty them all into a big bowl to make the bagging easier.

Step 2: Bag the onions. I use sandwich bags and a half cup measuring cup to bag the onions. I put one cup into each bag, expel as much air as possible and then put them into quart size freezer bags.


Step 3: Put them into the freezer. That’s it – you can just pull out one sandwich bag at a time for use in your favorite recipes.

TIP: I wouldn’t use the frozen ones for a raw preparation like a salad; always use fresh onions for raw preps.


Treasure Hunt

School will soon be out! If your kids are like mine, they will be bored by week two. Add a rainy day and they will be lining up for entertainment – that would be you! Enter ‘Treasure Hunt’. This game is easy, quick and cheap – or it can be as complex as you’d like. I always enjoyed the ‘king’ theme. As the name implies, the children will be questing throughout the kingdom for the prize.

  1. Choose a theme. MM900046593(1)
  2. Hide the prize. While the questors are putting on their costumes, hide the prize. What is a good prize? This again, depends on how much you want to give and the likes/dislikes and ages of the questors. Remember, you may play this several times this summer so I would keep it small. If I planned ahead, I would buy a small trinket for the prize – a favorite toy or book. Again, if you planned ahead you could wrap it – that adds to the excitement. If you didn’t plan ahead, just use some money or a coupon for a special treat. The treat could be the right to decide what to make for dinner.
  3. Make the clues. MM900303301Use small strips of paper. The clues lead from clue to clue to eventually the prize. The clues are written with the ages of the children in mind. You can draw pictures instead of words if needed. Here’s an example: Under oldest child’s pillow. Then put the next clue under that pillow. TIP: Be sure to put the clues in safe locations.
  4. Hide the clues. First check to make sure nobody is peeking! If you wish, you can make enough clues for everybody find or just one. You can also make several routes through the house for the hunt. I know – this could be as adventurous as you want!
  5. Assemble the participants. ??????????????? Explain the rules. My rules are:
  • No running
  • No making messes – search carefully and put things back the way you found them
  • No climbing
  • If you have just one clue at each place, the finder must read it aloud and discuss where the next clue might be with the group (rather than just running off with the clue – what fun is that?).
  • If the prize is wrapped, it must be brought to the kitchen for a group reveal

And they’re off and not running to find the first clue. You may have to go with them the first time. As time goes on you can be more creative with the clues.

Have fun! MC900441717

Mechanicals Happening

The rehab on the house continues and is coming together. The focus during the last two weeks was on the mechanicals and upstairs bath. The items to be completed are being whittled away. Kudos to my contractors – they have day jobs and their own homes to work – but still they are making great progress on my house – thanks guys!

One setback occurred: the water company came to turn on the water and we discovered we’d failed to plumb in for a water meter – doh! We need the water to do the drywall next week. It’ll be tight to get it all done – may have to put off the drywall. Rats

The mechanicals included putting in a new electric box, a new water heater and finishing the water lines. Of course all the copper had been pulled out before I bought it. new_elec_box Strange thing, the electric had been turned on but I haven’t received a bill. hmmm – I better call them before I get a huge bill.


new_water_heater  new_water_piping


The upstairs bathroom was completely stripped when I bought it and the laundry hookups were down in the basement. I wanted the laundry facility upstairs. So the guys ran pipes up and are framing in a laundry ‘closet’. wash_dry_closet_frame

Although I would have preferred a cast iron tub, I didn’t want to put that weight on the 2nd floor. So, we went with an acrylic tub with a surround. The guys had to frame it in. new_bath_enclosure I think the shower head is a bit too high but we can fix that later.

Coming up: plumb a water meter, replace downstairs shower stall and drywall.

Crock Chicken Pot

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I’m a big crock pot fan. Making good use of a crock pot and a freezer can be a life saver for a working mom. There’s just something great about coming in the house after a busy day to the smell of something good cooking – especially in the winter (if you live in a cold climate you know what I mean). This recipe makes ten good size portions in a full crockpot.

Here are the steps I use to make what I call ‘Crock Chicken Pot’. TIP: You can also make this in a covered casserole dish in the oven if you want.

Step 1: Assemble your ingredients

  • Fresh Vegetables. I use Celery, Carrot and Onion
  • Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soup. 3 regular size cans. I use Campbell’s Healthy request most of the time.
  • Seasonings. I use .5 teaspoon each white pepper, rosemary, sage and thyme. Adjust to taste.
  • Chicken. 3 – 4 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Thawed or Frozen.

Step 2: Cut the vegetables into inch thick pieces. veggie_bowl Set aside. TIP: Cut the veggies and mix the sauce the night before. Save the mixture in a zip lock bag. In the morning just dump it into the crockpot.

Step 3: Make the sauce.

  • Empty three cans of soup into the crockpot. You could also use Cream of Celery. Adjust the type of soup used according to your taste. TIP: Save money by buying the family size cans if they are available. soup
  • Add seasonings and stir. seasonings

Step 4: Assemble in the crockpot. The sauce is on the bottom, then add the veggies and finally the chicken. all_in_crock

Step 5: Cook. If you used frozen chicken, set the timer to 6 hours on high. If you used thawed chicken, you can set it to 4 hours on high. TIP: If this needs to cook the entire work day, set it to 8 hours on low for either frozen or thawed chicken. I bought the crockpot with the keep warm feature in case I don’t make it home in exactly 8 hours (who does?). crock_setting

Step 6: Serve. I usually make a big pot of rice to serve with this dish. You could use noodles also. TIP: You could make the rice/noodles the night before and just warm in the microwave to serve. I freeze leftover rice/noodles for future use with this recipe.

Leftovers! As this makes more than one meal, you can portion and freeze for lunches or even faster dinners. This cooks beautifully in the microwave at work. freezer_bowls For this recipe, I save about $80 for work lunches vs going out.


How to Apple Pie

When cooking, I try my best to keep the kitchen clean as I work. As we go through the steps, I’ll highlight my ‘keeping it clean’ tips.
The cookbook I use most is Joy of Cooking.   joy_o_cooking  The current edition (found in the link) is the 75th edition. I use the one my mother gave me for Christmas many years ago. It’s stained and a bit lopsided. My mother is gone now and the book has her writing in it – I always think of her when I’m using it. I use the Apple Pie II recipe. When making an apple pie, you can either put the apples into bake raw or precook them. The Apple Pie II recipe is the one from my edition using precooked apples. I like it because the apples don’t shrink during baking so the top crust sits right on top of the apples instead of having an air gap between them.

Step 1 – Peel, core and slice the apples into a large bowl.  As the recipe says – don’t cut these too thin or they’ll get mushy.   raw_slices

Tip: you can do this ahead of time — just put the apples into a zip lock bag and sprinkle some lemon juice over them to keep them from browning. When precooking the apples, browning doesn’t matter but your kids might want to sneak a slice before you can make the pie. (I always cut more than needed for the pie itself)

Step 2 – Assemble your ingredients. For the seasonings, I measure them out into a small bowl. ready_seasonings  If you’re looking at the recipe, you’ll notice I use nutmeg and a touch of cloves in addition to the cinnamon. You can add your seasonings to taste; be careful not to overpower the cinnamon.

Step 3 – Cook the filling. You’ll melt butter in your pan and add the apples. The recipe says to let them cook for about 7 minutes. I prefer a slightly crunchier apple so I only let them cook about 3 minutes. Then add your sugar and seasonings. Let this boil (stirring) until the syrup is thick. To test if the syrup is done, use a wooden spoon and let it drip back into the pan. syrup_drip_1 syrup_drip_2

When the drip is thick and slow, it is ready.

Step 4 – Cool the apple mix. TIP: To keep this from being a hard clean up, I put foil onto a baking sheet and spread the apple mix out to cool. Put the sheet onto a wire rack so the mix will cool faster. cooked_cool The apples will take about 15 minutes to cool.

Step 5: Prepare to bake.

  • Put your bottom crust in the pie dish. TIP: Smooth the dough against the sides and make sure there is some dough above/over the edge all the way around.
  • Preheat the oven. TIP: The recipe says to preheat at the beginning. Since I’m not Ms. Speedy, I find this wastes a lot of energy. If you preheat at this point, you should be ready to pop the pie into the oven when the preheat is finished.
  • Prepare the topping. This isn’t in the recipe. Separate an egg, reserving the white into bowl. Make some cinnamon and sugar mix. TIP: I make about a cup of this and keep it in a container. It’s awesome on buttered toast for breakfast too.
  • When the apples are cooler (they’ll still be a bit warm – that’s OK), put them into crust in the pie pan. TIP: To make the transfer from the sheet into the crust easy and clean, pick up the edges of the foil lengthways and funnel the apples into the crust. You won’t spill any and the baking sheet just need a quick rinse (or not).
  • Put the top crust onto the pie. You should have an even amount of dough overhanging the edges all the way around. Now fold the top edge under the bottom overhang and pinch all the way around. The recipe says to put water on the edge before doing this — I usually don’t. You can then make a decorate edge using a fork to press it down all around or you can crimp it (pinching with thumb and two fingers).
  • Put the glaze on. I do this because it makes the top shiny and I like the extra pop of sugar and cinnamon. Using a brush, brush the egg white over the whole top and then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mix.

Step 6: Bake. I use a pie crust protector during the baking period. I have a metal one but you can make one out of foil.

Step 7: Cool. The pie has to cool for at least 4 hours. This allows the syrup to ‘set’. This is what keeps the pie from spilling out when you cut a slice. Put the pie on a wire rack to cool.

Step 8: Enjoy

The last TIP: I cut individual slices and freeze them. They are so good for lunch at work — just pop in the microwave for about 30 seconds and viola Pie!

Crock A Roast

Here are the steps I use to crockpot a roast:

  1. Chop the veggies
    carrot_cel_save        frozen_vadalia I usually clean and chop a bunch of veggies at one time – this saves time during the week. I put the carrots and celery I’m not using right away in a plastic tub with water. The second pic is frozen valdalia onions. When they are in season, I chop pounds of them, wrap them in individual plastic packets and then double bag them in freezer bags. They are great for use in cooking – not in raw preps. CLEAN UP TIP: I use a plastic bag to collect all the prep trash as I work — easy to throw away and keeps the kitchen clean! prep_trash
  2. Put the veggies into the crock pot – they need to go on the bottom. Don’t plug the crock in yet. veg_crock
  3. Next make a marinade for the meat (you could do this before chopping the veggies if you wish). roast_marinade For this marinade I use garlic powder, nutmeg, torn up bay leaves, salt, pepper and olive oil. Rinse the roast and pat dry. Put the roast into the marinade and coat all sides of the roast.
  4. Sear the roast on all sides. Heat the pan until drops of water sizzle away and then put the roast in – make sure you watch it and turn it to another side after it gets a nice color – don’t burn it. roast_sear2 
  5. Put the roast atop the veggies in the crock roast_veg_crock
  6. Add some liquid. Here is where I cheat :). I use a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup with another half can of water. Imparts alot of flavor without much fat!chunky_soup
  7. Put the lid on the crockpot and set to Low for 6 hours. roast_crock_time
  8. Remove the roast and let it rest for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, transfer the veggies and broth into a large serving dish.
  9. Slice the roast as you wish and place atop the veggies and broth.
  10. Serve with your favorite starch – mashed potatoes, noodles or stuffing. Note: if you used potatoes in the crockpot, you won’t need a side starch.


New Windows Installed

My contractor just let me know that the windows are installed. They still have to waterproof around the frame but at least they are in the house. Here’s a shot of the rear:


They are Anderson windows – energy efficient.

Dry wall is coming up soon — that’s big money.

Day of Pie

I love to bake; once in a while a spending an entire day cooking and baking. On this day, three pies was the goal. I cut them into lunch size portions and freeze them for work day lunches. Here they are:


From left – Chicken, shepard’s, and apple.

I used pre-made crusts (I’m not crazy 🙂 ). For the chicken (my own receipe)  I poached and diced up two pounds of skinless, boneless breasts. For the sauce I used one can each of cream of chicken and cream of mushroom and added some diced celery, carrots, onions and frozen peas. I added some rosemary, thyme, sage, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Bake and viola! Chicken pie.

I’m very much enjoying nutmeg these days.

For the shepard’s I followed a recipe from Dec 12 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. It’s actually a beef stew. I used beef filet. It’s covered with a combo of mashed carrots and potatoes. Yummy. However, the mash didn’t freeze and thaw very well for lunch. In the future I’ll probably just bake the stew and take a piece of bread with it for lunch.

The apple pie is based on my favorite cook book – The Joy of Cooking. I do like the crust to be more flavorful – so before baking, I brush the top with egg white and then sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. You can’t really tell from this picture but it makes the top shiny.

Here’s my freezer awaiting the new arrivals:


I estimate each portion saves me about $10 a day for lunch at work. Nice and good

The Windows

When I bought the house, the previous owner had tried to rehab it. Among the interesting choices that owner had made were the use of replacement windows vs new construction windows for the lower level. This 1900 house originally had large windows; the replacement windows didn’t fit so some edits were made. Here is a photo of one of them:


Obviously this resulted in water leaks and etc.

The upper level windows weren’t ‘fixed’ when I bought it. Here’s a pic of one of them:


A trip to Lowes bought $2000.00 worth of new construction windows. My contractors installed them in one weekend plus a couple of days. Those guys are great!

I’m not posting the finished product until its all done.