THE Three-Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast

three-envelope-slow-cooker-pot-roast-dinner-is-servedBehold the one and only slow cooker pot roast recipe that takes under one minute to prep and requires only a slow cooker and a pair of kitchen shears!

If it seems like I have quite a few slow cooker pot roast recipes on my blog, you would be correct. Four of them to be exact!  Do we really need another one?  Well yes of course we do!  Especially one that is hands down the most basic and simple and can be assembled in about a minute or less in the morning.  Intrigued?  Read on…

I first spotted this recipe a few years ago on Facebook. At that point I had already perfected my original Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic Thyme Gravy so this recipe, which uses just three packets of gravy/salad dressing mix and water seemed to be a step back.  Actually a few steps back.three-envelope-slow-cooker-pot-roast1

Pardon my food snobbery but this is not the way I cook!

As is often the case fate intervened one day. I found myself with a chuck roast that was near its expiration date and neither the time nor the ingredients to make my classic pot roast. But lo and behold, I did have on hand these three magical packets of seasoning so I decided to give it a go.20170127_133713550_ios-1

Much to my surprise/chagrin, the roast was delicious!  My fears that the gravy would be overpowering or salty or just plain weird, were totally unfounded. I mean I didn’t even brown the roast and it was STILL delicious.  How can that be?

I did make some minor modifications to the original recipe, diluting the seasoning mx a tad. And because I love carrots with pot roast  added them in along with about 1/2 of a large onion, sliced.  On the back end, you’ll want to strain and degrease the cooking liquid as well.

But for the most part that’s it.  Pure comfort food with the minimal amount of effort. I’ve added an Equipment Note below highlighting the key kitchen tool for this recipe: the best ever pair of kitchen shears.  No kitchen should be without one!

Until next time…be well, eat well and love lots!


THE Three-Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast

  • 1 chuck roast, about 3 pounds
  • 1 (0.7 oz) packet dry Italian Salad Dressing Mix
  • 1 (1.0 oz) packet Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 (0.75 oz) packet Brown Gravy Mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 2-3 cups peeled carrots or parsnips (optional)
  • 1/2 large onion sliced (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Trim any large pieces of fat from roast and place in a slow cooker.  Combine the three packets of salad dressing and gravy mix with the 2 cups of water, whisking to combine.

Scatter carrots and onion (if using) over roast and pour only about 1 1/2 cups of the gravy mixture over all.  Note I do not use the full 2 cups as that is just slightly more liquid than you’ll need.  Discard remaining liquid.

Cook on low for between 8-9 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove roast and vegetables and transfer to a platter to keep warm. Strain liquid through a fine mesh metal strainer.  Using a spoon or a gravy separator, remove any excess fat from the gravy.

Pour over roast and vegetables, top with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 4-6

***Equipment Note***

20170128_153814127_iosWhen you think of kitchen essentials, a pair of scissors probably does not come to mind and yet a solid pair of shears like these from Pampered Chef can multi task and become one of your most valuable tools.

From cutting up chickens, to snipping chives, trimming an artichoke, cutting up clusters of grapes and yes, opening packages of seasoning mix, a good pair of shears can do it all.  I especially love these from Pampered Chef as they are spring loaded and make even the toughest tasks, easy on the hands.

My only caveat would be: keep your kitchen shears IN THE KITCHEN!  You don’t want to use these for craft projects or cutting through cardboard boxes, etc.  Not only do you risk dulling the blade, but they’re likely to get lost (I speak from experience!).

No well stocked kitchen should be without them!





Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Chipotle Rub & Dark Beer

Braised Short Ribs Dinner Is Served

I know, it’s grill season.  Trust me, we suffered through a winter-like spring here in the Midwest so yes, bring on summer!  Bring on the charcoal and smoking chips!  Put away that slow cooker!

Well….hold on just a minute.

As tempted as I am to stow away the slow cooker in favor of my Weber kettle, I think about this recipe and decide it’s not QUITE time to give the crock pot the summer off. After all, who doesn’t love tender, slow cooked beef on a tortilla with fresh guac and a slushy margarita. THAT…is summer to me.

This recipe was inspired by a not-so-ordinary gift from my son. After visiting a friend in the city, he arrived home with a 3# package of thinly sliced short ribs (the perks of having a friend whose parents own a grocery store)  These are the sort of gifts I love!  And I admit a bit of a challenge, this one.Flanken Short Ribs

Never before had I seen short ribs sliced in this manner. On to Google, and discovered this to be a “flanken” cut, often used in Korean cuisine.  Yep, a first for me.

Expert meat people instructed that this cut should be cooked quickly over high heat, but for some reason I chickened out on that whole approach.  I thought back to an Italian-inspired braised short rib ragu recipe I made a while back. So tender with  a concentrated beef flavor. This time, though, I was feeling more Southwest flavors. I had zero time to tend to braising, so into the slow cooker they went along with a smoky, spicy chipotle rub, some onions and a cup of dark Mexican beer.  Beer Braised Chipotle Short Ribs - DInner Is Served3.jpg

Now to tweak the original recipe.  The flanken ribs had great flavor but not enough meat for this purpose, so the first substitute was traditional English cut ribs.  The chipotle rub was amazing…no changes there.Beer Braised Chipotle Short Ribs - DInner Is Served4

If you don’t cook a lot, I understand the reluctance to keep this many spices on hand.  In that case, look for a good-quality chile/Southwestern seasoning blend like this Mesa Rosa Chipotle Seasoning blend from Urban Accents.  Otherwise, this recipe is incredibly simple. Just slice an onion, brown the seasoned ribs and throw it into the slow cooker with a cup of Negro Modelo.

Low and slow all day, the slow cooker is made for dishes like this.  Tender, with intense beef flavor and complex spices, this meat can go just about anywhere. My creation: served “burrito” style with a flour tortilla, yellow rice, a spoonful of Ann’s Essential Guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

The possibilities are truly endless.  Use this amazing flavorful meat as the star of your nacho platter, or on tostada shells or even serve atop some creamy polenta and topped with stewed tomatoes for a comfort food kind of dinner. Check out other recipe notes and tips following the recipe and a bonus: my recipe for Ann’s Essential Guacamole.

Enjoy summer cooking low and slow my friends. This one’s a keeper!

PicMonkey Collage

~Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Chipotle Rub and Dark Beer~

3 1/2-4# Beef short ribs, English cut (see recipe notes)

Chipotle Rub

  • 1/2 tablespoon ground red chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoons paprika (smoked paprika if available)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (Mexican oregano if available)
  • 1/4 tsp teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups sliced white or yellow onion

1 cup dark beer, preferably Negro Modelo

Canola or vegetable oil for browning

For Serving

Combine Chipotle Rub ingredients together and store until ready to use.

Place ribs in a large bowl and combine with enough of the seasoning mix to coat, tossing well.  Let stand at room temperature approximately 30 minutes.

Heat a thin film of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add ribs and brown on all sides.  Remove to a platter.

Place sliced onions in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Top with browned ribs.  Pour beer over all.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove ribs and onions to a rimmed cutting board.  Shred meat using forks and place in a bowl.  Strain cooking liquid and skim fat from the top (a good quality fat separator is perfect for this!)

Add some of the degreased cooking liquid to the meat and toss.  Place a large spoonful of yellow rice on a tortilla.  Top with warm shredded beef, guacamole, then sour cream and cilantro.  Squeeze some fresh lime over all and serve.

Serves 6-8


  • If your grocery store does not carry beef short ribs, the next best thing would be a bone-in chuck roast.  In a pinch, a boneless chuck roast will do just fine!
  • If early morning browning of the meat is not feasible, you can skip this step but…I would recommend coating the meat in the seasoning mix the night before to kick up the flavor.
  • If you don’t have  these spices on hand, grab a good all-purpose seasoning like Urban Accent’s Mesa Rosa Chipotle Seasoning or any other Southwestern-inspired blend. Just keep an eye on salt contents of blends and adjust salt as necessary.


Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

Pot Roast CoverThings that cause amateur food bloggers to fall off the wagon:

  • Full time job
  • Being a parent
  • Being a wrestling (or fill-in-the-blank sport) parent
  • winter/dark at 5:00/NO GOOD NATURAL LIGHT FOR PHOTOS!

Indeed a perfect storm of all the above have caused me to take a brief hiatus from blogging. But trust all is well, and slowly but surely I am getting back into the swing of things in the kitchen. Dusting off my faithful slow cooker and ready to share with you this  slow cooker pot roast recipe that I more or less pulled out of my hat last week.

A few years back, I was introduced  to Three Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast which is quite possibly THE easiest slow cooker recipe in the history of slow cookery.  My Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary is a version of that roast. In place of the “three envelopes” I’ve chosen just one envelope of Knorr Au Jus Gravy, enhanced with a little tomato paste. I then piled on the vegetables because, well,  who wants to come home after a busy day and fuss with more food prep!?Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 1

Because this is a “classic” pot roast, I stuck to the basics: carrots, onions, parsnips and potatoes. The vegetables take on a wonderful flavor after cooking low and slow all day long.

Flavor enhancements are a must! I like to rub my chuck roast with a simple savory rub comprised of salt, pepper, granulated onion and garlic. All pantry staples!Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 3

And finally to top it off, fresh rosemary and chopped fresh garlic. If rosemary is a deal breaker for you, fresh thyme makes an excellent substitute.Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 5

Last but not least, check out my Time Saving Tips at the end of the recipe, with “make ahead” suggestions and product recommendations. Enjoy and happy cooking!

Pot Roast Cover 2

Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

1 2 ½-3 pound boneless chuck roast

1 tsp Kosher salt

½ tsp each: pepper, granulated onion and granulated garlic

1 tsp olive oil

1 packet Knorr Au Jus Gravy

1 ½ cups water

1 tsp tomato paste

1 cup sliced sweet onion, about 1/2 of a large

1 # red skinned potatoes (about 4 large), scrubbed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces

2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped carrots

1  to 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped parsnips, about one medium

1 TBS chopped fresh garlic

5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 TBS cornstarch

1 TBS red wine or water

Chopped fresh chives (optional)

Combine salt, pepper and granulated onion and garlic in a small bowl to blend. Pat chuck roast dry with a paper towel and sprinkle spice blend all over roast.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering.  Brown roast on both sides until well browned, about five minutes per side.

While roast is browning, combine au jus mix and water, whisking to combine.  Add tomato paste and whisk.

Place onions, a few rosemary sprigs and bay leaf on the bottom of a slow cooker. Place browned roast on top.  Scatter carrots, potatoes and parsnips around roast.  Pour au jus gravy mix on and around roast. Scatter chopped garlic on top and place remaining rosemary sprigs on top.

Cook on low for at least 8 hours or up to 9 ½ hours.

Using a large slotted spoon or strainer, carefully remove roast and vegetables to a platter (make sure all rosemary stalks and bay leaf are removed). Tent with foil to keep warm.  Strain and de-grease liquid and transfer to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Whisk cornstarch and wine in a small bowl, then whisk into gravy.  Continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about five minutes.  Add additional salt and pepper to the gravy if necessary.

Break apart roast using a fork.  Sprinkle chives over all and serve with hot gravy.

Serves 4-5


  • Onions, garlic, carrots and parsnips can all be chopped the night before. Just store in a zipper bag in the fridge
  • Peeled baby carrots can be used in place of whole carrots
  • The seasoning mix and gravy can both be mixed the night before. Store seasonings at room temperature and refrigerate the gravy.
  • Tired of throwing away unused tomato paste from a can? Try Savory Spice Shop’s Tomato Powder. Just dilute with water to whip up a little paste or sauce.  Keeps well in the fridge for months, so you can have quick tomato paste on hand whenever you need it!
  • While you’re checking out the Savory Spice Shop site, try a bottle of their Onion & Garlic Tableside Sprinkle. You can use 1 tsp of the blend in place of the granulated onion and garlic in this recipe. It’s salt free, so also a great way to add a dash of flavor for those on sodium restricted diets!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic & Rosemary - Dinner Is Served

Thai Beef with Basil

Thai Beef with Basil |Dinner Is Served

One of the great pleasures of gardening is being able to grow and use ingredients not often found at the supermarket.  Case in point…Thai Basil.  A few months ago I planted some straggly looking plants from the garden center into this whiskey barrel, along with some other herbs and annuals.  Thanks to an abundance of rain and warm, humid days, my Thai basil is flourishing.  Time to start cooking!

Thai Basil

My husband’s absolute favorite Thai meal is Thai Beef with Basil. I will admit to not being a big fan of super spicy food, but when you combine the basil with the heat, something magic happens.  It’s an absolutely brilliant combination and is so easy to make at home in a jiffy, starting with fresh ingredients like hot peppers and ginger: Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner Is Served

A simple savory 30-minute marinade with fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar:Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner is Served

Tossed with thinly sliced steak:

Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner Is Served

Stir fried with onions slivered garlic and the finishing touch: fresh basil.  LOTS of it.  Seriously, you almost can’t add enough basil to this dish:

Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner Is Served

And the perfect salad to round out the meal: my “Cool as a Cucumber Thai Salad

Cool as a Cucumber Thai Salad | Dinner Is Served

This meal will both heat you up and cool you off all at the same time! Enjoy all the best that summer has to offer my friends.  Ok, and one more photo of the basil.  Just…because.

Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner is Served

Thai Beef with Basil

3 TBS Asian fish sauce (aka Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam) (see Note>1)

1 TBS soy sauce

1 TBS brown sugar

1# beef round or sirloin steak (preferably thinly sliced) (see Note>2)

1 TBS plus 1 tsp vegetable or canola oil

1 large sweet onion (about 1#), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices

3 long red or green chilies (such as serrano or fingerhot), seeded and thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger

2 cups loosely packed fresh Thai or sweet basil leaves (large leaves torn into smaller pieces)

Cooked jasmine rice (or any other long grain rice)


Place meat in the freezer for 30-45 minutes.  Then remove and slice against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

In a shallow dish or bowl, combine the fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar.  Whisk to combine.  Add meat; toss well to coat.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to an hour.

In a skillet or wok, heat 1 TBS of the oil over high heat until very hot.  Add beef mixture along with marinate.  Cook, stirring frequently, just until beef is no longer pink (about 1-2 minutes).  Transfer beef and accumulated juices to a bowl and set aside.

Add remaining 1 tsp of oil to the wok.  Add sliced onion and cook, stir-frying, until tender-crisp, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in chilies, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Return beef to skillet and add basil.  Stir until heated through and basil is just beginning to wilt.  Serve over jasmine rice.

Serves 4

Note>1 – Fish sauce sounds exotic but it’s almost everywhere these days and is an essential ingredient in Asian cuisine.  Technically you can store it at room temp, but I like to play it safe and store mine in the fridge where is seems to stay fresh for a very long time (as long as one year!)

Note>2 – Another advantage to this dish: you can use an inexpensive cut of meat, like the top round!  As long as you slice it thinly against the grain, it will be every bit as tender.  Look for meat that has already been sliced thin, sometimes labeled as “sandwich steak”  It’s perfect for stir frying.

Thai Beef with Basil| DInner Is Served


Kentucky Bourbon Steak

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Something completely enjoyable happened a week ago.  The “winter that would not end” finally gave us a bit of a break, and I finally found my way to something I’ve been missing for five long months:


And in celebration of this momentous occasion, I couldn’t just grill out brats or a lowly chicken breast.   It had to be steak and it had to be this bourbon marinade.  And about that bourbon..

A few weeks back, the family took a mini vacation to Kentucky to do some Mammoth Cave exploring, dining, family visiting and most notably, a trip to the Makers Mark distillery in Loretto.

Maker's Mark Distillery, Loretto, KYNow THIS is a trip worth taking.  Just be sure to bring your GPS and enjoy your drive through the winding back roads of Kentucky.  I learned a lot about the craft and came away with a new found appreciation for this spirit which, up to this point, I had used only for cooking and not much for sipping.  I also came away with t-shirts, barrel staves for smoking, a fun shot glass, and two bottles of bourbon (those gift shops suck me right in).

So last weekend I was on a mission to not only grill the perfect steak, but to use my new, treasured bottle of Maker’s Mark in the marinade.  I pulled this recipe out of the archives and let me say, it’s as good as I remembered, with a lot of the good things that go in to a great steak marinade:

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Which, when combined, looks something like this:

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is ServedOh, and because one can never get enough bourbon:Whiskey Barrel Ch

Whiskey barrel chips for smoking.  Glory be.

Did I mention that my grilled steak was enjoyable?  Well, let’s kick that up a notch.  It was BEYOND amazing.  A wine pairing with this one?  Not this time around.  A little sip of Maker’s Mark was all I needed to make this meal complete.

Kentucky Bourbon Steak

3 TBS olive oil

2 TBS Dijon mustard

¼ cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 TBS red wine vinegar

1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup light or dark brown sugar

2 TBS minced red onion

1 TBS minced fresh garlic

1 TBS minced fresh ginger

1 TBS salt

2 tsp coarse ground black pepper

Steaks of your choice

Combine all  of the marinade ingredients in a non reactive bowl. Whisk to blend.  Place steaks in a Ziploc plastic bag or in a non reactive dish, add marinade and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Remove steaks from marinade and grill (preferably over charcoal).

Makes enough to marinate one large sirloin steak, about 6 fillets, or 4 large ribeye/NY strip steaks.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwich with Swiss Cheese and Thyme Au Jus | Dinner Is Served

Is it just me or has the late Thanksgiving just thrown everything off kilter?  I feel like Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m starting to panic a bit (and I’m not a panicking kind of person).  To add to my already full plate, wrestling season is now in full swing for my son and weekend speech team meets for my daughter, multiple concerts, parties….ahhhhh!!!

Well when the going gets tough around these parts, it makes me love my slow cooker even more.  Having a meal essentially ready for everyone when I get home and before the evening activities start is a blessing.  And this recipe in particular…oh my.  I’ve been meaning to share it with you since forever because it is indescribably delicious.

So let’s get going with the game plan, shall we?  The night before, whip up this magical fantastic sauce, which I can pretty much guarantee you have all these ingredients in your pantry.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Then chop up some carrots and slice a little onions.  Refrigerate everything and go to bed!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au JusThe next morning, things could not be easier.  Just throw the veggies and the magical sauce into your slow cooker, season your pot roast and place on top, set your cooker for 7-8 hours and go about your day.  When you return home, you will be met by an aroma so seductive, you’ll want to dive right into that meat!  But wait, because it gets better.

After you remove and shred the meat and strain the sauce, now get out a few pieces of Texas toast and spread with a little horseradish mayo:

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Top with some of that delish pot roast and a slice of Swiss cheese like this:

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Then run them under the broiler till the cheese is all hot and melty and serve with that wicked good thyme au jus.  Seriously, you’ll need a moment or two alone with this meal.  Added bonus: if you have hungry teens in the house and you serve this to them, they will love you so much, they might even offer to do the dishes.  That’s how good it is.

So with twenty-three shopping days till Christmas, I best be getting to the mall now.  Here’s to panic-free and stress-free cooking in the weeks to come.  I need it!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

For the Roast:

2 medium or 1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 carrots, chopped

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 TBS dried thyme OR 1 large bunch fresh thyme

2 TBS tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 boneless chuck roast, about 3-4 pounds

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

For the Sandwich:

 1 cup mayonnaise

2 TBS prepared horseradish

8 slices Texas toast, toasted

8 slices Swiss cheese

In a 4-6 qt. slow cooker, combine carrots, sliced onions, broth, Worcestershire, Dijon mustard, thyme, tomato paste and bay leaf. Season roast with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place on top of the vegetables.  Cover and cook on low heat 6-7 hours or on high 4-5 hours.

Transfer meat to a large bowl or rimmed cutting board and shred with two forks, adding a few TBS of the cooking liquid to moisten.  Set aside.  Strain vegetables out of liquid and transfer the au jus to small saucepan; keep warm over low heat (discard solids).

Preheat broiler and place rack to about 6-8 inches away from heating element.

Toast the bread and place on a sheet pan.  Combine the horseradish and mayo and spread a thin layer on each slice of toast.  Top each piece of toast with some of the shredded meat.  Top each with a slice of Swiss cheese.  Broil until cheese melts, about two minutes.  Serve sandwiches with the warm au jus.

Serves 8

Weekend Slow Cooker Steak and Bean Chili

2013-10-28 10.51.42I asked. You replied, and here it is.  At this point you can just skip to the recipe if you like.  Or you read what makes this a very wonderful chili.

I should clarify that I asked on my Facebook page what kind of recipes my followers would like to see me post.  It didn’t take long for a theme to evolve: slow cooker, soups, stews…chili.  I totally get that.  So I got to work and adapted my personal favorite beef and bean chili recipe for the slow cooker.  A few tweaks later and well, here you go!


Now down to the nitty gritty about chili making.  First and foremost, chili is a very personal matter.  Right up there with ribs, Italian meat sauce, pizza and even mac & cheese.  There are thousands of variations and even more opinions about what is best.  So rather than tell you exactly how you should make your chili, let me instead offer my advice on the three most important aspects of chili making:

Assuming you want to go the red meat route, then I highly suggest going for thinly sliced round steak.  Freeze for about an hour or two, then dice into little 1/3-inch pieces.  This tends to be a very cost effective method, as round steak is very economical.  It adds texture and flavor and lets you trim the excess fat.  You will spend perhaps five minutes of your life dicing up the meat.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

If ground beef is truly your preference, then by all means use it.  Many stores and butchers carry coarsely ground beef which is sometimes labeled “chili beef.”  If it’s freshly ground by a butcher you trust, you should be ok.   So what NOT to use?  Finely ground beef that looks like this:

ground-beef-targetThe stringy texture is all wrong.  Remember we’re making chili here, not Sloppy Joes!


Pretty much stating the obvious here but you MUST add spices to your chili.  Otherwise you may as well be making spaghetti sauce (or the aforementioned Sloppy Joes).   Your choice of seasoning is what makes the chili unique to you, so have fun with it!

The star of my spice road show is definitely Penzey’s “Chili 9000” seasoning.  It has so many amazing spices in it (including a little cocoa powder), I can’t even begin to explain how much I love this stuff.  Another favorite secret weapon is Savory Spice’s Tomato Powder which not only thickens the chili but adds a concentrated burst of tomato flavor.  Finally for that little “kick in the pants” I like to throw in some smoky Chipotle Powder.

Where you take it from here is up to your tastes and sense of adventure.  I’ve seen chili recipes incorporating ingredients like strong coffee or dark beer.  I came across a recipe posted by a woman who won an international chili contest a few years back who used at least five different kinds of chili powder and added them at various stages of the cooking process.

Whether you’re destined for the chili big leagues or just a loyal fan,the important thing is to think big and BOLD!

take your time

Last but not least, remember that chili is all about low and slow.  If you have only thirty minutes to throw together dinner on a busy weeknight, then chili is probably not your best bet.  It’s made for the slow cooker and now that I’ve adapted my recipe, I’m pretty sure this is how I’ll be cooking mine from now on.

Enjoy and as always thank you for your comments, suggestions and feedback.  I love cooking for you!

Weekend Slow Cooker Steak and Bean Chili

2 TBS olive oil

2 pounds round steak, diced into 1/3-inch pieces OR 2 pounds coarse ground beef (see Note 1>)

1 large yellow or white onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)

1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

2 medium or 1 large jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-oz. can tomato sauce

1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained

1 6-oz. can tomato paste or 2 TBS tomato powder (see Note 2>)

1 28-oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Spice Mix:

2 TBS chili powder (preferably Penzey’s Chili 9000)

1 TBS each, ground cumin, oregano & basil

½ – ¾ tsp ground chipotle powder (optional)

2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. Kosher salt

To Finish:

Balsamic vinegar

Freshly chopped cilantro

Sour cream or crème fraiche

Coarsely grated cheddar cheese

Saltine crackers

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add diced round steak and brown for about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat (see Note 2>).  Add diced onions, green pepper, jalapeno & garlic to skillet. Continue to sauté for about 5 minutes longer.  Add spice mix to skillet; stir and continue to cook for 1 additional minute.

Transfer meat & vegetable mixture to slow cooker.  Add tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato paste (or powder) and kidney beans.

Cover and cook on low heat 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.  Taste for seasonings and, if desired, add about 1 TBS balsamic vinegar.  Top with cilantro, sour cream or shredded cheese.  Serve with saltine crackers.

Serves 6-8

Note 1>  If using round steak, freeze for about an hour or so.  Remove from freezer, trim off fat and dice into ⅓-inch pieces.

Note 2> Looking for a super easy way to drain fat from browned meat?  Grab that turkey baster, tilt your pan and remove the fat to a heat resistant container and discard.

Juicy Sirloin Steak Marinade

Sirloin Steak Collage

This needs to be said: I have a love/hate relationship with marinades.  Love them when they impart that subtle or complex flavor or when they tenderize an otherwise tough piece of meat.  But go overboard and it’s an instant turnoff for me.  Even worse: cheap, commercial marinades that are loaded with sodium, sugar and other ingredients not found in nature.

Just last week I tried a terriyaki marinade for flank steak.  The recipe recommended marinating the steak for 24 hours or longer. It ended up tasting like steak swimming in terriyaki sauce (yuck).  Call me crazy, but I want my steak to taste like, well….steak!

Years ago (and I’m talking WAY back in time), I came across a sirloin steak marinade in the Chicago Tribune food section.  It quickly became a family favorite, as you can see from looking at the recipe card. Yes, we’re talking “old school” right here.

2013-08-18 17.24.41Funny too that it’s in my nature to tweak a recipe here and there, but this one was just so spot on from the beginning, I have left it as is.  Perfect in its simplicity.  Another bonus: anyone with a well stocked pantry should be able to make this up in a matter of minutes, without having to go to the store.

It also lends itself perfectly to sirloin steak, which is a decent cut of meat but very lean, so sometimes a bit lacking in flavor.  If you want to take your steak to the next level, throw some wine barrel oak chips onto the coals.  Then grill some portobello mushrooms and red peppers along side and break out a vibrant Napa Valley Cabernet.

Dive right in everyone.  This marinade is about as perfect as you can get!


Juicy Sirloin Steak Marinade *

1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup each red wine vinegar, soy sauce

1 small onion, minced, about 1/4 cup

1 clove garlic, minced

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1/4 generous tsp each oregano, basil, thyme (dried)

1 large or two medium sirloin steaks, about 1-inch thick

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Place steaks in a shallow, non-reactive dish and pour marinade over.  Turn steak several times to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours, turning steak once or twice. (Alternatively, place steaks and marinade in plastic zipper bags and refrigerate).

About one hour prior to cooking, remove the steak from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature.  Then remove steak from marinade and discard marinade.  Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high/indirect heat.  Sear steak on both sides for about four minutes per side, then move steak to cooler part of the grill and continue cooking until desired doneness, about 4 additional minutes for medium rare.

Serves 4-6

* Recipe from the Chicago Tribune, date unknown

Hoisin Marinated Steak with Summer Nectarine Salsa

2013-08-06 19.51.18You know you love summer.  You know you love steak but… perhaps you’re growing tired of the same old thing?  Well I have THE perfect remedy for you.  Feast your eyes on the photo above.  Imagine Asian and tropical influences and fresh fruit of summer.

Now imagine creating all this in just over an hour.  Do I have you hooked yet?

I will say that Hoisin Sauce (aka Chinese barbecue sauce ) is one of the most handy condiments around.   I’ve used it in stir fries, as a glaze and it turns out, it makes a perfect marinade.    You can marinate your steak for as little as one hour or up to about 8 hours.  Overnight is ok, but not necessary with filets.

Now on to the second part of this dish: the summery, nectarine salsa.  Hey now!

Nectarine salsa

I tweaked the original recipe a bit, omitting habanero peppers (deal killer for the kiddos) and adding fresh cilantro.  Which, in my humble opinion, completes it.  Now just grill the steaks:


Oh wow…just looking at this makes me want this dish all over again!  Anyway…grill the steaks, serve with the salsa and just soak in all the deliciousness.  If you’d like, throw a few tortilla chips into the mix too.  They’ll go great with the salsa as well.  In fact, this salsa is just as beautiful on its own as an appetizer, or served with grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, etc.  Just all sorts of healthy too.

Well my work here is done.  Go forth and grill, eat and enjoy.

Hoisin Marinated Steak with Summer Nectarine Salsa

For the marinade:

  • 1 scallion
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mined or grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • four 1 1/4-inch-thick filet mignons (tenderloin steaks)

For salsa:

  • 1 large firm-ripe nectarine
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small fresh Serrano or jalapeno chile
  • About ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (loosely packed)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper

Make marinade:
Finely chop scallion and in a bowl whisk together with remaining marinade ingredients.

In a large heavy-duty sealable plastic bag combine marinade and steaks, turning steaks to coat with marinade, and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate steaks at room temperature at least one hour or in the refrigerator up to 8 hours.

To make the salsa, finely chop nectarine and bell pepper. Seed and finely chop tomatoes. Thinly slice white and pale-green parts of scallions and mince garlic. Discard seeds from the chile and finely chop.  In a bowl stir together all salsa ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill for medium-high indirect grilling.

Remove steaks from marinade, discarding it, and grill steaks about  4 minutes on first side then turn and continue grilling on cooler part of grill until desired doneness (about 5 more minutes for medium rare)  Transfer steaks with tongs to a platter and let stand 5 minutes.

Serve steaks with salsa and tortilla chips

Recipe adapted from Gourmet, April 1999

Super Fantastic Skirt Steak Marinade

Skirt Steak Marinade Blog PostThis is going to be a different kind of blog post today because I’m not really going to talk that much about the marinade recipe other than to say it really does live up to its name and will quickly become one of your “go to” summer steak marinades.  My hand written notes on the original recipe read: “**** Holy Cow…AWESOME marinade!”  Think that pretty much says it all.

So in addition to this very fine steak marinade, I also wanted to share with you some photos of what ended up being a marvelous summer food weekend here in the burbs of Chicago. Just looking at everything we cooked and ate this weekend makes me smile and also gives you a little glimpse into life in my kitchen. It started Friday night with some wonderful bbq’d chicken leg quarters seasoned with Penzeys Northwoods Seasoning and sauteed fresh Swiss chard from my garden: 2013-07-12 18.16.32That I served with some roasted potatoes with fresh thyme: 2013-07-12 18.25.23And this luscious Albarino: 2013-07-12 20.17.13 Then Saturday I met up with my friend, Marty, for a delish al fresco lunch at Mago Grill. Ceviche, salsas and a glass of sangria. Perfect for a warm summer afternoon! 20130713_141032Saturday night was steak time and we cooked up this beauty from Standard Market, seasoned with Savory Spice’s Black Dust Coffee & Spice Rub: 2013-07-13 19.06.10And I turned these: 2013-07-13 18.49.28Into this: 2013-07-13 19.43.11I love Smitten Kitchen for posting the above recipe.   Have I mentioned that my kitchen is small?  I do it all with about 2 1/2 ft. of counter space (+ 1 extra foot if you add my cutting board sink insert).  In case you don’t believe me here is a photo of work in process: 2013-07-13 19.16.22Note the popsicle molds in the middle and the little book behind them?  Those ended up being a part of one my greatest triumphs this weekend.  Strawberry paletas.  They disappeared so quickly I don’t have a photo, but here is a shot of the sugared strawberries before they took a whirl through the food processor: 2013-07-13 18.42.03I will definitely be posting more about paletas this summer.  One of my new obsessions!  Keep in mind we’re only through Saturday!  Sunday my other half took his turn in the kitchen, working most of the afternoon on an incredible black eyed pea stew with smoked ham hocks and this superb corn bread that will be a future blog post: 2013-07-14 18.49.42Three days of super fantastic food and now a super fantastic marinade to share with you.  Tonight, I think it’s going to be be burgers on the grill and protein shakes for lunch for the remainder of the week.  One can only take so much wining and dining.  Even me!  Wishing everyone happy summer cooking.

Super Fantastic Skirt Steak Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup soy sauce

4 scallions, washed and cut in 1/2

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces

Combine marinade ingredients, including cilantro if desired, into a blender or food processor to process.  Place skirt steak in a plastic, resealable bag and pour marinade over.  Seal and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat.  Remove steak from marinade, shaking off the excess.  Grill for about two minutes on one side then turn and continue grilling to desired doneness (thin cuts of meat will only take another minute or two.  Thicker steaks will take longer for medium rare).  Remove steak from grill and let rest for at least 5 minutes, then slice against the grain and serve.

Serves 4