Tasty Tuesday–Lamb Stew

I tried a new lamb stew recipe for Easter dinner, and even though I hadn’t made it before, I made some changes to it as I went along. We were all very happy with the results, so it’s going in the permanent file!

  • oz. bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
  • lbs. boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt for the lamb, plus 1 tsp. for stew
  • 1 tsp. black pepper for lamb, plus 1/2 tsp. for stew
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 2/3 cups red wine
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 4 cups beef broth or stock
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 1/2 lbs. small yellow potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lb. baby carrots, cut in half on the diagonal
  1. In a 5 qt. oven-safe dutch oven, saute chopped bacon over medium heat until browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a large plate.

  2. While bacon cooks, season lamb pieces with 1/2 Tbsp. salt and 1 tsp pepper. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup flour and toss to coat. Cook lamb in two batches in hot bacon grease over medium heat until browned then transfer to the plate with bacon.

  3. Add diced onion to the bacon grease and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring constantly. Add 1 2/3 cups wine, scraping the bottom to deglaze. Add sliced mushrooms, bring to a simmer then cook uncovered 10 minutes. While mushrooms are simmering, preheat oven to 325.

  4. Return bacon and lamb to pot and add 4 cups broth, 1 Tbsp. tomato paste, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. dried tarragon, and 2 bay leaves. Stir in potatoes and carrots, making sure potatoes are submerged in liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover and transfer to preheated oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. When done, potatoes and lamb will be very tender.

Tasty Tuesday–Shogun

Last week I took Turkey out for an early birthday dinner at a restaurant he’s really been wanting to eat at…Shogun!

Shogun is a Japanese restaurant that has a traditional dining room, a sushi bar, and a teppanyaki menu. The interior of the restaurant looked exactly like I hoped it would, with lots of cherry blossoms, bamboo, and even a fountain:

We started off with a sashimi plate, and all of the varieties of fish on it were excellent. I liked the salmon best, and Turkey liked the white fish (we’re not entirely sure what it was) the most, but they were all so good!

Our dinners came with soup and salad, and while I don’t know exactly what kind of soup it was, or what variety of salad dressing we were served, I know that they were both delicious. So was the drink I tried (the Buddha)…it was very tropical!

The best part of the experience was watching the chef prepare our meal. Not only was he a great cook, he was also funny, and a great showman. He even tried to flip pieces of food into Turkey’s mouth while he was cooking!

Turkey ordered the filet and lobster tail, and I had the filet and scallops. We both also got vegetables, fried rice, and shrimp with our meals. It was a lot of food! Everything was cooked just right, and seasoned well.

Even though we were full, and had to get takeout boxes to bring home part of our dinners, we had to try the mochi ice cream for dessert. Turkey had the green tea variety, and I had the red bean. They were both fantastic!

This was a really fun, unique, and delicious experience, and a great way to celebrate Turkey’s birthday!

Tasty Tuesday–The Best of Beast!

I’m still super excited that Beast Craft BBQ made the top 20 of Ian Froeb’s “STL 100” restaurant list, and was named the “best barbecue restaurant in the St. Louis area” on that list! I thought today, it would be fun to take a look back at all of the amazing meals I’ve had at Beast over the last three-plus years:

Some of the items pictured are from when Beast was just starting out, and don’t really appear on the menu anymore. Some are rather new addition’s to Beast’s menu, and are available regularly. And a few have been there from the beginning, and are such favorites that they’re menu staples. They all have one thing in common, though, and that’s how delicious they are!

A Problem of Priorities

All this week (and this coming Monday), Moose has been taking the PARCC Assessment at his school, which is the standardized test our state has been using for grades 3-8. It’s a long six days of testing; something we dread all winter long.

The school tries to make the test days a little more fun by having color themes for each day. They also offer a free breakfast to each student who is involved in the testing. So Moose eats his breakfast at home like he does every morning, and then goes to school to eat “Second Breakfast” Hobbit-style. This amuses him, and anything that helps him get through these long days is quite welcome.

However.

There is another side to that story, and my amusement at Moose’s love of his bonus breakfast is tempered by my knowledge of the sad dichotomy at play here. Because if you stop to think about it, you realize why the school offers a free breakfast during the standardized testing period. It’s well-documented that children who have eaten perform better in school, and this should come as no surprise. Hunger, a growling stomach, thinking about your next meal (or sadly wondering where that meal is going to come from) all distract children from their primary task at school…learning. Children who are hungry don’t retain as much information, don’t perform as well, are less likely to succeed.

So, the school offers a free breakfast to the test-takers every morning. Why? Isn’t it obvious? It’s because the school wants good test scores. They want the students to reflect the institution well. They want to minimize as many distractions as possible so the students have good results. They know full bellies help children perform better.

And that right there pretty much sums up the problem with education in America…misplaced priorities.

The days of standardized testing should be the least of the schools’ concerns. If they’re truly worried about the well-being of their students, they should be offering a free breakfast every day, to make sure that on the regular old, normal instruction, ending in “y” days that make up the majority of the school year, the students are focused, as free from distractions as possible, so they can get down to the task of learning. Of absorbing as much information as possible. Of becoming critical thinkers.

But we’ve got it all backwards when it comes to education, and instead of placing the emphasis on the importance of learning, and supporting students as they do that, we instead focus primarily on the results. But if the students haven’t been supported in their learning all year-long, what kind of results can the school really except to achieve?

I understand that there are financial considerations to providing a free breakfast to any student who needs it all year-long. And I know that there are some programs in place that offer free or reduced-cost breakfasts to at least part of the student population already. But I also know that for many, that carries a stigma that free breakfast for everyone doesn’t, and so it’s possible that program isn’t being utilized to its fullest potential in the first place.

I’m glad that for six days, children who otherwise may not have been able to eat breakfast for whatever reason have a morning meal available to them in the school cafeteria. But what about the other 35 weeks of the school year? Until we can figure out how to straighten out the educational priorities in the country, not only are the test results going to continue to disappoint, the children in our school system are not going to receive the education they deserve.

One Last Korean Feast for the Closing Ceremonies

Just over two weeks ago, I shared the Korean dinner I made for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics…tonight I made another special meal for the Closing Ceremonies. I used the same cookbook, and we tried two new foods…Sundubu-jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew) and Gaji-namul (steamed eggplant). Once again, I got to work with some new ingredients and cooking methods.

One of the ingredients in the stew was kimchi, so we had that as a side dish again, along with short-grain rice. I even found Jinro, a brand of soju (a distilled beverage), for the adults in the house! I strained my stew because I wanted to make sure I found one of the eggs, but everybody else enjoyed it as soup like you’re supposed to.

I left the gold and silver table linens we used at our tea party on the table, to complete our Olympic look:

When I was researching Korean food and culture, I discovered that we know as Moon Pies in America are quite popular in Korea. I managed to find Choco-Pies made by the Orion Confectionary Company, a South Korean confectioner!

This meal was even more foreign to us than the one I made for the Opening Ceremonies. It was also quite popular, but I will confess…I didn’t like the stew! I’m glad the children enjoyed it, though, and I really liked the experience of making something new and special as we say goodbye to the Olympics!

A Taste of Asia to Celebrate the Lunar New Year

When I was planning our special meals to celebrate the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, I realized that the Lunar New Year was going to fall right in the middle of the festivities. China is probably the first country that comes to mind when you think of Lunar New Year celebrations, but Korea, Vietnam, and several other Asian countries also observe this holiday. I also discovered that while it no longer is, it also used to be on Japan’s calendar, too. With that information in mind, I decided to make not just a Korean meal, but a whole “Taste of Asia!”

I did most of the cooking from scratch. I made shrimp egg rolls (which I’ve done once before) and Japanese pork gyoza, as well as more of the Korean fried tofu we enjoyed last week, and some light Vietnamese shrimp spring rolls. We also bought a package of frozen pork buns from the Asian market, and I used my bamboo steamer for the first time to prepare those. And Ryan went out and bought some crab rangoon from our favorite Chinese restaurant…they make them so well, there was no way I was going to bother trying to replicate them at home!

It was a nice selection of foods, from a good variety of Asian countries!

I even tried some Japanese sake for the first time:

I confess…I didn’t make any of the dessert from scratch. But we found two varieties of mochi (red bean and green tea) at the Asian market, and I bought a bag of fortune cookies, as well:

This was another fun meal, and gave us all the opportunity to try some new things. I’m planning one more big Korean dinner before the end of the Olympics, so stay tuned!

A Korean Feast for the Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies of any Olympics are always reason for a feast!

I have been so excited all week, because I have been planning a Korean dinner to celebrate PyeongChang 2018. I spent a lot of time looking through the Korean cookbook I purchased just for this occasion, and choosing the things I wanted to cook for our Korean feast. When I finally came up with the menu, I realized there were quite a few ingredients in the meal that were new to us:

I had fun cooking all of the various components of our dinner…especially those that required me to work on my wok skills:

We had sweet potato starch noodles with stir-fried vegetables and beef (japchae), panfried tofu with spicy seasoning sauce (dububuchim-yangnyeomjang), and kimchi. I made everything except the kimchi, and originally, I had planned to make that, too, but I think I’ve watched too much Food Network, and it scared me a little!

It was a delicious dinner, and to my surprise, everyone enjoyed the tofu, which was probably the most foreign item on the menu!

For dessert, I had planned to make panfried sweet rice cakes with edible flowers (hwajeon) to go with the pear punch (baesuk) that has been steeping in the fridge all week. When I couldn’t find the necessary edible flowers, I bought a package of Korean rice cookies instead. But then Ladybug and I decided that mint leaves might work instead of the flowers, and you know what? They were delicious!

We had a really fun time trying out some very new-to-us Korean foods, and not only did I love cooking some new foods,  I was pleased with how much everyone enjoyed the things I made. We have a few other fun foods to try during the Olympics…I hope they’re as popular as tonight’s dinner!