I Love Christmas Cards

cardsI love Christmas cards! I like to sneak off on my own to my local Hallmark store. Going alone allows me the freedom to browse, compare, choose, and buy without anyone complaining about the level of their boredom.

Then I like to get home and make a hot cup of chai and sit down with the cards that made the cut this year. Once I started going through my holiday card list I realized it needed a major update. I needed to remove some, add some, and update addresses. Luckily, I had all the necessary information and got started.

I think it just adds that little something special to the holidays to receive a handwritten card, in a handwritten addressed envelope, with that Hallmark seal on the back, and a postage stamp.  It is something I have done throughout my adult life, and reminds me of my wonderful Gran who did the same.

Now that the cards have been written and mailed it is time to start that next phase of the holiday season. Wrapping. Good grief, I think I forgot to buy tape!

Cooking · Family

Cuban Beef Stew (Carne Guisado)

Most of the Fall colored leaves have fallen, temperatures are staying cooler, and Christmas is only 40 days away (yes, 40). I knew the request for Carne Guisado wasn’t far behind, and it came earlier today. My husband, Dean, is half Cuban; his mother, Blanca, is from a small village called Moron. She has been in the United States for many decades, but the family’s roots run deep, and their cuisine is a big part of the culture.

I love to cook, and learning to make my husband’s favorite dishes was seriously intimidating when I was a young bride. Now, twenty-two years later, I’ve edited, changed, and updated many of the recipes, and enjoy sharing the food with friends and family.

Here is my version of Cuban Beef Stew:

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more

1 large white onion, chopped

1 large green pepper, choppedDsc_0517

7 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds sirloin tip, cut into cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 cup pinot noir

1 can tomato sauce, 15 ounces

3 tablespoons white vinegar

1/3 cup pimento stuffed Spanish green olives

1/4 cup golden raisins

2 bay leaves

1 cup water

4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks

Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large saute’ pan. Add onions, peppers, salt, pepper and cook until transparent. Do not let them brown. Add the minced garlic and saute’ for two more minutes.

While the vegetables cook spread the meat cubes out into a single layer and lightly salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Shake off any excess flour. Remove the vegetables from the pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil into the pan. Place some of the seasoned meat cubes into the hot saute’ pan and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and repeat this step until all the meat is browned. Tip: it is important to do the meat in batches or it will not brown and an entire layer of flavor will be lost.

Dsc_0518Put the vegetables and meat back into the pan, add oregano, cumin and cook for two minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, olives, raisins and bay leaves. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add just enough water. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down to low. Allow to simmer for 1 hour. After an hour stir the stew, put the cover back on and simmer 30 minutes. Check the stew and make sure it isn’t getting too thick, if it is add a touch of water. Cook another 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and parsnips, cover the pan, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Notes: If carrots and parsnips aren’t your thing then use peeled potatoes cut into large chunks. I use a variety of vegetables in this stew, but the one I did today is our favorite. We eat it with white rice, and leftovers are super yummy.