Cheap and Easy Recipes: Turn Tough Meat Tender by Braising

 Here in the Scrimp household, we braise meat at least two or three times per week. It is by far our preferred method of cooking. Why? Well, it's easy, it's quick, and it's a great way to make the cheapest cuts of meat taste mind-blowingly good. 

Braising is a type of slow-cooking that is best done in the oven but can also be done on a stovetop. All you need is a pot with a good lid. You can even braise in a crock pot, although my experience has been that meat braised in the crock pot does not turn out as well.

The best braising dish is a dutch oven. I have two of them, I swear by them, and I use them for just about everything. One of them is a discontinued Martha Stewart model that I got as a wedding gift, and one of them was a Christmas present last year from Mother-in-law Scrimp--the lovely red Food Network model below.

A dutch oven is made of enameled cast iron. It's heavy. It's a beast. It retains heat beautifully and it turns cheap cuts of meat into magic. If you're going to braise, I recommend getting one, because it just makes life in your kitchen better. 

Last night for dinner, I took a $3.99/lb cut of beef and turned it into something that we gladly would have paid ten times more for. And I didn't even need a recipe. All I needed to know was the secret formula of braising. 

Are you ready? Here it is.

Preparing for Winter

Winter is on its way and for the last month or so, I've been feeling this really strange sense of impending gloom and cold. The weather has been gorgeous--warm, dry (but not too dry), pleasant breezes and all the sorts of things that make you want to spend time sitting outside soaking up vitamin D and fresh air. I can't say why, when I go out into that, my urge is to run to the farmers market and snatch up every preservable fresh vegetable I see, but the urge is there nonetheless.

Can you eat these? I don't know but something deep inside of me wants to
pick them all and hide them in a hole in the ground. For laterSource.

And I know I'm not the only one. I've asked other people and, at least here in the midwest, it seems to be a pretty universal feeling among the seasonal eating crowd.

Part of this, I think, is that the more we settle in to a truly seasonal diet, the more aware we become of the lack of certain foods in the winter. Last winter we didn't really prepare much at all and, once the stored winter vegetables ran out at the market, we spent a few months living on pretty much nothing but meat, hydroponic lettuce, and the occasional bag of frozen vegetables from Whole Foods. I am still sick of lettuce.

So this year, we're preparing. We don't have the time, space, or ready cash to really put an entire winter's worth of food away, but we're doing what we can to buy up fresh vegetables now in order to save them for later. I've been doing some canning and we were very excited to find a brand new deep freezer at a yard sale a month ago for less than a hundred dollars which is letting us freeze and store lots more meat and vegetables than before.

What are you doing to get ready for winter?

Recipe: Cream of Kale and Leek Soup (GAPS-legal)

Mr. Scrimp recently got a new job that lets him come home for lunch every day, which means two things. One, I no longer eat my lunch at the computer while I work. Two, I had to start thinking a little more clearly about what my (now our) lunch was going to be.

You see, in the past, lunch for Mr. Scrimp has been dinner leftovers, and lunch for me has been... whatever I scrounge up when I remember to eat. It might be peanut butter on a spoon. It might be chicken alfredo. It just depends on what's in the fridge, what my mood is, and whether I care to spend my lunch break cooking instead of relaxing (or blogging).

I'm at the end of my first full week of the GAPS diet, working on healing some GI issues, so I've also had to find lunches that are GAPS legal. This one was quick, easy, and full of gentle, healing ingredients. Yesterday on the fly I came up with this: cream of kale and leek soup. It's delicious! Thick, warm, and packed with flavor that is just perfect on a gray, rainy fall day.

So green, so tasty


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