Short Cuts keep the weekend Low Key and Easy

As far as weekends go, this one has been pretty low key. I’ve been fighting a migraine in my neck for over a week, the doctor decided muscle relaxers needed to be my friend and after calling in sick one day and suffering through the other three I was scheduled to work I was ever so happy that I prebooked winter weekends off and could really do nothing for three days.

After a marathon sleep on Friday night – a gift from the muscle relaxers – I woke up Saturday with the same ache in my eye and the feeling that my head and neck are missing some parts for proper attachment. I cancelled my plans for the day and just as I was about to snuggle on the couch with my zoo realized there was nothing cooked in my house to eat. My brain began to panic (literally this was before 9am so it was completely ridiculous) and I began to do an inventory of my stock piles. There was plenty of raw foods, enough frozen for sure yet nothing dinner worthy without effort. I could see the end results of procrastination and thought no fast food delivery apps, I must resist the temptation! Instead I decided on an old faithful, a true comfort meal that hits the spot every time; as luck would have it the eye of round roast I’d been planning for Sunday was sitting, waiting patiently in its cryovac bag for its future as a superstar meal. I’d been planning to try a very popular recipe I found online that involved me paying a lot of attention to a high heat oven; this recipe was not likely to happen on a migraine day. I opted for my crock pot stand by. The roast was quickly seared and stuffed into my crockpot without much ceremony with my favorite garlic, celery, onion combo that flavors many things in my kitchen. For eight hours I let the appliance do the magic and I was free. Somewhere between naps potatoes were peeled, mashed and boiled and a large pan of mushrooms and gravy was created. Simple, easy comfort food that filled my every need and required little of my brain.

I ignored the pounding in my head for the little bit of time it took to fill and set the crock pot and then I was happy to spend the rest of the day doing very little. The potatoes were just the standard mash; I mixed it up a little and whipped them in the stand mixer. I pulled stock from the freezer, sautéed mushrooms and onions, added the broth and a surprise thickener brought everything together for the perfect comfort food moment. Very little effort and three cheers to the hard part being over, dinner was on the plate. Comfort food on day one with a few more meals to look forward to made working through my migraine worth it.

As always I was thinking ahead to the leftovers when I started cooking. Literally they were a part of the plan from the very beginning. After dinner I rescued the vegetables and broth from the slow cooker; on Sunday the broth went into a Dutch oven and the vegetables took a spin in the food processor before joining them. I added another bowl of frozen broth, eye of round is boneless and very lean so I wanted the added flavor of the bone broth I usually have on hand and anyways I needed more liquid; broth or stock is always better than water. Sliced Carrots, diced roast beef and dry barley made their way to the pot and soup for dinner on day two was under way. I spent my Sunday afternoon having my nails done so easy dinner plans were a must. In just a couple of hours the steamy pot of beef barley soup with some fresh bread was exactly what the cold weather was calling for. For a first try I’d say yummy and the pot is certainly big enough to enjoy a few more times this week. Soup and grilled cheese is always a good midweek meal. Maybe even a bowl or two for the freezer or even some to share with friends, again I like to plan ahead.

Today I’m still thinking about the left overs. There’s gravy, potatoes and about half of the roast left. I think we are going to go old school diner style with a hot roast beef sandwich and mashed potatoes, everything smothered in gravy or maybe just this once we will eat the leftovers just as they are no imagination necessary. Besides the beef dishes I also managed to make Irish Soda Bread, gingerbread cake with whip creamand blueberry oatmeal breakfast muffins so while once again I haven’t accomplished a full meal prep plan no one will go hungry at my house this week.

I also started purging, which is something I do every winter. I like to go room by room dissolving clutter, getting rid and of garbage and literally washing, dusting and polishing every surface until it looks like my Mother’s been reincarnated and decided to clean my house. I could never achieve clean on the magnitude she achieved every day; but when I achieve it the odd time I feel very accomplished and impressed with myself! My purges are not Netflix inspired; they’re more genetic impressions that I regularly fight.

Easy meals are great for low key weekends. Once again I spent time getting to know my android box and less time working in the kitchen. The purging is really a constant thing. I procrastinate with domestic chores and never give myself strict timelines. Too much pressure!

Eye of Round Roast

1 Roast, I used a whole eye of round, but any size will work

3 small cooking onions sliced, I clean off all of the dirt and keep as much skin as possible because the onion skin will add color to stocks and broths naturally

3 stalks celery

2-4 cloves garlic – I really like garlic so I used 1/2 bulb, you should choose how much based on how much you actually love garlic,

Salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and thyme to taste

2 tbsp avocado oil

Rub roast with oil, salt and pepper. Sear each side in a hot pan before adding to vegetables. Here you have a choice.

I put all the veg into my crock pot with a few black peppercorns, sprigs of thyme and rosemary and 1 cup stock. The roast goes in on top, eight hours with the lid on and another 15 minutes resting and it’s ready to slice. When it’s hot I only slice what we need for dinner. I find the rest easier to slice when it’s cold.Or you can put all of the ingredients in a roast pan with 2-3 cups stock in a low heat oven for 3-4 hours; rest and slice the same as the crock pot roast. This method takes less time but requires more supervision.

 Mushroom Gravy

1 onion sliced thin

2 cloves of garlic crushed

227g sliced mushrooms

1tbsp butter

2 tbsp avocado oil

Salt, pepper, fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs

3 Gravy packages – gluten free

4 cups stock or water

I totally cheated this week for gravy. I always keep brown gravy mixes on hand for days like this. It’s easy, fool proof and requires little effort. I heated the oil, sautéed onions, garlic and mushrooms for about five minutes. Who sprigs of the herbs go into the pan but I pull them out before serving. When they were fully cooked I mixed the gravy packets with water and poured over mushrooms. Following the package directions I brought the mixture to a boil, allowed it to cook for a few minutes and it’s likely the same gravy most restaurants serve, I added stock, onion and mushrooms to make it better. Not my normal offerings, but not so bad for a lady with a migraine either.

Mashed Potatoes

The mashed potatoes were the same as always. I peeled about 3lbs of potatoes – a mix of white boiling and russet, added 2 cloves of garlic and a small whole onion (they can be removed or mashed into the potato after being cooked) to the boiling pot, removing once they are fork tender. I strained them and put them in the bowl of the stand mixer with butter, whipping cream, salt and pepper to taste, and whipped them into a creamy smooth dream with just enough texture to prove they didn’t come from a package.

Using the crock pot makes this a meal for any day of the week. Adding carrots, potatoes or yams to the slow cooker would also make this an easier one pot meal. Sometimes taking the fastest route is ok. I’ll never argue that homemade beats the package, because it does every time; but at the same time it’s ok to cut yourself a little slack in the kitchen. Even a perfectionist like myself can see the value of a short cut from time to time 😊