Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Easy steak and gravy

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Easy steak and gravy
Easy steak and gravy
You don't cook? This is a good recipe to try

I’ve never been one to create many new recipes. I’m more of an adapter. I find something I like and change it to suit our tastes.

But every now and then I think of something new or different.

For several months I wanted to make an easy slow cooker recipe that I had in mind. I wanted a simple steak dish made with lots of gravy and served with mashed potatoes or rice. I would dress it up with some onions and Worchestershire sauce.

Quite often I’d see top sirloin steaks reduced at my grocery store. I knew that cut would be perfect for the dish I had in mind, and why not try it when they were cheap? But the timing was never right for months. I needed to make my meal on a night when it was just my husband and me eating. It wouldn’t be a favorite with my daughter, I was sure, and my steak-loving son has moved out.

I finally had the opportunity to make my steak dish. I was in the grocery store early one morning, and the boneless top sirloins had been reduced. I purchased a steak just under 1 pound for less than $5 along with a can of cream of mushroom soup — reduced fat and sodium. I had the other ingredients at home.

I decided to sear my steak in a hot pan with a little butter, but first I added a some salt and pepper. I put the browned steak into the slow cooker and topped it with a can of cream of mushroom soup. I added several dashes of Worchestershire sauce (didn’t measure) and threw in a handful of onions. Again, I didn’t measure.

The first few times I made this I was going to be at home while it cooked, so I set the slow cooker on high for an hour before turning it to low. When I made it again Sunday afternoon, I just put it on low for the entire cooking time of around 5 hours. Both ways produced the same result: a deliciously tender steak with lots of yummy, thick gravy. We both loved it!

I’ve served this steak with mashed potatoes, and it’s so good together. But on Sunday, I wanted an easy dish that didn’t require peeling potatoes, so I bought a pouch of long grain and wild rice and heated it in the microwave. It was a wonderful side dish as well, served with some green beans.

This has become a favorite main dish for my family, including my son. And it’s the perfect dish to prepare at lunchtime because it can cook all afternoon and be ready at suppertime.

If you want an easy, satisfying dish, I highly recommend this easy slow cooker steak.

For you folks who tell me you can’t cook, I challenge you to try this. If you don’t want to sear the meat first, just throw it in the slow cooker! And if you don’t want to slice an onion, leave it out or buy frozen chopped onions. I promise this is easy!

Easy Slow Cooker Steak

1 top sirloin steak, around 1 pound or less

1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use Healthy Request Campbell’s)

Worchestershire sauce

Chopped or sliced onions

Season steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Place pan or skillet on stovetop and heat until very hot. Add steak, cooking briefly on each side to brown. (This step can be omitted.)

Add steak to crock and top with soup. Add several dashes of Worchestershire sauce and a handful of onions.

Cook on low heat for 4 to 5 hours, depending on how thick the steak is, or on high for the first hour and then on low. Steak should be fork tender and cooked through when done.

Serve with mashed potatoes or rice to take advantage of the delicious gravy this makes.

Think autumn!
Pumpkin muffins quick and easy

Somehow we have raced through 2014, and it’s already pumpkin pie spice season again!

I’m not a coffee-drinker, so I’ve escaped the pumpkin spice latte craze, but I do love the yummy combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. I use these ingredients often in pumpkin or sweet potato pies, muffins and quick breads.

Over Labor Day weekend, I decided to bring a little bit of autumn into our home and made a batch of pumpkin muffins. I’ve made several pumpkin muffin recipes over the years, including one in this column that is made with two ingredients: spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin. (Baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.)

But for this recipe, I pulled out our favorite pumpkin apple bread recipe and made a few changes. I wanted something easy, so I decided I’d make my muffins without the crumb topping. I also used pumpkin pie spice rather than add the spices separately. It was easier, yes, but I’m not sure it was the best way. I smelled the dry ingredients, after mixing in the pumpkin pie spice, and decided to add a little bit of ground cloves. Next time I make these, I will probably just add the individual spices. That being said, the muffins are still delicious with the pumpkin pie spice blend! And if you don’t have cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, it would certainly be cheaper just to buy a jar of pumpkin pie spice.

My daughter requested that her muffins be made without the apple. I scooped the first dozen muffins into the pan before mixing in the chopped apple. I liked the muffins with the apple, but they did not crown the way the others did. The ones without apple were definitely prettier! Also, I used a gala apple, and it was very sweet. Next time, I will stick to the original pumpkin apple bread recipe and use the tart Granny Smith.

Instead of apple, you could mix in raisins, craisins, nuts or a combination.

Before I baked my muffins, I gave them a generous coating of cinnamon sugar.

I’ve enjoyed eating the pumpkin muffins the last few days, especially as a mid-morning snack.

Pumpkin Muffins

3 cups self-rising flour

11/2 teaspoons cinnamon*

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 16-oz. can solid-pack pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs, beaten lightly

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)

Cinnamon sugar 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with baking spray for 2 dozen muffins.

In a large bowl, mix flour, spices and sugars. Stir in pumpkin, oil and eggs until combined. Fold in apples.

Scoop batter into muffin pan. Sprinkle muffins with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minute depending on size of muffin cups.

Makes 2 dozen muffins.

*Instead of adding cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, use 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. When I did this, I added in an extra 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves as well.