Happy November, Readers! While the Minxes are sorry to bid Halloween goodbye, I’m giving a little sigh of relief. October is just chaotic for us. When I went to turn the family calendar to November, I had to laugh, because our October calendar looked like a bunch of Sharpies got drunk and threw up all over it. November seems tame in comparison.
Colorado cooked up a beautiful weekend for us and we felt grateful. Mozzy got lots of walks and leaps in leaf piles and the girls could trick-or-treat for hours without heavy coats. Thank goodness the school does a candy “buy-back” program the Monday after Halloween, because we are drowning in junky, sugary stuff. I allowed the girls to keep about 1/3 of their haul, and believe me, we still have plenty underfoot.
Miss D. broke out the face paint this year, as you can see. She’s some sort of gothic ghoul with a cracked, spidery face. She spent hours practicing her makeup (and made a complete mess of her bathroom). Last Friday, she set her alarm 40 minutes early so she wouldn’t have to rush her handiwork. An artist needs time, people!
She was pleased with the results. She was a little less pleased on Sunday, when I handed her a whole bottle of bathroom cleaner and put her to work, but that’s the tradeoff.
Miss M. chose a Cheshire Cat costume this year.
The undershirt is her own doing and is a must for that child; she has the most sensitive, itchy, rash-prone skin in the universe. Those store-bought costumes always send her into fits of scratching, so the undershirt is key. Her sister offered to paint her face and M. politely declined. I think that black, freaky eye gave her the willies.
A bit of a funny on M.–while she was okay on Saturday when her sister went trick-or-treating with her friends, Miss D. also had plans with friends Sunday afternoon/evening. About an hour after her departure on Sunday, M. began getting restless, asking when her sister would be home. She fidgeted and fretted and pouted around the house. Poor little thing missed her sister. We teased her gently about it and she huffed, “Yeah, yeah, I miss her. So what? Sue me.” Our hummingbird loves hanging out with her big sis, probably even more than hanging out with the Mozz-man, and that’s saying something.
Speaking of Mozzy, we did not dress him up in costume this year. I guess I was negligent because I didn’t look for one until a week before Halloween, and PetSmart was nearly out of everything! People take their pet costumes seriously around here. So breathe easy, Mozz–at least until next year!
I’ve seen a lot of grousing on social media about the arrival of Daylight Savings Time, and I get it, because I definitely dread the dark days of winter. On the other hand, it’s been a little easier to drag my butt out of bed the last few days, because it’s not pitch-black out in the morning. How do you feel about DST? Yay, Nay or Don’t Care?
I wanted to share last week’s pot roast tale with you. I need to back up a little though, and tell you that when I was a kid, I hated it when Mama made pot roast. In those early North Dakota years, Daddy traveled a lot for work–I mean, a crazy amount–and whenever he came home for a few days, she welcomed him back with a pot roast dinner. While I was happy to see Daddy, I was not so thrilled about the pot roast, because a pot roast dinner meant the arrival of my arch-nemesis: cooked carrots.
Cooked carrots, with their slimy texture and oddly sweet flavor? Ugh! Not meant for human consumption. Cooked carrots are the Devil’s Instrument, and you will never convince me otherwise. I hate them to this day.
When Mama served pot roast dinner, I’d take a tiny amount of pot roast, load up on potatoes and gravy, and studiously avoid the cooked carrots. Usually, she let me get away with it, bless her.
I never thought, as an adult, I would choose to make a pot roast, but if it’s Daddy’s birthday, I’ll try. Unfortunately, the pot roasts of years past haven’t turned out very well. I’ve never found a recipe that worked for me, even when people assured me that pot roast was the easiest thing EVER to make. “What’s the fuss? Just stick it in the oven and cook the tarnation out of it,” people would say. Hmph.
This year, when I was (yet again) scouring the internet and cookbooks for a pot roast recipe, I figured out what I find so maddening about pot roast. For such a “simple” dish, there are a million ways to make it, and nobody seems to agree on the best method! Some recipes called for a 2 1/2 hour cooking time. Other recipes–for the same size roast–called for over 4 1/2 hours. Some swore by the crock pot method; others said that was a disaster waiting to happen. Some braised the roast on top of the stove; others baked it in the oven. And oh! Those recipes where you bake the sucker? Just try to figure out what temperature to set the oven at. I saw temperatures as low as 275 degrees and some as high as 350. Maddening, I tell you!
Finally, I settled on this recipe from Cooking Light magazine. I did NOT serve the carrots that went along with the roast, though. How on earth would they advise you to cook the carrots with the roast for 3-plus hours and then serve them alongside? Those carrots were pasty, nasty, glutinous things. As soon as the roast was done, I tossed those bad boys into the garbage. I roasted a few carrots in olive oil, salt and pepper for 30 minutes and served those. I didn’t eat them myself, though. Even done properly, cooked carrots are an abomination.
I am happy to report that the roast turned out! I also took the extra care to order my pot roast from a good butcher, so that may have been a huge part of the equation right there. I don’t know. I’m just relieved that it came out fall-apart tender and juicy. Fifth time’s the charm, eh?
I will make one comment about the gravy in this recipe, because personally, I am picky about my gravy. The gravy in the recipe you see below is very heavy on tomato flavor, and I wasn’t used to that. I haven’t made a tomato-based pot roast before and Mama never added tomatoes to her pot roast, so this was new to me. The gravy was flavorful and pretty healthy, with the tomatoes and herbs and pureed vegetables in it, but personally, when I make it again, I am going to reduce the tomatoes (maybe use half the amount they called for) and add in another cup or so of beef broth instead. It just tasted a little too aggressively “tomato-ish” for me. Feel free to tinker based on your experience and your preference.
Also, if any of you readers have a tried-and-true pot roast recipe, send it my way! Next year, I’ll be looking for something else to try.
Final verdict? Pot roast was delicious, gravy needed tweaking.
Until next year.
Beef Pot Roast (and yeah, there is no picture because pot roast is ug-ly. Tastes good, looks awful)
adapted from Cooking Light magazine
1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and tied
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 (28-ounce) container chopped tomatoes (such as Pomi)
2 teaspoons freshly chopped fresh rosemary
4 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 bay leaf
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper and rub with canola oil. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat until very hot. Add beef to pan and sear on all sides–about 7 minutes per side or until browned. Remove beef from pan.
Add tomato paste and garlic to the pan and cook for a minute. Add red wine to the pan, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Combine beef stock and flour in a bowl and stir with a whisk until no lumps remain. Add stock mixture, sugar and tomatoes to the pan. Bring to a boil. Return the beef to the Dutch oven and add rosemary, carrots, thyme, onion and bay leaf. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the oven.
Bake, covered, for 3-4 hours*, turning halfway through cooking time, or until the meat falls apart when pierced with a fork.
Remove the beef, the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf. Remove carrots, if desired. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth, adding more beef broth if it seems too thick. Bring to a boil and reduce slightly.
Shred the beef into large pieces and serve with the sauce.
* If you live at high altitude like I do, you will probably need closer to the 4 hours called for.