Hey there...

I hate to cook. Unfortunately, due to society dictating gender roles, or simply the fact that my family may just become retarded the moment they step into the kitchen, or simply because there are times I want to eat and don't want to rely on frozen pizza, it falls to me to make meals. I'm creative, so I have come up with some interesting things to make that taste good, keep the family from openly weeping in hunger, and are super fast so I can get the hell out of the kitchen.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What a Crock! Crock-Pot Beef Barley Stew Meal

Let me start off by saying that over the years my mother had told me I need a Crock-pot. Not only did she tell me I needed one, (In that tone only a mom convinced of her infallible advice, can use.) but each time she came to my home and I DIDN’T have a Crock-pot, she would show up the next time with one. Usually a used one she got at a yard sale. This went on for years. Years of me waiting till she left the house to grumble, complain and heft poor Mr. Used Crock-Pot out to my car and to the nearest Salvation Army (They apparently need many, many Crock-Pots to survive.)
Recently I decided to try one. I had to buy one (at a thrift store) because I had finally shown my mother that I was not going to be lured into being a Crock-Pot fan-girl, no matter what she did. Trust me... the irony was not lost on me. Neither was the $5 I had to spend to get my own dull brown and gold cooking vessel which I’ve recently upgraded. (BTW… I have a free gold and dull brown Crock-Pot if anyone wants it. I’m a damn hoarder, I swear.)
If you hate to cook, buy one of these suckers. I swear, it doesn’t instantly turn you into a domestic house frau.
Here’s my number one Crock-Pot dinner cop out that your rotten family will more than appreciate. As a matter of fact, they’ll love it and probably do one of the following;
a)   Sing you songs.
b)   Pick you flowers.
c)   Compose sonnets to your greatness.
d)   Hoist you to their shoulders and carry you round and round while cheering and throwing pastel colored confetti.
(Or they’ll say  ... “yeah... that was pretty good... Gotta go tweet some crap about stuff and junk.”)
On to the meal!
What to get your hands on:
1.   Beefy chunks.  1.5 – 2 pounds. (Aka. Boneless chuck stewing beef)
2.   Carrots. I’d say 1 small bag, ½ 1 larger bag, or 4 big adult carrots. (make your life easy by buying baby carrots already peeled and in a handy little bag... unless you're also trying to save money, than just buy the big “I gotta peel and cut these fucking things!?” kind)
3.   Baby red potatoes, about 5… unless they’re super tiny. (Again... you’ll be all Martha like cus their red and pretty. They also are small so they’re practically bite size, so why spend the time/energy cutting them all up? Hmm? Use the noggin’… always take the slacker way out!)
4.   *One onion. (Seriously... who the fuck cares what kind. Just get a decent sized onion)
5.   Celery (4 -5 really nice size stalks)(Heh. Celery stalking... that’s going to be a new illustration)
6.   1 cup of Barley.
7.   1 McCormick’s Slow Cooker Beef Stew Seasoning packet
8.   *1 table spoon of Corn Starch
9.   *Pillsbury Italian Bread Tube
Other stuff needed:
1.   Crock-Pot (Wal-Mart carries a good one that’s like $20 bucks, and is a really good size. Go buy one. The small “Crock-Pot” brand ones are good, but kinda tiny for what you’re doing here.)
2.   Knife and cutting board. (RAH! Stabbity stabbity!)
3.   Roughly about 4 – 8 hours of time you don’t plan on spending in the kitchen (this is a meal you need to start early in the day. It’s quick, but needs a long time to cook)
4.   Cookie sheet to cook your yummy tube-o-bread.
5.   Pam cooking spray
6.   *Veggie peeler
7.   Hands.
8.   A room with a high ceiling for when your family carries you about.

(* means that you should have something like this... feel free to omit or exchange or whathaveyou.)

Cut Veggies Up: Grab your veggies, knife and cutting board and start making stabby, slashy motions till everything is cut up. (If you bought the bag of baby carrots, no cutting needed. If you bought the tiny tiny baby red potatoes, no cutting needed... if the potatoes are egg sized, cut in half)
I like my stuff cut very chunky… simply because I feel it gives it a real “I made this homemade, people!” look. I know you’re thinking that making smaller cuts will look like you took more time… Spent more of your day pondering the infinite and varied ways you could make your family happy. BUT DON’T FALL INTO THAT TRAP! If you cut too small an astute husband may think “Hmm… Too precise... Too much time spent… Too…too… DINTY MOORE!! YOU FRAUD, LIAR, JEZZABELL! I CAUGHT YOU! JUST LIKE I CAUGHT YOU SNEAKING IN THOSE NEW JIMMY CHOO’S IN YOUR SHOULDERBAG! “HAD THEM FOREVER”, MY ASS! “And really… why take the chance of having THAT old argument again, huh?
Remember… cooking is just one way out of many that you can use at Christmas, Mother’s day and Valentine’s Day to guilt your family into buying you good stuff. Don’t let those sneaky little twerps turn the tables on you!
But I digress…
Once everything is cut up put them into the Pot’O’Crock in this order;
1.   Barley
2.   Potatoes
3.   Carrots
4.   Meat
5.   Onion
6.   Celery
Why you ask? Because I freakin’ said so! (No no… well yes, but no.. because the stuffs on the bottom takes a wee bit longer to cook/get tender, so let’s get it closer to the main heat source, yes? Yes. See… reasonable… responsible… always thinking ahead… And I’ve had many a bad bunch O stew.)
Mix the packet of Slow Cooker spices with the just a weencie bit less water than it says to use. Put it in a small container (I use my Pyrex measuring cup... $3.99 at Wallyworld.) Dump on top of the junk in the Crock-Pot. You’ll probably have a small bit of not totally mixed spicy crap at the bottom of the container. Put that weencie bit of water you left out into the container, swish, dump into the pot. See? Always thinking!
Mix: Now… this next little part takes precision, technique, practice and the ability to do really unwise things because someone says it’s OK. Put the top on the Crock-Pot (that isn’t the precision part) grab the handles of the pot, swish in a clockwise motion. At this point you’re either mixing the stuff up a bit, or you’re wearing it and you have a happy cat next to your dripping socks. But you didn’t use a big wooden spoon, and that was the point. You win. (You have to turn cooking into a game or you may end up wanting to kill yourself because it’s so gaddamn coma-inducing-boring.)
Turn on the Crock-Pot. (Do a striptease? No... Use the dial, ya twisted boob.)
·         LOW: If you have 8 hours of time between turning it on and dinner, put it on LOW (even if you have like 7 hours, that’s OK too... maybe even 6. I’m no chef.)
·         HIGH: If you don’t have that much time because you went to the store to get the stuff for this, and then noticed that Macy’s was having a sale and Target had two for one on romance novels or some crap like that, and you get home and now you only have 4 hours till dinner, MINUS the time it’s going to take you to get all the new stuff you bought into inconspicuous “what the spouse doesn’t know won’t hurt’em” spots around the house, then put it on HIGH.
Now you’re good for either 3.5 – 7.5 hours. Go do something fun, I say. There are two ways you can view this time… and it’s really based on how honest a person you are and if you are hoping to get amazing accolades for the amount of work you’ve done on dinner today.
Choice A:
     I’m an honest person and I don’t want to fool my loving family into thinking I do any more work than I already do!
  First off, you’re an asshat, but whatever.  K.. so if you’re not fooling your family (Like most normal people would) take a nice family outing, or do this before work, or spend the entire day devoted to your husband/wife/lifemate/children/pets, whathaveyou. When you get home you’ll smell the sumptuous aroma of beef stew, you can plump a pillow for your husband/wife/lifemate/children/pet’s feet, turn on a football game and bake the bread, blah, blah, blah, you’re boring, blah.
Choice B:
     HELLZ YA I’ll be fooling those dweebs!
  YOU are worthy of praise, my friend. Worthy. Of. Praise. DO NOT spend the day with your family, tending to their needs, making sure they have all they need for a happy existence. Make them all leave the house. You’re working on a BIG dinner, after all… you need peace, quiet… and because they won’t give a crap about that, tell them that if they stay, they MUST help you cook dinner and clean out the pantry and refrigerator.  They’ll leave skid marks out the door, trust me. If they all work/go to school, no need for subterfuge. (Although even when there isn’t need for it, use it. It keeps you sharp.)
You got everything in the pot, it’s turned on… go shopping. Do your hair. Sit down and watch TV. Read a book without being interrupted every three minutes. Call a friend and laugh over the way your husband can’t put a pillow into a pillow case without getting winded, red-faced and frustrated. Masturbate… whatever it is you usually don’t have time to do alone. (By the way, if you DO masturbate, please remember to wash your hands afterwards. I can’t condone that much slack in the sanitation department, yanno?)
When it gets about time for the fam to get home:
1.   Take out the corn starch; put a wee smudge of it on your cheek.
2.   Mess up your hair (not needed if your masturbation technique calls for vigorous rolling about)
3.   Make the kitchen just a wee bit messy by using clean dishes on the counter. (The family won’t notice... they’ll see “mess” and run out of the kitchen. Notice, this is the same technique they always use… they call it “Clutter Blindness”, but we know better). 
4.   Open the fridge and move the contents around into straight lines. (They won’t notice it’s not cleaned, they’ll just see that things are at straight angles and assume you cleaned it.)
5.    Same for the pantry. 
6.   Look exhausted (Again, depending on the masturbation, you may actually be exhausted.)

*****IMPORTANT - ½ hour before dinner time DO THIS*****
Get cold water, about ¼ - ½ cup and mix the corn starch into it. COLD... not kidding... use hot and you’re in trouble. Some science shit at work here again. Dump into the stew. Mix around a bit or go for the sloshy maneuver again. If the stew temp was on low, put it on high. If it’s already on high, you’re done.

I’ve talked about this before, but here goes again…
Take out a cookie sheet. (Personally I go for the foil cookie sheets, 3 for $2.49 at the grocery store, cus you can toss them out if you happen to get stuff stuck on them that you don't wanna clean) Cover in tinfoil (Trust me, I'm making your life easier... recycle other stuff and stop being a martyr in the kitchen, k?) 
Spray with one quick spray of Pam cooking spray.
Open the French Bread and follow instructions on the French bread cover (that's if you haven't ripped the instructions all to hell while attempting to pull it off the tube)
Put the bread in the oven.
Set the timer for 30 minutes.

The End:
When the bread is done, take out, cut up, stick in little basket or something and put out the butter.
Get nice big bowls – I usually go for some nice pasta bowls, but whatever you have is fine. Just remember, presentation is everything. You want your family to know you worked hard… so if you dress it up a bit it will be years before they realize you spent the day kanoodling yourself and relaxing. (Umm. Hopefully they never figure out the kanoodle part... that would be kind of embarrassing they may accuse you of being unsanitary.)

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