New Year Cure

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80 degrees in January today!

Recently I developed a ritual of morning coffee with my favorite blogs. I have never been the ritual-type – probably because I am too busy buzzing around like a manic hummingbird trying to tackle everything in my path, doing nothing excellently or efficiently. You know, dishes breakfast puppywalk studying laundry working sweepinghouse makingbed showering payingbills dumpingtrash goingtoclass runningerrands checkingemails cookingdinner washingmoredishes foldingthelaundry tacklingthemold cleaningtoilet cleaningtub cleaningsink cleaningoven groceryshopping organizingthepantry walkingdogsagain cleaningupdogpoop returningphonecalls. We are not alone. Everyone has these same little pests and nags. And yet I let them make me feel alone and pitiful and like I am the only human failing at adulthood and like I just don’t have time for that phone call with my best friend across the country or my morning cup of coffee.

So thankfully, the holidays were particularly cleansing for us. Sure, our plumbing backed up three times and we moved out of our bedrooms to tackle a mold infestation. But honestly? All the chaos in the midst of a slower season [grace] has helped me see how swept up in daily to-dos I am to even take a moment for myself, make a cup of coffee and catch up on what’s happening in home decor, the Church, crafts and friends abroad. It has made me realize how much I miss taking time for fresh air and watching the pups discover the little details in our neighborhood. And how beautiful it is to watch a movie, enjoy friends over dinner, drink one too many glasses of wine, and settle in by the fire with Andrew or go to bed early or stay up late…how beautiful it is to live.

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So in the spirit of that lovely quote by Chesterton [“the object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things he will certainly do nothing effective”], I am prescribing to myself a cure, a New Year Cure. To combat the anxious, busy, robotic woman that I default to when our days get filled with messes, dishes, deadlines, obligations and challenges. Morning coffee with blog and scripture reading, one good, hefty, daily walk with the pups, and one sink basin filled with hot soapy water and a lit candle when I cook. A new year, a new job, a new semester in school – new soul, new nose, new feet, new ears, new eyes [AND A NEW HAIRCUT] .

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2013, I hope you’ll let us slow down and enjoy the work we are doing, the messes we are making, the communities we are building, the tiny details we are missing in the buzzing around like a manic hummingbird.

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How are you handling the new year? Any resolutions, any new year cure you are prescribing yourself?

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Mushroom Bourguignon

One thing that has proven to be true of our diets this year is less meat. The truth is, we are both pretty picky about our meat, and our tastes are not compatible at all. Now don’t get me wrong – we will both chow down on a Whig burger, or can we talk about that amazing burger we had at Husk in Charleston? Or the steak tartare my brother ordered for his 21st birthday at The Admiral in Asheville?

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the most amazing burger we have ever had at Husk in Charleston, SC

We certainly aren’t weird dietary snobs and you could definitely spot us getting a hot dog from the hot dog man on Main Street on a summer day. But planning meals that are healthy and budget-friendly is a little easier when you aren’t picking a meat-and-three for every night of the week. We tend towards pasta tossed with veggies, black bean tacos, salads, grilled cheese, veggie spaghetti, salads, fish*. Sometimes I really miss that smell of mom’s pot roast cooking in the oven with cream of mushroom gravy, or I crave a fried pork chop with collards and mashed potatoes. But I don’t miss paying several dollars per pound for chuck roast and feeling sick off of too many leftovers of meat, rice and gravy.

And sometimes I miss getting out my fun French cookbooks and being whisked (!) back to college culinary days and cooking classically. If you don’t know what that means, it is a pretentious way of saying Sometimes I’ll throw a vegetable in with my butter, eggs, flour and meat. 

So this week I got the itch for both homemade comfort food and an over-popularized (does that make me sound snobbish? I love Julie and Julia. Seriously) Julia Child classic, boeuf bourguignon. Or, beef burgundy. Or, beef chunks rolled in flour cooked in bacon fat and wine. With a few mushrooms and onions thrown in. Or, shut up already and give you the recipe?

But wait. Like I was saying before, I don’t want to pay real money for chunks of beef that I’m going to roll in flour and bacon fat. And I don’t want to feel sick from binge-eating amazing French country food. So I said Au revoir Monsieur Boeuf and Bonjour Champignon!

We tossed out the beef and bought a couple of containers of mushrooms – I think 2 lbs. to be exact, and we also opted for the pre-sliced (sometimes I wonder if the scoop-your-own comes out to be more expensive because you are also paying for the weight of the stem which gets discarded? Anyone?) variety. When the time came to make this meal, I decided to leave in the bacon – this step could easily be left out and you could brown the veggies in oil instead. This meal would be so easy to adapt for vegans as well as vegetarians, and yet the wine and the mushrooms carry a depth of flavor and aroma that tricks your senses into thinking you are about to dive into a savory, tender pot roast. This meal is by no means a beautiful or photographic meal, but I assure you it will look just wonderful steaming on top of some egg noodles, spaghetti squash or mashed root veggies and potatoes on your dinner table on a dreary evening.

Champignon Bourguignon

2 lb. baby bellas or other mushrooms, sliced

1/2 white or yellow onion, diced

2-3 carrots, diced

3-4 pieces of bacon, cut into 1/2 in. pieces

1/4 cup flour

1 bottle of good red wine (you will drink what’s left)

1-2 c. broth or water (we used veggie broth)

1 tiny jar tomato paste

Thyme and/or rosemary, bay leaves, salt and pepper

In a large, heavy skillet (I used a 14-inch stainless steel skillet), throw in your bacon pieces and let the fat render out (medium-high heat). When bacon is almost cooked through but still soft and pliable, throw in your onions and carrots. Let these soften a while and when pan is hot and you think they are ready to be taken off the heat, throw in some of that veggie broth to deglaze the pan. Whisk in some flour to thicken it up, and then toss in mushrooms. Transfer mixture to a slow-cooker and add 3/4 bottle of wine, 2 bay leaves, a hefty pinch of thyme, a few sprigs of rosemary, and some salt and fresh ground pepper. Throw in the tiny can of tomato paste, and mix everything together. Let sit on high for a 2-3 hours in the slow cooker. You could also do this recipe from start to finish in a stock pot and finish it in the oven – I generally prefer oven to slow cooker for taste, but I love having a pot of stew that anyone in the house can come and help themselves to throughout the day. When you are almost ready to eat, throw some egg noodles onto boil, or while your stew is cooking, mash up some potatoes and turnips for an awesome semi-bitter mash to ladle the saucy mushrooms on top of. Crusty white bread wouldn’t hurt either! Enjoy a lighter version of an aromatic and rich comfort food.

*and sometimes boxed mac and cheese