I know it’s pretty standard to serve a big old hunk of meat as the main course if you’re hosting a holiday dinner, and I admit the last time we hosted Christmas Day dinner at our house, we served a grocery store ham.
I’m not sure if I could do that in good conscience anymore, and I’m also not sure I could fork over the dough for a pastured turkey or crowd of well-raised chickens to share with family. (I bet there’s an appropriate word for more than one chicken. I bet someone will help me out with that one.)
I’m the queen of eating out of the box – metaphorically, not literally at all, since boxed food has yucky stuff in it – and hosting a holiday dinner is no different. I don’t really follow the rules.
When we last hosted Christmas Eve dinner, we went for an easy, can-prepare-ahead-of-time main course. We served chili (Recipe available in The Everything Beans Book) and cornbread. The pot sat in the garage while we were at Mass and went right on the burner when we arrived home. It couldn’t have been simpler, or more delicious.
I recently tweaked an old recipe that I threw together over a year ago with ingredients I needed to use up, and it’s gotten its share of “oohs” and “aahs” this week. I would definitely consider it as a main course for a holiday gathering, for a couple of reasons:
- It’s amazingly, restaurant quality delicious
- It stretches the meat, thereby stretching the budget when serving a crowd
- It’s easy to double
- It could sit on the stovetop for an extended period of time, either waiting for people to arrive or allowing a long, leisurely dinner, with second helpings
- It can even be made in the slow cooker so no one has to be bustling around at the last minute
Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew
- 2 Tbs. each olive oil and butter
- 4–8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3–4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1–2 lbs. beef for stew or venison roast, cut in 1-2” pieces
- 2–3 c. beef or bean broth
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
- 2 cans white beans (or 3–4 cups cooked dry beans)
- 3–5 carrots, sliced
- optional veggies: 2-3 cups spinach or kale, 4-8 oz. fresh or frozen green beans
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1–2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1–2 Tbs. fresh parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
- shredded Parmesan, to serve on top
- In a large pot, sauté mushrooms and onions in olive oil and butter until onions are translucent and mushrooms are nicely browned.
- During the last minute, add crushed garlic to the mix.
- Add meat pieces and toss until browned as well, then put all the other ingredients except the fresh herbs in the pot.
- Bring to a boil and simmer on very low, covered, for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender and practically falling apart.
- Five minutes before serving, add the fresh herbs.
- Top with shredded or shaved Parmesan to serve.
- Makes 4-8 servings.
1. Substitute 1/2 cup of the broth for red wine; add it first after sautéing the onions and browning the meat to deglaze, then add the broth and other ingredients.
2. Add 8 oz. of cream cheese or yogurt cheese after removing from heat and before serving.
3. Slow Cooker/Crockpot option: Brown the beef and onion in a pot, then throw everything in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours. Make another similar dish in the slow cooker by following this recipe.
2 Tools for Real Food Success:
It’s never easy to keep up with real food goals! If my meal isn’t planned ahead and/or I don’t have the right food on hand, it’s SO tempting to give up and grab convenience food!
I have to almost trick myself into getting it right sometimes…like this:
I love my raw milk farm, and they usually have beef for me too – but not all the cuts. And chicken is hard to come by. And pork is hit or miss.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the same sourcing frustrations!
That’s why I’m always grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A box from Butcher Box is guaranteed to be grassfed/organic/pastured/free range = all the labels important to your family’s health!
If you live in an area (like my mom) where organic local farms are nowhere to be found or have trouble sourcing certain meats or cuts, Butcher Box has you covered.
(free shipping too!)
But if I forget to plan ahead, all that amazing meat just sits in the freezer! Enter Real Plans, an online meal planning software that is probably smarter than I am.
I can enter that cut of meat along with my food restrictions and find the perfect meal, then generate a shopping list, multiply it by 4 if we have company, and enter my own fav recipes too.
Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type:
I’m very pleased to be part of the Whole Foods for the Holidays Progressive Dinner, hosted by Stephanie at Keeper of the Home today. Find other fancy and practical main dishes there! See all the participants and past courses here. You can still add your recipes to the linkys at the other posts, and we’ll be highlighting our favorites at the end of the round up!
A Few Quick Announcements
- If you’re prepping a dish to pass for a party, you’ll love my two simple appetizer dips. Get the videos and PDF recipes by signing up for either the sourdough eCourse or Fundamentals, and learn traditional cooking styles in the comfort of your own home. I’m a teacher in the sourdough course, but I am always blown away by the recipes the other two teachers have to share.
This week includes corn fritters and cornbread, and last week was sourdough pasta! I’ve made the chocolate cake twice in the past week, and even my husband, the sourdough skeptic, agrees that not only is it really good, but it actually gets better with age. Best. Cake. I’ve. Ever. Made. And I was afraid to try it because I didn’t want a sour cake! I’ve got to learn to stop being afraid of these recipes; Wardeh and Erin wouldn’t steer us wrong! Sign up for the adventure here.
- How is your greening up going? Be sure to reference the natural body products master list, the Top 10 Green Gift Guide (both updated yesterday!) and the green cleaners master list.
- My son said last night: “My throat is sore, I need to gargle with salt water.” Has he been reading KS? If you’ve got a cold or that tell-tale tickle, you’ll want to read my 4 simple solutions for sick kids (kind of 5), all of which use stuff that’s already in your kitchen.