Thursday, August 30, 2012

La Rentrée and Make-Ahead Beef Stroganoff


     "La Rentrée" is an expression in French that refers not only to students and teachers going back to school but also to everyone else going back to work after summer vacations.   Some explanations of the expression will refer to it as "getting back to normalcy."  I am not sure that I agree with this as the slow pace of summer seemed very "normal" to me.

     Nevertheless, la rentrée has arrived and so far, we are adapting quite well.  We had one last bit of summer vacation over the past weekend when we met some dear friends in a small wine village along the Rhein/Rhine River.  In Eltville, we had a delightful lunch, toured the town and sampled some of the local wine.  Along the river, there is a delightful little park and each week, a different winery showcases its wine.  You can buy a glass or even an entire bottle, take it over to one of the benches or tables and enjoy the afternoon watching the boat traffic and sampling wine.  It was a totally relaxing experience and a nice end to the summer.

     Monday came too fast.  Dear Daughter entered the fifth grade at her new school and handled the new experience expertly.  By now, I think she is an expert when it comes to adapting to new experiences.  I met her at the bus stop that afternoon and she was all smiles - and then informed me that I did not have to walk her to the stop in the morning nor meet her in the afternoon.  Yesterday at swim practice, she asked me to walk her into the aquatics center - then paused as she saw her friends - turned around and stated, "You can go now."  Ahhh, la rentrée...

     With the start of school, it also means the start of swimming.  Practices are four days a week for ninety minutes.  It doesn't make much sense for Dear Daughter to take the bus home only to turn around and go to the pool thirty minutes later.  I now pick her up after school and drive her to the library, where she completes her homework.  She is begging us to allow her to walk with her teammates to the pool, where she will do her homework there.  I am  not so sure of that...

     With the start of swimming, it also means that Dear Husband is now making dinner each nigh as we do not arrive home until close to 7:00 pm.  To aid him in that chore, I spent two days last week cooking meals and freezing them.  We have a large menu board in our kitchen and each Friday, I plan out the next week's menus.  All Dear Husband has to do is take a look at the menu board and heat up whatever is listed for that day.  It seems to work pretty well and we can all sit down together for a good meal and discuss the day's activities.  Those two days of cooking usually provide one month of weekday meals.

Great first meet - one first place, one second place and one third place!
     Soups are easy to make and freeze but can get a bit boring to have day after day.  I spent a few hours viewing recipes on the Internet and was intrigued by a Beef Stroganoff recipe that I found on a site called Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  It wasn't listed as a make-ahead meal but with some minor tweaking, I think I pulled it off.

     For the long weekend coming up, we are once again heading to Austria.  Our intent is to hike in the mountains, where we normally ski.  However, in looking at the weather forecasts, it may actually snow!  Now that is different - snow for Labor Day!

Make-Ahead Easy Beef Stroganoff

Easy Beef Stroganoff
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

(This recipe, as with all classic stroganoff recipes, calls for mushrooms.  I do not like button mushrooms so I omitted them.   Feel free to add, if you like.)

6 oz bacon, diced
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 T tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 t paprika
1 cup sour cream
Egg noodles

Saute the bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove to a plate and drain the fat.  Add the beef, onion, garlic, salt and pepper.  As the beef cooks, mash it with the back of a fork to break up the pieces.  Once cooked, drain fat from pan.  Stir in flour and tomato paste.   Cook for one minute.  Add broth and simmer three to five minutes.  Stir in the Worcestershire and paprika.  Lower heat and simmer for five minutes.  Add the bacon back into the pan.

Here is where I stopped.  I let the dish cool and then divided it between two large Ziploc bags.  (If you are feeding more than three people, I would just put the entire dish into one Ziploc bag.)  I sealed the bags, getting as much air out as possible.  Then I labeled the bags with the name of the dish and any remaining cooking instructions.  I flattened the bag and put it into the freezer.  If you look at my freezer now, you will see a stack of flattened Ziploc bags holding all kinds of meals!

On the day that you will have this for dinner, take it out of the freezer and let it defrost in the refrigerator.  At dinnertime, simmer gently over medium low heat until hot.  Just before serving, add in the sour cream (1/2 c if you have divided the recipe into two bags, one cup if it is all in one bag.)

Serve over egg noodles.

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