Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wow! Long hiatus! Cream of Broccoli Soup. Ah yum.

Its been a busy couple of weeks around here. I've been cooking up a storm, and mostly remembering to take pictures, but finding the time to actually sit down and post them has been a challenge. There is lots of big stuff going on around here, like Kindergarten apple day (whatever that is!), and turning almost 30. There have also been a few Spongebob marathons for the kids, a few Fringe, season 2, marathons for me and my husband, with a bunch of cleaning and wiping and yelling and crying in between.

In the midst of all of that I decided to make a batch of super easy, really yummy, cream of broccoli soup. Isaiah can't have the canned stuff anymore because of the soy allergy, so if we want cream-of-anything, we have to make it. Not that I'm complaining. I don't miss the chemicals-in-a-can variety at all. It always tastes good, but then I wash the dish and it soaps up and bubbles with no soap added and the whole idea of it begins to creep me out. Try it sometime. Its disgusting.

Back to the soup...Take a bunch of broccoli. I buy the pre-cut Costco variety. I use 6 cups or so. Toss it in a pan with some water. You can use chicken stock if you'd like. It would be fabulous. I didn't this time, but next time, for sure.

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Cover the pot 'o' broccoli and let it simmer for quite a while, until all the broccoli is tender. You aren't really going for mush here, but definitely cooked through. When it is, pour in 3 cups of heavy cream, and 3 cups of half-n-half. This recipe is very easy to play with. You can adjust those to your liking, using more or less of one, and it'll still turn out great.

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Let that heat through over med-low heat and then stick an immersion blender in a buzz away until the soup is combined and broccoli is chopped up and incorporated. If you don't have a stick blender you could certainly use a regular one, it would just be more messy.

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Now let his simmer on low for a bit and get a butter roux going. I showed you how to make it a while back. Click HERE for a refresher.

Get the soup up to a low low simmer and then slowly incorporate the butter roux to slightly thicken the soup. You don't want it too thick. You can skip this step completely if you would like and just throw a whole stick of butter into the soup. It needs the butter though, in one way, shape, or form. It just goes with it. It deepens the richness of this soup in a real and necessary way.

From here on out you are done! The possibilities are endless. Sometimes I lightly steam some more broccoli and toss it in, then throw in a generous heap of sharp cheddar and eat it just like that. Other times, mostly the day after times, I'll saute some chicken breasts, chop them up, toss them in a baking pan, cover with noodles that are par-boiled, a ton of cheese, and pour copious amounts of this soup on the top then bake it, topped with more cheese. Its my version of one of my ultimate comfort foods, Chicken Divan. That's what my mom called it anyway. It stuck with me, much like this meal will stick to you. I'll post the step-by-step and recipe for that sometime in the not-too-distant future, as well as some other gems I've been saving up for one of the many, upcoming, rainy days.

Now though I'm off to enjoy the rest of the sunshine on this absolutely PERFECT fall day, and go get my 6 year old off the bus!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

For your amusement, and possible menu planning...

Here are some blogs and recipes that I've bookmarked over the last several weeks and put in my "I MUST MAKE THESE!" folder.

The Girl Who Ate Everything, and her amazing looking frosting that came from The Pioneer Woman!

The Novice Chef Blog, with the Cherry Coke Float Cupcakes

A Spoonful of Sugah with the Japenese Souflee Cheesecake

and finally, the one that really, really caught my eye and makes me want to spend massive time in the kitchen making a zillion of these to freeze...

Sweet Pea from Sweet Pea's Kitchen has her Pork Pot Stickers with homemade wrappers

Hmmm....three desserts and an appetizer. Something is off here! ;)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quick dinner last night...Beef Barley Soup and Sands

Everyone is sick in our house right now. We have all the kids with the school crud, general boogery stuff. Then there's my husband. He has an illness which will not be spoken of. Enough said. I'm doing fairly well! I had a nasty couple of yellow jacket stings on Saturday that landed me in urgent care on Sunday afternoon with a quickly spreading, nasty, red rash. Three rx's for me and two days later, and its on the upswing.

So because of all the general yuck circulating in these parts at the moment I needed to make something for dinner last night that was quick, easy, and relatively good. I think I did that!

A week or so ago I made a roast beef dinner. It was a huge cut of beef. Huge. We couldn't possibly eat it all, so the leftovers went into a baggie and into the freezer. The great thing about having a slow-cooked, fork tender roast in the freezer is that is makes beef soup and stew a breeze. Normally you need to cook beef soup or stew for a long, long, long time in order to get tender beef. This removes that step! Sweet!

So toss your leftover roast into a pot of water and bring to a boil.
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Throw in an appropriate amount of beef base, which you will definitely need in this recipe.
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Also throw in some chopped carrots, green beans (I use frozen), corn, and a large can of diced tomatoes.
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After this comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and toss in a cup of quick cooking barley.
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Bring this to a slow boil and cook according to package directions.

It smells awesome.
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While this is cooking, get your french bread and butter it generously.

Place this under the broiler for a couple of minutes, WATCHING CAREFULLY not to burn it (bolding for me! I always burn things under the broiler!!).


When its nice and golden brown, take it out and place some cheese one side of the bread. I did mozzarella and colby jack. On the other half of your bread place your meats. This time, I wanted to do kind of a homemade BMT (Subway fans, you hear me!), so I tossed on Genoa salami, pepperoni, ham, and roast beef. Then I put both sides back under the broiler WATCHING CAREFULLY until the cheese was melted and the meat was heated.

This is something like what you will see when you pull it out.
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My favorite way to top it now is with spinach and Dietz & Watson Hoagie Dressing. Next time I'm going to try out my own dressing though, so stay tuned for that.

So that was our quick soup and sammy dinner. I liked it, a lot. The kids didn't hardly eat at all (more of a product of not feeling well I think!), and poor Jeremiah. Poor poor Jeremiah. We won't talk about him.

What do you guys think of the new layout, if you've been around long enough to see the old one? It may change again soon, so don't be shocked when you click my link and see a facelift sometime in the not-too-distant-future. Have a great week!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cream Chicken Wild Rice Soup, via Jen B! aka Minnesota Soup

* I edited this recipe on 11/13 in response to a measurement mistake I made. I also added a bit to it and wrote up the actual, um, recipe. Who said that this blogging stuff is easy! ;)*

This is one of the first meals that my then future sister-in-law made when her brother was bringing me to their house for dinner. I was so picky and lame, I ate before I went because I thought I would hate it.

Now its one of my absolute favorite meals. I have my family ship me wild rice from Minnesota for this. Seriously. If you are in Minnesota and can find me wild rice for $1.99 - $2.99 a pound, please contact me, and ship me some. Out here in the wild west, wild rice is like gold. In the grocery store a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, USELESS 4oz box sells for upwards of $6.00. I could probably get the precooked Trader Joe's wild rice, but really, I would just rather not.

So back to this soup. This soup. This soup. This soup. The Soup Nazi WISHES he had the recipe for this soup. Now I am sharing it with you, as it was graciously shared with me by my awesome, caring, loving, generous, sister-in-law. I love her.

Now again, back to the soup. The soup, the soup, the soup. Just kidding. Take your chicken stock that I showed you how to make the other day. Put that in a big soup pot and bring it to a boil. Ideally you want about 4-5 qts of liquid, but you can definitely eyeball it. Toss in 4-5 TBSP rubbed sage. Adjust this to your personal tastes. I like mine heavily flavored with sage.
P9151319Measure out 2 cups of this deliciousness, aka wild rice, and toss it in. Or parboil it and drain the liquid. It really depends on how much you love the wild rice flavor. Often times I parboil it and get rid of some of the 'wildness'. Other times I don't. You can do whatever you'd like! You may need to add water to the soup after its cooked if you didn't parboil it, as it soaks up a lot of liquid.


Wild rice takes about 45 minutes to cook fully. Depending on your chosen cooking method for the rice, you'll need to time the addition of the carrots to the stock. You want the rice and carrots to be cooked, but not mush, at the same time.

I usually half cook the wild rice, about 25 minutes at a simmer, drain it, rinse it, then toss it into the soup with the carrots and mushrooms. After you do that, start your roux. Clear as mud, huh?

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While the carrots and mushrooms are cooking, take out two sticks of salted butter. Or unsalted. Whatever you prefer will work here. Unwrap them and toss them and toss them into a small pan. I use a 4" cast iron. You use what will work for you. Add approximately 1/2 - 3/4 cup flour into the melted butter, whisk well, and cook over med-low heat. It'll start to bubble.

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Give it a stir here and there. You don't need to stir it constantly, but you do need to keep a good eye on it and stir when necessary. You don't want this to burn. It'll begin to foam up a bit. This is good. Stir it every so often to calm the foam down a bit.

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After a little while you'll get something that looks like this...

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That is your goal. That is what you want. Make sure the soup is boiling and slowly drizzle this in while stirring constantly. It should thicken your soup slightly and make it rich and delicious.

Turn the now thickened slightly soup down to a light simmer. Now take 4 cups, yes, 4 cups, of heavy whipping cream, and toss it in. You could use half-n-half, but I find the cream gives it a necessary element of YUM. That's my technical term for it. Plus, I recently learned that by using heavy whipping cream you pretty much eliminate the chance of the dairy curdling. With half and half, there's always that risk. Half and half, because of the higher casein content, sometimes dislikes being cold and getting added to hot liquids. I've never had it curdle in this particular recipe, but I'm a bit gun-shy on the curdled half and half right now. Plus, cream is cream and it is full of fat and flavor and is delicious.

 Now dish up and eat. Right now. This minute. Serve with warm crusty bread and a salad.

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Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Wild Rice Soup, or Minnesota Soup
5 quarts chicken stock
4-5 Tbsp rubbed sage
4ish cups chopped chicken
2 cups wild rice
3 cups carrots
5 cups sliced mushrooms
2 sticks butter
1/2 - 3/4 cup a.p. flour
4 cups heavy whipping cream

  1. Bring stock to a boil. Add sage and chicken. 
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add wild rice. Cook 25 minutes. Drain, rinse, and add to soup pot along with carrots and mushrooms.
  3. Melt butter in small saute pan. Add flour and whisk. Let cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and texture changes. 
  4. Slowly add to simmering soup while stirring soup. Let cook until thickened. If necessary, adjust thickness by adding additional chicken stock. When thickened, add cream.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies, or CCC, my way.

This makes a huge batch. HUGE. At least 3 dozen, depending on how big you make them. They are delicious. Perfectly chewy and crisp just enough to leave you wanting more. A lot more. I think I ate a dozen, which is why I don't make these very often!

Around here this week shall be now known as "The Week of Many Calories". For dinner this week we had: Chicken Marsala (butter, butter, and MORE butter in that one!), Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, home-made corn dogs with onion rings, Surf & Turf (steak and scampi) with scratch copycat cheddar bay biscuits, and creamy wild rice chicken soup, and spaghetti with meat sauce. I feel bigger just reading that.

We aren't calorie-counters around here...yet...but I usually don't cook like that so MANY times in one week. I didn't even mention the CCC and the Caramello cake.

So here is the recipe for my CCC. I've made a ton of different CCC recipes, and once I made this one I knew this was it. My search is over. Done. Make these tomorrow!

CCC

3 sticks butter
2 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 lg eggs

2 egg yolks
2 1/2 Tbsp vanilla
2 c bread flour
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c milk chocolate chips

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1. Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixer until light, fluffy, and creamy, about 4-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix.

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Sift together all dry ingredients and slowly add to the batter mixing on low while doing so. When well combined, mix in chocolate chips.

2. Put all cookie dough into fridge for at least 4 hours. 24 is better, but 4 will do in a pinch.

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Take out and roll lightly into 1" balls, place on a cookie sheet lined with non-stick foil, bake at 325 for 10-13 minutes. Take out when the outside edges are JUST starting to brown for a softer, chewier cookie. Leave in another minute or so if you like them a bit crunchier.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Basic, delicious, no bouillon roasted chicken & stock

This is a great thing to have down. You can make so many different things with this. Its versatile, its good for you, and you can control the salt and keep out unnecessary ingredients and additives that are common in many commercially available chicken stocks and bouillon cubes (msg, modified food starch, a ton of things I cannot pronounce).

My 4 year old is allergic to soy,  and msg is made from soy, so our options are fairly limited when it comes to a lot of convenience foods available in your average supermarket. This homemade stock can be made anytime you have left over chicken available, frozen, put into ice cube trays to use when you need a little kick in your foods, or made into soups or stews, as I'll show you in a future post.

With this recipe, you can make several different meals.

Day 1, meal one, Roasted Chicken. Serve with some sort of starch and some kind of veggie. You could easily make a simple gravy from the drippings if you want, or keep it easy and just eat the chicken plain. Its seasoned well enough that you don't really need gravy. One way that we really like it, that's a bit different, is to make this with white rice, broccoli, and sweet chili sauce. Generally you can find it in most any grocery store in the Asian foods section. Its just spicy enough to keep me happy, but not too spicy to scare off the kids too much.

Day 2, meal two, SOUP! You can do chicken noodle soup and make the homemade noodles I posted about previously, or you can make the soup I'm going to give you the recipe for tomorrow. This makes enough for a large, large batch of soup. Definitely enough for leftovers, to freeze, or just to make for a crowd.

Here's what you need...
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 lg onion, peeled
  • 1 tsp seasoning salt, Lawry's
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • salt & pepper

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Put the oil and all the the seasonings and herbs into a small bowl and mix together with your fingers. Take the chicken out of the bag, pull out all the unspeakable stuff inside the body cavity, and unless you are much braver than I, throw it in the garbage. Stuff the onion, that has been peeled, into that cavity.  Gently separate the chicken skin from the breast (which should be facing up!), and pour some of the seasoned oil inside the space between the breast and the skin. Then massage the chicken with the rest of the oil.

Bird prepped and ready to go into the oven.


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Place the uncovered roaster into a preheated 450 degree oven, for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes turn the oven down to 325, and let cook for approximately 1 1/2 - 2 hours. It will depend of the size of your bird. Make sure if you are eating this chicken roasted for a Day 1 meal that you check the internal temperature, not touching a bone, and it is 165 degrees. Also check the temperature inside of the middle of the onion which has been stuffed into the body cavity. 165 is the 'safe' temp for cooking poultry. If you aren't eating this immediately and are JUST using it for stock, you don't need to worry about this as much because the bird will be cooked again in the stock.

At the end of the cooking time this is what you'll find...
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Yum.

The short time under the high heat leaves the skin this beautiful, crispy, golden brown.

You can now take a break and eat the bird as it is, OR you can go right onto the stock portion. If that's what you are doing, take a giant stock pot and fill 1/2 way with cold water. Carefully move the bird from the roaster into the water and bring to a boil. Put a cut up carrot, and a few cut up stocks of celery into the water as well. Salt to taste.

Boil this for 2-3 hours, or until the bird is falling apart. Strain the stock and let all the meat cool down before separating it from the bone.

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After that, strain the stock through cheesecloth or through a fine-mesh strainer to remove little bits of nasty. I can't handle this stuff in my soup. I probably wouldn't notice it in the end product at all, but when I am making soup I can't handle skipping this step. LOOK what ends up in the fine-mesh strainer!

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No thanks. I'll pass on that, pretty please.

Now take out the meat, put it back in the soup, and salt to taste! Depending on how long and how hard you boiled the stock, you will probably will need to add some water. It can take it. I ended up with about 3 quarts, so I added a couple and the chicken flavor was still strong enough. It will seem like you are adding a lot of salt. It needs it. Have you ever looked at the sodium content on the side of a can or carton of commercial stock? Don't. It will scare you.

Here is what you end up with...
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Make this. You will thank me later. Tomorrow I will show you how to make my sister-in-law's ultimate creamy chicken and wild rice soup using this stock. Also on deck, my super, top-secret, best CCC (chocolate chip cookie) ever recipe. I ate about a dozen of them today. I don't regret it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roast Beef Dinner...PART 2

So you've left your roast in the oven now for three full hours, on 300, and haven't peeked, right? RIGHT?? If you've done everything right, here is what you should be staring at when you finally DO get to take a peek.

Come to mama...

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What you see there is several inches of beefy, fatty, dark, rich, FLAVOR. That's the base for our gravy. Take a turkey baster and take out the majority of that delicious nectar, and stick it in the fridge. And get your mind out of the gutter. This is a family food blog not a seedy romance novel.

Do you see the fat on the top, floating up already? That fat, very soon, is going to be the roux for our gravy. I have made a LOT of gravy in my almost 29 years, but none better than when I discovered doing the majority of the roux in the beef fat. Kill me now.
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I took out a couple of cups, at least, to set aside. If you don't do this, sometimes the yummy goodness can cook into the meat and veggies, and evaporate, or something, but the longer you cook it the less there is and I love this stuff. I'm not sure how technically sound this particular step is, but its what I do, and it works, so why not?

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In another one and a half to two hours, here is what will be staring you in the face begging you to eat it.

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I didn't quite get to it in time to take the pictures before my starving boy children and equally starving husband dug in, right after making fun of me for scrambling for my camera. I think he had a hard time keeping a straight face as I was telling him food blogging is ALL about the pictures. He is not a blogger, or a fan of bloggers. I'm not even sure if he knows exactly what the blogging is all about.

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My plate. Thank you Jesus for food, and good food, and the ability to cook and eat said good food.

 Oh, now back to that gravy. During the gravy portion things were a little crazy. Jeremiah was mashing potatoes. Kids were clanging silverware on the table. Babies were running around screeching. I didn't get any pictures of the actual process, so I will do my best to describe it to you.

Take your refrigerated beef stock out of the fridge (WHY does fridge have a 'd', but refrigerated does not??? Am I crazy? Did my spellchecker fail me??). Scrape off the layer of fat that has semi-hardened and put it in a small, itty, bitty, fry pan. I use a little tiny cast iron skillet. Its about 4" across I think. If I didn't have this to use I'd probably use my smallest sauce pan. Anyway, back to the roux.

Take your roast out of the oven also and get all of the fat you can out of the bottom of your roaster. I had all fat at the bottom of mine, so I just got out the turkey baster again and took it out. If you have liquid still, it will be harder, but the labor of love is worth it. Warning though...make SURE you are only getting fat. This roux will not work if its contaminated with regular liquid.

Take all that fat, (I ended up with about 1/4 cup? Maybe a little less?) put it in your itty-bitty-teeny-tiny cast-iron skillet, heat on medium, and stir in with a fork several TBSP of flour. Stir in as much as you can before it gets paste-like. You don't want it too thick. If you go a little overboard, you can thin it down again with a bit of butter. Cook this, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.

You've since removed your roast from the pan along with the carrots and onions and have covered it with foil to keep it warm. Put the roaster on the stove, and dump the beef stock that you reserved earlier in, as well as several cups of potato water (the water left from boiling the mashed potatoes. Best stuff EVAH for gravy making.). I also toss in a few tsp of Better Than Bouillon Beef Base if I think it needs it. Bring this all up to a boil, and whisk it frequently making sure to loosen any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pan.

While whisking, SLOWLY drizzle (or glop, depending on the consistency of your roux) the roux in. Cook for 2 minutes, boiling. If gravy needs to be thicker, mix a few more TBSP of flour with COLD water until there are no more lumps and slowly drizzle in to the boiling gravy while whisking. Whether or not you will need extra thickening depends on a couple of different factors. 1. How much fat you rescued from the roast 2. How much gravy you are making. Play it by ear, or eye, rather, and salt the gravy to taste.

We made mashed potatoes with this as well, using russet potatoes, cream cheese, butter, cream, salt, and garlic powder. Good stuff. No pictures. Jeremiah is my designated potato masher. Served with corn too!

Phew, that was a lot of typing. I made homemade bread to go with this as well, but failed at the picture taking after the dough was mixed, so I'll save that for another day, another post. Until then, enjoy! And please feel free to send me your requests for recipes. I have my own version of a wide variety of meals, and I'd love ideas from you guys!

Roast Beef Dinner...aka...what I would request for my last meal...PART 1

Roast beef, or rather, hot roast beef, with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, carrots, and really good crusty bread is my all-time favorite meal ever. Ever ever. You might hear me say that a lot because I have a lot of favorite meals, but this is one that is consistently bouncing between turkey dinner, spaghetti, and pizza, all four trading places depending on what one I'm eating that second, and how good that batch turned out.

So here it is. My super-not-secret-or-very-complicated recipe for a roast beef dinner, with all of the fixings.

Here's what you need to get started...

  • 2-4 lbs boneless chuck shoulder roast, as described below
  • 1 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks diagonally
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced in half
  • Red wine, whatever kind floats your boat as long as it doesn't start with Boone's Farm or Arbor Mist
  • Seasoning salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • *make sure you see the latter parts of this series before making out your grocery list. There will be more ingredients to come!

First, buy a roast, anywhere from 2-4 pounds is good. You want a shoulder chuck roast, with lots of marbling, but not many huge veins of fat visible. If in doubt, have the butcher help you pick out a good one. Its all about the cut, so they tell me.

Next, peel your carrots, cut off the ends, cut them diagonally, and the thicker ones in half vertically as well (you are aiming for lots of surface area to brown on the stove here). Toss them into a heated frying pan with a few TBSP of oil in it (anything but olive, which has too low of a smoke point for this).

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Let these cook for a while before stirring them at all. You want color. Nice brown color, on as many sides as possible. Make sure you don't get black though. Black is not good. When the carrots are almost done browning, toss the onion in and brown it on the three cut sides.

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Remove all of that from the pan and set it aside. Put the seasoned, thawed roast in the pan and don't touch it for 2-3 minutes. You want color, again, nice brown, lovely color. Flip it over and brown the other side as well.

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After the roast is browned take about 1/2 - 1 cup of red wine and pour into the pan.

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Let that simmer a minute or two and then carefully move roast and all juices/wine into a roasting pan. BE CAREFUL not to just try and plop them all in there at once, thinking it will be just fine, because you might end up with your kitchen looking like this...

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and this...

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You want this...but without the mess...

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Put the cover on, and stick that in a 300 degree oven and forget about it for at least 3 hours. Do not peek. Do not open the oven, and especially do not open the cover of the roaster.

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