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Monday, February 15, 2010

Beef Vegetable Soup and Flourless Chocolate Cake

We decided to make a nice lunch for Saturday before Valentines day so we would not need to spend time cooking and cleaning on Sunday.  My wife had said how she would like some beef vegetable soup, so I looked in our cookbooks and didn't find any that we really liked that didn't take 8 hours to make.  I went on-line and found a possibility on the food site.  It is a Paula Deen recipe: The Lady and Sons Beef Vegetable Soup.  We decided to use this recipe as it only takes 3 hours to cook, so I can make it on Saturday morning for lunch.

We also wanted a nice chocolate dessert to go with our lunch, so my wife asked her friend for a chocolate moose dessert recipe.

Now we were off to Costco and Albertsons to pick up some of the missing ingredients.  The main item was for the soup and that was the 2.5 to 3 lbs of boneless chuck roast or short ribs.  I found beef short ribs at Costco and the package was about 4 pounds - more than enough!  We also picked up some celery hearts and a few other items while we were there.  Then we were off to Albertsons where we picked up a few other items for the recipe.  We needed black eyed peas and Butter beans.  I found the black eyed peas just fine, but we had never heard of butter beans!  We checked all the canned and frozen vegetables with no luck.  We decided to get some canned cannellini beans, which is similar to a very large navy bean: whitish in color and a firm texture. 
I checked later and found that we know butter beans as lima beans.  It's just as well we didn't purchase any as I don't care for lima beans so I wouldn't have used them.  Lima beans are part of my triad of "L" food that I don't eat: Lima beans, Liver and Lamb.  The recipe also called for okra, and this is Oregon, we don't eat okra, so I just skipped that ingredient.

Later at home, I checked the chocolate moose recipe, because we were working on another project and we didn't want to make the dessert that night.  Sure enough, the cake had to cool for 8 hours before serving, so I decided to change to another dessert.  A few days earlier in the week, I was watching the Food Network while doing my daily work out, and The Neelys program was on and they demonstrated how to make Gina's Flourless Chocolate Cake.  A quick review of the recipe confirmed that we had all the ingredients, so I could also make it in the morning.

Saturday morning 9AM, time to make the soup.  The Beef Vegetable Soup calls out two different meat options and are treated differently in the preparation.  As the beef I purchased is called a short rib, I just tossed 5 of the 7 strips of beef in the pot per the recipe.  As I add the other ingredients, I found out that we are just about out of dried parsley, so I toss in what we have and set the empty container aside to purchase more.

The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of seasoned salt, I just used the same amount of sea salt.  One thing about most of the cooks on TV and their recipes is that they use too much salt and we try to be a little more heart friendly.  When it was time to add the one tablespoon of house seasoning (salt, pepper and garlic powder), I just added another dash of garlic powder and a grind of pepper to the pot.  I was surprised that we didn't have any celery salt to add, but again it would have been more salt, so I just added a pinch of celery seed for the flavor.

Now that all the basic ingredients are in the pot, I put the pot on the power burner to bring to a boil.  Once it is boiling, then the heat is reduced to a simmer for 1.5 hours.  This gives me time to prepare the carrots, celery, potato and open and measure the canned beans and corn.  I also looked at the later steps on the recipe, it says to remove the bone from the beef and add back into the pot.  Wait a minute, the beef short ribs that I used have no bones.  Hmmm.  Time to fish out each of the strips with my trusty long handled tongs and cut each strip into one-inch cubes.  According to the recipe, I should have browned the cubes first in oil, but as they were already partially cooked, I just added them back to the broth in the pot.

The dessert was almost as easy to make as a box cake mix.  The recipe calls for 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate.  Hey, I've got semisweet chocolate chips in our pantry, perfect!  It took me about 10 minutes to heat and mix the ingredients and get them into the pan to bake.  I put the pan in the lower oven of our Electrolux range at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  This left the upper over available for my wife to use for her scones.

My wife makes the best Cranberry Buttermilk Scones that I have ever eaten.  She found the recipe in a Quick Cooking Magazine (Nov/Dec 2001), and we have enjoyed these scones with many meals.  We did learn at Christmas that the scones should not be baked using the convection option on the oven as the scones don't rise and come out flat.

After an hour and a half of simmering the soup (stirring occasionally), I added the remainder of the ingredients into the pot.  I again brought the broth to a boil, and then reduced to simmer for another 45 minutes.

The cake came out of the oven after 50 minute and was set aside to cool.  Next time I make this recipe, I will cool the cake in the refrigerator for about an hour.  The cake pieces stuck to the plate when I cut them for individual serving.

Everything was cooked, and we sat down to a great meal of Beef Vegetable Soup and Cranberry Scones.  Lunch was finished with a piece of the Flourless Chocolate Cake topped with whipped cream with a molded chocolate garnish.

All three recipes are keepers.  The soup was wonderful blend of colors and flavors.  The meat was very tender and there was the right balance of vegetables to broth to meat.  We decided that I could have added the other strips of beef to the soup without overwhelming the rest of the ingredients, though the level of seasoning (aka salt) was just right.  I did use canned corn, canned green beans, canned black-eyed peas and canned cannellini beans that all contain salt that most likely replaced what salt I didn't directly add.

My wife now has a new favorite chocolate dessert.  There will be no more box cake mixes at our house.  My thanks to The Neelys for this great recipe.

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