Beef Tips with Gravy

This is a recipe that I never made until I met Jeff. When we started dating, we lived a little over an hour from each other and I would come over to Tuscaloosa every Wednesday afternoon for date night. Most of the time, we would rent a movie and cook dinner together. This was a special request of his one Wednesday night. He said his mom made the best beef tips and rice, so I was really feeling the pressure to make some as good as hers and impress him. The first time I tried to make it, I found a recipe on Pinterest and followed it exactly. It was good, but the gravy wasn’t thick enough for him. I tried about three or four different recipes, and finally ended up kind of making my own.  It’s still not his mom’s beef tips (I need to get her recipe!), but this is a quick and easy version that tastes pretty darn good. 

You’ll need: 

1 pound stew beef cut into small chunks

1 packet brown gravy mix

1 cup water

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Salt and pepper

A medium sized Dutch oven (or heavy pot)

Spray the Dutch oven with cooking spray and heat over high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper. Brown in Dutch oven. Once meat is browned, remove and set aside. 

Stir together brown gravy mix and water. Pour into pot and whisk. Add cream of mushroom soup and whisk until mixture is smooth. Add beef back into gravy mixture.


Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for about an hour (until meat is tender), stirring occasionally. 

Serve with rice.

The Secret of the Dough 


When I was about seven or eight, I would spend the night with my great-grandmother every Wednesday night during the summer. She would get up early every morning and make biscuits from scratch. It didn’t matter what else we had to eat that day, which was usually just whatever my little heart desired, we always had homemade biscuits for breakfast.

Her kitchen was small. The refrigerator, stove, and sink were arranged in a tight triangle at one end of the room, and in this space Mamaw ruled. The butcher-block counters were worn, but always spotlessly clean, and the dark wood cabinets shined and smelled like lemon Pledge. She had a big pink Tupperware bowl with a white lid that she used to store her flour in a cabinet between the sink and the stove. I would watch in amazement as she would pat the flour down with her fist and pour buttermilk right into the storage bowl. It was magic to me that she could pour milk in the bowl and not get all the flour wet. She would use her fingers to stir the milk and shortening into the flour and soon she would have a ball of dough ready to be rolled out and cut into perfect, flaky biscuits.

I would usually stand on a stool by the stove and watch her cook for a little while before I would run outside to play or become engrossed in a television show or coloring book. But one rainy Thursday, as I sat at the tiny kitchen table and ate my biscuit while swinging my feet and banging my worn Keds into the metal legs of the red vinyl kitchen chairs, I asked if I could learn how to make the dough.

Mamaw picked up our plates and put them in the sink, then bent over and pulled her flour bowl out of the cabinet by the stove. “Get some buttermilk out of the ice box,” she said. “And pull that stool over here.” She set a tub of Crisco on the counter and handed me a little knife. “We’re gonna make fried apple pies.”

“You can make that out of biscuit dough?” I asked, placing my stool between the stainless steel sink and the stove.

Mamaw nodded. “First, we’re gonna cook the apples.” She set a bowl of red and gold speckled apples in front of me. “Can you peel these?”

I nodded and eagerly reached for the first apple while Mamaw draped a faded blue apron around my neck and tied it around my waist. My little hands worked as fast as they could. Mamaw stood beside me and peeled twice as many apples as I did in half the time. She told me stories about my mama and older cousins while we worked, then cut the apples into chunks and put them in a big saucepan on the stove. “We’ll let those cook for a little while,” she said. “Let’s work on the crust.”

She opened the lid on the flour bowl and took my hand in hers. “Make a fist,” she said, pushing my chubby fingers into a ball. “And pat it like this.” She pushed my knuckles into the soft flour. “Keep patting it down ‘til it’s hard.”

I pushed the flour down with all my might, my tongue stuck between my teeth in ultimate concentration. “Is this right?”

Mamaw examined my work and shook her head. “Your hole’s got to be deeper, and not as big around.” She shook the bowl a few times to loosen the flour. “Try again.”

On my third try, Mamaw approved. She dropped a big scoop of Crisco into the bowl, then let me pour in the buttermilk. “How much?” I asked.

Mamaw shrugged. “Just pour it ‘til it looks right,” she said. “I’ll tell you when.” I poured, watching her closely so I could stop at the exact moment that she said. “That’s good.” Mamaw took the jug of milk from me and set it by the sink. “Now, you’re gonna have to get your hands dirty,” she warned.

I wasn’t very concerned about that. I’d watched her make this dough hundreds of times, and it never stuck to her hands. I was absolutely sure it wouldn’t stick to mine either, so I plunged my chubby hands into the bowl. It was cold, squishy, and sticky. Mamaw laughed when I wrinkled my nose up and picked up my goo-covered hand. “What did I do wrong?” I asked, almost in tears.

“Nothing,” Mamaw said, wiping her hands on her pink flowered apron. “Keep mixing.”

“But it doesn’t stick to your hands!”

“It won’t stick to yours, if you practice,” she laughed. “Keep mixing.”

I rolled the goo between my fingers and smushed it deeper into the flour, until I finally had a somewhat solid ball of dough. Mamaw laughed as I raked it off my fingers and onto the floured butcher-block countertop. “Yuck,” I muttered, picking little rolls of dough off my hands.

Mamaw took the dough and patted it into a neat ball. She handed me her wooden rolling pin. “Flour this.”

“What do you mean?”

“Cover it with flour so it won’t stick to the dough,” Mamaw explained.

I reached into the flour bowl, took a fist-full of flour, and coated the rolling pin with flour. I also covered the floor, myself, and Mamaw. She pulled off her flour coated glasses and wiped them on her apron. I bit my lip nervously, waiting for her to get onto me, but she just laughed. She wiped the flour off her face, put her glasses back on, and rubbed her fingers over my flour covered bangs. “Now your hair matches mine,” she said with a grin.

She rolled out the dough and let me cut it into large circles, then she spooned the apples onto each piece and let me fold them over and press the edges with a fork. While I was decorating our masterpieces, Mamaw melted a big scoop of Crisco in a black iron skillet on the stove. The Crisco was bubbling and popping by the time I finished, and I stood behind Mamaw and peeked around her apron while she dropped the pies into the grease. They bubbled and popped until they were golden brown and the kitchen smelled like heaven, then Mamaw scooped them out of the grease and placed them on a paper towel.

She left the flour in the floor, all the stuff on the counter, and sat down at the table with me so we could try our pies. “These look yummy,” I said, watching her scoop a big spoonful of vanilla ice cream onto my plate.

“Try it.”

I’d been waiting for those instructions all morning. I picked up a beautiful, golden brown pie and took a big bite. The crust was flaky, just like Mamaw’s biscuits. But the apples made my mouth pucker.

“What’s the matter?” Mamaw asked, when I forced myself to swallow and set my pie back down on my plate.

“I think I messed up your pies.” I pouted and crossed my arms over my chest.

Mamaw reached across the table for my pie and took a big bite. She made the same bad face I had made. “We forgot to put sugar in the apples.” Mamaw looked over her glasses and pointed at me. “Don’t you tell anybody I did that.”

“It’ll be our secret?”

The front door swung open and my cousin, Lisa, walked in. “What in the world happened in here?” she asked, looking at the flour that was covering the flour, the counter, and us.

“We just had a little cooking lesson,” Mamaw said.

“You made a mess.”

“That’s what a broom is for.” Mamaw stood up and pushed the plate of pies into my hand. “Take these outside,” she whispered.

“What did you make?” Lisa asked.

“It’s a secret,” Mamaw said. She winked at me and started cleaning up while I snuck down the back steps and into the yard to get rid of the evidence.

Now, when I make fried apple pies, I always double check to make sure I put sugar in the apples. The dough still sticks to my fingers, no matter how much I practice. I may not have learned the secret of the dough, but I did learn that the best things that come out of the kitchen aren’t always things you eat. Sometimes, it’s the memories – the giggles and the messes and the secrets – that are the sweetest.

Friday Introductions

Hey, everyone! I’m so excited to have this blog to share my adventures in cooking with you! Since it is Friday, I thought I would start out by writing a #fridayintroductions post.

My name is Christina Wallace. I am married to an amazing guy named Jeff who spoils me rotten and makes me laugh every day. We got married in March of this year, and it has been an amazing journey so far!

This summer, we purchased our first house together and we have been having a blast working on it and making it our own. Thankfully, it has a great kitchen, so I have plenty of room to cook and entertain our friends and family! We currently share our house with a three year old cat named George, who we adopted right after we got married. He is happiest when he’s napping in the window or on the couch, and he loves playing with Jeff’s golf balls and any kind of cords or string.


I teach high school English, and this is my first year at a new school in Alabama. I am loving it there so far! I promise to try not to complain too much about my #teacherproblems.


Obviously, I love to cook. I also love reading, antiquing, trying to learn to play golf, watching Netflix (documentaries are my favorite!), hiking, and taking pictures.


I’m excited to get to know more about you guys! Leave your #fridayintroductions in the comments!

Christina

 

Easy Chicken Fried Rice Bowl


This is one of my favorite easy dinners! This recipe makes two large servings.

2 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped into chunks

1 cup uncooked white rice

1 cup water

1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped 

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1/2 bell pepper, sliced

1/4 small red onion, chopped

2 cups frozen broccoli florets 

Salt and soy sauce, to taste

Start by cooking the rice. Set aside. 

Boil chicken. When done, remove from the water and chop the chicken into large chunks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place veggies on a large cookie sheet in an even layer. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with soy sauce. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes.

About 5 minutes before the veggies are done, heat a sauté pan over medium high heat on the stove. Heat cooked rice and chopped chicken with about a tablespoon of soy sauce until rice starts to get crisp (about 5 minutes).

Scoop the rice and chicken into a bowl and top with roasted veggies. 

Enjoy! 

Taco Tuesday (Aunt Mary Style)

Aunt Mary Joyce has always been one of my family’s many great cooks. While my grandmother and all my aunts are great cooks, Aunt Mary’s recipes are different because she was a military wife and has lived all over the world. Her collection of recipes is definitely one that we all enjoy.


Aunt Mary and Uncle John at a recent family reunion

This recipe for Chalupas (Mexican pork and beans) is one she got from a friend when she lived on the base in Germany (go figure – Mexican food in Germany). I guess her friends were just as well traveled as she was. It’s an easy slow cooker meal for busy weeknights, so it is a perfect upgrade for #tacotuesday instead of just tossing some taco seasoning in some ground beef.

Here’s what you need:

A slow cooker (you can also cook this in a large stock pot on the stove if you have the time)

1 pound pork roast or pork chops

1 pound of dried pinto beans, soaked and rinsed (If you don’t have dried beans, you can use 3 cans of canned pinto beans – this recipe is really super easy and you can use whatever you have on hand. I made it once with a can of pinto beans, a can of red kidney beans, and a can of white kidney beans – you can really do whatever you like and clean out your pantry.)

Water

1 Tbsp. cumin

1.5 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. hot sauce

1 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. salt

2 Tbsp. chili powder

Spray your slow cooker crock with cooking spray. Layer pork chops or pork roast in bottom of the crock. Pour beans on top and cover with water.


Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.


After cooking, remove pork chops from crock and shred pork. Add back to the pot with the spices. Cook on high for 1 more hour, until mixture thickens.


Serve with shredded lettuce, chopped onion and pepper, cheese, and taco shells or tortilla chips.


This makes a large batch, but it will keep in the fridge for about a week, or you can freeze it in a freezer safe jar. My husband and I love to eat it like a soup topped with onions, pepper, cheese, and lettuce. You can also put it in tacos or roll it up in a burrito. It also makes a great dip for parties (tailgate treat, anyone?).


Happy #tacotuesday!

 

Open Faced Turkey Sandwiches with Mamaw’s Chicken Dressing

This is one of my favorite treats! I rarely make these because I don’t usually want to spend the money to buy the thick sliced turkey I use for these sandwiches, but sometimes, I just crave them and decide to treat myself. This weekend was one of those times.

This recipe is actually a copycat recipe of one of my favorite dishes from Bates House of Turkey in Greenville, Alabama. I lived in Greenville during my middle school years, and this amazing little restaurant was owned and operated by a classmate’s family. It is absolutely the best place on the planet to get your Thanksgiving food cravings satisfied all year round.

Bates made the most amazing open faced turkey sandwiches, and that’s almost always what I ordered when my family went there. Since we have moved back to north Alabama, I often wish I could just run by Bates on the way home and pick up one of these beauties, but nowadays, I have to settle for making them myself.

I start out with my great grandmother’s chicken dressing recipe. There are many chicken dressing recipes in my family, but Mamaw Hall’s is my favorite and the one my mother always makes, so it’s the one that I can make without having to dig through a recipe box or open up a cookbook. It’s really the easiest dressing ever. My one tip for this recipe is to make sure you DON’T overcook it. It needs to be moist when you take it out of the oven. This is not a cakey dressing. You want to scoop it out of the pan, not slice it like a cake (I am NOT a fan of those kind of dressings, but to each his own, I guess…)

Here’s what you need for the dressing:

(Note: This is my great grandmother’s recipe and is made for feeding a large family. When I make this just for myself and my husband, I either separate it into smaller pans and freeze some or I cut the recipe down to avoid waste.)

1 large pone of cornbread, crumbled

1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed

1/2 white onion, chopped

6 eggs, beaten

8 Chicken thighs, boiled and shredded (I like white meat, so I usually use 4 chicken breasts for this part. Also, a mixture of white and dark meat is awesome!)

Chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken)

Salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste

Crumble the cornbread and crackers into a LARGE mixing bowl. Add the onions and stir until mixed. Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the bread mixture. Stir until mixed well. Add the shredded chicken, and then slowly add the chicken broth as needed.

*Make sure you add the hot chicken broth slowly and mix it up after each addition or it can boil the bits of egg and you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your dressing, which  nobody wants.

The mixture should be pretty wet. Last, add seasonings to taste. I usually add about a tablespoon of each, then taste a forkful and adjust as needed.

Pour the batter into a buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until just starting to brown on top.

 

Now to assemble the sandwiches!

For each sandwich you will need:

3 pieces of toasted sandwich bread

2 to 3 slices of thick sliced deli turkey, heated (I love Sarah Lee or Butterball – this can be expensive, but I have found that they usually have a coupon at the grocery store deli and they always have a special running, so ask before they slice it to see what their deals are for that day)

Turkey gravy, heated (I buy this in a jar at the grocery store and heat it up in the microwave- making gravy is my nemesis)

Mamaw’s Chicken Dressing

Slice the toast into triangles and layer on the plate. Spread some of the gravy on each piece of toast, then lay the turkey on top. Scoop a couple large scoops of dressing in the middle of the sandwich, then drizzle on some more gravy.

 

Like I said, this is a RARE treat. It’s enough food to put you into a Thanksgiving food coma, but it is SO GOOD. It’s almost like being back at Bates in Greenville. I think the first time I made this for my husband is when he decided he was going to ask me to marry him. It’s that good.