Quick Takes: Stew, Cars, Fish Edition

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1. Tonight’s the night: beef stew! In yesterday’s comments section my friend Kit suggested I just stick this whole concoction in the crock pot. I had been entertaining that very idea and that’s exactly what I have done.
Here’s a sneak peak from working on the meat yesterday. Please note my discouraged tone:
2. Of course, you realize I’ve been talking about beef stew for nearly a week. What does that say about the state of the beef itself? Should I be worried? I’m hoping if things got a little out-of-hand in the time department, the chunks of meat will just give me a head’s up tonight. Like, “psst, Rachel. Eating us would not be a good idea.” (Everything smelled fine, I was keeping a close olfactory eye on it all.)
3. Yesterday as I stood in the kitchen and surveyed my counters covered in produce waiting to be rendered into a delicious stew, I began to question the wisdom of me having a cooking show (even if only for the fine readers of this blog). Do you think it might be a better idea for me to turn my attention to something I’m actually good at? Maybe I should offer helpful hints on how to keep the pantry organized? Or how to keep the laundry moving through? I like the idea of motivating myself by having a little weekly presentation, but I have to admit to myself that all this focus on cooking is just a really big challenge.
4. Over at Faith and Family, I inadvertently kicked over a hornet’s nest (in the words of my good buddy Danielle). In an effort to post something quickly (on the heels of a funeral and all the emotional fatigue that came with it) I used one of those “forwarded a million times” emails for my daily post. It was a funny (to me) look at the way things have changed — how life for children in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s was so different for children of the more recent era.
Dude. I had no idea.
Things got a little out-of-hand over there and finally we shut down comments because I’ll admit I just was tired of dealing with it. People were basically calling me insensitive for putting such rubbish on the site, and for some reason a few too many people didn’t get the joke. I was not condoning beating children with coat hangers or letting them ride in the front seat with no car seat or seat belt. I am not pro-chain smoking while pregnant. It was really just a comparison.
Anyway, the good news is we ended up moving the discussion to a new post with a different approach. Instead of focusing on why in the world Rachel would support such crazy, backwards behavior (which she does NOT!!! I repeat, she. does. not.) the focus became now and then, and the pros and cons of each.
Deep breath. Deep cleansing breath.
5. I bought Henry a pet today — a fish, called Mr. Fish (Henry named him all by himself). He is a blue Betta fish and who wants to take bets on how long he lasts? Betta are the heartiest of fish, but is Mr. Fish the Chuck Norris of fish? Because that, my friend, is what it’s gonna take.
I called my dad when we got home from the store, asking him how to get the water situation just right.
“With this guy being Henry’s pet,” I said, “I need to give him all the help I can. He’s got an uphill battle in the longevity department.”
My dad wondered how long until we spotted Henry taking Mr. Fish for a walk (on a leash).
6. The Pinewood Derby is this weekend and we are down to making only two cars! This is a nice change for Paul who one year stayed up until the wee hours of the morning drilling out four wooden blocks, making places for a billion fishing weights.
The other day, I was researching painting techniques for the cars — I’ve always wanted the boys to have shiny cars and we’ve never gotten the look we (ahem) desire. No matter what paint I buy, it never gives that sheen we (um, *I*) want.
So in my Internet travels I came across a few suggestions and excitedly called Augie over to look.
“I figured out how to make the cars shiny,” I said, pointing to the computer screen.
“Will that make them go faster,” asked my boy, “cause I really only care about the car going fast.”
So we put aside our (*my*) aesthetic issues and Paul just bought spray paint while he was at the auto-parts store working on my car heater. And guess what? Spray paint for cars is shiny! The boys have shiny cars. Whether this has any affect on speed whatsoever, I’ll have to let you know on Sunday.
7. We are pretty close to getting a van. I was talking to a friend the other day, and we were trying to decide how this was going to affect my image (because that is of upmost importance to me, you understand).
I have two choices.
One, I can over-compensate for driving a van and be the mom who wears skimpy exercise clothes all the time:
or I can just embrace it wholeheartedly and go this route:
What do you think?
Thanks Jen for hosting Quick Takes, and congrats on that girl!




  1. Vans are super cool! (At least that's what all the moms are saying…)

  2. You know, I'm not sure if it would work as a "weekly feature", but I just LOVE your posts about encouraging moms of young children. (Probably because mine are just 1.5 and 3!) You've given me such a healthy dose of perspective and challenged me to enjoy the crazy times. I'm not sure if it would be fun to write about all the time, but those sorts of posts have been so helpful to me.

  3. If you're making the beef stew in the crock pot (for future reference…!) you do not actually have to brown the beef. You can dredge it in the flour and put it uncooked in the crockpot and it will have the same effect. I usually just put my beef in the bottom of the crockpot, sprinkle some flour over top and give it a stir. Then add the veggies and the liquid, and voila – cook away. Saves you a step and it works just fine.

  4. Farmer's City Wife says:

    Every once in a while I'm ashamed to be human. Reading the comboxes on that F&F article was one of those times :\.

  5. Mary Kate says:

    I agree with Kris regarding the non-browning of crockpot stew meat. My rule is that if I'm making it in a crockpot, it had better be EASY. Heck, I have plenty of crockpot recipes that allow you to put frozen meat in the crockpot.
    As for the F&FL Combox Debacle #2, phooey. People really need t lighten up and think before they type. I guess it's another awesome experience for you to offer up, Rachel! 😉

  6. I'd love to see your cooking show! 🙂
    For my crock pot beef stew, I just toss the meat in a ziploc bag, toss the flour in and shake, then toss them in the heated oil. I personally think the browning stage is worth it, because I like the browned-than-slow-cooked texture.

    As an aside, I just finished your book and want to say thanks for giving me some laughs to end my day. I'm a mom of 3 boys (hopefully more some day!) and while I got some great humor from your book, some of it made me worry about what is to come in my life…my oldest is only 7.
    Looking forward to passing the book on to other moms of boys I know.

  7. Amy Parris says:

    We could make a deal. I'll cook for you. You organize for me:) And for the van I highly recommed a great pair of sunglasses. I got some that make me feel like a movie star and I get compliments on them every time I wear them. Best $15 I've spent in a long time.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Take a packet of dry brown gravy, dry italian dressing, and dry ranch dressing. Put 1 cup water in the bottom of a crockpot. Put in meat. Sprinkle 3 packets on top of meat. 1/2 hour before serving flip meat over. Fabulous. And no browning.

  9. Personally, I love just hearing about your boys. Having all girls myself, it's neverendingly amazing to me how different it is! But, I would love to hear more about organizing and cleaning – this seems to be a real passion of yours and as someone who couldn't be worse in this department, when you bring up the topic I hang on every word.

    I read your post of Faith and Family before the comments blew up, and I was shocked when I realized that it had turned into a controversy. It was like the bling-on-babies discussion all over again. Who knew you were so edgy? 😉

  10. Rachel, my friend and I were so frustrated by that thing over at F&F the other day. We didn't want to contribute to the uproar, but we emailed each other saying, "did you see that?! How do these women have so much time on their hands?! Get over it!" You are a braver woman than I, that's for sure. (Incidentally, does life with an abundance of males even begin to prepare you for the craziness that can be large groups of women?)

    As for the van, I sincerely hope you choose a swagger wagon, as this will clearly suit your hip mom lifestyle 🙂

  11. Ladies,

    First off, one of these days I'm going to revamp my blog so I can respond to individual comments! It gets so confusing (which is why I usually don't even try).

    So, anyway, thanks for the support re: Faith and Family. It's pretty funny that I stir the pot when I do everything in my power to AVOID it. And then I write these little no-brainer things (bling, for example, as you mentioned) and people go nuts. I'm not sure why I bring out the worst in some of the readers!

    Anyway, I love writing over there, so I won't stop. But it sure is building "character" in me (aka tougher skin, etc).

    And Amy, I'll be sure to wear my cool shades all the time when driving my van (maybe at night even…).

    Thanks to all of you for reading and for your support. I do love my readers so.

  12. want an uber-cool van? Get one of these I have seen riding around town as a family car: http://www.mbsprinterusa.com/vehicles/

  13. My husband sent me a suprise. He bought a 12 passenger van! Whoa! It's like driving a bus, umm, well, I've never driven a bus. My 5 ft 1 inch self can see over the steering wheel, but as for seeing out the rear window, I can't! Let's don't even talk about backing it up. I dread parking it and having to pack out with cars behind me. Any suggestions anyone?
    Oh, we only have 3 kids. High hopes for many Blessings for the future 😉

  14. PS: sorry, wrong link above. This is the right link to the van:

  15. Hi Rachel,

    I love the taste and look of browning the beef as well when you make beef stew. I suppose the other commenters were fair to recommend skipping that step if you are planning on using the crock pot. However, upon viewing the video, it seemed (and real life could be different than what the video shows) the heat was too low. More oil and fewer meat chunks per time browns faster and crispier. I hope I do not sound bossy. It is just that I love beef stew and have been standing just like you at the stove browning my beef and after so many attempts, I think a generous amount of hot oil (olive or canola maybe), a good pan (not non-stick but a surface that can take high heat), and not crowding the beef works well.

    I did like your blog about old school vs. today's parenting. As the author it must be a drag to hear people "over-react" on both sides and condemn you, but it makes for great reading and learning when people speak passionately about their subjects.

  16. Michelle,

    Saw our friend driving her Sprinter around the other day. Tres chic!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I just read your article. I loved it. I wish times were more like then now. Thanks!

  18. Mrs R in NY says:

    Re: the beef stew. Don't skip the browning step, it builds lots of flavor. Personally, I don't marinate the meat or dredge in flour. I just brown it in batches in a dutch oven in canola oil or shortening. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. I flip each piece so its browned on two sides, then put them on a clean plate and brown the next batch. When they're all browned, then you can put them in a crock pot or let it simmer in the dutch oven for a few hours with water/beef stock. I would personally add the red wine to the simmering liquid. The sopping wet beef chunks just aren't going to brown well. Add carrots and potatoes once the beef has gotten a head start. Season with s&p, a bay leaf, maybe a liitle fresh thyme if you have it on hand. To thicken the liquid into a nice gravy, mix together a tbsp. or so of flour with some water (maybe a half cup or so?) in a little tupperware container and then stir it into the stew in the last few minutes of cooking. The longer you simmer, the more tender the beef will be. HTH!

  19. Kerrie @ TFK says:

    Some people love to have a little controversy in their lives…and they just like your posts. I know quite a few people like that. Honestly, my husband and I loved it. We discuss the difference between how we grew up and how the children today are being raised. Granted, advances are great (carseats, etc), while others not so much. We consider the dirt under my sons nails a badge of honor!

    As with the beef stew…I am a fan of browning beef – the flavor it imparts makes the stew.

  20. I drive a 15-passenger and I love it! I thought I would hate it, and it is huge and white, but it is perfect for our family. My kids love that we can actually give a friend a ride and I like having space. And well, I guess it was the final step to embracing completely this life with six children. 😉

  21. Jen Raiche says:

    I love the comment about the rock-star sunglasses. I think I'll be using that one for sure!

    Peace to you!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I agree with the other cooks above. Looks like the pan is not hot enough, too little oil, and too crowded. When the pan is too crowded the meat will steam and not brown too well. Keep cooking! Richelle and I cook together all the time and we love it!

    All the Best,
    Matt and Richelle from Michigan

  23. CrunchyConCompuGeek says:

    (as the dad of 6 who drives an Excursion while my dw drives an E350 15-passenger) I just want to know if the van is SHINY; cause, you know, all that really matters is whether it's shiny 😉

  24. I had a Betta as a child. I decided to surprise my dad with how responsibie I was and cleaned the bowl on my own. Except, I used dish soap…and the poor fish swam lopsided for a few weeks and developed a bugged-out eye before biting the dust. Oops. And don't even ask about the long-suffering gerbil…