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Today is April 27, 2009. It’s almost May.

I took this photo at 6:45 AM this morning after finishing my early morning yoga class. This scene is about a block from the yoga studio and on a clear day, the Flatiron Mountains near Boulder are visible off in the distance. No such luck this morning as the low hanging clouds and snowfall obstructed the view. With no color variation from sky to ground, everything disappeared into a blanket of grey. It was beautiful, even though snow hasn’t been on my wish-list lately.

In lieu of working on my garden preparation (which I’ve been anxious to do), I think I’ll make a nice beef stew instead. Hopefully this is my last “hearty” meal of the season. After all, aren’t we transitioning to spring greens and fresh asparagus (information and recipe on asparagus here)? If it’s nice where you live and you’re about to make yourself a grapefruit salad and some sun tea, you can save this one for next fall.

Hearty beef stew
what you need

• 1 pound natural 100% grass-fed beef, cut in 1-inch pieces
• 3 to 4 tablespoons coconut oil (or whatever oil you saute with)
• 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 4 medium sized carrots, chopped
• 4 stalks celery, chopped (including leaves)
• 1 small onion, diced
• 4 red potatoes
• 1 or 2 fresh tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
• 1 32 ounce container “Imagine” GF organic beef broth or home-made broth
• 5 or 6 mushrooms, chopped
• 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
• 1 can pinto beans
• herb choices: parsley, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf

what you do
1. Wash and boil red potatoes until almost done, drain and set aside (reserve one to thicken stew). You can also wash, chop and add them uncooked to the stew, but I like having a pre-cooked potato available to use as a thickener.
2. Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium/high heat. Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides. Salt and pepper to taste and put in crock pot or slow cooker. Add onions and garlic to skillet (and a touch more oil if needed), sauté and add to slow cooker.
3. Add beef broth to slow cooker.
4. Add garlic, onions, carrots, mushrooms, celery, potatoes, jalapeno, beans, tomatoes (reserve a small tomato or half the can to thicken stew).
5. Pour 1 or 2 cups of water into the skillet you used to sauté the meat, onion and garlic (the skillet is turned off but still on the burner). Whisk water and pan drippings to create a thin gravy-like mix.
6. Pour cooled pan drippings into a blender; add reserved cooked and chopped potato and the reserved chopped tomato or canned tomato. Process in blender until it’s a thick, creamy consistency (this is such a good way to thicken soups and stews without using flour; use a blended potato mix instead).
7. Pour into crock pot, stir well and cook on low for several hours or all day, stirring occasionally. Taste periodically and add things (sea salt, ground pepper, herbs).

* This is usually better the next day after it has “settled” overnight in the refrigerator and the flavors have blended and infused.

nutrition profile
Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. Organic, 100% grass-fed beef is higher in omega 3s than regular beef. Raw is normally better than canned, but canned tomatoes actually provide more absorbable lycopene than raw, so don’t hesitate to use organic canned tomatoes in stews and soups. Canned beans retain their fiber and anti-cancer flavonoids. I did a complete nutritional breakdown of this stew and found it to be very high in vitamins A, C, K, and B-12. It’s also high in iron, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Normally, it makes for a nice transition into the heartier and more savory fall and winter foods, but even though it’s almost May, I’m craving some today.

I think I’ll build a fire while I cook.

Burrrrrr!
Melissa

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35 Responses to “april showers bring may flowers?”

  1. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I loved that photograph… it had Narnia qualities, all stillness and quiet, beautiful.

    Now, on with the nutrition… there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. When we cook things like this wonderful stew, does the food which has been simmering for hours, keep all its vitamins?

    I’ve had a good day today despite the rain here. Yes the nice spring sunshine has gone but I’m not really complaining. The rain is necessary to save me the trouble of watering the already dry garden. As I write there’s a large pot of stock on the hob simmering away and a pot of my latest homemade natural skin balm on the side in the kitchen. Hands up who spends a fortune on skin creams? Well I have been known to from time to time. What I really hate are those lip balms that contain mineral oils which can actually make skin drier. It’s easy to make with a few ingredients…. I’ve made a peppermint lip balm and a lavender hand cream… both have natural bees wax and other moisturizing ingredients. Worth a try folks.

    With all that snow Melissa, you’ll be needing a good lip balm… I get through loads of it regardless of season. Of course it hasn’t been tested yet in full summer… with the rich scent of honey bees wax I hope to avoid attracting a swarm :)

    Cid

  2. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    Making this stew was my intention early this morning, but I haven’t ventured out to the market yet, so it may not happen.

    Thank you, I like this photo as well. “Narnia qualities” — I like that! There wasn’t a soul around this morning when I left yoga. No footprints, no sound, as calm as can be, but with steady falling snow. It was beautiful. I happened to have my camera with me so I jumped out of my car and started taking pictures. Unfortunately, I had my slippers on so I couldn’t wander too far. No point in dressing up to leave for yoga at 5:15 AM.

    :-)

    The nutritional value of slow cooked foods — good question. And it has sooo many answers! In general, I like a good portion of my food to be raw, locally grown (or at least the best I can do) and as fresh as possible. That insures high nutrient value.

    Having said that, sometimes food that is cooked can actually be more beneficial. Or at least the body can access the nutrients better (depending on the person and their digestive health). Take a carrot, it does lose some nutrients in the cooking, but you may end up absorbing and assimilating more of the beneficial chemicals if it’s been cooked a little bit. And, if you keep all the good stuff in the pot, you do end up with a nutritious meal (like in the slow cooker). If you boil something and throw away the water, you lose some nutrients unless you save the water for something else.

    Cooking can also have a different effect on different nutrients, but yes, in general (my disclaimer), cooking robs you of some of the value, but not enough to worry about in my mind. And so much of it has to do with what you start with (how fresh, how far it traveled, when it was picked, the soil quality, how it was handled, etc.).

    So, big picture. Eat good food and it doesn’t really matter.

    :-)

    Was that your question?

    Love the sound of your lip balm! I sure wish you weren’t so far away. There is a business brewing here.

    Melissa

  3. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    Only a mad woman would venture forth into Narnia in her slippers… sounds just the sort of thing I would do :) In fact my very own all terrain pair have been trotting down the garden path, in the rain to fetch wood in for the fire…. what a marvelous advert we’d make for the humble slipper :) Put that on our list of business ideas!!

    Pretty it may be but I sort of hope your weather clears up now so you can get on with other things. Your part of the world must get lots of sunshine whereas ours is very unreliable. Half the people in my little town have been swanning about in t-shirts lately, but today it’s back on with the fleece jackets.

    I’m running out of wood, it must be time for summer.

    Cid

    p.s. I’m feeling guilty because I’ve eaten too many Biscotti today. Fat free yes, but quite a lot of sugar… is there a version you can cook Melissa?

  4. jill says:

    Aaaaaah I wish it looked like that here! It’s NINETY FOUR DEGREES in Philly today, I’m not happy about it.

  5. I would like to step in that picture for just a moment with the scorching heat we’ve had here. It’s a beautiful shot. I want to put on a sweater and start a fire just looking at it … but, alas, the AC just clicked on. ;-)

    Shirley

  6. Oh now that is tragic. One more reason why I just don’t think the husband and I will be moving to Colorado.

  7. Kay says:

    Beautiful scene – FOR JANUARY!!! I’m in shorts today in Indiana. But I wouldn’t mind if we skipped back to Capri pants weather. And you know some of my gardens are already planted. Hope you have a meltdown real soon!

  8. Miles says:

    Melissa,
    That’s incredible! So much for England having all of the bad weather!
    I’ll stay put thanks :)

    Miles

  9. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    Slippers — I have a pair of fleecy ones that are semi-all-terrain, but not made for 6 inches of snow as they’re “slides” and the snow quickly fills up the back of the slippers. Luckily I was wearing my thick fuzzy-bear socks yesterday while taking photos. On cold days I always wear those socks to yoga. I put them on at the end and enjoy a warm and fuzzy shavasana.

    I’ve never made my own, but there are some gluten-free biscotti available. Actually, that’s a good idea. I’ll give it a try one of these days, but for now, I’m sticking to no sugar. Crushed biscotti (gluten-free in my case) makes such a wonderful pie crust. I’ve done that on occasion. It’s the best for cheesecake. Another good idea for the SS’s! Is Anne in on this yet?

    :-)

  10. Melissa says:

    Jill,

    You know, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Ninety-four degrees!? Already? I think I prefer snow to sweltering hot. And with 94 degrees, I’d hate to think this is just the start of the warm season. Stay cool!

  11. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    Wow, it’s interesting how varied the weather is. Ninety-four in Philly, hot where you are, and snowing like crazy here. Nice that we have choices!

    :-)

  12. Melissa says:

    Alisa,

    Actually, it’s wonderful here — but sometimes when snow lingers into spring or summer, it gets old. I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to some nice sunny days and planting a garden.

  13. Melissa says:

    Kay,

    For January is right! Although, this is such a wet and heavy snow, when it all melts the plants will be going crazy. Once it’s gone, things will green up in no time. I AM looking forward to it getting warm enough to start gardening in earnest!

  14. Melissa says:

    Miles,

    It’s really not that bad and the snow will be gone in no time as soon as the sun comes out. I’ll take a photo from the same spot as soon as the clouds clear, you won’t believe how beautiful it is!

  15. Anne says:

    Melissa,
    A superb photo. It reminds me of these old and wonderful black/white films. Perhaps a secret meeting at 5.00am? I am not surprised that there were no footprints when you went to yoga! Are you all insomniacs? Not just sleepless in Seattle then :)
    Oh, I am in the soup o.k. just can’t quite say: I am in the ..! Hubby and I have just consumed a big pot of mixed veg. soup with spicy sausages, yummy.
    Cid, your rain did not drift as far as us today so I managed my power walk and will do some gardening. All busy preparing for a long break away later next month. The soup kitchen will have to operate without me then for some time but I shall return.
    Anne

  16. Melissa says:

    Anne,

    Thanks — it was a perfect setting for a “fake” black and white photo. I don’t know anyone who would meet me at 5 AM. No, I’m not an insomniac, as I go to bed early and I love starting my day with an hour of yoga. It’s such a good feeling to be refreshed and finished by 6:30 AM. I also LOVE the quiet time before dawn and I’m always excited to get up and start my day. I do, however, have a problem making sure I get enough sleep. I think I’ll do a post on sleep as it’s such an important part of overall health. This is one of those things that I try to impress on people I’m working with, but I don’t always do what I tell others to do. Get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. It’s SO important.

    Oops, sorry Anne, I didn’t mean to launch off on that.

    Your sausage soup sounds wonderful. You should do a post on it.

    :-)

    How long is your break next month and where are you headed? But don’t worry, Miles can fill in for you at the soup kitchen.

  17. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I think Miles might be trouble in our soup kitchen…. bit like Marco Pierre White who walks about eating off a machete :)

    Cid

  18. Anne says:

    Melissa,
    I have just printed off a copy of this lovely looking stew recipe which I intend to try. Was it just enough to feed you? :)
    With regard to sleep you are quite right. I do very well with my 7.5 hours. I used to do one hour’s yoga but never so early. I appreciate the peaceful aspect of it and admire your routine and discipline.
    I shall be off to the fatherland for 4 weeks and let the other Anne ‘out’ :) .
    Anne

  19. Diana Allen says:

    I can’t believe how much snow you still have!!!!! Beautiful photo, and poor you! Where are the daffodils? I thought spring came early to Boulder…silly me.

  20. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    With your machete reference, I figured Marco was another Ray Mears type, but after watching a quick YouTube video about how he threw hot risotto at Mario Batali when he was a young start-up, I see he’s a top chef. If he’s eating food off a machete and throwing hot pans at people, I’m not sure I want him filling in for Anne in our little restaurant. It’s a soup kitchen, not hell’s kitchen.

    :-)

    Plus, I don’t want to be yelled at. I might cry.

  21. Melissa says:

    Anne,

    That recipe (as most of mine are) is what I call a “launching pad” recipe. It’s an outline and not expected to be followed all that closely.

    :-)

    Who, might I ask, is the “other” Anne? Whoever she is I hope she enjoys her vacation. Please keep in touch with everyone if you can. Blog posts from afar?

  22. Melissa says:

    Diana,

    Right now (48 hours after that photo was taken), it’s sunny and warm. The snow has melted and the greenery is bursting into spring. Finally!

    By the way, congratulations on your book! Good for you.

  23. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    The old shavasana pose was always my best one, I excelled at it :)

    I do admire your willingness to get up so early to see the new day in and then to complete a yoga workout. I have trouble getting myself out of bed at any time…. a relic from teenage years and perhaps the inability to sleep much before midnight or later. Having said that I intend to turn in earlier tonight in order to catch up on some reading which helps enormously so I should read every night.

    I take it 1st May heralds the dismissing of the fuzzy bear socks and in with the sandals and shorts? :) We British like to keep our options open and wear all three together :)

    Cid

  24. Just wanted to jump back in since I saw the Mario Batali mentions and share that I listened to the audiobook, Heat, recently. It’s about a fellow who “apprenticed” under Mario in his famous restaurant, Babbo. It’s quite a fascinating listen … enlightening one on behind the doors in upscale restaurants and the history of food, in general.

    Melissa–I’m looking forward to your sleep post. I do remember that you slept very well during your cleansing. :-) I got 8 hours last night myself, so I am happy about that! (I did not sleep well the previous several days while we had a house guest … so need to catch up– a myth I know.)

    Shirley

  25. greedydave says:

    Melissa,

    Yep, socks and sandals is the way over here. Excellent recipe – I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up my Winter stews just yet, they are a serious favourite of mine. Maybe if I start calling them Spring stews then everything will be alright. :)

    GDave

    PS. I’ve sent you a foodie pic from my hols to your GFFG.com address. You might need to check your ‘junk’ folder as it seems the internet doesn’t trust me!

  26. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    It’s funny you mention shavasana — while it really is one of my favorite poses, I find it hard to really let go of what’s going on in my mind. Once I’m at that point in my practice, unfortunately, my mind is often ricocheting around thinking of what I have to do that day. It’s hard for me to totally let go and fully enjoy the benefits of shavasana.

    Sleep, sleep, sleep. Shirley mentioned this as well — I will definitely do a post on it (the science behind sleeping). It is my downfall (part of that ricocheting mind syndrome) and SO important.

    Socks and sandals? Hopefully you’re not wearing those sexy new red sandals with knee-highs. But I will admit to occasionally wearing hiking socks (even rag wool ones) with trail sandals, so who am I to talk?!

    :-)

  27. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    Learning more about what it takes to be a chef, makes me appreciate the good ones all the more. No easy job, that’s for sure.

    YES on the sleep post. I will start working on that — it’s so key to overall health. I want to share why it’s one of my top 5 most important pieces of the wellness puzzle (no matter who you are).

    People say, “I only need 5 hours of sleep each night.” NO, that’s not true in the long run. Actually, I was one of those people until I really started studying the impact sleep has on health.

    Zzzzzzz,
    Melissa

  28. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    Sandals, socks, shorts and lego hair. My imagination is going wild.

    No email photos from you in my junk folder or my inbox. I didn’t open most of the questionable stuff in my junk folder because the subject lines were pretty self explanatory, if you know what I mean.

    My email is:
    melissa@glutenfreeforgood.com

    Try again if you don’t mind.

  29. greedydave says:

    Melissa,

    Hmmm, I’m going to have to rethink my webmail client. Too unreliable. I’ve resent it through my ordinary POP3 account. Hope you enjoy.

    GDave

  30. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    I got it the second time around. Thanks, great photo! When I do my “traditional foods” post about local diets, I might have to “borrow” it from you.

    :-)

  31. greedydave says:

    Melissa,

    Excellent, yeah I got your reply, thank you. You’re very welcome to use it, if it’s up to standard. I must say I’m looking forward to your ‘Scottish diet’ post. I’ve been getting more and more into food history recently and it sounds just my cup of tea.

    Btw, as well as all the other things that May 1st is famous for, it’s also the anniversary of the ‘Act of Union,’ when England and Scotland amalgamated governments and crowns to form Great Britain. That too was 200 years ago, which ties in quite nicely.

    GDave

  32. greedydave says:

    Edit: Sorry, 300 years ago! Long day in the office! :)

  33. Wow, that is all I can say, Wow. Look at all of that snow! My kids would love it!

    It has been so beautiful here, in the 60′s and today in the mid-70′s! We actually have not had the usual April rain showers so prevelent here in the NW and I have needed to water my garden!

    I usually make beef stew once or twice in the wintertime. We have a great local farm that raises 100% grassfed beef, I can’t imagine eating anything else if I were to eat beef.

    I had not thought of adding beans to a beef stew, I bet it was good!

    Happy Spring! -Ali :)

  34. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    Your photo is great and once I get caught up with things (does that ever happen in real life?), I do want to do a post on the healthy aspects of traditional diets. I think I’d do Scotland because I have an affinity for the Scots (being a McLean). I also have some good information regarding historical Scottish foods.

    Interesting about May 1st. I didn’t know that. Thanks for the information and I may use your photo for a comparison of then and now.

    :-)

  35. Melissa says:

    Ali,

    It’s cold and dreary here right now, hopefully it won’t snow again this weekend! But it was beautiful and I’m not complaining as we can always use the moisture.

    I don’t eat much beef either, but when I do, I agree — 100% grass fed local beef (or bison) is the way to go. We need to support our farmers and ranchers who care about animal welfare and good quality food. Thanks for that reminder!

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