This is going to be a brutally honest post. It’s going to hurt me much more than it will hurt you. Actually, there’s no reason it should hurt you at all. Me, on the other hand—here goes… My kitchen is not always clean. As a matter of fact, even thought I have three dishwashers, plus an automatic one, my kitchen is seldom all the way clean; and I’m not talking about a high standard of “all the way.” This morning, as I was putting dinner in the crock pot and trying to take pictures to share with you, I was quite aware of how not clean it really is. That’s right, OVERNIGHT mess in my kitchen!
Here’s another confession. I screwed up my menu. (There should be an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence, but my head is hanging in shame and I just couldn’t bring myself to hit that key.) First, let me explain with a story. If you don’t want the story, you can skip to the bottom for the recipe, but that would make you a bad person, so don’t do it.
A few weeks ago when my husband was home I wanted to make beef stroganoff with actual beef chunks rather than hamburger. If you know me and how frugally I try to provide gourmet taste to my family, you’ll know that was going to be a splurge. However, I didn’t thaw a roast or steaks, I thawed ground beef. Why didn’t I know the difference? Well, that’s another story, and one you shouldn’t miss, because I have awesome people in my life.
I wouldn’t even have had the round steak and ground beef in my freezer if not for my friend Zach. He’s not just awesome because he shared his home grown beef with me, but because even though he’s a senior in high school, he loves me, and even talks to me. Sure he loves my whole family, but he treats me like a real person even though I’m old. He’s also respectful and a hard worker with a great work ethic, and really, how many kids can you say that about? Thanks Zach!
Back to the original story. The ground beef was frozen in the same shape as the round steak, and stacked together in the big freezer on our porch. I grabbed it for the beef stroganoff and didn’t look at the label, thinking I didn’t have any steak left. After it thawed I was disappointed, but of course you can still make stroganoff with ground beef, so I did. It was sufficiently yummy.
Ever since that day I have assumed that the other two packages were also ground beef. Did I go check? Of course not. For the past couple weeks my menu listed sloppy Joes made from Zach’s ground beef for today. This morning I went out to the freezer to get the ground beef, and of course as you’ve already figured out, I didn’t have any ground beef left, just a couple packages of round steak!
Here’s my next confession. I was going to make the sloppy Joes with a couple cans of sloppy Joe sauce. That’s right; I wasn’t going to make it from scratch. I had a coupon for a couple free cans if I bought certain hamburger buns. Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way I thought, healthy or not, that’s pretty dang easy! But alas, I cannot imagine preparing round steak with canned sloppy Joe sauce. Which leads me to …
My next confession. This one isn’t so bad in my eyes, although some may turn their noses up at me because of it. We’ve had to use food stamps and food shelves in the past. I’m not ashamed that we needed food and couldn’t afford it when my husband was out of work or recovering from surgery. If anyone has a problem with that, I say, try feeding a family of eight when all you get for the whole month is $500. Not $500 in grocery money, all of your money for the month. The food shelves saved us.
Another mini-story (boy am I rambling today!) We started volunteering at our weekly food shelf, and were there almost every week for about a year or so, until the boys started working and we had just one car to share for the whole family. It was a great experience for all of them and they were loved and appreciated for their efforts.
Yet another confession—this is getting more painful all the time—
I have envelope mixes in my pantry. This is literally the hardest of my confessions! True, I’ve had some so long that they had to be thrown out, (did you know that envelope mixes have expiration dates? If it says sell by some day in 2008, you should probably pitch it in 2013.) I try to excuse this confession with my previous confession. All of these mixes were given to me from food shelves or food give-aways. I didn’t want to waste them, so I gave a bunch away and some sit in my pantry in a nice little basket.
Here is my last confession. Thank goodness, right? I used the dreaded dry envelope mixes on my round steak! I had just read a few different Pinterest recipes that called for Italian dressing mix, ranch dressing mix and gravy mix. I was not thrilled and would never have copied one of those recipes into my file because it’s not my style to use powdered mixes for health and taste reasons, but it did save the day today. I looked in my pantry to see just what I had. I’m going to share the process and ingredients no matter how it turns out. Confessions are about the ugly things of life, so why not!
The verdict is in. It was too salty. Nothing much I could do about that, but the flavor was surprisingly tolerable. The quality of beef made a big difference. It was like something from a very good cafeteria, the kind you find in office buildings in downtowns, not in schools or hospitals.
It was a fun experiment. If you do cook with packaged mixes, you will probably love this. Again, the mixes have so much more salt than I use in my normal cooking that it stood out to my kids and me.
Well, I certainly feel much better. They say confession is good for the soul. Maybe this will help my little cooking heart so I can post about the decent things I produce in my ridiculously arranged tiny kitchen. Thank you for listening to my sordid secrets.
Here we go then, with the recipe.
CROCK POT CONFESSION BEEF THING
- 4 Beef round steaks
- 1 envelope onion soup mix (mine was Lipton, the epitome of dry soup mix)
- 1 envelope brown gravy mix (Mine was “Pioneer”, because we all know the pioneers packed these in their covered wagons for the long trip over the prairies.)
- 1 – 2 cups water
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup (I’d say go for the low sodium kind, but at this point, why try?)
- Place the steaks in crock pot, frozen or thawed, doesn’t matter, and sprinkle the onion soup mix over steaks
- Whisk gravy mix in water until dissolved, then add the canned soup and whisk until smooth. Pour over steaks and soup mix
- Put lid on and cook on high for 4 hours, 5 if cooking from frozen; or 6 – 8 hours on low
- Remove steaks to a plate, shred with forks and return to crock pot, stir. (Whisk sauce until smooth before returning beef to crock.)
- Serve over biscuits, rice, potatoes, whatever you want to absorb some of that saltiness. Add a side of broccoli and a salad to make up for all the chemicals you are consuming and to make you feel better about yourself and the choices you have made in life.