After my first year living away from home at university, I decided one year was plenty in the university residence. Shower shoes, paper thin walls and cafeteria food… no thanks!
Like most things in my head strong youth this wasn’t a discussion with the parents, I went out found an apartment and then advised my parents of the situation.
What did I know about renting an apartment at the time? Let me tell you not much. I knew I had a budget, I knew I wanted a good location and clean, somewhat new, safe building. With my budget that meant a studio apartment. This was actually quite fine with me, living in small spaces does not bother me. If anything, I like it.
With small spaces, comes a small kitchen. The apartment did not have a full size fridge, just a small bar fridge with no freezer. The oven was basically not existent, and just two burners on the stove top.
There really was not much cooking that was going on in this kitchen. After living there about a month or so, that cafeteria food began to look very good! Not to mention the paper thin walls and having people around when you can home after a crappy day.
All of a sudden my independence and foray into adulthood did not seem like the best idea.
Enter my Mom who knew just what I needed – home cooked meals.
We found space in the little apartment for a small freezer, and she filled it with individual sized frozen meals. Now when I came home from that crappy day, no longer was there just crackers in the cupboard, I had a freezer full of options cooked by Mom. There was still just me, but having a home cooked meal made me feel less lonely, and a little stronger to face whatever 20 year old emergency I was facing that day.
Port Mushroom Beef Stew
That feeling of comfort from food and a home cooked meal has never left me, nor has my appreciation for my Mom in preparing them. It is a big reason why I cook meals for the Lovely Husband to take with him when he is working away from home.
Working 12 hour days is far more exhausting than my university class schedule and 20 year old dramas (… well actually maybe not). And my small galley kitchen was tiny but his kitchens in rented spaces are often bare, if they exist at all. If I can make his days a little bit easier with a home made meal, well isn’t that what marriage and family is all about?
FOOD IS LOVE
I started out making meals like my Mom did for me, proper comfort foods – lasagna, chicken pot pie and of course macaroni and cheese – in disposal foil pans. For me placing the food in the oven for an hour or so, was fine. For the Lovely Husband coming home at 6 or 7 pm after a long day, he didn’t want to wait that long and asked for more variety with microwavable friendly meals and containers.
Easier said then done.
More or less the plastic food storage containers worked. There were a few issues of spills during transport (he is usually 4-6 hours away). The containers did not always protest against freezer burn. And after a use or two, the plastic containers looked awful – stained, marked up. Yuck I’ve just sent all this time cooking a batch of meals and they look unappealing. The Lovely Husband doesn’t care much, but I do.
Since the Lovely Husband has been consistently away the past two months and using, abusing and losing containers, I was recently shopping in Walmart to purchase fresh new food storage containers. Walmart is my go to for plastic food storage containers, you can not beat their selection! When I was in the food storage aisle I noticed new Rubbermaid Brilliance containers. True I am a sucker for lovely new packaging, but not only are the Brilliance containers lovely looking, they make some serious promises… leak proof, stain resistance, spatter proof in the microwave and stacks neatly making the most of small spaces.
That’s a lot from food storage containers! I was skeptical. Too good, to be true? Perhaps, but they seemed worth a try. After the first batch of meals prepared, traveled, frozen and reheated… I am happy to report the claims are all true. Purchasing a combo pack of different sizes made it easy to prepare different meals, and even a batch of cookies. There were no leaks, they frozen unbelievably well and heated the food (from frozen!) in the microwave with success.
So forget happy wife, happy life. Wives you know.. happy well fed husband, happy life!!
And Moms and Dads trust me when I say if you want your kids to call more from college, a freezer full of home cooked meals does the trick!
This port and mushroom beef stew recipe is not perhaps what you think of when you think freezer meal, but freezer meals can be so much more than casseroles! I love to keep a few portions of this port and mushroom beef stew in the freezer at home, in case of unexpected dinner guests.
I have often braised beef in red wine. Red wine braised short ribs are a favorite treat. But using port and porcini mushrooms to create a rich, deeply flavoured sauce is heavenly! And oh my the smell of this stew while cooking.
Especially when freezing, I find creating the extra depth in flavor is key. Since I wanted this to be a treat meal (read an enticement to hurry home), I did use a nicer cut of beef, but feel free to adapt.
I also froze the complete meal, including the mashed potatoes, in individual containers to reheat easier.
Mushroom Beef Stew
If you have frozen mashed potatoes before and ended up with a watery mess upon reheating, stir in some plain cream cheese while reheating. It helps thicken the texture. And who does not love a little hint of cheese in their potatoes!
PORT AND MUSHROOM BEEF STEW
- 2 lbs boneless top sirloin beef roast
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced carrots
- ½ cup diced celery
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
- ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup ruby port
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 tsp rosemary
- 2 tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp flour, divided
- salt pepper
- Place porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water. Set aside.
- Trim fat from roast. Then cut beef into 1 inch cubes. Toss beef in 1 tbsp flour, salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 275F.
- Place a large pot on the stove top over medium high heat. Add olive oil and bring to temperature.
- Sear beef in pot until meat is brown. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Add in onion, carrot, celery and garlic to pot, reduce heat to medium and saute until soft. Mix in crimini mushrooms, saute for 2 minutes. Stir in port scraping the bottom of the pot as you pour in. Bring to a boil and stir in 1 tbsp of flour to thicken.
- Once sauce has thicken, stir in seared beef cubes. Pour in beef stock and porcini mushrooms with liquid to fully cover beef.
- Cover and place in oven for 3 hours.
- Removed from oven skim any fat from stew, and serve over mashed potatoes.