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Stir Crazy

Weekday dinner inspirations: Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup and more

Mon | A giving gift

Did you get a slow cooker for Christmas? Get it out of the box and crank it up to make Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Soup (recipe below). There are two ways to look at healthy eating in the new year: Make more dinners at home, and make more healthful food. This recipe satisfies both.

Tues | Fish wrap

Get yourself some mild fish fillets (cod, snapper, mahi, tilapia) for single-serving fish packets to bake or grill. Layer thin slices of lemon on a square of foil and put the fish on top of them. Add sliced onions on top of that with some soy sauce, olive oil and salt and pepper. Fold foil and cook packets until fish is opaque (about 20 minutes). Serve with rice or more veggies.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

Chicken is pretty healthy until we start ladling on the creamy calories. Tonight, carve up the simple bird and eat it as is. Simmer sliced zucchini with stewed tomatoes as an accompaniment and serve with a salad.

Thurs | Dinner salad

Look for tuna or salmon chunks (they're cheaper) at the fish counter. Saute them in a bit of olive oil and serve over a bed of greens with sliced red onions and strips of green, yellow or red pepper. Dress with a sesame vinaigrette. Crispy bread sticks are a good foil.

Fri | Meaty mushrooms

Finish up your week of new year healthy eating with grilled portobello mushroom burgers. Take the stems off the big caps and brush with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Grill until soft and serve on whole wheat buns with butter lettuce, chopped tomatoes and feta cheese. Get a boxed mix for tabouli, the parsley salad, and serve it on the side.

Read Stir Crazy online at www.blogs.tampabay.com/food. Submit your ideas for quick weeknight meals to jkeeler@sptimes.com.

>>MODERATE

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

28-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 medium yellow onions, minced

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 cups low-sodium beef broth

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup pearl barley

2 pounds blade steak, trimmed and cut into

1/2-inch pieces

Ground black pepper

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

In a food processor (or blender), pulse the tomatoes and their juice until smooth, about 15 seconds. Set aside.

In a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions, tomato paste, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Saute until the onions are softened and lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Stir in the wine, using a spoon to scrape up any browned bits.

Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker, then stir in the processed tomatoes, both broths, carrots, soy sauce and barley.

Season the meat with salt and pepper, then nestle it into the other ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 9 to 11 hours or on high for 5 to 7 hours.

When done, uncover and turn off the heat. Let the cooking liquid settle for 5 minutes, then gently tilt the slow cooker and use a spoon to skim off as much fat as possible. Stir in the parsley, then adjust seasonings.

Serves 6 to 8.

Source: The Best Slow & Easy Recipes by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine (America's Test Kitchen, 2008)

Weekday dinner inspirations: Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup and more 01/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2009 3:30am]
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