Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Beans and Beef Does Not Always Equal Chili.

There are too many times I stand and stare into the depths of the refrigerator and freezer wondering what to make for dinner. That is also how I come up with many of my spontaneous recipes; boredom, frustration and a "I wonder if..." attitude. Even Josh, the butcher at Blue Mountain Foods, has seen me staring at the meats and poultry, mumbling to myself.  “Can I help you with something?”, he will ask, and I usually respond with, “I am contemplating.”.

Holding a two and one-half pound package of stew beef (beef cubes) in my hand, I wondered what in the world to do with it. Not beef stew again, just did that two weeks ago; not chili, just not in the mood for it and just made it last month anyway. Too much same old, same old! Then I remembered my Taste of Home winning recipe, "Beefy Barbecue Macaroni", but dealing with making cheese sauce and cooking pasta seemed too much trouble.  Sometimes I am just my own worst enemy, especially when it comes to cooking.

Well, this recipe appeared in two separate issues of Taste of Home, and in two of their cookbooks, so guess they liked it as much as my family did.  So, not to be a tease, here is that recipe before I continue on.


Beefy Barbecue Macaroni 



3/4 lb. ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

3-1/2 cups cooked elbow macaroni

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Dash cayenne pepper

1/4 cup milk

1 Tbsp. butter

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Additional cheddar cheese, optional


In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the macaroni, barbecue sauce, pepper.

In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Stir in cheese until melted. Pour over the macaroni mixture; gently toss to coat. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Now back to the main meat (pun intended) of this article.


Still having no clue what to create, I decided to trim the stew beef cubes and maybe an idea would come to me, maybe.  Stew beef is essentially all the bit and pieces the butchers cut off steaks and roasts; sometimes there is a good bit of meat left, so they package it up for consumers to buy and make recipes such as chili, beef stew, maybe even kabobs.  However, you should always examine the beef before just throwing it into your pot, as many pieces may need to be trimmed of fat; some might be pure fat themselves.  If you do not want to deal with this process, then go ahead and purchase a nice lean roast and just cut it up into cubes.  With the beef I had, I needed to cut only a little fat off, but I planned on using a crock pot, so made sure they were of uniform size.

Looking around the pantry I found cans of red kidney beans; well just because I was adding beans did not make it chili, right?  These are the ingredients I finally centered on: barbecue sauce, beans, tomatoes, red onion and green bell pepper.  I was going to make a barbecue sauce-based beef stew, but without the traditional vegetables of carrots and potatoes.

Let me tell you that this concoction of mine came out amazing.  The beef was so tender, it basically melted in the mouth; and absorbed the barbecue sauce flavor well.  The tomatoes did not break down into complete mush; the onion and peppers became very soft; usually green bell peppers are harsh in flavor, but they melded in perfectly.  The beans did not become too soft, or remain too firm; as Goldilocks would say, "They were just right".  The smell was intoxicating; the taste was just as equal.  This is the kind of meal you can enjoy as is, or with a side of mashed potatoes, rice, pasta or polenta.  I did not have to add lots of seasonings, or even garlic, as the bottled sauce I used had everything I needed - Jack Daniels Hickory Brown Sugar.  I did not dredge the beef in the flour, then fry it as I did not want to add any more oil into this dish than the nonstick cooking spray added.  Also did not want additional liquids like beef stock as I knew the beef and vegetables would exude their own moisture.  One thing I notice with recipes like this is that the home cook will add pasta to the pot; all well and good, but remember that pasta is like a sponge and will absorb all excess liquids.  A yummy thick sauce was needed for this meal, not anything watery, or so firm a fork would stand up straight in it.

Here is the recipe...


BBQ Beef Stew



2 ½ lbs. beef cubes; trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup flour

1 ½ cups chopped red onion

½ cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup red kidney beans

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1 (19 oz.) bottle BBQ sauce (hickory brown sugar)



Spray a 4-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; set on low heat.  Spread beef cubes on bottom and sprinkle flour over all.  Spread other ingredients out in layers: onions, bell pepper, beans and tomatoes.  Pour BBQ sauce on top; cover and cook for 8 hours.

Makes 8 servings.



Recently, a good friend to our family, who was going out of town for a while, dropped off packages of elk, venison, beef and seafood.  Met this man when I worked, some time ago, at the San Juan Credit Union.  Basically, he took a good liking to Roy, and myself, simply due to, “You’re nice people, and always nice to me, and I want to be nice to you in return.”  Wow, if only this concept was felt, and exhibited, by more people.  Anyway, whenever he has an excess of stocked meat, or whatever, he makes sure to drop off a few packages our way.  Never asks for, or will take, anything in return; it is just what happens when being nice.

But I digress, my point is that my recipes in this article will work well with beef, elk or venison.  Cooking the same old, same old?  Now you can try out something new.  Oh, and have overstock?  Just be nice, and share with other nice people; it really will make you feel all warm and cozy inside your heart.

Mary Cokenour