When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Easy beef, tomato and veggie ragout

Ugh.  I think that pretty much sums up how I (and probably many other people) feel by this point in the winter.  Too many gray days filled with slush or snow or rain, freezing temperatures, coughs and sniffles and earaches, and not much exciting happening all lead to a good case of the winter blahs.  Months like these call for comfort food, I think, the kind that fills the air with an inviting aroma and bellies with something warm and nourishing to help cheer everyone up. 
This recipe for a hearty ragout is based on something my mom used to make that I really enjoyed eating when I was a kid.  I've added more veggies to it over the years, and I switched to serving it over brown rice pasta once we started eating gluten-free.  It remains one of my go-to recipes for reliably getting a quick and nutritious meal to the family dinner table.

Easy Beef, Tomato and Veggie Ragout
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef (I prefer to use pasture-raised beef, for health reasons and for flavour)
1 small onion, diced
1- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sweet bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced (or grated, if you prefer)
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and then sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
5-6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 796mL can of diced tomatoes (look for ones packed in BPA-free cans)
chopped fresh basil, oregano, and parsley to taste (or use dried herbs if fresh is not available)
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg whole grain pasta of your choice (I use Rizopia gluten-free brown rice fusilli)
In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef to pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned. 
Stir in the onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery, carrot, zucchini, mushrooms, sea salt, and pepper and cook mixture for approximately five minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened.
Add in the diced tomatoes and stir until they are well combined with the meat and veggies.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low.  Stir in dried herbs (if using them) at this point, then cover and simmer the mixture for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.   (If using fresh herbs, stir these in for the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking).
While the ragout is simmering, prepare pasta according to package directions. 
Serve ragout over cooked pasta, with a green salad on the side.  It's easy peasy, tastes really good, and is good for you, too!   

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