My doorbell was supposed to be ringing non-stop with cute and curious Trick-or-Treaters NOT wearing coats because it was supposed to be 65 degrees outside. (Didn't you hate when your mom made you wear your coat over your perfectly-awesome Rainbow Bright costume? Didn't you hate when you looked like a weird kid in an orange wig, oversized coat, and rainbow power boots instead?)
Their eyes were supposed to bulge out of their heads at the sight of my Kit-Kats in their special Halloween packaging. We were supposed to be THAT house on the block.
I was supposed to tell Princess Tiana how beautiful she was, and pretend to be scared of the seven-year-old vampire with a stick-on widow's peak. Their little pumpkin buckets were supposed to be brimming with candy and the community's good intentions.
The roads were supposed to be driveable, the sidewalks were supposed to be clear, and the streetlights were supposed to be lit. Instead, the neighborhood was quiet. My doorbell rang once. We have leftover candy. We turned our lights off at 8.
All things considered I'm very lucky. I have my health, my family, my home. I have heat, hot water, and power today, and our community (although shaken and debris-covered) is getting back to normal. Many, many people are not as fortunate. I cannot begin to imagine the heartache that others are experiencing in losing their power, their cars, their homes, and in some cases their family members. It seems a cruel trick to "cancel" Halloween around here, but the treat is the opportunity this lends me to be extra grateful for the safety of our home and the ones we love, and do what we can to help others in our community who are less fortunate.
Can we talk about food now? It's really a miracle I didn't have Kit-Kats and candy corn for dinner considering my state of mind. Instead, this recipe for tender beef slow-simmered in a tangy-sweet tomato sauce was spot-on comfort for my belly and my brain.
At the onset it seems like a traditional beef stew: tender red meat is simmered in broth and tomatoes and served over pasta. TRICK! We've got honey and cumin and cinnamon going on here too. And we're adding dried apricots and TONS of garlic. Served over twisty pasta, this hearty beef stew will keep you safe and warm. This is really special stuff, can you tell?
Sometimes Halloween gets cancelled. Sometimes this world doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Sometimes it takes all your heart to get back to normal. Start with a healthy, home-cooked meal, and see what follows.
Sweet and Spicy Beef Stew
Adapted from A New Way to Cook Light
Adapted from A New Way to Cook Light
Yields 4 servings
1 lb lean stew beef (I used 90/10 from Trader Joes), cut into bite-sized cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
6 cloves garlic, coarsley chopped
2 tbs honey
1 tbs tomato paste
1/2 c dried apricots, quartered
1 14-oz can fat-free, low-sodium beef broth
1 lb short, whole-grain, twisty pasta (I used gemelli)
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle the beef evenly with salt and pepper, and add to the pan. Cook 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan, and saute for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cumin, cinnamon, pepper, and garlic, and saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add in the honey and tomato paste, and stir to combine, cooking for an additional 30 seconds.
Return the beef to the pan, and add the apricots and beef broth. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Towards the end of the simmering time, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and divide among your serving bowls.