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Hungarian Goulash Made Easy

While shopping at Cost Plus Imports recently, I found this spice pack on clearance:

Gotta Cook Tonight Spice Pack


I’m all about saving time, and this product saves its users from having to measure out all the individual spices (I’ll take whatever help I can get!).  Here’s what you need to make the goulash:

Hungarian Goulash Ingredients


The spice pack, 4 medium red potatoes, 2 medium yellow onions, 2 celery stalks, 2 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (original recipe calls for one, but that doesn’t give you enough sauce at the end), and 2.5 lbs of chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces (I purchased a 3.25 lbs roast, and ended up with just under 2.5 lbs of good meat once I cut out the fat).  Start by cutting all the produce into smallish pieces:



Cut celery into skinny strips, then:



dice them up!



Next, start dicing the onions.  I first cut the onion one way, then the other:

Onion Cross Cuts


Make sure you don’t cut through the root when making the cross cuts.  You want the root area to stay attached to make the final dice easy. I forgot to take pictures of this step, but you just lay the onion on it’s side, and make slices all the way down, perpendicular to the cross cuts you previously made.  You should end up with a dice like this:

Onion Dice 

Next, dice up the potatoes by slicing them in about 1/2″ slices…

Potato Slices


…then, stack the slices and cut into strips.

Potato Strips


Now, cut those strips into 1/2″ cubes, so you end up with this:

Diced Potatoes


Finally, I cut up the chuck roast.  I always cut up the meat last, after I’ve cut up all the veggies, so I can use just one cutting board for meal prep.  First, cut up the chuck roast into steaks.

Chuck Roast Steaks

You’ll notice that my chuck roast looks a little oxidized.  That’s because this was a clearance special that had to be used right now!  Also, I didn’t want all that fat in the goulash, so I cut out most of the big pieces of fat.  There’s plenty of flavor in the spices and veggies, so you really don’t need it.  Next, dice up the meat into bite-sized chunks.

Bite-sized chunks


Now, it’s time to get cooking.  First, saute the onions until translucent on medium-high heat.  

Saute Onions


Next, add the meat…

Add meat


…and brown the meat.

Brown the meat


Once the meat is browned, add the remaining ingredients to the pot:  2 cans of diced tomatoes,

Add diced tomatoes


potatoes and celery,

Add potatoes and celery


and, finally, the spice pack.

Add spice pack


Mix up all the ingredients really well.

Mix up goulash ingredients


Now, you just have to reduce the heat, and let it simmer to finish cooking the veggies and tenderizing the meat.  The original recipe calls for one hour of simmering, but it actually took more like two hours to fully cook the potatoes.  This ended up being a much longer process than I expected…I should have read the recipe about how much I would have to chop up a little more closely!  Definitely more of a weekend meal, unless you buy pre-chopped veggies and stew meat.  All are available at most grocery stores, but will cost you more than their uncut counterparts.  The final product was totally worth it, and really hit the spot!

Hungarian Goulash 

Totally took me back to a day I spent freezing on top of a mountain in Germany, and a nice couple from Georgia bought me a bowl of this to warm me up!  Enjoy!

Soil Amendment Fun!

We moved to a new house in October, and the backyard soil leaves a lot to be desired.  Here’s a picture of what I’m working with:

Rocky Ground

Look at all those rocks! Argh!

Notice the soil is wet in the picture above?   It’s rocky, hard like cement when dry, and slightly less solid, like clay, when wet. I had to wet it down in order to turn it with a shovel, because I was getting nowhere with it dry.  I got a great work out, though!  I had my work cut out for me…how could I get all those rocks out of there, without killing my back or knees as I pick them out one by one?  Then, I remembered we had a heavy duty metal rake! (It’s the one on the left below.)   Rakes

I grabbed the rake, and low and behold, it mostly worked, better on the bigger rocks, of course.  I even managed to get enough rocks out of the garden to use as a drainage layer in my herb container garden pots (more on those later).  Here’s the before and after:

Before Raking

Before Raking

After Raking

After Raking

I still had to grab a few of the smaller rocks off the surface, but it was much more manageable!  Next, it was time for my current favorite soil amendment…composted steer manure!  I spread it all over my garden strip, as seen below:

Steer Manure

Once I had it on the ground, I spread it out evenly along the width of the strip, and then repeated the process with organic garden soil.  It ended up looking like this:

Soil Amendments, spread out

And now, the fun was about to begin!  The whole purpose of these soil amendments is not to leave them on top of the soil, but to combine it with your soil to improve the overall soil quality.  We want a happy, healthy, flexible soil for our seedlings’ root systems.  So, I got the shovel, and started turning dirt.

Soil Incorporation

The top of the photo shows the incorporated soil, the bottom is still waiting to be incorporated (it’s a lot of work!).  In the end though, it was worth it – the tomatoes have come along nicely!

Tomato Plants

Hello world!

Hello world!

I finally decided to stop talking about it, take some action, and start the blog I’ve been talking about for the past 3 months!!!

Enjoy my musings, and please, feel free to add your own in the comments section, too!