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If you look at the calendar, it will tell you it’s still spring. But outside, it’s undisputedly summer. At least, for a girl who grew up in a place where temps didn’t break 80 until almost July and getting in the community pool for swim lessons early in the morning was cold no matter how late into summer, it’s pretty much summer.

The sweet scent of blooming flora saturates the air and blows in through open windows (in this way, I suppose it really is still spring here- in real summer we would have to run the A.C. to keep from burning up). The smells of sunscreen, baking flesh and asphalt, chlorine, and burgers on the grill drift into my nose and hit my brain with an intoxicating effect.  I think in a previous life I was a bear. There is nothing I wish more than to hibernate all winter. I live to eat and sleep and want little to do with social activity. On a serious note, I’ve got a wicked case of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and at times I honestly struggle quite a bit.

But, summer. Ahh summer. How I come alive and get excited about life in the summer. There is so much to do outside, not to mention I feel super social. Both physically and emotionally I was made to thrive in warm and sunny climes.  Because of this, I do much less cooking during the summer. Who wants to be stuck inside in a hot kitchen during the precious days of sun and fun?  For the sake of time and keeping the kitchen cool, slow cooker meals (and pizza delivery) are really the best.

Last week, I made Cuban Style Braised Steak and Peppers (a recipe I found in Woman’s Day magazine) for my friend’s belated birthday meal.  I’ve never done steak in the slow cooker before and was worried it’d get overcooked like the pork tenderloin or beef roast I’ve done previously.  I’ve also never made flank steak in general before, but it appeared fatty enough that it wouldn’t get too dried out too easily.

Cuban-Style Braised Steak and Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup(s) dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) dried oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted garlic)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 red peppers, sliced crosswise (I looked up what it meant to cut something “crosswise,” but it didn’t make sense to me to do this with red peppers, so I just sliced ’em)
  • 2 clove(s) garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon(s) capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound(s) flank steak, cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces (I just stuck the whole thing in there without cutting it up.  My slow cooker is big enough and I was worried about it drying out)
  • 1 cup(s) long-grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup(s) pimiento-stuffed olives, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon(s) olive brine
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for servingCuban-Style Braised Steak and Peppers

Directions 

  1. In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, whisk together the wine, cumin, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes (and their juices), onion, peppers, garlic, and capers. Nestle the steak among the vegetables and cook until the steak is cooked through and shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high. (I sprinkled salt and pepper on top of the meat and cooked on low for 5 hours, but didn’t get home in time to take it right out, so it sat on warm for about an hour)
  3. Twenty minutes before the beef is done, cook the rice according to package directions.
  4. Using two forks, shred the beef. Fold the olives and brine into the beef mixture and serve over the rice. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

We ate ours with chili garlic sauce, which is quite spicy and added a nice flavor.

chili garlic sauceCuban-Style Braised Steak and Peppers

Dr. Matthews not only had seconds, but thirds, then FOURTHS of this meal!  It was pretty dang delicioso.

For my friends birthday, I also threw together a cake.  I happened to have instant vanilla pudding mix and coconut cake mix, so I threw those together, along with 4 eggs, 1/2 C vegetable oil and a cup of water (following the advice of someone on the internets for how to make a cake super moist – there is nothing worse than a dry cake!).  I baked it in two round pans and sliced up some strawberries from our local farmers market to stick in between and on top.  Dr. Matthews picked up some nice canned vanilla frosting, I sprinkled some coconut flakes on top and, voila!  It was a terrible-looking thing- flat without enough frosting to cover the sides.  But it tasted delicious!

Strawberry coconut cake

This is part of why I’m not a baker.  It’s so difficult to make baked goods look nice, presentable, symmetrical, etc.  I have no interest in how things look – I just want ’em to taste good!  And taste good, it did.

Happy summer, ya’ll!

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