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Ovenless, Sin horno.

December 2012, the weekend before Christmas, my oven decided to die a slow death. I was in the process of making three types of muffins as part of a gift for my aunt,¬†five types of cookies and my mom and I were making the different parts of the enchiladas we were taking over to my cousin’s house. No big deal, right? Just the main course and dessert for our Christmas dinner.

As I was baking late into the night, all the cookie dough made and chilled, the muffins cooling, the oven slowly began getting colder and the smell of natural gas arose. My mom and I had noticed that our oven was being funky and wasn’t getting hot like it used to, but we could always get it to work. Luckily, I was just about done baking for the night and we turned the oven off. Over the next couple of days, the oven took longer and longer to get warm, and would not stay hot for very long. I was able to finish the rest of the cookies, but that Christmas was the Christmas our oven died. After looking into it, we found that as that model ages the heating element that ignites the fire in the oven goes wonky and decides to quit.

Since that December, I have found approximately 2,904,785,249,852 different recipes that I want to try, but it seems at least 90% of them have something done in the oven. The challenge over the last year or so has been to either learn to adapt recipes so that they don’t have to go in the oven, or find delicious things to make in our dutch oven, slow cooker or on the stove top. Fortunately my mom and I are resourceful and have done a great job doing this, but there are sometimes when I just want a batch of homemade cookies or to roast meats or vegetables for dinner. These are the moments where you realize how lucky you are to have such a problem, but these are the same moments that make it frustrating when you’re trying to start your own home baking business. We’ve been saving, so hopefully a new oven is in our near future. Until then, it’s experimenting with all the different things you can make outside your oven.

In the mean time, I’ll leave you with this beef stew/pot roast goodness that makes your house smell really good, and while it is made in the slow cooker, it heats up your house rather nicely. In writing this recipe down, I realized how freely I cook, not really knowing how much of different things are added to a dish, so here’s my rough version. There’s a lot of flexibility here, add more of what you like and less of what you don’t. Make it so that you like it and so that you’ll eat it. That’s what makes food so magical. (Oh, this recipe uses two dried gravy mixes. I’m working on a way to make my own dried gravy mix so that I can control what goes into this a bit more.)
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Pot Roast!

Get a package of stew meat. We usually get about two pounds of meat (the family pack size) so we’ll have leftovers. Just get as much as you need, you know how much you eat.

Beef stew meat
1 brown onion, cut into 1-2″ pieces
3-6 celery stalks, cut into 1-2″ pieces
3-6 carrots, cut into 1-2″ pieces
(I added a yellow bell pepper and a tomato cut into eighths because they needed to be cooked, but it’s still good without, basically whatever veggies you want)
2-3 dried bay leaves depending on how big they are
2-3 garlic cloves, or dried garlic
Salt
Pepper
Oregano
Whatever spices you want
Brown gravy and Onion gravy mix (or two brown gravy) for this amount, we use two of the little dried packs.

Enough water to cover about 2/3 of the stuff. Probably about 2-3 cups of water. If you want to get a fair amount of gravy, add more water.
Cook on high for 6-8 hours or low for 8-12 (depending on your slow cooker and the amount of food)

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4 months later.

Well, that was an unexpected break from this thing, but a lot can happen in 4 months.

I decided to give NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a go… whoa. I wrote about 30,000 words in a month, while working graveyard and barely sleeping, so to say it was difficult is an understatement. I have a beautiful half written story that would be somewhat of my fairy tale life, but it doesn’t need my attention right now.

I went head first into college basketball season and loving it and my team is doing really well. Work was awful, and I barely slept most of the time, so November through January was kinda awful other than basketball. I did a lot of friend, and regular housecleaning, and since then I’ve felt a lot better about things. And as of the end of January, I’m no longer working…. again. So, 2014 is yet another adventure, but an adventure with lots of goals and a good outlook.

Here’s my list of goals for 2014:
– write more
– cook more
– write about cooking more
– go on adventures, near and far
– write more about cooking without an oven
– budget and use some of the money that I’ve saved for the baking adventure to get it off the ground
– get tattooed
– get a new oven
– bake and bake and bake some more
– secure a fantastic job that makes me happy and isn’t an awful environment
– do really fun things and write about them
– get a new computer and camera

I’m actually really excited about this year. It didn’t exactly start off the way I wanted to, but I truly believe that things happen for a reason and it’s never for the reason you believe or when you want them to happen. I have working and researching for the last 2 years what it will take to get this baking excursion off the ground, but it hasn’t happened yet, much to my dismay. However I know that it will this year. I’m hoping to have it going by the holidays so I can provide delicious things for lots of people.

Here’s to starting the year in March and not paying attention to the actual calendar when you’re pursuing dreams.