What’s for dinner? That can be a question any day, but not one you want to face after a long day of travel, an overnight passage, or just a late arrival at the boat.
At times like that, I love having a pre-made meal handy. Something I can have on the table in just 20 minutes or so, but a real meal and not just a sandwich.
When we first began cruising, I stuck with the traditional make-ahead meals: chili, spaghetti, stew and casseroles. They’re all easy to prepare in advance, freeze or refrigerate and then heat up.
Then I realized that I had another option to add variety to the menu. I could make “semi” pre-cooked meals with the long cooking done ahead of time and fresh ingredients added just before serving. I can still have dinner on the table in about 20 minutes, but since everything isn’t cooked together, there are a variety of tastes and textures in the finished dish.
Tropical Beef Chunks is one of our favorite meals, and works well as a semi pre-made dinner and also is fancy enough for guests. Combining slow-cooked beef with fresh, crispy vegetables and a bit of pineapple along with a very light sweet and sour sauce, it’s a deliciously different twist on stir fry.
Tropical Beef Chunks
A hearty beef dish that you can prep mostly in advance with a sweet and sour twist for flavor.
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Carbs (g): 10
1 ½ pounds chuck roast, chuck steak, round steak or beef stew meat
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil
1 (8-ounce or large can pineapple chunks, drained and juice reserved or 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks (try to collect some juice from the pineapple)
1 ½ cups beef broth
¼ cup wine vinegar, divided or balsamic vinegar
½ cup sliced celery
½ cup green pepper, cut in strips (can use other colors of sweet peppers, too)
½ cup onion – slice onion, then cut each slice in half to make half circles
2 large tomatoes, cut in wedges (optional; don’t substitute canned tomatoes)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown or white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch or 2 tablespoons flour (sauce won’t be clear with flour)
½ cup water
Cut meat into 1” chunks. Sprinkle with garlic powder and paprika. Brown meat in the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the pineapple juice, broth, and half the vinegar. Cover and simmer until tender, about an hour to an hour and a half. If desired, meat may be refrigerated or frozen at this point. The vegetables can also be prepared in advance and refrigerated.
Have the vegetables ready, and mix together the remaining vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch, and water in a small cup before proceeding.
When meat is tender, add the celery and onion, cover and cook 5 minutes.
Add the pineapple, green pepper, and soy sauce mixture. Stir to mix. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil, then turn back down and simmer just until thickened – about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes at the last minute and just toss to coat with sauce.
This is good by itself or served over rice.
Healthier variation: Use chicken breasts and broth instead of beef.