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’s 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
- 1-1/2 pounds chuck roast, chuck steak, round steak or beef stew meat
- 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil
- 1 (8-ounce or largecan pineapple chunks, drained and juice reserved or 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks (try to collect some juice from the pineapple)
- 1-1/2 cups beef broth
- 1/4 cup wine vinegar, divided or balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup sliced celery
- 1/2 cup green pepper, cut in strips (can use other colors of sweet peppers, too)
- 1/2 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)
- 1/2 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.