Winter is leaving the Black Hills, and my husband and I just can't stay home on the weekends. I mean, really, could you?
A few weeks ago we went on a drive through the beautiful Spearfish Canyon. And yes, there was still snow on the ground, but the creek was flowing. :) And the canyon was as lovely as ever.
And then last week, we went for one of our bi-weekly hikes. The idea is to add a mile to our distance each month. Last Saturday's hike was four miles along the Creekside Trail in Custer State Park.
This trail is paved (no spring mud!) and connects two campgrounds, passing stores, picnic areas and a lake in its two mile length.
|Grace Coolidge Creek|
It's a beautiful trail, but we know from experience that it is super crowded during the tourist season. February is the perfect month to hike this one.
And we were even greeted by a small herd of young big horn sheep at our turn-around point half-way through.
The trail also passes the State Game Lodge.
This beautiful place was built in 1920, and was the "Summer White House" for President Calvin Coolidge. Later on it became a hotel and is a much-sought-after lodging for park visitors. If you want to stay in the older part of the building, make your reservations well in advance!
And of course we stopped to say "hey" to the Boys on the Hill on our way home!
This past weekend we went back to Custer State Park for a drive through the wildlife loop. This is an eighteen-mile scenic drive through prairies and forested hills. We almost always see plenty of bison on this drive, along with antelope, deer, prairie dogs...you name it!
Last year's calves are growing up - a sure sign of spring - but look what's happening to their mothers!
This lady was waddling along the road. Yes, waddling. The new calves start dropping in April!
And then this is also happening to the bison -
Yes, this older cow has that protruding tummy, too. But look at her coat! The bison are beginning to shed. Can spring be far behind?
On the way home we drove through Wind Cave National Park. We don't go there as often as we like because it makes the drive a bit farther. But it was beautiful in the early spring sunshine.
We were hoping to see some elk, so we ventured along this trail.
No elk, but we could tell they had been there. Their tracks look like a deer's foot print, but a lot bigger!
After three weekends in a row, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. :)
Now to the recipe!
Another sign that spring is coming is that this year's beef is ordered and will be coming in the next few weeks. What does that mean?
We need to clear out last year's beef!
If you're a beef lover, this looks like heaven, doesn't it? That's about two pounds of meat - a combination of round steak and ribeye. You can make this dish with any cut of steak because you're going to be cooking it to melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness!
I do have to warn you, though - this is not a fast meal to cook. The prep time took longer than I thought it would, mostly because of browning the beef in batches. Leave yourself plenty of time.
Braised Beef with Carmelized Onions
prep time: about 1 hour
cooking time: about 1 1/2 hours
2 pounds beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon oil - I use coconut oil
1 large sweet onion, cut in half and sliced
1 Tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup flour
4 cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 slices french bread, 1 inch thick
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 - 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Sprinkle the beef cubes with the pepper. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan (I used my deep cast iron skillet), and brown the beef in small batches. Drain and keep in reserve.
In the same skillet, cook the onions in the butter over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
Preheat your oven to 325°.
Stir the flour into the onion mixture until it's blended. Then add the beef broth, a little at a time, stirring after each addition until the gravy is smooth. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for about a minute, or until it's thickened.
Add the browned beef to the gravy and stir in.
If you're not using cast iron, pour the mixture into a 9"x9" baking dish and cover with foil. If you are using your deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, you're all set. Just put the lid on!
Bake, covered, for 1 hour.
After an hour, carefully remove the bay leaf and stir in the cream.
Bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes.
Butter the slices of bread on one side and place butter side up on top of the beef mixture in the pan. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese and garlic powder.
Put the pan back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is slightly browned.
Serve with a large spoon, and make sure that the beef and onions are topped with a slice of bread for each person.
Have you seen any signs of spring where you live yet? Let us know!