Easy Beef and Potato Stew (Seriously easy and seriously beefy)

October 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is now the go to slow cooker beef stew recipe I’ve been making lately. Now that Fall is here, it’s certainly going to be part of the regular rotation. It really is quite beefy, so head to Sam’s or Costco to get the large portion of meat. The recipe is derived from the ATK slow cooker easy prep cookbook, which has been a great resource for crockpot cooking. Basically I added a few more herbs and carrots to the recipe. Unfortunately I have no good pictures of the stew, because stew generally does not photo well, but it sure tastes yummy!

The Stuff

2 10.5 oz cans of condensed French onion soup

1 cup water

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 1/2 tablespoons instant tapioca

1-2 tsp dried thyme

1-2 tsp dried, crushed rosemary

2 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half

3-4 carrots, cut in large chunks

4 pounds (yes, 4!, but 3 works too) stew meat in 1 1/2 inch pieces (or use sirloin steak tips)

salt and pepper to taste (shouldn’t need much salt)

2 cups of frozen peas (gets added at the end of the cooking process)

The details

1. Whisk soup, water, tomato paste, tapioca and herbs together in the slow cooker.

2. Stir in potatoes and carrots.

3. Season beef with a little salt and pepper, and stir into slow cooker. There is enough liquid but add up to another 1/2 cup if desired.

4. Cover and cook until beef is tender. 9-10 hours on low or 6-7 hours on high.

5. Skim excess fat from surface of the stew. Stir in the peas and let sit until heated through (5-10 minutes while some bread is heating in the oven perhaps).

6. Adjust consistency of the stew with extra hot broth if needed. Season with a little pepper (and/or salt) if needed. And eat it up. Leftovers also freeze fairly well.


‘Tis the season…for PUMPKIN Bread!

October 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

It’s no surprise or new information that I love all things pumpkin spice related (including it’s close relative garam masala), mostly driven by my love of cinnamon. It’s made all the better when actual pumpkin is involved, especially when you can taste the pumpkin. What’s the point of having it in there if it doesn’t taste like pumpkin?

That brings me to the first post that I get to contribute in far too long for no good reason. Perhaps I haven’t found made any new recipes quite as delicious lately, although I say it’s mostly a lazy factor. Anyway. The recipe. I received it from my regular e-mails through ATK, which remind me of all the recipes sitting in my copies of the magazine that I have yet to try but should. This one comes from ATK September 2012. I did decide to add in allspice to the mix, and I do say I’m going to suggest that the spices get bumped up a notch, and so I’m adjusting amounts by putting a range (the upper limit not being directly tested yet. Season according to your taste. I didn’t add nuts because Nick is against nuts in bread/cake products, nor did I add chocolate though I wanted to in at least one of the loaves (I apparently ate all the chocolate in the house already…). Also important note when planning to make this super awesome pumpkin loaf, it makes 2 loaves! It is incredibly moist (and perfectly cooked), and has stayed that way for 3 days, as that’s as long as the 2nd loaf will last. Enjoy!

The stuff


5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon softened, unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt



2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

0-1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese (I used light), cut into 12 pieces

4 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine (optional)

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)


The plan of attack

FOR THE TOPPING: Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside.


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

3. Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 11/2 cups, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

5. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.

6. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK).

7. Fold walnuts & chocolate into batter if desired.

8. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes (if using a 9 x 5 loaf pan check at 40 minutes).

9. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 11/2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Herb Braised Ham (An Easter Dinner for those on South Beach)

April 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

So this was my experiment for a nice holiday meal while on South Beach. It was quite a success! I’d up the herbs a bit (increased amounts are reflected in below recipe) and maybe throw in some rosemary? but it’s a good technique for this kind of ham. And by this kind I mean a picnic ham (smoked pork shoulder), a cut that I’m not that familiar with.

Adapted recipe from Gourmet ‘03

  • 1 (9- to 12-pound) bone-in smoked pork shoulder (sometimes called picnic ham)
  • 2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 (5-inch) fresh thyme sprigs plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped leaves
  • 10 fresh flat-leaf parsley stems plus 1/4 cup finely chopped leaves
  • 1/2-1 whole nutmeg, smashed with side of a large heavy knife
  • 1 heaping teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2-3 cups water

*Those not on a low carb diet could also add a couple of carrots to the mix.

**I’d also recommend using 2 cups of white wine instead of the chicken broth, and then use 4-5 cups of water.

Special equipment: a deep 10- to 20-quart pot (such as a stockpot, lobster pot, or canning pot); a wide 7-10 quart heavy ovenproof pot; an instant-read thermometer (preferably remote digital with probe)

The Prep

Put ham in deep 10- to 20-quart pot and cover with cold water (don’t worry if bone sticks out). Bring to a boil, then drain ham. (THIS IS CRUCIAL. Otherwise everything will be way too salty!)

Put oven rack in lower third of oven (remove any other racks) and preheat oven to 350°F.

Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain well. Cook leeks, onion, (carrots), celery, garlic, thyme sprigs, parsley stems, nutmeg, peppercorns, and cloves in 2 tablespoons butter in wide 7- to 10-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

The herbs are cookin'!

Add chicken broth or wine and bring to a boil, then add ham, skin side down, and water (liquid will not cover ham) and return to a boil.

Cover pot tightly with lid or, if ham sticks up over top of pot, with heavy-duty foil. Braise ham in oven 1 hour.

Turn ham skin side up and continue to braise in oven, covered, until thermometer inserted into center of ham (do not touch bone) registers 120°F, about 1 hour more (if ham was labeled “fully cooked”), or 160°F, about 2 hours more (if ham was labeled “partially cooked”). (I cooked mine for a total of 3.5 hours and it was marvelous. It was only about 9 lbs.)

Transfer ham to a platter and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 45 minutes.

***While ham stands, pour braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a 3-quart saucepan, pressing on and discarding solids, and skim off any fat. Bring braising liquid to a simmer and whisk in flour/butter mixture to thicken sauce/gravy. Continue to simmer, whisking, until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped thyme and parsley.

Remove skin from ham, then slice meat and serve with sauce.


***So again, on South Beach, butter isn’t highly recommended and flour is a no go. We only strained out the peppercorns and chunks of nutmeg nut. Then we pureed the remaining vegetables along with some steamed cauliflower and added that as a no-carb thickener. Worked really well.

If you’re us, serve with roasted brussels sprouts and SB mashed potatoes.

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Broccoli cheddar soup

March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

I love cheddar and I’m a fan of broccoli. I very much like the soup. But this is the best version I’ve ever had. ATK comes through again!

From them (April 2011): WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS–

Overcooking the broccoli in our Broccoli-Cheese Soup recipe coaxed all the flavor out of it. Adding a bit of baking soda to the cooking water sped up the cooking process, and pureeing fresh baby spinach along with the other ingredients brightened the Broccoli-Cheese Soup’s bright green color and enhanced its vegetable flavor. Finally, cheddar and Parmesan gave our soup adequate cheesy flavor without making it heavy.

It’s amazing how good this soup is. It’s amazing it’s this good without any cream. Amazing.

The Stuff

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 pounds broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1″ pieces, stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4″ thick slices

1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (2 tsp)

1 1/2 tsp dry mustard (leaving this out for people who despise mustard doesn’t affect taste)

Pinch cayenne

table salt

3-4 cups water

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or veg broth if necessary)

2 oz baby spinach (2 loosely packed cups)

3 oz sharp cheddar, shredded (3/4 cup)

1 1/2 oz Parm, grated fine (3/4 cup), plus extra to top when serving

Ground black pepper

The Plan

1.  Heat butter in large Dutch oven over med-high heat. When foaming subsides, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant (~6 minutes).

2. Add 1 cup of water and baking soda. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft (~20 minutes). Stir once during cooking.

3. Add broth and 2 cups of water. Increase heat to medium high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted (~1-2 minutes).

4. Transfer half of soup to blender. Add cheddar and parm and process until smooth (~1 minute)

5. Transfer soup in blender to medium bowl and repeat with rest of soup.

6. Return soup to Dutch oven, place on medium heat and bring to simmer. Adjust consistency with up to 1 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with extra parmesan if desired.

Award winning Chili

March 13, 2011 § 4 Comments

This is the famous chili that won me a gift certificate to Red Lobster!

It’s from CC 2010. Hollywood Chili as perfected in the Test Kitchen and derived from a now-defunct Hollywood establishment. It’s pretty darn good. And since it’s been designed by the great ATK folks, it’s hard to mess with it too much, so just go with it.

I do think that part of my win was due to the avocado salsa that I made to accompany the chili. A mix of avocado chunks, cilantro, and red onion, with a little lime, salt and pepper. Deliciously simple. Perfect addition.

Hollywood-Style Chili

Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds  bone-in pork blade chops , about 1 1/2 inches thick (must be thick, thin ones don’t work as well)
Salt and pepper 
4 tablespoons  unsalted butter 
2 pounds  85 percent lean ground chuck 
3 green bell peppers , seeded and chopped fine
2 onions , chopped fine
4 garlic cloves , minced
1/4 cup  chili powder 
2 teaspoons  ground cumin 
1 teaspoon  minced canned chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (1-2 chilis)
2 teaspoons  adobo sauce (or more to taste–I added more like 4)
1 (29-ounce) can  tomato sauce 
2 (28-ounce) cans  crushed tomatoes 
1 cup  water 
3 (16-ounce) cans  pinto beans , drained and rinsed***

***I like canellini and black beans, so I used a mixture.

1. BROWN MEAT Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer pork to plate. Add beef to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain beef and set aside.

2. COOK VEGETABLES Return Dutch oven to medium heat and melt remaining butter. Add peppers and onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. SIMMER CHILI Stir in chile, adobo sauce, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and water and bring to boil. Return pork and beef to pot, along with any accumulated juices. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender, about 1 hour.

4. ADD BEANS Transfer pork to cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones, -discarding fat, and chop coarsely. Use wide spoon to skim any fat from surface of chili. Stir chopped pork and pinto beans into pot, return to simmer, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. (Chili can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Corn Bread Pudding/Corn Bake

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment


4 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cans corn (not completely drained)

2 cans creamed corn

1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)

2 cups sour cream

2 boxes/pkgs Jiffy corn bread mix

maple syrup to taste


Mix in bowl or in pan.

Bake in 9 x 13 pan at 350 for 1 hour 20 minutes or until top slightly browns.

This is the doubled version of the recipe. It is easily cut in half.

Pecan or Poppy Seed Rolls

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Recipe comes from writing down what my grandma was doing and forcing her to measure things after she eyeballs it.


1 cup lukewarm water

2 pkg fast-rising yeast

2 tsp sugar

5 cups bread flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 sticks butter at room temp

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tbl grand marnier

1. In small bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in lukewarm water. Set aside

2. In a large bowl, “cut” butter into flour, salt and sugar using hands. Add eggs, orange flavor, yeast

3. Roll out dough.

4. Use 1 can poppy seed for 1/2 of dough


4. spread with melted butter, then cinnamon, brown sugar and pecans

5. Roll

6. Cut into 3/4 inch slices and place in pan

7. Let rise until double in size.

8. Brush with butter on top.

9. Bake 350 for 30 minutes.

10. While warm, brush with vanilla frosting.

Makes 2 pans (about 14 rolls)

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