Entries Tagged 'general interest' ↓

Hearty Stew

Hearty Stew
Okay, after what seems like forever I am finally posting something…

Since the weather is now getting cold, and I want to go out to the grocery even less than usual, I have started to make dinner with what ever is on hand. I tend to make a lot of soups and stews because I can make them in the morning or the day before and let them slow cook all day. They is very little prep involved and they cook a long time all by themselves. And let me say nothing is better to coming home to the yummy smell of stew cooking. I have never made two stews exactly the same and I don’t like to measure anything, but the basics of any stew are all the same. You need a base, some meat and/or veggies, some spices, and a Crock-pot. The following is the stew I made yesterday.

First, I browned some cube steak in dash of olive oil in a skillet. You can really use any cut of meat you have on hand, rump, round steak, cube, roast, what ever. I was using some of our lovely organic cow that we purchased this past summer. I must say that the better the quality of the meat the better the stew in the end. While you are browning the meat add whatever seasoning you like. It is best to add things that go well with the meat as this seasoning will not really penetrate the whole stew but will stay in the meat. I used some dry thyme, coriander, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. As far a how much of everything, they are in order of greatest to least… it was mostly thyme and a small dash of nutmeg. When the meat was browned on all sides, but not over cooked I covered it with red wine. I used pinot noir, but again use what you like. If you like to drink it, it will taste good in your stew.

For other stews I have used beer as the base, but had a bottle of wine opened so I used that. For beer I prefer the stouter variety for stew, but have used just about everything that is amber to black in color… My husband’s homebrew is my favorite.

While browning the meat I start to throw the other stuff into the Crock-pot. I used a can of chicken stock (beef, chicken, vegetable stock, whatever you have) Some more of the red wine, maybe a cup or two, kind of depends on how much stew you are making. The rule of thumb is that you just want enough liquid ingredients to cover the meat and veggies so nothing get scorched in the cooking process, also the liquid will cook down quite a bit. I added about 4 potatoes peeled and chopped, and handful of chopped carrots. I usually like more veggies, but having not gone to the store the pickings were slim this time. In the past I have used frozen and fresh veggies. Both work but the frozen tend to break down more than the fresh, they still taste great but kind of disappear visually. I also added a spoon full of horseradish, a good squirt of spicy mustard (you can use dry if you have it, but regular old sandwich mustard works just fine),a spoonful of beef bouillon, and some butter (about 1/4 a stick).

Next I added the meat to the Crock-pot and that’s it. Let cook for anywhere from 3-8 hours on low. Just cook till everything is nice and soft. You can turn it on in the morning before work and it will be nice and ready when you get home. One final thing you can do if you want is when you are about ready to eat take some of the broth out and put it in a jar and add a spoon or two of flour to it, shake vigorously to mix and then add back in to the stew and let cook for a few more minutes. This will thicken up the base a little bit and make it more stewy. Enjoy and have fun.

Broccoli Confetti Slaw


Last weekend our friend Lori hosted an outrageous Survivor themed multi-cause celebration and potluck. Steve cooked up some awesome terkyaki burgers to go with. It was going to be another hot one in the 90’s, so I wanted to make something fresh and cool.

I always look at potlucks as a time to get creative. This is usually because I didn’t think ahead to have the ingredients on hand to do a specific recipe and improvisation becomes a necessity. Mother of invention and all that,.

Taking inventory of the fridge turned up lots of broccoli and carrots and luckily we had just been to the farmers market the day before so we also had some lovely basil, zucchini and green onions on hand.

My typical hunt of the internet for some recipes to borrow from turned up lots of ramen noodle varieties and a yummy sounding broccoli coleslaw recipe to work from.

Alas, we don’t have a decent shredder and only a mini food processor bought from a friend’s moving across the country sale years ago and never really put to the test. I tested its limits with this dish though and more or less it passed.

This one came out well enough that several people have asked for the recipe and there were no leftovers at the host’s house or ours.

Broccoli Confetti Slaw
About 3 cups shredded, finely diced or mini-food processed broccoli
About 1 and a half cups shredded, finely diced or mini-food processed carrots
and for fun and because they were fresh I threw in a couple baby zucchinis as I was pulsing and chopping.

The mini food processor yielded the confetti texture which bemused some folks and more than one person asked me what it was and how you eat it. Someone even put it on their burger, which looked good to me.

I also ran 2 cloves of garlic and a small bunch of green onions through the chopper and sliced up a bunch of basil as finely as I could.

Once I had the base well mixed, I toasted about a half a cup of pine nuts, let them cool and gave them a coarse chop and tossed them in.

I also used the mini processor for the dressing, which i haven’t done before but will again. The dressing consisted of:

  • 2 cloves of garlic which I roasted and cooled for a bit of sweetening,
  • another couple green onions,
  • 1/3 cup EVO (extra virgin olive oil),
  • 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar (which was actually half balsamic vinegar)
  • some sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

I whirled it all up and poured it over.

I think as the original recipe author did, letting this sit together to blend, meld and get to know each other is a key ingredient. So thankfully I had my butt in gear early enough to allow for a decent setting time before we ate. I think I’ll make some more this week.

If you try this or adapt it let me know what you think.

Found a great new geeks & food site

I was out on the web looking for some broccoli slaw recipes since I have a potluck to attend and lots of broccoli. After learning how to spell broccoli (2 c’s one l) I came across the “What Geeks Eat” blog. Well, as a geek, of course I had to check it out. Not only did the recipe sound great but also down-to-earth-doable for those of us that spend way too much time on the computer. Plus, the author is a fan of fresh local food – so I have a new food blog on the links here and in my RSS reader. I’ll be trying this recipe out later today. If it comes out well and I remember to take a photo, I’ll post my version (full of substitutions as always) here.

Meantime check out What Geeks Eat for some new ideas and delicious brain food.

Lemon Ginger Carrot Cornbread

lemon ginger carrot cornbreadSummer has come to our little corner of the woods, but no summer break in the craziness. So when I felt the need for fresh baked goods I had to fall back on good old “just add water” Marie Callender’s Cornbread mix. As a way to sneak some additional veggies into our diet I decided that grated carrots would be a good addition. And since I was getting creative anyhow, I decided to add some grated lemon peel and powdered ginger too. After smelling it in the oven, I was really glad I did. Jim was late for work but stuck around long enough to try some and declare it delicious enough to blog about – so here it is. Just follow the recipe on the package for an 8 x 8 pan and cut the water back to just over a cup for about 1/2 cup of grated carrots and add the rest to taste.

Three Cans & a Box

I’ve been making up recipes for years. I think it all started when it was my job to have the family dinner on the table by the time mom came home from work. Ah nothing like the pressure of cooking everyday with limited store bought ingredients, but plenty of frozen & canned meats, fruits & veggies from the garden to get those creative juices flowing.

Here’s one I made up in college, flexing my skills on the fast, easy, available, pre-made foods. I gotta say it became a favorite among my friends. This one also works wonders for those last minute potlucks too. Just double the recipe to 6 cans & 2 boxes & use a larger cake pan. Guys at potlucks love this stuff & clean the plate every time! Go figure…

Three Cans & a Box

1 Can Tamales
1 Can Chili
1 Can Corn
1 Box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix + milk & egg

Pre-heat oven 350°

Open can of tamales & dump into 9×9 pan. Remove the pieces of paper surrounding each tamale & chop into bite size pieces. Open can of chili & add the pan. Open can of corn, use lid to drain juice & add to the pan. Mix ingredients together. Make corn muffin mix by following directions on the back of the box. Spoon batter over the top of the chili mixture & bake until the top is golden brown.

Sweet Potato Stew

So I like the flavor of pozole, but the hominy, well, not so much. So this is what I came up with. It’s perfect for my oh too big 6-quart slow cooker crock pot thing, but I’m sure it can be slow-baked in one of those fancy enamel coated cast iron dutch ovens too. Don’t let the fact that it contains 5 jalapenos slow ya down either, after 8 hours they mellow into a flavorful sauce that won’t send you grasping frantically for your beer. I don’t measure when I cook so the amounts are approximate, just make it look & taste good to you.

Sweet Potato Stew

4 Pork Shoulder Steaks
Salt & Pepper
2 Onions, sliced thin
3 Jalapeno chilis, seeded & minced
1 Tbsp Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Meat Magic
6 Cloves Garlic, pressed
1 28oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 Oranges (Peel a strip of zest with a potato peeler, about 12″ or so, then juice the oranges)
2 Chipotle Chilis in Adobo sauce, minced
1 Tsp dried oregano leaves
2 largish Sweet Potatoes, washed & chopped about 1/2″ cubes
Chicken Broth
corn starch
1/2 bunch Cilantro, remove the big stems & chopped

Salt & pepper then brown steaks one at a time in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. You won’t need oil, there should be enough fat on the steaks. Stack them up in the middle of your slow cooker.

Add some oil if there isn’t juices in the pan from the meat. Add the onions, jalapenos & meat magic to the pan. Cook until the onions are softened & the rendered juices have cooked out. Add the garlic & just warm it on top, don’t brown the garlic. Add the tomatoes, using the juices to scrape up all the goodness stuck on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, then add it the slow cooker.

Distribute the onions & peppers between the steaks, but keep them stacked in the center of the slow cooker. Add the orange juice, chipotles and oregano to the slow cooker & stir. Nestle the sweet potatoes & orange zest strip around the edges. Add the chicken broth until the meat & potatoes are covered.

My cooker has a low 8 hour setting. Cook for 8 hours, go to work, go to bed, whatever, just don’t stir or mess with it. If you are using the oven, cover tightly, 300° for 4 hours or so, until potatoes are soft & the meat is starting to fall apart.

Turn off slow cooker & pull the meat out & set aside to cool. Pull the potatoes out & set aside. Discard the orange zest strip. Let the juices settle & skim off the fat. Mix some corn starch with water. Add to the juices & turn slow cooker on to high to thicken sauce. Add potatoes back in & the cilantro. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull the bones, gristle & fat bits out & toss the meat chunks back into the pot.

Spoon into bowls & serve with a daub of sour cream & some tortillas, a spritz of fresh lime, & the beer of course! Mmmm

This freezes well too.

Experimental Snack a Success!

From my friend Jan:

A small dab of goat cheese on a small square of dark chocolate, washed down with a glass of blueberry juice 

her verdict: Yum Yum!

Sweet & Sour Salmon Patties

Once again there has been too much to do and no time to shop. And yet we need to eat. Foraging in the freezer I turned up the last 2 salmon patties from Costco – wild alaskan salmon in burger format, one of our favorites. We were out of bread products but still had the last packet of Trader Joe frozen Jasmine rice. So we have protein and carbs – but what about veggies?

Rummaging through the crisper (my friend says it should more accurately be called the rotter) I turned up a few mushrooms and a bit of kale that needed some serious sorting through. Not quite enough for a meal for 2 so I needed something else. The cupboards yielded pineapple which inspired a sweet and sour stir fry. It turned out amazingly well considering its origins.

Here’s how it went down:

Fried up the salmon patties in a little oil and removed to keep them crisp. Quick and easy – about 4 minutes a side.
In the same pan I added the mushrooms, a bit of onion, kale and finally half a can of pineapple with just a bit of the juice.

For flavor some soy sauces and sweet chili sauce and for sour some rice wine vinegar.

I let that cook down a bit and poured the lot over the salmon patties nested on a bed of rice.

Turns out that pineapple works well with salmon after all and does a bang up job standing in for vegetables some times.

Penne alla Vodka

Well New Years has come and gone and all thats left of the parties are hazy memories and a cabinet of leftover liquor. So what do you do with the three bottles of Stoli you were convinced would not be enough – never mind the fact that the amount you purchased worked out to like 10 White Russians or 20 martini’s a piece. The answer lies in a spicy pasta sauce originating the Bologna region of Italy. I first experienced this dish growing up in NY/NJ where it first gained popularity in America. It’s most commonly served with chicken or prawns but you could really use any protein that can stand up to a strong sauce.

I’ve written the recipe as I think it’s best but many of the ingredients can be substituted to suit different tastes or availability of ingredients. There are two exceptions: first, the vodka. Use good vodka. I’ll elaborate in a minute. The second exception is the cheese – Pecorino Romano is a sharp, salty, semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese that really makes this dish sing. Feel free to substitute parmesan cheese, or get creative if you like, but if you enjoy this dish enough to make it a second time I urge you to try it with the romano cheese and let me know what you think.

Ok, back to the Vodka. Like I said, use good vodka. This is a rule I follow religiously with all forms of liquor, beer, wine, olive oil, spices – you get the idea. To quote Papa John – Better ingredients make a better pizza. Now chances are you already have decent vodka at your disposal but if not I’d suggest rethinking why you have so much vodka leftover in the first place. My personal favorite for this dish is Monopolowa but I’m willing to bet any mid-range vodka will yield pleasing results.

Penne alla Vodka
(Serves 3-4)


  • 1 1/2C vodka
  • 1 can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (for extra tomato flavor add tomato paste or fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 lg onion, medium dice
  • 1 head garlic, minced (you could use less – but why?)
  • 1 Tbs cayenne pepper (a jalapeño or other hot pepper will also work)
  • 1 C heavy cream (often called whipping cream or heavy whipping cream)
  • 2 Tbs butter, softened (professional chefs use unsalted – if you use salted go easy on the cheese which will be salty)
  • 1/2 C Fresh grated Pecorino Romano Cheese


  1. Sweat the onions in oil or butter over med-high heat. Cook until translucent or even golden but do not brown or burn.
  2. Add garlic and saute briefly – until pungent garlic smell is noticed; usually about 30 seconds.
  3. Add caned tomatoes including any juice and cayenne pepper. Saute until nearly all liquid has cooked off. Stir frequently enough to prevent scorching of tomatoes.
  4. Add vodka and again cook until most the liquid is evaporated being careful not to scorch.
  5. Add heavy cream and reduce heat to medium. Reduce cream by about 1/3rd.
  6. Turn off heat and finish with grated cheese and softened butter (butter is optional but will add richness and sheen to the sauce).

The taste should be a creamy tomato with a strong cheesy richness and a pronounced heat. If any of these parts are off the flavor will seem a little lacking – play with the recipe until you get it to your liking. All that’s left is to serve it with a hollow pasta such as rigatoni, ziti or penne.

Garnish with fresh basil.


new author – a real chef!

whoops this comes a bit late but Scott Noble, a real chef – as in he does this for a living has joined the fold and his first post sounds good to me… real good.

note to self: add author attribution to posts