Hearty and Healthy Beef Stew

Cold Weather Comfort Food

I’ve made Beef Stew before, but wanted to change it up. Researching other recipes, I found some that simmered in a crockpot and some that baked in an oven. (Yes, you read right. Who knew?). I decided to use a crockpot, combining recipes for Ina Garten’s “Ultimate Beef Stew” (Food Network) and Chungah’s “Slow Cooker Beef Stew” (Damn Delicious). The only addition needed? A loaf of bread. This combination requires a bit of prep time, but it’s now my go-to Beef Stew recipe because it was hearty, healthy, savory, and delicious! Plus, there was enough leftover for future meals. Yay!

Hon, hope you find your own comfort during this strangest of holiday seasons.


  • 3 pounds stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups chopped fennel*, trimmed and cored (1 large bulb)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, including the juices
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 pound carrots (4-5 carrots), scrubbed and cut 1/2 inch thick diagonally
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (2 large potatoes), scrubbed, 1-inch diced
  • 2 celery stalks, cut diagonally into slices
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 10 ounces frozen peas
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Season beef with salt and pepper, to taste. Add beef to the skillet and cook until evenly browned, about 2-3 minutes. (Tip: Drain cooked beef on paper towels before adding to crockpot. If there’s a lot of oil left in skillet, once it cools, wipe it down before heating up wine.)
  3. Place beef, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and peas into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in beef broth, Worcestershire, thyme, paprika, turmeric, and bay leaves.
  4. Heat 1/3 cup of the wine in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, fennel, garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Stir tomato paste and diced tomatoes into the vegetables. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Add to crockpot. Stir ingredients until well combined; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.


–The original recipes call for less meat, but I used 3 pounds so that there’d be enough for now and later.

–If, like me, you’ve never cut fennel before, click here to watch Melissa Clark’s video. Now I know!

Yield: Approximately 8-10 servings.

Hot Mulled Apple Cider

Photo courtesy of Foodnetwork.com.

How was your Thanksgiving, Hon?

Ours was wonderful, not only because the unseasonably warm weather allowed our family to spend the day outside, but because it started with Hot Mulled Apple Cider. Shout out to my daughter Morgan who whipped up this delicious and festive Fall drink. Want to make your own? Check out this easy recipe from Ina Garden for Foodnetwork.com.


  • 16 cups pure apple juice or fresh apple cider
  • Four 2-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 2 oranges, peels and juice
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 6 star anise (Morgan used whiskey instead.)


Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and serve.

What’s For Dinner? Sheet-Pan Chicken With Scallions and Capers

Photo source–Con Poulos for The New York Times, Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

One of the dinners my son cooked during quarantine was a sheet-pan dish. His roasted chicken and veggie rainbow was as colorful as it was delicious! Shortly after that, I read Kay Chun’s Sheet-Pan Chicken With Scallions and Capers recipe for The New York Times and one more meal was planned. The verdict? Make it again, please!

Describing the dish, Chun says,

This one-pan chicken dinner requires only five ingredients, making it perfect for busy weeknights. Meaty chicken thighs roast on top of scallions and potatoes until the chicken is golden and juicy and the scallions are tender and sweet. Despite the short ingredient list, this dish delivers deep flavor and varying textures: The potatoes on the bottom soak up the tasty pan juices while the ones on top turn crispy. Any extra pan drippings get mixed with capers and lemon juice for a quick, tangy sauce. You could also use some of the sauce to dress a simple side salad.

Sheet-Pan Chicken With Scallions and Capers

  • 12 scallions, trimmed (about 1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes (about 3 large), sliced 1/8-inch-thick (about 4 cups)
  • 8 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus 4 lemon wedges for serving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place scallions in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a medium bowl, season potatoes with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons oil. Spread half of potatoes in a single layer over scallions.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and place on top of the potatoes. Arrange remaining potatoes around chicken. Roast until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender and golden, 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Transfer chicken, potatoes and scallions to serving plates. Scrape remaining pan juices and drippings into a small bowl, stir in capers and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Spoon over chicken and serve with lemon wedges, if using.

Yield: 4 servings

Sheet Pan Sources:  Feasting at Home, Food Network, Bon Appetit

Pretty Pies

I’m in cooking/cleaning/company-is-coming-yikes mode! In the midst of prepping, one thing always calms me down…baking. Rolling out dough is just like playing with clay (Now I know why I like pottery so much!)

Shout out to Linda for sending me a link to an article from Food Network, “8 Creative Ways to Crimp a Pie” which inspired me to add fun shapes and letters to my pies this year. You can barely make out the letters (X’s and O’s), but the snowflakes and leaves are oh-so-cute.

I had this humorous text exchange with one of my daughters.

Me: “It’s pie day.”

Hannah: “Yum!”

Hannah: “I thought you meant actual pie day and then I was like, what, it isn’t March.”

Me with accompanying picture of a pie: “Pie Day!”

Hannah: “OMG YUMMM. Can’t wait.”

Click here for an apple pie recipe and here to watch a pie-making video.

Click here for a pumpkin pie recipe.

Click here if you want to watch how to make a gluten-free pie crust.

Happy baking, hon!

Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup

Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup

Thanksgiving is around the corner and I’m in the midst of shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning (aka moving piles from one part of the house to another!). At our holiday dinner, I always serve Velvety Vegetable Soup instead of salad, but this year I’m changing it up. (There might be a mutiny!) Since I like the consistency of Velvety Vegetable’s  blended veggies, I wondered if I could create the same texture with different ingredients. After combining and refining two recipes:  one from Ina Garten for Food Network and one from Serious Eats, I came up with my own version of Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup. This yummy soup feels like Fall.

Happy cooking, hon!


–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

–3 small to medium onions, finely diced (about 3 cups)

–3 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced (about 3 cups)

–2 ribs celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)

–3 garlic cloves, minced

–2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (cannellini or great northern), with their liquid

–1 quart chicken stock (I use a low sodium “chicken stock” that’s actually parve.)

–1 teaspoon ground thyme

–1 teaspoon dried mustard

–1/4 teaspoon paprika

–1/4 teaspoon tumeric

–2 bay leaves

–2 teaspoons kosher salt

–1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

–either 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches), 4 6-inch sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped and stems reserved, or 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary

–Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving, optional


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add chicken broth, beans with their liquid, thyme, mustard, paprika, tumeric, bay leaves, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Take soup off of heat and let cool a bit. Discard bay leaves and rosemary stems.
  4. In batches, transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (start on low speed and increase to high to prevent blender blow-out). Return to the stockpot and stir to combine. Season to taste.
  5. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with reserved chopped rosemary leaves, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve with crusty toasted bread.

Yield: Makes about 2 quarts, servings 6-8.

Tip: I’ll make this ahead of time, freeze it and, after defrosting, re-blend with a hand blender.

Summer Dinner Menu

Chicken Slider, Potato Salad and String Beans
Chicken Slider, Potato Salad and String Beans

I was so happy with this meal, I wanted to share the whole menu with you.

Happy cooking, hon!

Salad:  Escarole with green apple, celery root and toasted pecans

Main Dish:  Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo

Side Dish:  Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

Veggie:  Steamed String Beans

Dessert:  Chocolate Chip Cookies


Escarole salad
Escarole Salad recipe found in Fine Cooking magazine.

Salad:  Escarole with Green Apple, Celery Toot and Toasted Pecans

According to Fine Cooking, the vinaigrette tastes better when made ahead. The recipe recommends preparing vinaigrette up to 2 days before serving and store in refrigerator, tightly covered. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature and whisk lightly before dressing salad.


2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon minced shallot

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium head escarole (about 1 lb.)

1 medium Granny Smith Apple (7-8 oz.)

1 small celery root (about 1/2 lb.)

1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted (I spread them out on a toaster tray and toasted them a few times.)

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

optional:  1/4 lb. blue cheese, crumbled to yield about 1 cup (I didn’t add blue cheese to the salad above.)


1.  To make the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, shallot, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black petter. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes, then whisk in olive oil. (If adding blue cheese, add 2 Tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese and stir gently.)

2.  Remove any tough, discolored, or broken outer escarole leaves. Trim off root end and tear leaves in bite-size pieces.  Wash well.  (Estimated amt-6 lightly packed cups.) If you prepare the escarole ahead of time, store in a bowl covered with a slightly damp towel in the fridge until ready to toss.

3.  Up to 1 hour before serving the salad, peel, core, and dice apple into 1/4 inch cubes (about 1 1/4 cups). Slice the thick skin from celery root and dice it the same as the apple. (I didn’t have celery root, so I just diced a celery stalk.)

5.  Add celery to diced apple and toss with 2 Tablespoons of vinaigrette to prevent discoloration. Cover and refrigerate until ready to toss the salad.

6.  Ten minutes before serving salad, toss the escarole and apple/celery root mixture with remaining dressing. Break up pecans into salad and toss to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and petter. (If adding blue cheese, the magazine says the blue cheese will add a little saltiness, so don’t oversalt the salad. Crumble remaining blue cheese over salad just before serving.

Serves 6 to 8


Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo
Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo from blog Mamas Gotta Bake

Main Dish:  Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo

Slider Ingredients:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, flattened and cut into approx. 2″ x 4″ pieces (I bought mine pre-flattened and used a little more chicken than the recipe called for.)

1 1/2 cups panko crumbs (or regular bread crumbs if you can’t find panko crumbs)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 Tablespoon milk (I used almond milk.)

vegetable or canola oil for frying

salt and pepper to taste

8 mini slider rolls (I found dairy-free Mini Pretzel Rolls at Whole Foods)

Extras–lettuce, tomato, onion

Herbed Mayo Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon finely minced parsley

1 teaspoon finely minced chives

1 teaspoon finely minced chervil (optional)

1/2 teaspoon mustard (dijon or brown)

1 teaspoon lime juice

salt and pepper to taste

(I used a combo of fresh and dried herbs.)


1.  Rinse chicken with cool water and pat dry.  Cut into approx. 2″ x 4″  pieces. LIghtly season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Make a “dredging station” by putting panko crumbs in one shallow bowl, the flour mixed with salt and pepper in another shallow bowl, and the 2 eggs beaten with 1 Tablespoon of milk (or dairy substitute) in a another shallow bowl.

3.  Using tongs or a fork, dip chicken into flour and gently shake off excess.  Next, dip it into egg mixture on both sides. Last, dip chicken into panko crumbs, pressing crumbs to adhere to chicken. Lay finished coated pieces on a wax paper covered baking sheet.

4.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, pour vegetable oil about 1/4″ deep. Fry chicken when oil has heated up (but not too hot, otherwise the outside coating will burn and the chicken inside won’t cook through.) Without crowding pan, fry chicken until pieces are golden brown. I always check doneness of chicken by making a small cut before removing from pan.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

5.  To make the Herbed Mayo, place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to your own taste. Cover bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

6.  Assemble sandwiches, spread with Herbed Mayo.

Servings:  8 Slider Sandwiches


Old-Fashioned Potato Salad from cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home
Old-Fashioned Potato Salad from cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Side Dish:  Old-Fashioned Potato Salad


3 pounds small red potatoes

kosher salt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup buttermilk, milk, or white wine (I used white wine in dish above.)

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup medium-diced celery

1/2 cup small-diced red onion


1.  Place potatoes and 2 Tablespoons salt in large pot of water. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until potatoes are barely tender when pieced with a knife.  Drain potatoes in a colander, then place colander with potatoes over empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel.  Leave potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, buttermilk (or wine), Dijon and whole-grain mustards, dill, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

3.  When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters or halves, depending on their size.  Place cut potatoes in a large bowl and pour dressing over them to moisten.  (As the salad sits, you may need to add more dressing.) Add celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.

4.  Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow flavors to blend.

Serves:  6 to 8


Chocolate Chip Cookies
Tate’s Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Dessert:  Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (thin and crisp)


2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup salted butter or margarine, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Either grease two cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.

2.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3.  In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars.  Add the water and vanilla.  Mix the ingredients until they are just combined.

4.  Add the eggs and mix them lightly.  Stir in the flour mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Don’t overmix the dough.

5.  Drop the cookies 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

6.  Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges and centers are brown.  Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  4 1/2 dozen three-inch cookies.

Unbaked cookie dough may be left in fridge for a few days and freezer for over a month.



Fine Cooking magazine

Mama’s Gotta Bake blog

Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten cookbook

Bon Appetit website

London Broil

London broil, roasted potatoes and gingery sauteed carrots.
London broil, roasted potatoes and gingery sauteed carrots.

London Broil

My son was coming home for the weekend. What to make for dinner? Something hearty, of course! First I picked up London broil from the butcher, then I searched for a recipe. I found this Paula Deen recipe on the Food Network website.  Controversy over Paula Deen aside, this was an easy-to-follow, not-too-time-consuming, delicious recipe.

Happy cooking, hon!

Approx. 3 pound London broil.
Approx. 3 pound London broil.

Prep the meat with salt and pepper.
Prep the meat with salt and pepper.


Reducing glaze.
Reducing glaze.

Slather meat with reduced glaze.
Slather meat with reduced glaze.


Use a meat thermometer while broiling to determine desired doneness.
Use a meat thermometer while broiling to determine desired doneness.

Let London broil rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
Let London broil rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Dinner's served!
Dinner’s served!



1 (3-pound) London broil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled

1 bay leaf


Preheat broiler and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Season meat with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over a low heat, combine  vinegar, brown sugar, garlic and bay leaf.  Simmer until liquid has reduced by half and is syrupy in consistency, about 5 minutes. Discard garlic and bay leaf.

Put meat on baking sheet and slather with glaze.

Broil meat 4 inches from the heat until it reaches desired level of doneness*, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. When using the broiler, crack oven door open so meat doesn’t burn.

Remove from broiler to cutting board and let about 10 minutes** before cutting.  Thinly slice against the grain.

*Desired level of doneness means how well done do you like your beef?  Using a meat thermometer, take the London broil out of the oven when it reaches the desired temperature.  The meat will still cook for a few minutes when it’s out of the oven.

Chart of Meat Temperatures and Doneness

**Let the London broil rest before cutting it.  If you carve it right away, the juices will run out and the meat will be dry.  Let it rest, and the juices get reabsorbed.

Recipes for roasted potatoes and gingery sauteed carrots coming soon…

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins
Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

chocolate chips, flour, cocoa powder
chocolate chips, flour, cocoa powder

dry ingredients combined
dry ingredients combined

almond milk, vegetable oil and eggs
almond milk, vegetable oil and eggs

wet ingredients combined
wet ingredients combined

muffin batter ready for the oven
muffin batter ready for the oven

What's almost as good as the muffins?  Licking the spoon, of course!
What’s almost as good as the muffins? Licking the spatula, of course!

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

If you haven’t guessed by now, I have a sweet tooth, also known as “Dessert Disease!”

Put chocolate and chocolate chips in a muffin and I call it healthier than cake (you know I love chocolate cake!).  In any case, what I love about this recipe is that there are only 10 ingredients and they are all identifiable.  When I look up the multitude of ingredients and preservatives on the labels of baked goods at the grocery store, I get hives!  That’s not to say I never buy store-bought baked goods (ahem…my tween loves her mini muffins), but IF I have the time and I’m not doing a million other things, you’ll find me mixing, pouring, baking and, of course, licking the spatula!

Happy baking, hon!

source:  Nigella Lawson on FoodNetwork.com


1 3/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

3/4 cup superfine sugar (I used my regular sugar)

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling

1 cup milk (I used almond milk instead)

1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, sugar, and 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips into a large bowl. Combine the liquid ingredients into another bowl.  Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Note from original recipe says “lumpy batter makes the best muffins.”  Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top and bake for 20 minutes or until muffins are dark, risen and springy.

Yield:  12 muffins