Saturday, February 13, 2016

Slow Cooker Drunk Irish Stew

We had a week of really cold and wet weather.  We bundled up as the temperature took a dive. That doesn't happen here very often.  This time, we were cold and our backyard rain gauge registered 1.3 inches of rain!  It did look as though I could launch one of the kayaks in the backyard but instead, I decided that I should make something that would warm me up! And that is how I determined to make Kate's Drunk Irish Stew.

Drunk Irish Stew
adapted from Kate's Kitchen

3 cups diced russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs stew meat, cubed
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups low sodium beef broth/stock
3/4 cup red wine
3/4 cup Guinness beer
4 oz. tomato paste
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

After chopping all of the vegetables, place them in the bottom of your slow cooker.

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a fry pan on medium heat.  Brown the beef cubes in batches. Add a little additional olive oil for the second batch, if needed.  As you are browning the last batch, add the garlic.  Stir for a minute.  You want the garlic to bloom, not brown.  Add the beef and garlic to the slow cooker.

Add the sauce ingredients.  Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to release all of the fond.  Pour the sauce over the vegetables and meat in the slow cooker.

Set the slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-9 hours.  About 30 minutes prior to serving the stew, make a slurry by mixing 2 Tablespoons cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons water.  Thicken the stew by mixing the slurry into the stew.

Ladel the stew into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Serve with crusty bread.  Enjoy!


This hit the spot on this cold and wet day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chocolate, Chocolate and More Chocolate!

After looking at My Carolina Kitchen and loving all of her beautiful Valentine desserts, I looked at the calendar and was shocked!  I have not given any thought to our menu and since I have been trying to avoid sweets....well, I hadn't thought about that either!   Since I am a firm believer that on occasion one must have dessert first, I decided to start with chocolate...who needs to watch weight on Valentine's Day!!

I am sharing some of my favorite chocolate desserts with you and at the same time trying to decide which one I will make for Love Day!

This Devil's Food Cake Verrine recipe is four layers of delicious chocolate: chocolate sauce, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and chocolate streusel.  It was so worth the effort.....and accompanied by a nice was heavenly!

If time is a factor, these little Two Bite Chocolate Cream Pies are delightful morsels.  Sometimes, just a taste is all I need!  You can find the recipe for these adorable fellow right here.

If you are looking for something a little different these Mexican Chocolate Brownies are for you. They were absolutely amazing!  These are a dessert that keeps reappearing, at our house!

Sometimes less is more....and, just a little bite will do.  These Double Chocolate Sugar Cookies were absolutely wonderful and certainly addressed the chocolate craving around our house.

I hope you Valentine's Day is extra special!

I am participating in Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cheddar Cheese Soup - Blogger CLUE

Sometimes the best laid plans are set aside and one must roll with the spur of the moment epiphany! You see, we went to a Super Bowl Party.
Normally that would have nothing to do with my blog post.
I had my Wednesday post ready...done...scheduled...awaiting the day...  

Then, on Monday evening, as I contemplated the menu for dinner, I had visions of vegetables...lots of vegetables...all of the vegetables that didn't make it onto the vegetable tray and the few left over after the game.  There were lots of tidy ziplocks lined up in the frig all filled with a variety of vegetables....

Kate's words came to me "...and I'd have added some cauliflower and broccoli to the vegetables."  I had cauliflower.  I had broccoli.  I had the onion, carrots, and celery.  At that moment I knew we were going to make the shrimp I had taken out of the freezer into an appetizer and use the beautiful vegetables that were waiting for their new life in a Cheddar Cheese Soup!

Who is Kate, you ask, and how did you find her?  Kate is a financial planner by day who "lives to cook" because she "loves to eat."  She also has a live-in sous chef and taste tester who just happens to be her husband who also likes to eat and cook!  Sounds like a great pair.  Kate started her blog, Kate's Kitchen so that she could share her wonderful culinary adventures and also share with us.

I was introduced to Kate through the Blogger CLUE Society.  Blogger CLUE Society is a recipe exchange group.  Each month members are assigned a blog, a theme and challenged to find a recipe that meets the theme!  How fun is that?!  I love a challenge...I love exploring new blogs....I love to cook....and, I do love to eat new things.

This month's theme is Soups and Stews which is why I was wrestling with which recipe I should make from Kate's blog.  I thought about her Tuscan Bean Stew, the Drunken Irish Stew, and the Ham and Potato Chowder.   Lots of choices but since I had everything I was the Cheddar Cheese Soup!

I did fuss with the recipe a little bit.  Kate wasn't entirely happy with the soup and made some recommendations so I followed through and came up with a combination that Terry raved about.  He must have told me ten times, throughout the evening, how much he enjoyed the score one for Kate and me!

Since Kate was not happy with the thickness of the soup, I made a roux to get things going. That worked really well.  Then, as I mentioned earlier, I added some cauliflower and broccoli.  It was perfect.  Sadly, my bacon was at a point in its life where we wouldn't want to eat, nix the bacon but next time, there will be bacon!  I also adjusted the amount of liquid...there are only two of us!

Cheddar Cheese Soup
adapted from Kate's Kitchen

Yield:  about 12-one cup servings

1/2 cup diced bacon (about 2-3 ounces)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups of a mixture of cauliflower and broccoli florets, cut into small bite size pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup beer
3 cups milk
3/4 lb sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 flour

Brown and drain the bacon.  Set aside to use as a garnish.

Wipe out the skillet and add the olive oil.  Saute the onion, celery and carrots until softened and the onion is transparent.  Set aside.

In the stock pot melt the butter and add the flour.  Mix thoroughly.  Very gradually add in the cold milk stirring well with each addition.  Continue mixing to assure there are no lumps.

Add in the sauted vegetables, chicken stock, and beer.  Mix well.  When the mixture is hot, add the cheese.  Stir the cheese until melted.  Add the cauliflower and the broccoli.  Simmer gently until the vegetables are tender.

Serve the soup with bacon crumbles on top.  Or, chop the parsley and sprinkle on top.


For more soup and stew recipes to temp you family, take a look at the recipes other members of Blogger CLUE are sharing.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lokshen Kugel aka Noodle Pudding

I have always been intrigued by kugel.  I have always wanted to sample it.  I have always wanted to make it.  So, I was delighted to find a recipe for Lokshen Kugel on Dena's blog, Oh!  You Cook! Now, I had no idea what a lokshen was but I did know that a kugel was a type of pudding or casserole made from noodles.  After a little reading I learned that Lokshen is the Yiddish word for noodles. Alright, I am on a roll.....Lokshen Kugel is a noodle pudding or casserole.  Today it was a pudding as I determined to make it sweet as opposed to savory!

Dena told me that a kugel made for dessert has all kinds of tasty ingredients:  cinnamon, sugar, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter and start.  This sounded pretty tasty to me.  I continued reading about kugel and learned that the ratio of sugar to noodles is usually 1 1/2 cups sugar to a 12 ounce package of noodles. So, I did increase the sugar from the original recipe.  I also added a topping of crushed corn flakes mixed with cinnamon and sugar.

This was super good.  I served it at a dinner with our dear friends.  Steve and his brother both said that this reminded them of the kugel that their grandmother used to make.  They were really pleased to savor this wonderful dessert and I was very pleased that my first attempt was well received! Thank you, Dena for sharing!

Lokshen Kugel
adapted from Oh! You Cook!

1 12-ounce package wide egg noodles
16 ounce small curd cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup raisins, dark or golden
Crushed corn flakes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Yield:  16 party-size servings

Preheat oven:  350° F.
Spray a 13 X 9-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Cook noodles per package directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Transfer noodles to prepared baking pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together the cottage cheese, sour cream, and melted butter.  In a small mixing bowl, lightly whisk the eggs.  Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.  Then, whisk.  Stir the egg mixture into the cheese mixture and then pour over the noodles. and mix lightly.

Add the diced apple and raisins.  Gently mix until the noodles are completely coated with the egg-cheese mixture and fruit is evenly distributed.

Crush the cord flakes and mix with the cinnamon and sugar.  Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the noodles.

Cover the pan loosely with foil.  Bake for about thirty minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional twenty to thirty minutes or until lightly browned.

Serve the kugel hot sprinkled with additional cinnamon and sugar if desired,


Dena had so many great recipes on her blog that it was hard to narrow down the choices.  I considered the Garlic Cheddar Biscuits and the Potato Latkes  but the kugel just had a special gravitation!  :-)

I need to tell you more about Dena.  She is quite the cook and author of the cookbook, The Everything Kosher Slow Cooker Cookbook.  It is filled with kosher recipes and tons of tips for preparing some amazing recipes!  If you have time, visit Dena's blog, it is filled with stories, history, musings, and recipes that will warm your heart and your tummy!

I learned about Dena when I was paired with her, this month, for the Secret Recipe Club.  What a treat it was.  Dena has a wonderful blog with lots of recipes making it very difficult to focus on just one!!

I hope you have some time to visit other members of the Secret Recipe Club.  You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ribollita - Twice-Cooked Florentine Vegetable Soup

My daughter told me that Ribollita was a soup that I had to make.  So, when I saw Bittman's recipe on the New York Times recipe feed, I decided that there couldn't be a better time.  It was raining and it was cold!  My daughter also followed up with the comment that she used Biba's recipe that was in Biba's Italy.  Both recipes had an appeal so I went to work doing my own variation...what can go wrong with vegetable soup?!  Nothing.  It was delicious!

First, what is Ribollita?  Ribollita is a Tuscan soup that is made with inexpensive vegetables such as cannellini beans, savoy cabbage, kale, carrots and onions to name a few and it is served over day old bread.  The word ribollita means "reboiled" so in the process it will be brought to a boil twice or, as the ancient soup came about:  reheated and then served over stale bread!  However you choose to do it and whatever vegetables you choose to use, it will be good!  I know that I didn't use the exact measurements for the vegetables.  I stayed in the range but put together what looked good to me....

Twice-Cooked Florentine Vegetable Soup
and Biba's Italy, Biba Caggiano

5 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed (about a tablespoon)
2 celery stalks (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large potato, peeled and coarsely diced (about 2 cups)
1/2 small head Savoy cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 small bunch of leafy kale (I used about 3/4 of the bunch)
1-15 oz. can diced Italian tomatoes (San Marzano, if available)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 fresh thyme sprig
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock may be used) (Add additional based on the amount of vegetables that you are using.  I ended up with six cups of stock.)
5 thick slices crusty Italian bread
1/2  cup shredded Parmesan

Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When it is hot, add the onion, celery, and carrots.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, parsley and stir until the garlic blooms.  Add the kale, cabbage, potato.  Stir.  Add the tomatoes and juices, drained and rinsed beans, rosemary, thyme and enough stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan partially with the lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Remove the rosemary and thyme stems.  Taste.  Adjust the seasonings.

Ladle soup into bowls and place a slice of bread on top of the soup.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and top with shredded Parmesan.  Put the bowls under the broiler until the cheese is browned.


This was a hearty and filling soup!

I am participating in Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Smoky Beef Chili with Black Beans and Corn - Planning for the Game!

Game day is around the corner!  That means that it is time to break out the recipe collection and find a good chili recipe.  As I comb through the cookbooks and the "pile" of recipes, I realize that I am easily distracted when it comes to cookbooks and "the recipe collection".  My mind meanders when I see a great dish and I think of when it could be part of the perfect meal.  I get myself bogged down in the appetizers and think about having a wine and appy evening.

As I plan my imaginary get together, I remember the focus...chili!  Searching for a recipe is kind of like is easy to go down a rabbit hole and totally lose sight of the focus!  But, I found it. I found a recipe that sounded delicious and would make enough for a small army:  Smoky Beef Chili with Black Beans and Corn.  There were lots of ideas for little bowls of tasty add-ons...avocado, diced fresh tomatoes, chopped purple onion, lime wedges, sliced scallions, minced cilantro, sour cream, and/or shredded cheese.  With all of those choices it was certain to be good.

The recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen and is said to be foolproof so I took it on a test drive.
We thought the chili was great. It was smoky but not spicy hot....I might increase the chipotle by two tablespoons the next time as we like it to have a bit of a snap....but, that could easily be accomplished with a bottle of chile sauce on the side.  I would definitely recommend including the lime wedges. The juice gave a nice twang to the dish.  A pan of cornbread accompanied the meal.  It was an all around comforting meal on this particular cold day.

Smoky Beef Chili 
Black Beans and Corn

Yield:  12-16 servings

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1-2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
12 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup chili powder
2 Tbsp minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (Add 1-2 Tbsp additional at the last step if you want it spicy.)
2 Tbsp ground cumin
4 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
4 pounds ground beef (85% lean)
2 (15-oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 (28-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
2 (28-oz.) cans tomato puree
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

Selected garnishes on the side such as avocado, diced fresh tomatoes, chopped purple onion, lime wedges, sliced scallions, minced cilantro, sour cream, and/or shredded cheese.


Heat the oil in a large (12 quart) pot over medium heat.  When shimmering, add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin, coriander, oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 15 minutes.  Stir the mixture often.

Increase the heat to high and stir in the ground beef, one pound at a time.  Cook while breaking up the chunks with a large wooden spoon.  Cook until it is no longer pink.  This should take about 3-4 minutes per pound.

Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato puree.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for one hour.  Stir the mixture occasionally.

Uncover and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, until the beef is tender and the chili is dark and slightly thickened.

Note:  Stop at this point if you are making the chili in advance.  The chili may be refrigerated for up to two days.  Reheat gently, about 50 to 60 minutes, over medium-low heat, stirring often. Add water, as may be needed, to adjust the consistency.  Then proceed with the recipe.

Stir in the corn.   Simmer the mixture until heated through, about 3-4 minutes.  Taste and add 1-2 Tbsp additional minced chipotle at this point, if you want it spicy. Season with salt to taste.

Serve with selected garnishes.


Since this recipe can be made two days in advance and finished up the day of the game, it is a snap!

I am linking to Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Baked Brie with Fresh Cranberry Balsamic Compote

Years ago, while visiting the Olympic Peninsula on vacation, we passed cranberry bogs.  A sea of cranberries, so to speak.  Shades of red as far as the eye could see.  I want to go back.  I want to take a tour.  I want to eat cranberries!

I have wonderful memories galore from that trip.   We rented a house on Quinault Lake, watched the little mouse sneak out and snatch peanuts, tried (there wasn't much of a picture) to watch the Dream Team play their first basketball game, hiked the old forest, saw a mountain lion, bought the most amazing prawns, went crabbing and caught extra large Dungeness crab, dug clams...never did we rest...but, boy, did we eat well!  So much fun.

After all of that cranberry bogs didn't excite the girls.  I am still intrigued and must visit again. I love cranberries.  I know, I have said it before.  I haven't changed my mind.  Each year I seem to add another cranberry "something" to my list of favorite things.  This year it is a new appetizer.

If you happen to have some fresh cranberries lingering in the refrigerator, tucked away in the freezer, or can still pick some up at the market,  you will want to make this wonderful appetizer.  What appealed to me was the idea of warm and melted brie coupled with tangy fresh cranberries...and then, the addition of balsamic vinegar to the cranberry compote, heaven.  I couldn't stop sampling the compote...mmmm.

I must give credit to the Goodie Godmother who shared the recipe on her blog....delicious, thank you, Mary.  You made my taste buds smile!

Baked Brie
with Fresh Balsamic Cranberry Compote
adapted from Goodie Godmother

1 round of Brie
Crackers or sliced and toasted baguette slices for serving

2 cups fresh whole cranberries, rinsed
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

Make the cranberry compote by simmering the fresh cranberries, water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and the sugar has dissolved.

Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer to a glass bowl.  Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven:  350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a sharp knife, cut away the very top of the Brie's rind.  Place the wheel on the baking sheet, cut side up.  Top the wheel with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the cranberry compote.  The amount is based on the size of the wheel and your preference.  Bake 12-15 minutes until the Brie is soft and melted.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter.

Serve immediately with crackers or toasted baguette slices and additional Fresh Balsamic Cranberry Compote, if desired.

NOTE:  The compote may be made up to three days in advance.


I was really happy to find this snappy appetizer!  I am even more tickled that I have cranberries in the freezer so I am not limited to making this appy just during the holidays!  Yippee!