Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beef Stew

I found this beef stew recipe in a cookbook I bought at an old Virginian plantation. The recipe was okay... but definitely needed some "help." I wanted to give it that hearty, thick texture that I love in a big bowl of beef stew. I played around with it, tried an few different things and came up with something quite delicious... at least in my opinion. I love the hint of red wine and bacon in my stew... I mean... wine... bacon... two of my favorite things... how can you go wrong, right!?

Tip - Don't be freaked out by how many ingredients go into this. It just looks like a lot... but they're mostly all small amounts.
ALSO - Make sure you cut your potatoes in big thick chunks... otherwise, if they're small, they'll fall apart and you'll end up with a beefy, potato soup. :-(

Beef Stew


1- 1 1/2 pounds of stew beef, cut in one inch cubes
2 1/2 cups of beef broth
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 strips of bacon, chopped up in small pieces
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon or a dash of Allspice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup of tomato juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 medium carrots, skinned and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2-2 1/2 cups of potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes
2 tablespoons red wine or a dry vermouth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon of flour


1. In a large stewing pot, cook the bacon on medium high heat until it's brown and slightly crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon bits from the pot and put on a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.

2. Add beef cubes to the pot and let cook in the bacon grease. About 5-6 minutes.

3. Add chopped onions to the pot and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Add broth to the pot. Stir. Add tomato juice, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, lemon juice, paprika, and allspice. Stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

5. After 1 hour, add carrots, potatoes celery and 2 tablespoons of red wine (vermouth works too.) Let simmer for 1 hour.

6. In a small bowl, add cornstarch and flour and mix with 1 tablespoon of water. Add to the stew, stirring it in slowly and carefully.

7. Remove stew from heat and let it rest for 3 minutes to thicken.

8. Serve with buttered bread or dinner rolls.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taco Casserole

I love one dish meals! They're perfect for those weekdays when you just want to throw a bunch things into a dish, pop in the oven and "BAMB!"... dinner is served. I found this recipe in a helpful cookbook titled Campell's Cooking Companion. I added corn to the casserole... not because I was trying to be different, but because I had three ears of corn I needed to cook or they'd go bad... and it turned out wonderfully. The recipe calls for cheddar cheese... but I'm sure it would be excellent with nacho cheese too. I think I'll try that next time. :-)

Taco Casserole


1 pound ground beef
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campell's Condensed Tomato Soup
1 cup Chunky Salsa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup uncooked instant white rice
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/2 shredded Cheddar cheese
1 can sweet corn


1. Cook the beef in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the beef is well browned, stirring frequently to break up meat. Pour off any fat.

2. Stir the soup, salsa, milk, corn and rice into the skillet. Spoon the soup mixture into a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. Cover the dish with foil.

3. Bake at 400 F. for 25-30 minutes. Stir.

4. Sprinkle the chips around the edge of the casserole . Sprinkle with cheese.

Cooking Tip #20

"Don't throw out your broccoli stems: peel them, then cut into cubes and steam, thinly slice and saute, or shred them for a slaw." - Lesley Stockton, Senior Associate Food Editor - Everyday Food: from the kitchen of Martha Stewart

You can also boil broccoli stems, as well other types of veggie stems, to make a vegetable broth.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sour Cream-Milk Chocolate Cookies

I found this simple recipe on an iphone application - All in One Cookbook, for all those iphone users who are interested. I suppose want really intrigued me about this recipe was the sour cream. I mean - it's not the first ingredient I think of when making cookies. But I admit, these cookies are super good. I made a big batch them in Dayton, Ohio when I was performing there last month. I put the cookies in little brown bags and gave them out to the hard working crew running our the show. Naturally, they were a HUGE hit. I figure, if you want to have a pleasant experience while working on an opera/show, spoil the folks who do all the important things offstage - starting with the stage manager. If you do this you'll never miss a cue, your costume and makeup will always look amazing, and the spotlight will never cease to following you while you're singing... and all because of these delicious little cookies. :-)

Sour Cream-Milk Chocolate Cookies


1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup butter - softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (11 ounces) of milk chocolate chips - 2 cups


1. Heat oven to 350ยบ

2. Beat sugar, sour cream, butter, shortening, vanilla and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon.

3. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.

4. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.

5. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.

6. Cool 1 to 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cooking Tip #19

"If you're cooking for someone important — whether it's your boss or a date — never try a new recipe and a new ingredient at the same time." - Marcus Samuelsson

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Baking a chicken pot pie takes a little practice for your average joe, but if you're feeling up to a little challenge the end result will be well worth it. I had been wanting to make one for a long time and finally found a recipe, in Everyday Food magazine, that looked manageable. My first attempt at crimping the edges of the dough was quite ugly... but everything else turned out wonderfully!

Chicken Pot Pie


for the crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick (or 1/2 cup) of cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

for the filling

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
coarse salt & pepper
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped


1. Make crust: In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. (if you don't have a food processor you can also do this with your hands and a fork.) Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of ice water. Pulse dough, in a food processor or with your hands, until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm - 1 hour or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 375.

3. Make filling: In large pot, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion and carrots and cook until softened, 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add flour and stir to coat vegetables. Slowly add broth, whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in peas. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in chicken and parsley. Pour filling into a 2-quart baking dish.

4. On a floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Place dough over dish and fold overhang inward while pinching to crimp edge. Cut vents in dough. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling around edge, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cooking Tip #18

" When chopping herbs, toss a little salt onto the cutting board; it will keep the herbs from flying around. "

Joanne Chang

Flour Bakery & Cafe, Boston

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Italian Meatballs

I've made these meatballs several times with rave reviews. I found this recipe on YouTube with an authentic Italian chef demonstrating how to make them. The ingredients are simple and to the point, the sauce is delicious, and the meatballs are filling and make for a delightful dinner on a bed of steamed rice or pasta. Enjoy!

Italian Meatballs


1-1 1/2 pounds lean round beef
2 cups tomato sauce
2 eggs
1 red onion, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
A few fresh Basil leaves, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper


Tomato sauce

1. Heat a skillet and pour in the olive oil, add onion, basil roughly chopped, and saute for a few of minutes.

2. Add tomato sauce, a pinch of salt. Cook at medium heat for 10-15 minutes

In the meanwhile make the meatballs.

3. Put the ground beef in a large bowl, crack in eggs, add a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, chopped parsley, grated Parmesan, breadcrumbs and mix together with hands until well combined.

4. With your hands, form into walnut-sized balls and place in the pan, with the tomato sauce mixture, leaving a little space in between each one. Move the pan gently and try not to
don't touch them with the spoon... to avoid breaking.

5. Add ½ cup of water room temperature, cover the pan.

6. Cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Once cooked transfer meatballs to a serving plate. Serve with rice or pasta.

Cooking Tip #17

"Save bacon fat to us in place of butter or oil in anything. Strain out any sediment and refrigerate in a jar for up to 6 months. Use it to cook pancakes, make grilled cheese, or saute greens."
- Heather Meldrom, Senior Food Editor for Everyday Food

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Homemade Tartar Sauce

Having seafood or fish tonight for dinner? Need a dipping sauce for your hushpuppies? Don't want to waste your money going to the store and buying a jar of tartar sauce? Try this - my recipe for homemade tartar sauce. If you can't make this... I would seriously worry. ;-)

Homemade Tartar Sauce


1 1/4 cup Mayo
1 tablespoon sweet relish
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
dash of Salt & Pepper

Add all these ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Place in refrigerator for 3 hours. Serve.

Homemade Hushpuppies

I humbly admit that one of my favorite fast food restaurants growing up in central California was Long John Silvers. I never eat there anymore - mostly because I know my heart probably couldn't handle all that grease - but one thing I do miss about them is their hushpuppies. They're perfect for a night when you're serving fish (either baked or fried) and coleslaw. They're also great for just dipping in tartar sauce and serving as an appetizer at a dinner party.

Tip - I tend to prefer using onion powder as opposed to real onion. It all depends on how much you like your onions. ALSO - there's my recipe for homemade tartar sauce in the above post. I think it goes well with these hushpuppies!

Homemade Hushpuppies


2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder - (or 1 yellow onion, minced)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
Peanut oil for frying


1. In a bowl add flour, sugar, cornmeal, onion powder, salt, and parsley. Whisk.

2. Add beaten eggs. Stir until dough forms. The dough may be a little dry and you may need to add a tiny bit of water to moisten.

3. Make little balls out of the dough. About a tablespoon size ball. Remember - they'll rise when fried.

3. Heat oil in an electric skillet to 365 F. If frying in a deep pot, heat oil on medium high heat. There should be enough oil in your skillet or pot to completely submerge your hush puppies. Drop your hush puppies into the oil and fry for 6 or 7 minutes, or until golden brown.

4. Transfer to a plate layer in paper towel to help absorb excess oil.

5. Serve with fish or fried chicken, coleslaw and tartar sauce.