Category: Food

Easy Beef Stroganoff

A few weeks ago, Matt and I celebrated 7 years of marriage. 🙂

We took a weekend trip to get out of dodge for a few days, and stumbled upon a great little German restaurant called Edelweiss, in Staunton, Virginia.

The food was delicious. Matt had the Jagerschnitzel while I had a long-time favorite: Beef Stroganoff.

I determined I HAD to recreate this at home.

The following recipe is my version:

4-6 qt Crock Pot.
3 qt saucepan, for pasta.

1 Chuck roast approximately 3lbs, cut into 1.5 inch cubes.
2 cups Onion, thinly sliced.
8 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered.
Salt, Pepper, Garlic powder, and Cayenne powder, to taste.
1 – 12oz bottle Yuengling Lager beer.
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup.
8 oz Daisy Sour Cream.
1 lb Extra-Wide Egg Noodles.

Asiago/Parmesan cheese medley, shredded.
Crusty bread, toasted.

Place beef cubes and sliced onion into crock pot and season with spices, tossing to coat evenly.
Pour in the Yuengling beer and the can of Cream of Mushroom Soup. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook on high 5-6  hours, or until beef is fork tender.
Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare egg noodles according to package directions.
Drain in colander and toss with oil and/or butter.
Once mushrooms are softened to liking, turn off crock pot (or set to warm setting).
Check for seasoning, and add more if necessary.
Stir in sour cream.

Serve beef mixture over noodles with shredded cheese and crusty bread, if desired.


Hey kids! It’s been way too long since I’ve written anything..and actually posted it.

I was moved by the spirit (of awesome food) to share with you an accidental discovery.

But first, a little background: I love roasted tomatoes. Specifically, cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes. They are so sweet and flavorful I routinely use them as a side-dish with fish, chicken, or even a grilled panini sandwich.

I usually pick up a pint at Giant and after a wash, slice them down the middle, throw them in a pie pan with olive oil, salt, and maybe some turmeric and bake them at 400’/425′ until they bubble with deliciousness (about 10-12 minutes)

Well, last night, I forgot about them. I really did. I’d eaten my supper of roasted rosemary garlic chicken and was relaxing…until I smelled tomatoes. Uh oh!

I ran back into the kitchen to “check” them and behold, they were reduced, wrinkly, black in places, and smelled like tomato pesto.

I was intrigued.

When they cooled, I tried one. They had the best, most intense flavor ever, and I immediately ate far too  many of them.

I did the exact same thing I always had except using butter for olive oil, omitting the turmeric, and letting them cook possibly twice as long (to be honest, I’m not certain, it could have been up to 30 minutes).

Applications for this lovely accidental delight include: cherry tomato pizza sauce (puree in blender and voila!), a topping for bruschetta, pasta sauce, or even a tomato soup base (though you’ll want to dilute a bit, the flavor is strong).

Happy Monday!

Tortellini Soup
(Courtesy of Mom)

Since folks are asking, I’m passing along my mom’s excellent Tortellini Soup recipe. 🙂
This makes a lot of soup (which is fantastic). It makes great leftovers and you can freeze and gently heat for later, but you can half the recipe if you don’t need all three-plus quarts. A bonus is that the recipe is easy to make remember, I can usually have it on the table in an hour or less.

Olive oil for pot (2-3 tablespoons as needed)
8-10 ounces Italian sausage rolled into 1-inch meatballs (hot or mild…I’ve even used Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage with great results—very aromatic)
1 large onion, chopped to about ½ inch pieces
2-3 med-large green bell peppers, chopped to approx ¾ inch pieces
(Mom uses chopped carrots as well, but I don’t. Sorry Mom! 🙂 )
2-4 gloves garlic, pressed
12-14 cups beef broth (I use reduced sodium.)
8-12 ounces tomato sauce
Italian seasonings, to taste (approx 1-2 tablespoons)
Cayenne, to taste (approx ¼ teaspoon)
Salt, Pepper
1 “Family size” package of 3 cheese tortellini (Buitoni is good).
1-2 small or medium zucchini, cut into half-moon slices (maybe 3 cups?)

The Extras:
Parmesan cheese for garnish (grated is great, but shaved is even better—it melts more smoothly).
Hearty, crusty bread for dipping

Heat olive oil in large (3.5-4 qt.) soup pot over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add meatballs. Saute, stirring gently to brown evenly. When halfway done, add onions and more oil if needed (this depends on your sausage fat content—I usually need to add a bit more). Add bell peppers, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent.

Add garlic, tomato sauce, beef broth, and Italian seasonings. Stir to combine evenly. Bring to a simmer and maintain for five to ten minutes. Add cayenne, more Italian seasonings, salt and pepper as desired.

Cook for another five minutes. Add tortellini and zucchini. Bring to a low boil and cover. Cook, stirring to cook pasta and zucchini evenly. When tortellini is floats, is soft, and zucchini is soft, remove from heat and taste. If needed, simmer a bit longer until flavors meld.

Cook time: Maybe 40 minutes, give or take.
Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Recipe of the Week: Asparagus Lasagna

Don’t be frightened by the title. It sounds weird, and possibly gross to some of you, but this is possibly the best non-original (to me) recipe I’ve ever used. When finished, this tastes like the best parts of lasagna, alfredo, chicken pot pie, and asparagus all at once.

I discovered this several years ago from Sarah Moulton’s (I believe, top chef at Gourmet Magazine) “Sara’s Secrets” show on, yep, The Food Network (I really was not kidding when I said they taught me how to cook). But I made a few changes: instead of goat cheese, I use a hard cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, add chicken, and I flavor my cream with garlic powder.

This recipe may sound complex at first blush, but I just made it again yesterday from memory, and had it in the oven in less than an hour. It really is easy to do.

To begin with, you’ll need:
1.5 – 2lbs fresh, preferrably young/thin asparagus. Ends trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces (if thick, 3/4 inch pieces, if thin, 1-1 1/4 inch). Keep tops divided from stalks.
Olive oil.
4-5 cups of chicken broth (preferably homemade, but box is fine)
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 – 1/3 cup white flour
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder
2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1, 8-oz box Barilla no-boil lasagna
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6-8 oz grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese (really a matter of personal taste)

2-3 quart sauce pan
1 or 2 cookie sheets
9 x 13 baking dish
Mixing bowl
Spray grease, such as Pam.

Pre-heat your oven to 450*. Place all asparagus pieces on cookie sheet (you may need 2). Remember, tops are in a separate pile. Season and toss with salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil. Place into oven and cook for 5 minutes. Stir, and cook for another 5 minutes, until asparagus is somewhat wilted, but still has a slight crisp (I like to keep an eye on this to make sure it does not over cook. Also, personal taste rules, here.). Remove asparagus from oven and set aside. Reduce oven heat to 400*.

Next, melt butter (and a drizzle of olive oil–helps prevent burning) in sauce pan. When butter bubbles and melts, add 1/4 cup flour. Wisking to prevent clumping (I sometimes use a small mesh strainer here). If needed, add more flour to make a paste. Stir roux, cooking it for a few minute, until it turns a light brown, and bubbles. Add chicken broth, wisking to blend well. Raise heat to high and wisk at intervals. Bring mixture to a boil. Chicken broth should resemble a gravy of medium thickness. If it looks too thick, add a bit of water or broth. If not thick enough, make a slurry to thicken further. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Next, take your 2 cups of whipping cream in mixing bowl, add 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or, as much as you’d like), and begin to wisk. Wisk until mixture stiffens into whipped cream. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.

Spray 9 x 13 dish lightly with spray grease. Add 1-2 ladles of chicken sauce into bottom of dish, spreading around (this helps to prevent sticking).

Make a layer of no-boil noodles, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle 1/3 or 1/4 of shredded chicken, then asparagus (reserving tips for top layer), then grated cheese. Top with 1-2 ladles of sauce.
Repeat for a total of 3 layers (if you can make four, that’s great). Use asparagus tips for the very top layer, and use all the sauce (you’ll need this for no boil noodles to turn out right). Sprinkle on remaining cheese, as desired. Finally, spread whipped cream on the top. (This helps to insulate during cooking, and melts into the sauce).

Cook for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until cream has dissolved and noodles are tender. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve.

Recipe of the week: Chocolate Croissants

Remember I said I dislike baking? I really hate to measure while creating “edible art,” so whenever I bake, it’s usually from: 1) a mix, or 2) something I’ve memorized so well it no longer feels like work to make (such as cheesecake).

So, when I became addicted to Panera Bread’s chocolate pastry (aka, pain au chocolate), I knew I had to find a worthy substitute to have at home that didn’t have to spend 3 hours making.

Therefore, I went to the grocery store and bought, yep, Pillsbury crescent rolls.  Not the buttered kind, and not the BIG ones. I used the smaller can of 6.

Then for the chocolate. I just happened to have in my possession Scharffen Berger’s 62% semi-sweet baking chocolate.
Once whittled into smaller chunks, this made for the perfect filling in my croissants.

Just roll them out and space them on your baking sheet, fill with about a tablespoon of chocolate pieces, and trail a little “dust” down the tip, and roll. When finished, roll it down onto the point so it doesn’t fall apart when it bakes.

Bake per the package directions (10-12 minutes), until lightly golden. After a minute or two of cooling, you can enjoy a warm and gooey treat that doesn’t take all day.

This is a dinner I made for a friend. He’d made the choice to eat more healthy, but I think needed a little inspiration as  to how to do that but still enjoy what he was eating.

Fish is a very healthy protein for multiple reasons: it provides a lighter, easy-to-prepare “main dish” to build a meal around that still satisfies. It can be a great way to wean yourself off of beef, sausage, and other fattier proteins.

Most of my recipes are formulated off the cuff, meaning I didn’t measure anything. I give much greater care to remembering ratios because that’s really what’s important in cooking (baking, though, is another story).

I started with 5  squarish pieces of Mahi Mahi about 4-5 ouces each. If using a whole fish, cut filets in half short-wise and you’ll get the same result.  This is the right size to top the salad with when plating the dish.

My recipe serves 5, cooking time is less than an hour, active prep time is around 30 minutes, and inactive prep time (vinaigrette chill time) is 1-8 hours.  If you’re in a pinch though, you can serve the vinaigrette without chilling. The rest of the meal is so good I doubt you’ll get many complaints about the vinaigrette not being marinated enough.

Vinaigrette: (Make this first to allow flavors to meld. Recommended the night before, or 1-2 hrs before serving time.)
Juice of 2-3 lemons (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup).
1/2 – 2/3 cup of olive oil.
2 cloves garlic, pressed/minced.
1 Tbsp. Italian seasonings (Oregano)
Dash of cayenne.
Salt + pepper to taste.

Yields: 1 cup, more than you’ll need for this recipe, but extra is great to have as some folks like a lot of dressing. As it’s pure and healthy, you can indulge without too much guilt.)

In a medium-sized bowl or salad dressing maker, combine olive oil and lemon juice. Wisk to aerate. When mixture turns a cloudy yellow, stop to add remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Wisk again to combine, cover, and refrigerate.

Vegetables: To make this salad a “real meal,” I like to add roasted vegetables. This way, the meal is 60% cooked, and for some (my husband included), makes the meal feel more substantial and complete…without losing the health benefits.

Pre-heat oven to 425.

2-3 Tbsp. Olive oil
8 oz. Asparagus, wooden ends trimmed off and discarded, the rest cut into 1-inch lengths.
8 oz. Cherry or Grape tomatoes, washed and cut in half.
1 med. Zucchini squash, cut into cubes.
1 med. Yellow squash, cubed.
1 Red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes.
1/2 Of a small onion, cut into thin strips.

Put all vegetables into oven-safe 9×13 casserole pan and season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat (I use my impeccably-clean hands), and bake for 10-15 minutes. Toss and stir periodically for even cooking.

When the squash and asparagus are tender-crisp and tomatoes are wrinkling and distressed, remove from oven (carefully), and set aside. Don’t forget to turn off your oven. 🙂

Mahi Mahi: Quick-thawing and quick-cooking, this fish only takes minutes to prepare (which is awesome). When preparing the dish to serve, this is the last step before assembly, so I’d recommend taking the salad dressing out of the refrigerator and into a serving dish at this point to get the chill off.

4 -4 or 5 oz. Mahi Mahi fillets, thawed.
1-2 Tbsp. lemon grill seasoning (I use McCormick. It’s very very good.)
1 Tbsp. Olive oil for sauté (if using teflon, may use less)

Heat wide, shallow sauté pan to medium-high. Add Olive oil to prevent sticking.
Season fish on both sides with lemon grill seasoning.
When Olive oil is shimmery, add fish to pan.
Cook fish 2/3 of way without turning (prevents sticking, creates a great sear), checking every now and again to be sure not to burn it.
When sides turn opaque, flip and finish cooking until center is flaky and opaque. (Total of about 8-10 minutes)
Cut the heat and remove fish from pan.

Assembly: On a large tray or bowl, add the following:
1 package (about 1 lb) of Fresh Baby Spinach. (May seem to0 little for 4 servings, but with veggies and fish, it works out perfectly).
Add roasted veggies (still warm, almost hot) on top of spinach.
Place fish on top of veggies.
Shake or wisk vinaigrette to thicken, pour desired amount over dish.

You can obviously plate this individually and serve dressing on the side (which is what I did), because dressing—like religion or politics—is a very personal choice many feel passionately about. Thus, it’s often better to leave to guests to decide. 🙂