M I A for a long, long, long time . . . ready to cook SOON and this time it’ll be stew!

Well hello there! It’s been six plus months since my last post. Why? I don’t know really. I guess I haven’t had much to say. I also haven’t had a kitchen, what with the endless remodel. Technically, I have only been without a real kitchen for two months but it feels like a year and frankly it’s difficult to cook without pots, pan, a stove, oven, sink oh and countertops. This is what my kitchen looks like right now. 


ARGH. I hate mudding drywall. It’s kicking my butt! As soon as it’s all done I will post pictures of the new house. Which is really what we’re ending up with once this is all said and done. New bath, bonus room living room, bedroom. I have the BEST husband in the whole world. He’s a slave driver and my back and neck my never be the same but I’ll be living in style at least. Soon that will all come to an end and I will have a brand new kitchen. My in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving and the goal is to have it all done then. Pray, cross your fingers, knock on wood what ever it takes I need a kitchen.

Anyway, now that it’s fall I’m anxious to start cooking soups, stews, breads; you know all those warm and cozy foods than make the horror of cold weather bearable. One of the first things I plan to cook is beef stew. Mmmmmm. I have tried several different approaches to stew and had differing levels of success. Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Beef Stew” was pretty good but lacked depth of flavor. Mama’s stew is good but a bit simplistic. The BEST beef stew recipe I’ve ever found is “Cook’s Illustrated’s”. I tweak the recipe (of course) a few places but only by additions and a minor subtraction. This stew is rich, meaty and down right delicious! I serve it with a thick piece of crusty Italian peasant bread and a dollop of horseradish/sour cream/chive mixture. You will love, love, love this recipe!

Published January 1, 2010.  From Cook’s Illustrated.



  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • anchovy fillets, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons) – DO NOT SKIP THIS INGREDIENT. I’ve used anchovy paste in a pinch.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (see note and step by step below)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable (cold-pressed Grapeseed oil is optimum)
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut from pole to pole into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups red wine (see note)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh lavender (I added this on my own. I adore cooking with lavender. It’s completely optional since most people don’t grow it or have it readily available)
  • 4 ounces salt pork, rinsed of excess salt (see note)
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed (I HATE these so I skip them and add mushrooms instead)
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 packet)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed (Trader Joe’s English peas are AMAZING!)
  • Table salt and ground black pepper


  1.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine garlic and anchovies in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato paste and set mixture aside.
  2. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Do not season. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half of beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke or fond begins to burn. Transfer beef to large plate. Repeat with remaining beef and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, leaving second batch of meat in pot after browning.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and return first batch of beef to pot. Add onion and carrots to Dutch oven and stir to combine with beef. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.
  4. Slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high and allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
  6. Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. Stir in peas and mushrooms; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and meat offers little resistance when poked with fork (meat should not be falling apart), about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.
  7. Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. 

Use a good-quality, medium-bodied wine, such as Malbec or Pinot Noir, for this stew. Try to find beef that is well marbled with white veins of fat. Meat that is too lean will come out slightly dry. Four pounds of blade steaks, trimmed of gristle and silver skin, can be substituted for the chuck-eye roast. While the blade steak will yield slightly thinner pieces after trimming, it should still be cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Look for salt pork that is roughly 75 percent lean. The stew can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently before serving.



Enjoy and let me know if you try it, with or without my “tweaks”.


Back from a long break, again.

So, it’s been four plus months since my last post. I admit I get bored posting about the food I cook and feel a bit overwhelmed by the process when there are so many food blogs out there that are so much more interesting than mine. Also, we are remodeling our entire home and my kitchen has been half way disassembled with the bulk of my cooking tools packed away which makes cooking difficult and not too inspired.

We have remodeled our master bath and bedroom. I am so blessed to be in a position to do all that we have. I look at our new rooms and just swell with amazement that I live in such a lovely home. It took us four long months to remodel these two rooms. I thought we’d never get it done and honestly there have been only one or two times I’ve wanted to hit my husband with a hammer. Seriously!

So, here is the new bath…

We added a frameless glass shower and a freestanding tub.

We added a frameless glass shower and a freestanding tub.


I can’t believe we have a vanity and armoire from Restoration Hardware. It’s simply gorgeous!

My brilliant husband built a frame for the mirror to match our vanity/armoire. There are definitely perks to marrying a mechanical engineer. He can build anything. He installed the tile floors and the engineered hardwood floors. His back is killing him but our home is going to be beautiful when it’s all said in done.

I am in charge of the walls. I do the drywall mudding, the painting and the trim work. I managed to talk him into painting the walls an actual color. It’s called Mousse Moose. It’s light brown or latte colored. It’s neutral and hopefully will make the house sellable.

We also finally got our king size bed set up and I am actually able to sleep for more than two hours uninterrupted. It’s amazing! I still have to pee two or three times every night but I can actually go back to sleep now as opposed to lying awake trying to create a space in the bed for myself.

Here is the finished bedroom:

bedroom We’re working on the living room now. This weekend we will finish laying the hardwood floors, put up the crown molding, trim the windows and put the baseboards back in place. Yippee! I have new living room furniture that should finish being delivered in a few weeks. I’ve never had anything but hand-me-down furniture before. It was really nice to go to a store and pick out a new sofa and chairs. As soon as we’re finished I’ll upload pictures of it.

In the meantime … I fight the Robin’s. By which I mean they keep trying to build a nest on our porch light which is next to our front door. I take it down and five minutes late she’s back with the grass, twigs, paper and mud to put it back. Tomorrow I’ll get a rubber snake and see if that will deter her.

The Robin’s have also built a nest in the wheel base of our Ford F150. I keep telling D we can go without driving the truck for a couple months, right? Silly birds.