Tag: food fun

the go-to meal

When my friend Rick was here visiting from Chicago, we ate. And we talked about food. We tried new restaurants. And finally, we cooked together.

On a fun evening that included  two new friends as well as our visiting son and his girlfriend, we prepared one of Rick’s new specialities. I ate the leftovers – quite happily – for a week, even for breakfast a few days. This week, as I considered what to make for the last-hurrah of our marriage class, I knew what to do. And as I prepared it, I marveled at how easy it is and how this will become my “go to” meal for guests. It is simple, elegant, hearty, and delicious ~

Tarragon Beef Stew

adapted from AllRecipes.com


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound beef stew meat
  • 4 cups chicken broth (I substituted Beef Consomme in a pinch)
  • 2 cups water (use your judgement here)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet vermouth
    (this & the Worcestershire are the whole shebang here for me.
  • 2 cups new potatoes
  • 2 large carrots, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the beef stew meat, and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until evenly browned on the outside.
  2. Pour the chicken broth, water, and vermouth into the stock pot. Add the potatoes, carrots, and garlic. Season with tarragon, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, honey, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Cook 2 1/2 hours to blend the flavors. Alternatively, let this simmer all the live long day in your slow cooker.
  3. Remove cover and continue cooking 20 minutes, or long enough to evaporate enough liquid to reach your desired thickness.

We served this alongside biscuits, homemade/warm applesauce, and white cheddar macaroni and cheese. It was a pretty wonderful combination.

Go ahead…throw it together and invite someone to share it!

Saturday in the kitchen (with Pinterest)

I had a Pinterest kind of day today. Since finally getting sucked into this new social phenomenon a few weeks ago, I’ve been determined not to just pin stuff, but to create or act upon some of my finds. Though today was not the first time, it was seemingly full of ‘pins come to life.’ it started with the ‘coffee bean tea lights.’ I could not find an original source for this cute idea, but since I have these beautiful teacups my friend Wendy brought me from China years ago, and a small portion of beans that haven’t been touched in ages, I had to go for it. To be honest, the aroma didn’t carry. Could be the age of the beans, I guess, but the effect is still lovely, especially with the candlelight shining on a few other ‘pins’ from today. Sharing now~


“My” homemade hamburger buns

These have become sort of my signature recipe, and since we moved south, they’ve been called upon just about any time we gather for a barbecue. They are actually straight out of the Kitchen Aid Mixer recipe book. The only modification I’ve ever made is to increase the recipe to make 18 or 24 buns. This one makes 12:

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter (real butter. Do not compromise here).
3 packages (or 6 3/4 teaspoons) of dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F – 115F) I use hottest that comes out of my faucet
5 – 6 cups all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan, stir milk, sugar, salt and butter together. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool until lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 4 1/2 cups flour to yeast mixture, and using a dough hook, mix on low speed for about 1 minute. With the mixer still going, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix about 1 1/2 minutes, or until dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all of the flour, especially if you are using wheat flour. Knead on low speed for about 2 more minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic – the dough will still be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover the dough with a clean, dry dish towel, and let it rise in a warm place, free from draft, for about 15 minutes. (they can rise longer).

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 12 equal pieces. The pieces should be round and flattened. Put them on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with the towel. Let rise for another 15 minutes.

Bake at 425ºF for 12 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown. Remove from pans immediately, and cool on wire rack.

Self-frosting Nutella Cupcakes


1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup canola or mild vegetable oil (I substituted applesauce. Works like a charm!)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 cup Nutella, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter, oil and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.

Divide the batter between 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Drop a spoonful of Nutella on top of each, and swirl through the batter with the tip of a bamboo skewer, knife or other pointy object. Bake for 20 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Pop onto wire rack to cool. Makes a dozen cupcakes and very smiley faces.

of note/ I was taking these to our friends’ house, and because their son has a peanut allergy, he steers clear of anything with nuts. So I made half the cupcakes this way. For the other six, I placed one jumbo marshmallow on top of each cupcake, returned to the oven for about 4 minutes, smooshed the marshmallow down with a spatula, and added a few chocolate chips. Poof! S’mores cupcakes! My husband thought the topping was meringue. Only 11 cupcakes made it to our destination…

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

Easiest thing ever-

Slice however many tomatoes you want.
Spread on a baking sheet.
Cover with a drop of olive oil, a pinch of basil, and a generous covering of Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 325 for 15 minutes.

Every day should include a cheese plate

Alternative title: what made me gain weight on the cruise

Chips, salsa, and a tiny spot of guacamole was on the starter menu every night. I ordered the first night because it’s among my favorite treats, but it was just ok. I ordered it the last night because I believe in 2nd chances.

This was from sushi night. Only one of them got spit out into my napkin. I’m a pretty blah sushi eater, and I’m all about the wasabi.

The melon and prosciutto blossoms (petals? I can’t remember) were my favorite starter (I’m kind of all about the starters no matter where I’m eating). They were pretty and yummylicious.

Warm chocolate melting cake, served with ganache and ice cream, nightly.
I didn’t eat it one of the nights. Please don’t tell KK, as ganache is among her favorite foods.
This should be on your bucket list.

The pièce de résistance. The bread could have been better, or not there. Cheese makes it taste good. This is one of the indisputable facts of life.

as good as cruise food is, the best part was the music, the friends, the view, and this time, coming back to my own ocean view at home! Now, if only someone would bring me a cheese plate every night at my own table.

Don’t forget to leave a comment about what you are ever grateful for on this post for a chance to win a $20 gift from DaySpring!

first chili of the season

pumpkin! muffins!

Honestly, it wasn’t until I married Rod, whose favorite season is autumn, that I really started to care about it. And even then, while I appreciated the beauty of crunchy-colored-fallen leaves and the smell of spicy candles, in Illinois, fall was mostly a reminder that the bitter, cold, looooong winter was coming, or in some years, when we went straight from AC to heat, already upon us.

Like many things, it’s a little different here in South Carolina. Fall means that the beaches and restaurants and Walmarts are less crowded and that we can open our windows. It means that I laugh about once a day when we’re outside with no shoes or I read a little article about making a funny scarecrow and then realize we’d have to use newspaper instead of leaves.

these are the times I realize how much I love it here.

A few of my favorite bloggers (Martha, one of my best friends and Kelle, who will be if we ever meet) are obsessed with fall. Kelle lives in Florida but is a Midwest-to-beach transplant like me, and last week she mentioned having a box of leaves mailed to her house. While I haven’t requested anything like that yet, I did find myself Obsessed with pumpkin muffins upon reading Martha’s FB post about pumpkin-flavored-everything.

I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie or coffee, but I love pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread-like things. As Martha wrote about her pumpkin cream cheese and pudding, I had one thought: Panera Bread’s pumpkin muffies (basically, big muffin top, but the non-embarrassing kind. Well, one probably contributes to the other but that’s another story). With Panera and Martha, sadly, far away from me, i turned to Yahoo, found this recipe, and dreamed about it.


1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix (a standard box of Butter Recipe Yellow was 15 oz)
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (I used half of a 28 oz can)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper liners. I used 36 mini muffins…bite size, 67 cals each
In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves until smooth. Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. it took about 18 minutes

Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar, and if your hankering is as strong as mine was, eat a few right there over the kitchen sink, and smile at the influence your friends still have on you from a thousand miles away.