Extremely Easy Old-Fashioned Stew

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” ― Laurie Colwin

old fashioned beef stew

STEW: Before

I’m all about the ease of finding recipes online, but you can’t beat good old-fashioned recipes from dog-eared cards written by hand or those found in favorite old cookbooks.

I’ve been nose-to-the grindstone busy with projects at work and at home for the past three months. This weekend was my first catch-up time slot in what seemed like forever.

First on the agenda. Spring cleaning. Yeah. I know. It’s fall. My timing is somewhat off.

Next up: Invite friends over for dinner. I have missed being social. Chitchat around the office water cooler doesn’t count. I like to entertain. Sometimes I love to fuss. But I’d rather keep things casual and entertain more often than fuss and be so exhausted I don’t want to think about inviting anyone over again for several months.

Hence tonight’s meal. Friends. Conversation. Laughs. Old fashioned stew. (Apple pie for dessert.) I dug up the stew recipe from Laurie Colwin’s book: Home Cooking. It’s in the oven now.

Toss chunks of chuck roast (2 1/2 pounds or so) in flour-pepper-paprika. Brown in olive oil. Add layers of thick carrot slices (I used 5 big carrots), a couple of chopped potatoes (1-inch pieces), wedges of onion (I used 3 gigantic onions) and minced garlic (I put in 6 cloves because I’m a garlic lover). Add 2 cups (or a bottle) of red wine, a small can of tomato puree and a few tablespoons of tomato paste. Toss in a spring of rosemary and thyme and a bay leaf. Oh. Salt and more pepper, too. Bring it to bubbling on the stovetop, then put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 3 hours. Uncover for the last 15-20 minutes.

Laurie’s recipe suggests serving it over noodles. I like to serve mine over mashed sweet potatoes. Or nothing. It’s that good.

Want the more-detailed recipe? Go find Laurie Colwin’s book. Or come on over for dinner.


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Change-Your-Fortune Cookies

fortune cookies

Kinda proud of these nice-and-spicy cookies. Look good. Taste fantastic. But homemade always does, doesn’t it? Just in time for Chinese New Year. Write your own fortune for the future. Then take action to make it come true. Or just make the cookies and eat them.  (Yes, you may have seen this recipe, from our cookbook Heartbreak Recovery Kitchen on Leite’s Culinaria.)

Change-Your-Fortune Cookies

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for baking sheets
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash ground cloves
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet, dark, or semisweet chocolate
  • Chopped peanuts, sprinkles, minced candied ginger, or other little sweet or spicy things

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 2 baking sheets with a silicone nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. If using parchment, lightly coat the paper with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Have a couple of muffin tins at the ready.
2. Write fortunes on long strips of sturdy paper. (The paper can be fancy or plain, it matters little. Best stick with strips that are 3 1/2 to 4 inches long and no more than 1/2 inch or so wide.)
3. Stir together the butter, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves.
4. Beat egg whites and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, add about half of the flour, and beat just until combined. Switch to a spatula and fold in the butter mixture. Add the remaining flour and beat  until combined.
5. Drop 1 tablespoon of the batter onto baking sheet and use the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly and very thinly into a 3 1/2-inch circle. Repeat to make 3 or 4 cookies on each baking sheet.
6. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fortune cookies begin to brown around the edges. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 30 seconds. Then, working quickly, transfer the cookies from the baking sheet and place them on a clean dish towel. Place a fortune just above the center of each cookie and fold the cookie in half, pinching the top of the curved portion to seal. Gently bend the ends of the fortune cookie together to form a fortune cookie shape. (Fold the cookie over a chopstick to help form the bend in the center.) Place each cookie in the muffin tin, to help it retain its shape while it cools. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Hurry!)
7. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Dip half of each fortune cookie in the melted chocolate. If desired, sprinkle with chopped peanuts or candied sprinkles.

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Salmon Chowder Time

Salmon and Bacon Chowder

Salmon and Bacon Chowder

A fisherman friend gave me a lovely salmon fillet from his fishing trip to Alaska, so I’m tempted to make this salmon and bacon chowder recipe. Or should I just roast the salmon in a sizzling hot cast-iron skillet? Until I make up my mind, I’ll share my chowder recipe again.

Salmon and Bacon Chowder
Makes about 6 servings.

¼ lb. bacon, chopped (about ¾ cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped (1 cup)
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chopped coarsely chopped new red skin potatoes or Yukon gold
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Grey Sea Salt with Five Pepper Blend or The Chef’s Miracle Blend (or salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon thyme)
2 cups coarsely chunked fresh salmon (altho I suppose you could use canned salmon, but you’ll get a different  result. Canned salmon is stronger flavored than fresh.)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 cup  half and half
Chopped cooked bacon (optional)

1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven or big pot until crisp; remove and set aside. (I like to scoop it onto paper towel to soak up some of the grease.) To the same pot, add olive oil, onion, carrot and celery. Cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir for about 30 seconds, then add flour. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in potatoes and broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.

2. Stir in the bacon you’ve set aside, salmon, corn, half and half. Cook gently (do not boil) for 5 minutes or until salmon is cooked through. If desired, sprinkle individual servings with additional cooked bacon.


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Mexican Pizza with Chicken and Chile Peppers

Mexican Pizza recipe with chicken and chile peppers.

Mexican Pizza recipe with chicken and chile peppers.


Don’t tell anyone, but I was once madly in love with the Mexican Pizzas at Taco Bell. Haven’t been to Taco Bell in forever, but I still have that craving now and then. So I created a Mexican pizza recipe. My version is a lot plumper than Taco Bell’s…because I’ve loaded it up with chicken, black beans, and Hatch chiles.

Fresh Hatch chiles are typically available only in the fall, but that’s when I stock up, roast ’em (or buy them freshly roasted) and freeze them. But if you don’t have a stash in your freezer, you can easily substitute the chile peppers of your choice.

At the Des Moines, Iowa Farmer’s Market—Juan O’Sullivan—roasts them before your very eyes in the fall. And he makes an amazing salsa. He also shares some of his Mexican recipes here.

Or try my Mexican pizza recipe. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo.

Mexican Pizza with Chicken and Hatch Chile Peppers

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

2  cups green enchilada sauce

2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used 2 chicken breasts from a deli roast chicken)

1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered

4 hatch or Anaheim chile peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Three 8-inch flour tortillas

2 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Optional toppings: chopped tomatoes, sour cream, fresh cilantro

Lime wedges (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook onion in hot olive oil over medium heat about 4 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and tandoori seasoning; cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the enchilada sauce, the chicken, black beans, tomato, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for about 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

3. To assemble, spread  1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Arrange one of the tortillas on sauce. Top with half of the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese.

4. Top with another tortilla and remaining half of chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese. Top with last tortilla. Spread remaining 1/4 cup green enchilada sauce over tortilla.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until heated through, topping with remaining 1/2 cup cheese during the last 10 minutes of baking. Let stand on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. If desired top with chopped tomatoes, sour cream, and/or cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

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Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

The Boston Marathon tragedy touched so many lives and hearts. The ripple of anguish and anger spread across the country, but the stories of humble heroes who helped saved lives grounded most of us with a sense of the true American spirit.

As I’ve reminded others—and myself—there are so many more good, kind, loving people in this country and in this world than there are bad guys. So let’s make sure to recognize the good guys. My hope is that kindness will prevail.

My baking beauty friend, Michelle Medley, suggested baking Boston Cream Pies to deliver to my local first responders. And so I baked last night. Thank you to the Milwaukee Police Dept., District 6, for doing your job day after day after day.

Boston Cream Pie is actually a cake, but it is believed that it is called “pie” because early bakers used pie tins to bake cakes in before cake pans were created.

My Boston Cream Pie recipe was a combo of a homemade buttery sponge cake and a “cheater” quickie filling and an amazing chocolate ganache. The cake was published in Cook’s Illustrated several years ago and called Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie. I used the semi-homemade filling from Kraft’s Boston Cream Pie (instant vanilla pudding mix plus, dare I say it, Cool Whip).

Didn’t quite nail the ganache. I poured it on a little too soon. So I’ll try againt this weekend and make sure the ganache is a little cooler and thicker before I pour it on.

I highly recommend sharing with first responders. Make sure you get to know them first since they may not be excited about accepting homemade packages from strangers.



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Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

Step by step...

Step by step…

It’s that time of year. Deviled eggs. All over the place. I concocted this deviled egg recipe a couple of years ago. I love smoked salmon. And capers. And deviled eggs. Almost ate all of them before company arrived. They are that good.

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

6 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped smoked salmon (lox), divided
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons drained capers, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic scapes, green onions, or fresh chives, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (optional)

1. Cut the eggs in half. Put the yolks in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in the yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the smoked salmon, the mayonnaise, the mustard, 2 teaspoons of the capers, and 2 teaspoons of the garlic scapes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Spoon the yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

3. Garnish before serving with remaining smoked salmon, capers, and scapes.

Makes 6 to 12 servings

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Eye of the Beholder

I rolled out of bed this morning, pulled on my shoes (and a few other items of clothing) with the goal of tackling my upper body at the gym. I want guns like Michelle Obama. It’s free-weight day, baby.

Holey moley. Got to the gym and the weight area was mobbed with burly, scowling and grunting muscle-bound men with can’t-look-away tattoos. Was it he-man day at the fitness center? Yup, it appeared so. They all had those cliched meaty paws that could easily double as snow shovels. One guy was pummeling the heavy bag with his bare fists.

What could I do but extend my warmup on the elliptical, thinking they’d leave soon.

are you there?

After 30 minutes they were still there.

I was kinda hungry by then, so thought about skipping my upper body workout and heading home for bacon and eggs. But, hey. It’s MY gym too.

So I MUSCLED my way in and grabbed a couple of impressive 8-lb. weights and grunted along with the body builders. When I increased my poundage while flat on my back on the bench, I struggled a little to pick up the hand weights from the floor next to the bench. Embarrassing!

Suddenly the burliest of the tatted-up, intimidating guys came over and bared his teeth. (I thought he was about to let out a mwahahahaha laugh.) But, nooooo. He offered a shy smile. And offered to spot me.

Lesson for the day: Intimidation is all in the mind. The book cover does not always reveal what’s inside. Keep an open mind and an open heart.

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Cupid Can Suck It

2599_1103670158685_6295263_nBy Lindsey Ambrose is the daughter of Jeanne Ambrose. She is a small-space gardener extraordinaire with a penchant for cooking fresh and local. She goes for full-flavored, somewhat-spicy cuisine with a flair for ethnic-fusion feasts.

It’s no secret that I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. While I do love most holidays (mainly for the excuse to overindulge in food and fancy cocktails) this one has always stuck in my craw. Shouldn’t we appreciate our loved ones year round? It’s simple really: if you love someone treat them well.

Raised by an amazing and independent working lady—my strong single mom—I always planned to make it on my own. If I found love on the side, well so be it. Marriage? That’s a sucker’s game.

But then I found someone that I loved very deeply—and more importantly didn’t bore me—even after four years of cohabitation. I was happy and didn’t mind the idea of marriage anymore. Valentine’s Day became more exciting than depressing and I began to concoct fun, non-cliche ways to celebrate. Maybe Valentine’s Day was more romantic than I thought. Maybe it really was just an excuse to dedicate your time, or money, to show someone that you truly cared about them.

Imagine my surprise when my Valentine had other plans. Things had become rocky since discovering he had been back in touch with an ex-girlfriend and hiding it from me. We started to bicker a lot. So I wasn’t incredibly surprised when he broke up with me on Valentine’s Day, saying he just couldn’t see spending the rest of his life with me. Not surprised, just a little pissed at the timing—and heartbroken. Just when I thought I could maybe get behind the whole V-day hoopla.

Get bent, Cupid.

For anyone who’s been jilted on Valentine’s Day, this song is for you.
Disclaimer: This song did not get the Mom seal of approval. She likes Bruno Mars these days.


Don’t forget the treats. Enjoy these Moon Drops for your solo Valentine’s Day can suck it party.

Moon Drops
A small batch makes about 13 TB sized balls (heaping tablespoons, that is)


1/2 cup almond butter*

1/4 cup honey

3 TB coconut oil

1/2 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup coconut flakes

1/4 cup chopped up nuts (walnuts are great)

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

Optional add-ins:

1/4 cup of dried cranberries, chopped dried figs, dates or any dried fruit, chocolate chips or cacao nibs for chocolate lovers. You can also dip/roll these in cocoa powder or add a few tablespoons of it to the mixture!


Heat the almond butter, honey, and coconut oil in a saucepan on low, stirring constantly, until melted. Once melted, remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients to mixture, stirring vigorously until fully incorporated.

Using a tablespoon, drop mixture onto waxed paper covered cookie. Place cookie sheets in the fridge for about an hour or so until the drops begin to harden.

Now you can leave them as blobs, or form them into nice balls, hearts or whatever you’re in the mood for.


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Cocktail Friday: Me, Martini, and I

Chad's Clementine Cocktail

Because I’ve had an exhausting week and it’s Cocktail Friday, I’m sharing my friend Chad Johnston’s latest concoction. Chad likes to play bartender. And all his friends are happy to be taste testers. Except for the time he attempted a drink that included an infusion of fresh plum and onion. But this ready-for-spring Darlin’ Clementine Cocktail is definitely a worth toasting.

Darlin’ Clementine Cocktail
ala Chad Johnston

Zest of 1 lemon
Fresh rosemary (1 sprig)
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1  1/2 oz. orange liqueur (Heartbreak Recovery Kitchen is partial to Cointreau.)
3 oz. vodka
3 oz. fresh squeezed clementine juice
Splash orange bitters

1. Combine lemon zest with sugar. Moisten rim of martini glass with clementine juice. Dip rim in lemony sugar.

2. In a cocktail shaker, muddle rosemary sprig with simple sugar and orange liqueur. Fill the shaker with ice. Add vodka, clementine juice and orange bitters. Shake. Shake. Shake. Shake. Shake. Strain into the sugared martini glass. Add a fresh rosemary spring.

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It’s a Dark Chocolate Fudge Kinda Day

fudge w: dulce de leche

I’ve been in a scowly woe-is-me mood for the past couple of days. That’s why I had to make my what-the-funk  fudge. It’s fast (about 5 minutes once the ingredients are assembled on the kitchen counter). And ohgeewhiz good.

I must admit that I was inspired by a basic Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe. But I’m not a basic kinda girl. I wanted a thicker fudge, so I cut back on the amount of sweetened condensed milk. Then I added a little espresso to add intensity to the chocolate chips (plus I added dark chocolate), a little butter, a dulce de leche drizzle on top…and coarse sea salt. Next time I’ll add chopped toasted pecans, but this pan full of happy was being shared with my nut-free friend.

The reviews were quite favorable. And the funk is gone.

Quick Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge
Makes 24 pieces, give or take

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (or any instant coffee) dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 cup dark chocolate pieces
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (save the rest of the 14-oz. can for your coffee)
1 tablespoon butter, softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup dulce de leche
Coarse sea salt

1. Line a square pan (8×8-in or 9×9-in)  with parchment; set aside. Stir together espresso mix, chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, and butter in a glass bowl. (I used a 4-cup glass measuring cup.)

2. Microwave for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more; stirring every 30 seconds or so, until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Spread fudge into pan.

3. Microwave dulce de leche (in a glass bowl or measuring cup) at 70% power for 15 seconds or so. Drizzle over fudge in pan. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Chill fudge about 30 minutes or until you can’t stand it any longer. Use parchment paper to remove fudge from pan. Peel off parchment. Cut. Share. Eat.



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