Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Perfect Day for Stew


Much of the country is dealing with temperatures lower than we’ve seen in a couple decades.  It’s no different here.  As I write this it’s –8 degrees with a wind chill of –33.  Ridiculous!

Today was one of the days I was thankful I worked from home.  Other than some trips to take the dog out, I stayed inside all day.  There will be more of the same tomorrow. Another reason I love working from home is if (and that’s a big IF) I have the ingredients for dinner, I can get a head start on it and continue to work while it cooks.

I love a classic beef stew.  It’s the perfect cold weather comfort food.  I make it only about once a year since my husband isn’t much of a fan.  It’s too much to eat myself.  I freeze the leftovers in one or two serving portions and eat them throughout the winter months.  I’ve tried a few recipes in the slow cooker and they were…fine.  This one, however, had my non-stew-eating husband go back for seconds.  Everyone should have a foolproof stew recipe. I think I found mine.

Of course it’s from my always-the-first-stop cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  I also found another highly reviewed stew recipe of theirs online but it requires some ingredients that I didn’t have (I was not going out in the cold to grocery shop!)and had a couple more steps. Sounds really good – maybe next time.  Doesn’t matter – I thought this was delicious.  It absolutely hit the spot and will be fantastic warmed up tomorrow.

The recipe is below. A couple notes:

  • This takes about 3 hours.  It’s only about 45 minutes of hands on work but it’s not something you can whip up when you get home from work unless you eat really late.
  • Make sure you really brown the meat.  Here’s a link where ATK talks about browning the meat and gives the other stew recipe I mentioned above.
  • I used more potatoes and peas.  No reason, I like them.  Just FYI as you look at the pictures.

Beef Stew from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

  • 1 3lb boneless beef chuck roast (mine was called a chuck eye roast), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil ( I definitely used more)
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks (I probably used a little over 2 pounds)
  • 4 carrots, sliced thin
  • 1 cup frozen peas (I used 1 1/2 cups)

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.  Pat the beef dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown half of the meat (see link above), about 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate.  Add 1 more tablespoon of oil and brown the rest of the meat and transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the empty pot and turn to medium heat.  When oil is shimmering, add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.

Slowly stir in the wine, scraping up the browned bits.  Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaves, and browned beef, along with accumulated juices.

Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer the pot to the pre-heated oven.  Cook for 1 hour.

Stir in the potatoes and carrots.  Cover and continue to cook in the oven until the beef is tender, about 1 hour. Since I added extra potatoes and they were cut pretty big, I added another 10 mins.

Remove from the oven and stir in the frozen peas.  Remove bay leaves.  Let stand off the heat for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


We ate it with crusty bread and it was perfect for this cold winter evening.

Look at these two yahoos.  I was trying to get a couple shots before eating.  No matter the angle, one of them is there to photobomb.

stew photobomb


Rocky Road Fudge Brownies


Ok, so these won’t help with your New Year’s resolution to eat better.  But, if you’re stuck inside due to the bitter cold like we are in the Midwest, they’re super easy to make and you likely already have the ingredients in your pantry.

They start with boxed brownie mix which makes them a great option when you don’t have time to make something from scratch.  The whole process probably takes 40 minutes, including baking time.  I made these after work to take to dinner at our friends’ home that evening.  The icing elevates the boring box mix and adds homemade taste.  It also adds a lot of sweetness – cut these in small pieces!

My mom has been making these brownies forever but I think it’s my first time.  I don’t know where the recipe originally came from since it’s one that was copied and in my recipe book for years.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 package of brownie mix (one that is large enough for a 13 x 9 pan)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used a little more to thin frosting)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 package (16 oz) confectioners sugar, sifted.  (I just realized I was supposed to sift the sugar – oops – it turned out fine.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Prepare brownie mix according to box.  Pour in 13 x 9 pan.  Bake according to directions (about 25 minutes).

IMG_3957_edited-1web Remove from oven. Sprinkle miniature marshmallows over hot brownies.  (They will retain their shape but some will get soft and melty.  Mmm….)

Combine chocolate, milk, butter in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat until chocolate and butter melt, stirring often. (I started this while the brownies were baking to save time.)

IMG_3960_edited-1web Remove from heat. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Beat at low speed until smooth.  If frosting is too stiff to spread, add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth.

IMG_3972_edited-1web Spread over brownies.  Sprinkle nuts over frosting.  Cool in pan on wire rack and cut into bars.