Hearty Guinness Beef Stew

Several nights ago, while watching a Chopped competitor attempt beef stew in 30 minutes, my usually-apathetic husband turned to me and asked if I would make “a better beef stew than that” for dinner this week. So I dug up a recipe I’d previously used for St. Patrick’s Day and modified it. Despite not being huge beer drinkers in our house, a dark stout like Guinness adds a delicious depth of flavor to beef stew. If you’re in the mood for something thick that will stick to your bones as winter settles in, try this stew.

NOTE: I was unable to find boneless chuck, so I went with a beef/lamb stew mix I found at Trader Joes instead, and it worked beautifully!

TIP: The stew will already be rather salty from the bacon and its fat. I recommend tasting before adding additional salt to the dish.


Hearty Guinness Beef Stew
(Original recipe: Williams Sonoma)

3 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
6 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBSP unsalted butter
6 TBSP all-purpose flour
1-14 oz bottle of Guinness
2 3/4 cups beef stock
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP minced fresh thyme
1 TBSP minced fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 lbs red potatoes

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F.
In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside. Pour the fat into a heatproof bowl.
Return 2 TBSP of the fat to the pot and cook the beef, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides. If necessary, cook the meat in batches to avoid overcrowding. Transfer the beef to a plate.
Turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook in the remaining fat and meat drippings, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens.
Stir in the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Gradually stir in the stock (and Guinness, if using), and then stir in the tomato paste, the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Return the beef and bacon to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, place in the oven, and cook for 90 minutes.
Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 1-inch cubes, add them to the pot, stir, re-cover and continue cooking until both the meat and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes more. Season the stew with salt and pepper to taste.


The best Beef Stroganoff I’ve ever had

I’ve long searched for an exceptional Beef Stroganoff recipe that does not use canned soup. There are countless options floating around the internet, and I’ve tried most of them. They have all disappointed. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t good, either.

And then, I found Vikalinka. She’s Russian, so she knows what she’s talking about. I gave her traditional recipe a shot, and boy howdy, this stuff is good. I couldn’t even stop myself from licking the spoons and skillet while washing the dishes after dinner. Even my hard-to-impress husband asked how soon I could make this again.

The secret ingredient is brandy. If you know as little about brandy as I did before this endeavor, I’ll share the advice I was given: use a VS (very special) cognac (type of brandy), and invest in a decent brand. I went with Courvoisier VS Cognac; it costs about $20 USD at my local grocery store. It worked beautifully; the flavor of this sauce is phenomenal.

Interestingly, Russians don’t thicken their stroganoff and always serve the thin sauce over mashed potatoes. However, since I’m an American raised on Hamburger Helper, I thickened the sauce with cornstarch and served it over egg noodles. It was what I was craving, and it worked perfectly.

TIPS: Get your pan screaming hot before searing the steak; you want those dark brown bits! Don’t skimp on the salt; the dish needs it to balance the sour cream. Oh, and don’t skip the bay leaf or mustard. They make a difference!

Beef stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff
(Original recipe: Vikalinka)

2 TBSP butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 lb beef tenderloin, cut in strips
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 cup sour cream
1 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
a dash of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a heavy skillet; cook onions and mushrooms over medium-low heat until soft. Remove and set aside.
Turn heat up to high; add steak strips to the same skillet and quickly fry over high heat. Make sure the pan is screaming hot; you want to sear the steak.
Add brandy; deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits of flavor on the bottom. Simmer until alcohol burns off.
Add stock, mustard, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Return mushrooms and onions to the pan; cook until everything is heated through and bubbling.
Stir in sour cream, chives, and parsley.
(If you wish to thicken the sauce, add in a slurry of 1 TBSP cornstarch and 1 TBSP water at this point. Fold it into the boiling sauce, stirring as it thickens.)
Remove the bay leaf; serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Parmesan meatballs with orzo in basil cream sauce

I try to attempt at least one new recipe every week. Some are disappointing, but some are worth hanging onto, like this one. In our house, pasta and red meat are considered splurges, so this is a bit gluttonous for us. Don’t skimp on the basil or forget the lemon squeeze garnish; they make a huge difference. This recipe makes approximately a dozen 1-inch meatballs. I also halved the original orzo recipe; 12 oz of uncooked orzo results in way more than two adults could ever consume!

Parm meatballs with basil cream orzo.jpg

Parmesan Meatballs with Orzo in Basil Cream Sauce
(Original recipe: Carlsbad Cravings)

Start by preparing the meatballs:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup finely freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dry chopped onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 TBSP buttermilk

Combine all ingredients. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. As they bake, boil 6 oz of orzo pasta. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce:
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
10 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Combine milk and heavy cream. Whisk cornstarch into the mixture; set aside.
Melt butter in olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 60 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 3 minutes then turn heat to low. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, then the milk/heavy cream mixture, stirring constantly until smooth. Bring the sauce to a simmer (you may have to increase the heat) while stirring constantly. Stir in mustard and dry spices; continue to simmer until almost thickened, stirring occasionally. Add peas and continue to simmer until thickened and peas are cooked through. Reduce heat to low and stir in both cheeses until melted. Fold in fresh basil.

Fold in cooked orzo and meatballs to the sauce. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, fresh basil, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Meatballs in Mushroom Sauce

Tonight’s dinner is one of our favorites: beef/lamb meatballs smothered in a creamy mushroom white wine sauce. My husband begs for this meal, especially smothered over a mound of mashed potatoes. This recipe makes roughly two dozen one-inch meatballs. Since the two of us could never eat that many meatballs in one sitting, I always freeze half of them for another dinner. Since they’re already baked, I just have to make a new batch of sauce, add the frozen meatballs to the skillet to reheat, and serve once they’re hot. So easy! Finally, a tip: bake your meatballs in cupcake tins; they’re the perfect size!


Meatballs in Mushroom Sauce
(Original recipe: Jo Cooks)

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Add all the meatball ingredients to a large bowl, mix well using your hands.
Shape into 1 inch meatballs and bake for 20 minutes.

½ lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 TBSP unsalted butter
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
¼ cup dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt better in a skillet. Add the mushrooms, sauté until soft.
Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms; cook off flour taste.
Add the white wine, cook off alcohol.
Add heavy cream, chicken broth, and spices. Simmer until thickened.
Add meatballs to the skillet, toss in the sauce. Serve hot.

Chili con Carne


Confession: I love Wendy’s chili. It’s one of the things I missed after cutting out fast food. So I started digging through copy cat recipes online. I’ve been making it so long, I don’t remember the original recipe author. I might have even tweaked it repeatedly over the years. But this is the one in my current recipe book, and I must say, it tastes just like the real deal! It’s great on its own or topped with cheese and sour cream, it makes excellent chili dogs, and it freezes really well for meal planning purposes.

Chili con Carne

1 pound fresh ground beef
16 oz tomato juice
14.5 oz can tomato puree
7 oz red beans, drained
7 oz pinto beans, drained
¾ cup chopped white onion
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
2 TBSP chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, brown the ground beef; drain. Return the drained beef to the pot and add all remaining ingredients. Cover the pot; let it simmer for 90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Mongolian beef


This is one of the first meals I taught myself to make years ago. So long ago, I don’t recall where I originally got the recipe. But it’s surprisingly easy and very delicious, one of our favorite go-to red meat dinners that tastes just like takeout. This recipe would be zero stars on the spicy scale. To up the heat, add red pepper flakes.

Mongolian Beef

1 lb of flank steak, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup of cornstarch
3 teaspoons of peanut oil
1 tablespoon of grated ginger
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
3 large green onions, chopped
OPTIONAL: red pepper flakes to taste

Pat steak strips dry, toss in cornstarch to cover thoroughly.
Heat half of the oil in a large wok or skillet at medium-high; add the garlic and ginger. Immediately add the soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. Simmer the sauce for several minutes; transfer to a bowl. Sauce will be thin.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and brown the pieces of beef. Pour the sauce back into the pan. Let the mixture simmer until the sauce reaches your desired thickness. Toss in bell peppers before serving. If desired, add red pepper flakes for heat.
Best served over steamed Jasmine or Basmati rice. Garnish with green onions.