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.

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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 broth
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 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.

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Tomato Basil Parmesan Bisque

One of my husband’s favorite meals is – and always will be – simple, classic grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was one of the first meals I wanted to master when we began cutting out preservatives. I found a base tomato soup recipe years ago and have been tweaking it ever since. This is the result; a thick, rich bisque, loaded with basil. Because basil.

One of the shortcuts I take without shame is using canned tomatoes. Removing tomato skins can be frustrating and not always worth the effort, considering canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy have lower acidity. I recommend the consistency and quality of the Cento brand, available at most grocery stores.

This recipe freezes well. I frequently double it, serve two servings for dinner, and freeze the six remaining quarts as individual servings for later, making it just as easy to grab as a can of Campbells.

Tomato basil bisque

Tomato basil Parmesan bisque

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 – 14 oz can of whole tomatoes in tomato juice
2 cups of chicken stock
1 TBSP dried basil
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of sugar
1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Combine garlic, tomatoes, chickens stock, dried basil, salt, pepper, and sugar in a medium sauce pan. (Add the whole tomatoes one at a time, squeezing each into the pan to break them up.)
Simmer the soup on a medium heat for 20 minutes.
Pull off the heat. Puree soup with an immersion blender until all the tomato chunks have become smooth. Stir in heavy cream and julienned fresh basil.
Return sauce pan to the stove. Simmer until heated through.
Stir in Parmesan cheese and adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.

(Note: if any of your tomato-based dishes taste overly bitter – from marinara sauce to salsa – it’s likely the acidity level of your tomatoes. Try adding a little sugar to counter it.)

Pasta Fagioli

They say April showers bring May flowers, right? This hearty Italian soup will help get you through the last few months of rainy days before the sun returns. If freezes really well. Just leave out the pasta before freezing, then add in before serving. This is also an excellent meal to bring to families in need, as it is loaded with protein and carbs; a little goes a long way!

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Pasta Fagioli

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled & chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 lb mild Italian chicken sausage*
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup ditalini pasta
Parmesan cheese for serving

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and cook until it just begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots; cook, stirring frequently, for another 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the sausage to the pot, crumbling as it cooks (remove from casings, if necessary). Cook until the sausage is no longer pink. Stir in herbs. Stir in tomatoes and stock.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
Stir in the beans and pasta. Simmer for 6- 8 minutes or until pasta is tender.
Serve piping hot with Parmesan cheese.

* My favorite mild Italian chicken sausage to use is a one-pound roll made by Isernio’s.

Thick and spicy chicken tortilla soup

This soup surprised me. I have an old standby recipe for Southwest Chicken Chili, but my husband asked for something spicier and a little more “like a soup”. I decided to try this unconventional recipe, trusting all the rave reviews. The unfamiliar idea of using corn tortillas as a thickener seemed awkward, but I gave it a shot anyway.

The soup looked unremarkable on the stove, but upon tasting it, my husband claimed it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. Ever. At first, the spice level caught my delicate palate by surprise, but then it grew on me. The depth of flavor is addicting! By the time we’d finished the entire batch, we’d decided this was an Always-Have-On-Hand recipe. I plan to make more very soon; four thumbs way up!

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Thick and Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup
(Original recipe: Chowhound)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but the cream balances the heat)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 ripe, fresh avocado, cut into large chunks
Shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or sharp Cheddar recommended)
Sour cream

Saute onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper in large saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 6 minutes.
Add the garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, paprika, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add broth, water, tomatoes, salt, and pepper; stir to combine, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, add the cut tortillas pieces, and stir to combine. Simmer about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Use a handheld mixer to blend until smooth.
Add the heavy cream, cooked chicken, and chives. Simmer until heated through. Add more S+P if needed.
Serve the soup over chunks of fresh avocado and topped with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

*Especially excellent topped with crushed tortilla chips.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Let’s be honest: it’s mid-January, which means it’s cold outside. We’re in the thick of the season of hot, stick-to-the-ribs kind of food. One of my winter favorites is this thick, creamy chowder. Filled with potatoes, cheese, and bacon, can you really go wrong?

cheddar-corn-chowder

Cheddar Corn Chowder

4 oz bacon, diced (turkey bacon substitutes well)
1/2 cup white onion, diced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
14 oz. low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups corn (fresh is best, but frozen works great in the winter)
1 1/2 cups milk
3 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 handfuls chopped chives or green onions
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown bacon in a medium pot; remove from pot and set aside. Cook onions in bacon drippings until translucent. Pour in chicken broth and cubed potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low until potatoes are starting to soften (about 7 minutes). Add corn; simmer ten more minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper. Pour in milk and whisk until flour is dissolved.
Add milk mixture to the pot. Let simmer for several minutes until it thickens. Add grated cheese and bacon; stir until cheese is melted. Serve garnished with chives or green onions.

Chili con Carne

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.

Asian Baked Salmon

asian-salmon

We live in an area rich in fresh seafood, especially salmon. We love this marinade so much, we eat it almost weekly. The original recipe is intended for the outdoor grill, but my version is modified for baking in the oven, making it much easier to eat year-round. I also use the ingredients more like a sauce as opposed to a marinade, baking the fish right in the deliciousness!

Asian Baked Salmon
(Original recipe: Ina Garten)

2-3 lbs fresh salmon fillets
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
6 tablespoons good olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Whisk together mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic until well blended. Pour over salmon fillets and bake according to your favorite baked salmon recipe.

I bake in sealed foil packets for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then uncovered for another 5-10 minutes, depending on doneness. You know it’s done once it is no longer translucent and flakes in the center when cut with a fork.

Two types of chicken stock

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Let’s talk chicken stock. First of all, let’s clear up the difference between broth and stock. Broth is made by simmering meat only; stock is made by simmering bones, thereby infusing it with the goodness of the marrow inside those bones. (So, yes, the popular term “bone broth” is a misnomer. It’s the same as stock.)

When making daily meals, I confess to using one of the many convenient boxes of Kitchen Basics broth I have stashed in my pantry. But I always have homemade stock in my freezer for two very specific situations: illness and holidays. When I’m not feeling well, nothing restores my soul better than flu-fighter chicken stock.

Flu-Fighter Chicken Stock
(Original recipe: Everyday Maven)

5 lb organic chicken (with bones and skin)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Water, approx. 20 cups
8 to 10″ lemongrass, sliced in half
3 to 4 shallots, cut in half lengthwise (skin on)
1 head garlic, cut in half across the middle (skin on)
3 to 4″ ginger root, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 bunch scallion whites, cut lengthwise
2-3 tablespoons Kosher salt

Begin by cutting the chicken into the standard 9-pieces: 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 1 backbone, cut down the middle to expose the marrow in the bones. Don’t let this part intimidate you; here’s a good visual aid if you need help with this.
Place the cut up chicken parts in a large stock pot. Cover the chicken with water and apple cider vinegar, let sit for at least 30 minutes while you prep everything else. The vinegar will extract minerals and calcium from the bones to make your stock even more of a nutritional powerhouse.
Meanwhile, prep all your aromatics. Chop scallions, slice shallots, peel ginger, cut garlic. (It’s strange to leave the skins on, but it’s fine. You’ll remove them later.)
Once the chicken has soaked in the water/vinegar mixture for 30 minutes, toss aromatics into the pot. Add salt.
Bring to a boil; skim foam off the top until it subsides. Lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 45 minutes.
Pull out the 2 breasts and 2 thighs and let them cool. When cool enough, pull off the meat and return the bones to the pot. (I usually dice and freeze that meat to add to the soup later.)
Simmer stock for another 2 hours and 15 minutes (total simmer time: 3 hours). Taste and adjust salt if necessary.
Allow to cool. Once cool enough, remove chicken parts, and set those aside to cool so you can pick the meat off remaining bones to use for the soup. Strain the rest into another pot, discarding all bits and bones. Refrigerate the remaining liquid to allow the fat to settle to the top. Gently ladle off the fat and discard it. The rest is your stock.*

The second type of stock I keep on hand is specifically for the holidays. It’s darker, has more depth of flavor, and makes a killer gravy!

Dark Roasted Chicken Stock
(Original recipe: Martha Stewart)

5 pounds assorted chicken parts including bones
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 2­ inch lengths
2 celery stalks, chopped into 2­ inch lengths
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters
1 cup red wine
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken parts in a single layer in a large heavy roasting pan. Drizzle with oil and turn to coat. Roast, turning once and stirring often for even browning, until beginning to brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, add carrots, celery, and onion. Spread tomato paste over chicken pieces with pastry brush. Return pan to oven and roast until vegetables are browned and tender and bones are deeply browned, about 40 minutes.

Transfer bones and vegetables to large stockpot, then spoon off fat from roasting pan and discard. Set pan over two burners. Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits from bottom with wooden spoon. Boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Pour everything into stockpot.

Add enough water (about 3 quarts) to cover chicken and vegetables by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to gentle simmer. Add bay leaf and peppercorns; cook 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, skimming surface frequently.

Carefully pour stock through fine sieve into large bowl (do not press on solids); discard solids. Chill and store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Thaw completely in refrigerator before using.*

*If your cooled stock ever appears gelatinous, do not despair! That means it contains a lot of collagen from the bones, and that is a very good thing! Just use as you would liquid stock; it will liquefy with heat.