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Monday, April 22, 2013

Drunken Irish Stew

It's Secret Recipe Club time and I got a FABULOUS blog this month.  In fact, the day we were assigned our blogs, I started reading it.  And, that evening on the way home we stopped at the grocery to buy stew beef so I could make this fantastic recipe. 

Don't you just want to grab a spoon and sit down with a bowl of that deliciousness?  I did and you can too!

Typically, I sit down with a blank piece of paper and make a list of the recipes I want to try.  Then, I go back through them and print half a dozen or so for Connie to read.  Then, once we've decided on one, I make it.  In the event we don't like it, I go back and make a second recipe...  I realized about 20 recipes into Amy's blog that I'd written down every one I'd read...  Hmmm, my normal method was not going to work. 

So, what is it about another blogger that makes you want to try everything on their blog?  Similar tastes.  In Amy's case, she's got such a wonderful way with seasoning.  All the flavors just pop off the page at you.  Her recipes are super approachable.  For example, Salisbury steak.  When I went back to get the links to her blog that's what her most recent post was.  Something I've never been terribly fond of because it's kind of blah.  But, in reading her recipe, she's got pizzazz in there.  It's a recipe we'll be trying.  Along with MANY others from her blog.

Here's how you find Amy:  The Savvy Kitchen.  I hope you'll enjoy Amy and her hubby Chris as much as I have!  Then, you can see other recipes from my fellow Secret Recipe club members below and at Secret Recipe Club.  To see Amy's original recipe go to Drunken Irish Stew.

What did we think?  Well, I was tempted to just stand at the slow cooker and eat dinner, but manners won out.  I did omit flouring the beef cubes prior to browning them and instead thickened the stew when I got home from the office.  This is the kind of dish slow cookers are made for.  That being said, this would also be wonderful tucked into the oven in a dutch oven for a few hours. 

Drunken Irish Stew


3 cups diced russet potatoes, peel them if you prefer
1 1/2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
2 lbs stew beef, cubed
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
2 c low sodium beef broth
3/4 c red wine
3/4 c Guinness beer
4 oz can tomato paste (the recipe called for 2T)
1 T white sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper  to taste
2 T cornstarch


Put the vegetables in the bottom of your crockpot.  Brown the beef cubes in batches so they'll brown and not steam. 

As you're browning the last batch, add the garlic.  You want it to bloom and not brown.  Put the meat in the crockpot

and add some oil to the pan.  Add the sauce ingredients.  Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the fond.  Pour the sauce over the vegetables and meat.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours and low for 6-9.  About 30 minutes prior to serving the stew, thicken it with about 2T of cornstarch mixed with an equal amount of water.

adapted from The Savvy Kitchen.  Thank you so much Amy!!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chicken Caprese Salad Sandwiches

Lots of shopping was on our plate.  Squirt guns for the grandkids.  Groceries for dinner and breakfast in Columbus.  Meds for George the cat..  Home about 8:30.  Divide the groceries - pantry, fridge upstairs, fridge downstairs, office cold, office pantry, Columbus cold, Columbus pantry.  (We were taking dinner and breakfast to our kids in Columbus.)  I'd had the presence of mind to pick up a rotisserie chicken at Sams.  Thank goodness!  There was also a big container of fresh basil at the grocery.  I'd picked up the cucumber and dill for Christiane's fabulous cucumber herb salad

Now, caprese salad sounded good.  But, I already had a salad.  What if I turned it into a sandwich?

Roast the tomatoes.  Chop a shallot.  Tear up a bunch of the basil.  Toss it in the blender with a bunch of mayonnaise.  Perfect.

Toast some whole grain bread.  Schmear it with the mayo.  Top that with a bit of salami then slices of chicken.  A couple of slices of fresh mozzarella over the top.  Under the broiler.  Then, topped with more of the mayo.  Served with a side of cucumber herb salad.  Ok, I'll believe it's sunny and 70 degrees outside :-)

Now, this is one of those thrown together recipes where I really didn't measure much...

Chicken Caprese Salad Sandwiches


toasted bread (I used whole grain)
sliced cooked chicken (I used all white meat)
fresh mozzarella, sliced

for the tomato basil shallot mayo:
1 lb container cherry or grape tomatoes
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 T - 1/4 c torn basil
1/2 c mayonnaise


Toast the bread.  Puree the mayo mixture in the food processor or blender.  Slather the toasted bread with the mayo.  Layer on sliced salami, then sliced chicken, then the fresh mozzarella.  Put the sandwiches under the broiler until the mozzarella melts.  Serve topped with some more of the mayo.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Asian Chicken Salad

Connie and I had the best lunch recently.  About 11:45 I headed for the kitchen in the office knowing that I had a conference call at noon.  I'd toasted the sesame seeds and the almonds at home.  The chicken was shredded.  And, I'd bought slaw mix so the cabbage and carrots were done.  The dressing was made at O'Dark Thirty that morning at home.  So, that left chopping up the red bell pepper and assembling the salads.  A handful of spring greens into the bowls topped with the chicken salad then a sprinkle of rice noodles and we were ready to go.  I used up about 2/3 of the salad.  As I ran into my office for the call, I asked Connie to please put the rest of the salad in a refrigerator container.  When I got done with the call, there was Connie with an empty bowl.  The rest of the salad was in his belly and he had a smile on his face. 

So, you can tell what we thought about this recipe from Giada's most recent cookbook:  Weeknights With Giada.  YUM.  This was fresh and light and perfectly balanced.  The flavors just totally dance on your tongue.  I love the fact that it's loaded with vegetables.  With a rotisserie chicken and a bag of slaw mix, this is also a cinch to put together.  This is a salad we'll make regularly!  Actually, as I'm typing this I know that in the groceries we bought this evening there's a bag of slaw mix and another red bell pepper...  Oh, and we doubled the dressing - but the recipe below reflects the quantity in the original recipe.

Asian Chicken Salad

spring greens
one bag slaw mix
1 red bell pepper, diced
2-3 T fresh basil, chopped
2 c shredded chicken (we used a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 c slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
1 T white or black sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 vegetable or olive oil
2 T low sodium soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
1/2 t sugar
salt and pepper
chow mein or rice noodles (we used rice noodles)


Toss the chicken, slaw mix, basil, red bell pepper, almonds and sesame seeds together.  In a small bowl combine the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper.  Toss the dressing with the salad.  In each bowl, put a handful of spring greens.  Top that with chicken salad, then sprinkle with the rice noodles. 

adapted from Weeknights with Giada

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dinner Out - Way too Often!

We ate out three times last week.  For us, that was a LOT.  I'll admit that I just don't understand folks who eat out all the time.  Or who get carryout regularly.  I'd rather have a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner twice a week and have it be one I made.

First, we met our friends Brenda, Janet, Roy and Nancy at the Black Swan in Plainfield.  We've eaten there many times and had great food.  Not so much this time.  They've revamped their menu so it's pretty skimpy.  And, the quality of the food wasn't as good.  Plus, both Connie and I got a peek in the kitchen on our way to the necessary room.  Let's just say it wasn't the cleanest kitchen we've ever seen.  We're hoping everything improves!  The good news is the six of us laughed and laughed and laughed!!

The next night we met our friends Don and Molly at 18 on the Square in Shelbyville.  Now, that was a dinner to write home about.  OMG! Let's see, I had the deviled crab and lobster on papperdelle.  I forgot to take a photo til I was done...  Here's what my plate looked like:

Connie had clams and prosciutto on linguine with a sauce that was amazing.  Don had the same pasta I had.  And, Molly had carrot gnocchi.  Now, I normally don't care for gnocchi.  This was actually very good.

But, the best part of the meal?  The appetizer.  Baked brie with a ginger/orange marmalade and a honey sesame seed drizzle. 

Chef Joseph Martin is one talented guy.  Yes, if you live in the Indy area it is WELL worth the trip to Shelbyville!!!

Last, but certainly not least, we met our friends Terri and Tony for sushi at Tomo.  It's an unassuming place in a strip mall.  But, they know how to make sushi. 

Spider roll, tuna tempura, spicy girl with salmon and tuna...  Then, there was the sashimi.  Tuna and salmon.  And, finally, the eel sushi- unagi.  All of it fabulous!

Saturday we were actually home.  It was finally spring.  So, we left the office at 4:00 and ran to our local hardware store and stocked up on seeds.  Off to the garden we went!  Connie started a bed for the peas.  Crockett says to dig a 4" deep and 6" wide trench and just throw the pea seeds in.  Connie did just that but mixed up the four kinds as he did it.  So, we'll have a medley of peas :-)  I started on the asparagus bed.  Trimming last years fronds.  Weeding.  And, hunting for the first tips to show.  Ah ha! Found three!  Last, but not least, we cleaned out our corner hideaway.  Now, what you may not realize is that on the other side of that fence is the main street into our neighborhood and a pretty busy east-west corridor.  It certainly doesn't feel like we're sitting in the midst of a busy intersection when we're in our corner.   

We'd spent two hours in the yard and were pretty pooped.  It was time for pizza.  Puttanesca Pizza to be exact.  I typically have a Boboli crust hanging around.  Someday I'll probably make my own pizza crust but for now, I'm content to not have to deal with any yeast...  The pizza went together so easily and looked fantastic.

What did we think?  Fabulous.  This is one we'll make again - and again.  Pretty much all of the flavors we love.  It actually reminded us of one of our early dates when we ordered an anchovy pizza - and laughed at the fact that the two anchovy nuts had found each other!

Puttanesca Pizza


Boboli pizza crust
pizza sauce (we use Trader Joe's)
thinly sliced salami
roasted garlic
kalamata olives
green olives
5 cheese Italian blend

Now, you'll notice the photo is missing.  I thought I'd take a photo the next day at the office using the leftover pizza.  Ummm, that disappeared during the middle of the night when my beloved was hungry.  So, close your eyes and picture a wonderful gooey, cheese topped pizza!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Crab Pasta with Tomato Vino Blanco Sauce

Clean up the kitchen for four.  That's what my Mom always called it when she created a meal from leftovers.  She was a total whiz at making something totally new and different from disparate ingredients.  I'd like to think I followed Mom's example with this dish.

Our plan was to be out for dinner.  Work, however, interfered.  When we got home I opened the fridge to see what we had.  Half a pound of crabmeat (claw meat,) 3/4 of a jar of peppadew peppers, most of a 4 oz can of tomato paste (less 2T that went into another dish,) 3/4 of a single serving bottle of white wine (what I use for cooking,) a box of mushrooms and a bunch of asparagus.  Connie and I brainstormed.  Steak oscar?  A steak would be pretty easy to thaw.  Crabcakes benedict with peppadews instead of green pepper?  We'd have to use toast instead of English muffins.  What about pasta?  I sat down and thought about the flavors.  I could do crab, mushroom and asparagus pasta in a white wine sauce?  Or I could make a tomato white wine sauce and serve the veggies on the side.  Finally, I settled on the latter choice. 

The asparagus got roasted and tossed in with the mushrooms we love so much.  That was a great choice.  Next time I buy brussels sprouts I'm going to try them the same way!

So, what did we think?  The pasta was fabulous!!!  Part of the leftovers were devoured for lunch the next day.  And, the rest will be lunch for yet another day.

Crab Pasta with Tomato Vino Blanco Sauce


2 T butter
4 oz tomato paste
1 c dry white wine
1 c half and half
1 jar peppadew peppers, chopped
2 t Italian seasoning or herbs of your choice
1/2 lb crabmeat
1/2 c grated grana padano cheese
1/2 lb pasta


In a large saucepan, melt the butter.  Stir in the tomato paste and allow it to cook for a few minutes. 

Add the wine and stir it in. 

Gradually pour in the half and half, stirring constantly.  Add the peppadew peppers, herbs and crabmeat and heat through. 

Just before serving, stir in the grated cheese.  Serve over farfalle or penne or rigatoni.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Morel and Crab Napoleons

At my age there's something wrong with celebrating one's birthday for three days.  It's not a major birthday and 29 is WAY far in the rear mirror.  However, celebrate for three days I did.

Ken, brother number four - that's measured only in age - was here on Friday.  He was on his way from his home in Charlotte to pick up his son Evan in Michigan.  John, that would be brother number three, and his wife, Pam, met us for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Chef Joseph's at the Connoisseur Room.  Joseph is an amazing chef.  I had scallops that were perfect.  They were exactly what I wanted.  I'd told Connie we'd make scallops on Saturday because I had no clue Joseph would have them as his special and I didn't trust any other restaurant to make exactly what I wanted.  Juan waited on us and spoiled us totally.  Sara made her normal fabulous drinks - like my after dinner drink of coffee Patron tequila, salted caramel vodka and Baileys.  Oh, my, but that was good.  John and Tom - the owners - were there to offer birthday wishes.  Sammy even came out of the kitchen to say hi.  John, Pam, Ken, Connie and I had a fabulous time talking about all kinds of things. 

Ken took off Saturday morning and Connie and I were off to brunch before the office.  Unfortunately, we tried a new place:  Just Judy's.  We won't be back.  It didn't seem that anything was scratch made.  And, both Connie's pancakes and my sausage gravy tasted funny.  There was a lot of food for the price but I'd rather have wonderful food and less of it.  After we got home from the office at o'dark thirty, I decided to fix pissalidiere. 

One of our favorite dishes.  It always elicits a conversation about one of our first dates when I fixed it for Connie and he was entranced by the fact that I too love onions, garlic, anchovies, olives and cheese. 

Sunday morning I used Pam's leftover housemade potato chips from Chef Joseph's.  I'd scanned in some recipes on Saturday night and found an Iberian frittata using potato chips rather than sliced and fried potatoes.  It was good but not great so I'll not post the recipe here. 

After our breakfast, we were once again off to the office.  We actually headed home before 5:00.  YAY!  On the way we stopped and bought phyllo dough.  Something I've not used and am not comfortable with.  Something my friend Liz uses all the time and does a fabulous job with.  It was Easter.  I couldn't call Liz for moral support.  It was all up to me.  Argh!  But, I wanted to make this recipe.  It was to be my cook for myself birthday dinner.

I've got a few left from this chapter in Commander's Wild Side.  It's called, "Showstopping Dishes to Impress Your Friends."  Thus far, they certainly have been.  We've made the Truffled Scallops and Crabmeat with Caviar Vinaigrette, Creole Lobster Bisque and Pepper Crusted Beef with Crispy Oysters and Horseradish Cream.  Still to come are the crab and brie stuffed founder and crab and oyster mushroom risotto.  I'm going to skip the other two recipes since one has grits (a Connie no-no and the other has fois gras - a no-no for both of us.)

Well, what did we think?  Amazing.  Over the top.  May I lick my plate?  Please?   Now, this recipe sounds intimidating and difficult.  It really isn't.  I was amazed at how easily it came together. 

Morel and Crab Napoleons
serves two


for the phyllo squares:
3 half sheets of phyllo dough
2 T butter, melted

for the fish
1 c dry white wine
1 c clam juice
2 fresh parsley stems
5 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 tilapia filets (the recipe called for speckled trout)

for the crabmeat:
1/2 pound crabmeat, picked
1/4 thinly sliced green onions or shallots
2 T dry white wine

for the mushrooms:
4 oz assorted mushrooms
3 T butter

for the morel cream:
1 c heavy cream
2 T dry white wine
salt and pepper
1/4 oz dried morel mushrooms, finely ground


Lay one sheet of phyllo dough on a baking sheet. 

Brush it with melted butter.  Top it with another sheet of phyllo dough.  Brush it with melted butter.  Repeat with the last sheet of phyllo dough.  Cut them in half.  Bake for 15 minutes at 300F.  The recipe calls for putting another baking sheet on top of the phyllo rectangles so they'll remain flat.  I decided not to do that and they puffed up beautifully. 

Pour the cream and wine in a small saucepan and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until reduced by half.  Stir in the salt, pepper and morel dust.  Keep warm.

In a small skillet, pour the ingredients for the fish poaching - white wine and clam juice.  Add the parsley, peppercorns and bay leaf. 

Bring the poaching liquid to a heavy simmer and add the tilapia.  Cook about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. 

Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside. 

In another small skillet, heat the crabmeat gently with the shallots and white wine.

Now, it's time to assemble the napoleons...

Pour about 1/4 cup of the morel cream on each of two dinner plates. 

Top the cream with half of a tilapia filet each. 

Top each piece of tilapia with 1/4 of the mushrooms

then 1/4 of the crabmeat. 

Top that with one of the phyllo rectangles. 

Top that with the other piece of tilapia, the mushrooms and the crabmeat. 

Top each with the last phyllo rectangles then drizzle with the rest of the morel cream.

adapted from Commanders Wild Side