Friday, February 25, 2011

Beef Stew

It is a rainy day out and I don't feel like going to the grocery store. So I need to make a dinner with ingredients that I already have at home. Lucky for me, I bought veggies and wine to make a beef stew last week. I love this recipe. I made it a couple of months ago and it is just so great. I always like the second time I make a recipe because I now know how to tweak it to make it just how I like it. For example with this recipe, I added more veggies to it then the recipe called for. Also, a friend at work told me about adding a little orange juice to the stew to give it a little extra zing -- and it did! This recipe is also great because it goes right into the slow cooker after you prep it and it is done. So, I hope you enjoy it!

Hearty Beef Stew
Recipe by Woman's Day magazine
Serves 8 - Prep 30 minutes - Cook time 4 hours (low)

½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3-4 lb beef chuck, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used 2 extra carrots)
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp peppercorns
1 bottle (24 oz) hearty red wine such as Burgundy
1 can (28 oz) tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 cup beef broth
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp orange juice

Directions: Stir 3 Tbsp of the flour, and the salt and pepper on a plate. Toss beef pieces in mixture, shaking off any excess. Melt butter with oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, add beef and cook about 10 minutes, turning frequently, until browned on all sides. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add carrots, celery, onion and peppercorns to same skillet. Cook about 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring ofter, until onions and carrot begin to brown. Pour in wine and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir tomatoes, broth and orange juice into skillet and bring to a boil. Stir in remaining flour and the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, about a 1 minute, until mixture has thickened. Return beef to skillet and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer beef and wine mixture to slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low, 4 hours, stirring occasionally, until beef is very tender. Serve with egg noodles, brown rice or veggies.

Beef cut into small pieces and then browned.

All the vegetables cooked and ready to go into the slow cooker.
We are watching our carbs so for dinner, I served the stew with sauteed spinach.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sauteed Chicken with Sage Browned Butter

We had some friends over this weekend and I wanted to make a special yet healthy dinner for them. I had some chicken breasts that I defrosted and wanted to use them for this meal. So I found this recipe in my binder --  which I tore out of the Cooking Light magazine -- that looked perfect. I love when I find a recipe that has everything, or almost everything, that I need for it already at home. The only ingredient I had to improvise with was the fresh sage. I couldn't find the fresh stuff at the grocery store so used the ground sage I had at home already. I am sure that it would taste even better with the fresh sage but this recipe was still delicious with the ground sage. I served it with a baked potato and a spinach salad. I also made two loaves of french bread for dipping into the sauce and salad. I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of the meal! I am so disappointed about this but since this recipe is a keeper, I will take a picture of it next time I make it. Enjoy!

Sauteed Chicken with Sage Browned Butter
Recipe by Cooking Light
Serves 4-6. Total prep and cooking time, 1 hour

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter
2 sage sprigs (I substituted 1 tablespoon of ground sage for the fresh sage)
1 tablespoon  minced shallots
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Fresh sage leaves (optional)

Directions: Place each breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; coat with cooking spray. Place flour in a shallow dish; dredge chicken in flour. Add chicken to pan; sauté for 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan. Add butter and sage sprigs to pan; cook over medium heat until butter browns. Discard sage. Add shallots and thyme; cook for 30 seconds. Add lemon juice; cook for 30 seconds. Serve with chicken. Garnish with sage leaves, if desired.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I am not a big fan of sugar cookies unless I buy them from the store. Only because whenever I try a recipe at home they just don't taste so great. However, one my favorite websites,, featured the best sugar cookie recipe. I had to try it. Plus, I had all these great cookie cutters that I found at tag sales last summer that I wanted to use. This recipe was super easy and was hands down, the best sugar cookie recipe I have ever made. They even featured the icing recipe which offered the best consistency for making thin lines. You will see the cookies I made below with an example of this! Enjoy.

Amanda's Amazing Sugar Cookies
Makes 7 dozen cookies

1½ cups (3 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions: In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, until combined, then beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly beat the flour mixture in with the butter mixture until combined to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or until well chilled.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of about one-eighth inch. Cut out cookie shapes from the dough. Space the cookies about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the sheets and cool completely before icing. Ice as desired.

Amanda's amazing icing
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 drop lemon juice
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon milk, more or less as desired
Food coloring, if desired
Flavored extracts, if desired

In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and corn syrup. Whisk in milk to make a thick, spreadable icing. If coloring the icing with liquid food coloring, you might want to add a little less milk as the coloring will dilute the frosting. For different flavors, add drops of vanilla, almond or lemon extract. For shinier icing, use a little more corn syrup and a little less milk. The frosting will keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Here are the cookies, cut and ready to go into the oven.

Aren't these hilarious?!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Apple Dumplings

We are heading out to our friend's house and I need to make a quick and easy dessert. I would also like it to be a bit lighter of a dessert than say a cake or brownies. So I flip through my binder and find a recipe for Apple Dumplings. Perfect! This dessert was so easy to make and it looked great when plated. My only dilemma while making them was that I didn't have a tool to core the apples so it took a little longer for this step. I would highly recommend you get a tool to core the apples before you make this recipe. I have a tool I bought at IKEA to do this but in addition to coring the apple, it also slices it into wedges -- which wouldn't work for this recipe. Although the apple dumplings looked and tasted great when I made them, they would have looked even better if I could have kept them as one piece. You will see in the picture below that after they were baked, the two pieces separated a bit. Either way they still came out great. Enjoy!
Apple dumpling with caramel sauce and a side of vanilla ice cream.

Apple Dumplings with Caramel Sauce
Serves 6
Cooking time 40 minutes

8 apples (I used Braeburn apples)
½ cup of dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sheets of puff pastry dough
½ cup orange juice
1 egg
1 cup caramel sauce (next to chocolate syrup in the grocery store)
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°F. In a bowl mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside. Peel and core all six apples -- try to keep them in one piece or if you do not have a coring tool, cut in half and core. Drizzle the peeled and cored apples with orange juice to slow the apples from browning. Start with one sheet of puff pastry and cut into 4 squares. You will then only need half of the other sheet of puff pastry or you can make 8 apples instead of 6 to use it all. Place an apple in the center of each square and pack with sugar mixture. Pull up all four corners of the puff pastry to the top of the apple and press together to seal them. Place on an ungreased baking pan. Once all the apples are wrapped in puff pastry and on the baking sheet, lightly beat the egg and brush it on the puff pastry. Bake for 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Once they are baked, pour some caramel sauce on a plate and place the apple dumpling on top of sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Here are the apples peeled, cut in half and cored. I then took 2 pieces and stuffed one side with the sugar mixture and then placed the other half on top. I then put this on the puff pastry square -- making sure to keep the pieces together. 

The stuffed apple wrapped and ready to go into the oven.