Honey Cornbread Crackers

honey-cornbread-crackers1

Sometimes in life, the timing is just off. Sometimes in the kitchen, the timing is just off.  If I had to give this post a theme, I think it would be timing. Timing that was…off.  Why?

Well, you guys remember when I first started making and sharing recipes for DIY crackers, right? I began with the Curry and Ginger crackers, kept it going with the Pumpkin Cinnamon and a little while after that did Cinnamon Sugar ones. For a while, I went on a cracker making spree. It was a tasty little expedition.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this post has just been sitting in my drafts folder since mid-January. I had actually tested out one additional recipe with all of the other ones, but I never got around to posting it. I really don’t have a good excuse; it always just seemed like the timing to post it was off. I would have another recipe that I thought needed to come first, then it seemed like it was the wrong season/time of year, at one point I hated the pictures, then I didn’t hate the pictures anymore but I still thought the timing was off, then I hated the pictures again, then I didn’t think anyone would care to read about yet ANOTHER cracker recipe. Yada yada yada.

Excuses. Y’all get it.

Today is a rare day where I DO think the timing/time of year for this recipe is right, I don’t hate the pictures, and I do think this recipe should generate some interest. So while that perfect harmony still exists, I’m finally booting this post out of my drafts folder and onto the blog for all to see. My fourth cracker recipe, though probably not the last. It’s eight months late, but eh… better late than never.

What do you guys like to eat alongside your chili? For most people, it’s a hunk of cornbread. For others, maybe it’s crackers; y’know, those oyster shaped ones that come in the sealed packages. I’m good with both, although I’m a bit more partial to the cornbread. Fortunately with this recipe, you really wouldn’t need to pick as it’s a combination of the two.

A while ago Townhouse had a line of crackers that they put on what they called a ‘Bistro’ line. They came in flavors of Multi-grain and Cornbread. The multi-grain was tasty but the Cornbread ones? Guys. They were SOOOO good. I could go through an embarrassing amount of them in one sitting, so perhaps it was for the best that they were discontinued, but I still feel a way about it. Although now, I don’t suppose it matters because I’m pleased to announce that these really do taste almost identical.

The texture of these is different and, I think, better than a standard oyster/saltine cracker. They’re a bit thicker. The cornmeal gives them a gritty, sturdy coarser texture. The honey makes them slightly sweet. I really do have to say, they taste like cornbread would if it were put into a crisp cracker. They were yummy enough for me to just eat them completely solo as snacks, but I can think of several other uses for them.

Cheese lovers should know that these are perfect for eating with cheese. They would be delicious crumbled or dipped into guacamole or bean dip. Tomato soup would complement them very nicely. And  yes, of COURSE, you should eat them alongside or dipped in your chili.

Aren’t y’all glad I decided to finally share? Be easy.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #191, co-hosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Antonia @ Zoale.com.

************************************************************

Honey Cornbread Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book

Print

Ingredients

  • 6 oz all-purpose flour (a little over 1 cup)
  • 4 oz yellow cornmeal (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry powdered milk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter (cut into 8 pieces)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium size bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugr, dry milk, kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda until well blended.

Cut the butter into the dry mixture with a pastry blender, a fork or two knives. The mixture should look like fine crumbs.

In a small bowl combine the honey with the milk, then pour this mixture into the butter/dry ingredients. Stir until you have a smooth dough that doesn’t stick to the bowl. (Drizzle in additional milk if too dry/crumbly).

Divide the dough in half. Sprinkle some flour on a clean, flat surface. Using a well floured rolling pin, Roll out the dough half to about 1/16th inch. From here, cut the dough into whatever desired shapes you want using cookie cutters, pizza wheel, bench scraper or a knife.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cut cracker dough onto the sheets and freeze for about 20 minutes.

Using a fork, prick the surface of the cracker dough evenly. Spray the tops with cooking spray, then sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 12-16 minutes until golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool for about 60 seconds on the baking sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Gumbo Ya-Ya

gumbo-ya-ya3

I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras celebration before. I’ve never been to New Orleans before. I think I would like to go to both one day, despite my being an introvert. Mardi Gras just so I can say that I did it. New Orleans, mainly for the food (of course).

And speaking of food, another disclosure: until now, I’ve never even cooked or had real gumbo before. That one, I’ll concede is a bit more serious. I’ve made Jambalaya several times before, but gumbo was something I hadn’t tackled. I wouldn’t even order it in a restaurant if it was on the menu. Why?

Sigh. Well…the word ‘gumbo’ itself derives from the vegetable okra and….I don’t like okra.

gumbo-ya-ya2

Actually, false. I don’t not like okra. I kinda hate it. A lot.

I know. But it’s true. I just can’t get with that gelatinous inner texture. Triggers my gag reflex. And since just about everyone cooks gumbo with okra, I just steered clear of it. Not because I didn’t think I wouldn’t like the rest of the stew that is the dish itself. I always knew that when made correctly, it was probably delicious. I just didn’t want it with that darn okra inside.

This year though, it finally hit me: if I was so curious about gumbo, why not just make it for myself WITHOUT the okra?

gumbo-ya-ya4

*taps temple* See? Thinking.

Gumbo purists who believe gumbo isn’t gumbo without okra may want to just stop reading right here and move along. Personally I don’t recommend it, as this stuff I’m peddling today is damn tasty with or without your funky okra, but hey, it’s your world.

In my view, as long as your gumbo has a delicious base of well-seasoned broth and meat, then it’s still a gumbo worth trying. This one has both, mainly because it’s a genuine from scratch process from start to finish. That’s right, Buttercup: not only are we starting out with fresh meat, we’re making our own chicken broth.

gumbo-ya-ya5

Don’t freak out. It’s not that serious, I swear it’s not. Making chicken broth is simple; you throw a whole bird in a stock pot with some water, herbs and veggies, and as the saying goes, set it and forget it for a while. It’s an extra step, but you’d be surprised the difference it makes, especially in a dish like gumbo where the broth is so essential to its success.

The only other laborious part of making gumbo is the roux: the flour-oil mixture you make that serves as both a slight thickener and a flavor booster. So long as you stay attentive to it, keeping a watchful eye AND a regularly stirring hand, it should turn out fine. After that, you’re pretty much done doing ‘work’. Just dump in your broth, spices and veggies and let that sucka go until the flavors have melded and it tastes like money.

gumbo-ya-ya1

We’re huge meat lovers ’round here, so I not only had the chicken from the scratch-made broth, but smoked andouille and smoked turkey sausage in my gumbo as well. The flavor that the sausage adds is pretty much everything. Don’t leave at least one type out. As for the rest, I know that gumbo proteins can range from chicken, sausage, shrimp or even crawfish. All of these would be delicious in this; just add the meat towards the end so that it doesn’t overcook in the time it takes for the gumbo flavor to develop in the broth. As for veggies, well…I’m gonna just recommend that you do what works for you. That means if you like okra, throw it in. If you’re like me and you don’t, forget about it. If there’s another veggie that tickles your fancy, I’d say go ahead and throw it in there too. This is for Mardi Gras. Who cares about rules? Laissez les bon temps rouler, eh?

Oh! But please, PLEASE don’t leave out the scoop of rice on top. That part I must insist on.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #159, co-hosted this week by Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative CookY’all be easy.

************************************************

Gumbo Ya-Ya

Recipe Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Print

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (about 6 pounds; you can use 2 3lb. Chickens if you like)
  • 16 cups water
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 ribs celery, each cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 bay leaves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, finely chopped, plus 1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

 

Directions

In a large heavy stockpot, place the chicken, water, the quartered onions, celery ribs, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper together. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Partially cover and allow to cook for about 2 hours, until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken from the pot, place on a plate or in a bowl and cover with aluminum foil until cool enough to handle. Strain the broth and allow to cool.

In a large pot or a Dutch oven, pour about 2 tsp vegetable oil and add the onions and bell peppers, cooking until they are softened and slightly translucent. Remove the veggies to a small bowl, and saute the sausage until slightly browned on both sides. Remove the sausage to another small bowl and set aside. Do not drain off the grease from the pot.

In the same pot, combine the vegetable oil and all purpose flour over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to make a roux until the mixture has thickened and is the color of milk chocolate, about 15-20 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it, roux can burn VERY easily.) Add the veggies, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, remaining 2 bay leaves, remaining salt and cayenne and the Worcestershire sauce. Pour in the strained broth, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for about 1 1/2 hours, tasting and adjusting for seasoning.

Remove the chicken meat from the bones and roughly chop, then set aside. Discard the carcass. Place the chicken and sausage into the gumbo broth and allow to cook for about 15-20 minutes. Take off the heat and use a wide spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Sprinkle with the green onions and parsley and eat with crusty bread, or over rice.

gumbo-ya-ya-pin

My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

thick-and-chunky-chicken-stew1

Can I ask a random but still perfectly serious question?

Why do people make/eat/like watery stew?

I don’t get it.

Whenever I see a dish given the name of a ‘stew’ with chunks of stew and vegetables literally swimming, no DROWNING in a broth bath I just cringe. It really hurts my feelings, guys. Because I know that person is selling themselves short and settling for something that I reallllllly wouldn’t call a stew.

thick-and-chunky-chicken-stew2

Call it a soup. Maybe even  call it a ‘stoup’ like Rachael Ray does. Just don’t call it a stew, k? That’s kinda disrespectful.

For me, if I could put it in one word, the biggest difference between a soup and a stew really does come down to as TEXTURE. The base of a good stew just has a different texture than a soup. It SHOULD have a very different feel to it both when you stir it up in the pot, and when you’re eating it. If you can’t tell the difference between a soup or a stew, or a stoup and a stew, then it’s very likely that your stew’s texture is…off.

thick-and-chunky-chicken-stew3

Should it be pasty thick? No. After all, it’s not a pot pie filling. However, it does need to be robust and have some body. It’s got to be thick enough where the liquid coats the back of the spoon when you dip into it. You shouldn’t be able to ‘slurp’ it up like a broth, but at the same time it should be loose enough where you can dip biscuits and/or rolls in it and soak up the extra goodness.

If all this sounds a little complicated, well…good. Now you realize how serious this is. Watery stew is no laughing matter. A good chicken stew was one of those things that when I was learning how to cook, I knew I wanted to nail early on. And I really do think that at this point, I have.

thick-and-chunky-chicken-stew5

My chicken stew is one of the recipes on the blog that three years after I first posted it, still gets some of the most traffic. And you know what? I don’t mind blowing my own horn a tad bit by saying that I really do understand why.

It’s a damn good stew. It’s become a staple dish in my house and my family is always very enthusiastic when I make it. It’s pretty easy to do, coming together in about an hour. It’s one of those dishes you can make a huge batch of and have enough to last throughout the week. Not only that, it’s also a perfect comfort food dish for this time of year.

thick-and-chunky-chicken-stew4

So why am I doing a revamp? Well for one, I think you guys deserve better pictures of it than the bunch I churned out three years ago when I knew jack-squat about food photography.  Second, since then I’ve added a few ingredients to my chicken stews that I make now that I think make it taste even better than the original. Third, I’ve also made a new provision in the recipe for those of you out there that don’t have the time or inclination to chop your veggies. Because yes, sometimes even Jess uses those bags of veggies on the frozen foods aisle. No shame in my game.

This stew is everything I love about fall and comfort food; thick chunks of chicken (breast, cause you guys know me by now), a medley of my favorite vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, mushrooms– all simmered together in a rich and robust gravy–NOT A BROTH.

Because we know better. Right? Of course right.

Happy Fiesta Friday #142, co-hosted this week by Elaine @ foodbod and Michelle @ O Blog Off.

***********************************************************

My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport.com

Print

Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, cut into bite sized (about 1 inch) chunks
  • 1/2 cup flour
  •  1 Heaping teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 Heaping teaspoon of onion powder, plus 1/2 tablespoon
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into equal bite sized chunks
  • 8 oz of cipollini onions, cut in half (one medium size yellow/sweet onion diced will also work fine)
  • 8 oz of fresh or frozen corn
  • 8 oz of baby bella mushrooms, stems and gills removed, caps roughly chopped
  • 8 oz of carrot chips
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 cup of stout beer
  • 3 cups of low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup of water, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1-2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons of corn starch

Note: The vegetable options for this dish are very flexible. If you don’t feel like chopping them up yourself, I’ve used a 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed veggies with this recipe before with perfectly fine results. Use what works for you.

Directions

Mix the flour, onion powder, garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of pepper together in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken chunks to the bag, seal, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat a large on-stick pot or Dutch Oven with olive oil. Brown meat over medium- high heat. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. Don’t worry about the thick layer that forms on the bottom of the pot: it’s supposed to be there.

De-glaze the pan with the stout beer. Once the bottom of the pot is no longer sticky, add the chicken stock, water, honey, dijon mustard, sweet potato, onions, carrots, mushrooms, bay leaves, corn, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew covered, for 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, if need be.

Dissolve the cornstarch in 4 tablespoons of cold water and add to the stew. Cook uncovered over medium heat for an additional 30 minutes, until thickened. (If stew still has not thickened after 30 minutes, you can add 1 additional tablespoon of cornstarch. It’ll thicken. You’ll see.)

   

Improv Chicken and Biscuits

Chicken and Biscuits1

I think I should start this post off by being completely honest about something:

This was supposed to be a different dish.

Not a HUGELY different one, but a different one all the same.

It just didn’t happen that way. Because…stupid stuff.

Chicken and Biscuits4

I originally set out to use my new springform pan to bake a deep dish chicken pot pie that I’ve had my cooking eye on for a while. I had a spare pie crust in my freezer that’s been there since I made my Deep Dish Apple pie a few months back. I thought that since it’d been in the freezer all this time, and since I could still see the chunks of butter in the dough that it would be okay to just thaw in the fridge and use, thus sparing me the necessity of making another pie crust from scratch.

I thought.

Chicken and Biscuits2

So what had happened was, I rolled out the thawed pie crust and lined it in my springform pan. I thought it felt and looked fine. There waaaaaas a tiny little problem though: I didn’t have parchment paper and/or pie weights or beans to place on top of the crust while it pre-baked in the oven. All I had was aluminum foil.

So I knocked on wood,placed a layer of foil on top of crust and put it in the oven and waited for something to happen.

And turns out, something DID happen…it just wasn’t a very good something.

Chicken and Biscuits6

About ten minutes into the bake, (just to be on the safe side) I looked in the oven and lifted the foil.

Yeah so….the crust was collapsing in the pan in a gelatinous, greasy pile. It was a hot mess.

No WAY was this gonna work.

To be perfectly honest, I have NO idea what I did wrong, guys.

Maybe I really did need the parchment paper and pie weights. Like, maybe they were the “heart and soul” of the recipe. (Doubt it, but hey, could be.)

Chicken and Biscuits3

It’s very possible and likely that the fats in the butter of the frozen pie crust over the long period of time had in the freezer, I don’t know….evaporated? Maybe there’s an expiration date on frozen pie crust. I didn’t think so, but maybe there is. If one of you out there happens to be a food scientist, maybe you can explain it to me.

But then, I’m also half convinced that the oven in our new apartment hasn’t been properly calibrated. Despite being an electric range like our last one was,  it takes longer to bake things in this oven than the allotted time for recipes–sometimes much longer. I’m planning on going out and buying an oven thermometer this weekend and testing the temps to confirm my suspicions. I’m hoping I’m wrong about that though.

Regardless, my plans for a deep dish chicken pot pie were screwed.

Chicken and Biscuits5

The problem was, I couldn’t just walk away. I’d already started making the filling. I’d involved myself. I was committed to this now.

After promptly shoving the misshapen blob of deceased, failed pie crust into the trash can, I took a step back and thought: How was I going to salvage this dish to my satisfaction? Technically, I could’ve just made the filling and served it all on its own. I just didn’t want to do that.

I had started cooking with the expectation that we were going to have chicken pot pie for dinner, not just chicken pot pie filling. I wanted the carbohydrate-stick to your-ribs-chicken pot pie-experience. You can’t get that with filling all on its own: that’s just called a chicken stew.

Chicken and Biscuits7

As a general habit, I try to always have a box or two of frozen butter in my freezer at all times. That way, I always have butter that’s cold enough to make two things whenever I want: pie crust, and biscuits. After the embarrassing defeat of my other failed pie crust, I wasn’t up for making another one of those just then. Biscuits were an easier and quicker alternative (especially considering I only had a few more hours left until it would too dark outside for me to take pictures.)

I still had quite a bit of fresh rosemary left from making the filling that was meant to go in my pie. So I  called an audible and decided that I was going to make rosemary scented buttermilk biscuits to serve with the chicken filling.

Fortunately, the biscuits came together VERY quickly and easily. I was in a frustrated, frenzied hurry so I actually handled and kneaded at the dough much more than I’m usually comfortable with when I make biscuits, and they STILL came out flaky and tender on the inside. With some chicken filling spooned on top of these babies, you really are in for what I like to think of as the quintessential winter comfort food that makes you want to take a nap as soon as it’s gone. So despite my snafu with the failed pie crust, I still feel pretty good about how I rocked this out. It turned out well.

Y’know, thanks to improvisation and stuff. Thus the name of the recipe.

(I’ll be taking this dish to Fiesta Friday #104, co-hosted this week by Mila @ milkandbun and Hilda @ Along The Grapevine.)

*************************************************************************************

Improv Chicken and Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Food 52 & Serious Eats

Print

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • cups chicken stock
  • bay leaf
  • sprigs rosemary
  • sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp-1 tbsp. honey mustard (depending on taste preference)
  • cups chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large rotisserie chicken)

For the Biscuits

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, 1 whole, 1 beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups (13 ounces) all-purpose or low-protein biscuit flour, such as White Lily or Adluh
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) frozen unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

For the Chicken:

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the bag of frozen veggies, cook for further 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more. Remove the vegetables from the pot.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is just starting to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the vegetables back to the pot, along with the bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and the honey mustard. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cream, and chicken and return to a simmer. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the mixture from the heat.

For the Biscuits:

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, cream, and whole egg.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and chopped rosemary. Using the large grates on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the flour mixture and toss gently with a spatula until fully coated. Working quickly and using your fingers, rub butter into flour until butter forms marble-sized pieces. Alternatively, add flour mixture and butter to food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times to form marble-sized pieces; transfer to a large bowl.

Add buttermilk mixture and gently mix with a fork until just combined; the dough should look somewhat dry and shaggy. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Form dough into a rectangle, lightly pressing and folding to bring it together; avoid squeezing or kneading the dough.

Fold dough into thirds like a letter. Using rolling pin, roll out dough and repeat folding once more. Roll out dough to about 1/2-inch thickness. Wrap in plastic and transfer to refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Return dough to work surface, and, using a 3-inch round cookie-cutter and pressing down without a twisting motion, cut out biscuits as closely together as possible. Gather together scraps, pat down, and cut out more biscuits; discard any remaining scraps. Brush the top of each biscuit with egg-wash.

Bake the biscuits in a 400°F oven until risen and golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with the smothered chicken.

Old Fashioned Beef Stew

Beef Stew2

Do you guys remember the first time that you had beef stew?

No, I don’t mean anything that came out of a can or white plastic package that was labeled Dinty Moore, Hungry Man or  Campbell’s that you had to nuke inside a microwave. That doesn’t count here.

I mean, do you remember the last time you had real beef stew: a thick, rich, , hearty, completely homemade brew of tender meat and vegetables simmering on the stove that filled the house with an aroma that made everyone literally salivate with hunger? Does anyone remember when they first had stew like that?

I sure remember the first time that I did.

Beef Stew1

I was in my third year of undergrad at college, right before the time that I started to become interested in learning how to cook. Me and my sister (my roommate) had moved out of the dorms and into an apartment on campus. The dorm that we lived had for two years had recently been remodeled just our freshman year, including the cafeteria. We were very fortunate in that the food was not only edible, but pretty good for the most part. It spoiled us, to be honest. We didn’t realize just how much until we moved into our apartment without a cafeteria meal plan. It was…a learning experience.

We learned that frozen chicken patties got old. As did the microwaveable dinners. We also found out that as college students, consistently ordering out at local restaurants and take-out joints was not economically sustainable. Something would have to be done.

Beef Stew3

I reached out to my mom with our ‘desperate’ situation. Her maternal instincts were completely dependable and she immediately made it apart of her routine to cook homemade meals for her daughters on the weekends that we would pick up when we came home so that we wouldn’t have to eat processed crap or takeout all the time.

My mom’s a fantastic cook. Really, truly fantastic. She made us a lot  of big, bulk dishes that could either be really stretched out to last during the week, or frozen to eat later in the future. It was one week in the Spring that one of the things Jas and I got sent home with was a big pot of beef stew.

I’d never had beef stew that wasn’t microwaveable before. But I had absolute confidence in my mom’s cooking and figured that anything she made had to be pretty good.

I was wrong.

Her beef stew wasn’t ‘pretty good’. It was absolutely incredible. To this day, that stew is seriously one of the best tasting things I’ve ever put in my mouth. The blend of spices and seasonings was just perfect. It may seem weird, but I actually remember being jealous that my mom was able to produce something that tasted so good. It was the start of my wanting to be able to learn how to cook for myself. When I finally did get comfortable in the kitchen, I still remembered the taste of that beef stew. I wanted it again. Badly. So I asked my mom what she put in it.

Beef Stew4

Remember my mom’s philosophy about cooking? She doesn’t really use recipes anymore. Her answer was somewhere along the lines of  “Oh, I don’t know, I just put some stuff together.”

Which, you know, was loads of help.

Nevertheless: I made it a personal goal of my kitchen aspirations to be able to replicate the taste of that beef stew my mom made me in college. I’m still trying to get it down to this day. Not to say that the ones I’ve tried aren’t good- everyone, including her, tells me that they are. But they juuuuuust aren’t quite as wonderful as my mom’s.

This one though? It’s close. Not the same…but it is close.

{P.S: The rolls you see in see the background were not put there at random: there WILL be a recipe for them coming your way soon ;-)}

****************************************

Old Fashioned Beef Stew

Recipe Adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (14th Ed)

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 12 ounces beef stew meat, cut in 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 cups vegetable juice
  • 1 cup beer (Don’t use anything you wouldn’t want to drink)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Instant beef bouillon granules
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups cubed potato (sweet or white, according to preference)
  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 cup sliced carrot (2 medium)

Directions

1. Place flour in a plastic bag. Add meat cubes, a few at ta time, shaking to coat.

 2. In a  Dutch oven or large saucepan brown meat in hot oil; drain fat.

  • 3. Stir in vegetable juice, water, onion, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon granules, oregano, marjoram, pepper and bay leaf.

4. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until meat is tender.

  • 5. Stir in potato, corn and carrot. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered about 30 minutes more, or until meat and vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf.

  • *************************************************

Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

 

Chicken Stew2

Hello again Cook-letes!

Anyone else here love the Fall? I know I do. Besides Christmas, the autumn is my favorite time of year. For one thing, it’s when Football season begins- and if there’s one thing you guys should know about me, it’s that I’m a MAJOR college football fan. Michigan State University Football, to be exact. Alumni 2013. Go Green! Go White!  You get the idea.

In autumn, the weather here in Mid-Michigan is usually not too hot from August, and it’s not yet gotten to the point where it’s too cold in December. Plus the trees begin changing  into the most beautiful shades and colors.

My birthday is in autumn (September the 27th). I know, you guys missed it. But it’s okay. You can get me something next year. I’m not too hard to please. Kitchen gadgets and cook books will do. Also money. My bill collectors for my student loans would appreciate money as well.

But even as great as all those things are, I think I love the autumn the most because of the ‘autumn food’. You know what I’m talking about. Apples. Pumpkin. Cinnamon. Chili. Food that sticks to your ribs and warms you on the inside. It’s the food with the best flavors to cook and bake with in my opinion, so I’m really excited to share some of my recipes with these ingredients with you guys.

Chicken Stew3

I thought we’d start with one of my favorite fall foods: stew. Thick, chunky chicken stew with vegetables and mushrooms. Guys, this stuff is good for what ails ya. Really good. Move over Dinty Moore. Campbell’s can shove it. Hungry Man who? That’s pretty much the attitude you’ll have when you try this. Not only is it made completely from scratch, it also isn’t loaded with sodium and extra unpronounceable ingredients like the canned stuff, which makes it pretty good for you too.

Now, is it alright if I pause here and climb on a mini-soapbox for a minute? I wanna give my two cents about something that kinda ticks me off.  I know you guys will understand. I’m sure you all hate it just as much as I do. It can pretty much be summed up in two words:

Watery. Stew.

I hate watery stew. I hate stew that is watery. I’ve read a lot of cookbooks and perused a lot of recipe websites and every time I look at recipes for different types of stew, I inevitably see pictures of huge chunks of meat, and vegetables swimming/drowning in a thin broth. And I hate it. Now don’t get me wrong, there can still be a great flavor in the broth of a watery stew. But to me, if the consistency of the stew is watery, then it may as well not be called a stew at all. There’s another word in the culinary dictionary that would be far more befitting…we call it a SOUP. Heck, call it a Chunky Soup if you want to, but it’s NOT a stew.  Doggone it.

Chicken Stew1

So having gotten that off my chest, I knew that when I made my stew, it had to have just the right consistency to it. Not too much liquid, but not so dry that it didn’t have any moisture or body to it either. Think of the inside of a pot pie, only SLIGHTLY less thick. Dredging the chicken in flour,    cornstarch, along with a combination of cooking the stew low-n-slow while  uncovered on the stove top gave me exactly what I was looking for.

See the way it stays on the spoon? That's the 'stew' consistency I'm talkin' about.

See the way it stays on the spoon? That’s the ‘stew’ consistency I’m talkin’ about.

I’ve always loved the kick that beer gives to  chicken when marinating and grilling, so I saw  no reason not to include it here. As far as  vegetables go, I just went with my favorites;  sweet potatoes, corn, cipollini onions and  carrots. I also added some baby bella  mushrooms, which gave it an even richer, meatier flavor. I’m not a big fan of celery, I hate peas, and I prefer sweet potatoes to white. But feel free to swap those in your stew (or any other veggies you like). If you’d like to stretch the stew out a little more to save money or make it last longer, you could definitely serve it over some egg noodles. It also goes great with My Grandma’s Angel Biscuits (because you gotta eat stew with bread. There’s got to some place in the world where it’s an official law, or something).  Enjoy guys!

Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 and 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless, thinly sliced chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks (You can always pound them out thin yourself)

*1/2 cup flour

* 1 Heaping teaspoon of garlic powder

*1 Heaping teaspoon of onion powder, plus 1/2 tablespoon

* 1 large sweet potato, cut into equal bite sized chunks

* 8 oz of cipollini onions, cut in half

* 8 oz of fresh or frozen corn

* 8 oz of baby bella mushrooms, stems and gills removed, caps roughly chopped

* 8 oz of carrot chips

* 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, divided

* 1 and 1/4 cup of stout beer

*3 cups of low sodium chicken stock

*1 cup of water, plus 4 tablespoons, divided

*2 1/2 tablespoons of honey

* 4 tablespoons of corn starch

Directions:

1. Mix the flour, onion powder, garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of pepper together in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken chunks to the bag, seal, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

2. Coat a large pot or Dutch Oven with olive oil. Brown meat over medium- high heat. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. Don’t worry about the thick layer that forms on the bottom of the pot: it’s supposed to be there.

3. De-glaze the pan with the stout beer. Once the bottom of the pot is no longer sticky, add the chicken stock, water, honey, sweet potato, onions, carrots, mushrooms, corn, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat to low and simmer stew covered, for 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, if need be.

5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 4 tablespoons of cold water and add to the stew. Cook uncovered over medium heat for an additional 30 minutes, until thickened. (If stew still has not thickened after 30 minutes, you can add 1 additional tablespoon of cornstarch. It’ll thicken. You’ll see.)