Peppered Beef Soup from Southern Living's Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook


Winter just won’t stop. Sure, I know Phil saw his shadow and burrowed back into his comfy bed for a few more weeks, so I shouldn’t expect the crocuses to be peeping their heads above ground, but c’mon.

I’ve been willing to put up with the occasional flurries, the kind that looks pretty coming down but melts as soon as it hits the dirt, grass or pavement. My eye didn’t even twitch much when Dudette was out of school for three days because of a half inch of snow last week. It was, after all, just a half inch.

My irritation is with this new storm that’s brewing around us. Supposedly, our southern air is nice and warm. The northern climes, being ever so willing to share, are sending a good blast of their coldness via strong winds with high gusts. The cold will mix with our warm and, wait for it, snow will fall.

Eight to ten inches of the stuff. While even I see the prettiness in the occasional snow flurry, there’s nothing attractive about eight inches of snow. Nothing. And, if a half inch kept Dudette home for three days, I’m wondering how long she’ll be with me after this one.

Northern friends; thank you oh-so-very-much. I’m gonna need lots of soup.

The Process

Southern Living recently sent me a copy of The Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook, which came out in 2012. Even though we’re ACC fans, my love of tailgating food supersedes any loyalty I might have to that conference. I figure as long as I keep the cookbook out of Hubby’s sight, we’ll be ok.

As far as prep for this soup, fifteen minutes barely had time to tick away before I had all the ingredients in the slow cooker, and that included searing the roast, slicing, mincing, and chopping.


The Verdict

I could debate whether this is a stew or soup, but I wouldn’t want to take away from how tasty it is. The onion, garlic, beer, vinegar and Worcestershire definitely do their job in creating a tasty broth.

The soup is tummy-warming and soul-satisfying. It would be a perfect tailgate item on a cold game day, but it also does the job when icy family members come in the house after an afternoon of sledding.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Dudette was thrown by the beer flavor and I could have done with it being dialed back a little. Because of that, next time I’ll use one bottle of beer and replace the other with 12 ounces of beef broth instead.

Peppered Beef Soup from Southern Living's Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 (4-lb.) sirloin tip beef roast
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 (16-oz.) package baby carrots
  • 2 (12-oz.) bottles lager beer*
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules
  • 1½ to 3 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse roast, and pat dry. Cut a 1-inch-deep cavity in the shape of an "X" on top of roast. (Do not cut all the way through roast.) Dredge roast in all-purpose flour; shake off excess.
  2. Cook roast in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
  3. Place roast in a 6-qt. slow cooker. Stuff cavity with sliced red onion and minced garlic; top roast with potatoes and baby carrots. Pour beer, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce into slow cooker. Sprinkle with parsley, bouillon, and ground pepper. Add bay leaves to liquid in slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours or until fork-tender. Shred roast using two forks. Season with salt to taste. Serve in Toasted Bread Bowls, if desired.
*3 cups low-sodium beef broth may be substituted.
Notes
Dudette was thrown by the beer flavor and I could have done with it being dialed back a little. Because of that, next time I'll use one bottle of beer and replace the other with 12 ounces of beef broth instead.

 

So how are you handling this interminable winter? Are there  lots of soups and stews in your house? Extra blankets for those really cold nights? I’m glad that we have a good supply of wood this year. I have a feeling that we’ll be using the fireplace a lot over the next few days, if for nothing else, to dry out wet mittens and shoes.

Beef and Bean Bake from Southern Living's Slow Cooker Cookbook

Who’s the first one to turn on the heat in  your house?

I don’t mean bumping the thermostat up on a winter morning after a nice, cool night’s sleep. I mean the big deal turn-on, moving that little switch from off to heat for the first time since May (or April if you live in the same house as my husband).

No one’s touched our little switch yet. I know that’s true because there’s an icicle hanging off it that looks like a stalactite. I also know it’s true because when I got Dudette up this morning and led her over to our bed so we could cuddle before the madness of school prep got under way, we fought over the warm spot that I had left when I got up. I know because I had to chip a layer of ice off the cat’s water bowl so she could drink.

So, here I sit, in an unheated house on this balmy 40-degree morning bundled up in two pairs of socks, slippers, my jeans, a turtleneck sweater and a fleece wrap around shawl with arms (and pockets).

Yes, it’s the kind of thing that old ladies buy from QVC and wear around their houses while ironing doilies. So?

My mom gave me the shawl for Christmas one year. I will admit that it hung on a hook in the back of my closet for several years after I received it. Then we moved into this house, which has a heat pump that’s too small for the area it needs to warm and that silly little piece of old-people fleece called to me.

Friends, my fleece wrap around shawl with arms (and pockets) is awesome. I wear it all the time. When I’m inside. Our house. Without other people around. Including Hubby and Dudette, who make fun of me and my fleece wrap around shawl with arms (and pockets).

What’s that? You’re asking why I don’t just turn on the heat? You saw that whole thing about the heat pump being too small for the house, right? I could flip the switch, but I don’t know what’ll happen.

We let furnace-guy deal with that first heat-switch flip. If something’s going to blow up, I want it on his head, not mine. The question is, which one of us will buckle first and call furnace-guy. Considering that I’m the one in the fleece wrap around shawl with arms (and pockets), it’s a pretty easy guess.

In the meantime, I’m going to put another log on the fire, make more coffee, stay snuggled in my fleece wrap around shawl with arms (and pockets) and have  a steaming hot bowl of chili for lunch.

The Process

I promised lots of slow cooker meals this fall and I plan to deliver. This one is the kind that just takes a little prep work before turning the appliance on.

In this case, I had to crisp up my bacon in a large skillet and then cook the beef and onion in the same pan. That was it. I dumped those ingredients, as well as everything else, into my slow cooker and set it on low.

Five hours later, dinner was ready.

The Verdict

This was a big hit with the family. I think Hubby and Dudette liked it so much because it was all about the beans and beef, not about tomatoes. I thought it was a little strange to make a chili without canned or fresh tomatoes, but after seeing their reaction and enjoying it so much myself, it was no big deal. After all, the dish isn’t really called chili. It’s beef and beans.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I’d add another half pound of beef. I am carnivore, hear me roar.

Beef and Bean Bake from Southern Living's Slow Cooker Cookbook
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 slices bacon
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 15¼-ounce can lima beans, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can pork and beans, undrained
  • 1 15-ounce can light red kidney beans, drained
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Crumble and set aside.
  2. Wipe out the skillet and saute onion and beef in it until the beef is browned, crumbling the beef.
  3. Place all ingredients in a 3½-quart slow cooker. Stir well.
  4. Cover and cook on high setting for one hour. Reduce to low heat setting and continue cooking for 3-4 hours.
Notes
I'd add another half pound of beef.

 

I think making chili in the fall is as much a rite of passage as turning on the heat. Both seem to be acknowledgements that winter is indeed approaching and warm weather is done. Next up is pulling out the sweaters. But for now I’m good with my fleece wrap around shawl with arms (and pockets).

Foolproof Ribs with BBQ Sauce from Foolproof Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten

Feel free to drool. There, I’m done.

Alright, so I’m not really. But I could be. These, my friends, are my perfect food. I love ribs. And I’m chagrined to find that it’s been way too long since we talked about them here.

For a carnivore such as myself, barbecued ribs are the perfect soul satisfying food. There’s the meat, which is grilled slowly over a low fire. There’s the Flinstones’ ‘Yabba dabba do’ joy of a brontosaurus-sized slab on the plate, and there the fire-kissed, caramelized deliciousness of a perfect sauce slathering everything, including me.

Today is the fourth Thursday of the month, which means that it’s Pass the Cook Book Club day. Hosted by Kita of Pass the Sushi, the club gives me, and others like me, the chance to dip into the stack of cookbooks we have laying around the house.

For July, the club chose ‘Foolproof Recipes You Can Trust,’ by Ina Garten. As far as that goes, I think any recipe that Ina comes up with is one I can trust.

Our choices this month were a gazpacho, blondies and these ribs. For me, there really wasn’t any option; if ribs are there, ribs I’ll choose. You can, however, check out the other two dishes if you’d like. Just head to the links of other club members at the bottom.

But, for now, let’s do ribs.

The Process

Foolproof may not always equal easy, you know. It could be a very difficult recipe that always turns out perfectly. It could be, but in this case, it isn’t. Difficult, that is.

If you can throw ingredients in a saucepan, you can make these ribs. There are thirteen ingredients in the sauce, which is what makes it so delicious, but they’re all items that are already in a pretty well stocked pantry.

The sauce simmers and gets poured on the ribs, which are then wrapped in foil and baked for a good long time. For you purists out there who are calling foul for my using the oven instead of the grill, you’ll get over it. If you want, just grill the foil package instead.

When the ribs are done, light a good hot fire on the grill and let the flames kiss that barbecue sauce until it caramelizes and glazes on the meat.

The Verdict

Delicious. Absolutely freakin’ delicious. These were tender, juicy and full of flavor. The sauce, which is the real star, is amazing. All three of us inhaled dinner.

Ok, if you’re going to watch Dudette’s review, I need to include a disclaimer here. I was distracted when Dudette was ‘prepping’ for her shoot. She asked me about the ribs and without thinking, I said they were from Bobby Flay. It’s not a far reach, right? Grilling. Bobby. They go together much more than grilling and Ina.

And yes, she does say souffle. That’s my girl.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Not a thing.

Foolproof Ribs with BBQ Sauce from Foolproof Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Grilling
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
Ingredients for the Ribs
  • 5 lbs. Baby Back Ribs (or St. Louis ribs)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe BC BBQ Sauce

Ingredients for the BC Barbecue Sauce
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 cup (10 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup honey
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add the onions, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire, mustard, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Use the sauce immediately or pour into a container and refrigerate.
  3. Place the ribs on the sheet pan meat side up and sprinkle them with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour the BBQ sauce generously on each rack and cover the ribs loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 1½ hours for baby backs and 1¾ hours for St. Louis ribs, until the meat is very tender when tested with a fork. As soon as the ribs are out of the oven, spread them generously with additional BBQ sauce. Grill right away or refrigerate to grill later.
  4. About 50 minutes before you want to serve, heat a charcoal grill with a later of hot coals or heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. After the charcoal turns gray, brush the coking grate with oil to keep the ribs from sticking. Place the ribs on the grill ribs-side-down, put the lid on top (be sure both vents are open), and grill for 5 minutes. Turn the ribs meat-side-down, put the lid back on, and grill for another 4-5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and allow the ribs to rest for 10 minutes. Cut into ribs and serve hot with extra BBQ sauce on the side.

 

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Oatmeal Raisin Cake from The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Baking Cookbook

My pantry is too small. It didn’t start out that way. In fact, when we moved from our last house to this one, I made sure that my kitchen storage space would at least double. And it did.

Then it started. Where I used to have a single cylinder of table salt waiting to replace the one in the spice cabinet, I suddenly found myself pushing boxes of sea salt and packages of kosher salt out of the way to get to it.

What’ that? You need a cup of sugar? Why sure. Though, um, which one? Brown, dark brown, confectioners’, vanilla, granulated, turbinado, sanding or superfine? I got ‘em all.

And then there’s oats. You know the stuff. It’s used for cookies and oatmeal. Except when it’s not.

While an oat is an oat is an oat, the way it’s processed dictates the way the little grain looks after it comes out of the mill. Of course, it’s fine to bypass the mill altogether and just remove the hull, but it’ll take a long time to cook the groats (yeah, that’s what the poor things are called) until they’re tender.

So, to quicken the process, oats are cut with steel blades, resulting in steel cut oats. Or, they’re very coarsely ground on a stone, creating Scottish oatmeal.

Looking for the more traditional oatmeal for breakfast? Rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats) are created when groats are steamed and then rolled. That method increases the surface area of the oat so they cook faster.

Ah, but we live in an instant society, don’t we. Breakfast is a meal eaten on the go these days. So, along comes quick oats. Just roll the steamed groats a bit longer so they’re paper thin and they’ll cook up in seconds. Yes, all the nutrition of rolled oats is still there. Only the texture changes.

As with sugar and salt, I keep several varieties of oats in my pantry. Of course I do.

The Process

This recipe calls for old-fashioned oats, so they need to sit in boiling water for a spell before being added to the batter.

When just about ready, it’s a simple matter of mixing up the wet ingredients (including the oats), sifting the dry and adding them, throwing in the raisins, pouring the batter into a pan and baking it.

I was thrilled at how quickly this cake came together and even more so by the fact that I was able to make it with a wooden spoon instead of pulling out my blenders.

The Verdict

Hubby grabbed a piece while I was in the other room and all I heard was, ‘This cake is awesome.’ That about says it all.

The cake is awesome. It’s so tender and moist that just about melts in the mouth. The buttermilk or yogurt (I used yogurt) does a good job of offsetting the sweetness, but it’s still pretty sweet.

Unfortunately, Dudette refused to try this. My little one, who will finish of a box of raisins in one sitting, doesn’t care for them added to baked goods. I’m sure I’ll break her down over time, but for now this cake is all for Hubby and me. Well, and for anyone who wants to drop by for a visit.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Nothing.

Oatmeal Raisin Cake from The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Baking Cookbook
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1¼ cups boiling water
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening or margarine, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or chopped dates
Instructions
  1. Put the oats into a large bowl and add the boiling water. Set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, butter a 13x9-inch baking pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the shortening, sugars, and eggs in another large bowl and, using an electric mixer on high, beat until blended. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat to blend. Add the soaked oats and beat on low to incorporate. Set aside.
  2. Combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Using a wooden spoon or the mixer on low, add about half of the dry ingredients at a time to the liquid ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the raisins.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a wooden spoon. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Cool the cake in the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Paprika? I’ve got Hungarian, Spanish and smoked. You know I could go on forever. Check your cabinets; I’m sure you could too. While you’re in your pantry, grab the rolled oats and make this cake. Your family will thank you.

French Morning Muffins from The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Baking Cookbook

Here it comes, folks. That magical day when mothers are given the opportunity to dance through the flowers in some far-off sunlit field. Some Fabio-esque guy on a gorgeous white stallion will be waiting there to whisk us away and shower us with diamonds, chocolates and wine.

Sound good?

Personally, I’d prefer that the toilet get flushed by the [young] person that peed in it without my prompting, cajoling and finally threatening. I’d love to not see three different pairs of shoes scattered across the living room floor.

That constant thumping of the basketball being dribbled? How about a break from that? Or from the request for Band-Aids every ten minutes. Or for something to eat. There’s no way a person can be that hungry. That often.

For this day, how about we don’t watch SpongeBob, or Fairly Odd Parents, or Johnny Test. Can we also leave Strawberry Shortcake in her DVD case? Maybe this one time time I can choose the movie. Without listening to whining about my choice once I do.

The underwear on the floor. Really? Covering a backside, the hamper or the dresser drawer. Those are the only three places underwear belongs. Learn it. Live it. If not every day, at least on Sunday. Please?

The Process

The easiest way to ensure that I’ll get breakfast in bed on Mothers’ Day is to have some options available for my family to put on a tray (unless I don’t mind eating a bowl of cold cereal).  Hubby’s a stellar coffee brewer so I plan to have several baked goods ready.

First up are these French Morning Muffins. I got the recipe from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Baking cookbook. Yeah, the real Farmer’s Almanac. The one from which you can find out when to plant those lima beans, when the moon will be full and what happened on your birthday a hundred years ago.

These muffins are one of several recipes I’ll be making from the cookbook this week, all leading up to Mothers’ Day to help my family create the perfect breakfast tray for my meal in bed.

If you’re looking to help your family make your special day perfect, here’s a good place to start. The muffins are simple to throw together. In fact, I didn’t even have to pull out my blender, but used a whisk to beat the egg to a froth and then to add the wet mixture to the dry. It’s that easy.

The Verdict

I may have miscalculated. There’s a good chance that there won’t be any muffins left by Mothers’ Day. I knew I’d like them and was fairly certain Hubby would too. What I didn’t count on was Dudette’s enthusiastic embrace for these golden, sugary gems. She loves them.

I think they’re the perfect coffee companion. The cake is very tender and moist and has just a tad less sweetness to it than usual so the cinnamon sugar topping can shine. It’s delicious.

Dudette has two muffins for breakfast this morning and wanted to tell you herself what she thought of them. Please ignore her bed head. She really did get her hair brushed before she left for school.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Nothing.

French Morning Muffins from The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Baking Cookbook
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Muffin
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
Batter:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. For batter: Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 12-cup standard muffin pan or line with baking cups. Set aside. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy. Blend in the milk, melted butter and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid. Mix the batter until evenly blended. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake on the center oven rack for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack. Cool for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins and continue to cool on a rack.
  2. For topping: When the muffins are cool enough to handle, put the warm melted butter into a shallow bowl on your work surface. Put the sugar into a separate bowl and mix in the cinnamon. Working with one muffin at a time, dip the top of the muffin in the melted butter, then dip it in the cinnamon sugar, rolling it to coat the entire top. Transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat for the remaining muffins.
  3. (Note: If the sugar starts to get a little clumpy, 'fluff' it with your fingers, adding a little fresh sugar to break it up.)

This is the place where I tell you that The Old Farmer’s Everyday Baking cookbook was provided to me by the fine folks at Sherin Pierce Publishers. Even though they sent me the cookbook, the reviews and opinions are all mine. And, as you know, honest.