Best Beef Stew Ever

I made beef stew in the crock pot yesterday that was apparently so marvelous that my husband had to text me immediately during our Young Womens activity to tell me we should eat it every night from now on.  Then today he told me to put it on the recipe blog.  This from the guy who regularly informs me that recipe blogs are complete dullsville.  (Of course, his idea of a good time is reading economics blogs.)

I think part of what made it so great was using shredded beef.  We had the remains of 3 separate pot roasts in the freezer since there are only 2 of us and we get sick of pot roast way before we finish all the leftovers.  I thawed them and shredded them and it gave the stew a more interesting texture than my usual chopped stew meat.  But stew meat would probably be fine too, since I think the herbs were also key (and maybe the vinegar).

So here you go.  May your husband (or wife or significant other) praise you as mine praised me.

Best Beef Stew Ever

1 1/2 lbs shredded beef
6-7 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 cans salt-free diced tomatoes
2 cans beef broth (or 4 C. homemade beef broth) + 1 can water
2 T. Herbes de Provence
1 T. kosher salt
1/4 C. white vinegar

Throw everything in the crock pot, give in a good stir and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Butternut Squash Soup

After a few unseasonably warm days this week, I was thrilled when the weather people told us it was only going to be in the 60’s today. We had some friends over for dinner and I had 2 butternut squash on hand. Perfect for some Autumn soup! This is a mishmash of a few different recipes and tasted great, if I do say so myself.

Butternut Squash Soup

1-2 butternut squash (about 4 lbs total weight)
3 T. butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 C. broth (I used homemade turkey stock I had tucked away in the freezer)
3-4 t. nutmeg
2 t. kosher salt
1 C. milk

In stockpot or dutch oven, saute onions and garlic in butter until onions are clear. Meanwhile, peel, seed and dice squash. Or, do what I did, which is poke holes all over the squash and microwave for 10-15 minutes. Cut in half, scoop out seeds, and scoop the now-mushy squash into the stockpot.

Add broth, nutmeg and salt and simmer on medium for about an hour (or if you added raw squash, until the squash is soft enough to be mashed). Remove from heat and blend either in sections in a regular blender, or in the pot with an immersion blender. (I got to use my newish immersion blender!)

Prior to serving, whisk the milk into the soup. I used 1%, though I think it would have been better with whole milk.  Or even cream.  Yum!

Vegetarian (or not) Tortilla Soup

I love delicious soup in the winter.  Unfortunately my husband thinks that soup is only really suitable for lunchtime, probably because pretty much every soup I make is vegetarian (though I have branched out to chicken broth).  So Sunday lunch is often time for soup at our house.  Yesterday I decided to make an old favorite, a simple tortilla soup that can be assembled quite quickly.  Even better, the base for the broth can be made up to a few days ahead and reheated for about five minutes with the final ingredients and it still tastes good!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Adapted from Epicurious

4 generous servings

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion (about a cup)

4 cloves of garlic

1 red bell pepper

2+ tablespoons of tomato paste

1 teaspoon cumin

1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika

3/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of cayenne (if you’re not using the optional jalapeno later)

4 cups broth (I’ve used both vegetable and chicken broth and they both taste good.  Just make sure you like the flavor of the broth you use)

Salt  (I use about a teaspoon because I love salt and the broth I use isn’t very salty.)

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro plus more to garnish

4 6-inch corn tortillas cut into 1/2 inch strips

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed  (I’ve also used pinto and they are quite delicious)

1 small zucchini, diced

1 medium jalapeno (or use cayenne above)

sour cream or plain yogurt, cilantro, lime, and tortilla chips to garnish

1. Saute the onions, garlic and red pepper until onions are soft.  Add spices and tomato paste and mix until tomato paste is well-distributed.  Add broth and salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  At this point you can set aside the broth for later, combine the ingredients with an immersion blender (I like the thicker broth that results, but Zach prefers it unblended) or move right along to step 2.

2.  Add tortillas, tomatoes, beans, zucchini and jalapeno if using.  Taste the broth and adjust seasonings according to your preference.  I usually add some black pepper and a little more smoked paprika.  Simmer until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes.  One time Zach added some leftover chicken to his portion, and he liked it.  I also added a can of corn once and it was pretty good, but the soup seemed a little busy.

3.  For garnish, add a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, a dash of lime juice, and some cilantro.  Serve with (in progressive degrees of unhealthy) more tortillas, tortilla chips, or plain cheese nachos straight from the toaster oven.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Rex and I tried this new soup tonight from Cooking Light, and we both liked it quite a bit. Honestly, I like that it’s made

Cooking Light's Picture

from sweet potatoes and carrots, which are two vegetables that I usually have on hand, making this a great standby dinner and a great repeater. I think I might reduce the amount of liquid in it next time by about 2 c., but the other reviews on Cooking Light didn’t mention that, so it’s probably a personal thing. Other reviewers also commented that they doubled the spice in the soup, but I liked it as subtle as the recipe calls for.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

  • 3  tablespoons  butter, divided
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 4 3/4  cups  cubed peeled sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 1/2  cups  water
  • 3  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3  cups  chopped carrot (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4  cup  half-and-half
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3  cup  reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to open space in pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown. Add sweet potatoes, 3 1/2 cups water, broth, and carrot; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2. Place half of soup mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining soup mixture. Stir in half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 2 teaspoons sour cream and 3/4 teaspoon parsley.

Mulligatawny Soup

I tried a couple more Indian recipes last week to find some more good ones. This soup is a definite winner. I can’t remember having something exactly like it before–it turns out a pretty orange color, the lentils are pretty muted, and the flavor is great. It’s also vegetarian, though you can add 1 1/2 lbs. of  chicken breast with the vegetables (remove before blending, cube it, then add it back to the soup after blending) or 2 lbs. of cubed leg of lamb with the lentils, if you’d like. This recipe comes from The Best International Recipe book from America’s Test Kitchen.


1 1/2 t. garam masala (McCormick is a good brand)
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground turmeric

3 T. unsalted butter
2 medium onions, minced
1/2 c. sweetend shredded or flaked coconut
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 t. grated or minced fresh ginger (doing this on a box grater works well)
1 t. tomato paste
1/4 c. flour
7 c. low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if you prefer)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1/2 c. brown or green lentils (not red!)
2 T. cilantro, minced
Plain yogurt, for serving

1. Combine spices in a small bowl and set aside. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the spices and saute until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the onions and coconut and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Sitr in garlic, ginger, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in the flour until combined, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth.

2. Stir in the carrots and celery, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 20-25 minutes.

3. Puree the soup in a blender in batches until smooth and return to a clean pot. Add the lentils and return to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and a dollop of yogurt. Soup can be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Famous Senate Ham and White Bean Soup

So, this recipe is famous because it’s been served in the U.S. Senate restaurant ever since 1901. I, on the other hand, was just introduced to it this fall, and it’s already one of my favorite meals. Who’d guess that a ham bone and beans could make something so delicious? The recipe comes from my older copy of the Joy of Cooking.

Senate Ham and White Bean Soup

1 1/4 c. small dried white beans
7 c. cold water
1 small ham hock
1 large onion, diced
3 medium celery stalked with leaves, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped

In a pot, soak the beans overnight in cold water (cover the beans with water until the water is an inch above the beans). Drain the water, and add the 7 c. cold water and ham hock. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer until the beans are tender, 1 1/4 hrs. Take the bone out, remove extra meat and dice it; discard the bone, skin, and fat.

Return the meat back to the pot and add the remaining ingredients, except for the parsley. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and mash the soup with a potato masher until the soup is creamy. Add the chopped parsley and serve.

Corn and Butternut Squash Chowder

This is Martha's Picture, not mine

Of all the recipes I tried from September’s Everyday Food, this one was my favorite. I made it last week, and I’m planning to make it again this week. Hope you like it. Incidentally, the picture is from Martha, not me.

Corn and Butternut Squash Chowder

  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 5 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 box (10 ounces) frozen corn, thawed (or I used a can of corn)
  • 1 1/2 t. curry powder
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream

In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high; add squash and onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Add corn and curry powder; cook until curry is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. In a blender, blend half the soup until smooth. Return to pot and stir in cream; heat through over medium-low (do not boil).

Carrot Soup with Cilantro Salsa

We’ve been making this recipe for years, and always declare it a favorite at the end of the meal. The salsa is what makes the soup, so definitely don’t go without it.

Carrot Soup with Cilantro and Chile
From Best of Taste Magazine (Williams-Sonoma)

2 T. butter
2 T. canola oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 T. ginely chopped ginger
3 lb. Carrots, peeled and chopped
5 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 T. creamy peanut butter
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

Cilantro-Chile Salsa
1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. roasted peanuts
2 t. chopped jalapeno
fresh lime juice

1. In a large pot, melt butter with oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 15 min. Add the carrots and stock. Bring to a simmer. Cook until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter.
2. In a blender, puree the soup in 2 batches. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois into a pot [Rex and I never do this]. Reheat on low. Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
3. FOR SALSA: In a mortar, pound cilantro, peanuts and jalapeno to a paste. Add lime juice and salt to taste.
4. To serve, divide soup among 4 bowls. Top each with a spoonful of salsa.