Monday, November 24, 2014

Beef Barley Soup

One of my favorite memories of growing up in the diner was my father's soups.  I don't remember him ever following a recipe.  He would just throw things together and the most delicious soup would come from that.  I have heard stories that at times he would run out of the soup well before lunch even started.  He had customers who were drivers from the highway department stopping in late in the morning after plowing snow and grabbing a bowl of hot soup. Dad would then have to whip up another batch for the lunch crowd.

There are three soups that I really remember well. The first is a very easy soup to make that doesn't need a recipe.  He made cream of tomato soup ( using milk and not water) from the condensed cans, but then adding cooked elbow macaroni.  The end result was Tomato Macaroni Soup.  Then he made something called Chuckwagon Soup and I believe that was a beef based soup but was a combination of whatever he had as left overs.  My all time favorite soup and the focus of this blog post was Beef Barley Soup.  Now as I said, there are no written recipes from Dad so I had to find my own.  So I went to one of my favorite chefs Ina Garten for her version of Beef Barley Soup complete with Oxtails.  

I didn't know what Oxtails were or what part of the cow it was from.  Thank goodness we shop at a store that has a great meat department and a good butcher to ask.  Our Oxtails were found in their freezer section and we picked the meaty ones.  Oxtail is the tail end of the cow if you haven't guessed. 


  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef oxtails
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 cups canned beef broth
  • 1 cup pearled barley


    Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Add the oxtails, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and reserve.

    Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown.
     Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pot along with the bay leaves.
    Return the oxtails to the pot and add the broth, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and skim off the fat.

    Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the barley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, drain, and set aside.

    When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Serve hot, with or without the oxtails


    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    Apple Bread

    Yummy Apple Bread!  A special treat for fall when fresh apples are in abundance.  We have had this recipe for quite some time and Sunday following our vacation we picked up some good baking apples to replenish our treats.  Hubby likes to cut the apples larger than expected so that you can see the apple in the bread.
    This recipe makes two loafs so plan ahead to either share or freeze some for later.   Could be a good addition to Thanksgiving dinner. Hubby made this on Sunday and we were able to send some to our daughter in a care package.

    Apple Bread

     (From Penzeys)

    4 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped, about 4-5 large apples
    4 large eggs, beaten
    1 cup vegetable oil
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used Penzeys.)
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups granulated sugar

    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 cup butter, room temperature

    For the bread and topping, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two standard bread loaf pans and set aside. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Cut into good-sized chunks, about 1 inch in size. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until fluffy.

     Add the oil and beat until combined. Add the vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

    Next, add the flour and sugar and mix on low just to blend. Turn the mixer to high and beat until the mixture is smooth. The batter will be very thick.

    Fold in the chopped apples, mixing by hand with a spoon so the apples do not get broken up. Divide the mixture between the two pans.

    To prepare the topping, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut the butter into the mixture with a fork until all the ingredients are moist and crumbly. Sprinkle equal amounts of topping on each loaf.

    Bake for about 1 hour on the center rack of the oven. The loaf should feel fairly firm when touched in the middle; if not, bake an extra 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pans.


    Sunday, November 9, 2014

    Favorites from the islands and a little taste of home

    I just got back from 5 wonderful days in one of my favorite places to visit, St. John, USVI.  It was, as my husband dubbed it, the week of Joanne!   Hubby and I and our food friends finished off our big birthday celebrations with my birthday trip to my favorite island and favorite place on earth.  

    While we were there we lounged around at the pool, along side the hotel's beach front and visiting Cruz Bay restaurants and stores. The day we selected to rent a car and visit the beaches was a bit overcast and some intermittent rain showers, so I really didn't get a chance to stroll along Cinnamon Bay or snorkel in the beautiful blue waters of the islands because we were unsure on the weather.  Now that we are home I am getting a little bit jealous of the post our friends are sending.  Their children are all grown up so they have no young kids at home that they have to take care of. A big Thanks to my niece, hubby and I got 5 days in the warmer weather to celebrate. 

    The island is so laid back and non commercial unlike St. Thomas.  There is no rush to go anywhere, the people are very friendly and shorts and a tshirt is all you need besides the bathing suit.  And while we were there we visited some of our favorite places to eat.  Our friends were surprised at the great restaurants on this small little island.  My absolute favorite restaurant The Lime Inn was not fully opened, but we still visited the bar for a cocktail.  If I had to rank our dinners I would start with Rhumblines for the awesome Thai cuisine, then waterfront Bistro for the great chorizo stuffed chicken breast, Ocean 362 for my birthday dinner of steak and a snicker doodle ice cream sandwich and then Morgan's Mango for the taste of the tropics.  All had great food, excellent service and the laid back island atmosphere.  But a trip to St. John is not complete without a stop at skinny legs for one of the best burgers anywhere.

    Now, while we were there our foodie  friend Mike wanted to make us lunch one day.  Our villa had a full kitchen and barbeque grills available.  Mike brought with him some risotto, truffle oil and spices.  He picked up some chicken breast and fresh zucchini at the local market and made the most amazing lunch.  It was like having dinner club in the islands, only we just had to bring the champagne and wine.  

    A special thanks to our hotel for the champagne and putting up my birthday banner. An even bigger thanks to our friends for helping me celebrate and a huge, and I mean huge thank you to my wonderful husband. He really did make this the week of Joanne.

    Slow Cooker Asian Beef with Cashews

    Looking for something new to make in the crock pot?  Rummaging through the stack of recipes last weekend that we  had printed off from earlier in the year I found this tasty dinner entrĂ©e.  We had a majority of the ingredients and it looked super easy and the potential for great taste.  I did make one addition to make sure it had the Asian flavor - a little bit of toasted sesame oil. 
    This would make a great week night dinner that when you come home to the house smells delicious, or make it on the weekend and have it cooking while your prepping your house for winter or decorating for the holidays. 
    The family loved it and tagged it a make again recipe.  My  only regret is not having some fortune cookies  to nibble on post dinner!


    Asian Beef with Cashews


    4 Green onions
    2 tbsp. oil
    1 Boneless Beef Chuck, cubed (about 2 to 2 1/2 lbs.)
    3 Cloves of garlic minced
    1/4 cup teriyaki Sauce
    2 red bell peppers chopped coarsely
    1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
    2 tbsp. corn starch
    1/2 cup Asian Toasted Sesame dressing
    2 cups snow peas, cut diagonally
    1/2 cup Planters Cashew Pieces
     toasted sesame oil


    Slice onions, keeping the sliced white bottoms and green tops separate. Heat oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add meat; cook 5 min. or until evenly browned, stirring occasionally and adding garlic for the last minute. Stir in teriyaki sauce, bell peppers, crushed pepper, white onion slices and a small drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Pour into slow cooker; cover with lid.
    Cook on LOW 5 to 6 hours (or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours).
    Mix cornstarch, dressing and a touch more sesame oil until blended. Add to slow cooker with snow peas and nuts; stir. Cook, uncovered, 10 min. or until slightly thickened. Top with green onion slices and serve over rice.