This is one of my most requested meals. Beef stew is one of the ultimate fall and winter comfort foods, a great make-ahead one-dish meal for working moms and dads, and it freezes well. My beef stew recipe is a combination of my Mom’s, my Mother-in-Law’s and my own additions. My memories of this dish include my Mom making it ahead on her Tuesday days off so it was ready to finish up and serve later in the week. Other memories include my mother-in-law serving it upon our arrival at their home in Colorado after we’d spent a long day driving to get there. The smell of her house with the stew cooking always felt like “coming home.”

I generally make my beef stew in large batches because that’s the way I’ve always needed to prepare it. I’ve cut that amount in half for this recipe as most of you will want to start with a smaller amount to begin with. NOTE: This recipe takes quite a bit of time to prepare, usually around 4-5 hours.


1 1/2 – 2 pounds beef stew meat cut into bit sized pieces
1 cup flour
kosher salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low sodium beef broth
4 medium carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 can green beans, drained
1 packet brown gravy mix
1 cup water


Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven. Mix together the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Dredge the stew meat, covering each piece in flour.

Add the stew meat to the hot oil, covering the bottom of the pan. Work in batches to brown all sides of the stew meat, making sure you don’t overcrowd the pan. Return all meat to the pan along with any remaining flour, sprinkling it over the top. Add the beef broth to the pan, making sure meat is completely covered.

Cover the pan and either cook slowly over a medium-low heat on your stove top, or braise in a 350 degree oven for about 2-3 hours. Check occasionally to stir the beef and to make sure you have sufficient liquid remaining in the beef. This will cook down into a thick gravy.

Meanwhile, prep your veggies. The carrots and the onions will take longer than the potatoes and the green beans to cook. When beef mixture has cooked down and is tender, add the carrots and onions to the pan, mixing well. Add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Return to the oven or continue cooking on your stove top. After the carrots and onions have cooked for about 30-45 minutes, add the potatoes and the green beans. Again, check the liquid to make sure there is sufficient cover the vegetables.

When the vegetables are tender (this will probably take about an hour and a half), combine the gravy mix in a bowl with 1 cup water. Mix well and add to the stew. Combine well. Let cook for about 10 minutes and taste. Add more kosher salt and pepper at this point according to your tastes.

It’s fall. Soup weather. Stew Weather. Apple pie weather. Mmmmmm, all of those posts coming up this week. As it happens, my husband pointed out that we had over-purchased milk this week, meaning I needed to find ways to use extra. His suggestion was, “How about a nice batch of potato soup?”

I could have made the old standard, but went out looking for something that might give me soup a little extra oomph. I found a good recipe on Taste of Home that provided the base. The best part of the soup were the homemade sourdough croutons I made to add to the top. I see these taking on a recipe life of their own in the future.


6 strips bacon, diced
3 cups cubed and peeled potatoes
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups 2% milk
8 ounces Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese (you can also use Velveeta, Colby, etc.)


In a large pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally; drain off the drippings. Add vegetables, seasonings and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.

Mix flour and milk with a whisk until smooth; stir into soup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in cheese until melted.

Serve topped with Sourdough Croutons.

Far from being just a way of using up the last of a stale loaf of sourdough bread, these croutons add a bit of crunch and seasoning to your soups and salads. Experiment with the basic salt and pepper version and add your own spice selections to vary things. How about some garlic or parmesan cheese?


2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 cups sourdough bread cut into cubes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
(Other seasonings as desired, to taste)


Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet until hot (don’t let the butter start to brown). Add the bread cubes. Toast the bread, tossing to get even color, until it is crispy and brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

When I married into my husband’s family, one of the first food traditions I was introduced to was Grandma Croy’s Cinnamon Applesauce. All my life I had eaten cooked apples the way my Granny had made them, which were chunky and stewed. This applesauce is a bright red and has a wonderful spicy cinnamon flavor.

Not many people are continuing this tradition these days – let’s face it, making homemade applesauce is a whole lot of work. But, it’s worth the effort. Whether you’re making one pan or making enough for your family’s annual enjoyment, I’ll share the steps to this beautiful dish.

This is less of a “recipe” and more of an explanation of “process.” How much of anything you use in this recipe varies greatly depending on what type of apples you use, the moisture content of those apples, how tart or sweet they are, how much cinnamon flavor and color you want in your applesauce, and how much you’re making.


granulated sugar
cinnamon red hot candy

I typically used Jonathan apples for sauce. However, I’ve started using Gala’s because they’re wonderfully sweet, have great moisture content and make a nicely textured sauce. Start by peeling, slicing and coring the apples. (If you plan to make a fair amount of applesauce, an apple peeler/corer is a must.)

Place sliced apples in a dutch oven or stock pot. Let’s have a conversation about the type of pan you use. I have the best luck when using my stainless steel, copper bottomed, Revere Ware pots. They conduct the heat well and cook the apples quickly. It’s also important to me that the natural color of the apples be retained as much as possible and that the juices not totally cook out and evaporate during the process – you’re going to need those. Dark or non-stick cookware has a tendency to take longer to cook the apples, turns them a darker color as they cook and leaves you with a little less liquid at the end of the process. But, use what you have and just pay close attention as the apples cook.

Before placing the apples on to cook, put about 2 inches of water in the bottom of your stock pot. A little more or less depending on how juicy your apples are. This water is there to just get the cooking process started. You want the liquid you end up with to be mostly what cooks out of your apples and not diluted with a lot of water.

Put apples on medium heat and let them cook until tender. You’ll start with a pan full to the brim. Once the apples break down and become tender, you’ll have reduced the amount to about half of what you started with. As the apples cook, make sure to stir/move them frequently. If you don’t see liquid cooking out of the apples, you can add a small amount of water to ensure they don’t scorch or stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the apples begin to get tender, use a potato masher and mash to apples up to help them finish cooking and get to an even consistency.

Add sugar to the apples. Note that I didn’t give an amount. This is dependent on the natural sweetness of the apples, the amount you’ve cooked and how sweet you want your sauce to be. Note that you’ll also be adding cinnamon red hots to your applesauce so don’t go overboard with the sugar at the beginning. Add a small amount and taste. Add cinnamon red hot candies, using the same process. How red do you want your sauce? How much cinnamon flavor do you want to have in your applesauce? Add more sugar or red hots gradually as you reach the flavor you want. Let the red hots dissolve completely. Remove apples from the heat and let cool.

Using a food processor or a food mill, process small batches of the apples until smooth. Don’t over-process or your applesauce will be too watery.

The next step depends on how you want to preserve your applesauce. You can, of course, portion it out into ziplock freezer bags and freeze it. However, I prefer to can mine and to have the ability to grab a jar off the shelf and put it on the table or give it as a gift whenever I need it.


What you’ll need:
A boiling water bath canner
Glass preserving jars, lids and bands (always start with new lids)
Jar lifter
Canning funnel
Magnetic stick for lifting lids out of boiling water

Fill your canner about 3/4 full of water and put on heat until water comes to a gentle boil.

I like to wash my jars in the dishwasher immediately before I’m ready to fill them as they need to be hot when you fill them with applesauce. Fill the jars leaving room at the top for any expansion. Overfilling can cause a jar to break or not seal properly.

I’ve always heated my lids in boiling water and then placed them on the jars. However, the Ball and Kerr websites say that the current lids don’t require that anymore. But, it’s the way I was taught and I still do it because I know it works. Place the bands on the jars and turn just until they’re secure, but not TIGHT. It’s important that you don’t tighten the bands until after the sealing process is complete.

Lift your jars using a jar lifting tool and place in the canner. Don’t overfill the canner. The water should cover the jars by about 1 inch.

Process your applesauce in the canning bath for 20 minutes. Remove and place jars on a towel on your counter top to let cool. You should start to hear lids “popping.” It is recommended that you leave your jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.

Inspect your lids for seals. There should be no flex when you press the center of the lid. You can then tighten the bands and store in a cool, dry place.

I use the canner my Mom used. I still have the dented metal canning funnel. I’m using the recipe I got from my mother-in-law. And whenever I smell apples cooking, it reminds me of my Granny Hamilton whose house ALWAYS smelled of cooking apples. This is what family traditions are all about.

I saw the title of this recipe, thought of my husband’s love of all things blueberry, and knew I had to give it a try. This one, from Sally’s Baking Addiction, is slightly differentiated by the swirls of blueberry jam added to the top before baking.


2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups fresh blueberries*
optional: 2 Tablespoons blueberry jam and/or crumb topping (see recipe note) (I used the jam swirl in my baking experiment)

Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan or coat with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract on medium speed until combined. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients and milk into the wet ingredients and beat until no flour pockets remain. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan. See note if adding streusel or blueberry jam swirl. Bake for 60-65 minutes, loosely covering the bread with aluminum foil at the 30 minute mark to help prevent the top and sides from getting too brown. A toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf will come out clean when the bread is done. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.

Cover and store bread at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Blueberry Jam or Crumble Topping: If desired, swirl 2 Tablespoons blueberry jam (or any flavor) into the top of the loaf before baking. A crumble topping adds a lovely crunch. Simply combine 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, then using a fork, mix in 2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter until crumbles form. Sprinkle over loaf before baking.

It’s very important to make sure you use the right size loaf pan. They vary greatly in size and this recipe needs the entire space in the prescribed size pan.


If you’re a fan of the 15 minute meal and a fan of scallops, this super easy recipe from is one you have to try. Scallops are one of my favorite things, but not something I cook often. Because they’re expensive, they’re also not something I feel great about “experimenting” with, so this recipe was a welcome find for me.


1/2 pound sea scallops
1/3 cup panko crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place scallops in a lightly greased 1-quart baking dish. Combine breadcrumbs and remaining ingredients and sprinkle over the scallops.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until scallops are opaque and topping is golden.

A couple of tips: choose scallops of similar size so they are done at the same time; make sure they’re completely thawed and dry before cooking.


The first time I ever heard of anyone putting apples and onions together in was when I read the Little House Books as a kid. In it, Laura Ingalls talked about fried apples and onions and how much her Pa enjoyed them. We never added onions to our fried apples when I was growing up. However, I can attest that the combination of sweet apples and onions sweetened with brown sugar and cinnamon is, indeed, something to talk about.

I found this recipe on The Spice House website. I made a few tweaks and changes to suit my needs, but the basic ingredients and approach are the same.


4 center cut pork chops (I use bone-in because I love the added flavor, but use what you prefer)
2-3 apples, sliced in fairly thin wedges
1 medium red onion, cut fairly thin wedges
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sweet and smoky pork rub, whatever brand you prefer
olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 4 pieces


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub pork chops on both sides with the pork rub and let rest. Spray a 9 x 13 pan or baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or brush with olive oil.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar.

Toss the apples and onions together with the sugar and place on the bottom of the baking dish. Place a pat of the butter in each of the four areas of the dish where a pork chop will rest.

In a cast iron skillet, sear pork chops on medium-high heat with a little olive oil. Cook for about 2 – 2 1/2 minutes per side until a nice crust forms. Lay pork chops on top of seasoned apples.

Cover dish with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until pork is done (145 degrees internal temperature). Remove meat from pan and let rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Check the apples and onions. They should be fork tender. If they are still crisp, return to the oven for a little longer.

Serve pork chops with apples and onions on the side.

A lesson I learned when cooking this recipe is that the pork reaches optimal temp before the apples and onions are done. It’s important to remove the pork and let it rest under foil and bake the apples and onions a little longer. If you leave the pork in as long as the apples and onions require, it will be overdone and drier than you want.


Weekend breakfasts can be awesome, memorable events. Those are the mornings when we might have a few extra minutes to put together something from scratch and bask in the glow of that morning achievement. It’s also a great opportunity to use up some of the leftover fruit or produce from the week before. Tired of turning your over-ripe bananas into banana bread? Look no further. This recipe from FoodNetwork.Com gives you an opportunity to take those leftover bananas and turn them into a spectacular breakfast presentation that looks good, tastes great and (here’s the secret) they’re really easy.


2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pie spice
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus additional for the waffle iron
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 very ripe banana, mashed well
Warmed honey or maple syrup, bananas and chopped nuts for serving


Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, pie spice and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a medium bowl until well blended and then whisk in the melted butter, vanilla and mashed banana. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with a few lumps. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high. Lightly brush the top and the bottom of the waffle iron with melted butter.

Fill each waffle indent about 3/4 full. Close the lid gently and cook until the waffle is golden brown and crisp, 5-7 minutes. Repeat with additional butter and the remaining batter, keeping the cooked waffles warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Serve the waffles topped with warm honey or maple syrup, sliced banana and chopped nuts.

This is a really good recipe and I highly recommend making extras for the freezer while you have that waffle iron out and ready. To freeze, cool waffles completely. Place in a plastic freezer bag, separating waffles with wax paper or parchment paper. To reheat, pop frozen waffles into the toaster.


Anything that combines the words jalapeno popper + mac and cheese has to be good, right? I found this recipe on a great BBQ site at We threw this on the smoker and paired it with our Smoked Sloppy Joe’s for an easy and delicious meal. I knew this one was going to be great when it started with a cast iron skillet…


1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 link uncooked bratwurst, casing removed
2 fresh jalapenos, seeds removed and finely diced
1, 8 ounce package cream cheese
8 ounces of uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream (note: I substituted the 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream for 2 cups half & half)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup Ritz crackers, crushed
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of your favorite sweet BBQ rub


Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and use a mild wood like pecan or maple.

On your stove top, preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brown the bacon and sausage, stirring and breaking it up as it cooks. Stir in the diced jalapenos and cook 2-3 minutes or until they start to soften.

Stir in the cream cheese and mix until melted and well combined. Add in the uncooked macaroni, water, milk and cream. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles have absorbed a majority of the liquid (about 8-10 minutes).

Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper and shredded cheese, mixing until the cheese is melted.

Sprinkle the top with the sweet BBQ rub, the crushed crackers and the thin jalapeno slices.

Place the skillet in the smoker, uncovered, and smoke for 30 minutes. At this point you can bump the temperature up to 400 and cook for an additional 8-10 to brown the topping, or you can transfer the pan to your kitchen oven for that task.

This is a dish that I will definitely use as a base for experimentation. I’d like to try using a variety of different meats, cheeses and spice combinations to vary the dish. It’s sure to become a favorite side dish!


If you’re like me, you eat a lot of oatmeal. I like oatmeal, and eat it for my health, but, like to make it an enjoyable experience. That means I experiment with add-ins and spices to make my morning oatmeal experience more exciting.

I love chai spiced anything. I started using it with my tea, moved on to desserts, and now like to find ways to include it in some of my healthier food options. Adding it to both the oatmeal and the apples in this recipe satisfied my chai cravings without completely breaking my healthy diet plan. As with all of my recipes, I am providing amounts that suit MY taste, but feel free to experiment so that the end result suits your taste.


For the oatmeal:

4 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats (you can use whatever oats you prefer for your oatmeal)
1 scant tablespoon chai spice

For the apples:

3 medium apples, cored and diced with peeling on
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon low-calorie butter or spread (I use Brummel and Brown)
1 scant tablespoon chai spice


In a large saucepan add water and chai spice. Mix the spice into the water to distribute. Bring the water to a boil. Add the 1 cup steel cut oats and lower heat to a simmer. Cook about 25 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. (Note: If you like a sweeter oatmeal, you can add some brown sugar (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) or a brown sugar blend like Truvia, to the water with the spice.)

In a small skillet, add the water and the apples. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until the apples begin to soften. Add the honey, butter and chai spice to the apples. Continue to stir until the liquid begins to thicken and develops a nice golden color.

Serve oatmeal with the apples spooned over the top. This recipe makes about 4 servings.

When working with spices, it’s important to taste as you go. A tip is to begin with half of what a recipe calls for, taste, and then add more if desired. Taste is a personal thing, especially with a bold spice like chai.