If you entertain a lot, you may have many taper or votive candles haphazardly stored. Then, when you need a set of tapers, they may be mismatched, stained from the candle stored next to it or, worse, broken. An easy storage solution is to store candle pairs in empty paper roll tubes. Label the outside of the tube with a marker indicating things like white tapers, red votives, etc. Store them horizontally in a plastic tube so you’re never searching for candles again.
This is the perfect end to a meal. It’s a light, dessert that won’t leave you feeling over-stuffed. I served this to our neighbors at our annual Memorial Day cookout. It’s quick, easy and delicious. While I used pound cake, an angel food cake would be an even lighter alternative. I purchased a Sara Lee pound cake in the freezer section of my grocery store but you could certainly make one from scratch or use a purchased one from a bakery. I have mini Le Creuset cocotte dishes and they were the perfect serving size but 3″ diameter ramekins would work as well. Be sure to use a top quality jam for the best taste. Fresh orange juice is best but a No Pulp store-bought variety is OK too. The strawberries I purchased were enormous so I sliced them rather than halved them. Use your judgement depending on the size of the berries. If you’re not a fan of strawberries or have an allergy, you could substitute raspberries, blackberries or a combination of your favorite berries.
Chocolate mousse is one of my favorite desserts. My family loves it too. I often serve it as dessert after Christmas dinner because it’s light and perfect after a heavy meal. I originally got this recipe from the Hershey’s website but I can no longer find it there. None of the mousse recipes there now are this easy. I use Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate. They are individually wrapped in one ounce portions. I use a serrated knife to “chop” the chocolate rather than breaking up those smallish bars. Much easier. Don’t rush the melting process and use fresh chocolate. If you melt the chocolate too fast, it could seize up on you and you can’t recover that mistake. You will need to start again, so just be patient. You’ll be glad you were.
When the weather gets cold, year after year I have tried to make a succulent, melt in your mouth beef stew or pot roast. I’ve used the stove top, slow cooker and oven. Nothing has been even close to what hubby and I wanted. In fact, he suggested that I stop trying. Sadly, he was right!
Then I remembered I had seen The Barefoot Contessa make Beef Bourguignon on TV. So I went in search of the recipe and found it on the Food Network site. I adapted it a bit omitting mushrooms and serving over mashed potatoes. I’m just not a mushroom fan. But, after I made it, hubby said this would do over any pot roast recipe I could ever try. That’s how good it is! It’s a very rustic, peasant dish that is full of flavor and just sounds impressive when you say Beef Bourguignon.
Before I get to the recipe, a few notes. Use a bottle of wine you would drink. Being in the wine business with my husband, I’ve never used the same bottle of wine in this recipe but it has been one we like to drink. My personal favorite is a pinot noir. If you’ve never done it before igniting the cognac is intimidating, there’s no doubt. Here’s my method, I pour in the cognac, wait a minute or two, stand at the ready with the lid and make my hubby light it! He uses one of those flame wands. The flames will be high. The flames will be many. Panic inside but remain calm. Oh, did I mention I also have my fire extinguisher nearby? You need the alcohol to burn off. If it gets to much for your nerves, cover the pot with the lid. I own Calphalon, the original. I do have a coated Dutch oven but flaming in that makes me nervous for too many reasons to mention here. The lid is not glass either. Don’t try to use any other cut of meat than chuck roast. It really has much more fat, or marbling, than I like, but the fat melts away during cooking. Like magic, making the meat melt in your mouth. I like to serve over mashed potatoes but you can also serve over crusty, toasted sourdough bread.
So now, my version of Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguignon.
1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces thick cut bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 (750ml) bottle good dry red wine such as Pinot Noir
1 can (2 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole (pearl) onions
Country bread, Sourdough bread, or mashed potatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes (it helps them brown) with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
Toss the carrots and onions and 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. (See comments above about doing this.) Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting, oven-proof lid and place in the oven for about 1 1 /4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven to stovetop.
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
To serve: If serving over bread, toast in toaster or oven. Rub each slice with a cut clove of garlic. Spoon stew over slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley.
If serving with mashed potatoes, spoon a serving of mashed potatoes onto plate and spoon stew over potatoes. Serve hot!
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Fricassee. It’s a fun word to say, but what does it actually mean? Well a fricassee is a dish that’s halfway between a saute and a stew. This one just happens to be served with from-scratch dumplings. It is good, soul-satisfying comfort food. Perfect for bad days, cold days or anytime you need a bit of home and Mom’s cooking. My youngest son devours this dish, especially the dumplings.
If you’ve never made dumplings before, don’t fret, these really are easy to make. They are drop dumplings rather than rolled dumplings. I actually prefer drop as sometimes rolled can be gummy. Don’t overwork the dough, mix until just combined. I often serve this on a plate but if you have pasta bowls use those instead. They make a lovely presentation.