Beef Stew

I’ve never been a big fan of beef stew until I made some a few months ago. Maybe my tasted buds have “grow-up” but the stew was just so warm and hearty. The beef was so tender and the potatoes and carrots were hearty and cozy. The whole dish just gave me the feeling of being wrapped tight in a warm,  blanket. I was probably experiencing a carb high but whatever the feeling was, it was great.

This past weekend, I made another batch of stew and it was just as good at the first time. Typically, beef stew has red wine in it and a bit of vinegar but this time I left those ingredients out and I think it made the dish even better. Being able to customize a dish exactly to your taste is one of the best parts of home cooking.

I would seriously encourage all of you to try out this recipe. If you’re on the east coast like I am, the forecasters are calling for a bit of snow this weekend. This stew would be the PERFECT snowed day meal. If you do decide to make this beef stew, be sure to leave me a comment and let me know how it turns out.

Happy Eating!


4 stalks of celery                                              5 carrots                                           1 shallot

1 yellow onion                                                2 cloves of garlic                     1 lb of beef for stew

1 stick of salted butter                                  1/4 cup of flour      4-6 cups of chicken/beef broth

Fresh thyme (according to taste)                3 golden potatoes           1 can of peas

Salt/Pepper/Garlic/Onion powder to taste


  1. Dice 3 stalks of celery, 3 carrots, shallot, onion and garlic into small pieces.
  2. Season vegetable and cook in a dutch oven until soft in a bit of butter or oil. Remove from pot when done.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, season the meat. Season with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder.
  4. Using about a tablespoon of flour, very lightly sprinkle over meat.
  5. Transfer meat to a lightly oiled pot (used the same dutch oven that the vegetables were cooked in) and brown on all sides. Be sure not to completely cook the meat. Remove from pot when done.
  6. Using the butter and flour make a rue in the same dutch oven. To make a rue, melt the butter in the pot. When hot, swiftly wisk in the flour stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to smell like “cookie dough” pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Be sure to wisk fast during the entire process or the rue to be lumpy.
  7. After your rue has been made, add in the remaining chicken broth and stir together.
  8. Chop up the remaining carrots and celery into big chunky pieces. Quarter the potatoes
  9. Combine the meat, diced vegetables, carrots, thyme, and celery into the pot and cook for about 20 minutes. Taste along the way and add seasonings if desired.
  10. After about 20-25 minutes, add in potatoes and peas. Cook until potatoes are done.
  11. Eat, enjoy and be happy!


A few notes about this recipe:

– I cooked everything in the same cast iron pot so that I could retain as much drippings/flavor as possible. Plus I didn’t feel like washing a TON of dishes.

– As usual, I didn’t measure out the seasons. People’s tastes vary so much so season this dish according to your taste. Use your best judgment!

Cheesy Thyme Semolina Bread

Hey There,

A couple of months ago, I decided that I wanted to become an expert bread maker. I made dozens of rolls, biscuits, and loaves of bread and I can confidently say that after much practice and a ton of trial and error that I am still nowhere close to being considered an expert baker. LOL. I am not sure that I can even be considered a decent bread maker. Making bread is an art and a science that I have yet to master. No matter how much time and care I take, I always seem to get some aspect of the recipe wrong. I either kneed the dough too long, add too much water, under proof my bake or underbake it. Sometimes, I just get so frustrated but for some reason, I am always willing to try again. For me, I feel that baking bread is one of those “old-fashioned” skills that every good home cook should know how to do. I mean, you definitely can be a great cook without knowing how to make bread but I just think that it is a great skill to have.

Now, while making bread is still a real struggle, I have been able to find some recipes that usually work for me. While scrolling through Instagram one day, I ran across Alexandra Stafford’s page and instantly became hooked. I ran out and bought her book, Bread Toast Crumbs and ever since then I have been whipping up somewhat decent loaves of bread. Now while her recipes are perfect, I am not, so sometimes I still manage to mess them up but for the most part, they turn out great. Her methods are easy and uncumbersome and most of her recipes are made by following the same 5-6 steps, which I like. I would highly recommend this book for beginning bakers.

So, last night as I was going through my refrigerator I noticed that I had an insane amount shredded cheese on hand so I decided to use it to make cheese bread.  I ended up combining Alexandra’s recipe for Cheesy Cheddar and Parmigiano Bread and Rosemary Semolina Bread with Pine Nuts. I also made a few substitutions to the recipe.  Basically, I made used the Cheesy Bread recipe but substituted a half of cup of regular flour for a half of cup of semolina flour. In addition, I used fresh thyme instead of Rosemary and I used a variety of shredded cheeses including, mozzarella, a Mexican cheese blend, and a taco cheese blend. In the end, the bread turned out great. I must say, this turned out to be one of my more successful baking experiences.

If you are interested in making this recipe or if you are just interested to learn how to make bread then check out Bread, Toast, Crumbs. Also, if you already have this book or are just an expert bread maker, please share with me your favorite bread recipe. I would love to give it a try.

See Ya,

~ Samantha J.







Baptist Pound Cake

Hey There!,

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and it looks like I’ll be hosting Mother’s Day lunch/dinner again. I’m the only woman in my family with no kids, so I guess the task falls on me, that is until I have kids of my own. I’m still working on this year’s menu, but I do know that it will include this 5 flavor pound cake we like to call, “Baptist Pound Cake”. Now I made a version of this cake last year for Mother’s Day lunch but I have since then improved the recipe…at least I think it has improved. I simply added cream cheese to the recipe and I think it makes all the difference. The cake was moist before, but since adding the cream cheese it has become ever more moist and dense. It’s just so perfect.

Now, if you all grew up in “black church” or maybe you just attended a southern church, you’re all too familiar with pound cake. It seems that whenever there was an afternoon program (or afternoon pro-grim, as the old people say) it could be guaranteed that the following six things would be on the repast menu, 1) pound cake 2) after dinner mints 3) cookies 4) punch (preferably red or green and the kind that comes frozen that you just pour ginger ale over) 5) salted peanuts and 6) sheet cake. Some older church lady usually made the pound cake and it was always dense moist and perfect. This cake is just like that. The flavor is great, the texture is great and eating it just takes you back to fun times and times of fellowship (at least it does for me).

I think another about this cake that makes it so great is that you can dress it up or down and top it with almost anything you can think of. Sometimes it’s good all on its own, but other times a little icing, some fruit, nuts, ice cream or whipped cream and help take it to the next level. This cake is just so versatile and it’s just perfect for every occasion.

So if you love pound cake like I do and if it conjures up childhood memories like it does for me, be sure to check out the recipe for “Baptist Pound Cakes”. Be sure to tell me how you like to top it or if you like to eat it plain.

See you in my next post.

~Samantha J

Baptist Pound Cake

1 brick cream cheese at room temp
6 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks of butter (salted) at room temp
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 tea lemon extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the cream cheese and butter until it is light and whipped. About 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the salt and sugar and continue to beat for another 3-5 minutes until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl crack 6 eggs. Add them one by one to the mixer while on low speed making each sure each egg is well incorporated.

Add the flavorings.

Add the flour to the mixture in three parts.

Generously butter and flour two loaf pans. Divide mixture into the two pans.

Bake for 30 45 minutes or until done.

Top with your favorite topping and enjoy.



Salsa Verde

Hey There,

So a couple of weeks ago I celebrated a birthday. I won’t say how old I turned but I will say that I entered into a new decade. As  I do on most birthdays and during the week’s leading up to my birthday, I like to reflect on my life, make resolutions and set goals for the upcoming year. This year one resolution I set was to be more adventurous and to try new things. I want to push myself to step out of my comfort zone and embrace new adventures.  One area of my life that I am hoping to be more adventurous in, is in my culinary life. When I cook, I usually cook the same things and most of the time in the same ways. This year I am hoping to add new recipes to my culinary rotation and to experiment with new ingredients, so I have resolved to buy a new or different fruit or vegetable each time that I go to the store. So, last week when I was at the store, I decided to pick up some tomatillos.  I’ve always seen them in the store but I had never tried them or considered buying them. Since this was a new ingredient to me, I decided to keep it super simple and make salsa verde. Now, I know this recipe is not super exciting or in the least bit original but it is a great “intro” or “beginner” dish. Not only is it simple but because the recipe doesn’t call for much manipulation of the tomatillos you are able to get a good sense of what they actually taste like.

If tomatillos are a new ingredient to you or if you just want to make a super easy dish, then check out the recipe below. Also, I want to urge all of you to add something new to your life and to push yourself and to try something new. Maybe, like me, you can buy a new fruit or vegetable each time you go to the store or maybe just consider cooking a familiar recipe in a different way.

See you all in my next post!

~Samantha J.

Salsa Verde

10-12 tomatillos
1 shallot
6 clove of garlic
4 jalapenos
1/8 cup of water (up to)
vegetable oil

Remove husks from the tomatillos and wash.

Quarter the shallot

Coat all ingredients (tomatillos, shallot, garlic cloves, jalapeno) with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast ingredients for 15-25 minutes at 450 degrees or until ingredients become soft. Tomatillos should look slightly charred and start to become soft. Do not let the tomatillos burst. You want them to be juicy with you blend them with the other ingredients.

Once ingredients are soft, transfer them to a food processor and process until blended and somewhat smooth. Add water if the salsa is too thick.

Add more salt and pepper to taste.


If you want a less spicy salsa, remove the seeds from the jalapeno before you roast the pepper.

If you want a more spicy salsa, consider adding more jalapenos or add a little crushed red pepper flakes to the finished product.



Nutty Bread Pudding

Hey There,

So, all April long I’m featuring some of my favorite comfort foods. I know that you usually don’t think of comfort foods in April but since the weather has been so cold and dreary here in Virginia all month long, I figured why not! So, today’s post is all about bread pudding. Now, I will admit that bread pudding is not my absolute favorite but there is just something about the smell and the taste that is comforting to me. It reminds me of my childhood babysitter. Whenever I smell it or taste it, I can just see me, my brother and her sitting in her kitchen eating breakfast. Maybe that is where I first had it; I don’t know. But anyway, I had some leftover EuroClassic cream cheese brioche bread just sitting in my refrigerator so I decided to make some. I whipped up some eggs, vanilla, sugar and voila, I had a bread pudding. To make it extra comforting, I mixed together some sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, butter and sugar and topped off the pudding with that.  Oh and, I added a little (okay, a lot) of whipped cream on top right before I ate a slice.

How do you all feel about bread pudding? Is it one of your favorite comfort foods or could you do without it?

See you in my next post!

~Samantha J.

Bread Pudding

1.5 loaf of cream cheese brioche bread (slightly stale)
4 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1/2 tablespoon of almond extract
6 tablespoons butter
2 cups half/half
3/4 cup  sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)

Cube bread

Combine eggs, vanilla, almond extract and half and half into a large mixing bowl. Wisk until combined.

Add in bread and allow it to soak up the mixture for 5-10 mins.

Use 2 tablespoons of the butter to grease all sides of a baking dish.

Add bread and mixture to the baking dish and make for 30-45 mins.

While the pudding is baking, combine the nuts, brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of butter (melted) into a bowl. Mix until combined and the nuts are coated.

Sprinkle the nuts and sugar on top of the pudding and bake for another 5-10 mins.

Remove pudding and allow it to cool.

Top with more nuts and whipped cream right before eating.




Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Kale

Hey There Guys,
How’s life? How have things been going with you all? How was your January? I can’t believe that it’s already February. I feel like the next time we blink and look up it’ll June.

One of my new year’s resolutions was to eat more meals at home so all January long I’ve been whipping up quick and (sort of) healthy meals. One dish that I keep coming back to is roasted chicken. Believe it or not, I used to never cook or eat chicken at home. For some reason, whenever I would cook chicken I would end up not eating it and just throwing it away. I just found the dish extremely boring no matter how much I tried to fix it up. While I still can’t see myself buying and cooking chicken breast, drumsticks, or thighs I have started roasting whole chickens. I think being able to roast a moist and flavorful chicken is a basic cooking skill everyone should master. There are just so many ways that you can season it and use it. It’s such a versatile dish. From one chicken you can at least make 3-4 different dishes and it can literally last you days.

I’m sure many of you already follow, No Crumbs Left, but one day as I was going through her website, I found her recipe for Heroin Chicken. I looked so flavorful and perfectly seasoned so I decided to give it a try. I must admit I was skeptical at first because a lot of times I find that blog recipes often turn out bland because they don’t call for enough seasoning but this recipe was different. The chicken was so flavorful. (You all should really try it) One thing that I really liked about this recipe was that it called for the chicken to be butterflied and marinated for two days. Before to making this recipe, I had never butterflied a chicken so that was a technique that took some practice (happy to report, I have now mastered it!) but I found that it made the chicken must easier to season and carve. In addition, marinating it for two days led to a chicken that was perfectly seasoned inside and out. It was just perfect! This recipe was just great! I know that from now on, I will ALWAYS butterfly my chicken and marinade it for 2+ days before I cook it.

Like I said, roasted chickens are great because there are so many things you can do with them. After we picked most of the meat off the bones, I decided to use the carcass to make Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup. The perfect chicken made the perfect soup. It was savory and lemony and perfectly seasoned. Soup is always a great dish to make out of scraps. It’s forgiving and you can practically add anything you want to it. Below is the recipe for the soup that I made!

I hope you all consider making this soup or consider trying Terry’s Heroin Chicken. If you all do decide to make either dish let me know how it turns out.
As always, be sure to leave a comment and I’ll see you all in my next post!

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Kale

1 Lemon pepper chicken (leftovers)                                                  1c orzo
2 bunches of kale (cut into bite-sized pieces)                                  3 bay leaves
4c chicken stock                                                                                      Juice of ½ lemon
Salt/Pepper to taste                                                                                 1 bunch of thyme (tied)
½ teaspoon of lemon pepper chicken                                                 2c water
2 cloves of garlic


Combine all ingredients except for the orzo and kale into a large pot

Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes

Bring to a boil and add in orzo. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the orzo is done

Halfway through cooking the orzo add in the kale

Continue to cook until the orzo is done and the kale is soft (or to your liking.)

Remove the thyme and the bay leaves.