Monday, January 25, 2010

Beef Stew for a Rainy Day

It's nasty outside today with whipping winds and driving rains, but inside it smells delicious. I've got beef stew simmering in the crockpot. This is one of my daughter's favorite meals so I know she'll be excited when she walks through the door this afternoon to the smell of stew.

This recipe is very simple and can be partially prepared ahead of time.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 T olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup flour

1 pound beef stew meat, cubed

3 large potatoes, peeled and chunked

15 baby carrots

1/2 pound mushrooms, chunked

1/2 cup water

1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth

3/4 t dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Cook onions and garlic until softened.
  • Put flour in a plastic bag.
  • Add beef cubes and toss to coat.
  • Add beef to onion mixture, cooking until meat is browned.*
  • Place potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms in bottom of slow cooker.
  • Add beef mixture.
  • Add beef broth, water, thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender.

Serves 6.

*You can prepare up to this step the night before.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cooking with Kids for a Cause

This month's Dinner Together Family Issue newsletter was sent out today. For those of you who don't subscribe (and why not?! you should sign up at :)), I wanted to share this month's article because I think it's really important.

This month I interviewed Michelle Stern of What's Cooking about her experience organizing events involving children and food to benefit the community. I think this topic is particularly timely given what's going on in the world right now and given that yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day that promotes community volunteerism.

Click here to read today's article.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dinner Together? Real Life Struggles with an Active Teen

Last week my 14 year old daughter did not eat dinner with our family at all during the week. Up until then I've been able to coordinate our schedules, juggle our dinner time hour, and make family dinners happen most nights. Usually winter is a peak time for us with family dinners. Our busy sports and performance seasons have usually been the spring and fall. So last week was the first time that I can remember that we did not have one single dinner Monday through Friday where all five of us were present. The other four of us were together during the week and then my absent daughter was present for meals on the weekend.

I was left feeling discouraged. How could I, someone who values family meals so much that she named her business "Dinner Together," go a full week without her daughter being present at dinner?

So how did it happen? Well, now that my daughter is in high school, most of her extracurricular activities are through the school and many of them take place in the evening. I know I've been blessed with a very active, highly self-motivated, over-achieving child. Our usually calm winters are now filled with cheerleading and the school play in addition to all the usual activities she's involved with. This week has been better. It's only Tuesday and we've already had one meal all together.

I know the research on the association between mental health variables and teens who eat at least 5 meals per week with their families. Now that I'm in those teen years myself, I'm hoping that the reasons that keep a teen away from family dinners can mediate the association between those variables. I'm also hoping that weekend meals carry some weight. I'm also hoping that it's the overall pattern and not individual bad weeks that matter most. And I'm also hoping that the words of wisdom I received once from the acclaimed Ellyn Satter hold true: sometimes just valuing eating together and trying to make it happen is good enough (paraphrased).

Seeing as I'm relatively new to being the parent of a teenage, I'd love to hear from those of you with teens about how you've managed to make family meals happen. What strategies have helped you?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

3 Great Recipes Using Leftover Ham

This past Christmas my daughter requested that we have ham for Christmas dinner. I was happy to honor her request and we had a delicious dinner of baked ham, sweet potato souffle (yum!), and green beans. This year there were only 5 of us for Christmas dinner so we had a lot of leftover ham. I sliced off some and stored it in a ziploc freezer bag for a future meal, but I still had a lot of ham left. So I had myself a little "leftover ham festival" and experimented with a few recipes. I made split pea soup with ham (and stored lots of that in the freezer for a future winter dinner), corn chowder with ham, and quiche with ham and gruyere. The recipes are below. The split pea soup was my favorite, but all were good. I highly recommend using leftovers in recipes and would love for you to share any of your favorite recipes which take advantage of leftovers.


1 leftover ham bone with several inches of ham remaining on the bone

2 lbs dried split peas*, rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

10 cups water

2 onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 baking potatoes, peeled and diced

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

  • Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes, until softened.
  • Stir in the carrots and potatoes.
  • Add the dried peas and ham bone.
  • Add the chicken broth and water.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Lower heat and cover.
  • Simmer for two hours.
  • Remove the ham bone from the soup. Cut off the ham and chop into bite-sized pieces.
  • Return the ham to the soup.
  • The soup should have a fairly smooth, yet chunky consistency. If you prefer a completely smooth consistency, put the soup through the blender in batches (either before or after you add the ham, depending on your preference).
  • This recipe yields a large amount of soup, but it freezes very well if you won’t be eating it all in one sitting.
*I like Goya brand the best.


2 cans (15 ounce) cream-style corn

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup chopped cooked ham

1 cup 2% milk

  • Mix the corn, chicken broth, and ham in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat.
  • Stir occasionally.
  • Stir in the milk and heat through.

Serves 6.


1 prepared refrigerated pie crust*

1 cup cooked ham, chopped

4 large eggs

2 cups heavy cream

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup Gruyere cheese**, shredded

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Unroll pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate.
  • Spread ham on the bottom of the prepared pie crust.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and salt.
  • Stir in cheese.
  • Pour cream mixture over ham.
  • Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
  • Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  • Bake for 35 minutes longer, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Serves 6.

*I like Pillsbury brand the best.

**can substitute swiss or cheddar