Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Slow Cooker Beef and Cranberry Red Wine Stew

The weather is getting colder and wetter by the day and it’s time to eat things that are not just nutritious but hearty and stick-to-the-ribs filling. If you live an area when temperatures can drop to 40 below at the peak of winter, or even if you’re sensitive to the cold, this stew is for you. Packed with beef, vegetables, holiday-friendly cranberry sauce and red wine and finished with a little Greek yogurt, it’s heaven as is or with rice or mashed potatoes.

Don’t be put off by the cook time and number of ingredients. Whether you do it in the oven or in a slow cooker (crock pot) this is the kind of thing you can fix and forget until it’s time to put the finishing touches on to eat and enjoy, and most of the stuff on this list you probably already have in your fridge and pantry.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium
Prep  time: 25 Minutes
Oven Cook Time: About 3 Hours
Slow Cooker Time: 6 Hours

Feeds at least 4 to 6


1 Pound of Stewing Beef or Venison

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

1 Cup of Chopped Carrots

1 Cup of Chopped Onions – About half a large onion or 2 Medium Ones

1 Cup of Chopped Leeks

1 Cup of Chopped Celery

2 Large Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 Strips of Bacon, Finely Chopped

3 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard

3 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste

2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce

1 Cup of Red Wine – Use anything you have leftover or get something cheap just for cooking

2 Cups of Beef Stock – Instant or from a carton is fine

½ Cup of Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup of Jellied Cranberry Sauce – The kind that comes in a can

1 Teaspoon of Paprika

1 Teaspoon of Rosemary

Salt and Pepper to Taste

4 Tablespoons of Corn Starch mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Water or Until it forms a soupy paste - Optional

1 Tablespoon of Butter

1 Cup of Greek Yogurt – 5% or 2% Fat is ideal, but if you’re calorie counting, go with a lower fat variety


1 Slow Cooker or a Pot with a lid that can go in the Oven – If your pot has metal handles and is bottom heavy, it will probably be ok, but if you’re in doubt, use a deep baking pan covered in foil instead

1 Wooden Spoon

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Regular Bowl

1 Frying Pan

IF YOU’RE USING THE OVEN, turn it to 350 0F.

In a pan on medium high heat, add the olive oil.

When the oil slides easily around in the pan, add the leeks, carrots, celery, and onion. Stir everything around with a wooden spoon until the vegetables have softened slightly and brightened in colour.

Add the garlic to the veggies and stir it around until you smell the garlic.

Turn off the stove and dump the veggies into your slow cooker or pot.

Put the stewing meat in your mixing bowl and add the paprika, rosemary, and a little salt and pepper. Set aside.

Put the chopped bacon in the same frying pan you used to cook the vegetables and add a cup of water.

Turn the heat on high, stirring every once in a while until the water has evaporated and forced the bacon to release some of its fat. When the bacon is reddish brown around the edges, scoop it into the pot or slow cooker.

Without draining the pan of all that delicious fat, turn the heat on medium high and cook the stewing meat, stirring occasionally until all the pieces are brown on all sides.

Dump the meat into the pot with the other ingredients.

Add the beef stock, red wine, cranberry sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, and Dijon mustard to the pot and stir everything together with your wooden spoon to break up the cranberry sauce a little. The heat will do the rest.

IF YOU’RE USING A SLOW COOKER, put the lid on, turn it on high and walk away for 3 hours. Then turn it on low for the remaining 3.

IF YOU’RE USING A POT, put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 3 hours.

Whichever method you use, the stew is ready for the finishing touches when a piece of stewing meat falls apart easily when mashed with a fork.

Taste the stew and season with salt and pepper until it tastes good to you.

If the stew is too runny for you, stir in that mix of corn starch and water a little at a time until the stew is thick enough for you.

Stir in the butter. This gives the stew a nice glossiness, making it extra appetizing.

Stir in the yogurt.

Let it cool for 5 minutes and serve!

This will keep in the fridge for about a week.


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crumble Top Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

If you’ve ever had an urge to try and bake something, a quick bread is a great place to start. Somewhere between a muffin, a cake, and bread, it’s a delightful breakfast, brunch, or tea party item that feeds many and makes a welcome gift.

Take this banana bread.

This bread is quick and combines two things I love: chocolate and nuts, with two things I generally have to force myself to eat: whole grains and bananas. The result is a moist, flavorful bread with a crunchy crumbly top that fulfills any chocolate fix while getting some nice whole grains and fruit in the process.

Try it out!

If you love it as much as I do, you can bake a few, wrap em in plastic wrap, tape on some ribbon, and keep them in the freezer for extra holiday gifts.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium - Easy
Prep  Time: 15 Minutes
Bake Time: 75 Minutes (1 hour and 15 Minutes)

Yields One Loaf Serving about 4 to 6


3 Very or Overripe Bananas, Peeled and Mashed – This bread is a great way to use any bananas with too many brown spots for you to eat as is. Mash them into a paste using either a fork or your trusty potato masher until there are little-to-no lumps.

¾ Cup Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

¾ Cup Canola Oil – Vegetable Oil, Crisco, or Sunflower Oil would work too.

½ Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon

½ Teaspoon of Salt

1 Cup of All Purpose Flour

1 Cup of Oats – Plain instant Oatmeal works too.

½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour

½ Cup Whole Milk – I prefer whole milk for baking, but if you’re calorie conscious or want to make it nondairy, use water or skim milk

½ Teaspoon of Baking Soda

1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder

¼ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Crushed Walnuts – Optional

¾ Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips


4 Tablespoons of Softened Butter

4 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar

5 Tablespoons of Oats

3 Tablespoons of Whole Wheat Flour

¼ Teaspoon of Salt

¼ Teaspoon of Cinnamon


1 Large Mixing Bowl

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Loaf Pan – You can get decent ones in the dollar store for a couple of bucks, or a pack of disposable ones in the grocery store for the same price

1 Baking Sheet

Butter or Cooking Spray

Parchment Paper – This is a non-stick paper commonly used in baking. A pack of sheets is available at dollar stores for about a buck fifty

1 Regular Bowl

1 Regular Fork

1 Rubber Spatula

1 Kitchen Timer – Feel free to use your phone for this.

1 Potato Masher or Other fork – For mashing your bananas

In a regular bowl, mash together the ingredients for the crumble topping with a fork until it’s all combined and taken on the texture of clumpy wet sand.

Pop the bowl in the freezer while you get your bread ready.

Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

Line the bottom of your loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the paper and the inside of the pan not covered with it.

In your mixing bowl, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, oil, and vanilla. Give it all a stir until well combined.

Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flour, the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir it all until slightly moistened.

Add the milk and stir JUST until it looks like a cohesive batter.

Gently stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and take the crumble topping out of the freezer.

Sprinkle it over the top of batter.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and put the loaf pan on top of it. The bread shouldn’t overflow, but this is a good way to avoid any drips.

Bake for an hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.

Cool in the pan and enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pasta Alla Puttanesca

Pasta alla Puttanesca is one of the quickest pasta dishes there is with an interesting history.

Though its name means “whore’s pasta”, its story has nothing to do with prostitution.

Legend has it that one night in the fifties, a group of customers strolled into a restaurant in Italy demanding something to eat. As it was late, the chef and owner sheepishly told them that he was low on ingredients and couldn’t serve them anything. As they were hungry, the group said to serve them any “garbage” he had. The chef only had a few tomatoes, a couple of olives and some capers, so he threw them together to make spaghetti sauce.

The dish has been a classic ever since.

This dish takes about five minutes longer to make than it does to boil pasta and is my go-to meal when I’m either feeling lazy or in a rush. Packed with tomatoes, capers, garlic, olives, and anchovies, it’s not for everyone, but for those unafraid of strong flavors, you MUST try this! One bite and you’ll never ask whether great food can be made quickly ever again.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and cook time: 15 -20 Minutes

Serves 2 to 4


Half a Box of Pasta – For this photo, I used short pasta, but if you want the dish to cook extra fast, angel hair or vermicelli are great choices.

1 Teaspoon of Salt

3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 Anchovy Fillets, finely chopped OR 1 Tablespoon of Anchovy Paste – Available in the fish section of grocery stores

6 or 7 Pitted Black Olives, finely chopped – Canned or jarred and packed in liquid is fine

2 Tablespoons of Capers – Available in the same section of the grocery store as the pickles

3 Heaping Tablespoons of Tomato Paste

2 Tablespoons of Prepared Basil Pesto

4 Sundried Tomatoes packed in Oil, Thinly Sliced (Optional) – Available with the pasta sauces in the grocery store, these add an extra rich tomato flavor and chewiness, but they’re not necessary.

Zest of 1 Lemon (Optional)

½ Teaspoon of Dried, Crushed Chilies (Optional)


1 Pot to Boil the Pasta

1 Ladle or Other Scooping Spoon

1 Strainer

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Regular Bowl

1 Regular Spoon

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Pair of Tongs

Fill your pot with water and add the teaspoon of salt, stirring so the salt is dissolved. Though experts say you have to boil the pasta in tons of water, you don’t. Enough water to fully submerge the dry pasta is enough.

Put the heat on high.

When the water is boiling, dump in your pasta and stir it all to fully submerge it. The cook time of the pasta will depend entirely on the type and your preference of doneness. Short, thick pasta like rotini will take longer than thin varieties like cappellini (angel hair), spaghettini, and vermicelli, especially if you prefer your pasta mushier than al dente.

While the pasta is boiling, chop up the anchovies, olives, garlic, capers, and sundried tomatoes, if using.

Put the tomato paste in a bowl. The minute the pasta water gets cloudy – this is from the starch in the pasta – scoop out about a cup of the water using your ladle and mix it with the tomato paste using your trusty regular spoon. This will not only thin the paste a little, but the starch will allow the sauce to stick to the pasta.

Drain your pasta in the strainer but DO NOT RINSE IT, and start your sauce.

In the same pot used to boil the pasta on medium high heat, add your olive oil.

The second the oil slides easily around in the pot, add your garlic, capers, anchovies, olives, pesto, and if using, lemon zest, sundried tomatoes, and chilies and stir it all with a wooden spoon.

The SECOND you start really smelling the ingredients in the pot, add the tomato paste and pasta water mixture.

Stir with a wooden spoon until it all starts to bubble.

Turn the heat to low and add the pasta back into the pot.

Toss everything together with a pair of tongs, making sure the pasta is fully coated.

Turn your stove off and serve!


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.