Sunday, November 27, 2011

Iron Horse Steak Chili

Locally owned Sauce Magazine – the only independent culinary publication in St. Louis – has been one of my favorite food information sources since its inception in 1999.  Featuring articles, reviews, and interviews with chefs, restaurateurs, purveyors, mixologists, sommeliers, culinary innovators, and home cooking enthusiasts, it also contains a wide variety of interesting recipes.  A lover of chili from my youth, this months (November 2011) issue featured a recipe from Mile 277 Tap & Grill that called my name: Iron Horse Steak Chili.
I’ve made a lot of chili in my day, but surprisingly never made a variety containing stew meat, so I thought I’d give this a try.  I followed the directions as written, with one exception.  Since I’ve never known stew meat to tenderize in less than an hour this seemed off to me, so I made the entire recipe and then poured it into the Crockpot and cooked it on low for two hours and high for one hour.  Perfect!  The meat (that I cut into ¾-inch pieces) was tender and flavorful.  The mixture of spices was well suited to my taste; the ratio of tomatoes to beans to meat was just as it should be.  I will certainly make this again, but since old habits die hard, I’m going to try it with ground chuck rather than stew meat.  Who knows?  I may end up with chili perfection.

Iron Horse Steak Chili 
Courtesy of Mile 277’s 
Jason Tilford and Chris LaRocca 

2 lbs. beef stew meat 
1 small yellow onion, minced, plus ¼ cup minced for garnish 
¾ green pepper, minced 
1 jalapeño pepper, minced 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 10-oz. can diced tomato, including juices 
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans 
½ cup barbecue sauce, preferably Bull’s-Eye 
2 Tbsp. chili powder 
1/5 Tbsp. cayenne pepper 
1 Tbsp. ground cumin 
1 bay leaf 
1 cup beef broth 
Salt to taste 
Cheddar cheese to garnish 

In a large stockpot, cook the beef until browned and cooked through. Remove from the heat and drain half of the grease. Return the stockpot to the heat and, using remaining grease, sauté the onion, green pepper, jalapeño and garlic for 10 minutes.  Add all remaining ingredients, except cheddar cheese and reserved ¼ cup minced onion. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, adjusting seasoning as needed.  Garnish each serving with grated cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of onion.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We did, as usual, but as I write this I am ready to collapse in a heap from exhaustion. I arranged these flowers myself, and was quite pleased with the outcome.  Isn't it amazing what a couple of bunches of flowers from Sam's and a pumpkin tureen can become?  The sage at the base of the arrangement is from my garden.

It is a tradition to begin the meal with soup with Potato Leek being the popular choice.  For some reason the soup this year tasted better than ever.  I served it in these turkey mugs.  I think I bought these back in the early 90s, lost them in the basement somewhere, and unearthed them this year.  It was so much fun to see them again.
Some time ago a blogger (I'm sorry, but I can't remember who) said that there is no reason to ever buy chargers again.  She suggested buying glass squares and setting them on top of decorative scrapbook paper.  I tried that this year and I have to tell you that I am sold!  It looked beautiful and added such an elegant touch to the table.  Everyone commented on how unique they were.
The colorful little foil-covered turkey to the right is from the Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Company.  I always send people home with some sort of goodie.

Another item unearthed this year was this whimsical sugar and creamer set.  Again, this dates back to the 90s and I believe it was a gift as I don't remember buying it.  It added a bit of fun to the table.

The meal!  Honestly, I don't even remember eating it, though everyone said it was delicious.  I'll enjoy it tomorrow in sandwich form.  I did enjoy the Brandied Mashed Sweet Potatoes in the orange cups.  This is a recent addition to the menu, and one of my favorites.

These brown napkins from World Market worked perfectly.

The brown glasses (that I LOVE!) were on loan from my mother.

Individual salt and pepper shakers at each place setting avoid reaching.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Mini Sausage Pastries

If you’re looking for an appetizer in a hurry (and who isn’t during this very busy holiday season?), then you might want to try these.   I based my recipe on this one that I found in last week’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, kicking it up a notch with the addition of Dijon mustard.   We’d found ourselves dipping the pastries into mustard, so I figured why not just add it to the pastry and be done with it.   It worked!  The key here is to have a very flavorful, spicy sausage that is a relatively fine grind.   I used the Bob Evans savory sage pork sausage as suggested in the original recipe to find it rather grisly and insipid, so went with our usual Bob Evans 'hot' variety and it worked out much better.

I also made just a third of the recipe, using the remaining two thirds of the puff pastry for Palmiers so I ended up with two delicious appetizers in relatively little time, having assembled the palmiers during the baking process of the sausage pastries.   The jury is still out on whether or not the sausage pastries freeze successfully.   I’ll have to let you know.

Mini Sausage Pastries

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (half of a 17.3-ounce package)
2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 pound spicy pork sausage (your favorite brand)
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Cut the sheet of dough into 3 equal strips, cutting along the fold lines.  On a floured board, roll each strip into a 4-by-8-inch rectangle.   Brush center of each pastry (running lengthwise) with 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard.   Divide sausage into 3 equal portions.  Roll each portion into an 8-inch log.   Place one log in the center of each dough rectangle, leaving room to seal the dough.  Moisten one long edge of dough with water (you can use a pastry brush for this, or your finger – I chose the latter – fewer dishes to clean), then fold the dough over the sausage, making edges meet.   Flute the edge to seal, leaving ends open.  Cut each log into 10 equal pieces.  Repeat with the remaining sausage and dough.   Transfer sausage rolls to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Score the pastry tops.  Whisk the egg with a fork, then brush across the tops of the rolls.   Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.    Let stand on baking sheet 2 minutes; remove to a cooling rack.   Sausage rolls may be served hot or cold.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Scones

If you’re anything like me, you can’t get enough of the delicious taste of pumpkin during the fall season. As a consequence, I am always looking for new ways to use it, and this morning developed this recipe for pumpkin pie scones. I made them lightly sweet and topped them with sanding sugar. The end result was a scone that was not only tasty and satisfying for breakfast (I slathered mine with pumpkin schmear; my husband tried one half with butter and the other with cream cheese, liking them equally well), but would work as easily on the bread tray at Thanksgiving dinner because they didn’t seem to be overtly a breakfast pastry. If it is a breakfast pastry that you’re looking for, make the recipe as shown, but drizzle the tops with the optional glaze shown below. Sensational! One additional note: I used 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. This was fine, but the next time I think I’m going to spice them up a bit more and go crazy with 1-1/2 teaspoons.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup canned solid pack pumpkin
¼ cup sour cream
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream, plus 2 more for brushing tops
Sanding sugar
Glaze (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside. In a small bowl combine the egg, pumpkin, and sour cream. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Stir until moistened. Add heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture comes together. Do not exceed four tablespoons of heavy cream.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times. Pat into an 8-inch circle about ¾” thick. Cut into eight wedges and place on a greased baking sheet. Using a pastry brush (silicone if you have it, if not, buy one!) brush heavy cream over the tops and sprinkle with sanding sugar (do not use the sanding sugar if you intend to top them with the glaze). Bake for 17-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/8 teaspoon allspice

In a small mixing bowl, stir all ingredients together until well blended. Pour into an icing bottle to drizzle over scones, or use a spoon, allowing glaze to run off the tip of the spoon onto the tops of the scones, sweeping in a back and forth motion.

*I used Penzey’s. Be sure whatever brand you use is fresh and aromatic

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beef Bourguignon

When it turned cool over the weekend, I started thinking about satisfying winter comfort food.  To me "comfort" = beef, and consequently thoughts turned to Beef Bourguignon.  To be honest, these thoughts were helped along by the fact that my husband bought a package of pearl onions because they looked cute (yes, he said the word "cute") in the produce section, and brought them home with no clue as to what he was going to do with them.  Enter me, and my recipe for Beef Bourguignon.  It's not an original; I use this recipe from Epicurious.  I'm not going to kid you here, it's a lot of work, but if you start it on a Sunday, and employ the use of a Crockpot, you’ll be rewarded with two days where the house smells so delicious you’ll almost swoon, plus a lovely dinner for you and your family, with perhaps enough left over to freeze for a cold night mid-winter.  For the sake of convenience I'm reprinting the recipe below.  I'm adding my notes, that I think enhances the flavor and makes it a bit less daunting.  (I cut the recipe in half; it came out beautifully and made plenty.)

Beef Bourguignon
Bon Appétit  | May 1994

8 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped*
3 pounds well-trimmed boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (from 7-bone chuck roast)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 pounds boiling onions, peeled
3/4 pound large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces**
12 large garlic cloves, peeled (left whole)

3 cups canned beef broth***
1/2 cup Cognac or brandy
2 750-ml bottles red Burgundy wine
 1 1/4 pounds mushrooms****
1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme or 2 tablespoons dried
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sauté bacon in heavy large Dutch oven over high heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Season beef generously with salt and pepper; coat with 1/3 cup flour, using all of flour. Working in 3 batches, brown beef in same pot over high heat, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer meat to large bowl. Add onions and carrots to same pot and sauté until light brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to bowl with beef.

Add 1 cup broth and Cognac to pot; boil until reduced to glaze, scraping up browned bits, about 8 minutes. Return meat and vegetables and their juices to pot. Add wine, mushrooms, thyme, sugar, tomato paste and 2 cups broth. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook until beef is tender, about 1 hour 20 minutes.+
Ladle liquid from stew into large saucepan. Spoon off fat. Boil liquid until reduced to 2 3/4 cups, about 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour liquid back over beef and vegetables. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Rewarm over low heat before serving.

*Nowhere in the recipe does it mention what to do with the bacon; I added it with the beef.
**I used baby carrots.  They are less work (no chopping) and make for a better presentation.
***I made broth from Better than Bouillon beef concentrate.
****I used large button mushrooms that I quartered.

+ At this point I dumped the entire mixture into a Crockpot and cooked it on high for 2-1/2 hours.  After allowing it to cool, I strained the juices from the meat and vegetable mixture and stored them separately in the refrigerator until the next day.  This made removing the fat a breeze as it rises to the top and solidifies and can be easily lifted off with a large spoon and discarded.  The next day I boiled down the juices, then added the meat and vegetables and heated through.  While the mixture was warming I made the rice.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Smoked Gouda Cheese Straws

In my continued observance of National Bread Month I turned, this morning, to the cooking magazine produced by our local market and made Smoked Gouda Cheese Straws.  As delicious as they are easy, these can serve the dual purpose of being both a snack and a bread course.  I served them with the Beef Bourguignon that we had for dinner, but of course we had to snack on them as soon as they came out of the oven.  Light, crispy, cheesy, and delicious, they'd go equally well with salad or soup, or a frosty mug of beer while watching your favorite football game. I cut this recipe in half -- easily done -- and went a bit light on the red pepper flakes (although we could have used more).  I also think that during the final step next time I'll brush the pastry with the egg mixture before twisting them rather than after, to get a more even coating of the mixture, and to facilitate twisting.

from Everybody Cooks by Dierberg's Markets

1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed in refrigerator overnight
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
 8 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, shredded (about 2 cups) (divided)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
Coarse Salt

On lightly floured surface, roll one pastry sheet into 10 x 12-inch rectangle.  
Brush with egg mixture; sprinkle half of each of the Gouda, Parmesan, and red pepper flakes over one half of the pastry.
 Fold pastry in half to enclose filling; firmly roll to 7 x 14-inch rectangle.  
Cut pastry crosswise into 1/2" strips (total of 20 to 22 strips).  Twist strips and place on parchment-lined baking sheet, pressing down ends.  
Brush tops with egg mixture; sprinkle coarse salt over top.  Repeat with remaining pastry sheet and ingredients.  Bake in 400 degree oven until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 1- to 12 minutes.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.  Makes about 3-1.2 dozen.  These are best the day they are baked.  To crisp leftovers, place on baking sheet in 400 degree oven for 2 to 3 minutes.

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Foodie Friday

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apple Cider Doughnut Mix Product Review

My husband is from New Jersey, and because he still has significant attachments in the form of friends and family, we try to get there for a visit as often as possible.  When we do, one of my favorite places to visit is Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck (Don't you just love that name?), NJ. Much more than an orchard, this place is a destination!  Produce, meats, cheeses, gourmet groceries, oh yes, and bakery goods. They certainly knew what they were doing when they placed the bakery at the entrance of this vast store.  I generally spend a good bit of time (okay, most of it, if you must know) in this section just sniffing.  It's also where I got my first taste of a cider donut.  Here they come covered with powdered sugar or plain.  I'm not sure which I like best, so clearly I'm going to have to run more tests.

I'm not sure why these aren't more widely available, but other than this shop I've not been able to find cider doughnuts any place else. Imagine my pleasure and surprise then, when I discovered a mix for cider doughnuts exclusively from Stonewall Kitchen.  Naturally I had to give it a try, and owed it to myself, really, since I have that new doughnut pan.  I mixed these together, baked them, brushed them with butter, and dipped them into the provided cinnamon-sugar mixture in just under 45 minutes.  The kitchen smelled fantastic and I was very pleased with the results.  As my husband has been eating cider doughnuts a lot longer than I have, I let him have the first taste.  The look on his face said it all.  These are good.  Now I'm not going to try to convince you that a mix is as good as what can be found in a bakery, but when said bakery is more than 900 miles away, I'm only too happy to have this option.  We were both quite surprised that a baked doughnut could be crispy on the outside and wonderfully moist and cake-y on the inside, but these were.  Priced at around $10 a box, my doughnuts cost about a dollar each.  In my opinion, it was money well spent.

Two thumbs up for this delicious mix!
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Banana Date Nut Bread

 It’s National Bread Month and I celebrated this morning by baking up a loaf of my grandmother’s banana bread.  As far as I know, this recipe goes back to the late 1800’s, when it was made by my great-great grandmother, and passed along to my grandmother who since passed it down to the rest of the baking women in the family.  My favorite of all the banana bread recipes that I’ve tried, it is dense, chewy, full of flavor, and packed with nutrients like potassium, calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium thanks to the addition of the dates.  Dates are also an excellent source of iron, dietary fiber, and very rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.  Now I ask you, what more could you want in a delicious breakfast loaf?

Give it a try and let me know what you think.  You won’t be disappointed.


3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Crisco
1 cup mashed banana (about 3)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped, pitted dates
1 cup chopped nuts

Cream sugar and shortening thoroughly; add bananas and lemon juice, mixing well.  Spoon flour (do not sift) into dry measuring cup, level off, and pour measured flour onto square of waxed paper.  Add soda and salt to flour and stir to blend.  Add blended dry ingredients, dates and nuts to creamed mixture, stirring just until flour is moistened. Spread into one well-greased and sugared 9"x5"x3" loaf pan.  Bake at 350° for 60 minutes.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Shells with Prosciutto and Basil Cream Sauce

It’s pesto making time at our house -- that annual mad dash to gather the basil that has been lovingly cared for all season before it gets hits by frost, and turn it into something marvelous.  The kitchen is so fragrant with the freshness of the newly-picked basil that I could almost swoon.  There are many recipes for pesto, and I’m sure you have a favorite of your own.  Not being a fan of pine nuts, I use walnuts in my recipe, as shown below.  But don’t think of pesto as only a dish in itself.  It makes a wonderful addition to other recipes, enhancing and freshening the flavors of soups and stews (incredible in Minestrone!), and added to a simple béchamel sauce makes for a wonderful pasta starter dish or main meal.

We had this for dinner with a side salad and crusty roll.  Quick and easy for everyday, yet elegant to serve for company.

Shells with Prosciutto and Basil Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons homemade pesto*
4 handfuls shell pasta (I used conchiglie rigate)
3 very thin slices good prosciutto, cut into strips (as well as you can)

In medium stock pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Add salt, if desired, and cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, melt ½ tablespoon unsalted butter and “frizzle” prosciutto (sauté until it becomes curled and fragrant).  Set aside.  In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour, pepper, salt, and nutmeg and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. stirring occasionally.  Stir in pesto.  At this point your pasta should be cooking, so drain it (not too well) and add it to the pot with the cream sauce, stir in prosciutto, and serve.

This recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending upon how many people you want to serve.  We had this as a main dish for two and this amount of ingredients worked out perfectly.

*Basil-Walnut Pesto
   2 cups packed basil leaves
   1/3 cup good olive oil
   1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (substitute pine nuts if you prefer)
   2 cloves minced garlic
   1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
   2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, room temperature
   1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Place basil, olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Pulse until thoroughly combined.  Add Parmesan and butter (if using) and pulse  until incorporated.
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