Author Archives: swampkitty05

Barley Beef Stew

It’s been downright frigid here in Ohio. They cancelled school earlier last week because the wind chills were 20-30 degrees below zero. Paul nearly got frostbite when he went to get gas. And when it’s this cold, and when the weather changes that rapidly, it leaves my whole body aching and me wanting to do nothing more than burrowing under an electric blanket with a mug of something hearty. This is one of my go-to winter dishes that I just can’t get enough of. Use your biggest slow cooker, because the barley will suck up most of the broth – this is a good thing. Sometimes we swap lamb for beef, and add a little dried mint to mellow it out some. Either way, this is a budget friendly meal that will feed an entire household and then some.

Barley Beef Stew

Barley Beef Stew
recipe courtesy Taste of Home

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. Cook: 6 hours YIELD:6-8 servings


1-1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 cups water
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
5 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups fresh or frozen green beans, thawed
2 cups fresh or frozen corn, thawed
3/4 cup medium pearl barley


1. In a large skillet, brown beef and onion in oil until meat is no longer pink; drain. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker. Add water, tomato sauce, carrots, celery, salt, oregano, paprika and pepper.

2. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Add the beans, corn and barley; cover and cook on low 2 hours longer or until barley, beef and vegetables are tender. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Nutritional Facts
1-1/4 cups equals 299 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 53 mg cholesterol, 896 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 21 g protein.

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole

Even though dietary fat isn’t an issue for me (since I malabsorb 60% of my fat intake), other members of my family who live here aren’t quite so lucky. This recipe, which I started making over a year ago, is a good compromise – virtually all of the flavor of a more rich tuna noodle casserole, without all of the guilt.

Skillet Tuna Casserole

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole
recipe courtesy Eating Well Magazine

8 ounces whole-wheat egg noodles
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups nonfat milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 ounces canned chunk light tuna (see Tip), drained
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tip)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

2. Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat broiler.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Stir in tuna, peas and 1/2 cup Parmesan until evenly incorporated. Then, stir in the noodles (the pan will be very full). Remove from the heat.

4. Sprinkle the casserole with breadcrumbs and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Broil until bubbly and lightly browned on top, 3 to 4 minutes.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 406 calories; 8 g fat (3 g sat, 3 g mono); 53 mg cholesterol; 47 g carbohydrate; 32 g protein; 5 g fiber; 684 mg sodium; 593 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Calcium (30% daily value), Potassium (17% dv), Iron, Vitamin A & Vitamin C (15% dv), good source of omega-3s. 3 Carbohydrate Servings
Exchanges: 2 1/2 starch, 1/2 nonfat milk, 3 lean meat

TIP: Tips: Chunk light tuna, which comes from the smaller skipjack or yellowfin, has less mercury than canned white albacore tuna. FDA/EPA advice recommends no more than 6 ounces of albacore a week; up to 12 ounces canned light is considered safe.

To make fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh crumbs. For dry breadcrumbs, spread the fresh crumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until crispy, about 15 minutes. One slice of fresh bread makes about 1/3 cup dry crumbs. Or use prepared coarse dry breadcrumbs. We like Ian’s brand labeled “Panko breadcrumbs.” Find them in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 3, spoon into an 8-inch-square glass baking dish, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese (Step 4) and bake, covered, at 350ºF for 50 minutes. Uncover and cook until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes more.

Amish Sugar Cream Pie

Paul is a great baker, where I am definitely not. He follows recipes slavishly, whereas I use a recipe as a guide and modify it to hell and back. Which doesn’t work when it comes to baking, because of the delicate balance of food chemistry and physics. Baking is not much more than kitchen science, and I’m not good at following directions. What is amazing to me is that this handful of simple ingredients makes something almost magical. I’ve had sugar pies in the past, but this recipe is the best one I’ve found, and so easy to make.

Amish Sugar Cream Pie

Amish Sugar Cream Pie
Recipe courtesy

3/4 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups half-and-half cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup margarine or 1/2 cup real butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

In sauce pan combine, white sugar, salt, half-and-half and whipping cream.
Bring to a boil.

In another sauce pan, combine brown sugar & cornstarch.

Gradually whisk in hot mixture into brown sugar mixture.
Add margarine/or butter (to me this makes it even better.).

Cook over med. heat, whisk constantly, 5 min or until thick.
Simmer 1 minute and stir in vanilla.

Pour into uncooked pie shell and sprinkle w/cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta

Usually, when I have chicken marsala, it’s just the basics, maybe served with some mashed potatoes on the side. And I love the flavor of it, because there’s something really special about that combination of marsala wine, shallots, cream, and mushrooms that just makes my mouth happy, happy, happy.

But on the other hand, I love the convenience of a one pot meal – less dishes, and you can dish out the leftovers one bowl at a time over the next couple days without getting sick of eating it. So when I ran across this Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta recipe on Joelen’s blog, it went to the top of the queue of “gotta try” recipes. We all loved it, and it’s been a staple ever since.

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta
recipe adapted by What’s Cookin’, Chicago?

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts; cut into bite sized pieces
10-12 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup Marsala cooking wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound dry pasta + water for cooking (I used penne, rigatoni is also good)
1 cup Parmesan cheese + more for serving
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
minced, chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Makes: 4-6 servings

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet until foaming. Cook chicken until lightly browned. Transfer to plate when done.

Boil water and cook pasta according to the directions.

Melt additional 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet, add garlic, mushrooms and onion and cook for about 6 minutes. Add cooked chicken back into the skillet. Add the Marsala, chicken broth and cream and bring to a boil. Simmer until sauce is is slightly thickened.

Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the mushrooms and chicken mixture and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and cook until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce, about 1 minute, adding the reserved cooking water as needed.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with additional Parmesan cheese and a garnish of chopped parsley.

Tacos al Pastor with Salsa Verde and Mexican Rice

Remember how yesterday I mentioned that I had a bunch of pineapple salsa left after making the grilled salmon. Knowing how delicious the combination of Al Pastor and pineapple is from many meals at Los Guachos, I decided to use some of the leftover salsa as a condiment on tacos. We got the al Pastor pork at La Plaza Tapatia, but weren’t exactly wowed by the flavor, so would make our own next time.

Tacos al Pastor

I’m especially fond of green sauce on my tacos, so we made this Salsa Verde recipe to go with it. I especially love how the avocado gives it a lushness to the mouth feel that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

Salsa Verde

Mexican Green Sauce With Tomatillos and Avocado (Salsa Verde)
recipe courtesy

“Awesome! If you love guacamole, try this lighter, more tangy version made with fresh green tomatillos and avocado! We really love this salsa verde. Serve with simple grilled foods like carne asada or fajitas, or with a bowl of tostadas chips. And, green sauce is great stirred in to scrambled eggs Green Eggs and Ham – Mexican Style. From “Zarela’s Veracruz: Mexico’s Simplest Cuisine” by Zarela Martinez. Enjoy!”

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
2 -3 serrano peppers, stemmed and coarsely chopped ( or jalapeno peppers)
6 -8 medium tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and cut into quarters ( about 1/2 pound)
1 ripe Hass avocado
12 -15 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped

In a food processor or blender (or with mortar and pestle), process garlic and salt to a paste.

In the processor or blender, place onion, jalapenos and tomatillos and pulse to make a slightly chunky mix. Remove to bowl.

Halve and pit avocado and scoop out flesh. Chop finely and add to other ingredients. Add cilantro and mix well.
Serve with tortilla chips or as a condiment for meat, fish, poultry, burritos or quesadillas.

Makes about 2 cups.

Mexican Rice

And even better is this Mexican Rice recipe that is made in a rice cooker. Restaurant flavor with hardly any work at all.

Mexican Rice
recipe courtesy

12 ounces tomatoes, very ripe and cored
1 medium white onions
3 medium jalapenos
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 minced garlic cloves
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste ( may omit if using canned tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 limes

1. Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350.

2. Process tomato and onion in processor or blender until pureed and thoroughly smooth. Transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve exactly 2 cups. Discard excess.

3. Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos and discard. Mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeno. Set aside.

4. Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear- about 1 1/2 minutes.Shake rice vigorously to remove excess water.This step removes the starch from the rice so it will not stick. IF YOU OMIT THIS STEP YOUR RICE WILL NOT BE DRY AND FLUFFY.

5. Heat oil in heavy bottomed ovensafe 12 inch straight sided sautee pan or Dutch oven with tight fitting lid over low-medium heat about 2 minutes. (The recipe is very specific about this but I used a 10 inch dutch oven and it worked out fine.) Drop a few rice grains in and if they sizzle then it is ready. Add rice and fry stirring until rice is light golden and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Be careful that the oil doesn’t get too hot too fast or the oil will splatter.

6. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and 2 minced jalapenos and cook , stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.

7. Stir in broth, pureed mixture,tomato paste, and salt. Increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

8. Cover pan and transfer pan to oven to bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes.Stir well after 15 minutes.

9. Stir in cilantro, minced jalapeno to taste, and pass lime wedges separately.

10. Edited to add 6-15-05: If you can’t get good fresh tomatoes you are better off using canned tomatoes. Don’t use those awful hard and underipe tomatoes that are at most supermarket chains. Just be sure that the processed tomatoes and the one onion equals 2 cups. One the other hand- if you find that after processing your tomatoes and onions that you have less than 2 cups- simply add enough bottled salsa to make up the difference.

11. Edited 8-21-06: Do not skip any of the steps. It may seem stupid- but rinsing the rice to remove the starch
is very important if you want fluffy rice. It will only take two minutes of your time but it makes the difference.

12. Edited 8-15-08: Leftovers are just as delicious the next day so this is a perfect dish to make ahead time for potlucks. This rice also freezes well. For Freezing Ahead: Cool, portion and freeze in a ziploc bag. To reheat from frozen: Place in a pyrex dish and warm in the microwave, stirring every 2-3 minutes until heated through.

Orange-Glazed Grilled Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

I used to hate seafood growing up, but in the last decade or so, I’ve come to love just about any type of seafood (except oysters – it’s not a taste thing, it’s a texture thing. Salmon has become a go-to staple protein for me over the last few years – and my favorite way to have it is grilled or sauteed, preferably with a citrus glaze. I served it with white rice and soy-glazed snow peas and carrots.

The pineapple salsa that goes with it is amazing, but makes far more than you need for the recipe. Stay tuned to see what I did with the leftover salsa tomorrow.

Orange Glazed Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

Grilled Salmon with Orange Glaze
recipe courtesy Simply So Good

6 Salmon fillets
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup cup orange juice
2 Tbl. Aji-Mirin
2 Tbl. Rice vinegar
1 Tbl. Sugar
2 Tbl. Cilantro, chopped
1 Tbl. Finely diced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 Tb. Chili garlic paste (reduce amount if less heat is desired)

In a small bowl, mix marinade ingredients together. Reserve ¾ c. marinade and set aside. Place salmon and remaining marinade in a shallow glass dish or a re-closeable plastic bag. Marinate for 1-2 hours.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Remove salmon from marinade and discard. Pour reserved marinade into a sauce pan and heat until reduced and slightly thickened. Place salmon on a well oiled rack or a piece of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray. Cook salmon for approximately 3 minutes per side. Watch carefully not to over cook. Remove from heat and drizzle with remaining sauce. Serve with Pineapple Salsa. Serves 6

Pineapple Salsa

Fresh Pineapple Salsa

3 cups fresh pineapple, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, diced
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup flaked or shredded coconut
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Stir all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made one day in advance.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I’ve always been a big fan of Pineapple Upside Down Cake, because it has great visual appeal. I’ve tried several different recipes over the years, but this one is easily the best I’ve ever had. So, so moist and delicious.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Mean Chef’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake
adapted from

14 pineapple slices (rings from 1 1/2 (20 oz) cans packed in unsweetened pineapple juice) OR
1 fresh pineapple, cored and sliced into 14 rings (use 3″ biscuit cutter to cut into even rings)
1/4 c. pecan halves
7 Maraschino cherries
1 2/3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. dark brown sugar (lightly packed)
1 tbsp. bourbon
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Use a 10″ (measure across the bottom) cast iron pan. Drain pineapple slices and place on paper towels to absorb moisture. You will need 8 whole slices. The other 6 will be cut in half.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk or stir the flour, baking powder, and salt just to blend; reserve. In a separate bowl, stir the vanilla into the sour cream and set aside until needed.

Melt 1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) butter in the cast iron pan. Add the brown sugar and bourbon and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar melts. Place one whole pineapple slice in the center of the pan and 7 whole slices surrounding it. Place the half slices side by side against the sides of the pan, the two cut edges touching the brown sugar. Place Maraschino cherries in the middle of each pineapple slices and place pecans in the gaps between the fruit.

Put the remaining stick of butter and the granulated sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or use a hand-held mixer and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The butter and sugar must be beaten until they are light, fluffy, and pale, so don’t rush it – the process can take 3 to 4 minutes with a heavy-duty mixer and 6 to 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Working with a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the dry ingredients and the sour cream alternately – 3 additions of dry ingredients, 2 of sour cream. You’ll end up with a thick batter. Spoon the batter over pineapple and smooth the top by spreading the batter with an offset spatula.

Put the cast iron pan in the oven and bake for 20 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean (test a couple of the cakes to be certain). As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, turn it out on to a round plate large enough to hold the cake. If any of the fruit sticks to the skillet, use a small spatula to place it back on the cake. Storing the Cake- The cakes can be kept wrapped in plastic at room temperature overnight.

Black and White Chocolate Chippers

Before I got ill, I used to love baking. I’d make 8-12 different cookies for holiday plates for family and friends. Over the years, though, I’ve lacked the stamina to make more than one recipe at a time. This easy recipe has awesome results – especially if you like chocolate.

Black and White Chocolate Chippers

Black and White Chocolate Chippers
recipe adapted by Anne Strawberry

Note: I used my regular cookie scoop and this recipe yielded about 40 cookies. I flattened them a tiny bit before baking so they weren’t too round and puffy (I like them a little more uniform). These cookies are so rich that I would recommend making the cookies small and serving them with milk! (I would have used that darling little scoop they have at Williams Sonoma if I owned it- this is one cookie I wouldn’t use my big ice cream scoop for!)

1 3/4 cups Flour (Be sure to level off- you don’t want too much)
1 1/4 cups Cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
2 cups white chocolate chips (One bag of Ghiradelli chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheets (Grease or line with Silpat or parchment paper).

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set dry ingredients aside.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes in the KitchenAid). Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addiction. Add vanilla and mix once to combine.

With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips. Scoop onto the prepared cookie sheet and squish slightly if flatter cookies are desired.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until fluffy but still soft. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with milk and store in an airtight container.

Red-Skinned Potato Salad

We had two Christmas dinners this year – prime rib with our houseguest and her kids on Christmas day, and a separate celebration on December 28th that included my sister, her boyfriend, and their three children. We had planned to smoke a brisket using the electric smoker I got Paul the year before. Unfortunately, the temperature plummeted and it started raining Saturday night, so we ended up outsourcing the meat to City Barbeque. We did, however, end up making the sides to go with it from scratch, including this recipe for Red-Skinned Potato Salad that my sister discovered on All Recipes a couple of years back. It is hands down the best tasting potato salad I’ve ever had, even though just reading the ingredient list alone is enough to clog your arteries. Everything in moderation, right?

Red Skinned Potato Salad

Red-Skinned Potato Salad
recipe courtesy of All Recipes

2 lbs clean, scrubbed new potatoes
6 eggs
1 lb. bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cups mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and set in the refrigerator to cool.

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, peel and chop.

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.

Chop the cooked potatoes, leaving skin on. Add to a large bowl, along with the eggs, bacon, onion and celery. Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste. Chill for an hour before serving.

Nutrition per serving: 430 calories, 36.9g fat, 133mg cholesterol.

New Year, New Me, New Look

To say that 2014 was an eventful year for me would be the understatement of the year. We only made two posts all year, for a number of reasons. Chiefly, I took a spill down the stairs in early March that left me with a shoulder broken in four places (major dislocation made the head of my humerus break completely off at the neck, and my arm socket was cracked in three places additionally) that required an orthopedic surgeon to put it back together with a plate and several screws. My protein stores were already low, but my tendency to stop eating when I’m in severe pain didn’t help matters any. I had pretty much a repeat of 2011 – hospital acquired lung infection caused pneumonia and then ARDS again, and I ended up with sepsis and my blood pressure bottoming out. The sepsis also caused a pulmonary embolism, which if I hadn’t been transferred from Mt. Carmel West to OSU the day it happened, probably would have killed me. They put me on a ventilator, and I spent the better part of two months switching between the ICU and the PCU, except this time around they didn’t give me the luxury of sedating me, and between high doses of steroids to bring up my blood pressure and sensory deprivation in the ICU, I came down with both steroid and ICU induced psychosis, which left me extremely agitated and paranoid. Right before I got transferred to Select Specialty Hospital, they put me back on a trach.

I consulted with bariatric surgeons at OSU, and they agreed that the revision I had in 2008 was a bit too aggressive. We decided I would be put onto TPN (IV liquid that contains all elemental nutrients) until my protein stores were high enough again for me to have a partial reversal of the revision. They planned to leave the trach in until the surgery was completed, and I ended up coming home with a central line, TPN, and trach at the end of July. I had my revision surgery in mid-September, and things have been slowly back to normal since then. Initially, I had very little capacity or excitement about eating, so my blogging fell by the wayside this past year. In the past month or so, I’ve been more passionate about eating and cooking. Passionate enough to take it back up again.

So with the new year comes a new look (temporary for now – I’ll eventually be upgrading to another one once I figure out the ins and outs of customizing a theme), new posts (I’m going to try to post every day), and a new me (I lost about 15 lbs after the surgery, so I’m in the 210ish range with plans to lose another 15-20 lbs.). Stick around, new material coming tomorrow. 🙂