Beef Stew with Pub Bread {& a Menu}

Oh my goodness…you would have thought two winters in Wisconsin would have prepared me for the cold this year, but that’s not the case.  It was a scramble to find hats and gloves for everyone the first day the highs dropped below freezing, and I still resent having to even wear a coat. So I don’t, but I do carry it in the car with me, just in case.

But, anyway…I needed hot, comforting food this week, and my favorite made-from-scratch bread, Pub Bread, along with my mom’s Beef Stew, really hit the spot!


There’s no photo of the stew, because, really, who can take an appetizing photo of stew?  Certainly not I!  This bread takes a few hours because of the rising, but the hands on time is less than thirty minutes, so it’s a completely doable indulgence. What smells better than a loaf of homemade bread baking, I ask you?

Pub Bread

  • 1 bottle dark beer
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup butter (unsalted and softened)
  • 1 package dry yeast ( 2 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/3 cup very warm water
  • 5-6 cups flour

In small saucepan, heat beer to boiling. In large bowl, combine oatmeal, salt, butter, molasses and hot beer. Let cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in water and add to oatmeal mixture. Stir to blend, then stir in flour, 2 cups at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Turn dough onto well-floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat entire surface. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place for about an hour, until doubled. I preheat my oven to 175, then turn it off before starting the dough. Then I set my bowl in there to rise.

Punch dough down, shape into loaves, and place in 2 ungreased loaf pans. Cover and again let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 (remove the loaves if they’re rising in there!). Bake 30-45 minutes, until loaves sound hollow when tapped on top and the sides start to pull away from the pan. Remove from oven and cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack.

Smother it with butter while a little warm and enjoy! This makes two loaves, so you can freeze one (if you have that much willpower).

Click here for the printable Pub Bread recipe

Click here for my mom’s Beef Stew recipe (it totally rocks!)

And here’s what was for dinner this week:

  • Monday: Beef Stew with Pub Bread
  • Tuesday:  Chicken and Butternut Squash Tagine with Pine Nut Couscous (from a mix) and Cucumbers with Oikos Yogurt Dip
  • Wednesday: Brisket and Havarti Melts on Ciabatta Rolls (openfaced) with Veggies and Dip
  • Thursday: Back-of-the-Box Lasagna (made with soy crumbles) and Chopped Salad
  • Friday: Make Your Own Pizza

Let it be known that my favorite GI Joe has been in Japan for the last two weeks on an exercise (which was in the newspaper, so I’m not violating OPSEC), so I have been completely unmotivated to cook actual meals. Fortunately, when I did make these fairly simple meals, the hooligans praised them to the heavens, so I got my motivation back!

The brisket was leftover and frozen from Thanksgiving. To make your own, rub the brisket with Liquid Smoke, then heavily season it with seasoning salt, lemon pepper, and garlic. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast at 275 degrees for 45 minutes PER POUND of brisket. This is amazing, y’all…I cook a big brisket, then portion it out and freeze it for future meals.

Enjoy your weekend!

Baked Apples {and a Menu}

Here’s a fall favorite that I always forget to make until I find myself with a plethora of apples: Baked Apples. When I finally remember to make them, I always wonder why I don’t serve them more often. They’re quick to assemble, and a perfect side dish for barbeque or a light dessert to thrill the hooligans on a weeknight.


Here’s how to make perfect baked apples:

4 large apples (I use Fuji, or whatever I have other than Granny Smiths)

4 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

Cinnamon for sprinkling

1. Core the apples, but try not to go all the way to the bottom, so all the good stuff doesn’t run out while they bake. Place in your baking pan and preheat the oven to 375.

2. In each core, push 2 Tbsp brown sugar and 1 Tbsp butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon.

3. Bake at 375 degrees, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, until apples are tender but not mushy. Remove from oven and spoon pan juices over the apples several times.

There…perfect baked apples, whether you choose to eat them as is or with a little ice cream. No one will no but you.

And here’s what we ate this week:

I just realized, while writing this, that I used my slowcooker three nights out of five this week. No wonder I had time to get all the laundry done.  For the pork on Tuesday, I just put a small boneless pork loin roast and a bag of frozen peppers and onions in the slow cooker, added about half a jar of Tastefully Simple Bayou Bourbon Glaze, and let it cook on high a couple of hours, then low for another 6 or 7, until I could shred the pork easily. It was delectable…a little like teriyaki, a little bit of Louisiana heat,,,we’ll definitely have it again!


Sausage and Tortellini Soup {and a Menu}

This hearty and delicious soup will leave body and soul contented, y’all. Sausage and Tortellini Soup has come to the rescue many a time when I just couldn’t make a plan for dinner ahead of time and hordes of hooligans were about to descend from the school bus. I almost always have the ingredients on hand, so this makes regular appearances on our cold-weather menus. As well as being a quick weeknight meal, it’s a cozy Sunday night, football-watching favorite supper!


Sausage and Tortellini Soup

  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 lb bulk (not link) Italian sausage
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1-9 oz package cheese tortellini
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish

1. In Dutch oven or stockpot, brown sausage and remove from pan with slotted spoon. Add onions to pan and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cooked sausage, beef broth, basil, parsley, garlic, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer ten minutes.

2. Add tortellini and spinach to pot and simmer until tortellini is cooked though (it will float when it’s done), about 5 minutes.

3. Serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Click here for a printable version

And here’s what we ate this week:

For the Beef and Bean Burritos, I  just browned ground beef and a diced onion, then added a can of drained and rinsed black beans, and stirred in about a cup of mild salsa. We warmed tortillas and filled them with the beef mixture, shredded lettuce, and cheese. It was a delicious, spur-of-the-moment meal at the end of a busy day. And the hooligans love assembling their own food!


Lentil Soup Mix {and a Menu}

So, continuing on with the November filled with gift ideas, here’s one of my favorites for teachers and neighbors…Lentil Soup Mix, accompanied by Beer Bread Mix.Lentil-Soup-ChaosServedDail

The mixes are simple to assemble, and very economical. And who doesn’t like being thrifty AND clever, especially during the holidays?  Before we get on with it, I have a note about the chicken bouillion granules. You can leave that out and use the modified directions for making the final soup. I like to make it without, for a couple of reasons. First, your recipient might be a vegetarian, and secondly, it’s hard to find bouillion without MSG in it, and that gives me migraines. So I hesitate to include it, if it’s not MSG free.

Anyway, enough babbling. I put the seasoning in a snack size ziptop bag and put the 2 cups of lentils in a quart size freezer bag. Then the two fit perfectly in a takeout box container, or a cute lunch-size gift bag. You could even squeeze them into a pint size Mason jar. I’d probably cut the lentils to 1-3/4 cups, to make room for the seasoning. Bread-and-Soup-ChaosServedD


  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried lemon peel
  • 1 bay leaf

Place lentils in a resealable plastic bag.
In a small bowl, combine chicken bouillon, onion powder, cumin, celery salt, salt, garlic powder, thyme, pepper, lemon peel, and bay leaf. Transfer seasoning mixture to a small cellophane bag. Give with serving instructions. Yield: about 3 tablespoons seasoning mix

To serve: Rinse lentils. In a Dutch oven, cover lentils with 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low.  Stirring occasionally, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until lentils are barely tender. Stir in seasoning mix. Cover and simmer 30 minutes longer or until lentils are tender. Serve warm. Yield: about 7 cups soup

Optional:  Saute 1 chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 cup diced carrots, and/or 1 diced red bell pepper in 1 Tbsp olive oil in Dutch oven before adding lentils and water.

Click here for printable preparation labels for the soup mix made with bouillion

Click here for printable preparation labels for the soup mix made without bouillion


  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning(optional)

In a bowl, mix the self-rising flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, onion powder, and Italian seasoning. Place in ziptop or cellophane bag. Give with baking directions.

Preparation Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place bread mix in a large bowl.  Add 12 oz beer (or seltzer water) and mix just until moistened. Transfer to a greased loaf pan. Top with the 3 Tbsp melted butter. Bake 45 to 55 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Click here for printable instruction labels for beer bread

And here’s the week’s menu:

  • Monday: Lentil Soup with Beer Bread (made with hard cider)
  • Tuesday: Stuffed Peppers (from Costco), Steamed Mixed Vegetables, and Waldorf Salad
  • Wednesday: Teriyaki Chicken and Rice with Cucumbers sprinkled with Soy Sauce and Sesame Seeds
  • Thursday:  Simple Lasagna (from the freezer) and Chopped Vegetable Salad
  • Friday: Chicken and Butternut Squash Tagine with Quinoa and Fresh Veggies with Yogurt Dip

For the Teriyaki Chicken, I just put some chicken breasts and a package of frozen peppers and onions in the crockpot, add a homemade teriyaki sauce, and cook it all day.


Quick and Healthy Chicken and Dumplings {& a Menu}

I’ve been fighting a cold this week and, consequently, have filled our menu with comforting, healthy favorites. I found this recipe for chicken and dumplings in Cooking Light magazine many years ago, and it’s a happy day when cool weather rolls around and I remember to make it each fall!

Despite the simmered-all-day taste, it comes together in around 45 minutes, and I almost always have the ingredients on hand. As long as I remember to thaw some chicken breasts, that is!


This photo doesn’t do it justice…we’d already sat down to dinner when I remembered to photograph it, and the sun had set.  It’s delicious and a sure family-pleaser!

Quick and Healthy Chicken and Dumplings

(adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut in 1” cubes
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups carrots, cut in ½” slices
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning


  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter, melted

1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in large Dutch oven and sauté chicken and onion for ten minutes. Add celery and cook another two minutes. Add flour and, stirring, cook one minute.

2. Add carrots and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer ten minutes.

3. Stir together dumpling ingredients and drop by large spoonfuls onto chicken mixture. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, until dumplings are cooked through.

Click here for the printable recipe

And here’s what we ate this week!

  • Monday: Quick and Healthy Chicken and Dumplings with Baked Apples
  • Tuesday:  Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, and Provolone Paninis with Raw Veggies and Dip
  • Wednesday: Ridiculously Easy Vegetable Chili with Corn Muffins
  • Thursday: Meatloaf Patties and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Sauteed Green Beans
  • Friday: Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Soup with Grilled Cheese

On Thursday, I made our favorite meatloaf recipe and just made patties from it, which I cooked in a skillet on the stovetop. The mashed potatoes were from Costco, and the gravy from a mix (don’t tell my mom!).  For the green beans, I sauteed a sliced onion until soft in a tablespoon of olive oil, then added frozen green beans and about a quarter cup of chicken broth. I covered the skillet and let them cook for about ten minutes, until the beans were tender. And I discovered that I need to double my meatloaf recipe from now on!


Chicken with Soybean Succotash {& a Menu}

This recipe remains one of our favorite because it’s quick and the chicken can be grilled outside or inside on a grill pan, so it works anytime, rain or shine. The fact that it gets a lot of vegetables into the family is a bonus, one I appreciate!


Chicken with Edamame Succotash

4 thin-sliced chicken breasts (or two regular, cut in half horizontally)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Montreal Steak seasoning
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups frozen edamame, shelled
2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 cups diced zucchini
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled

1. In quart size ziptop bag, mix marinade ingredients and add chicken.  Let it marinate for half an hour or so.  Don’t marinate longer than an hour, or it will be too salty.
2. In large saute pan with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add vegetables and Italian seasoning, cover, and let cook for about 8 minutes, then remove lid and let it crisp up a bit, 3 or 4 minutes longer.
3. While vegetables are cooking, heat a grill or grill pan until very hot.  Grill chicken for about 4 minutes per side, until cooked through.
4.  To serve, slice chicken across the grain.  Top succotash with avocados and feta or goat cheese. Salt and pepper tomato wedges and serve alongside.

Click here for the printable recipe

And our menu for the week:


Butternut Squash, Quinoa, and Pork Stew {& a Menu}

Last week, I made Cheesy Cavatappi with Butternut Squash and Bacon, which was a big hit with the kids.  But, of course, I had a ginormous butternut squash and about 3 cups of butternut squash leftover from the recipe.  I found the recipe at Cookin’ Canuck, substituting cubed pork loin for the chicken thighs.  Because that’s what I had on hand, y’all.

Everyone devoured the delicious results, and declared it a “keeper” recipe. Enjoy! (And don’t forget to check out our week’s menu under the recipe!)


photo from Cookin’ Canuck

Butternut Squash, Quinoa, and Pork Stew

(adapted slightly from Cookin’ Canuck)

  • 3 to 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 lb. pork loin, in bite-size cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 can (14 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup pitted and quartered kalamata olives
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Steam the butternut squash until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Remove half of the squash pieces and set aside.
  2. Steam the remaining squash until very tender, an additional 4 to 6 minutes. Mash this squash with the back of a fork. Set aside.
  3. While the squash is cooking, bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat
  4. Add cubed pork, cover, and cook until pork is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  5. In a medium skillet, saute the onion until translucent.
  6. Transfer the pork to a plate and allow to cool.
  7. Return the saucepan to the stovetop and lower heat to medium. Add olive oil.
  8. Add the sauteed onion, salt, minced garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute.
  9. To the saucepan, add tomatoes, butternut squash pieces, and mashed butternut squash. Stir to combine.
  10. Stir in reserved chicken broth and quinoa. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa turns translucent, about 15 minutes.
  11. Stir the pork, olives and pepper into the stew and simmer, uncovered, to heat, about 5 minutes.
  12. Stir in parsley and serve.

Since this stew takes about an hour to prepare (which isn’t long for a stew which tastes like it simmered for hours!), I made it earlier in the day and reheated it for dinner. The quinoa absorbed some of the liquid, so I added a little more chicken broth to loosen it up a bit. Oh, and it’s important to remove the pork while the quinoa is cooking in the broth, or the pork will become tough.

Our menu this week:

  • Monday: Butternut Squash, Quinoa, and Pork Stew with dessert: Ice Cream with Fresh Peaches
  • Tuesday: Tomato, Mozzarella, and Pesto Panini with Tangy Corn Slaw
  • Wednesday: Superfast Salisbury Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, and Chopped Vegetable Salad
  • Thursday: Three-Cheese Ravioli with Marinara and Light Caesar Salad
  • Friday: Chicken Saltimbocca with Steamed Green Beans and Sauteed Gnocchi


5 Favorite, Easy Soups

A couple of weeks ago, we lucked into spending a stormy weekend at Pacific Beach, WA. By lucked into, I mean that we made reservations months ago for the middle hooligan’s birthday weekend, and, happily, one of the worst September storms ever arrived the same day we did. It’s a quirk of our family that we enjoy visiting places in the off season, and the worse the weather, the better. For our first anniversary (in January), the hubs and I spent a week in Yellowstone…we had to leave our truck at the park entrance and go in via Snowcats. For our second anniversary, we went to Niagara Falls. In January.  We had the place entirely to ourselves.

But I digress. The lightning and thunder crashed, the gale force winds howled, and the waves pounded the shore…and we loved it!  The power was out for a couple of hours, but we had books to read and board games to play, so it was all good. We were in a house on the bluff overlooking the ocean, so were in no danger of flooding, in case you’re concerned. We were quite thankful, however, when the power came back on and I could reheat the soup I’d brought along for dinner.

Since then, our weather has not improved a lot…it’s fall in the Pacific Northwest, after all!  I’ve been making a lot of soups, stews, and chilis, either in the slow cooker or quick recipes in the evening. Today I’m sharing some of our favorites, along with the week’s menu. These all happen to be quick soups (as long as you bake potatoes the night before!) rather than slow cooker ones, but none take more than 45 minutes to be ready to serve…and the hands on time is much less than that!

1. Light Chicken Pot Pie SoupChix-Pot-Pie-Soup-ChaosServ

2. Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscano

3. Pesto Tortellini Minestrone


4. Curried Butternut-Pear Soup


5. Lightened Up Baked Potato Soup


And for the week’s menu:

For the BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, just pour your favorite sauce over boneless chicken breasts in the slow cooker and cook on low 5-6 hours or high 3-4 hours, then shred and place on buns. We used pretzel buns and made sliders, because for some reason the hooligans will eat more that way.

Everyone loved the Cheesy Butternut Squash Cavatappi, but it did take a full hour from start to finish and I had a whole sinkful of dishes to wash. It was perfect comfort food, though, and would be great for a Sunday night dinner, when I make it again!


Pumpkin Black Bean Enchiladas {& a Menu}

For comfort food with a little zing, our family loves enchiladas, in pretty much any version.  But you know how I am about pumpkin…incorporating it into just about anything I can!  I combined a favorite chicken enchilada recipe with a pumpkin and black bean one that I made when I was a personal chef, many moons ago.  Everyone liked the results, even my favorite GI Joe who professes to dislike pumpkin (but I’m pretty sure I’m wearing down his resistance).


Pumpkin, Black Bean, and Mango Enchiladas

(serves 8)

  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 cups mango salsa, or your choice of salsa
  • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 12 enchilada-size flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese

1. In large bowl, mix together beans, pumpkin, ½ cup salsa, cream cheese, and cumin.

2. Spoon a thin layer of salsa on the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

3. For each tortilla, spoon about 1/3 cup filling down the center, sprinkle with cheese, and roll up. Lay in pan, on top of salsa.

4. When all the enchiladas are in the pan, spread remaining salsa on top and sprinkle remaining cheese on top of the salsa.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until hot throughout.

Click here for the printable recipe

I love this recipe because it works with any salsa, or a combination.  One of our favorites is to use mango salsa in the filling, then tomatillo salsa under and over the enchiladas. I serve it with either a green salad or corn sauteed in a bit of olive oil and barbeque dry rub seasoning (really…it’s yummy!).

And for the week’s menu:

Monday: Turkey, Cranberry, and Provolone Paninis with Sweet Potato Fries

Tuesday: Pumpkin, Black Bean, and Mango Enchiladas with Sauteed BBQ Corn

Wednesday: Greek Burgers with Cucumber Tomato Salad

Thursday: Oven Baked Fish and Chips with Vegetables and Dip

Friday: Grilled Chicken with Corn on the Cob and Green Salad

It’s so nice to be settling into a routine, with everyone at school or work or wherever they’re supposed to be.  The predictable schedule, along with the cool fall days, has me in the mood to actually cook these days…a welcome change from our chaotic summer!


Better-Than-Takeout Fried Rice {and a Menu}

One recent Saturday, we’d been working in the yard all morning and suddenly found ourselves starving.  I quickly saw the need for me to leave them to the yard cleanup and go forage for lunch (in the kitchen, because I wasn’t fit to be seen in public).  I always have edamame on hand, since the hooligans love it as an after school snack or appetizer before dinner. I also had, happily, some vegetable spring rolls from Costco that had a short, readable ingredient list.

But I knew the troops would want something a little more substantial in there, as well, so when I spied the leftover grilled chicken from the night before, I thought Chicken Fried Rice would complete our lunch nicely. It took a little longer than I thought, since I had to cook some rice, but the meal was on the table in about thirty minutes, so no one fainted from hunger in that time.


Chicken Fried Rice

  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • A handful of sugar snap peas, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • More soy sauce for serving

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, then add chicken and 2 tablespoons soy sauce and stir-fry for 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Stir in carrots, celery, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper and stir-fry another 5 minutes. Then add rice and stir thoroughly.

3. Add scrambled eggs and serve with additional soy sauce.

If you don’t have all the fresh vegetables on hand, you can substitute frozen mixed vegetables for the carrots, celery, snap peas, and bell peppers.

Click here for the printable recipe

And now for the week’s menu…I’ve so missed posting these as we were travelling this summer, and I’m glad to be back sharing them.  It motivates me to plan our meals!

  • Monday: Pesto Tortellini Soup with Breadsticks and Fresh Pineapple
  • Tuesday: Chicken Fried Rice, Steamed Edamame, and Vegetable Spring Rolls
  • Wednesday:  Sloppy Joe Sliders, Sweet Potato Fries, and Raw Vegetables
  • Thursday: Grilled Marinated Chicken with Corn on the Cob and Poppyseed Strawberry Salad
  • Friday:  Make-Your-Own Pizzas on the Grill (mine was fresh fig, prosciutto, and feta drizzled with balsamic glaze…everyone else made pepperoni)