How to… Roast Beets

I was given a nice bunch of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) veggies from my sister over 4th of July weekend.  Her friend is a member with a local farmer’s CSA and was going to be away, so she gave my sister her share this time.  LUCKY!  The amount of vegetables one can get through a CSA is overwhelming, and sometimes not exactly what you like or even recognize, but I love veggies and am happy with it all!  So, I was stoked when she told me she was bringing veggies over for me, and part of the lot contained beets!


But most people buy them already roasted or canned ready to eat…I usually only buy one brand, that is the Love Beets organic brand beets.  I highly recommend them, but if you can, I definitively recommend doing it yourself!  Everything is better when you do it yourself!  And this is too easy to not do yourself.

So here’s a quick walk through on how to roast your own beets.


How to… Roast Beets

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Clean beats by removing the stems and washing with cold water, scrubbing the rough dirty spots.
Lay a large rectangle cut of aluminum foil over a baking pan (I used a 9×13, my rectangle was 2/3 longer.).
Wrap beets each in a layer of foil. Then lay on top of the baking pan, covering with the overlap of the rectangle of foil.
Roast until beets are soft when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size. These beets took 1 hour.
Cool beets in the packets they were cooked in; trapping the moisture inside the foil will help with removing the skin.
Once cooled, rub off skins (use a paring knife for tough spots).
Done!  Enjoy right away or place in plastic bag in the fridge for later.
I love beets!

Beef and Barley Soup

Beef and Barley Soup
2 lbs beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
8 cups low sodium or no salt beef stock
2.5 cups tepid water
1 cup fast cook barley
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp low sodium soy
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp parsley
1 bay leaf

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Over medium-high heat, heat up a large stock pot.  Add beef to pan; cook until browned, stirring frequently.

Remove beef from pan. Spoon out any left fat juices.



In same pan, heat olive oil.  Add garlic, let sweat for one minute.  Add in carrot, celery, onion.  Let sweat while scraping the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Then add in 1/2 cup of water, and continue to stir scraping the bottom.  Cook until liquid almost evaporates.



Add beef, remaining water, beef broth, herbs and bay leaf.




Bring to a boil then add in tomato paste.  Add in soy. And add in mushrooms.




Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.


In a separate sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil; add barley.  Partially cook barley. Drain. Add to the beef soup.


Cover and simmer until barley is tender. 

Add salt and pepper to taste.


Discard bay leaf.

Ready to serve!

Pulled Pork

Finally, I have an easy recipe for pulled pork that anyone can handle!

Pulled Pork
4 lb pork butt or picnic cut (For this I used picnic cut)
4 cups water
2 cups orange juice
3 tsp salt

Cut the pork into large strips. About 3 inches long and 1 inch or more thick.

*Do not remove the fat!  This is essential in keeping the pork moist during this long cooking process.

Add pork strips to large stock pot, turning the heat on high.

pulled pork

Add in liquids and salt.

pulled pork

Bring to a rolling boil, then turn heat down to medium heat.

Allow to simmer for approx. 2 hours.

Do not touch the pot, let the meat cook without interruption.

After two hours, the juices/fats will have reduced dramatically.

pulled pork

Turn heat a touch higher to continue cooking the pork through; stirring the meat till browned all around.  The pieces will start to fall apart on their own as you stir.

This process can take up to forty -five minutes.  All the meat will be browned, and the fat pieces that are no longer breaking down further can be removed.  All the liquid will be gone.

Pulled Pork

Closer up.

Pulled Pork

Pasta with Swiss Chards

Pasta with Swiss Chards
1 lb swiss chards, stems removed, washed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp champagne vinegar
1 cup grated Romano cheese
a pinch of salt and pepper for taste

1 lb pasta

Swiss Chards
Swiss chards whole. Remove stems. Wash to remove debris. Then roll a few leaves at a time, and slice into strips


In a large stock pot, start boiling water for pasta.

Then proceed with the recipe while working on the pasta –Add in a pinch of salt when the water comes to a boil. Add pasta. Cook till al dente during this recipe process.

In a separate stock pot, heat up olive oil over medium heat.

Add garlic and onion.  Cook till translucent.

Add in the swiss chards.

Sprinkle with the vinegar  Stir.

Wilt Swish Chard

Cook until the chards have wilted and the inner stems of the leaves are tender.

Toss with cooked pasta and cheese…  Voila!!

Pasta with Swiss Chards

Peppermint Chocolate Graham Cracker Dessert

Tomorrow I plan on making a slew of cookies and a cake from scratch..two dozen butterscotch chocolate cookies, three dozen or more spritz cookies, 24 whip cream filled chocolate cupcakes and an oreo cheesecake. I just didn’t feel like this holiday was complete for me without a minty treat.  Here is what I found to be the quickest and tastiest treat for everyone with a ‘minty’ tooth like yours truly. (I love mint!)

Peppermint Chocolate Graham Cracker Dessert
11 Graham crackers (full sheets)
1 cup Chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 large candy canes, crushed into bits

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

On a tin foil or parchment paper covered cookie sheet, line up the graham crackers.




In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the brown sugar and butter.


Pour sugar mixture over the graham crackers and spread across till all covered.


Place in oven and let bake for 6 minutes.  The mixture will be bubbling and rising a touch above the rim of the sheet.

Add chocolate chips, and spread as they melt.


Add the smashed candy canes (or any topping you’d prefer–if I was in an allergy free home, I would use salted almonds!)


Once the chocolate is set, cut and serve!

IMG_6197 IMG_6198

Thanksgiving Day Menu

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

Thought to share the menu we finalized for dinner.  This is our first attempt at hosting this big holiday, and for me this is a huge deal.  I usually handle Christmas dinner, which was definitely more my speed, not being confined to making a whole bird, but I am so super excited to tackle this one!  Slightly nervous because my mom’s Thanksgiving dinners have always been a major bonus for us (she is the ultimate cook in the family), but I am definitely excited!   

Let the planning and food shopping begin!  


Our Menu for Thanksgiving Dinner

Mixed Drink:

Valeria’s Pilgrim Kiss -Smirnoff’s Cranberry Vodka with Prosecco, a fresh cranberry and a zest of orange



Olives, artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, etc..
Beets and goat cheese sprinkled with sunflower seeds
Stuffed mushrooms


Main Course:

Roasted thyme/lemon capon with my mom’s signature sausage stuffing (cooked in bird)



Sauteed peas and artichokes
Roasted root vegetables and butternut squash
Roasted asparagus with toasted panko crumb

And if I am up for it, fresh steamed broccoli

A variety of wines- RED: Merlot and Malbec, &, WHITE: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinto Grigio


Homemade Pumpkin Pie
Homemade Blueberry Pie
Homemade Chocolate Pie


Chocolate Liquer


This is what we’re planning, and I have no clue what my family is bringing, but I told them NO MORE FOOD! Let’s see if they listen.



Sounds good to me.  Let’s eat and drink!!

Darn, not till Thursday!

Enjoy this week, everyone!  Wish me tons of luck, and I will share all the recipes and photoblog our day here.


Sirloin Steak Tip and Baby Bella Mushroom Stew

Sirloin Steak Tip and Mushroom Stew
2 lbs sirloin steak tips, trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
20 baby bella mushroom caps, quartered
2 cups yellow onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 of a tomato paste can
2 cups beef broth
2 cups thawed frozen peas
1 cup tepid water
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2/3 cup red wine
3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


Prepped Onions, Garlic and Mushrooms
Prepped Onions, Garlic and Mushrooms
Ingredients: peas, wine, beef stock, s&p and thyme
Ingredients: peas, wine, beef stock, s&p and thyme
Cut tips in as much of a uniform cut as possible.  i use my finger as a guide.
Cut tips in as much of a uniform cut as possible. i use my finger as a guide.

Place steak in a large bowl and sprinkle with flour; turn to coat.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the steak (shake off excess flour) and sear until browned on all sides but still pink in the center.
Sear Flour Coated Tips
Sear Flour Coated Tips
Remove steak and set aside on a plate.
Remove meat.  Use same pot to cook veggies, utilizing the bits left behind
Remove meat. Use same pot to cook veggies, utilizing the bits left behind
In same pan, add garlic and onions.  Cook about one minute, stirring constantly while scraping up any browned bits.  
Add the mushrooms.
Add the leftover flour to the vegetables; stir to coat.
Add veggies, scraping the bottom.
Add veggies, scraping the bottom.

Then add remaining ingredients..tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, broth, thyme, wine, and water; decrease the heat to medium. 

Bring to a simmer, stirring often, for about 15 minutes till the sauce thickens.
Now add peas and steak, with all the drippings from the plate.
Add flour, broth, tomato paste, thyme and peas.
Turn down heat and let stew for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally scraping the bottom continually.Turn down heat and let stew for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally scraping the bottom continually.

Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.



I love to serve this stew with crispy roasted potatoes on top or a giant slice of a crunchy Italian bread..or both like shown here!  Yum!


Ginger Soy Pork Lettuce Wraps

Gave a crack at making my first Asian inspired dish… lettuce wraps!  It’s one item I love to order when they’re on the menu, and I had to give them a try on my own.

I fiddled with a lot of ingredients, but here is what I felt worked best for a simple taste that was satisfying for the whole family!

Ginger Soy Pork Lettuce Wraps
1 lb. Ground Pork
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
Pinch of Freshly Ground Pepper
2 tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1/4 cup Low Sodium Soy
2 tbsp. White Vinegar
2 Large Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 Cucumber, peeled and cut into strips
Boston Lettuce, or Iceberg Lettuce, large leaves that are easy to cup the filling

Ginger Soy Sauce:
In a bowl whisk together the soy, ginger and vinegar. Set aside. IMG_5473

In a large skillet over medium heat, sweat the garlic and onions.

Then add the ground pork. Breaking up the meat with a spoon.  

IMG_5480 IMG_5481

Brown the meat completely.

Add two tablespoons of the ginger soy sauce and pepper, mix well.  Remove from heat.

To assemble:
Place a few slivers of carrots and cucumbers to the bottom of a lettuce leaf cup, then top with pork.

Spoon a few drizzles of the remaining sauce on top.

Roll before eating, and enjoy!

Ground Pork with Ginger Sauce lettuce Wraps

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potatoes

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potato
1 lb. Italian pork sausage, for this garlic & cheese sausage links were used
1.5 lb. red bliss potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (with skin on)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 can tomato paste
2 fresh sprigs of thyme, or, 1 teaspoon of dry thyme
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a bowl mix all the ingredients except the sausage.

Transfer to a deep baking pan then place the sausage atop.

Sausage and Potato before

Roast for 20 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven.

Remove sausage from the pan.  Let stand apart and mix the roasted vegetables well.

Cut each link into thirds.  Place back on top of the potatoes.


Place pan back into the oven.

Roast for 15-20 minutes until the sausage is completely browned and the potatoes are fork tender.

sausage and potato after


Classic Beef Stew

Classic Beef Stew
1.5 lb Beef stew meat
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8
3 cups of tomato sauce
1 can (14.5oz) stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup red wine
12 Mini red potatoes, cut in half
10 Cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced then quartered
4 Stalks of organic celery, roughly chopped
5 Large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for browning beef

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Add all the ingredients except, beef, potatoes, and mushrooms into an ovenproof French or Dutch oven (4Qt).

The prepped carrots, celery and onion.

In a medium non-stick skillet, drizzle oil and heat then add beef. Sear/brown on all sides

Brown the beef on each side.

In French oven add beef to the vegetable mixture.

Then use the wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet.

After removing meat, deglaze pan with a 1/3 cup of red wine- for this I used a mild Merlot.

Add liquid to French oven. Mix well.

Cover; bake 2 hours, stirring once.

Cover your French or Dutch oven, and insert into heated oven.

After two hours.
After two hours.

Stir in potatoes and mushrooms; mix well.


Cover; bake 1 hour 30 minutes longer or until beef and vegetables are tender.



Classic Beef Stew!
Classic Beef Stew!