Beef and Barley Soup

My husband loves soups, especially ones that are thick and hearty. We had some leftover barley and I found a super easy recipe from one of my favorite YouTube chefs, The Domestic Geek. She unfortunately didn’t write a blog post about the recipe, so here is the YouTube video:

The recipe was super easy to put together before you just let it cook for ~40 minutes. I thought it tasted great but my husband absolutely loved it and ate two bowls. Overall, it’s not a quick meal but is perfect to save for a cold weekend.

I ended up using a bit more carrots and celery than she suggested and it turned out even more hearty and thick. I used a dutch oven like she did but I’m sure you could use a big pot instead. I also probably didn’t cut my steak cubes small enough; make sure they are bite sized!

I’ve pasted the recipe below for convenience.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sirloin steak, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 9 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Season beef well with salt and pepper.
  2. In a Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of oil on high heat.
  3. Add beef and brown on all sides. Transfer beef to a bowl and set aside, leaving behind all the juices and browned bits.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-high and add onions, celery and carrots. Cook 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  6. Add Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaf and barley. Cook for 30 seconds.
  7. Add broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.
  8. Cover with a lid and simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until barley is cooked through.
  9. Remove bay leaf. Stir in parsley and serve.
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Chicken and Stewed White Beans

I don’t like to chronicle all our Blue Apron recipes because there are a lot of them and some of them are too hard to replicate again, usually because the ingredients are hard to find. However, sometimes we get recipes we really love and aren’t too hard to make again! Recently we made Chicken and Stewed White Beans and my husband and I agreed we would love to make it again.

Usually I don’t like the taste of mustard at all and was worried that I wouldn’t like the final meal. However, I think the vinegar really cuts through some of the strong mustard taste and leaves a really delicious sauce on the vegetables. It was also a pretty healthy and filling meal.

I posted the recipe below for convenience.

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 carrots, quartered-lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. In a medium pan, heat 2 tsp of olive oil on medium-high heat.
  3. Cook chicken 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until browned. Leave the browned bits in the pan and transfer chicken to a plate.
  4. Add 2 tsp of olive oil to the same pan on medium-high heat.
  5. Add shallot, garlic and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently until lightly browned and slightly softened.
  6. Add kale and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the kale is slightly wilted.
  7. Add mustard and water. Cook 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale has wilted and liquid is thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. While the vegetables cook, in a separate pan, heat 2 tsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  9. Add breadcrumbs. Season with salt and papper. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown.
  10. Turn off heat and add half of the thyme to breadcrumbs. Stir to combine.
  11. Add chicken and remaining thyme to the pan of cooked vegetables. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Cook 2-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is slightly reduced and chicken is cook through.
  12. Remove chicken and slice crosswise.
  13. Stir in vinegar into the pan of vegetables.
  14. Plate the vegetables with sliced chicken on top. Garnish with the breadcrumbs.

Banana Bread (Improved!)

I’ve published a Banana Bread recipe before that I used for years.  However, recently one of my favorite YouTube chefs, Gemma of Bigger Bolder Baking, posted her favorite recipe for banana bread that she claimed was amazing and fail-proof. It was quite different from my usual recipe so I decided to give it a try.

I will admit, this recipe was really delicious! It is much lighter and fluffier, which Gemma claims is from the secret ingredient: rolled oats. While it is a banana bread, one of the main flavors is cinnamon and I find your bananas have to be really ripe in order to still have a strong banana flavor. (Otherwise, cinnamon is the main flavor) I usually wait until my bananas are almost completely dark brown.

Now I’ve fully switched to this recipe as my go-to! I think it’s a little less healthy than my original recipe but the flavor and texture makes up for it.

I’ve posted the recipe below for convenience. However, follow the link to her recipe if you need conversions to other units!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats (preferably quick-cooking)
  • 1/4 cup flavorless oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 medium bananas, very ripe and mashed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, sugar and oats.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the oil, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and mashed bananas.
  5. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients. Mix by hand until just combined. Do not over mix!
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  7. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Mushroom Barley Risotto

I had some leftover pearl barley and wanted to make something with it. I found a Mushroom Risotto recipe from the YouTuber, The Domestic Geek, that looked easy and perfect.

In general, it was very delicious and filling but I ended up cooking it for about 15 more minutes than the recipe called for. (I was waiting for more of the liquid to absorb) I also used vegetable broth because I could not find mushroom broth, but I bet the mushroom broth tastes better.

I pasted the recipe below for convenience.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups leeks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 4 cups mushroom or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • Oil
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add leeks and mushrooms. Cook until leeks have softened and the mushrooms begin to brown.
  3. Add garlic, thyme and barley. Cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  4. Add white wine to deglaze the pan. (Skip if not using)
  5. Add broth and stir.
  6. Cover saucepan and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until barley is cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Add parmesan and parsley and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Frangipane Tart

My husband and I watched a lot of the Great British Bake-off when it was put on Netflix and it inspired me to try out some of the recipes! One dessert that looked really delicious was the frangipane tart, which is a French tart with almond filling (called frangipane) that typically includes pieces of fruit. The best part is that you can choose whatever fruit you like or whatever is seasonal without modifying the base recipe. The finished dessert also looks gorgeous!

The tart was actually easier than I expected but there are many different steps and took a long time to make overall. I chose to put blackberries in my tart, but any sort of berry or sliced stone fruit (like peaches or apricots) would work really well.

I followed this recipe from Food 52, since it had a lot of great pictures to guide me. I pasted the recipe below for convenience. The recipe also explains how to make several small tarts but I made one big tart.

 

Ingredients (Crust)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 9 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Instructions (Crust)

  1. In a food processor, add flour, sugar and salt. Pulse to combine.
  2. Add butter and pulse until butter is the size of small peas.
  3. Add yolk and pulse until evenly distributed.
  4. Add cold water and pulse until the dough starts to form.
  5. Lightly butter your tart pan. Gently press dough into the pan, making sure to evenly coat the bottom and sides. (You may have some leftover; use this to patch cracks in the crust later)
  6. Freeze the tart shell for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat your oven too 375 degrees F.
  8. Bake the tart shell until lightly golden brown. This took about 10-12 minutes for me. If the shell puffs up while baking, just use a spatula to gently push it down.
  9. Cool the shell while you prepare the filling.

Ingredients (Filling)

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, soft
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds (blanched or unblanched)
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Your choice of fruit
  • Confectioner’s sugar, to finish

Instructions (Filling)

  1. In a food processor, add butter and sugar. Pulse until smooth.
  2. Add almonds and pulse until well combined.
  3. Add flour and cornstarch and pulse.
  4. Add egg and egg white and pulse.
  5. Add vanilla extract and salt. Pulse until just combined.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Spread the frangipane filling into the cool tart shell so it comes up just below the edge. (You may have leftover)
  8. Arrange your fruit how you like on top of the filling. (Make it pretty!)
  9. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake until crust and frangipane are golden, about 45-50 minutes.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.
  11. Dust with confectioner’s sugar right before serving.

 

Cooking update: Blue Apron again

I have to admit, I haven’t posted many recipes lately. It’s not because we haven’t been cooking; in fact, we’ve been cooking a lot more than usual! The reason is because we’ve started using Blue Apron again. That means we are cooking about 3 new recipes a week and for the remaining meals, we’re either eating out or cooking something familiar and easy.

We started Blue Apron again because we realized we were eating out almost every night of the week. My husband and I are both professionals, so sometimes we don’t end up getting home until about 7pm. The thought of going to the store after work to prepare a meal always seemed exhausting! Even on the weekends, we would get lazy about cooking. The other side effect is that our take-out meals were too big and I could feel it in our waistlines.

These are the main advantages I find:

  • We don’t spend as much time deciding what to cook. We choose the three meals for the week in advance and then just have to decide between those three meals.
  • We don’t have to go shopping for groceries; we can just get home from work and start cooking.
  • The meals are portion controlled so we don’t eat too much!
  • The recipes are a bit more interesting than we’d cook for ourselves and most of what we’ve made has been very tasty.

Of course, Blue Apron doesn’t work for everyone. It is definitely more pricey than buying groceries on your own (but cheaper than eating out like we were). I’ve also had a few minor issues with the shipments, like missing ingredients or damaged goods. However, in general, it’s been a very positive experience for us and I think we’ll continue to use it.

Polish Stuffed Cabbage (Gołąbki)

I grew up in a Polish family and one dish my mom always made was gołąbki (pronounced like goWUMPkee), or stuffed cabbages. They are a huge comfort food for me, but they are both labor and time intensive. (At least 2-3 hours to prepare and cook) My mom would surprisingly make them for weekday dinners! However, I save them for the weekend and make a big batch. (Plus, they reheat great as leftovers)

My mom made them with minced meat and rice filling and a tomato sauce on top, but there are other variations. For example, for Wigilia (Polish Christmas Eve), my aunt makes a vegetarian variation with mushroom and rice filling. However, I much prefer the tomato and meat version!

See the recipe below. My recipe is mostly from my mother, but I’ve also taken inspiration from other Polish recipes I’ve found. You can also cook these in a deep pan if you want but I find it comes out best in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1/2 lb ground beef & pork mix (like meatball mix or just ground beef)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups cooked white rice (from 1 cup dry rice)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Boil the cabbage in a large pot of water until it is soft, about 5-10 minutes. Take out and allow it to cool.
  3. In a frying pan, heat up a small drizzle of oil or a small pat of butter. Fry the ground meat and onion until browned.
  4. In a bowl, mix the cooked rice, ground meat, onion, egg and salt and pepper. Feel free to add more seasoning if you want to taste.
  5. After the cabbage has cooled, peel off the cabbage leaves.
  6. Grease a baking dish and cover the bottom with the outermost leaves.
  7. Put a small amount of meat and rice mixture into the center of each cabbage leaf. Fold two opposite sides toward the center and roll up from the bottom to create a small cabbage roll.
  8. Put each cabbage roll into the baking dish, creating tight rows of side-by-side rolls.
  9. Pour the tomato sauce over the rolls. You want the liquid to fill about halfway up the dish. Add some vegetable broth or water if you need more liquid
  10. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  11. Serve each roll with a bit of tomato sauce on top.