Category Archives: Cooking

Super Easy Sunday Afternoon Beef & Barley Stew

Sunday afternoons are lazy times for me and Robby. I’m always looking for simple things to make for dinner on Sunday nights, so that I can enjoy the end of the weekend. I came across a beef and barley stew recipe online, and thought I would share my “improved” version. If you use pre-chopped ingredients, there’s almost no work involved at all! I actually have a pot of this stew simmering on my stove right now. :)

Beef & Barley Stew

Serves: 6 large portions, 8 small
Total time, including prep: 2-2.5 hours


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. stew beef, cut into chunks (my grocery store sells it pre-cut)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 Tbsp. table salt)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 container (approx. 14 oz.) mirepoix*
  • 3/4 c. pearl barley (rinse it in a strainer first to clean off any dirt)

* “Mirepoix” is a fancy French name for a mixture of finely-chopped onions, celery, and carrots. You can probably find it in the pre-chopped produce section at the grocery store. Alternatively, you can chop one large onion, 2 large carrots, and 2 large celery stalks, but that’s a lot more work!


  1. Heat the oil in a large stew pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Brown the beef on all sides, for approximately 5 minutes. You don’t need to cook it all the way through, as it will cook while the stew simmers.
  3. Add the beef broth, water, bay leaf, parsley, salt, pepper, and thyme.
  4. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
  5. Partially cover and let stew simmer for 1.5 hours. Go take a nap or read a book. :)
  6. Skim fat off top of stew, then add tomatoes (with liquid) and mirepoix. Simmer 20 more minutes.
  7. Add the barley and simmer 15-20 more minutes, until barley has softened and expanded.
  8. Remove bay leaf and serve stew with warm French bread.

A few notes:

  • This tastes even better re-heated for lunch the next day.
  • Don’t stress too much about the measurements. I don’t even bother with measuring spoons for the spices, and just eyeball it instead. Makes things even easier!
  • Your house will smell really good while the stew simmers, which means your husband might ask you repeatedly whether dinner will be ready soon. :)
  • Target has the best French bread I’ve ever tasted, plus it’s super cheap! Look for the demi-baked loaf, and pop it in the oven for 5-10 minutes before serving. Mmmmmm.

Peach pie smoothies

This recipe comes from my new favorite cookbook, So Easy by Ellie Krieger. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this cookbook has started to transform the way I eat. Ellie’s recipes really do make it quick and easy to eat more fruits and vegetables.

I’ve made several of the recipes, and all of them are delicious, but I think this one is my favorite. I make this smoothie for breakfast several times a week. This recipe will make 2 generous servings.


  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 c. low-fat yogurt (you can use any flavor, but I always use vanilla)
  • 2 c. frozen sliced peaches, unsweetened (you can also substitute frozen strawberries for some or all of the peaches)
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 c. ice


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high speed until smooth.

Pecan & chocolate chip coffee cake

This is another recipe adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, and it’s one of Robby’s favorites. :)

Topping ingredients

  • 1/3 c. shelled pecans
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 c. chocolate chips

Cake ingredients

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 c. sour cream (I substitute greek-style yogurt)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Put pecans into a small skillet and cook over low heat for 5 min. Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop. Mix chopped pecans with 1/4 c. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and 1 c. sugar until fluffy (approx. 5 min.).
  5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in the sour cream/yogurt and vanilla.
  6. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Spread half of the batter into a greased 8″x8″ square baking pan, and sprinkle with half the pecan topping and half the chocolate chips.
  8. Gently spread the remaining batter over the filling, then top with the remaining pecan topping and chocolate chips.
  9. Bake until golden brown, approx. 35 min.

Weekend dinners: BBQ bourbon chicken and cornbread pie

This is a variation of a recipe I found in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. It’s a bit time consuming, but makes enough to have leftovers the next day (or to take to work for lunch–it freezes and reheats well). My favorite part is lighting the bourbon on fire–Robby and I turn off the lights in the kitchen and watch the flames! :)


  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 c. of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into medium-sized chunks
  • 3/4 c. bourbon
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (optional; I usually leave these out)
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 8.5 oz. boxes of corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy brand), mixed according to package directions (usually requires adding milk and eggs)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a cast-iron (or other oven-proof) skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden-brown (approx. 8 minutes). You’ll be baking the chicken later, so it’s ok if it’s still a little pink in the middle.
  3. Pour the barbecue sauce over the chicken and stir.
  4. Drizzle the bourbon on top, and move the pan off the burner. Light the alcohol with a match, and return the pan to the burner. Continue to cook until the flames burn out.
  5. Fold the cheese and scallions (if using) into the cornbread batter, and spread over the chicken mixture in the skillet.
  6. Put skillet into the oven and bake until the cornbread is golden brown (approx. 30-35 min.).

The best pancake recipe ever

I found this one on a site called Tasty Kitchen, and it became an instant favorite in our house. If you love pancakes, and you love cinnamon rolls, this recipe will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. :)

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

(I’ve adapted the original recipe to make 2 generous servings)

Dry ingredients

  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon

Wet ingredients

  • 1 whole egg, beaten
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract


  1. Pre-heat griddle or frying pan over medium/low heat.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until combined.
  5. Pour batter onto griddle or pan, 1/4 cup at a time.
  6. Cook until edges bubble (approx. 2-3 min.), then flip and heat for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  7. Serve with either pancake syrup or cinnamon roll icing (see comments on original recipe for icing instructions).