Category Archives: What’s For Dinner?

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.

Menu for the week, 1/17/10

I haven’t posted a menu in a while, so here goes…also, Robby is in a football coma at the moment (Colts/Jets game followed by the Saints/Vikings game), so I’m bored. :)

Last week’s menu was entirely inspired by Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine. Most of her recipes are kind of weird-sounding, but there are always at least one or two keepers in each issue. I especially love the fact that most of her recipes can be made in 30 minutes or less; a definite lifesaver on weeknights. Best of all, she publishes all of her recipes on her web site, so I can share them with you!

Sunday, 1/17: Marinated flank steak, mashed potatoes, and salad

Monday, 1/18: Tahini-battered chicken with tabbouleh (note: tahini is sesame-seed paste. I found in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s. Also, I substituted couscous for the bulgur wheat, and it tasted just as good).

Tuesday, 1/19: Whole wheat pasta arrabbiata with arugula, rolls, and salad

Wednesday, 1/20: I work until 10pm on Wednesdays, so Robby was on his own this day…

Thursday, 1/21: Sizzling beef and scallions (this recipe required a LOT of chopping and was different than I was expecting; it was more like fried rice with beef strips. Robby liked it, though.) After dinner on Thursday, I made an almond bundt cake using the cookbook and pan that my sister-in-law Ashley got me for Christmas. Robby and I enjoyed eating our cake while listening to the rain and watching season 1 of Gilmore Girls on DVD. It was a great evening. :)

Friday, 1/22: Tex-Mex corn chip chili (I have made this many times and it is by far my favorite chili recipe. It’s quick, easy, and delicious. This time, I left out the tomatoes since I didn’t have any in the pantry, and it turned out fine; I just simmered it for less time.)

Saturday, 1/23: Creamed chicken with gnocchi dumplings (I ended up not making this because we were tired after spending all day helping our friends move. We went to Burger King for dinner…the horror! :) I’m going to try to make the recipe sometime this week.)

Quick and tasty dinner: Empanadas

Adapted from a recipe I found in Real Simple magazine. Makes 4 large servings.


  • 1 can refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1 16-oz. can refried beans
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar


  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. Unroll pizza dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into four equal-sized pieces.
  3. Stretch each piece of dough into an approx. 6-inch square.
  4. Spread 2-3 tbsp. beans onto each empanada. Top with 2 tsp. salsa and a bit of shredded cheese.
  5. Fold dough over and press edges to seal shut.
  6. Brush each empanada with a bit of olive oil and place on the baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until empanadas are golden brown.
  8. Serve with chips and salsa. Also good with a side of corn.

Quick and tasty dinner: Pasta with homemade sauce

Until I tried it, I had no idea how easy it is to make your own pasta sauce. Seriously, there are only 3 steps, and the hardest part is chopping up some garlic! Here’s the recipe, adapted from the Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine:


  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28-0z. can diced peeled tomatoes, with their juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. pasta


  1. Heat the olive oil, parsley, and garlic in a skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and lower the heat to medium. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Let simmer until the tomato juices have evaporated. This should take about 20 minutes.
  4. While the sauce simmers, boil water and cook the pasta.
  5. Drain the pasta and serve with the sauce, plus salad and rolls to finish it all off.

Menu for the Week, 9/20/09

I’m waiting for dinner to finish baking, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to update the blog. Here’s this week’s dinner menu:

  • Sunday, 9/20: Chicken piccata, mustard-roasted potatoes, and cheesecake-swirl brownies for dessert
  • Monday, 9/21: Chicken fajitas
  • Tuesday, 9/22: Dinner out at La Tolteca
  • Wednesday, 9/23: Chicken potstickers, brown rice, and green beans
  • Thursday, 9/24: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and hash browns
  • Friday, 9/25: Pulled-pork sandwiches, french fries, and fruit
  • Saturday, 9/26: Spinach ravioli with homemade marinara sauce, salad, and rolls
  • Sunday, 9/27: Rice-stuffed pork chops, green beans