Dutch Oven · New England · recipe

Beef & Barley Soup in the Dutch Oven

Beef & Barley Soup–if you don’t count chowder–is quite possibly the quintessential New England soup.

But nowadays finding a good version can be difficult to find, except maybe in a can. And even the best canned soups are still too salty and tinny for regular consumption.

So, I set about making a healthy and easy Beef & Barley that would rival the ease of warming up a canned version and I think I’ve done it. Of course, I used my trusty Dutch Oven, but I also used my Instant Pot to make ready the beef.

I started with a small piece of meat that was intended as a small roast. I got it on sale for less than $4 and it weighed just under two pounds. Because I froze it when I bought it, I first defrosted it and then cooked it with a small amount of beef broth and some salt and pepper in the Instant Pot on the beef setting. Couldn’t be easier, but note that you could use a portion of roast beef leftovers if you have that.

Once the beef was cooked and had rested, I chopped it up in small pieces and tossed it into the Dutch Oven along with some tomato sauce, a box of beef broth and the drippings from the Instant Pot. I added a can of peas and carrots, but you could use fresh or frozen. It’s up to you, of course.

The Barley was cooked separately from a dried bag of the grain. If you’re wondering where you find dried Barley, check the dried beans section of your grocery store. Once cooked, add the Barley to the soup toward the end of the cooking to keep it from getting too soggy.

Small oyster crackers are the only thing you need to complete this wonderful, homey meal, which is perfect for a cold late Autumn supper.

One small points:

This soup is exceptionally economical. I figured the entire recipe cost me under ten dollars for ten servings!


  • Small cut of roast beef, prepared either in an oven or Instant Pot, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Box of beef broth
  • Small can of tomato sauce
  • Can of diced carrots and peas
  • About two cups of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Barley, 1 cup, dried and cooked separately with 2 1/2 cups water and salt to taste


  1. Cook beef in Instant Pot with a small amount of beef broth and allow to rest OR use precooked cut of roast beef
  2. Slice and then dice the cooked beef and place in Dutch Oven with any pan drippings from the cooking of the beef
  3. Add tomato sauce, beef broth and water to the Dutch Oven and bring contents to boil on the stovetop
  4. Reduce heat to allow the soup to slowly boil off some of the added water and thicken, about 1 hour
  5. Meanwhile in a separate pan, bring the dried Barley to boil with 2 1/2 cups water and salt to taste; cook for 45 minutes
  6. After cooking off some of the liquid, add the can of peas and carrots and the Barley
  7. Allow soup to simmer for an hour or more so that all the flavors meld together
  8. Serve with small oyster crackers

Dutch Oven · recipe

Skinny Chicken Enchilada Rice Bowl

Skinny Chicken Enchilada Rice Bowls
Skinny Chicken Enchilada Rice Bowls

Hi fellow Weight Watchers!

I’m back again with another yummy and “WW friendly” Mexican-style main dish.  This one is an old favorite that I plugged into the WW App and only modified slightly to produce a 6 point large entree to die for!  Soooo yummy for the tummy!

I like to prepare this one in a Dutch Oven, because of its even heating, but it can also be prepared in a regular pot, too!  My 12 year old son–MO–loves this one and he’s not even a Weight Watcher!



  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups canned/boxed chicken broth
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes and green chilies (I use Rotel)
  • 1 large (or 2 small) cans/jars of enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup frozen yellow corn kernals
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed



  1. Add oil to your Dutch Oven and heat for a minute or so.  Toss in onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook for a minute or two.  Add chicken chunks and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until vegetables are soft and chicken is no longer pink.
  2. Add the rice and stir to combine.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until rice and chicken is light golden brown.
  3. Add chicken broth, canned tomatoes and chilies, enchilada sauce, corn, chili powder and cumin.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to simmer and cover.  Cook covered until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid or for approximately 20 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from heat and add the black beans.  Stir to combine.  Cover and let rest for a few minutes.
  6. Makes 6 *very generous* servings, which equal to about of only 6 Weight Watcher points, as prepared.  Note: If you serve it with a low-fat sour cream and/or a sprinkling of low-fat Mexican cheese you need to consult your app and add for the additional toppings. 
Skinny Chicken Enchilada Rice Bowls
Skinny Chicken Enchilada Rice Bowls sprinkled with optional low-fat Mexican cheese (don’t forget to add points for the cheese!)


Dutch Oven · recipe

How To Expertly Cut a Pineapple

PLUS learn to make Pera-Pina (Pineapple Rice Drink) with the leftover rind!

My Dominican friend stopped by this morning with a fresh pineapple!

I love fresh pineapple–it’s just so sweet and refreshing.  Some experts are now saying pineapple holds the secrets to reducing inflammation and pain, too.

As much as I love fresh pineapple, I rarely buy an uncut one.  Mostly because I’ve never been able to cut a whole pineapple correctly.  I always feel like I am cutting off too much fruit and throwing most of it away.

Enter my lovely Dominican friend–Santo Espinal–with a bag full of fruit and a fresh pineapple.  Since I have always struggled with the proper way to cut a fresh pineapple, I seized the opportunity to document the correct way to cut one from a true expert!   PLUS I got a delicious new drink to make with the unused rind and core…ALL of which I am going to share with you today.


Cutting a Pineapple the Right Way
Once cored, slice the piece into bite sized pieces

How to Expertly Cut a Fresh Pineapple:

  1. Twist off the crown and remove any dead leaves on the bottom.
  2. Using a sharp knife and holding the pineapple steady with one hand, begin making long cuts to the rind.  Be sure to remove enough rind that the dimples don’t remain.
  3. Work your way around the entire pineapple until all of the rind is removed.
  4. Lay the pineapple on its side and cut about a half inch from the bottom.
  5. Keep all the pineapple trimmings, excluding the crown, for making the pineapple rice juice.
  6. Turn the pineapple upright and cut off a side.
  7. Remove the tough core of each side–as if you are filleting a fish–and then chunk up the remaining fruit.  Keep the tough core for the juice.
  8. Chill the fruit and enjoy!




How to make Pera-Piña, aka Pineapple Rice Juice:

  1. Chunk the pineapple rind and core and place it in your Dutch Oven.
  2. Add 1 cup white rice and about 1/2 cup of oatmeal to the rinds.
  3. Fill the pot up with water and set to boil.
  4. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  The mixture is starchy, so expect a film to form on top.
  6. Process the entire contents in a blender.  You may have to do this in batches, as I did, because it requires a bigger blender than I have.
  7. Strain the blended juice–admittedly this part is difficult as my blended juice was very, very thick and still super hot to process.  If this happens to you, I’d suggest you add water to your mixture to help strain it better.  Or you can skip the straining and use a spoon to scoop out any big pieces that may be left behind.
  8. Sweeten if desired.  Most Dominicans add sweetener, but I could see not doing this.
  9. Chill the juice thoroughly before serving.



And THAT, my friends, is how you expertly handle a fresh pineapple according to a native of the Dominican Republic.  Oh! And you also learned how to be extra frugal by using the discarded fruit for a delicious drink!

If you’ve enjoyed this recipe and instruction, please let me know.  My Dominican friend Santo knows a LOT of interesting recipes and is always trying to show me them.  If you are interested in learning more about Dominican/Caribbean food and culture, he is ready and waiting to show us all a few things!

Fresh Pineapple
Never let a fresh pineapple intimidate you again!



DIY · Dutch Oven

Cleaning Your Dutch Oven

bread in the dutch oven
Bread in the Dutch Oven

As you may have figured out, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with my Dutch Oven.

If you are just tuning in, you can read all about WHY I love my new enameled cast-iron pot here:  Why I love my Dutch Oven

I’ve been using my Christmas gift non-stop and have blogged about many recipes, some of which you can find here:

Quick & Easy General Tso’s Chicken: Another Dutch Oven Recipe

Recipe: Crusty Italian Bread in the Dutch Oven

Julia Child’s French Onion Soup Gratinee

Beer Battered Fried Pickles in the Dutch Oven…of course!

stains in dutch oven
Ugly stains left on the inside of my Dutch Oven

Alas!  As with any romance, it can’t be ALL champagne and roses!

As I was preparing all of these fabulous dishes, I noticed my beloved Dutch Oven started to take a beating.  It no longer just wiped clean after a messy recipe and I started to see marks left on the bottom inside of the pot…as well as stains on the outside cover and bottom.

Needless to say, my heart hurt a little thinking that my beautiful Christmas gift was already looking a little shabby.

Luckily we’ve got Google and Pinterest to save the day!

In my search for a cure to bring my Dutch Oven back to life, I found two tips–both involving baking soda–that have revived my darling pot and for just pennies!

Let me start by saying, I’ve kept baking soda in my kitchen for nearly 30 years.  It’s just a fabulous thing!  Baking soda inexpensive, powerful and extremely versatile. And although it’s useful in cooking, it is often overlooked as a cleaning product.

The first thing I did to get the bottom of my Dutch Oven back to its beautiful white enameled self was to simply boil water with baking soda in my pot. No scrubbing at all and–just like that–the inside of my pot looked brand new!

Baking soda and water
Boil about a quarter cup of baking soda in water

After I boiled the baking soda and water for about 15 minutes, I noticed the stains on the inside were disappearing like magic…and no scrubbing!  Granted it isn’t brand new, but it looks better than it did before, which lifted my spirits a bit.

inside of cleaned dutch oven
Results after boiling with water and baking soda

Boiling baking soda and water works for the inside of the Dutch Oven, but what about the outside?  To clean the outside and the lid, I went with a baking soda paste.  The paste was simply baking soda mixed with a small amount of water.

Using a sponge, I dabbed the paste on the outside of the pot and worked in a circular motion.  Without much scrubbing at all, the stains began to magically disappear!

It was THAT simple!

Again…I didn’t get my Dutch Oven back to its pristine state, but I *did* get most of the stains off and managed to shine it up in the process.  I even did both sides of the lid with the baking soda paste.

Don’t you just love tricks that are just super simple and yet effective?

So if you have a well-used Dutch Oven that needs a little sparkle, may I suggest a little baking soda? You will be back to loving your Dutch Oven in a snap!!

Dutch Oven · New England · recipe

Cioppino: San Francisco’s Fish Stew


Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew
Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew

Even though I haven’t visited The City by the Bay in years, I have never lost affection for all that San Francisco has to offer.  I don’t just want to visit again…I yearn to be there…and, yes, it’s that wonderful a place!

But here I am all the way over on the East Coast and every once in a while I just need something that is quintessentially San Franciscan.  What’s a girl to do?

I solved my dilemma–once again–by getting out my Dutch Oven and setting to work on an absolutely soul satisfying fish stew–that is known as Cioppino.

For the record, you pronounce Cioppino “Chip (soft p) Pee No” and it is a well known San Francisco treat.  The great thing about Cioppino is it influenced by whatever the fresh catch is.  For example, in San Francisco, which is on the Pacific, you’d probably always expect a nice amount of Dungeness in your bowl of Cioppino.  But–over here on the East Coast where crab is not as prevalent–we could use shrimp or even Maine lobster tails! That’s the true beauty of Cioppino!  It’s left up to you–dear cook–to find the best ingredients for your stew, so do keep that in mind when you are purchasing your fish for this dish.

There is one other important point I’d like to make about Cioppino or any other soup or stew, for that matter.  Most good soup makers know that almost all homemade soups, chowders, and stews benefit from a little aging.  With a day or two of resting, you allow all of the flavors to meld together, which gives the completed soup amazing depth.  With that in mind, I have broken the recipe up into two sections.  If you have the time, make the broth a day or two ahead.  When you are ready to make the full stew, reheat the broth and add the solid ingredients.

Don’t have time to wait? That’s okay, too.  Even if prepared all on the same day, this recipe is still a winner!

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Ingredients for the Broth:

  • olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice (located near the tuna fish and other canned fish)
  • 28 ounce can small diced or crushed tomatoes (I prefer the diced)
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to your preference

How to prepare the broth:

  1. Begin by heating your Dutch Oven over medium high heat for a minute.  Add the olive oil and warm a minute more.
  2. Add the onion and cook until softened.  Once onion is softened, add the garlic, oregano, basil and pepper flakes and allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Add the wine and bring to a boil, cooking until the wine is reduced by half.
  4. Add the tomatoes.  Stir well and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
  5. When thickened, add the clam juice, bay leaves and the water.  Season to taste.
  6. Bring broth to a boil then return to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Remove the bay leaves.

For best results, make your broth a day or two ahead of preparing the entire dish and allow it to chill.  You can, of course, use the broth immediately if you must.


Completed Cioppino ready for the bowl
Completed Cioppino ready for the bowl

Ingredients for Completed Stew:

  • Broth, prepared ahead of time and allowed to age for up to two days
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds of shellfish such as mussels, clams or cherrystones, de-bearded, rinsed and drained (I used fresh PEI mussels and some good looking cherrystones)
  • 1 pound of large shrimp, peeled (except for the tail) and deveined OR 1 pound fresh crab–or some combination of both to equal about a pound
  • 1 pound firm white ocean fish, cut into generous pieces (I used cod)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh sourdough bread

Completing the stew:

  1. Have your broth ready.  If you have let it rest, heat it to a low simmer…gently.
  2. In a large (7 quart) Dutch Oven or pot, heat your olive oil and then add the shallot.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until shallot is softened.  Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute or so–until fragrant–but do not let the garlic burn.  Hint: Use your big pot…you will need it at the end, trust me!
  3. To the pan add your mussels, clams or cherrystones and the wine.  Cover and cook until the shells open, which will take 4-5 minutes.
  4. Check your shellfish to make sure they have all opened.  Discard any that do not.
  5. Add the prepared broth to the shellfish and bring to a simmer.
  6. When at a simmer, add the fish chunks and shrimp.  Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the butter cubes and check your seasonings, adjusting as necessary.
  8. Serve “family style” with fresh or toasted sourdough bread, which is used for dipping

Special note:

Although this dish can be a little expensive to make and requires some patience, it is totally worth it!

In fact…if I were a mermaid, I’d insist on it every night!

Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew
Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew