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!

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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

DIY · Dutch Oven · recipe

Popcorn in the Dutch Oven

Popcorn in the Dutch Oven

So…on a whim…I decided to try making popcorn in the Dutch Oven…because, you know, I just can’t separate myself from this thing!

And, of course, it came out phenomenal!

My mom gave me a little bottle of coconut oil that is infused with jalapeños and so I decided to cook a batch with it. My mouth is burning! In an awesome jalapeño kind of way! I’m thrilled!

I’ve all but stopped eating popcorn several years ago…and when I did, I worried about the microwave kind giving me cancer or something…but then I remembered how my Dad would make popcorn in a pan on the stove and a light went off. Why couldn’t I try out a stove top version in my new best friend…I mean, my Dutch Oven.

I even shook it out into a brown paper bag to get out some of the grease…just like Dad used to do!

And now I’m strolling down memory lane and enjoying every second of it! Dad would be so proud!

I’m now seriously wondering if there’s anything that this Dutch Oven CAN’T do…

Plus I’m thinking they may need to bury me with it, because I *never* want to be without it again!

Christmas · DIY · recipe

Pizzelle: Auntie’s Italian Cookies

If you come from an Italian-American family, I have no doubt you had one auntie who seemed to be “in charge” of making the pizzelle for all the family gatherings. I’m pretty sure that’s because pizzelle makers were a bit expensive and therefore hard to justify as a purchase in more than one household.

In our family, my Auntie Elisa was the pizzelle maker.

Every family gathering and holiday Auntie Elisa would place a plate of gorgeous snowflake shaped cookies–complete with the distinctive aroma of anise–on the table for enjoying with coffee and company. Admittedly, I was completely enamored of pizzelle as a kid and I guess I still am today.

Sadly, when my father passed away in 2011, it became too difficult to continue our extended family gatherings and my annual pizzelle consumption took a dramatic nose dive.

Last year, I was ecstatic to find some authentic pizzelle in Costco and I remember bringing a small package to my Auntie Anna’s hospital bed. Her son and my cousin, Ricky, went on and on about them and it reminded me of the annual family gatherings we all attended. How I have missed those times.

Last year I lost two of my favorite aunties–Auntie Mary and Auntie Anna–and their passing has had a profound effect on my thoughts about family, home keeping and love ever since.

So, despite suffering from a serious knee injury this Christmas, I was determined to reinstitute some old family traditions and one of them was making the delicate, snowflake-like cookies that are called pizzelle.

Luckily I had procured a pizzelle maker some time ago; it was still new in its box and hanging out among my many Christmas decorations. Unfortunately if there were instructions, they were long gone, so it was up to me to figure out how to use it. Thankfully there is the internet and I cobbled together an updated recipe for chocolate pizzelle and set to testing out my maker.

If you can get your hands on an authentic pizzelle maker, I would urge you to try. There is nothing like a freshly made pizzelle! When they emerge from the iron, they are very pliable…but you only have a few seconds to shape them. It’s a fun challenge.

Obviously they can be enjoyed on their own with a fresh cup of coffee…but they are also excellent vehicles for a little extra something if you can work fast enough!

You can roll them like cannoli shells and fill them with homemade whipped cream. Or you can shape them into bowls and add a scoop of gelato! They could even be folded like a taco shell and stuffed with berries and cream!

And, obviously, they can be enjoyed plain, too!

So here’s my take on a Chocolate Pizzelle for you to enjoy. You’ll notice that they don’t have the traditional anise flavoring (or any flavoring!), but you can add it if you’d like. Orange or peppermint flavoring would taste especially good

Chocolate Pizzelle:

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
  • 1/4 CUP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar, no lumps
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I prefer unsalted butter in my baking, but if you don’t have it on hand, you can substitute regular butter and adjust the salt in the recipe)
  • Water to adjust the thickness of your batter

If you are a purist and want to make your pizzelle the “old fashioned way” the ingredients are much the same

Classic Pizzelle:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, no lumps
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • Stick of melted unsalted butter, cooled
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. anise extract (you can substitute almond or even vanilla extract, but anise is the most traditional)
  • Water to adjust thickness of your batter

A few hints:

  • It’s important you start with the right consistency batter, so after mixing all the ingredients slowly add water until you get a thick batter….you don’t want it too watery
  • Heat up your iron thoroughly and then spray with cooking spray so your cookies won’t stick
  • Don’t use too much batter for each cookie! I used a standard table spoon and put the batter in the middle of both cookie Wells
  • You should stay with your cookies as they are cooking! They only take about two minutes and you CAN definitely over cook these. When you open the iron, the cookies will be pliable. You will learn as you go…it’s like pancakes!
  • The cookies will remain pliable once removed from the iron, but not for long! Seriously…like ONLY a few seconds. So if you want to shape them, have your tools–little bowls, medium sized rolling pin, funnel–ready BEFORE you take out the hot cookies
  • The iron gets hot…BUT (unfortunately) the best way to remove the cooked pizzelle is with your hands…another reason to work quickly
  • Only add one teaspoon of extract to this recipe and only if you want to! Pizzelle are not suppose to be super sweet, but subtle. The chocolate flavoring really came through without any extract and was made for a very nice “adult” cookie (therefore MO shunned them! Haha!)
  • It’s traditional to dust pizzelle with confectioners sugar, but it’s not necessary…they shouldn’t stick together
  • Store your cookies in airtight containers or zippy bags and they will last for several days!

I hope you enjoy my recipes! And if you have an Auntie, give her a call! She is always happy to hear from you!

Please note: When I started my blog, I didn’t realize I would be sharing so many recipes. I am now in the process of figuring out how to make my recipes printable, so please bear with me until I can figure that out!

life

Leftovers

Let’s talk leftovers.

I came from a far away place called the 70’s. During that time, most moms were “stay at home” and many didn’t have cars. Our moms did their marketing once a week and usually purchased enough for breakfast, lunch and supper for the entire family, which usually included a special meal for Sunday after church. Yes, in that far away place, we all went to church on Sunday morning, even if you weren’t feeling like it!

We rarely went out to eat as this was reserved for “special occasions”. Furthermore, the idea of “ordering out” was just foreign to those of us that came from the 70’s…and I am being totally serious here! On rare occasions, my dad might suggest getting a pizza–for example, if it was just “too hot to cook”–but, even then, he would drive to the local pizzeria, order and bring it home. Keep in mind microwave ovens were just being introduced in most homes then and they were still strange and possibly dangerous, too. One of my neighbors insisted that we do not stand in front of theirs while it was “in use” because, well, “radiation”.

The 70’s was a strange place, indeed. 😉

But–getting back to my point–when I was growing up, food came from your kitchen and was usually produced by moms. Sometimes you’d be lucky and have a mom that was a really good cook or even a bit inventive. Sometimes not. Sometimes moms would have a rotating schedule, similar to a school lunch menu, but usually without an alternate. Your alternate was “take it or leave it” usually. My point being she would churn it out and we would all sit and eat at the same time…no tv, no devices, just conversation and eating. Isn’t that weird?

Invariably there were leftovers. Sometimes it would be just a tiny amount of food, but it was food and we never threw it out; it would be saved. Maybe it would be a spoonful of peas & carrots. A slice of ham wrapped in tinfoil, perhaps. Occasionally there might be some rice no one could eat.

And we kept it all! What’s weird is we never ate these leftovers the next day, because it was Wednesday and it was spaghetti day. So she would collect all these bits of leftovers in tiny Tupperware or Pyrex fridge containers, which would sit in the fridge for a couple of days. And, on Saturday, she would take all the leftovers and heat everything up to go with our hamburgs (you heard me…that’s what we called them) which were cooked in the broiler on a tinfoil wrapped broiler pan that no one liked to clean. It was a potluck of sorts and, I have to tell you, it was our version of being adventurous.

These days I am hearing and seeing dinner being handled in far different ways and it’s sort of scary and strange. What about the leftovers? Where are those weekly “pot lucks” of days gone by? Do people actually throw food away now? What do you eat with your Saturday night Hamburgs?

As a single mom of one child, I must admit I have struggled with the idea of “family meals”. It seems odd making a full meal that your child won’t eat and I have no desire to eat what he does most of the time. Lately I might cook something big–like a pot of soup–and eat that every night for a week, while–at the same time–being a short order cook for MO. It sort of works for us right now, but it does change my ingrained beliefs about leftovers.

I suppose that’s why I get really excited when Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls around. Suddenly I can have a conversation with an adult! I can show off my culinary skills! I can have…LEFTOVERS!

Autism

Don’t call me, I’ll call you…maybe.

For as long as I’ve known how to use a telephone, I’ve pretty much avoided them.   

Phones–to me–have always been a disturbing interruption of my day.  Basically anyone can just call you anytime they want with no regard for what you might be doing, which I have always perceived as rude.  I suppose that makes me antisocial, but it’s just how I am.

I grew up with only having a house phone and, for a long time, no answering machine.  In those days, people had certain rules about calling and things were civilized. Everyone knew you didn’t call during the dinner hour or after 10pm unless it was an emergency.  

My aunts, who lived in different area codes, even developed a way to contact each other without incurring additional charges for a call, because in “those days” phone calls were always cheaper at different times.  If my aunt in Watertown wanted to speak with us in Peabody, she would call, let it ring once and hang up; that way we knew to call her later.  So, of course, we never picked up a call on the first ring.  

When the phone company–“Ma Bell”–changed your area code it messed you ALL up, because then you’d have to figure out if you needed the area code to make a call.  This was a real problem growing up, because you didn’t always need the area code like you do now.  Furthermore, in some places, like Amesbury, which was too small for more than one exchange, you only needed to call the last four numbers.  Yup, if my neighbor wanted to reach me, he’d  simply dial “6788” and *poof* we would be connected!  This was a real time saver, because most everyone had rotary phone then.  Remember rotary phones?  I loved the noises they made.  

Back in those days, we remembered phone numbers.  I’m pretty sure I could recite a list of numbers from thirty years ago today.  Of course, we memorized phone numbers, because no one had pre-set numbers in their phones.  And, if you forgot the number, you’d have to whip out the gigantic phone book and hope the number was “listed”…because being “unlisted” was a thing then.  Ah! Phone books! I miss them, truly I do.

Anyway, as I was saying, I have a weird relationship with phones.  It got worse when everyone started getting cell phones, because they seemed pointless and just another expense.  If you called me and I wasn’t home, you either tried later or you left a message.  What was so urgent that I needed to be available 24/7?  I’m not a doctor.  I’m not the President.  The world is not going to collapse if I go out for groceries, is it?  So, of course, I resisted getting one for the longest time and reluctantly jumped on the band wagon when I began traveling for work. 

After I decided to leave my professional life to raise my son, MO, I once again fell into the house phone routine, but maintained my cell phone for “just in case”.  So, basically, that meant I only ever used it if I was going out of the house, which was rarely. Naturally I didn’t carry that dumb cell phone around all the time when I was home.  Needless to say, this irritated many people!  

“Call my house phone!”, I would say, which usually led to an argument about why I didn’t have my cell with me.  I’d forget.  It needed to be charged.  Plus I needed both my hands.  And, besides, yoga pants, which was my daily uniform, don’t usually have pockets. 

But my attitude toward my cell phone has changed a lot in the past few years, which I can attribute to the iPhone.  I know some people don’t like them but I think the iPhone is the best invention in the world.  It does everything–takes pictures, plays music and videos, keeps track of my schedule and even stores all my telephone numbers.  Plus I can check all my social accounts with it, too! Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Quora, my blog, my website. Oh! And texting? Love it! 

Do I use the phone part though?  Um..not really.  I’d rather let my fingers do the talking.  Talking takes up too much energy.

I’m pretty sure the idea of talking on the phone will always be something I dislike.  It’s just a part of who I am.  People I talk with know this and have just adjusted.  Some people think it’s weird or I’m weird, but I don’t care.  

I’m weird. 

So what? 

Tell me something I DON’T know!   

Best,

Ritamarie

P.S. You know how to reach me now, so feel free to leave me a message.  Just don’t ask me to call you back.