Fall Beef Stew

The past couple of days have been HEAVEN at my desk – even if a tad hectic elsewhere in my life!

Why? Fall Beef Stew!

I simply thought about what sounded good, looked for a recipe & then said forget it, I’m winging it!

I used a big steak, 2 sweet potatoes, half an onion, 4 cloves of garlic (hey I’ve been sick. Couldn’t hurt!), 2 zucchinis, a small can of peas & carrots, a 16 oz can of cannelini beans, some kale, olive oil, garlic salt, black pepper, steak seasoning, curry powder and some paprika.

Side of roasted sweet potato, kale chips & olive oil rosemary bread are recommended but optional.

Start by heating the onions & olive oil in the pan.  When they are starting to brown, I added in the garlic.

While that was happening, I peeled the veggies & chopped them into small pieces (smaller they are the quicker the cooking time, but you still want nice bite sized pieces).  Break the kale into bite size pieces as well.

Chopped the beef into bite sized pieces & added to the onion & garlic til it was cooked thoroughly.

After that I added in the spices, some water, the fresh veggies & more water to get it to the consistency I wanted.  When the sweet potatoes are easy to cut through with the spoon (AKA done), I added the canned veggies.

Simply a superb supper, lunch, anytime!


Dining all over Disney

In my family there are a few things that always come up when we talk of Disney trips.  The Magic Kingdom, Mickey Ears, Monorails & the food.

Granted there was a time where it seemed to be the same overpriced hamburgers or chicken nuggets anywhere we went, but things have changed over the years!  There is a lot of variety to be found & more food to eat than stomach to hold it.  Especially if you are brave enough to try something off the beaten path or willing to spend more than you normally would – which my family wasn’t.  I swear one day I WILL dine in Cinderella Castle! 😀

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a family favorite & I remember being dazzled as a kid as Sunny Eclipse would entertain us with his lounge act featuring nothing but hits & jokes about the universe, cosmos, galaxy….you get the idea.  This is THE burger joint of our memories!  BUT it is much more than a burger place.  There are 3 bays to order from – one features chicken items, one burgers, and the final one is soups, salads & sandwiches.  I reliving my memories went for the cheeseburger & topped it with lettuce, some bbq sauce & more cheese sauce from the massive toppings bar.  I love it.  Not in a its the best thing I have eaten way, but in a I feel like I am 7 again & estatic way!  And no back then the apples were not an option for the side, but I think grapes were.  Still I went all out & opted for the fries….with a drizzle of cheese sauce of course!

Another Disney legend is the Mickey Waffles.  What kid doesn’t want a waffle that looks like Mickey?  For the 1st breakfast I got a waffle that was topped with bananas & warm salted caramel.  Alas it as delicious as it was, it was no Mickey shaped.  Bummer.  So the second day, I got my Mickey waffle.  I also realized I needed a bit more than just carbs & sugar to fuel me along, so I went for the breakfast platter.  WAY more food than I wanted, but it had my waffle – a mini version anyway, which was okay by me!  The eggs were what I needed.  It also came with a biscuit, potatoes, turkey sausage link AND 2 slices of bacon.  I quickly gave the bacon & sausage away since they aren’t my style.  Over all I left stuffed & didn’t finish the plate.  Especially since we got a chocolate croissant to share!

Later for dinner we went to a place that is pure bliss – the Rainforest Cafe.  I remember being young & being just amazed at all the animals, stars, the storms… & I still am!  Just feels magical.  I’m a sucker for all the atmosphere.  Plus the food was divine.  I got the Jungle something or another… it was coconut shrimp skewers, shrimp scampi, steak with butter on it, garlic mashed potatoes & mixed grilled veggies.  HEAVEN ON A PLATE!

Right before I jetted off to catch my flight I was lucky enough to meet up with my cousin for lunch.  We were tight on time, so we thought something light – sandwich.  Where else does a sandwich better than the Earl of Sandwich?! So we went.  I immediately knew what I was getting after a quick glance on the menu.  The Holiday Special!  Something about warmed turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce & stuffing just sounded amazing.  It also comes with mayo, but I don’t like mayo & it seemed unnecessary anyway.  Now the bad thing is, I LOVED IT.  Where on earth am I going to find a way to get the fix of this craving? Might have to find a way to recreate this one at home.  Either that or just move on down to the Orlando area.

The most spectacular dining memory is by far the late snack we had sharing a funnel cake from Sleepy Hallow while watching the Boo To You Parade float by across the bridge.  We had a great view, all had comfortable seats & delish nosh to share together.  Family memories just seem better with food it seems.

So what foods remind you of Disney?  Anything you just feel like you haven’t had the Disney experience without?

Counting Sheep or Have I gone Viral?

well some days just feel like a waste of make up.

Yesterday was certainly one of them & today is looking that way too.

Started out thinking I was just exhausted from lack of sleep & stress, but as the day went on it became clear a nap was not going to fix this.

So this morning, scratchy throat in tow, I went to the doctors office for what I thought was strep throat. I was promptly told to wear a mask & soon was given the “good news” that it was negative for strep. The doctor says I have the start of something viral. Oh joy.

Thankfully I made Shepard’s Pie which is a comfort food & made more than any single girl should have – which translates to plenty of good stuff to heat up while I’m feeling like crud.

Maybe later I will feel like making some soup or something, til then at least I have leftovers to share!

Shepard’s pie is one of those recipes that can be as easy or complicated as you want it to be. There are as many variations as you can imagine.

I remember the first time I had Shepard’s Pie was at an aunt’s house.  We all agreed it would have to become a family favorite made often!

This is basically 4 ingredients: a meat (I’m using ground beef, but ground turkey is also a favorite), a gravy, some veggies (my aunt & mom stick with corn, but I prefer a mixture although the corn kernels add a nice pop of sweetness) & then the potatoes!

At the moment I was going for easy so I went the instant route but mashed potatoes from real potatoes are amazing & very easy.

Instant brown gravy is even easier!

Browned & drained the ground beef before mixing the beef, gravy & canned veggies together in a baking dish.

Top the mixture with a layer of the mashed potatoes then a few dots of butter & pop it into a hot oven.  I go with 350 degrees.

It will be ready when the brown gravy starts to bubble and all the butter has melted.

I enjoy mine with a dash of garlic salt & fresh ground pepper.

Then later it also is good with some shredded cheddar mixed in.  Helps to make the leftovers seem a bit different.

I also have been thinking that sweet potatoes would be a great substitution for the regular mashed potatoes.  Maybe with the ground turkey and some chopped fresh celery added to the veggie mix.

Like I said endless possibilities.

Alas for me, its nap time.  Hoping to shake off this nastiness.

It Taste Like Fall Around Here

Fall mornings should be special! My favorite way to begin the day is with a nice pumpkin spice latte, but some mornings it just isn’t an option.  Which is probably good for my wallet.

Still today was exciting since last night I picked up a jar of pumpkin butter!

Perfect way to jazz up the plan old piece of toast.

Delightful blend of pumpkin & spices from Oregon Growers & Shippers.  Can you tell I am a big fan of pumpkin? Also for anyone that has given up on gluten, pumpkin butter (at least this one & most I have seen) are gluten free!

Dinner however was incredible.

Basically I got lazy & decided to stay home tonight.  The goal was make something out of whatever I already had.

I ended up picking up some harvest pasta when I got the pumpkin butter so that was fresh on my mind.  Also had a sweet potato that was calling my name.

add some frozen spinach souffle, tuna & the thai peanut sauce from earlier in the week… & ta- dah – dinner!

Started by slicing the sweet potato into thin discs, spraying them with a splash of cooking oil then dusting them with some pumpkin pie spice.

Popped them in the oven & started on the pasta.

Once the water for the pasta was going, I got a chance to prep the tuna.  Lightly drizzled oil on the tuna with a sprinkle of garlic salt & freshly ground mixed peppercorns.  Then I topped it with the thai peanut sauce.

Had to wait for the sweet potatoes to finish before switching the oven to broil for the tuna.  While the pasta cooked & the potatoes finished I broke out an old favorite standby – spinach souffle.  Even as a kid it has been a favorite.  Seemed perfect to accompany the rest of the meal which needed a bit of green to go along with all the orange carbs.

All in all I loved dinner – even if it wasn’t anything planned out specially in advance.  Even if I did end up over broiling the tuna or as my mother would say, I actually cooked it.  I think wars have been waged over the proper doneness of tuna in my house – I’m a pink on the inside girl but this still tasted delicious with the thai sauce adding an extra note of flavor.

Now I’m stuffed.

The windows are open & letting in the slight breeze with the calm chill that tends to nip now & then this time of year.  Getting ready to relax with a glass of red wine, a snuggly pug & a good scary movie via Netflix. 🙂

Yup, its a pretty perfect ending to the day.


Share a Bite

Friday! …finally.

Its been a long week this time. But here we are at the start of yet another weekend. I am really looking forward to having sometime to read recipes, blogs & cook at home. I feel a bit in limbo since next week will be a short week for me. Don’t want to buy too much food that will spoil while I’m out of town from Thursday night to Sunday night, but at the same time, I don’t want fast food on the menu. Which it was last night…. 😦

The date I had planned to go on, fell through. I wasn’t feeling it & he got pulled over for expired tags, we couldn’t agree on something to do (who invites themselves over to your place for a first date?) – so we just called it a night. Exhausted & a tad frustrated, I feel back into the comfortable drive thru habit. With a dash of self hate, it dawned on me that without dinner out, there would be no leftovers for lunch. It was either another turkey sandwich or think up something quick. I remembered the chicken from before that I had grilled. The shelf life was going on that. Use it or lose it. Since I didn’t want to waste it & the salad lettuce I had previously planned to use was no longer an option, it was time to be creative.

Thankfully by the time I placed my order I knew what to do.

Plain baked potato? ok

Topped with seasoned grilled chicken & cheddar? Much better!

I have to say I am wishing I had some spinach to toss into this, but alas maybe next time.

Once in a while I find myself in a funk, like last night. I have found that a few things help lift me up – pug snuggles, working with a local companion bird rescue, laughing with friends, shopping & helping others. Remembering that I am extremely lucky puts whatever the issue I’m dealing with into a better perspective. I end each night listing 5 things I am grateful for (I tend to keep going after 5, which means I am one lucky lady).

At the beginning of this year I was dealing with the emotions and physical effects of being attacked. I was facing several surgeries, struggling with not slipping back into the all too familiar territory of my anxiety disorder (mainly agoraphobia) & finding it hard to find the happy things in my life. I came across the 29 Gifts project. The basic idea is when you feel you have nothing left to give, have nothing left to do & that you are just out….give. When you can’t help yourself, help someone else. Don’t say you can’t, try.

The gifts do not have to be monetary or physical things. Smiles, compliments, laughs they all count. It’s the action of helping others have a better day/life that matters. Thinking about others joy or needs instead of dwelling on your own limitations or sorrows.

So I set out to follow the plan. 29 Days of giving something to someone each day. If you skip a day, you have to start over. There are no free passes or take a day off. You give. So I did. I stumbled, I started over. But each time I felt a little better, even of only that moment. I realized by giving myself the freedom to give, I was gaining back me.

I also found that my independent – I can do everything on my own ego, was opening up to allowing others to help me – which I needed. I felt guilty having my mom come stay with me & take care of me while I recovered from the 1st surgery. But after thinking about it all, she cares for me & this was a gift she could give me. She was very needed & much appreciated. I’m beyond lucky to have her & that she was able to take care of me.

Giving is a two-way street – most of the time.  The giver gains a sense of connection & feeling of being helpful, the world is a little better because of the action.  Sure letting that car out of the gas station in front of you might not give you warm fuzzies, but it matters.  Holding a door for someone takes a second & sure they probably could open it themselves, but by you could make someone’s day by acknowledging they are there & worth holding a door for. 

WARNING – it is quite contagious.  The smiles you give may spread & you may end up having it paid forward back to you.

So long story short.  This blog is mainly about food.  My struggle with the food at my desk.  BUT I also want to incorporate a sense of giving.  Each week I want to share something that makes me smile, I believe in or happened to me.  Please feel free to share your own stories along with me.  I know I’m not the only one that has discovered the magical gift of giving.

Since this is the 1st special post, I have a local cause I want to spotlight that is food related.

The Wilmington Branch of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina

I have had the joy of meeting the Branch Manager, Jennifer Caslin at a local tweetup that was held to benefit the food bank.  Attendees brought in food to donate & got tickets for the raffle.  I was lucky enough to win a beautiful gift from Port City Java!  2 whole pounds of coffee & 2 travel mugs – which in turn I am sharing with my office – a step up from that other bland coffee they typically brew.  😉  Her dedication and passion for the organization was very clear & inspiring.

The work they are doing is helping so many people in the area.  Last year they were able to distribute over 4 million pounds of food in the four counties they serve locally.  Somehow these people work their collective magic to get each dollar donated to turn into FOUR MEALS!   That skill alone is pretty impressive but they aren’t doing it for themselves but for people who could best benefit from the gift of a good meal.  I’m extremely thankful that they continue doing what they do.

and yes, I did make a donation & I invite you to as well. 

Just a simple gift. But it could mean the world.