October 2012

Homemade Butterfingers


Since today is basically all about candy (and costumes, I suppose)…I will start your day with a homemade candy recipe…THAT IS EASY. I typically don’t make candy because I am intimidated by candy thermometers.

But these here, made simply with melted candy corn and peanut butter, dipped in melted milk chocolate, taste JUST LIKE Butterfingers. Seriously. Maybe not as crispy, but the flavor is spot on. Recipe here.

It’s so easy though I will walk you through it quick….

Melt 3 cups of candy corn in a bowl. I started with 90 seconds then checked and stirred in 15 second intervals. When melted, mix in 1 cup of creamy peanut butter (I don’t think this is the time to go organic).  Pour the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper…

Let cool/harden for about 30 minutes or so…cut with a pizza cutter….

Then melt 1 bag of milk chocolate chips in the microwave (30 second intervals – don’t burn!)….and pour over the top! These are so good, I will be saving them for the little princesses and bumblebees that come to our door tonight. No Lady Gagas.

Braised Short Rib Stew

I love short ribs, I could eat them with a spoon. I wanted to make them for dinner Sunday night, and my husband wanted stew (beef bourguignon, to be exact)….so, I decided to integrate the two.  Braised short ribs in a red wine-french onion sauce, served over creamy goat cheese polenta. How do you like that, Julia Schmulia?


  • 3-4 lb bone-in short ribs
  • 1/4 cup corn starch or flour
  • 2 pieces bacon
  • 1 medium onion
  • ~1 bottle red wine (I used pinot noir)
  • 1 can french onion soup
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped carrots

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Start by cooking the bacon in a large dutch oven over medium heat on the stove. Once all the fat has been rendered, transfer the bacon to a plate and increase the temp to medium high. Pat the short ribs dry, trim off any excess fat, sprinkle with S&P, then dust with either flour or corn starch (I was cooking gluten free for my sister, so opted for corn starch).  Add the short ribs to the pot, browning on all sides (about 4 minutes per side). Once browned, transfer the meat to a plate and add the chopped onions – drizzle with a little olive oil if necessary. Cook for several minutes, then deglaze the pan with about 2 cups of red wine. Let reduce for about 5 minutes over medium high heat. Place the short ribs back in the pot, then add in the french onion soup and beef broth. Tie several sprigs of fresh thyme with kitchen string, then throw them in with a bay leaf. Add more wine to almost submerge the ribs (I used almost a full bottle). Cover the pot, then place in the oven. Cook for two hours, then add in the carrots and mushrooms and cook for 1 hour more.

When ready to serve, transfer the meat and vegetables to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Remove the bones from the short ribs (they should just fall right off). Place the pot on the stove over high heat, and bring to a boil for several minutes to thicken up, skimming off the fat as needed. If necessary, add in a couple tablespoons of corn starch or flour – whisked with water – into the mixture. I used 2 tablespoons corn starch.

I served the stew over creamy goat cheese polenta, recipe to follow!


This is not really a recipe, it’s more of a lunch suggestion.

Mix about 1/4 cup canned pumpkin with nonfat plain greek yogurt and 1 packet of splenda. If you’re like me and trying to get more pumpkin in your diet this time of year (can you believe all the pressure from the media?!) – this is a perfect way to do it. Plus, did you know that one serving of canned pumpkin has 300% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A?? It does. I don’t know what Vitamin A does to your body, but it must be good things.

Shepherd’s Pie


My sister’s here! She’s in Dallas for 3 weeks on a clinical rotation for grad school. I couldn’t be more excited – we already had the best weekend ever and have 3 more to go.  Here she is, the cute one in the back.

My husband is excited too, as evidenced in the photo below. When we got back from running errands on Sunday he had our dinner for 3 all set up:

Needless to say, I am really happy I get to feed an extra mouth in the coming weeks. I am going to send her back to Wisconsin very fat and happy.

So, first Sunday dinner together: Shepherd’s Pie.

I’ve always turned my nose up at Shepherd’s Pie, and I’m sure you have too. It turns out, that’s only because I didn’t really know what it was. Do you know???!!!

It’s basically a beef pie with a mashed potato topping. Beef gravy mashed potatoes. Why, why oh why did I not figure this out sooner??  I think traditional Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb, and traditional American Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground beef. I didn’t really like either of those options, so I used steak instead. Then I added lots of vegetables (peas! corn!), and kept the sauce to a very simple beef broth/gravy. So delicious, so easy, and so huge. I think we only finished about a quarter of the above photo.


Mashed Potato Topping

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream (more or less for desired creaminess)


  • 1 1/2 lbs top sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • S&P
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, halved
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch, mixed into 1/4 cup water

Start by preparing the mashed potatoes – boil potatoes in large pot of salted water for about 20 minutes or so, until fork tender. Drain the water, and place the pot over low heat until potatoes have dried out a bit. Mash them, then mix in the butter, sour cream, stock, and milk (or use whatever your favorite M.P. ingredients are). S&P to taste. Set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat, then add the onions and carrots. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook a few minutes more.

Transfer the vegetables to a bowl. Add the cubed steak to the same pan, sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper, and brown on all sides until meat is cooked through.

Drain some of the fat. Pour in the red wine, and let reduce for several minutes. Add the vegetables back in, plus the peas and corn. Add in the beef broth and worcestershire. Finally, add the corn starch mixture and increase the heat to medium high, allowing the sauce to thicken. Pour the filling into a 9×13 inch pan….

oh boy…and top with the mashed potatoes. Texturize the potatoes with a fork to allow for plenty of browning on top.

Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the broiler on for another 5. Let sit for several minutes before serving.

Lighter Sloppy Joe’s


I can’t explain to you my feelings toward Joe, the Sloppy kind. I just love him. Is there any better comfort food? No, the answer is no.

Normally, I make these, or some variation of it (I basically just throw in a bunch of ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and worcestershire). But on Monday night John and I were craving Sloppy Joe’s, and I felt that I should attempt a healthier variation. They are so easy to make that they really are a perfect weeknight meal, but I also don’t like eating anything real fatty after a weekend of indulging. And I do plenty of indulging.

So, these are lighter, and just as tasty. I still use ground beef because it tastes better than ground turkey and it has basically the same calorie/fat content.


  • 1.5 lb extra lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • S&P
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire
  • Splash BBQ sauce (optional)
  • 6 whole wheat hamburger buns

Start by browning the ground beef over medium heat. Add in the diced onion, and cook for 5-10 minutes. Drain out most of the fat (there shouldn’t be much with extra lean ground beef). Add in the water and remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly, cover and simmer until ready to serve. If you need more liquid (this is where the fatty beef really comes into play), add more water and ketchup. Enjoy them for the next two nights like we did, maybe even in a tortilla. Or on nachos.

Waldorf Salad


In case you’ve forgotten about Waldorf Salad, let me remind you:


  • 2 Red Delicious Apples, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup light mayo
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Measurements are approximate, as I didn’t do much measuring myself. Squeeze the lemon to coat the apples and grapes. Mix the mayo and honey, then toss with the remaining ingredients.