Monthly Archives: January 2014

Pot Roast with an Italian Twist

I enjoy watching America’s Test Kitchen as well as Cook’s Country on PBS. Both are spin offs from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. They’re all about the food, equipment and the ins and outs of cooking, no commercialism.

One Sunday afternoon, I watched as they made Italian Pot Roast, hmmm, that looked pretty darn good, so I printed out the recipe and there it sat in my binder over the kitchen stove for 2 years.

The recipe calls for a cut of beef that I just couldn’t find here in the middle of the desert, chuck-eye roast, so I went for the always at the ready chuck-blade roast.

This is an easy enough recipe, the thing is, my pot roasts come out terrible! So I made no other alterations, and followed the instructions as set forth:

*This is my adaptation from Cook’s Country TV*

3 ½ to 4 pound chuck roast

2 Tbsp. Oil (olive or canola or vegetable, no matter)

1 medium Onion, chopped

1 rib of Celery, chopped

1 lb. Crimini Mushrooms, quartered

2 Tbsp. Tomato paste

1 15oz. can diced Tomatoes (I use no salt-added)

½ C. Tomato sauce (any kind will do)

2 tsp. sugar

½ C. water

1 C. light, sweet, Red Wine such as a beaujolais or merlot (it doesn’t need to be expensive, I got Trader Joe’s merlot for $3.99 and it taste good too)

1 head of garlic, paper skin removed & cut horizontally

½ tsp. each dried Thyme and Rosemary (recipe calls for a sprig, but I only had dried)

Italian Pot Roast, the cast members

Preheat the oven to 300⁰

Pat the meat dry and season with S&P

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat, just until you see a wisp of smoke. Brown the meat on all sides and set aside on a plate.

Lower the heat to medium and sauté the onion, celery mushrooms and paste, just until the veg is barely tender. Add in the canned tomatoes, sauce, sugar, water and ½ cup of wine, garlic and thyme; stir well and added back in the meat with all of the juices.

Bring everything to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the pot tightly with tin foil and then the lid, put the pot into the oven to cook until the meat is fork tender, maybe 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours, turning the meat over in the pot after 1 hour.

leave the meat to rest IN THE POT that was my mistake until now

When done, remove the lid and foil and leave the meat in the juices to rest for 30 minutes, skimming any fat off after about 20 minutes. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and tent with more foil. Remove the garlic head and set aside.

Add the remaining ½ cup of wine to the pot and bring to a boil of medium-high heat on the stove top and cook until the sauce starts to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Squeeze the now soft garlic cloves out of the papers on a plate and mash to a paste; add the rosemary and garlic to the pot and stir until fragrant.


Italian Pot Roast

It was wonderful with roasted potatoes and veggies!

the finished product on the table

Here’s something that I learned: you know those cans of tomato paste that never get used up in one recipe?  I put the rest of the can into freezer zip bags in tablespoon portions and freeze it for later.  Why pay the big bucks for the stuff in a tub?

call me cheap, I freeze tomato paste from the can


Continuing Our Christmas Vacation…

The day after Christmas…

We had made arrangements to spend a few days in Charleston South Carolina on this visit and we finally convinced the gang to come along, YIPEEE!

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge or New Cooper River Bridge, Beautiful!

We found our hotel with the aid of GPS and my expertise in co-piloting. Once we all got settled in, we promptly set out exploring. Directly in front of our hotel was the city’s FREE, yeah I said free, trolley cars that will take you just about anywhere in the city.

We had made reservations for the following day on a walking tour of the city with Charleston Foot Prints, thank you again Michael, it was wonderful.

It was a 2 ½ hour tour winding through the historic portion of town. I was surprised how much our 11 and 13 year old nephews enjoyed it.  We all would reccommend it, highly.

Lunch that afternoon was at Sweetwater Café on Market Street. I’ve never had a fried pickle before and I liked it. It was burgers for our crew and salads for the ladies.

After further walking, we all needed something sweet…

We found Cupcake Downsouth on our first evening in town, but didn’t get a chance to stop in til now. Red Velvet with CreamCheese icing, Toasted Coconut and Vanilla with ButterCream cupcakes.  Worth every calorie.

That evening we went over to James Island County Park – Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island.  Fantastic!  My camera doesn’t take very good night-time pictures, but let me tell you, if you are ever in the area during the month of December, GO!

The next day we went out to Fort Sumter National Monument. On the boat ride out to the island, we were followed by Dolphins and Sea Birds. This is an amazing, historic place, where the first shots of the War Between the States were fired.

Lunch had been planned out and a table reserved, good thing too! It was a very busy afternoon and the restaurant was hoppin’.

Fleet Landing.

My husband ordered a platter of fresh oysters, it was all for him. For the rest of the meals on the table, they consisted of two baskets of biscuits and whipped honey butter, a burger (unfortunately it was too far across the table from me), a shrimp plate, a Cobb salad with black-eyed peas (interesting) and two orders of Shrimp and Grits with Andouille Sausage and Tasso Ham gravy. This was my first time trying Shrimp and Grits and I must say, not my last, WOW! If I could have licked the bowl I would have.  I wanted to get up and dance, it was that spectacular of a dish!

We needed to walk that lunch off, for sure.

Right next door was the Waterfront Park with Charleston’s infamous Pineapple Fountain. It was such a nice day, that we all kinda just did a slow saunter and enjoyed it. We did have a bit of a walk back to where we had parked the car, so that was good.

We went back to our hotel to rest for awhile and then it started to rain. Liz, our nephew’s wife, and I had wanted to try a restaurant that we thought our entire team would like, Toast. Since it was raining and it was two trolley-transfers away, we decided it best to drive. Charleston isn’t a difficult city to drive in, but finding parking is the trick.

This meal was quite the gastromonical delight! Crab cakes, fried shrimp, fried pickles (yum), beef stew soup, fried chicken, meatloaf, steak, I can’t remember what Liz had but it looked good, pork chops with black-eyed peas and greens, red velvet cupcake, coconut cream pie, chocolate layer cake and carrot cake… YUM!

The weather forecast was for rain all the next day and that was a bummer, because we had reservations for a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city. We made up a contingency plan and called Classic Carriage Works. Graciously, they agreed that it was not a good day for a carriage ride and refunded our pre-paid tickets. The five of us piled into the mini van and headed for the South Carolina Aquarium.

This was WAY more than just fish. We got to feed some little `rays, and the boys had a good time in the hurricane booth. The day prior a nice gal was handing out flyers to a deli just up the block, so that’s where we headed for lunch.

East Bay Deli hit the spot for all of us. Chicken salad in a spinach wrap, Philly Cheese Steak Sammie, `burgers (not pictured `cause they were gone before I could get a photo), a Greek Salad with Gyro meat and extra tzatziki sauce and a hunk-o-cheesecake was on the table this day. Oh, did I mention those flyers gave us $5 off? Sweet!

It was another slow walk back to the car. But wait, what did I see along the way but a bakery, hmmm, I think we need another treat.

The two young men in our entourage enjoyed cookies as the older folk had a coffee. Thank you Delish! Bakery and Bistro. Uber cute place and luscious goodies.

Well, we must bid farewell to Charleston and head back North.

On our drive back to Camp Lejeune we stopped for lunch in Myrtle Beach at Capriz Italian Feast, located on Broadway at the Beach. Let me tell you, it was a feast!

Lunch was all you could eat salad bar, pizza or both. I couldn’t even tell you the number of choices on the salad bar… olives, breads, pastas both cold and hot, soup, salumi, cheeses, salads, a display pizza kitchen… oh my gravy all over my two scoops rice (that’s OMG in my world)!

It was very quiet in the car for the rest of the ride.



Very Chocolate-chocolate-macadamia nut cookies

Before I finish our Christmas story, I just had to share this!  I’ve had this recipe for quite awhile from the Hershey’s Kitchens, Very Chocolate Chocolate Cookies, made with the Auntie twist.  I use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips and chopped Macadamia Nuts, unsalted please.  I like these chips over other brands mainly because they’re bigger.  I’m not a fan of walnuts, I much prefer using local pecans (yes they grow loads of nuts here in the middle of the desert) or macadamias from by home state of Hawaii.

This recipe is different, you don’t cream softened butter and sugar, but just dump and mix, EASY!  I use the convection setting on my oven and use my 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop and bake for 15 minutes, perfect and oh so yummy!



We’re home!

What a whirlwind Christmas season we’ve had! My darling husband and I went to the Carolinas to spend the school break with our two grand-nephews.

What a fantastic time!

We flew this time as opposed to driving from the middle of the desert to North Carolina, and that was a breeze on Southwest Airlines. We were fondly greeted with a group hug from the boys and their mom in the Raleigh-Durham airport; then whisked away for our 3 hour drive to Camp Lejeune, where our nephew is stationed (he’s deployed AGAIN somewhere in the Middle East, please support our troops). We decided to stop and have dinner somewhere along the way.

Tribeca Tavern.

On the table was: Fried Calamari, Nacho, `Burgers (for the boys), Bison Meatloaf, and Fish Tacos served with a Black-eyed Pea Salad.

`Scotch the Doggie

The boys had school the next morning, so we were greeted by `Scotch the Golden Retriever, our furry nephew. He became my DH’s fast and steady friend.

… this left the adults to find lunch for themselves at Smithfield’s Chicken `N Bar-B-QOH MY GRAVY ALL OVER MY TWO SCOOPS OF RICE  (that’s OMG in my world) MAN! That’s good eats. I wanted to get the full effect, so I ordered the ‘Combo Dark Platter’, which is comprised of two pieces of dake meat fried chicken, BBQ Pork, your choice of two sides (I got cole slaw and potato salad) and hush puppies. We went back a second time with the boys, it was that good. Different. They serve Eastern Carolina Q which is a vinegar based sauce and the potato salad was loaded with yellow mustard. The chicken was heaven!

We made several trips to the Commissary, what with two growing boys, and look what I found!

look what I found!

I got two jars of my beloved furikake that I can no longer find here in the middle of the desert, can you believe this?

our niece cooked for us every night that we were at their home

Someone cooked for me for a change. Our nephew’s wife, Liz, whom we refer to as our niece, served us many delicious meals, but I didn’t always have my camera handy. On this evening, it was tortellini with sausage, bacon, asparagus, grape tomatoes and fresh basil.

Now, no one can say that either my husband nor I aren’t kids anymore. The boys got rounded up most afternoons (mostly someone would knock on the front door and ask “can your Uncle come out to play”) for some kind of game … nerf gun warfare, touch football, basketball or my personal favorite: Silly String fight on the front lawn at midnight on New Years, in our PJs!

We took a ride over to Wilmington one day to do a little Christmas shopping. The boys insisted that we try their new favorite burger joint, which they claimed was better than Five GuysWHATCHU SAY?  NO WAY!

Um, well, I… yeah okay! Here’s why I like P.T.’s Olde Fashion Grille, BEER! I mean come on man, who over 21 years of age doesn’t want a cold beer with their cheeseburger and fries?

Our niece, Liz, received a new food processor as a gift from her in-laws and wanted to christen it by making homemade pizza, I’m game. It was wonderful!

a fabulous Christmas Dinner, thank you Liz!

After all of the presents had been opened, assembled and played with, we all sat down to fantastic Christmas meal of Rib Roast, and I didn’t have to cook, again! Great job Liz!

Wow, I’m getting pretty long winded, I think that I’ll continue our Christmas story in my next installment…


Wahoo, New Kicks!

DH and I spent the Christmas Season with our two grand-nephews and their mom. We had SO MUCH FUN!

We all exchanged gifts on Christmas morning, early. The boys got pretty much what they had on their lists, as for Uncle and I, we did too.

Those sweet and thoughtful things made up a Shutterfly photo book of their Spring Break vacation out in Arizona with us and new kicks for Auntie!

Auntie's new kicks

I also got Jack to ‘donate to the Auntie cause’ with a pair of rockin’ socks!

Thanks Jackson B!

I love it!

Thank you Liz, Jake, Jack and `Scotch

So Very Bittersweet


We have spent the last three weeks in the Carolinas with our two handsome grand-nephews and their beautiful mother.  We all watched a breath-taking sunset at the end of our visit with so many different colors; it seemed to symbolize so much to me.

Leaving them all to fly back to the middle of the desert was difficult.  Both my husband and I had a blast!

This was a Christmas vacation that will stay with us forever.

We miss you Liz, Jacob, Jack and puppy `Scotch…