From Beth’s Kitchen: Soccer, School, and Stew-Pendous Stew


By Beth Heeschen

Well, it’s here.  Soccer practices, football practices, first day of school… and (gulp) first, first day of college.  My oldest heads to college tomorrow, and we won’t see him until Thanksgiving.  Northern Vermont is a long way from southern Pennsylvania.  I find myself incredibly jealous (tongue in cheek) of his good fate to be heading to such a wonderful school, in a beautiful area of the country, to do everything he loves.  Pursuing a degree he finds fascinating and enjoys, becoming part of the ROTC cadet family, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and playing his guitar.  Jealous for the outdoor adventures and open life ahead of him, but not sure I’m ready to repeat college test taking!  Mostly, proud of how he is steering his own destiny.

Tonight, as a send off, we are having one of his favorite dinners.  We call it “Stew-Pendous Beef Stew.”  It is a fabulous recipe, found by my sister, and tweaked to her liking.  She is a wonderful cook, with a year of culinary school to back it up.  She then shared it with me.  I did a little more tweaking for our tastes, and this is the result.  It is the second most asked for dinner at our house, behind “Gratifying Gumbo” (which I will save for a future blog!).  It is rather time intensive, but the last three hours is really only monitoring.  I do not recommend using a food processor for the chopping; it is better to have uniform cuts.  Also, if you can find the time, homemade beef stock is soooo much better.  Deep, rich, and complex, it brings another dimension to the stew.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Here’s to a week of firsts!  First day of college, first day of high school, first day of senior year, first football game, first soccer match, and… the first stew of fall :o)

“Stew-Pendous” Beef Stew:

(Stove top: 4 hours start to finish, easily doubled)

3 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 1” cubes

3 Tbl vegetable oil, more if needed.

1/4 cup pancetta, diced

2 med-large onions, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1/4 cup parsley, Italian, chopped

3 Tbl flour

1 cup full bodied red wine (cabernet, merlot, zinfandel – not pinot noir)

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced ¼” thick

2 1/2 cups low sodium beef stock (preferably home made, recipe below)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried thyme

1 (16oz) package frozen pearl onions

1 cup thawed peas

1 package portabella mushrooms, quartered

¼ cup fresh chopped parsley, Italian

salt and pepper

fresh chopped parsley for serving


Brown the meat:

Place beef cubes in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large Dutch oven over med-high heat and add the oil. Brown the meat in batches—be careful not to overcrowd the pan (you do not want to steam the meat)—about 5 minutes a batch. Transfer meat to a platter.


Start with 1″ cubes…


Beautifully browned and ready for the stew


To make the Buttato (Aromatics) and “Roux:”

Add pancetta to the pan and brown; remove.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add onion and cook until translucent, 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic; cook for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.  Add carrots, celery and parsley.  Sauté until very soft, almost mushy.  Add the flour, and stir until the mixture is lightly colored, thick and paste-like.  Be very careful not to burn the flour.  Deglaze by stirring in the wine and scraping up the bits (flavor!) from the bottom of the pan.


All of this chopping is worth it!

Assemble the stew:

Add carrots, beef broth, bay leaves, and thyme.  Bring to simmer.  Add meat and return to simmer.  Cover and simmer until meat is tender, 2 ½ – 3 hours, checking occasionally—it should simmer, not boil.  During the last hour of cooking, add the pearl onions, peas, and mushrooms.

Mmmmmm... the aroma is amazing

Mmmmmm… the aroma is amazing

To serve:

Stir in ¼ cup of parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over mashed potatoes or polenta, with crusty bread, and a fresh baby greens salad with vinaigrette.  This is even better the next day after the flavors have melded.  Refrigerate, remove congealed fat from top, and gently reheat.

Bon Appétit!

Stew-Pendous :-)

Stew-Pendous 🙂


Homemade Beef Stock:

(450 degree oven plus stovetop, 5 hours)

6-7 lbs beef bones

2 large onions, quartered

6 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds

4 celery ribs, cut into thirds

1 can (6oz) tomato paste

5 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 Tbl whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

4 beef bouillon cubes

¼ bunch fresh parsley

16 cups water, plus more if needed

Kosher salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place beef bones, onions, carrots, and celery on a 9×13 roasting pan.  Brush tomato paste over all.  Bake for 40 minutes, until the bones and vegetables turn brown and caramelize.

Transfer all to a stockpot and add remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 4 hours.  Add 1-2 cups water if the stock reduces too much.  Strain through colander and discard solids.  Restrain through cheesecloth.  Let cool and refrigerate.  Skim and discard fat solids.  Freezes well.

Yield: 12 Cups

From Beth’s Kitchen: Patriotic 4th of July Trifle

By Beth Heeschen

The Fourth of July.  The celebration of the birth of our nation.  A time for patriotism, fireworks, parades, slow pitch softball games, and water guns.  A time for fire flies in mason jars, sparklers on the lawn, waving of flags, and musical tributes.  Picnics filled with grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken.  Overflowing sides of potato salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, seven layer salad, and watermelon.

Double Delight: the famous Jell-O flag mold as well as the USA (picture it in Jello-O)!

Double Delight: the famous Jell-O flag mold as well as the USA (picture it in Jello-O)!

AND… the absolutely essential, must-have… patriotic red, white, and blue dessert.  There are many forms this dessert can take.  Iowa, in the 1970’s, favored the layered Jell-O mold approach.  Yes, LAYERED PATRIOTIC JELL-O MOLD.  The white layer was some sort of cream cheese concoction.  It’s the stuff nightmares are made, that we ate by the bowlful.  Fortunately, the Jell-O Company expanded on this theme in the 1980’s, and invented the flag Jell-O mold, which they dispensed for free in your neighborhood grocery store. So thoughtful of them.  It consisted of red Jell-O for the mold, Reddi Whip for the stripes, and blueberries for the stars.  It was truly a thing of beauty.  I however, flunked Jell-O making 101, and am not real big on making desserts anyway.

I needed something fast, easy, and red, white and blue.  Enter the magnificent, easy-to-prepare, looks impressive, Fourth of July Trifle.  Everybody, and I mean everybody loves this.

Edible patriotism at its best!

Edible patriotism at its best!


1 store bought angel food cake, cubed 1” squares (or make your own)

1 box large instant vanilla pudding, made according to package

1 container Cool Whip, defrosted

1 large container strawberries, washed, dried, and sliced

1 large container blueberries, washed and dried

3-4 sliced bananas

Glass container/bowl

Begin by putting a light layer of prepared pudding in the bottom of the bowl.  Top with cubed angel food cake (It is important to keep in mind, at this point, that a trifle is a layered desert, and you want to get the maximum effect from the size dish that you are using).  Next: a layer of pudding, a layer of sliced strawberries and bananas, and a layer of Cool Whip.  Follow up with a layer of pudding (lightly spread to keep the layers intact), and a layer of blueberries and bananas, followed with a layer of Cool Whip.  Repeat layers for a red, white, and blue effect.  End by spreading Cool Whip on top of cake (like frosting), and topping with sliced strawberries and blueberries.

A Plus:  You can make this “light” by using sugar free pudding, and light Cool Whip.


From Beth’s Kitchen: Mom’s Best Potato Salad


By Beth Heeschen

Join us in welcoming Beth to “Off the Merry-Go-Round!” Look for her blogs “From Beth’s Kitchen” on a regular basis–you won’t want to miss her outstanding recipes and stories. Read more about Beth’s fascinating background on our Bloggers page. For her first article, we thought a Memorial Day-inspired Potato Salad recipe would be perfect… enjoy!

In Iowa, potato salad is taken seriously… very seriously.  The season begins at Memorial Day Picnics, and doesn’t end until the high school football team has shut off the lights at the last home game.  The bowls of yellow, mayonnaise laden potato salads line up at church picnics, family reunions, holiday get-togethers, and tailgate parties.  All of them alternately placed between bowls of “not potato salad.”   Lined up like aspiring contestants waiting to be crowned, but never being recognized with anything other than a knowing nod, and comment of “this is really very good.”  Alternatively, you’ve blown it if your potato salad is met with the inquisitive “interesting, what’s in it?”…Sound the gong! Iowans go to great lengths not to be rude or overly praiseful.  You become very adept at reading into subtleties.

It is very important to bring THE best potato salad.  It’s a matter of humble-pride, and you want to be the humble crown bearer.  Everyone in town knows who makes the best potato salads, as it is discussed after the aforementioned gatherings.  In the small Iowa town I grew up in, it was a well-known fact that Vi Roberts, who worked at the courthouse, was the reigning potato salad queen.  For years… and years… and years… Finally she decided to take five pound orders and set up a nice little side business for herself.  It also expanded into some fabulous meatballs, but that is for another blog… There were many wonderful second place potato salads, that shifted around from person to person, and year to year.  I like to think, and believe, my Mom’s was one of these.

In true Iowa fashion, simple is best.  Potatoes, eggs, and mayonnaise are the standard.  Other secret ingredients can be added to enhance these primary ingredients, and are what makes each potato salad unique.  Add to your own peril, anything weird like radishes would be deeply frowned upon… and NEVER EVER use light mayonnaise!  ENJOY!


2 ½ lb Yukon Gold Potatoes, washed and unpeeled

½ C Finely chopped Vidalia Onion

4 Hardboiled eggs, 3 finely chopped, 1 sliced

2 Celery stalks, finely chopped

˜  ˜  ˜

1 T White vinegar

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1 tsp Celery Seed

˜  ˜  ˜

3/4 C Hellman’s Mayonnaise

1/4 C Miracle Whip

1 1/2 T White Vinegar

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

˜  ˜  ˜

Salt and Pepper


Use potatoes that are similar in size, or put the larger ones on the bottom of a pot.  Cover potatoes with water and boil until a fork easily pierces.  Remove using a slotted spoon to a strainer (avoid dumping, as it might damage the potatoes).  If using potatoes of different size, the small ones will be done before the larger.  Cool completely.

Mix the white vinegar, Dijon, salt and celery seed in a small bowl.

When potatoes have cooled, scrap off skin with a paring knife, and cube into desired size (I find that ½” works best).  Place in bowl, and add vinegar mixture.  Stir until completely coated.  Add onion, eggs, and celery.

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and add to potato mixture.  Fold gently until completely coated.  Salt ad pepper to taste.

Garnish with sliced egg and paprika.

Mom's Best Potato Salad

Mom’s Best Potato Salad


Happy “unofficial” summertime, this Memorial Day weekend!

What are your traditional Memorial Day picnic dishes?