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?

Introducing “Chick Clicks!” with a Cinco de Mayo Recipe


By Mary Ann Filler

Hello, Off The Merry-Go-Round readers! It’s been a while since I have contributed to the blog. I have been back on the Merry-Go-Round teaching 14 credit hours this semester. As a mom of three very active teenage sons, I have had to cut back on extra activities such as blogging. However, I have been brainstorming ways that I can still continue to contribute to the blog without it taking too much time. Fellow OTMGR writer Karen and I came up with a plan… and we are proud to introduce my first installment of “Chick Clicks!”

What are Chick Clicks?

In my new series, I’m going to share online “treasure” with you. Chick Clicks are links to wonderful articles, recipes, projects and more—all online and all (hopefully) helpful to you as a family-oriented mom and wife. I’m looking forward to shining a spotlight on other fabulous blogs and websites written by moms (chicks) just like us, with words of wisdom, helpful tips and tricks that I have personally found useful. Blogs form a great network of resources!

I was telling Karen about an amazing recipe for refried beans that I discovered, and she thought it would be the perfect first Chick Click to share in honor of Cinco de Mayo. So here goes!

Consider: Cutting Down on Processed Foods

Are you familiar with the 100 Days of Real Food website? I have found some really great recipes there.  Lisa Leake started the blog/website when she and her family pledged to go 100 days without eating any highly processed or refined foods including white flour or sugar. They made this decision to draw attention to our society’s dependency on processed food. So, the recipes are very healthy and use only real food ingredients.

Her refried bean recipe is one of my favorites because it’s inexpensive, easy and delicious. In addition, it also freezes well. Beans are super high in protein, iron and fiber, which make them the perfect option for “Meatless Mondays” if you follow that trend. Or serve them alongside your favorite taco recipe for the perfect side dish today, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Ole!

So without further ado… here is my first Chick Click!

Click here for Lisa Leake’s Easy Slow Cooker Refried Beans


The recipe uses dry beans that are normally soaked overnight prior to cooking. However, according to the recipe, this step may be eliminated. As a side note, I still like to soak dry beans for at least 24 hours and for nutritional reasons that you can read about here, in a bonus Chick Click from the Healthy Home Economist.  

I highly recommend soaking your pinto beans overnight, first.

I highly recommend soaking your pinto beans overnight, first.


Load all of your ingredients into your handy crock pot. It is a busy chick's best friend!

Load all of your ingredients into your handy crock pot. It is a busy chick’s best friend!


This is how the beans will look when softened and ready for mashing.

This is how the beans will look when softened and ready for mashing.


And presto... time for a fiesta!

And presto… time for a fiesta!

Enjoy the recipe!

P.S. Many thanks to Karen for these great pics! 🙂

Family Favorite: Frittata

Photo Credit: JJ Harrison, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

Photo Credit: JJ Harrison, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

By Karen Hendricks

Wishing all of our Off the Merry-Go-Round friends a blessed (early) Easter! Hope you enjoy lots of precious family time this weekend, where family meals are bound to take center stage.

And what would Easter be without traditional Easter eggs, ham, springtime salads, carrot cake, and of course chocolate from the Easter Bunny. 🙂

One of my family’s favorite recipes of all time works well for Easter brunch, or really anytime of year. “Frittata” is a super-fun word to say (fruh-ta-ta), but if you’re scared by it… don’t be. A frittata is basically an Italian version of an omelet. Baked in the oven, it’s a delicious version of an egg casserole. I stumbled upon it in a recipe book at least 15 years ago, and cannot remember which one at this point. Besides being delicious, this frittata recipe is very easy to adapt and modify based upon whatever ingredients you have on hand. Not only is it perfect for a special brunch, but it’s also a wonderful substantial and healthy dinner option. My family loves to switch things up and have “breakfast for dinner” at least once a month–how about you?

Frittata: This recently-made pan featured ham, spinach, red pepper and broccoli. Cheese sprinkled on top gives it a gorgeous browned top.

Frittata: This recently-made pan featured ham, spinach, red pepper and broccoli. Cheese sprinkled on top gives it a gorgeous browned top.

Favorite Frittata:

  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 c frozen hash brown potatoes (or 2 large potatoes, diced)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 c frozen or fresh vegetables of your choice (broccoli, sugar snap peas, red/green pepper, spinach, kale, etc.)
  • 1 c shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or Swiss work well – your choice)
  • 1 c ham, cubed or chopped (great way to use leftover ham)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine eggs, mayonnaise and milk in a greased 2-qt baking dish. Add hash browns, ham and all vegetables; season with salt and cracked black pepper; mix until well blended. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 35-40 minutes or until center is set and top is browned.

Note: I double this recipe and make (2) 2-qt dishes for my family of 5 if making frittata for dinner. We usually have just a few servings left-over, which are often coveted as breakfast options the next morning (the early bird gets the worm…).

Ideas for side dishes: Biscuits, Italian bread, fresh fruit salad.


Baking Buddies and Corn Cakes

Corn Cakes... wintertime comfort food!

Corn Cakes… wintertime comfort food!

By Karen Hendricks

One of the nicest things I can say about the winter season is… it’s a great time for baking. Nothing makes the house feel quite so cozy, combatting winter’s frigid temps.

We were recently approached by The New York Baking Company and asked to review their new product, reusable silicone baking cups called Baking Buddies. Full disclosure: a set of Baking Buddies was provided at no cost to us.


It was the perfect opportunity to whip up a batch of cornbread muffins—something I love to make—but then hate the cleanup associated with standard muffin tins. And paper cupcake wrappers always seem to stick and/or pull off too much of the moist cornbread.

So I put the Baking Buddies, a set of 12 brightly-colored cups, to the test with my favorite corn cake recipe… one that I’ve made a zillion times. It’s definitely a tried-and-true family fave. I think the secret is to use real butter and that touch of real vanilla… plus a quality cornmeal.


Love the old-fashioned packaging on my favorite cornmeal, made locally in Lancaster County, PA



Don’t you just love the texture of cornmeal?

Corn Cakes / Cornbread:

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 2 t baking powder
  • Dash of salt


  • Using electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Beat just until smooth.
  • For corn cakes (muffins), spoon into a muffin pan and bake at 350 for 20 min. Makes one dozen.
  • For cornbread, pour into 9×9” pan and bake at 350 for 30 min. Cool slightly; cut into squares.
All mixed up!

All mixed up!



So I ladled the batter right into the Baking Buddies, as I would normally do with muffin tins. After baking, the moment of truth came… would the company’s claim of nonstick, flexible and “easy release” cups hold true? Yes—the corn cakes popped right out with very little residue left inside the cups. Two more important points: They are dishwasher-safe and carry a lifetime guarantee. If your family makes as many muffins and cupcakes as our family does, you will definitely recoup their pricetag of $9.95 by crossing “cupcake liners” off your grocery list during 2014—and beyond.


The muffins came out of the silicone cups very easily!

Links and More Info:

Click here for more info on Brinser’s Cornmeal

Stay warm this winter and bake often! 🙂




Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with… Carrot Soup!

IMG_6120FB By Karen Hendricks

Amidst all the holiday baking, gooey goodies and indulgence…  I’m going to offer a sweet, healthy—and probably unexpected—alternative: Carrot Soup.

I won’t deny, I enjoy a delicious snack of Christmas cookies at this time of year, but I also like to balance things out, so-to-speak. It’s way too easy to overindulge, over the holidays!

I discovered the best kind of recipe—one that’s both easy and healthy—for Carrot Soup. Actually, I found two recipes on Pinterest and have merged the two into my own unique version. It ties into nearly every current, healthy eating trend:

  • It’s vegan for those who only eat plant-based foods
  • It’s a great option for those on the “clean eating” diet of whole, unprocessed foods (I’ve been trying to incorporate more of this approach into my family’s meal planning)
  • Carrot soup contains cancer-fighting antioxidents
  • It’s a colorful food, for those trying to “eat the rainbow”
  • And it’s a satisfying solution to “Meatless Mondays”

Carrots are sky-high in Vitamin A, with a good dose of fiber, Vitamin C and potassium too. One of my favorite things about this recipe is the taste of fresh ginger… delish!

We have been pelted with early season snowstorms here in central Pennsylvania (and it’s technically still fall!) so warm soup is definitely in order, already. There is something about warm soup that seems to magically warm my soul as well.

Carrot Soup

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 c sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh ginger root, minced
  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium potato – try using a russet potato or a sweet potato, your choice, peeled and chopped
  • 6 c vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • Cracked black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste
  • Plain yogurt and honey for garnish

1. Use a food processor to chop all of your veggies. This is time “off the merry-go-round,” after all. Save time wherever you can so you can spend more time with your family! 🙂

2. Cook the onion in the olive oil. Use a large stockpot if you will be cooking the soup on your stovetop. Or, simply use a frying pan for this step and then cook the soup in your crockpot.

3. After 10 minutes, or when the onions become soft, add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

4. If using a stock pot: add all ingredients. Or, transfer onion mixture to crockpot and add all ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer until the carrots are tender. This step could take up to an hour on the stove. Turn your crockpot on low and let it cook all day.

5. Puree with an immersion blender directly in your pot or transfer several batches into your blender to puree.

6. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of honey. Don’t skip the honey… it’s a bright note that really brings out the ginger and carrot flavors and ties them all together.

Serves 8

(Abridged from Women’s Health Magazine and Food Network, via PopSugar)


A spoonful of plain or Greek yogurt adds a nice element of creaminess…


Don’t forget the drizzle of honey 🙂

A few more tips:

  • This soup is satisfying, but if the male members of your family are like mine, they would probably appreciate a steaming loaf of homemade bread as an accompaniment. A hearty whole-grain or oatmeal bread works well.
  • I have tried both the russet and sweet potato in the soup and they both work well. I personally prefer the sweet potato flavor. Either way, the potato thickens the soup a bit and adds additional nutrients and flavor.
  • I have doubled the recipe and then packaged up the leftovers for easy-to-reheat lunches or frozen them to send off with my daughter to college, for a stash of “Mom’s Meals” in her freezer.
  • This recipe always reminds me of the first time I tried carrot soup, several years ago, in a New York City restaurant. I was on a weekend trip with my daughter and we ate at a fantastic Italian restaurant for her birthday. As an appetizer, we both tried Carrot-Orange Soup. What an awesome combination of flavors, with the addition of citrus. I haven’t tried adapting this recipe to include the orange flavor, yet… but stay tuned!

Join the conversation and let us know…

Which soup recipes do you turn to over the winter months?

How do you combat over-indulgent holiday eating habits?