Archives For Kitchen

Art by Mike Jeffries

There are many reasons for eating less meat, including environmental concerns. I for one am preparing and enjoying more meatless meals all the time. I’ll share some of those recipes soon, but right now I’m sharing a meaty meal that I adore. Many years ago, my late mother was the owner/chef of a small, popular truck-stop diner. I know she would’ve approved of this easy, hearty recipe.

I know this recipe seems weird at first. I mean, canned soup poured over precious beef? What!? Mind you, it’s a short-cut recipe after all so bear with me. Still, the first time I made this it looked so strange that I thought, ‘Oh my gosh… Have I just wasted all these ingredients?’ But having gone that far I forged ahead, turned on the crockpot, said a little prayer, and voila! A few hours later my family and I were blessed with the best stew I’d ever made. The meat was SO tender, and the gravy… rich and flavorful. Years later and after many times preparing this recipe, I can tell you that this beef stew is foolproof to make and absolutely delicious. It’s just that easy.

One and Only Beef Stew

  • Servings: 8 generous servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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The long, gentle simmering time in the slow cooker turns this concoction into a delicious, succulent supper!


  • 1.5kg/3lb Bottom Blade (aka Chuck, rolled Pot Roast) boneless beef roast, cleaned and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped into a small dice
  • 5 carrots, washed, chopped medium
  • 1 can tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 cube of McCormick’s Beef-flavored bouillon, crumbled
  • Seasonings: sea salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, Steak Spice and Cajun Spice (about ½ teaspoon each or whatever you want… this is an example of what I add)
  • 4-6 dried bay leaves (removed before serving)
  • Add slurry: 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tablespoon of water
  • 1½ cups frozen peas, stirred in as you remove the bay leaves
  • Creamy mashed potatoes, for serving


Remove strings and pull roast into sections. Carve off fat/silverskin (see video link below), cut beef into 1-inch cubes, and add to 6L/5.7quart slow cooker. Add vegetables and cans of soup. Add seasonings except bay leaves. Stir the thick mixture to combine, and now push open a few ‘holes’ to tuck the bay leaves in without breaking them. This makes the flavorful, but inedible, dried leaves easier to remove at the end.

Put lid on tight (I weigh it down with silicone oven mitts). Turn crockpot to LOW for 6 hours (8 hours in an older slow cooker). No peeking for this all day simmer. The beef cubes will break apart when cooked long enough. Give it more time if the pieces don’t cut in half with a fork.

Once the beef is tender, stir the slurry into the stew, turn crockpot to High, and simmer 5 minutes to thicken the gravy. Turn off crockpot. Stir in frozen peas while removing the bay leaves, and the peas will be ready within moments. Enjoy this succulent stew with hot mashed potatoes.

YouTube – cutting up roast for stew
This video helped teach me how to cut up roasts for stewing. After practice and learning, I now clean and cube a medium blade roast in ten minutes.

Note: The so-called required step in many stew recipes of pre-browning beef cubes to ‘sear in’ juices is (IMHO) a myth. Searing adds flavor but this recipe has tons of taste. I cherish the low-stress, fast prep, and easy clean-up of this recipe. Also, terms ‘slow cooker’ and ‘crockpot’ are used interchangeably.
[Copyright © 2017 Front Yard to Backcountry]


Art by Bobbi Price

Being a rather nostalgic person, I cherish kitchen items that were previously used by my mother and her mother. They may be stained, areas worn off, but these very flaws only endear them more deeply to my heart.

I feel connected to my ancestors this morning as I dig out the old muffin pans. Smiling, I imagine how many times my grandmother did the exact same thing, pulling out this pair of pans to bake up muffins for her loved ones.

Baking is a science and an art as we transform simple ingredients into something completely new. Something warm and wonderful and aromatic. As my actions fill the kitchen with the comforting smell of baking, I know I’m continuing the legacy of the bakers in my family who came before me. It’s a way of showing love, and I enjoy doing it.

Best Bran Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Even after a hundred times, this recipe always works for me. I just love it when I find the right recipe, and my family loves it when I bake up a dozen of these beauties! It's a great use for my Grandma's vintage pans.



1 1/4 cups flour, whole wheat or white
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups bran buds (such as Kellogg’s All Bran Buds)
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/4 cup chocolate chips, chopped nuts or sunflower seeds (optional)


Preheat oven to 400F and lightly spray muffin pans with cooking spray. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine cereal and boiling water; let stand 3 minutes or until water is absorbed. Stir sugar into softened cereal. In large measuring cup, add milk and oil. Break in egg and stir to combine; pour into cereal-sugar mixture and stir. Add raisins (and optional last ingredient except for chocolate, as it will melt in the wet mix. If using chocolate, stir in at the same time as the flour mixture.).

Make a well in the middle of the wet mixture and fold in the flour mixture, gently stirring just until combined. Working quickly, use a large serving spoon to portion batter evenly into muffin cups. Try to do it in one scoop, and this is where a big spoon helps. Bake 20 minutes or until muffins are golden and tops spring back when lightly touched.

Remove from oven and carefully go around the edge of each muffin with a table knife and tip the muffins, allowing to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to baking rack and allow to cool fully. Place into an airtight container, and keep at room temperature if they will be consumed within a day or so. They last a few days in the fridge, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Great as is, they are really decadent with a pat of butter. Enjoy!

Artist Unknown (please inform me if you know who painted this)

Artist Unknown
(please inform me if you know who painted this beauty)

Any time is a good time for tea, that’s what I always like to say. I’m delighted that tea houses are booming in popularity. In a trendy artist village within the city where I live, my sociable twenty-something elder son loves hanging out with his fellow Art College students and friends in a popular tea house drinking Oolong, drawing and visiting.

Also, I love tea cups. From china painted with delicate roses and leaves, to handle-free pottery which allows the steamy goodness to warm my hands and my belly. And tea pots! It’s true… I have a thing for both cups and teapots. But as I live in a small house my storage capability has capped my collection at six, with half being somewhat utilitarian yet still lovely for daily use, and the others for more special occassions. Like a tea party! I will be doing a post soon with photos and details on how to throw a tea party that every one will enjoy (even with sons as I have!).

For today I’d like to focus on how tea goes beyond filling us with warmth and flavor, to how this simple-seeming beverage packs a wallop of incredibly healthy side benefits. Let’s pour another cup!

Health Benefits of Tea: Green, Black, and White Tea

Tea is a name given to a lot of brews, but purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea the real thing. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids. The most potent of these, known as ECGC, may help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. All these teas also have caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and can heighten mental alertness.
The more processed the tea leaves, usually the less polyphenol content. Polyphenols include flavonoids. Oolong and black teas are oxidized or fermented, so they have lower concentrations of polyphenols than green tea; but their antioxidizing power is still high.

cuppa green tea

Here’s what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea:
Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
Oolong tea: In one study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One study showed those given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.

Health Benefits of Herbal Teas

Made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas. Their chemical compositions vary widely depending on the plant used.
Varieties include ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, hibiscus, jasmine, rosehip, mint, rooibos (red tea), chamomile, and echinacea.
Research has been done on the health benefits of herbal teas, but claims that they help to shed pounds, stave off colds, and bring on restful sleep are largely unsupported.
Chamomile tea: Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.
Echinacea: Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, research on echinacea has been inconclusive.
Hibiscus: A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.
Rooibos (red tea): A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited.
Please exercise caution, or avoid, using teas/supplements containing:
Aloe; Buckthorn; Chaparral; Comfrey; Ephedra; Germander; Lobelia; Senna; Willow bark
At the very least, when using plants do your research and learn all you can.

Art by Osborne Lorlinda

Art by Osborne Lorlinda

My teapots are absolutely repurposed as a vase-holder for flowers (I tuck a smaller vase inside). Like the tulips in this delightful painting by my equally delightful friend Lorlinda.
As with all images shared here in my blog, please click the link provided embedded in the image or at the bottom of the post to visit the source and learn more about the artist (unless the source cannot be located as with the shamrock teacup painting).

My favorite tea of choice is Green tea, made in one of my favorite teapots to be enjoyed in abundance. Today it has also been poured into my special green teacup, perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day. Have a great one, and let’s drink up! Cheers!

Related reading at artist and writer Patricia Saxton’s blog post on her love of tea:

Also may you enjoy this article by Diana Chaplin on 7 Awesome Reasons to enjoy tea:

Art by Ann Gates Fiser

Art by Ann Gates Fiser

Yes I really am that cheesy. I enjoy using this corny play on words from John Lennon’s incredible anthem for peace. It’s a song I have cherished all my forty-some years, and was especially delighted to hear one of my favourite bands, YES, put the refrain in their awesome song ‘Your Move’. 

So I think it’s a perfect expression to help elevate those beautiful bright green peas on your plate!

Art by Sharon Foster

Art by Sharon Foster

Since these easy-to-grow plants are not in season yet, I’m singing the praises of dried peas which have a long shelf life, as well as trusty organic peas from the freezer. They are a vegetable that take to the freezing process really well. Plus, they’re green and right now I’m celebrating everything green, like this delightful little gem of goodness!

Some Info on the Nutritional Benefits of Peas

split-peasWe don’t usually think about green peas as an exotic food in terms of nutrient composition but we should. Because of their sweet taste and starchy texture, we know that green peas must contain some sugar and starch (and they do). But they also contain a unique assortment of health-protective phytonutrients. One of these phytonutrients, a polyphenol called coumestrol, has recently come to the forefront of research with respect to stomach cancer protection.
A Mexico City-based study has shown that daily consumption of green peas along with other legumes lowers risk of stomach cancer (gastric cancer), especially when daily coumestrol intake from these legumes is approximately 2 milligrams or higher. Since one cup of green peas contains at least 10 milligrams of coumestrol, it’s not difficult for us to obtain this remarkable health benefit. (source)

Dried peas need to be washed and any discoloured peas or little stones discarded. Split peas don’t need to be soaked but doing so helps speed up the cooking time, but if adding to a soup they don’t need soaking. Simply wash, add to the rest of the ingredients, and cook.

Dr. Andrew Weil on health benefits and how to cook them:



There are few of us who have not found comfort in a steaming bowl of split pea soup at one time or another. Split peas are the dried, peeled, and most often split spherical seeds of the common pea plant, Pisum sativum. They can be purchased whole and un-split as well, though these take longer to cook.

Peas are thought to have originated somewhere between the Middle East and Central Asia; and, until the 16th century, when more tender varieties were able to be cultivated, they were almost exclusively consumed by humans in their dried form.

Just one cup of cooked split peas provides a full 65 percent of the Daily Value for fiber, making them, like all legumes, highly beneficial in blood sugar management and cholesterol control. Dried peas are also a good source of B vitamins (folate and thiamin) and various minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

Cooking time: Split peas, 30-60 minutes; whole peas, 60-90 minutes
Liquid per cup of legume: Split peas, 4 cups; whole peas, 6 cups
How to cook dried peas: While dried split peas do not need to be soaked, dried whole peas should be soaked overnight prior to cooking.
For split peas, combine in a pot with fresh, cold water for cooking. Place on stove and bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting the lid slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for up to 60 minutes, or until mushy.
For whole peas, drain soaking water and replace with fresh, cold water for cooking. Place on stove and bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting lid slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for up to 90 minutes, or until tender. (source)

Here is my all-time favorite recipe for split-pea soup WITH fresh (frozen) peas added at the end. I often adapt this recipe by replacing the bacon (gasp! I know) with 1-cup of leftover ham that’s been diced, labeled, frozen and ready for soup. This recipe is superbly delicious, and it freezes beautifully. Warm thanks to one of my TV and cookbook teachers, Chef Michael Smith from PEI.

Speedy Split Pea Soup With Bacon (or ham)

Art by Mary-Anna Fricano Welch

Art by
Mary-Anna Fricano Welch

Makes 6 generous servings (or lots to freeze) and is ready in about an hour.

1 package bacon, chopped (or 1-2 cups diced cooked ham)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled sliced thinly
2 cups dried split peas
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
2 cups of frozen peas
1 tablespoon of any vinegar

Place bacon in a large soup pot over a medium high heat. When the bacon is brown and crispy drain away the fat, leaving about 2 Tbsp in the pot (alternately, first cook veg in a bit of EVOO and add thawed cooked ham when adding dried peas, stock and seasonings). Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the pot and sauté for a few minutes. Add the dried peas, stock, bay leaves, rosemary and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until the soup is thick and the peas are completely soft. Stir in frozen peas and stir to heat through. Stir in the vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. (recipe source) Gina’s Note: The bright pop of flavor from the fresh/frozen green peas adds a real freshness and depth to this dish, and the vinegar (I use red wine vinegar) simply highlights all the flavours already there. You won’t actually taste vinegar, it’s simply doing its magic of heightening flavors.