Comfort foods

November was a doozy of a month really. So much going on, and by the end the weather was feeling much more winter than fall. A trip to Japan, turkey day, anesthesia anxiety, and a few illnesses thrown in for good measure made the month more exciting than I would have liked.

Blue Eyes and I had been lamenting the fact that we never were able to go to our favorite beef stew restaurant in Kyoto because I had been sick with a stomach bug. I decided to make beef stew and serve it up Japan style (i.e., with rice). I was also craving pumpkin cake… not pumpkin pie, I am a cake girl. I had seen this recipe on Pinterest a while back and had been dying for just one little slice, but you can’t just make one little slice, so I did make a whole cake, which was eventually gobbled up by hungry boys home for the break. And, with the Thanksgiving leftovers, I made a turkey pot pie. Chicken pot pie is my speciality, but turkey works quite nicely too.

Beef Stew

beef stew

Rich and hearty beef stew

1 1/2 pounds of your favorite stew meat, sliced thick or in cubes, dredged in seasoned (salt & pepper) flour
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 medium carrots and 2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed or sliced
Butter and oil (I use coconut oil)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup (240ml) red wine
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce

6 cups beef stock (low sodium if you would like to control the salt), plus two cups water, if necessary at the end depending on how thick and how much liquid cooks out.

1/2 cup demi-glace
2 Tbs. butter

3 Tbs. flour combined with 1/4 cold water, mix well (for thickening)

Heat a stock pan to medium with a combination of butter and oil, and sauté the beef dredged in seasoned flour in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan or the meat will not brown well) until browned. Set the browned meat aside.

In the same pan, add a bit more butter (no this is not diet food) and add the onions. Sauté over medium-low heat until limp and slightly brown. Add the garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes then add the wine and the cooked meat. Reduce the wine by half and add enough beef stock to cover meat and onions. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

Add the rest of the beef stock, water, bay leaves, dried thyme, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, demi glace, butter, carrots, potatoes, and flour mixture for thickening.

Once again, bring to boil, turn down and let simmer for 1-2 hours, covered.


Taste and add salt or pepper as needed. Take out the bay leaves.

Serve with rice and dinner rolls. Garnish with chopped parsley or a few green peas, if you like. The stew was delicious and brought back good memories of Japan.

Recipe makes 6 to 8 servings.


Leftover, Turkey Pot Pie

turkey pot pie

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, chilled & diced
1/2 c. ice water

3 cups (loosely packed) cubed cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 large turnip, peeled & diced
2 large carrots, peeled & diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 packages of your favorite powdered turkey gravy mix (or leftover turkey gravy, 1-2 cups), or bulk powdered turkey or chicken gravy
1/2 cup flour
3 cups turkey or chicken stock (I cooked down the turkey carcass with onions, celery and seasonings for about 6 hours in order to get my stock)
4 Tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste (or other herbs and spices of your liking)

To make pie crust: (this makes enough for bottom and top crust–or you can buy refrigerated pie crust and save yourself the hassle, especially if you don’t have time to wait for it to chill. We usually buy the pre-made Pillsbury dough, but this time I decided to make the crust from scratch)
1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
2. Roll dough out to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place crust in plate. Press dough evenly around plate. Fill pie and repeat for top crust.

piece of pie

To make filling:

1. Place the carrots and turnips (or other diced root vegetables or leftover veg from Thanksgiving) in a saucepan and boil until just tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Cook frozen vegetables per package directions and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, I used a high sided skillet to be sure everything fit, a medium sized pot would work too, melt the butter. Add the flour to the butter and cook for a minute or two stirring constantly. Add the stock gradually to the butter/flour mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk thoroughly to avoid lumps. In a bowl, mix your gravy packets/powder with some cold water. By mixing them thoroughly in a separate bowl, it will help with a smoother transition into the flour mixture (adding the gravy packets directly into the cooking liquid will cause lumps). I usually use gravy packets as they help thicken the filling and they are full of flavor. This last time I used leftover turkey gravy for flavor. Pour the gravy/gravy packet mixture into the skillet and whisk thoroughly to combine. Let cook until thick, stirring occasionally.
4. Add in turkey or chicken and vegetables and stir thoroughly.
5. Pour mixture into pie plate with pie crust. Add top crust and embellish as you like (crimp edges, etc… ).

Bake pie at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes (sometimes more, filling is pre-cooked, but crust should be thoroughly cooked through before removing from the oven). I often pre-cook the bottom crust in the oven (unfilled) for about 8 minutes to insure it’s doneness with the rest of the pie. Also, place a cookie sheet in the oven under the pie to catch any spills during baking.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes then enjoy!

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Ganache


Pumpkin Cake

The photo is from the original recipe website ( I was not prepared to dig out my layer cake pans and my bundt pan is always handy. So, what I learned about me and this recipe… first, I love love love pumpkin cake or pumpkin bread. I love cream cheese icing and I adore ganache. All three wonderful things. Did I think they would all go well together, yeah. What I learned, 1) I could make this cake and not ice it at all and I would still crave it. It was divine. 2) by making the bundt, I decided to ice first with cream cheese frosting, then pour the ganache over it. I think it would have been better overall if the cream cheese icing and chocolate ganache were not next to each other… like in the example above. My first taste (pictured below), shortly after frosting it, was a little too much, too many flavors going on, and so rich for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of dessert. However, on the second day, when I had my one slice, I liked it so much better. In the end, I would make the cake again and not ice it, OR, I would make like the one above and have the ganache and the cream cheese frosting as separate bites with the cake. Am I overthinking this? Yeah. Will I make the cake again? Yeah. Will I ice it? Probably not. As a matter of fact, I’ll probably just bake it in two bread loaf pans, or half the recipe and one loaf pan. Did the kids love it just the way it was? Oh yes!

Serves 8-10, Prep time: 30 min, Cook time: 45 min.

Pumpkin Cake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup softened butter
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sour cream (this was not in the original recipe, but I add sour cream to all my cakes for additional moistness.
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

1/2 cup softened butter
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream
10 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (or I used one bundt pan). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, being sure to scrape down the edges after adding each egg. Beat in the vanilla.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin spice. Slowly beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Once mixed, turn the mixer off and gently fold in the pumpkin puree.
Scoop batter equally into the cake pans and level with a knife. Bake in preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for several minutes. Gently remove the cake from the pans and place on a cooling rack.
Make the cream cheese frosting filling by creaming together the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the powered sugar and mix until a stiff but spreadable mixture forms.
Place one of the cakes bottom side up on a cake stand. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the top. Place the other cake, top side up, on top of the frosting.
Make the ganache right before you are ready to use it, by heating the heavy cream in a saucepan just until simmering. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl you can easily pour from (I used my 4 cup measuring cup). Pour the hot cream over the top. Make sure all of the chocolate is submerged in the cream. Let stand for two minutes.
Gently whisk the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has a glossy look to it.
Carefully, and working from the center outward, pour the chocolate ganache over the cake. The ganache will be thick, you can use a knife to spread it around. Do this quickly before the ganache hardens. Note: Some of the ganache may pool on the serving platter. You can remove it with a spoon and then wipe the platter with a paper towel. Or leave it 🙂
After ganache hardens, about 15 minutes you can slice and serve the cake.
Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator. Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving to allow the cake to come to room temperature.


pumpkin cake bite

Bite of the bundt


22 thoughts on “Comfort foods

  1. Great post! Comfort foods often come with warm memories. It’s a shame you were sick and couldn’t get out to eat your beef stew in Kyoto, but at least you can make it at home and re-live some of that good feeling. Better still you can enjoy it wrapped up in a blanket 😀

    This post would make a great submission to Our Growing Edge, which is a link up party for new food adventures. This month’s theme is “Nostalgia”. More info here:


    • Ha, I guess it was rainy for Art Basel… I haven’t talked with the kid yet, but he probably didn’t care. All the food was so yummy. The “boys” ate all the turkey pot pie while I was on my dreaded liquid diet. I will make a chicken one soon. When I crave comfort food in the winter, it is a staple. I’m already craving that pumpkin cake too, but just the cake… not even the chocolate part, that’s how good it was!

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is nothing like comfort food, “chicken soup for the soul” 😜 I hope your son had an amazing time in Miami. I wish I could have gone myself!


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