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April 12, 2015

Slow cooker North African beef and rutabaga stew

North African beef stew with rutabaga, lemon and cilantro, made easy in the slow cooker. From The Perfect Pantry.

"That's really, really good," my husband Ted declared as he inhaled his second helping of this beef and rutabaga stew. We're reaching the end of stew season, but this year's crazy New England weather has left snow on the ground where there should be daffodils, and stew on the stove where there should be fiddleheads and ramps and asparagus. No complaints in my house. Ted loves beef stew in all forms, at all times of year, and this version is so very different from the heavy stews I usually make for him. I cheated a bit, and used a bag of frozen, diced rutabaga; it was my first time trying this convenience food, and for a long-cooking dish like stew, it was great. You can swap fresh rutabaga, of course, or white turnips if you like those better. Warm spices, harissa, lemon, and a hit of fresh cilantro infuse this stew with an unusually bright flavor. Substitute gluten-free flour to make this easily gluten-free.

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March 18, 2015

Spicy beef, bok choy, and bell pepper stir-fry

Spicy beef, bok choy and bell pepper stir fry: the ultimate comfort food.

For some people, comfort food means mac and cheese, or meatloaf and mashed potatoes. For me, a spicy stir-fry soothes the spirit, and just the act of cooking one, the chopping and prepping and tossing and stirring, calms me down. It's been a crazy month as we've moved from country to city. We're settling in quickly, thanks in no small part to my husband Ted's hard work and tireless box-lugging, and I've been breaking in the kitchen by cooking my own brand of comfort food dishes. Now that I live a few blocks from Ming's, a great Asian supermarket, I can find hard-to-find vegetables like baby bok choy, which is the perfect size for stir-fry recipes like this one. To prepare it, simply slice each little head in half lengthwise. Of course you can use a regular head of bok choy, and cut it into large pieces, or even substitute another type of cabbage. And you can swap chicken or tofu for the beef. Chili paste with garlic, oyster sauce and soy sauce combine for my favorite stir-fry flavoring, and to my way of thinking, there's really no substitute for it.

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February 11, 2015

French-style beef stew with onions, mushrooms and peas

French-style beef stew with onions, mushrooms and peas, and lots of red wine!

Once or twice over the past years, or perhaps a few dozen times more often than that, I might have mentioned to you that the way to my husband Ted's heart is through beef stew. Each year I try to come up with a new variation for him. This French-style beef stew takes the best features of daube, boeuf Bourguignon, and boeuf aux carottes (without the carrots), and mashes them together. And yes, a whole bottle of good red wine poured into the pot coaxes all of the ingredients into perfect harmony. I like to use frozen pearl onions, which are already peeled and need no further fussing, and peas with their bright, flash-frozen flavor of summer. Yukon Gold potatoes can swap in for the red-skinned potatoes; both will hold their shape in the stew, and that's what you want. Right before I pack up the kitchen for our move next week, I'm going to make a batch of this stew for Ted, for Valentine's Day.

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February 4, 2015

Moroccan beef stew/tagine with apricots and onions {gluten-free}

Moroccan beef tagine with apricots, onions, and a hint of cinnamon.

Packing continues for our move to Boston in a couple of weeks, and as I pack my kitchen, I'm downsizing like crazy. This means that every pot, pan, dish, and utensil undergoes scrutiny. Have I used it enough to give it precious shelf space in the tiny kitchen I'll have in the new apartment? My Dutch oven makes the cut, of course, and my favorite tagine pot -- one with a cast iron bottom and a ceramic top that looks like an inverted flower pot, made by my friend Bob -- earns its place, too. As I was about to pack the tagine, I decided to give it one more turn in the log house kitchen, and this beef stew with apricots and onions was the happy result. The combination of meat and dried fruit, so popular in North African and Middle Eastern countries, along with cinnamon, elevates this beef stew with a sweet and sour note that's both unusual and pleasing, giving the stew a brighter flavor. I used organic dried apricots, which have a dark, musky color; for little pops of orange in your tagine, choose regular dried apricots, found in the produce section of your supermarket. Ras-el hanout is a spice blend that contains cumin, along with a dozen other spices, and if you can't find it, cumin makes an acceptable substitute.

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January 21, 2015

Slow cooker shredded beef chili with beans

Slow cooker shredded beef chili, topped with guacamole and lime. Sublime!

On a cold day a few weeks ago, my husband Ted and I had pre-theater dinner with our friends Mary and Mike at our favorite across-the-street-from-the-house restaurant. We shared an appetizer-sized portion of short rib chili, just a few heavenly rich and sweet bites for each of us. When I decided to make my own version, I knew I wanted something a bit leaner; after all, some of the amazingness of the chili came from the fatty short ribs. So, instead, I used my stand-by, brisket. Coffee and cocoa give this chili a deep Mexican mole undertone. A hit of fresh lime juice at the very end is an absolute must, and a blob of guacamole on top makes the dish just about perfect. The chili freezes well, so make the full recipe and you'll be all set for weeknight dinners or that upcoming big football game.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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