Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's PantryAbout a year ago, when I still lived in central Illinois, I was given this recipe from a friend and fellow Mommy.  She was on a mission to get more fit and make some long lasting, healthy changes in her life.  One of her discoveries was this recipe that she got off Pinterest.  As a rockstar mom of boys, she was looking for a quick, homemade snack that she could make ahead and share with the whole family and this fit the bill.  (Personally, I think she just needed a quick bite of something that would keep her on the move.  Why are boys so exhausting?)  She was so surprised at how delicious they were, she made sure to share it with everyone she knew!  I recently started experimenting with all variations of no bake, granola-type, snack bite kind of recipes and thought I would start with this one.

Score!  I am a huge peanut butter and chocolate fan so this was one of the flavors that was top on my list.  Man, are they good!  I have several family members and friends that are gluten-free due to celiacs disease or other health issues so I am psyched to be able to pass this on to them!  My Mom used to make something similar to this when I was a kid so I can’t help but feel like these are kind of a retro snack making a comeback as a food fad.   There are so many recipes similar to this that are floating around the internet, I am glad to have narrowed them down to just one!  I am still working on another version; different flavors so that we all get some variety, but I’ll leave that for another day.  For now, know that these awesome little bombs of heart healthy flax and oats are a powerhouse of good things for your bod!

My initial taste testers of this recipe, who coincidentally eat GF and include at least one health professional, all gave a full stamp of approval.  They liked that you can really taste the ingredients, which in my opinion, makes them that much more scrumptious.  My kids went crazy for them and have requested they be tucked in their lunches, sent for snack, or both!  My husband is a runner and even though he has had them as a boost before and after his runs, the rest of the time I need to physically separate him from the container.  While they are healthy and full of good things, too many would really up your calorie intake.  So don’t eat them like popcorn!

Gluten Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's Pantry

via BP in Instagram

Ultimately, they are just a smart, easy, kid and adult friendly food that is a good idea.  They are a faster, more simple recipe than making a full batch of granola bars and easy enough for your kids to make by themselves!  They last for quite awhile stored properly in the fridge and can be frozen too.  Very convenient if you are little, grown, single, married, new parents, old parents…or a rockstar mom of boys.
Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's Pantry**This recipe is fourth in the healthy eating series I am featuring over on the J Rose Fitness Facebook page!  It is a great resource for healthy living tips, ideas, motivation, and the occasional challenge!  Check it out and ‘like’ it to get your daily dose of information and humor.  I guarantee it will make your day!  Jessica, the brain behind the page is ready to answer questions, give support, and keep you going!  I am loving being a contributor and you can see all my submitted recipes on her site.  I don’t receive any compensation for contributing-I just really love her page!  Check it out!

Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites
Recipe via Danielle (friend of BP) via Pinterest
These can be altered a bit depending on your tastes.  I have specified substitutions where applicable.

1 c peanut butter or almond butter
1 c ground flax seeds
2 c rolled oats, gluten free if desired
1/2 c mini chocolate chips or 1 c raisins or dried cranberries
2/3 c honey, preferably raw

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  Cover and chill until the mixture firms up.  Scoop by level tablespoonfuls and roll between the palms of your hands until they are smooth and round.  Chill.  Enjoy!  Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for…I don’t know! We always eat them too fast! :)  I like to freeze them in bags of six to pull out later and make them last longer.

Quick & Easy Pita Chips

Pita ChipsJust popping in to post a quick recipe for an easy snack!

We really love crunchy pita chips at our house.  However, the five of us can easily finish off a whole bag in one sitting so generally, it just makes more sense for me to make them myself.   Very easy and much cheaper to do.  In addition, I can control the level of crunchiness and get them a toasty as we prefer them.  My husband likes things VERY crunchy and just one head scratch away from burnt so I always leave a handful or two on the pan a bit longer for him.  For those of you that prefer your food toasted, but not cooked to ashes, just a few minutes is all you need.
Pita ChipsAbove, these beauties are all set and ready to pop in the oven!  Below?  Toasted and perfect to dip in some hummus!
Pita ChipsQuick & Easy Pita Chips 
These do lose their crunch after a day or so.  My advice is to make them fresh when you need them so you can finish them off while perfect and toasty!  If you have access to different flavors of pita bread or even flavored oils, this would be a good application for that.  These are pretty basic so please experiment with herbs and spices to customize your chips!

Pita Bread-homemade or store-bought (I usually buy it whole wheat and fresh from the bakery.  Then I tuck them in the freezer for whenever I need them!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut your pita bread like a pizza, into 8 or even 16 pieces, depending on what kind of dippers you like.  Spread them out in a single layer on a dry sheet pan and spray or lightly drizzle evenly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop in the oven for 10 minutes.  Check on the chips and continue to toast until desired crispiness.  How long it will take will depend on your oven, your individual tastes, and the moisture content of your bread.  Just keep and eye on them so they don’t burn.  You can turn them over halfway through if you like, but it isn’t necessary.  Cool slightly and enjoy!

Loaded Roasted Pepper SandwichIt is hard for me to convey just how spectacular the combination of these flavors are.  The only thing I have been able to come up with is, thats so good, you will want to eat it even when you are pregnant and so sick the though of a sip of water makes you want to hurl.

Because really, that is what I associate with this sandwich.  Three times over (baby 1,2, and 3), I was sick the entire 9 months of my pregnancy. As in, I threw up in the delivery room bathroom a few hours before my daughter was born because even then, I was still puking.

In an effort to make me ANYTHING that I could keep down, my husband handed me this sandwich when I was still in the early stages of pregnancy #1.  Needless to say I was skeptical.  I will spare you the details of what happened when I was finished with it, but I will never forget how amazing it tasted.  Fresh, creamy, tangy, crunchy-it was outstanding.  Once I was my non-pregnant self again, I made sure to make the sandwich the exact same way to try and replicate that joy.  It was even better than I imagined!  And when I was prego again, it was often the only thing that sounded good, regardless of wether I could keep it down or  not.  I mean, just LOOK at that sandwich!  Does it not make your mouth water??
Loaded Roasted Pepper SandwichNow, I make them for my kids.  I have tried changing a few things-adding cucumber, skipping the step to toast the bread, or even using plain hummus-and all changes were good.  But not this good.  Something about these particular ingredients just go so great together.  The hubby knew what he was doing when he built this one!  I feel like I should mention that ripe tomatoes are key.  Don’t bother making this without them.  Loaded up with fresh spinach and avocado, it is chock full of good for you foods!  Which we all need, wether you are expecting a baby or not.
Loaded Roasted Pepper SandwichLoaded Roasted Pepper Hummus Sandwich

Whole Grain Bread-toasted
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus- homemade or store bought
Fresh Spinach
Avocados, pitted and sliced thin
Sliced Tomatoes
Thinly Sliced Cheese-CoJack is GREAT on this sandwich!

Assemble your sandwich in whatever fashion allows it to stay together the best. :)  Enjoy!

Roasted Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper HummusRoasted pepper hummus is one of the most common things I find in the refrigerators of my friends.  Well, that and red wine.

Whenever I talk to someone who has made hummus for the first time, they always mention how incredibly good it is.  As yummy as store bought hummus is, there is nothing like the flavor of a batch you made yourself.  Making it specially flavored is just that much better.

The following recipe is my standard, quick hummus that I make all the time, with simply some roasted red peppers added!  Easy, huh?  The smell is fantastic and it is incredibly hard to stop eating it.  Smooth and creamy, this hummus is outrageous on a sandwich (recipe coming soon) but is also a handy recipe to have in the fridge.  It makes it SO much easier to get your daily veggies in if you have this stuff to dip your celery, cucumbers, carrots, and whole grain pita chips in!  Because, seriously!  Isn’t that color gorgeous?  I love the colors of food…

Speaking of recipes, I often like to share what I call my BONUS RECIPES on social media.  Occasionally, I post a recipe exclusively to Brittany’s Pantry Twitter feed (brittanyspantry), Instagram (@brittanyspantry), Google+ , and the Facebook page.  Why?  Because I like to reward those who spend excessive time on their phone whilst in the grocery line!  Today was one of those bonus days so be sure to follow BP and get every tasty recipe you can!  Here is the link to my favorite Double Chocolate Recovery Drink! Enjoy!
Roasted Red Pepper HummusRoasted Red Pepper HummusRoasted Red Pepper Hummus

2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas) rinsed and drained
3 T tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T lemon juice
3/4 tsp cumin
1/3 c water
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 of a 1 lb jar of roasted red peppers, drained (about 2)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor, adding more evoo or water to achieve desired consistency.  Continue to puree until smooth.  Store tightly sealed in the refrigerator.

Simple Grilled Venison Burgers

Grilled Venison BurgersOh my stars.  It is a very good thing that you are behind your computer/iPad/iPhone device and not sitting next to me as I type this because I would embarrass my self my drooling in front of you.  Buuuuuurgeeeeeers are gooooooooood.

A good friend of mine back in IL shared some venison with me late last winter and I had a fantastic time working it into my meal plans.  I ate plenty of venison growing up in MN but it wasn’t easy to come by in the middle of farm country.  So we thoroughly enjoyed (and devoured) venison steaks, chops, and ground venison.  We grilled everything.  And it was good.  Mouthwateringly good.  I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with the ground venison, and then when winter ended, my affinity for burgers hit full force.  Spring had arrived and as my overwhelming love of burgers fresh off the grill was sitting just below the surface during the snowy months, I was ready once April hit.

I have made venison burgers many times but never really kept track of what I put in them.  Results varied so I figured I should actually pay attention and write it down this time in an effort to yield consistent results.  It took a few tries (bummer) and we had to make venison burgers several times (shoot) and we had to be sure to try each of them loaded with ripe tomatoes, melted cheese, and fresh bakery buns (darn).  It was tough.

But now, thank goodness, I have my master recipe.  The fact that I have been a South Carolinian for exact four weeks has made me start to wonder if they hunt deer down here and if so, who can I make friends with ASAP so as to procure my venison supply for the foreseeable future!  I will pay you in Double Chocolate Banana Bread and Spiced Peach Jam!  Any takers?
Grilled Venison BurgersTwo Years Ago: The Ultimate Snickerdoodle Recipe & Sour Cream Cherry Bars
Three Years Ago: Sweet & Tangy Ribs & Cobb Potato Salad

Simple Grilled Venison Burgers 
Recipe adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
If you are unsure about the taste of venison, these burgers are a wonderful way to try it out.  The gamey taste is limited but you still get the wonderful flavor of the meat.  Venison is usually quite lean so in order to make sure these burgers aren’t too dry, the egg yolks and olive oil give it a bit of help.  If you are one of those lovely people who save their drippings when frying bacon, a big ‘ol spoonful of that would be stellar in here.  Just be sure to be careful with how much additional salt you are adding.

1 lb ground venison
2 egg yolks
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T worcestershire sauce
fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste

Gently combine all ingredients in a large bowl with a fork.  You don’t want to overwork the meat too much or it will give you very tough burgers.  Shape into four large patties and grill over medium high heat until medium well, about 3 minutes on each side depending on thickness and the heat of your grill.  These are absolutely perfect topped with a slice of colby jack cheese and fresh tomatoes. *drool drool drool*

Cucumber StackersYes, I am sharing a recipe of sorts, but that isn’t what this blog post is really about.  This blog post is about two things: The magic of what you can come up with when faced with limited kitchen utensils, and what you should pack so that you at least have those few limited kitchen utensils.

Before the movers packed up our house in IL, I needed to separate out the items that I didn’t mind being without, and those I really wanted to bring along to our rental apartment in South Carolina.  We had planned on staying there until our house was done being built, which should happen sometime around Christmas.  The apartment was furnished with the basics.  In the kitchen, this included a full set of dishes, glasses, and flatware, a knife set in a block on the counter, a can opener, a basic set of pots and pans, one large plastic colander, a toaster, coffee maker, a set of plastic mixing bowls, and several other random, everyday items that although cheaply made, would serve their purpose.  Often these are the same items in your run of the mill hotel kitchenette or home/condo rental.  I wanted to mention my situation as we are full into vacation season and there is a good chance that you will be faced with my same dilemma.  The only exception is for those of you flying to your destination.  I do not recommend you take your Santoku chefs knife with you in your carry on.  They may frown on that.

I realize that ‘kitchen essentials’ is a broad term, as everyone had a different view of what those are.  Some people can’t live without a garlic press or George Foreman Grill.  I am not one of those people.  I do, however, like to have items that can be used as multipurpose tools as much as possible.  My Kitchen Aid mixer, while one of my favorite and most used appliances, was hard to justify packing for our temporary rental home, being large, awkward, and heavier than all three of my children combined.  I knew that space would be a factor so I was brutal and sparing during the selection process.  Sorry, favorite wooden cutting board I got at a garage sale in college and have brought with me through 9 homes and 6 states.  I can’t cut meat on you so you don’t fit the whole ‘multipurpose’ requirement.  Into the box with the popover pans you go.  Vegetable peeler?  Nope.  A plain old pairing knife will do fine, thank you.

So what did come along?  A group of items that I quite simply use on a regular enough basis that I can’t be without them.  And ooooooh boy were my choices tested.  Little did I know, I would be moving out of our little rental apartment and into a little-and oh so empty-rental home mere days after arriving.  Turns out there was a crazy man living below us who liked to pound on our door and scream obscenities at us when we did wild things like laundry at noon on a Tuesday.  Very uncool with three small children.  Sooooo…I unpacked, with the unfailing help of my Mother-In-Law (who also bravely yelled at said Crazy Man to, and I quote, “Watch your language!  There are children present in this apartment!!” :) and then the following day, repacked again.  The majority of our household goods are in storage, but our clothing and all items we would have need for for the next 6 months are with us.  We threw our belongings in our truck and hauled them to a rental house that, by the grace of God, we discovered was immediately available.  The bummer?  It was completely empty.  Noth.  Ing.  No dishes.  No colander.  No can opener.  And the microwave was broken.  Boo.

So what, you ask, have I been cooking and cooking with these last three weeks?
In no particular order, and with very bad photography as I was packing well past midnight and it was obviously dark, here are the items I make sure are ALWAYS in my kitchen.
IMG_1027Up first, my microplane.  Not the utensil you were expecting?  Let me explain.

I use my microplane almost daily, especially in the summer.  I cook and bake with fresh citrus and fresh ginger so often during the warmer months, I really didn’t want to leave it behind.  Of all the items, this is the one I could have skipped, but it takes up almost no space, so into the laundry basket of necessities it went.

Honorable Mention: The stone pot that it is leaning against is actually an old fashioned bread pan.  I got it from my Aunt years ago and it does indeed make a great loaf of bread.  These days, it stands on our bookshelves as a decorative piece and we use it to hold our loose change.  Making it to the bank to cash all the coins inside did NOT happen in the last frantic days before the move so it ended up coming with us.  Is it weird that I am comforted by that familiar sight in the midst of all kinds of moving chaos?
IMG_1026My blender and slow cooker.  My blender was a no brainer, due to the fact that we eat smoothies almost daily.  In addition, I use it to make no cook sauces like this one (pesto too) and refreshing drinks, like these margaritas.  The slow cooker was a last minute decision which I am SO glad I made.  I moved to South Carolina, a state known for sun and sand and heat.  I wanted to make sure I had access to an appliance that wouldn’t heat the whole house during our summer of acclimation.  :)  It is getting a TON of use, which you will see more evidence of as the weeks continue.
IMG_1025Yes, this is a lime green rubber scraper and really ugly spatula.  Before you judge, hear me out.

The green one is silicone so I can use it with hot pans to stir scrambled eggs, toss sautéed shrimp, and stir sauces or soups etc, without melting it.  The fact that is it just a great bowl scraper is nice, as well as the slight bowl that allows me to scoop, divide, and serve using one utensil.  The nasty looking 1.99$ spatula on the right I have had since I got it at the dollar store in college some 16 years ago.  Why do I still have it, you ask?  It is the thinnest spatula I have ever found.  And let me tell ya, I have been looking!  It gets under the edge of a cookie, pancake, fillet of fish, or slice of fruit with no problem.  The edge is uber skinny and for some reason, every time I try to replace it, all the new ones are super thick and squash my pancakes instead of sliding underneath them to flip.  It is discolored and half melted and stands out like a sore thumb in the utensil bucket on my counter, but I can’t seem to part with it.  It also makes a great scepter when your kids are reenacting the movie The Princess Diaries.
IMG_1023No, I did not bring my whole knife block, but I did bring my favorite 6 inch Santoku Chefs knife.  I use it for everything and wrapped in a thick towel, it was one of the first things I packed to come with me.  It is the perfect size and weight for my small hands and I use it to chop, slice, mince, carve, and a myriad of other things.  Not pictured is a super sharp pairing knife that is a tiny bit bigger than average and has a nice tight guard that fits over the blade.  It also happens to be neon green and I am always tossing it into our picnic basket.  I packed it as well because the color makes it easy to find in a bag full of random things and the guard keeps it safe from my searching fingers.  It is small enough to peel potatoes, scrape carrots, and cut up an apple but large enough to cut sandwiches in half for little hands, slice small amounts of meat, and divide a loaf of bread.  It has become an invaluable traveling tool (again, not on an airplane) with children.  This knife is similar to what I have.
IMG_1022Of course, I brought along two restaurant grade, half sheet pans, and a large plastic cutting board.  The sheet pans are for roasting, baking, toasting, and broiling.  The cutting board is indestructible and just big enough to handle any job, but not so huge that it is a nuisance to tuck in a small kitchen.
IMG_1330Lastly, I made sure to add all my older kitchen towels.  They are super soft, but well worn and can be used as actual towels or rags.  I have a lot of them I need to replace so I just figured I would wear them out entirely until the house was built and then finally buckle down and purchase some new ones to go with my new kitchen.  Pot holders are obvious.  I brought my dark ones because they hide stains better and are a bit thicker.  I use them as trivets too.

Also not pictured: an 8 inch, nonstick saute pan, a 10 inch high sided fry pan that is oven proof, and a 1 quart glass measuring cup.

So thats it!  I have NOTHING else in my kitchen!  It has been a rough few weeks and after a quick trip to Target, we nabbed disposable silverware, bowls and plates and I did grab a can opener.  Other than that, I have been VERY creative.  If you are driving to your own rental place for vacation this summer, think about these items and what you can get the most use out of if you will be cooking your own food.  There is nothing worse than getting somewhere, only to find out there are no pots and pans or that the only knife is good for only slicing bananas.

Speaking of creative, I felt like my kids and I were consuming WAY too many bread products, as they are easy snacks when you have little to cook with.  In the interest of cleaning out what limited items were in the fridge before spoiling, I made these for lunch a few days last week.  So fun, the kids helped build them, and we goofed around with the ingredients based on what we had available.  Not much of a recipe, but a neat idea for the summer!
Cucumber StackersCucumber StackersOne Year Ago: Classic Potato Salad & Chocolate Cherry Almond Clusters
Two Years Ago: Yogurt Salads
Three Years Ago: Rum Raisin Rice Pudding & Garden Salsa & Guacamole

Cucumber Stackers
Inspired by my leftovers.

sliced cucumbers-I like the thin skins of English cucumbers but use whatever you want
sliced tomatoes
sliced cheese
ranch (optional)
whatever else you think would be good

We just stacked and ate.  I had some pre-grated carrot leftover from making this salad and used that too, but it was harder to eat that way.  The kids didn’t mind though!  What would you put in your stackers?

Roast Salmon & Veggies W/Mustard SauceAnd my obsession with all things salmon continues…

I admit I have been staring at the above picture for several minutes.  It contains so many foods I love, it could actually be called Brittany’s Salmon Dish.  I suppose I could have named it that but it seems a bit narcissistic.  It is right up my alley and the more I look at it, the more I want to eat it again.  And again.  And then again. Soooo me.

Much like this pasta dish, this meal can be customized to the vegetables that are in season at your specific geographic location. The veggies listed here go particularly well with the sauce, but are certainly not written in stone. Later in the season I would omit the asparagus or up the number of potatoes toward the end of summer, but otherwise I have found my favorite formula and haven’t been able to stray very far from it!
Roast Salmon & Veggies W/Mustard SauceThis is such a great summer dish because it is the caliber of something you would order at a little sidewalk bistro. Fortunately, you can skip the tip for your garçon and make it yourself instead. Heck! Make it for everyone! It’s low fat, heart healthy, gluten free, grain free, dairy free, and darn delicious!

It is the savoriness that gets ya.  The punch of the mustard is tempered by the vegetables, the creaminess of the potatoes, and the freshness of the fish.  You get a bite and zing of the sauce, and then you kinda go “Ooooooooooooo.”  And then you eat some more.  All together, it is pretty much just what you want on a summer day.  Add a big bowl of berries as the final course and maybe a sunset if you can swing it, and gaah.  Bonus points if there is a body of water nearby to gaze at as well.  Awesome.
Roast Salmon & Veggies W/Mustard Sauce Roast Salmon & Veggies W/Mustard SauceRoast Salmon & Veggies W/Mustard Sauce One Year Ago: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Cherry Gallette, Oatmeal & Brown Sugar Scones & Carrot & Ginger Rice W/Lime
Two Years Ago: Marshmallow Buttercream, Homemade Granola Bars, Flank Steak W/Tangy Sauce, Far Eastern Salad, Strawberry Lemonade & Baked Oatmeal
Three Years Ago: Strawberry Watermelon Cooler, Fried Corn, Mocha Chocolate Chip Scones, How To: Freeze Berries, Cheeze-It Chicken, Strawberry Sauce, Chocolate Chip Blonde Brownies, Pan Fried Tilapia & How To: Roast Asparagus

Roasted Salmon & Vegetables W/Mustard Sauce
This serves about 6 people, but it really depends on how much you plan on eating.  My kids can tuck away an adult sized plate of this stuff so we rarely have all that much as leftovers.  Ultimately, adjust the quantities to suit your family’s needs.

2 lbs of wild salmon, skin on (about 4-6 oz per person, give or take)

1 lb asparagus, rinsed, woody ends trimmed and the stalks cut into 1 inch pieces
2 lbs small red potatoes, rinsed and cut in half or into quarters if large
1 lb green beans, trimmed, rinsed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium zucchini or summer squash (or both) cut into bite sized pieces

Sauce:
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping T of dijon mustard
pinch of salt
heavy pinch of ground black pepper
2 tsp honey

Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside.
Toss the potatoes with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and spread in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes at 425 degrees or until just starting to brown.  Using a spatula, toss the potatoes so that they roast evenly and slide them all down to one end of the pan.  Toss the remaining vegetables in a small drizzle of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.  Spread in a single layer on the remaining end of the sheet pan.  Use a second pan if the veggies are too crowded-you want them to roast and brown, not steam.  Put all the veggies back in the oven and continue to roast for another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through, but not mushy, and the vegetables are crisp tender.  While the veggies are doing their final roasting, slide the salmon in next to them on a foil lined pan, skin side down, and drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  This is all VERY simply done.  The vegetables and fish should be done about the same time, but you will have to judge that individually based on the thickness of your salmon.  It should flake easily, but be just barely pink in the center still.  Combine all the vegetables on a large serving platter and drizzle sparingly with the mustard sauce.  Taste for seasoning and add more sauce until you reach your preferred strength.  Remove the skin from the fish and flake the salmon into large chunks over the veggies.  Serve immediately.

Whole Wheat Cheese & Chocolate Snack RollsRight around this time of year I start to feel like this is my life.  Make no mistake, I know it will only get worse as my kids get older, but preparing for a move across the country, trying to sell our house and buy a different one in a different time zone, transitioning insurance (…and doctors and ballet studios and karate dojos and playgrounds and pharmacies…) I am just barely hanging in there.  It is only slight exaggeration when I say that this little snack saved my life about a month ago.

Sometimes, when I am just. so. bored. with what is in my fridge and I just can’t make myself make/eat another peanut butter sandwich or ham and cheese roll-up for me OR my kids, I tend to kinda loose it.  I am not a creature of habit.  No no.  I need variety.  I know you know this already, but it bears repeating so that you understand the full reasons behind the chocolate chips.

I was desperate.

Truthfully (and this is a safe place so I feel as though I can be honest here), I wanted some cheesecake.  Badly.  I wanted the thick, rich, toothiness that comes with a super cold slice of New York style cheese cake.  The ‘clog your arteries with one bite’ kind.  Of course, living in the heartland of the midwest and surrounded by cornfields, I would have to make it myself.  Unfortunately, my kitchen contained exactly zero of the elements that make a cheesecake as I am in the middle of trying to empty my cupboards, freezer, and fridge.

This little snack was my compromise and I have been dishing them out as a part of lunches, snacks, and late breakfasts ever since.  I usually add honey to just about anything that I smear with cream cheese, but in this case, I um…well…I forgot.  That was  my intention, as I stood at the fridge and blankly decided to add chocolate to cream cheese, and then I spaced it.  Turns out, that was a smooth move because it doesn’t need that added blast of sweetness.  Whole wheat tortillas are a staple in our house and if you make them from scratch yourself, all the better!  Smeared with low fat cream cheese and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips, this snack is not really sweet at all, but is actually quite satisfying.  I have been passing them off to the kids as we struggle to the end of the school year, and even whipping them up as a quick, protein snack to keep me from crashing after a workout.  And lets face it; mini chocolate chips make everyone happy.  Especially when you are just days away from summer vacation.

*deep breath*  I’m ready.
Whole Wheat Cheese & Chocolate Snack RollsWhole Wheat Cheese & Chocolate Snack RollsWhole Wheat Cheese & Chocolate Snack RollsTwo Years AgoTofu Chocolate Pudding
Three Years Ago: Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream & Lemon Thyme Orzo

Whole Wheat Cheese & Chocolate Snack Rolls

whole wheat tortillas
low-fat whipped cream cheese
mini chocolate chips, dark if you can find them

Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the tortilla, sprinkle with mini chips, roll and eat or slice into bit sized pieces.

Deviled Egg Pasta Salad

Deviled Egg Pasta SaladEvery once in awhile, I serve something that everyone likes.  And I mean everyone.

I am usually a bit surprised by it and this time was no exception.  People went wild for this pasta salad.  I have served it twice, both times to a different crowd and WOW!  What a hit!  As my friends and family raved, I kept saying the same thing.

Really?

There isn’t anything terribly special or amazingly different about this pasta salad.  It doesn’t have any revolutionary flavor combinations that will blow you away, nor does it include any trendy food items (no Sriracha or Nutella in this one…)  And perhaps, that simplicity in itself, is the reason for its popularity.  It is one of those sides that I can’t believe I have never made before.  So obvious!  So simple.  Obviously, when I say everyone loves this, I am speaking in very broad generalizations.  Of course, if deviled eggs aren’t your bag, or pasta salad in general gives you the heebie jeebies, then go ahead and pass on this one.  But for the masses, it is a nice change from potato salad and coleslaw.

If feels good to finally post this here because I have been sitting on this recipe for nearly a month, waiting for Memorial Day weekend to arrive so that you could add it to your menus.  It is already on my list; right next to some barbecued ribs , this veggie combo, and these Cherry Hand Pies.  Wether you make it or not, I am so glad to have it in my arsenal for pot luck dinners, barbecues, and just lazy evenings by the lake.  By itself, leftovers are a great light lunch, but tossed with some leftover grilled chicken it makes for a fantastic, make-ahead (and no cook!) summer dinner.  Because the sauce is a bit creamy, this would go very well with whole wheat or gluten-free pasta. So it covers all your bases! This pasta salad + friends and family = happy Americans. :)
Deviled Egg Pasta Salad Deviled Egg Pasta SaladDeviled Egg Pasta SaladOne Year Ago: Caesar Salad & Chocolate Cupcakes W/Orange Buttercream
Two Years Ago: Hobo Dinners
Three Years Ago: Whole Wheat Cornbread

Deviled Egg Pasta Salad
Adapted from BHG
The beautiful color of this sauce comes from paprika, but the flavor is light and mild.  I am not usually a fan of raw celery in my salads, but here it adds a freshness that just may convert me.  Don’t leave it out!

1/2 lb (8 oz) cavatappi pasta (pictured), rotini, large macaroni, medium shells, or other medium, bite sized pasta, cooked according to package directions, and cooled (This can be done up to a day ahead.)
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 T fresh chives, minced
10 hard boiled eggs, sliced or cut into large chunks, some reserved for garnish if you wish
3/4 c diced dill pickle
1/2 c mayo
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
3 T dijon mustard
large pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika, optional

Place the first five ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over pasta mixture.  Gently fold together until combined.  If pasta seems dry and all ingredients are incorporated, add a TEENY TINY splash of milk and mix again, just until it comes together.  It shouldn’t be gloppy, just creamy.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.  Garnish with chopped boiled egg and more chives if you wish.  Chill.

“Brace yourself,” I ordered my husband, as I dipped a piece of fresh spinach into the large measuring cup I was carrying.  “This may be the best salad dressing in the history of the word.”

And I dipped and he munched and he loved it and I grinned.
Green Green Salad W/Creamy Honey Lemon Vinaigrette I was right: It IS the best dressing in the history of the world. But there is much more to this dinner/lunch/spring supper on the deck, that makes it special.

I am very much a texture person when it comes to food.  One of the reasons I love this Yogurt Salad so much is because it is creamy and crunchy, sweet and tangy, chewy and cold, all rolled into one.  It just works together.  This Green Green Salad is kind of like that, in that the different flavors make your tastebuds dance the hula.  I love to eat asparagus but I am always brainstorming ways to do something new with it that still pays homage to its incredible flavor.  I don’t want to cover up the freshness of these ingredients, just highlight them with a little brightness.
Green Green Salad W/Creamy Honey Lemon Vinaigrette Why do I call it the Green Green Salad, you ask?  I would think that was obvious….
Green=Spring.  ‘Nuff said.

Also, Mother’s Day is coming up shortly.  This would be stellar with an ice cold beverage on the patio for the Mother you are looking to spoil in your life.  Or you could tweet, Pin, copy or share this post where your husband would see it.  Caption the link with ‘Doesn’t this look wonderful, honey?  Mmm.  What a GREAT lunch this would be this weekend…’
Green Green Salad W/Creamy Honey Lemon Vinaigrette Green Green Salad W/Creamy Honey Lemon Vinaigrette Green Green Salad W/Creamy Honey Lemon Vinaigrette One Year Ago: Power Parfaits and Quinoa Granola & Honey Lemon Grilled Chicken
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Cheesecake Bars & Lemon Quick Bread
Three Years Ago: Strawberry Ice Cream, Sweet Veggie Pasta Salad & Black and White Angel Food Cake

Green Green Salad W/Creamy Honey Lemon Dressing
This salad is great with or without the grilled chicken.  Shrimp or salmon is fantastic with it as well if  you want to change up the protein.  This recipe makes 4 large salads.

Salad:
Fresh spring greens, or lettuce of your choice
half of an English cucumber, or 1 medium cucumber (peeled and/or scored) and diced
1 1/2 lb of asparagus, trimmed
2 T fresh chives
Honey Lemon Grilled Chicken

Dressing:
1/3 c olive or grape seed oil
2 T raw honey
2 T plain yogurt, Greek or regular is fine
zest of a full lemon
juice of HALF the lemon
pinch of salt and pepper

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and set aside.  Cut the asparagus into bite sized pieces and drop them into a large saucepan of simmering water to blanch.  Let cook no more than a minute or two, just to take the snap out of them a bit.  Drain and dump the asparagus into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  When cool, drain well.  Layer the salad ingredients on individual plates according to appetite and top lightly with dressing.  Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Naan

Whole Wheat NaanA few days ago I posted this recipe for Butter Style Chicken in the slow cooker.  At the end of the recipe, I casually mention that you should serve it with naan.  What I really wanted to say was, “Eat it with naan or you will regret it.”  Or even, “If you don’t eat this with naan, you are dead to me.”

Naan, if you are not familiar with it, is an Indian flatbread that is usually baked in a fire oven.  Tandoori oven actually.  Not having access to one of those, and being a bit leery of cooking near open  flames with a rambunctious 2 year old, I make do with what I have.  A dry pan on the stove works great and while I am sure it can’t even TOUCH the flavor of authentic naan, it works out fine for me and my family.

I replaced some of the flour in it with white whole wheat flour, but feel free to stick with regular ‘ol all-purpose if you like.  This is so wonderfully chewy and yeasty with just a bit of char on it.  Do me a favor and make the chicken and then make this naan to go with it.  Then we can stay friends.

On that same note, I like to do nice things for my friends!  Which is why I am giving away a copy of the fantastic, healthy cookbook, Cooking With Greek Yogurt, by Cassie Johnston.  It is ridiculously easy to put your name in the hat (click here to head to the post), costs nothing, and heck!  You may win!  Just ask the winners of my past giveaways!  Loot actually shows up in your mailbox!  From me!  Sweet deal right?
Whole Wheat NaanSlow Cooker Butter ChickenOne Year Ago: Cream Cheese Ice Cream
Two Years Ago: Root Beer Baked Beans & Lime Sherbet Punch
Three Years Ago: Speedy Glazed Salmon

Whole Wheat Naan
Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest
This is so great fresh, we never have any leftover.  It is really best eaten right after it is made, but I have heard of other people freezing the extras and then warming it in a low oven.

2 c white flour
2 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 T sugar
1/4 c warm tap water
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 c warm, low fat milk
1 c nonfat yogurt

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and add the yeast.  Stir to combine and let the mixture sit and bloom-bubble and grow a bit as the yeast activates!  Meanwhile, combine the flours, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add the warm milk and yogurt to the yeast mixture, combine and stir into the dry ingredients with a fork.  When it starts to stick together, use your hands to gently combine it evenly into a ball.  Do not over work the dough.  Cover with a piece of cellophane and let sit and rise for about an hour or so.  When ready to cook, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  I just eyeball it, but you can use a kitchen scale to be 100% accurate.  Place a dry, cast iron pan, or other heavy bottomed skillet, over medium to medium high heat until very hot.  You can even grill it!!  While the pan heats, roll the dough pieces out one by one on a bit of flour.  Traditionally, it should be rolled in to an oval or tear shape, which is fortunate for me because they never seem to turn out round anyway.  Brush both sides of the dough disc with olive oil or grape seed oil.  Toss quickly onto the hot, dry pan and let set, without moving, until it puffs a bit and is good and toasted in spots.  This should only take a minute or two-tops!  Flip it (Careful! Its hot!) and let it toast on the other.  Remove them to a tea towel lined plate and wrap gently to keep warm.  Immediately brushed with butter and dipped in Butter Chicken, Curry, Tikka Masala, or any other saucy dish, may be the best thing you have ever eaten.  Sometimes, I drizzle a piece or two with honey while the butter is melting.  That would make anyones day.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken SaladThe feel like I should start by saying that the relationship between cabbage and I is still in the infancy stage.

I didn’t eat much of it growing up and soggy coleslaw from the deli was certainly not going to sway me toward this rubbery, bitter vegetable.  But slowly, with much cajoling and the promise of something fresh, crisp, and crunchy, I have begun to warm up the idea of adding cabbage into my regular menus.  I started with it piled on these BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and now I can’t make it without the slaw.  I moved on to this stellar take on fresh cole slaw and am now ready to embark on recipes that surpass just condiments or side dishes.  Soon, when cabbage is so prevalent in the markets because of St. Patricks Day, I plan to experiment with a lovely dish I saw once that had bacon, caramelized onions, cabbage, and pasta.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Until then, I am sharing my version of a Chinese Chicken Salad I pulled off the Eating Well website about a bazillion years ago.  Again, this is not anything I would ever have ordered in a restaurant, but something about the ingredients in this salad made me…well…just feel healthier reading the recipe.  Kinda like I was absorbing the nutrients by osmosis!  Soaking in the vitamin C and fiber like rays of the sun on a June day!

And then I ate it.  Forget osmosis!  I want to EAT this stuff!  The mix of textures and flavors in this are so spot on it is a full celebration on a plate.  It has a bit of an asian bite, a great toasty crunch, and a freshness that is sweet and tart.  I can’t even find the words to explain how welcome its lightness is here at the tail end of January.  I usually make this in the summer because it is so great on a hot day, but since it doesn’t rely on summer veggies like tomatoes, fresh zucchini, or crisp greens, it is perfectly suitable to these cold frigid months.

So now, you can get back on track with any healthy New Years vows that you have probably already abandoned and I can add another successful and reliable cabbage recipe to my permanent stash.  Win win all around.
Chinese Chicken Salad Chinese Chicken SaladOne Year Ago: Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
Two Years Ago: Gringo Chicken Soup & Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Three Years Ago: Midnight Crunchies & Crispy Bars

Chinese Chicken Salad
Adapted from Eating Well
I like to save myself some time by getting the pre-packaged shredded cabbage but if it doesn’t look promising during your shopping day, or you have the time to spare, pick up a medium head of green cabbage to shred yourself here.  Cabbage should be medium sized and in a bright, heavy, tight ball with no discoloration or wilting on the outside.  Napa cabbage is nice to use, but plain old cheap green cabbage tastes just as fantastic in this. To make this gluten-free, omit the ramen noodles.

Salad:
1-3 oz- pkg ramen, season packet discarded
1/3 c sliced almonds
1 T sesame seeds
2 tsp canola oil
3 c cooked chicken, preferably white meat, diced or shredded into bite sized pieces
1 pkg shredded cole slaw mix or 1/2 of a medium head of green or nappa cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
3 scallions, chopped

Dressing:
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c rice or white wine vinegar
2 T honey
2 T of soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Crush and break up the dried ramen noodles into a small bowl and toss with almonds, sesame seeds, and canola oil. Spread onto a baking sheet and toast for 4 minutes, tossing a bit, and toasting for 3 more, just until crisp and lightly browned-DO NOT LET THEM BURN!  Set aside until ready to eat.  Just before serving, toss all salad ingredients together with the toasted crunchy mixture, drizzle on some dressing (you won’t use it all), taking care not to drown the salad, and toss, season with salt and pepper if necessary, and serve immediately.

Grilled Cheese Panini Sticks

Grilled Cheese Panini SticksTechnically, I don’t know that I can call these ‘grilled’ cheese panini sticks, as they are not on a griddle, but are in fact, made on a panini maker.  In any case, this is what my family has decided to name them after eating them over and over the last few weeks.  We are in the middle of a kind of soup marathon here at the house and what tastes better in soup than crispy, cheesy, dunk-able sandwiches?!

My parents rarely made grilled cheese when I was a kid so I don’t seem to have the nostalgic and emotional attachment that some of the rest of you do.  I don’t want to get any heated emails about how I have desecrated the sanctity of Wonderbread and Kraft singles sandwiches that seem to be present in most average American households.  And sorry, but we don’t buy white bread either.  So the classic grilled cheese dunked in canned soup will have to be upgraded to the above picture; Easy Homemade Tomato Soup and three cheeses on ciabatta bread.  And if I may be so bold, it tastes better too.  Fresh and hearty, you can taste each individual ingredient while still keeping things a bit light.  I always cut these cheese panini into sticks because they are perfect for dunking that way (obviously) but it also stretches the ingredients a bit.  We don’t all eat a huge bread and cheese sandwich each, but instead, munch on just a few sticks, rounding out our soup with a bit if texture.  We ate these sandwiches with a creamy, thai flavored carrot soup last week and it was out of this world.  Tomato soup is of course classic, but a brothy veggie soup is also great with this robust ciabatta to soak it up.
Grilled Cheese Panini SticksMmm.  Now this is a meal I want my kids to be nostalgic for while eating ramen noodles and Cheetos during their college years.

One Year Ago: Chicken Tamale Casserole
Two Years Ago: Beef Bourguignon & Tilapia W/Citrus Sauce
Three Years Ago: Buttermilk Bread & S’Mores Bars

Grilled Cheese Panini Sticks
You can make this with any kind of bread and cheese combination you like, but this is a good recipe to start with.  The bread holds up to the panini maker and this combination of cheese made us swoon.  We keep garlic grape seed oil in the house for lots of things, but we ALWAYS use it for brushing the outside of paninis before toasting.

ciabatta bread-whole loaves or individual rolls, cut in half
mayo, optional
sliced provolone
sliced cheddar, preferably sharp
sliced colby/jack
softened butter, nonstick spray, or oil for brushing

Spread both halves of the bread with a thin coat of mayo, if desired.  I like the extra bite of flavor it gives, but it is totally up to you.  Layer on a slice of each of the cheeses on the bottom half of the bread and top with the other half of ciabatta.  Brush or spread the outside of the bread with the butter or oil, or spray your panini maker, and toast until crispy on the outside and melty on the inside.  Cool slightly and cut into strips for dunking.  Alternatively, just set the sandwich in a heavy skillet over medium heat and weigh it down with another pan.  Flip it when the underside is brown and toasted, letting it brown on the other side.

Turkey Apple Panini

Turkey Apple PaniniGreetings!
I hope your Thanksgiving was blessed with family, friends, great food, and a wonderful spirit of gratefulness!

Before we get to the eats, I wanted to mention that Brittany’s Pantry has officially joined the land of INSTAGRAM!!!  I am fully equipped to snap pictures of good food, culinary adventures, and other things gastronomically related.  A cute little icon will eventually be added to the rest of the social media symbols on the top right, but for now, you can just click here to follow!!!

This recipe, of course, is posted today because using your leftover holiday turkey is what makes this sandwich so unbelievable scrumptious that is just may make your toes curl.  If  you have been reading this blog lately you know that my affinity for Apple Butter knows no bounds.  The spices and richness of it make it such a great accompaniment to so many different foods.  Apple butter on toast is one of my favorites, but I love the flavors paired with savory foods as well.  When I thought about adding it to a sandwich with mustard, I immediately headed to my panini maker.  I was once again reminded of my genius at getting one of those lovely little sandwich toasting appliances for my husband for Christmas last year.  Smart move, Brittany.  Smart move.

I will argue that this sandwich, although undoubtably autumnal themed, is good anytime you can get a fresh crunchy apple and decent sliced turkey.  With the amount of scary chemicals used in commercially grown apples these days (it is quite frightening), we have switched to organic, a move that has prompted my four year old to say, “Why are these apples so good?  They taste better than any apples we have ever had before!”  Its organic, Baby!!  Regardless, the tangy/sour snap of a cold, juicy apple with the salty turkey and then the creaminess of the melted cheese…gaaaaaah.  That would be swoon worthy on its own.  But then you have the chewiness of the bread and the vinegary bite of the mustard in there, only to top it all off with the spiced sweetness of the apple butter!  It is texture and flavor explosion overload.  In a good way.  In a way that works.  And makes your mouth water.  And gives you goosebumps.  And makes your socks roll up and down.

Shouldn’t all our meals do that?
Turkey Apple PaniniTwo Years Ago: Baked Doughnuts

Turkey Apple Panini
Wether you use sliced deli turkey, or thick slabs of a bird you roasted just a day or two ago (or even leftover roast chicken!) it is ALL good in this sandwich.  A good dill pickle on the side is highly recommended.

sliced turkey
granny smith-or other tart apple-cored and thinly sliced
apple butter
dijon or grainy mustard
swiss cheese
loaf of ciabatta bread, individual ciabatta rolls, or other thick and hearty crusty bread
garlic oil, olive oil, or grape seed oil

If using a loaf of bread, cut into thick slices, or halve the ciabatta, cutting into individual sandwich sizes if needed. Smear one half of the bread with mustard and the other half generously with apple butter.  Lay a slice of swiss on the top and bottom.  On the bottom half of the sandwich, layer on your turkey and then your apple slices.  Top with the cheese/apple butter half and brush the outsides of the bread (top and bottom) with the garlic, olive, or grape seed oil.  Press into a panini maker until the sandwich is flattened, toasted, and heated all the way through, melting the cheese.  Remove carefully with a spatula and enjoy immediately!  Alternatively, set the sandwiches in a hot skillet or cast iron pan and weight it down with another heavy pot or pan.  Leave for three or four minutes and flip, weighing it down again.  Serve immediately.

Beef StewThe weather here has finally turned a bit chilly (woohoo!) so comfort food is what I’m all about.

I am sitting on my couch as I type this and Eli, my four year old, is sitting at my feet and going through the ToysRUs catalog that came in the mail today.  He is rotating between shrieking and pointing, having conversations with the characters on the pages, and repeating the phrase, “Mom.  Mom.  Okay,  Mom.  Look at this.”  Nice and snuggly, we are.  It is overcast, a bit breezy, and very quiet outside.  Otherwise known as fuzzy sweatshirt-jean-scraf-chai tea-weather.  I suppose you could add Beef Stew to that list as well.

What can I say.  I’m predictable that way.  The temp drops and I start to live on nothing but hot chocolate.  I like to curl up in woven blankets and put together puzzles with a bowl of peanut M&M’s within reach.  My menu lists for the coming weeks start to say things like Roast Chicken with Glazed Honey Squash, Gringo Chicken Soup, and Enchilada Pie.

The bummer about this time of year, and as we head into the holidays and subzero temps, is that the food can be kind of heavy. Casseroles loaded with pasta, fat, carbs and cheese might warm us to our toes (and taste really really good), but on a regular basis, is not so good for the body.  So good news!  Comfort food doesn’t have to be heavy and heart attack inducing!! Hooray!

While this stew isn’t exactly health/spa food, it isn’t all that bad either.  Loaded with veggies and beef broth it has a simple ingredient list that keeps it on the lighter side while still reminding you of the classic stew you had as a kid!  This makes me feel infinitely better when I serve it with crusty bread slathered with salty butter.
Beef Stew One Year Ago: Killer Fries & Dark Chocolate Cookies
Two Years Ago: Heather’s Dip & Fluffy Caramel Apple Dip & Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies
Three Years Ago: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds & Fried Noodles & Sweet Potato Biscuits

Simple Beef Stew
I have made three batches of this in the last two weeks in an effort to get the spices and flavors juuuuuuuust right. In the pictures above, I used more tomato paste than is in the final version of the recipe.  I decided I liked the ratio in a previous batch better but didn’t want to make a fourth stew just to rephotograph it.  Sooooo… your stew will turn out less red.  Either way it is fantastic.  Also, don’t let the broth in the bowl above fool you.  This thickens up wonderfully.  What you can’t see in the picture is that it is SCREAMING hot!

2 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed of large sections of fat and cut into 1 inch chunks
olive, canola, or vegetable oil
salt and pepper
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots
3 large white potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary (dried tends to be to tough in the stew so I don’t recommend it)
2 (14 oz) cans good quality beef broth, preferably low fat/low salt
1/2 of a 6 oz can of tomato paste, about 2 rounded T
2 bay leaves

In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot that is OVEN SAFE WITH A LID, brown the beef in batches in a bit of oil over medium or medium/high heat.  Season with salt and pepper and  be careful not to crowd the pan or they will steam instead of sear.  You just want them to get good color on them.  Remove the beef to a plate and set aside.  Meanwhile, peel and chunk the potatoes and carrots, cutting them into 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Add the vegetables all at once to the pot after the beef is done, turning the heat down to medium.  Give them a toss now and then, letting them pull all the good flavors up off the bottom of the pan.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, or until the onions are just starting to cook through.  Add the broth and tomato paste, letting the liquid deglaze the bottom.  Add the meat back in and then the herbs.  Give it a slow stir to distribute the flavors then cover and slide into a 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove, stir carefully, and check to see if the largest potatoes and carrots are cooked through and if the meat is soft and tender.  If not, return to the oven for another 15 minutes.  Check for seasoning.  Serve with crusty bread for dipping.  Sourdough is especially fabulous. Once cool, you can freeze this stew.  Just know that the potatoes might break down a bit when reheated.  Tastes great, just a bit thicker.