January 17, 2019

Carbonade Flamande au Spéculoos (Flemish Beef Stew with Speculoos)

3/4 cup caramelized onions *
1 tablespoon butter
1 3/4 lb cubed sirloin
1-pint dark beer (preferably Belgian)
1 small slice country white bread spread with strong mustard (like Dijon or Ghent)
2 spéculoos cookies**
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon brown sugar
freshly ground black pepper
(beef stock if needed)

to serve:
fries or boiled carrots and potatoes
extra cookies for garnish (optional)


In a medium, Dutch or French oven saute the onions and meat in butter until the meat is browned. Add the cookies, bay leaf, spices, sugar and slice of bread.

Pour in the beer. The meat should be covered, if not, add some beef stock to make up the difference. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered 45 minutes or until the beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

Serve with fries, or boiled carrots and potatoes. Garnish with an extra cookie.

*about 2 onion's worth
**Two Lotus brand cookies or other brand speculoos/speculaas cookies or homemade.
My thoughts:

When we were in Lille, France a couple of years ago we, of course, tried all of the local dishes. Since Lille is very close to Belgium, a lot of the food is very similar. One dish was on nearly every menu, Carbonade flamande, which is a thick beef stew that is traditionally made with dark beer and a few slices of pain d’épices, a spiced loaf cake often referred to in at least the US as French "gingerbread". In looking at menus in Lille, however, I saw a variation made with not cake but cookies! Spéculoos (speculaas) cookies to be exact. When we were in Brussels nearly 10 years ago the cookies were everywhere (as were the molds to make them at home) and we brought back some speculoos spread which over five years later became very popular here as "cookie butter". If you are not familiar, it is a spice cookie somewhat similar to a gingersnap. I made a homemade version of the cookie after our trip but they can be found in stores. In the US, Lotus markets them as Biscoff cookies and Aldi sells various flavors of speculoos during the winter. You'll want the classic speculoos for this recipe, not a butter or almond version.

The idea of putting cookies in stew didn't seem odd to me at all because Baltimore is already home to Sour Beef and Dumplings which uses gingersnaps to make the gravy. Plus, the cookies are relatively easy to find here whereas I'd have to make pain d’épices myself to make the stew (which I plan to do but not today!).

To make this dish even quicker, I gave myself a head start and caramelized the onions in my slow cooker and heated them up vs starting with raw onions. That cut down the cooking time to well under an hour (and there was virtually zero hands-on time) so I was able to make this on a random Thursday evening vs waiting for the weekend.

Making a stew with a slice of mustard-coated bread and some cookies seems odd but it totally works! The cookie and bread completely disintegrate and magically create the thick sauce you see above.

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January 15, 2019

Cara Cara Orange and Roasted Beet Couscous


6 oz dried couscous
3 medium beets, roasted and diced (I used golden beets)
1/4 red onion, cut into half moons
1 small green chile, minced
1 Cara Cara orange, supremed
1 large carrot, sliced into half moons
juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish


Cook couscous according to package instructions*. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.,
Place the beets, chile, carrot, onion and orange segments into a bowl. Add couscous. Stir. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil, sprinkle with salt, zest and pepper. Toss to evenly distribute all ingredients.

 Garnish with parsley. Serve.

*I  tossed in some lemon zest into the recommended broth/water.

My thoughts:
I am not a fan of winter, at all. I even dislike autumn because I know it means winter is coming. The only good part of winter in my option is that citrus is in season. For this recipe I tossed some of my favorite Cara Cara oranges with some root vegetables and a chile for spice with couscous. I was surprised at how tasty it was! Very fresh yet winter-appropriate. 

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January 09, 2019

Speculoos Butterscotch 7-Layer Bars


1 3/4 cups speculoos cookie crumbs*
1/2 cup butter
10 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup unsweetened finely flaked coconut
1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Melt butter in a small pan. Remove from heat and stir in cookie crumbs until thoroughly combined. Press, using the back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup into the bottom of the buttered pan taking care to reach all corners.

Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips, then the butterscotch chips,  coconut, and peanut over the cookie layer. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top, and spread with the back of a spoon or spatula until the mixture is evenly coated.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden brown.

Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before slicing. TYou can refrigerate them before slicing if you are a clean lines fanatic. Store in the refrigerator or on a cool counter in an air-tight container. Freeze leftovers up to 6 months if desired.

*You can also use pre-packaged cookies. Lotus brand speculoos (Biscoff cookies in the US) are readily available. You'll need one 8.8 oz container (minus a cookie or two for snacking and quality control purposes) to make 1 3/4 cups crumbs.

My thoughts:
Every year my husband and I do a themed NYE movie marathon with paired food and games. For a long time, we did decades then switched to other themes when we ran out of them. We've done everything from Hawaii to Westerns to Trains. This year we did movies with numbers in the title, played games involving numbers like Dos and this classic edition Yahtzee and made food with numbers in the name. 

I made a version of 7-layer bars over the summer I called cocoanuts bars  that we really enjoyed so it was obvious I needed to make a new version for New Year's Eve!  I had used speculoos in another recipe so I had them on hand and used that as a base to work out off. I thought the warm flavors of butterscotch and pecans would pair nicely with the spice cookie. It really did! These cookie bars were definitely sweet but had a cozy, warm feeling to them.

Once again, I used unsweetened coconut because the other ingredients are so very sweet. I found it in the "natural" food aisle if you have trouble locating it, not the baking aisle. It is pretty fine and the result is that the bars have a definite more candy bar feel vs the slightly cookie-macaroon of more coarsely grated coconut. I liked it a lot but there is a tiny texture difference. You can use unsweetened flaked coconut for a more traditional 7-Layer/Dolly Bar texture.

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