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  • June 2018
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Beef and Parsnip Stew

Beef and Parsnip Stew

From: The Illustrated Quick Cook

These pictures are not doing anything justice. I guess that’s what I get for taking phone pictures of a cook book in flourescent lighting.

This meal requires a dish that can go from stove top to oven. I didn’t have one so I started in a LARGE skillet then transferred to a casserole dish for baking. Work with what you have!


  • 3 Tbls Olive Oil
  • 2 Onions, finely chopped
  • Handful Fresh Thyme
  • 4 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2.5 lb Beef stew cubes
  • 4 Large Carrots, rough chopped
  • 5 Parsnips, rough chopped
  • 3 Cup Beef Stock
  • 1 Tbls Butter
  • 14 oz Button Mushrooms


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Heat oil & add onions to cook for 6-8 minutes
  • Stir in thyme, garlic &  season w/ salt and pepper
  • Add steak and cook 10 min until browned
  • Add carrots and parsnips
  • Pour in stock.
  • Bring to boil, reduce to simmer cover and put in oven for 1 hour
  • With 10 minutes left to baking heat butter in small frying pan, add mushrooms and cook for 5-8 minutes
  • Add to the stew and bake another 30 minutes
  • Let cool completely before transferring to freezer safe container
  • Good for 3 months
  • To serve: Defrost in fridge overnight, transfer to large casserole and bake @ 350 for 30-40 minutes.


Hearty Minestrone Soup

The cookbook pic!


From: The Illustrated Quick Cook


  • 2 Tbls Olive Oil
  • 2 Onions, finely chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 Celery Ribs, finely chopped
  • 4 Carrots, finely chopped
  • 9 oz pancetta, cut in small cubes
  • Handful Flat Parsley, finely chopped
  • Handful Fresh Sage, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbls Tomato Paste
  • 1 Can Chopped Tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 2 Can cannelloni beans (14 oz each) rinsed and drained well
  • 2 Cup Chicken Broth
  • 10 oz Frozen Green Beans
  • 8 oz Frozen Peas
  • 10 oz Small pasta shapes


  • Use a pot large enough to hold everything.
  • Heat the oil
  • Add onions cook 6-8 min
  • Add garlic, celery and carrots cook 10 minutes
  • Add pancetta, cook 5 minutes or until brown
  • Add herbs, tomato paste & canned beans. Season w/ salt and pepper
  • Add stock, bring to a boil then cover w/ lid and simmer for 35 minutes
  • Add Green beans and peas cook for additional 5 minutes
  • Let cool completely before transferring to freezer safe container
  • Freezes 3 months
  • To serve, defrost overnight in fridge then transfer to large sauce pan. Add pasta and simmer until pasta is cooked to your liking. Top with parmesan.

Few things to add with this one. See all that ‘finely chopped’ stuff? The Pampered Chef Food Chopper is a MUST have. We flew through the prep and had this simmering away in minimal time, with all of our fingers in tact.

What are cannelloni beans? They are white beans in cans, quite popular. Sound it out while looking at the canned beans section you will find them! The recipe actually called for borlotti or cranberry beans, but my small town food store didn’t carry them. So I went with what I knew to have neutral flavor with enough meat to hold up to a soup.

Also, frozen peas and green beans don’t come in 8 or 10 oz so I got the closest I could and used the whole bag. It’s ok. It just made the soup chunkier with nutritious goods like veggies!


Sweet Corn Chowder

The cookbooks picture

From: The Illustrated Quick Cook


  • 2 Tbls Olive Oil
  • 2 Onions, finely chopped
  • 6-8 Medium Potatoes, cut bite-size chunk
  • 2 12oz Cans of Corn
  • 5 Cups Hot Vegetable Stock
  • Handful Flat Parsley, chopped
  • 4 Tbls Heavy Cream (only at serving time)


  • Heat oil in saucepan. Use a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients.
  • Add onions and cook for 6-8 minutes until soft. Season w/ salt and pepper
  • Add potatoes and cook on low for 5 minutes
  • Add corn
  • Add all stock, bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes until potatoes are fork tender
  • Cool completely before transferring to freezer safe containers.
  • Good for 3 months
  • To serve, defrost in fridge overnight. Heat in saucepan until hot. Stir in cream.

Serves 8

Football Brownies

Football Brownies

I have been a major slacker in the kitchen. I’m quite a dainty eater at the moment so I haven’t been cooking much at all. Hopefully this is all going to change in the next few weeks as the holidays are upon us.

So I’ve got this gorgeous friend, Christa, who luckily gets to be family too since she’s married to my fabulous cousin together they have 2 heartbreakingly handsome boys. She made these fabulous brownies for her oldests football banquet and has been lovely enough to share here. Enjoy!

Rachel has only been asking me to do this for a year or so.  Finally I have something cute and worth sharing.  I hope you enjoy:

 My family lives and breathes sports of all kinds.  We play, watch, cheer, and even party around sports – whether it be youth sports, amateur sports, or even professional – WWE – you name it.  My boys (7 and 2) do not play with toys, instead they favor anything with a ball, bat, stick, glove, hoop or bases.  Who knows what Santa will bring this year?  Not many families can say that the whole family unit loves sports.  Some members pretend to watch, pretend to be interested, or downright let other know that they loathe sports (accchhheemmmm…Rachel).  We however cannot get enough of them. 

We can often be found on the weekends at youth or high school sporting events, running around in our backyard, or of course one of our favorite things to do is entertain friends and family around lots of beer, food and one of our favorite teams.  Which one you might ask, well the Philadelphia Phillies or the Pittsburgh Steelers….yes, I did say Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  Many people ask how this happened…the condensed version can best be explained in one word: COMPROMISE.  Before I married the man of my dreams we only had to settle one major debate: we would NOT live in a divided household.  Some people compromise on religions before marrying , determining what faith and beliefs they will teach their children.  Nope, not the McCusker’s we compromise on sports teams.  My Dad raised me a Philly girl…Phillies, Eagles, 76ers.  My husband on the other hand has familial ties to Pittsburgh…Steelers, Pirates, Penguins.  So after a fair amount of debate it was decided; Phillies (because the Pirates blow – always have and probably always will), Steelers (because the Eagles have broken my heart way too many times over the years), Penguins (Too many greats to even start naming names – even though I have to admit that from time to time I do root for the Flyers whenever I catch a game), and there was no debate that “as for me and mine” we’ll cheer for Penn State.

Our oldest son Gavin is seven, and of course inherited his mothers athletic abilities, ok, and SOME of his fathers.  He plays football, basketball, ice hockey and baseball….whew.  How do we keep up with him?  I have no idea.  This past fall was Gavin’s first tackle football season.  His team was incredible.  I am not saying that to brag, but to tell you that his team of seven and eight year olds, learned a complete offense and defense and ran plays that high school teams utilize.  It was incredible.  They went undefeated, pretty much crushing every team they played.  One coach came up to ours and stated, “I’ve been coaching Knee Hi Football for over 10 years, and your team, by far, is the best team I’ve ever seen!”  The season finally wrapped up on Halloween weekend.  Don’t think the Mac’s have been twiddling their thumbs though, Hockey already started way back in September, so we’re already underway.   

To conclude the football season, we have been planning a HUGE BASH for the boys.  Everyone is so proud of them.  We rented the community center in our town so that all “cheerleaders” of the boys could attend.  We have over 60 people coming!  There will be decorations, a slide show, the boys will be receiving huge trophies and “undefeated” t-shirts.  It’s guaranteed to be a ton of fun.    We opted for pot luck as this would be the easiest way to feed the masses.  We are ordering $100 worth of pizza (provided by the league), and then everything else will be provided by the players families.  So what did I sign up to bring?  BROWNIES!  I decided on this for three reasons; 1 – quick, 2 – Easy, 3 – Cheap.  That was the plan at least….then I “kicked it up a notch!”

Football Brownies


  •  1 Box of Duncan Hines Brownie Mix (family size)
  • Ingredients per box (water, oil, eggs)
  • 1 Container Duncan Hines Chocolate icing
  • 1 Bag Nestle Milk Chocolate Mini Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Easy Decorator – piping bag and tip – (twist cap and ready to ice)
  • 1 emptied soup can – bent into an oval
  • Large Bar Pan (Pampered Chef of course, is there any other kind?)


  • To make the football brownies. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Spray Large bar pan with cooking spray (most P Chef cookware does not need to be pre sprayed but since the footballs need cut out of the pan, it just increases the ease). 
  • Mix brownie batter as specified on box – adding oil, water and eggs. 
  • Once blended together fold in ½ bag of mini chocolate chips. 
  • Once combined pour batter into greased bar pan. 
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out “almost” clean.  You do not want to overcook the brownies as they will become rock hard on the bar pan. 
  • Once done baking, let cool overnight.  This seemed to work better. 
  •  Use the emptied soup can as a cookie cutter to cut out the desired shape. 
  • You may need a sharp knife as well, to carefully pry the brownie shape out of the can. 
  • Place cut brownie on decorative plate and ice with chocolate icing. 
  •  Once all brownies are iced, take the piping bag and pipe the following design:
  • )  +++  (   For a football
    ) (  For a Baseball
    ) (  and add a horizontal line for a basketball.  

These will be great for any type of football party or Super Bowl party.  I box probably makes about 20 footballs.  Could also be done with baseballs, basketballs, etc.  Just all in all a fun, quick and easy idea – and of course remember the team colors for the decorative icing.  Food coloring for vanilla icing could also achieve the desired look of your team.  Gavin saw the finished product this morning before heading to the bus and he thought it was awesome.  Not only did they look cute, but I saved all the scrap brownies for the boys to mix in with vanilla ice cream for the rest of the week. 

While I haven’t been cooking I have been updating a bit at thegrowinggibsons.blogspot.com Today I have a sneak peak at my neuorsis over chair rails and paint.

Pretty In Pink Strawberry Cupcakes

Strawberry Cupcakes

I got this recipe and this picture from QuickandSimple.com. I had to use their picture because my piping skills are a work in progress and well I just didn’t take pictures of them.

On Saturday Ms. Michelle and I had Mrs. Reginas nearest and dearest over for a little celebration before little baby Allison arrives. Since there were 8 of us we decided to have a luncheon with Panini’s, salad and the best gossip instead of embarrassing everyone with lame shower games. Kind of an adult tea party. Seriously, who wants to guess the melted candy out of a diaper, gross. Personally I had a great time, I hope everyone else did too!

For dessert I made these Strawberry cupcakes. I was a bit leery of them and unsure of how they were going to turn out. I have never had so many people compliment cupcakes before. I was a bit surprised. So much so that even I tried one and enjoyed it. (I don’t like cake)

This is going to definitely be my go-to cupcake, especially for girly baby showers.


  • 1 Box Yellow Cake Mix (I used the beautiful Betty)
  • 1 Can Cream Cheese Icing
  • 3/4 C. Milk
  • 3/4 C. Oil
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Packet Strawberry Gelatin (3 oz)
  • 1 C. Strawberries Chopped w/ Juice
  • 1/2 C. Strawberries Sliced for Garnish (optional)
  • Red Food Coloring (To make the icing pink!)


  • Forget the mixing instructions on the back of the box. Use the measurements above.
  • Mix cake mix, oil, eggs, milk, chopped strawberries and gelatin in a large bowl and combine with mixer. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Do not over mix, should not take longer than 2 minutes to combine.
  • Scoop batter into 24 lined cupcake cup filling it 3/4 full
  • Bake according to time and temp on the cake box. Usually 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Start checking them at 20 minutes.
  • Mix the red food coloring with the icing until you get your desired color of pink!
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool at least 30 minutes before icing.

 This did not take up nearly enough of my day.

Feel free to stop by TheGrowingGibsons.blogspot.com if you are interested in my ever growing midsection. I updated this week but since pregnancy is much more anticlimactic than anticipated its not edge of the seat thrilling.

Pasta & Chicken w/ Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Light July 2002

I love peanut sauce. I’m way to scared to order it out so I decided to make it at home one night. I had to adapt a few things since I was at my small corner store and they didn’t have many items. Including a carrot, which I found interesting even for them.


  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth, divided
  • 2 Cans Chinese Vegetables (I use LaChoy Fancy Mixed)
  • 1/3 Cup Peanut Butter (I used a bit more than that and chunky instead of chopping peanuts)
  • 1/2 Tbls Dry Powdered Ginger
  • 1 Tbls Soy Sauce
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes to taste
  • 1 Clove Garlic Minced
  • 1 Lb Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1 Lb Spagetti Pasta Noodles


  • Simmer chicken in 1 2/3 cup broth until done. Let stand to cool and chop into bite size pieces
  • Cook Pasta according to package (salt the water very well)
  • Combine 1/3 c broth, peanut butter, soy, ginger, veggies, honey, garlic and red pepper in a sauce pan and heat through, should not boil or simmer, it just needs to be warmed
  • Combine chicken & pasta top with sauce and toss to combine.

PS. There some very boring updates over at The Growing Gibsons

Meet Franklin!

This is Franklin.

He is not my perfect canine match.

I let him stay because as the picture clearly shows he’s to die for loving and cute. He’s also as dumb as the picture shows.

No, for real. This dog could get lost in our house.

Like I said though he’s cute and pitiful and its impossible not to love him. Even though we are oil and water.

I think it’s mostly because Franklin and I have yet to heal from our first month together. He was finding his way and place in our family and I was losing belongings. Those belongings were a fabulous reclining couch, a blackberry, a few chargers, a few corners on our area rug and runner, a welcome mat (or 2), multiple shoes, the corner of a WALL, a blanket, a dog bed and I’m sure a few other things I have forgotten. I will never forget the 2lbs of blue M&M’s newly purchased for our wedding favors that he nabbed off the counter one day. Or the wedding invite responses he ate.

We tried to crate him, he chewed the front of the crate off in 30 minutes. It was metal, no lie. We tried to baby gate him, he would simply charge the gate until it fell and he was released from whatever room he was trapped in. That night I just stared at him for hours. This creature was unreal. He was 60lbs of solid determined muscle. I am 200lbs of pissed off dog owner. We clash.

In the last year Frank has turned around and calmed a bit. Him and I have an agreement. It’s taken quite awhile to get there but we have worked it out. Maybe its fear, whatever, it works. He jumps on everyone who walks in the door, it drives me insane. Paul allowed it an is now trying to break the habit. I’m not as nice as Paul. Frank stays on the carpet until I pick up the leash.

Sadly most of Franks issues needed to be dealt with by us changing our ways. Our dining room chairs get laid on the couches, trash cans get lids that close right away, closet doors get closed and NOTHING gets left within this dogs reach. I belive we have had our current dog bed for about 6 months or so, which is a record for Frank.

His episodes are becoming more and more sporadic but that also means we have been a touch lax. Pauls work shoes were dragged from the bedroom to the living room the other day, happily without holes. He was possibly just trying to point out our lack of diligence and what “could” happen.

He is possibly the best cuddle bug, not exactly a lap dog, but he tries. He also has the most pitiful face when he’s in trouble. He has a lot of groveling to do at the moment since he managed to find a black pen and chew it on our only carpet, which is now stained black.

My current dilema is Baby. What house do you know with children that doesn’t have a ton of stuff on the floor and scattered through the house? What child do you know doesn’t throw stuff on the floor? Or drop toys when something else catches the eye? I have no idea how to teach him not to eat the stuff either. He’s sneaky, you’ll never see him do it. I’m concerned.