Curried Carrot Soup

I’ve been making this soup for a long time; it’s one of Mr. Surly’s favorites. A few times he has eaten the entire pot of soup in one evening (he ate nothing else but this soup and bread). When I made this recent batch, he came home from working out and declared he would probably eat the entire pot of soup. Fortunately I made a huge salad for him to eat, so I have leftovers of the soup. I am amazed at the amount of food he eats. Granted, he works out every day, but still. When we first moved in together it seemed like I was always running out of food. But now, 2 years later, I have learned how to gauge his appetite better to make sure I feed him enough for dinner, so he isn’t foraging for food an hour later.

This is a great soup to make if you don’t feel like being in the kitchen; there is little prep work involved and it cooks quickly. It’s also pretty spicy, so I usually have naan, pitas, or some other type of bread to serve along with it. The greek yogurt helps to cool down your palate from the spiciness of the soup. Of course you can use sour cream instead, but greek yogurt tastes similar and is much healthier.

Curried Carrot Soup
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Serves 4-6

1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 ½ lb packaged baby carrots
4 c chicken stock
2Tbl curry powder
½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
coarse salt
greek yogurt, for serving
fresh chives, for garnish
naan or bread for serving

Preheat pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, butter, onions and carrots and sauté about 5 minutes, til the onions become translucent.

Pour in chicken stock, curry and cayenne, and pinch of salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until carrots are very tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth and there are no big chunks of carrots left (a regular blender or food processor would work if you don’t have an immersion blender). Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Garnish with dollop of greek yogurt and chives. Serve with naan or bread, if desired.

Source: adapted from Rachel Ray via food network

Shooting Star

Ugh, it’s been awhile since I tried a new recipe; in fact, I haven’t really been cooking much at all lately. Once again, I’m having trouble digesting solid food, so my diet recently has consisted of mostly liquids—weight gainer shakes, smoothies, soups, etc. I keep trying to add small amounts of solid food, but so far these attempts have been unsuccessful. This drink has been my lunch almost every day for the past couple weeks. It’s based off a beverage served at one of my favorite restaurants from when I lived in Ohio, North Star Café.

Sometimes I miss living in Ohio. I had a quaint little apartment downtown, in the Short North, with gorgeous exposed brick walls and a garden soaking tub in the bathroom. The neighborhood was awesome, too; I could walk to amazing restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries, etc. I lived 2 blocks away from the original North Star Café in the Short North (it became so popular now they have opened at other locations in the area). Anytime I had a guest visitng from out of town I took them to North Star for a meal. I miss their food: wonderful flatbread pizzas, the Buddha bowl, cloud nine pancakes, and the veggie burger. Mmmmm, I’m still trying to recreate that burger. I’ve almost got it, I just need to tweak it a bit more before I post it.

Anyway, this post isn’t about that delicious burger, it’s about my favorite drink there, the Shooting Star. The summer before I moved south, Mr. Surly and I would go to North Star almost every weekend for brunch. I’d order the Cloud Nine pancakes and a Shooting Star. He’d usually get the Big Burrito and coffee. We’d eat, do the daily crossword, and people watch. This is my attempt at recreating the Shooting Star drink. At North Star they put all the ingredients in a juicer. I don’t have a juicer, instead I bought some carrot juice at Trader Joe’s (which is delicious on its own). Mixing that with orange juice, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and freshly grated ginger I was able to make my home version of the Shooting Star. It may not be as good as the original, but it’s pretty close.

Shooting Star
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serves: 1

¾ c carrot juice
1 ¼ c orange juice
1 ½ tsp freshly grated ginger
Juice from ½ lemon

Combine all ingredients in large cup. Using an immersion blender, blend a few seconds times to combine. Or put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse a few times to combine. Pour into serving glass and enjoy.

Source: inspired by North Star Café

Peach Blueberry Crumbles

This week I had peaches to use up along with some blueberries. I love Cook’s Illustrated berry crumbles, but I thought I’d try a new recipe. A quick search on Food Network produced this highly rated Ina Garten recipe. The recipes are pretty similar, a few minor differences, one being more sugar in Ina’s topping.

I have a soft skin peeler that I used to peel my peaches. It has a serrated blade that does an excellent job peeling fruit with soft skins, like peaches and tomatoes. I think it would be fine, if you don’t want to peel the peach, to just dice up the peaches. I also have this multi grain cereal that I added to the topping to get some whole grains.

Peach Blueberry Crumbles
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Makes 4-6 crumbles (depending on size of ramekins)

For the filling:
1 lb fresh peaches (3-4), peeled (if desired), pitted, and diced
4 oz (~3/4 c) blueberries
Zest of 1 small lemon
1 Tbl lemon juice
¼ c granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

For the topping:
1/3 c multi grain hot cereal (or oats)
¼ c sugar
2 Tbl brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Fresh grated nutmeg, pinch or two
Pinch kosher salt
4 Tbl butter

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine filling ingredients and set aside, allowing to sit at least 5 minutes. Spoon into ramekins, placed on parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.

Add the cereal, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter til plenty of pea sized crumbles. Top ramekins with mixture. Bake until bubbling and tops are golden about 25-30 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from Ina Garten via food network

Spicy Mexican Pulled Chicken and Vegetables

I love this chicken so much I made myself sick eating too much of it. Since my stomach has trouble emptying I have to eat my meals spaced out. Because a few bites of anything causes my stomach to blow up like a balloon, my nutritionist suggested spacing out each part of my meals. I eat the vegetable, wait an hour or so, then eat the meat/protein, wait an hour or so and eat the potato/grain, etc. It’s frustrating, but I’m getting used to it. However, when it came to taco night I couldn’t help myself, I ate 3 tacos, knowing I should only have had two. I should have waited an hour before eating that third one, but it was so tasty I couldn’t wait. My stomach was painfully distended, but it was so worth it.

For lunch the next day I made nachos covered in the chicken and topped with homemade salsa. You can use this chicken as a topping for nachos, a filling for burritos, tacos, or just eat it as is. Less chipotle chiles can be used if you don’t want too much spice. It also freezes well. I usually just freeze it as is, but you could add the filling to some burritos and make frozen burritos. Unfortunately, this was gone in 2 days, with no leftovers to for me to freeze. Speaking of tacos, have you ever tried the Trader Joe’s organic hard taco shells? They are to-die-for. I will never buy the supermarket ones again. The flavor is unbelievable. If you find yourself at TJ’s, do yourself a favor and get a box.

Spicy Mexican Pulled Chicken and Vegetables
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Serves 4-6

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp chile powder
½-1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn (or 1 c frozen corn, thawed)
1 can diced tomatoes with jalepenos (or green chiles), undrained
3-4 chipotle chiles in adobo, pureed or finely chopped, plus 2 tsp adobo sauce
1 (10 oz) bag fresh spinach
1 lime

Combine both chili powders, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, in a small prep bowl. Mix with a fork.

Add a Tbl or so of grapeseed oil (or EVOO) to a skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breast, sprinkle with spice mixture. Cook 7-8 minutes, then flip, season other side of each breast with the spices, and continue cooking til chicken is cooked through. Remove to cutting board, allow to rest. Once chicken has rested a few minutes, shred with two forks.

Place the diced sweet potatoes into a microwave safe bowl, add a couple Tbl water, cover with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the plastic wrap and microwave 3 minutes. Remove and let stand.

Add a Tbl or two of oil to the skillet and sauté the onion a few minutes in the chicken drippings. Add garlic, corn, black beans, diced sweet potato, and any remaining spice mixture. Cook a few minutes, then stir in tomatoes, chicken, chipotle chiles and adobo sauce. Cover and simmer 15-20 min. Stir in spinach til wilted. Squeeze in lime juice and stir. Serve in tacos/burritos, over nachos, or in a bowl. Garnish as desired with cilantro, cheese, salsa, etc.

Source: inspired by/heavily adapted from Tyler Florence

Dark Chocolate Tartelettes with Gingersnap Crust

This week it was time to use up the extra ginger crinkles I had sitting around. I was really excited to make this chocolate tart. The original recipe makes one large tart, but I decided to halve the recipe and make individual tartelettes. With the hint of cinnamon, these tarts reminded me of the cappuccino brownies I made awhile ago. The combination of the gingersnap crust and the dark chocolate is fantastic. Next time (I will be making this again, for sure) I plan on adding a tsp or two of espresso powder because I just love the combination of chocolate and coffee. I had some strawberries in the fridge (since they are finally in season) which I used to garnish the tarts. You can’t go wrong with strawberries, dark chocolate, and whipped cream.

Dark Chocolate Tartelettes with Gingersnap Crust
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Makes 4 tartelettes

For the crust:
6 oz gingersnap cookies (homemade or store bought), coarsely broken
4 Tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ c heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
2 Tbsp sugar
1½ tsp flour
Pinch of sea salt
pinch cinnamon
Whipped cream for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a food processor, pulse gingersnaps until finely ground. Add melted butter and pulse a few times until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and sides of four tartelette pans (I think mine are 4 inch) with removable bottoms. Place on rimmed baking sheet.

Lightly whisk together egg, sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon in small bowl, and set aside.

Microwave chocolate and heavy cream in 30 sec intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted. (Or you could add chocolate and cream to a saucepan, whisking over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth). Gradually, pour about half the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking to temper the egg. Add rest of cream and chocolate into the egg mixture, stirring until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crusts. I wound up with extra filling, which I just poured into a greased ramekin and baked along with the tartelettes. It made a delightful, decadent pudding cup.

Bake at 325 F until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart from pan and cool tart completely on wire rack.

If desired, garnish with whipped cream before serving. Store any leftovers in refrigerator, allowing tartelettes to come to room temperature before serving.

Source: adapted from smitten kitchen

Mini Cappuccino Brownies

I love the combination of coffee and chocolate; I like to add espresso powder to regular chocolate desserts. While browsing Martha Stewart’s website these brownies caught my eye. I was intrigued by the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. Usually, recipes just call for adding espresso or espresso powder to make a dessert cappuccino flavored whereas, this recipe also called for spices. I was anxious to make them and finally I felt well enough yesterday to make a simple dessert. They had great coffee flavor with hints of warm cinnamon; moist and almost fudgy. Even better the next day.

Mini Cappuccino brownies
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4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp oil (I used flax seed oil, but canola would also work)
¾ c sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ c flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch salt
½ c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F, with rack in center. Butter two 4 ½ inch spring form pans, and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Coat paper with butter. Set aside.

Microwave butter 20-30 til mostly melted. Whisk in cocoa and oil until smooth. Then, whisk in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and eggs.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture, and stir until just combined (do not overmix). Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely. Run a knife around edges of pan before removing from pan. I used a small circular cookie cutter to cut my brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart

Berry Crumble

I really haven’t done much cooking recently because I have been too sick to eat, let alone cook. I have wanted to post this crumble recipe for awhile, but haven’t because I can’t get a good picture. So here is a half-hearted post with a ho-hum photo. Once I’m better I’ll replace this version with a better post and picture. These are so good; I wish the picture did them justice.

I’m so glad spring is here and the weather is warming up. I love fresh berries and will be making these crumbles a lot. The topping makes too much, and I usually store the remainder in the fridge in an airtight container and make 2 more crumbles the next night. Or, sometimes, I’ll reduce the amounts in the topping to cover just the two crumbles. I left the original proportions in the recipe below.

I had trouble finding 12 oz ramekins. I have some Emile Henry ramekins (I think they are technically called soufflé dishes) that were only 10 oz. After much searching, I finally found 12 oz ramekins at Williams-Sonoma. They are Apilco #3. I had to ask a sales associate for the 12 oz size and he found some in the back for me. I could not find them on the website, but if you go in to the store they should have them in the tableware section with the other Apilco porcelain. Again, I think it may be called a 12 oz soufflé dish. Just look for the #3 on the bottom. Of course you could just divide it among smaller ramekins and have smaller portions if you don’t want to buy new ramekins.

The lemon/lime zest is optional, but it really brightens up the flavor. In the future I may experiment with an orange. I top with either ice cream or freshly made whipped cream. Delicious.

Berry Crumble
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¼ c (1¾ oz) granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
Pinch salt
2 c (10 oz) fresh berries* (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or a mix)
1 lemon or lime, zested
1 tsp juice from lemon or lime
½ c (2½ oz) flour
1/3 c old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant/quick)
¼ c packed (1¾ oz) light brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled

Preheat oven to 375F. Put berries in a medium bowl. Combine sugar, cornstarch, pinch of salt, and zest and juice and add to the berries. Gently toss to coat berries. Divide evenly between two 12 oz ramekins (or in a 8½ x 5½ inch baking dish).

Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and using your fingers or a pastry cutter, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until you get dime-sized clumps. Pinch together any powdery parts and sprinkle over berries.

Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375F until filling is bubbling around edges and crumble topping is a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Rotate sheet half way through baking.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Top with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

*Note: Cooks Illustrated editors recommends not using frozen berries because they give off too much liquid and therefore will make the crumbles soggy. However, I have used frozen berries and had it turn out fine. I just completely thaw the berries in a strainer before adding the sugar and cornstarch. And if it seems too mushy, I add a bit more cornstarch to absorb the excess liquid.

Source: slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009

Crunchy Garlic Chicken

Jamie Oliver delivers another great recipe. Easy, simple, flavorful, and healthy. I used to watch his show “The Naked Chef” on the food network when I was in college. I remember upon first hearing the name of his show I pictured some gorgeous guy, wearing only an apron, making food. Hmmm maybe unsanitary, but definitely worth checking out. I admit I may have been a bit disappointed when I discovered the term “naked” referred to his simple, unadorned approach to food, not being physically naked. (Oh, how young and naive I was). However, his show did inspired me, I would watch and say to myself, that looks like something I could do. I love him and his recipes. Now that I’m attempting to eat “clean“, I have been getting into his recipes even more. Every time I make this chicken I wonder why I don’t make it more often. It is relatively easy and the chicken comes out really moist and flavorful. If my boyfriend is around I will sometimes have him cut the chicken breasts into strips so I can make chicken tenders. I have prepared this both ways, baked and fried, and I prefer baked (this also makes it more “clean”). Both methods yield the same tender chicken, but when I fry them, I find the coating comes off the chicken too easily. Maybe it’s because I don’t pat the crumbs onto the chicken breasts with my hands. I try to do it with tongs, since I cannot and will not touch raw meat, which probably isn’t the most effective method. Hopefully you are a stronger person than I am and will be able to do it with your hands and as a result have a beautiful coating that doesn’t slip off the chicken.

Crunchy Garlic Chicken
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Serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/3 c bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter
4 sprigs fresh parsley (or about 1 Tbsp dried)
1-2 Tbsp fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (opt)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 generous Tbsp flour
1 egg

Combine garlic, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, butter and parsley, cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper; pulse til mixture is finely ground and well combined. Pour onto a plate.

Add the 2 Tbsp flour to another plate. Crack the egg in a bowl, and lightly beat with a fork.

Take the chicken breast and dip into the flour to completely coat both sides. Then dip into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture. Push the crumbs onto the chicken so they stick.

Either fry or bake your chicken. To fry, just add some oil (I use grapeseed, but olive oil would be fine) to a pan and add the chicken. Cook 4-5 min on each side, until well browned on each side and cooked through. To bake chicken, preheat oven to 450F and cook chicken on a pan for about 15 minutes, until done. I like to put a wire rack on my pan and place the chicken on the rack, that way the bottom gets nice and crispy like the top.

Squeeze lemon juice over chicken before serving, cut into strips if desired.

Source: adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

Low Fat Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

My GI doctor has requested that I eat more sugary foods to try to gain some weight, so I have been eating a lot of desserts. It’s killing me; one can only take so many brownies or chocolate cake with ice cream and whipped cream. Don’t get me wrong, I do like sweet things, but usually a square of bittersweet chocolate does the trick. When I eat a lot of desserts I get a ‘too sweet’ feeling, and my teeth ache. I decided I needed to make a ‘healthier’ dessert. Immediately this recipe came to mind.

I haven’t made this cake since I made cupcakes years ago for a friend’s birthday. After one bite I could have kicked myself. Why did I wait so long to make this? Dense, delicious and divine, that’s how I describe this cake. I have tried other carrot cake reicpes (including this version) but I always come back to this recipe as my ultimate favorite. My mom cut it out of a magazine years ago, I think it was actually from a Ford advertisement of some kind; weird I know. But who cares where the recipe comes from with cake that tastes this good. Mr.Surly, who hates cream cheese, actually said that this frosting was amazing. Of course I didn’t let him know it was cream cheese based, I need him to help me eat these things. In college I would make this recipe in cupcake form and they were always a huge hit. I only have one cupcake pan and still had left over batter after filling it. I didn’t feel like baking in batches so I divided the rest of the batter into two 4 ½“ springform pans.

Here are the cupcakes:


The frosting is green for two reasons. First, St. Patrick’s Day was this week, and second, my alma mater, Ohio University, is playing in the NCAA basketball tournament this year, and green is our school color. OU is known more for it’s Halloween Bash and bar riots than for its sports, so anytime they even make it to a tournament I get excited. They actually upset Georgetown last night, go Bobcats!

The cupcakes took about 20 minutes, the cakes went a little longer. The recipe yielded 12 cupcakes and a mini 4 1/2″ cake. If I were to make this again I would double the frosting; I had enough to cover everything but I wasn’t able to add a nice, thick layer of frosting. Make these today and your friends and family will thank you.

Low fat frosted carrot cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
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for the cake:
1 ½ c all purpose flour
2/3 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 c grated carrots (I buy matchstick carrots from the grocery store because I’m lazy)
1/3 c golden raisins
1 whole egg
1 egg white
¾ c nonfat buttermilk
1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple in juice, drained
3 Tbls applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
Vegetable cooking spray for greasing pan

Combine first 8 ingredients (the dry ingredients: flour thru raisins); set aside. Combine the wet ingredients (buttermilk, pineapple, applesauce, and vanilla) in large bowl. (I mix by hand with a wooden spoon, no need to get the mixer out for such a small job). Gradually add dry ingredients, stirring til well blended. Pour into 13×9 inch pan coated with cooking spray (or into a cupcake pan, or smaller cake pans, greased with cooking spray). Bake at 350 for 30-35minutes (or til wooden pick inserted comes out clean). Cool completely on wire rack. Spread with orange cream cheese frosting. Cover and chill. Keep refrigerated.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz light cream cheese, softened
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla (for fun I used my bourbon vanilla)
1 tsp grated orange zest (usually zest from a whole small orange)

Beat cream cheese til creamy. Gradually add in powdered sugar, beating til blended. Stir in vanilla and orange zest.

Note: If you like a lot of frosting, and/or are making a layer cake, I would recommend doubling the frosting so you have enough.

Guinness Beef Stew

I’m not really a meat eater. Ever since I was a little girl the texture of meat, both beef and chicken, has grossed me out. The thought of biting into and consuming a muscle is sometimes just too much for me. To this day I still will not touch raw meat with my bare hands. I either use tongs or, if there is no way around touching the meat, I wear some of my lab gloves to handle the raw meat. However, meat is full of protein and minerals, so I do try to eat it on occasion. I usually crave red meat about once every 3-4 months. I figure my body is crying out for a boost of iron. Well, yesterday was one of those days. But I haven’t been feeling well, so I wanted an easy meal that would require little to no prep work nor be too involved. I bought some ingredients that I thought would make a simple, tasty stew. I tend to cook more by ratios rather than by exact amounts, so I can’t really say for sure what amounts I used. But the end result was so good, exactly what I wanted. I get my meat from Whole Foods; at their meat counter they have lean stew beef that is already chopped so all I have to do it put the meat in the pot (carefully avoiding actually touching the meat, of course). Perfect. I wanted pearl onions so that I could just dump them in the pot, but they were out of them at Whole Foods.Instead, I bought a container of shallots that were already peeled, since I was feeling too lazy to peel my own. I love a dinner that just requires dumping everything in a pot and walking away.

Guinness Beef Stew
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Serves 4

2 lbs chopped lean stew meat
1 can/bottle Guinness
5-6 shallots, peeled (pearl onions would be good, too)
5 yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
Half a 16 oz bag of baby carrots
Your favorite seasonings, to taste:
dried thyme leaves
dried rubbed sage
dried marjoram
worcestershire sauce
sherry cooking wine
flour, to achieve desired thickness

Put everything in a crockpot and cook on low for several hours. I cooked mine for 6 hours and every couple hours would check the seasonings and give it a gentle stir. I like my stew thick, so I would toss in a bit of flour each time I stirred as well. Also, I didn’t cut the shallots up, I just added them whole and they melted down and were delicious.