My Pretty Apron: Bringing Comfort to Those in Need

This week’s special edition of My Pretty Apron shines a light on the incredible men and women who are working hard to provide relief to those devastated by Hurricane Sandy last week. I recently posted my own experiences as a New Yorker coping with the challenges of getting through a week without power, heat, or hot water while taking in the impact this storm had on the spirit of the city. But my story is nothing compared to the devastation wrought in the communities on the eastern shores of Staten Island, the Rockaway peninsula, Red Hook, Long Island, and New Jersey to name a few. They’ve lost homes, their memories, entire communities, or members of their families.  There are people struggling to find shelter and basic supplies as the city’s recovery efforts are  hampered by a major winter storm currently barreling through the tri-state.

Also, let’s not forget the destructive path this hurricane took through the already ravaged country of Haiti still trying to get back on its feet after the massive earthquake two years ago followed by Hurricane Isaac last year, adding to the long list of troubles of an ailing population. They need our help too, as do many others in the wake of this terrible storm.

The amazing Barb Kiebel at Creative Culinary had this incredible idea to help spread comfort and support to those affected by Hurricane Sandy by initiating this food-blogging event today. You may have come here for the recipes I post every Thursday, or maybe the badge above caught your attention. Either way, you’re here, and now you have an opportunity to put your thoughts and prayers for those you’ve seen on your television screens and in your newspapers into action. By clicking the badge at the top of this post, you will go to the Hurricane Sandy page by the American Red Cross and you can donate whatever you can to help the relief and recovery efforts. Any donation, big or small, will help provide the essentials to assist many of those still suffering without food or shelter.

If you’re in New York City and looking for other ways to help, you can use these resources:

  • Follow OccupySandy on Twitter or go to their site for up to date information on current projects mobilizing across the city.
  • Donate a gently used coat to the New York Cares Annual Coat Drive at a collection site near you. New York Cares launched their annual initiative early this year to help provide coats to Sandy victims as soon as possible. **If you’re in lower Manhattan and looking for a collection site, please contact me at I’m currently hosting a site near City Hall through December 10th,  and I can coordinate with you to collect your coats.**
  • Make donations (both monetary and supplies) to The Salvation Army who will help provide food, shelter, and emotional and spiritual care all along the East Coast.

There are many different organizations that are operating all kinds of projects in various areas, so there are many ways you can help from wherever you are.

This is a food-blogging event, so let’s get to the food part! I’m featuring a comfort dish that as Barb puts it,  is “something that you would take to a neighbor in crisis or a friend in need; you know, those dishes that are warm and homey and just make a person feel good all over.” Given the snow pounding against the window and my penchant for anything that can be spooned out of a bowl that’s hot and tasty with lots of chunky vegetables and goodness that can be soaked up with bread, I knew a beef stew was in order.

Now, I normally make a big effort to focus on the nutritional merits of my dishes on My Pretty Apron by honing in on one particular ingredient and breaking down all the health benefits in my “Nutrition Factoids” section. But this is about comfort. Nourishing the soul, not just our bodies. And sometimes you just have to let it go a bit to enjoy a meal and not make it about a checklist of nutritional must-haves. That said, I did adapt this recipe from Cooking Light, so at the very least there’s a bit of effort here to keep things on the healthy side since that’s always my goal. 🙂

Without further ado, the recipe adapted by Cooking Light’s Beef Daube Provencal


  • 2 tsps extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsps, divided
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 10oz package of white mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup less-sodium beef stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp Herbes de Provence
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can NO SALT ADDED diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Chopped fresh thyme (optional)


I made a few minor changes from the original recipe. I prefer using stocks as opposed to broths in soup. If you have your own homemade stock, then definitely use that. The canned tomatoes should be “No Salt Added” if you can find it, to help control your salt intake. I also added Herbes de Provence to the seasoning because it goes well with the rest, and anything to deepen the flavor falls in the plus column. The mushrooms were a last minute add because I had them handy, and I LOVE mushrooms in stews. I’d suggest using Porcini mushrooms if you can find them. Just be sure to soak them for 30 minutes before you use them. I omitted the noodles suggested with the recipe, but you’re more than welcome to add that to your dish. I really just wanted the stew without the trimmings. The red wine I used was a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from California because that’s what I had on hand. I’d go for something a bit richer because of my personal tastes, but you can opt for the traditional and pick a nice Burgundy from France or a Pinot Noir. You’re the chef – pick what suits your palate!

Special Tools

  • Mortar and pestle (or garlic press)
  • Dutch Oven (or slow cooker)

You can make this stew with either a Dutch Oven or a slow cooker. I made this with a heavy-duty metal pot since I don’t have an oven and I didn’t want to pull out the slow cooker for this one. If you plan on using a slow cooker, then prepare the beef first in a separate pan and then add all of the ingredients together, set on high, and cook for 5 hours.

Here’s how to prepare the stew with a Dutch Oven/Heavy Pot.

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Prepare all 12 cloves of garlic by removing the skins and mashing in a mortar and pestle. If you’ve followed my blog at all, then you know I’m a die-hard fan of this method as its how my mother taught me, and I plan on continuing this tradition way into the future. If you don’t own one, then you can use a garlic press.

3. Heat the olive oil in the pot over a low to medium heat, and then add the garlic once hot. You want the garlic to cook, but not burn, so give it about 3-5 minutes or until you can really smell the garlic. Remove it from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small bowl.

4. Sprinkle the beef with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of black pepper and then add the meat to the pot. Raise the flame to a medium-high heat. Brown the beef ensuring that you get all the sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

5. Add the red wine and scrape off any bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan. Those little morsels are packed with flavor and they’ll add lots of dimension to your dish! Allow the wine to boil.

6. Now you can add everything else to the pot including the veggies, herbs, tomatoes and paste, and the stock. I did all of my chopping prep earlier, and I highly recommend you do the same. It was a lot easier to just add everything all in one shot then waiting to peel and dice carrots, onions, herbs and mushrooms.

7. Stir everything together, cover with the lid, and place in the oven. Allow it to bake for at least 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is completely tender. Discard the bay leaf. Serve and garnish with thyme or parsley. Fin!

I had this crusty multi-grain baguette that was just made by the bakery at the Whole Foods in Tribeca which was hit by Sandy last week. Part of the store was still trying to come back online when I visited, but their bakery was churning out some delicious bread and it was hard to resist when I knew a stew was on my agenda.

This bread was the perfect accompaniment to an AMAZING (I mean, seriously ah-MAZING) stew that hit me right in the spot. The beef melts on your mouth and hearty broth and vegetables was just so rich with complex flavor. There’s nothing like sitting with a bowl of soup as the weather gets colder. It’s like wrapping yourself up with a cozy blanket. And really, what’s more traditionally shared with others as an offer of warmth, support, and comfort than a bowl of soup ladled out of a big pot? There’s always plenty to go around. Unless you make this stew, which is so good that you may need to double up on the ingredients just to be on the safe side. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and that you take the time to see what some of the other food bloggers are offering today by following the hashtag #FBS4Sandy on Twitter. Please take time to click on the badge and pledge your support to the American Red Cross by donating OR by checking out the links I posted, including the NY Cares Coat Drive. Always remember to keep paying it forward any way you can. ❤

12 Replies to “My Pretty Apron: Bringing Comfort to Those in Need”

    1. Haha, I’ve seen your recipes and they look amazing! Yes, this was very very good and something I’m bound to repeat over and over this winter. It was one of the simpler recipes I could find since so many of the other ones were so involved. Sad to say I only have a tiny bowl left for lunch today.


  1. Maribel, I am so glad you are okay! You are wonderful with all your benevolence for others. It is very sad that many do not have homes to return to. And you are beautiful person to be right there with a helping hand!

    Maribel, you prepared the perfect comfort food! Looks absolutely delicious : )


  2. What you’re doing is so wonderful my dear Maribel 🙂 The stew looks incredible and comforting. Exactly what people need right now 🙂 xo Éva


  3. Just reading back posts … thanks for popping by my blog, and spreading the word about the bake sale/auction next week! I feel like I live on the fringes of the food blogger community, and I kept looking for someone else’s bake sale, figuring that I’d be late to the party, but I hadn’t found one … I’m so glad that you did this event, too! Hoping that we can raise awareness and funds next week for an important cause.

    And LOVE the apples in your background. 🙂


    1. It’s not a problem. I think it’s a great idea and who doesn’t love bake sales? If I were closer, I’d offer something for the auction myself but at the very least I can bid on one of the items. Thanks so much for stopping by- I’m a huge fan of apples so I had to put them somewhere on the blog. I figured I’d put it EVERYWHERE! 🙂


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