Pasta Fagioli...a delicious Italian soup just like Olive Garden!

I love Italian food, next to just good southern food, it's probably my favorite to both cook and eat.  Unfortunately, in our city, which is actually very diverse to be in southern Kentucky, we lack what I would call good authentic Italian know those owned and ran by Italians.   We do have Olive Garden, which I realize is not what you would call authentic Italian, but I still really love it.   However, my family does not love it.  My husband and my son, when he lived at home, didn't like to eat there.  The only time I ate there was with my co-workers.  We usually went at lunchtime and we loved to get their unlimited soup and salad special.  The pasta fagioli was always a favorite.  I actually get cravings for this soup.  So, one day I decided to replicate it at home.  There were some copycat recipes on the internet and I just started experimenting with them and adapted them until I think I got it down.   The really funny thing is, my husband loves this pasta fagioli that I make at home, but says he doesn't like it at Olive Garden...makes no sense to me, but I will tell you what I think is the key difference as I go through the steps of making it.
I made this batch in the slow cooker, but you can make it just as easily in a dutch oven or soup pot on the stove.   I also used ground beef, but if you like a little more spice you can use  half ground beef and half Italian sausage.   Here is what you will need:
1 1/2 - 2 lb. ground chuck
1 20 oz. jar of Spaghetti sauce ( I used Ragu Basil and Sundried Tomato, which is so good in this)
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
4 beef bullion cubes
1 medium onion diced
1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 cups sliced celery (about 4 large stalks)
2 cups carrots cut in matchstick pieces or diced (about 4 carrots)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil  (or 2 tsp. dried)
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano  (or 2 tsp. dried)
1 15 oz. can white beans (Great Northern or Cannellini)
1 15 oz can light red kidney beans
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. brown sugar (this is the secret ingredient I add that Olive Garden probably doesn't)
dash of Tabasco (optional, leave it out if you don't like a little heat)
6 cups of water
8 oz. ditalini pasta (can use elbow macaroni if you can't get the ditalini, Bertolli makes a ditalini pasta)
Shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese for garnish

Brown the ground beef (ground beef and Italian sausage, onion and  minced garlic in a skillet.  Drain any excess grease.

Slice the celery and cut the carrots into matchsticks.  You can purchase the carrots already cut like this if you short on time.
Place the ground beef in the slow cooker you have sprayed with nonstick spray for easier cleanup.  Place the vegetables over the beef.
Add the spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, beans, all of the herbs and seasonings to the slow cooker and give it a stir.   Add the bullion cubes and additional water and stir again.  Set for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.  You won't need to do anything until the time is up.  Prepare your pasta according the package directions minus 1 minute of cooking.   Drain it and either add it to the soup or place 1/2 cup in a soup bowl and pour the hot soup over it.   I like to serve it like this because the pasta stays al dente.  With the left overs, I just add the remainder of the pasta to the soup  and mix to store in the refrigerator.
I like to sprinkle the top of the soup with shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese and serve with hot bread sticks.
Cooking tip:  I add brown sugar to this and to most any Italian red sauce I cook I add just a pinch of brown sugar or white sugar.  It sort of cuts the tartness of the tomato sauce and I think it's why my husband and son like my Italian food better than some others they have eaten.  It's not all that noticeable to anyone who doesn't know it, but you can tell when it's left out. 


Old Fashioned Lemon Meringue Pie!


As I have said before, I think meringue pies intimidate people and for good reason.  The meringue part can be tricky.  However, with a few key tips,you can make a beautiful meringue pie and really impress everyone!  I got these tips from my mother, who has probably made more meringue in her  life than most of us will ever need to see or will want to.    My favorite meringue pie is chocolate, but my second favorite is this lemon pie.  It just has the freshest lemony taste to it and is the perfect ending to a meal!   You will be surprised how easy it is also.   Here is all you will need to make this:
1  9 inch pie shell, baked
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cups cornstarch
1  1/2 cups water
3 egg yolks slightly beaten
2 tsp. zested lemon peel
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 Tbs. butter
2 drops yellow food coloring
3 egg whites (eggs should be left out a couple of hours at room temperature)
1 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
1 tsp. vanilla
Prebake your pie shell in a preheated  400 degree oven just until it is lightly browned, about 13 minutes.  You can make your own crust or use a froze or refrigerated crust.   To make the filling mix the sugar, cornstarch and water in a saucepan.  Stir in lemon juice and zest and bring up to a boil.  Add 1/2 cup of hot mixture to beaten egg yolk to temper them.  Add eggs to pan and cook until thick, about 1 minute.  Stir in the butter. Remove from heat and add a couple of drops of yellow food coloring.   Pour into your baked pie shell.
Now, to make the meringue. This is where you have to pay close attention.  The egg whites should be placed in a CLEAN glass or metal mixing bowl.  Everything that touches the meringue, mixer, bowl has to be clean and dry.  I realize you  always cook with clean items, but if any residue at all of oil or anything is on these items it will cause your meringue to fall.  Add 1 tsp. of baking powder to the egg whites and start to beat the whites with an electric mixer on high. Gradually add in 4 Tbs. of sugar, continuing to beat. When stiff peaks start to form (this takes some time) add in 1 tsp. of corn starch and 1 tsp. of vanilla. Don't go too heavy on the vanilla or it will change the color of your meringue or use the colorless.
This is what the meringue look like when it's ready.  It sort of stands up in stiff peaks.
Gently spread the meringue over the top of the pie.  Make sure to seal the meringue all the way around to the edge of the crust.  If you don't do this and it gaps, the meringue will pull away from the sides of the pie and will sink and not stand up tall.  
Place in the preheated 400 degree oven for about 12-14 minutes or just until lightly browned.  Watch it carefully!  Voila, a beautiful lemon meringue pie!
COOKING TIPS:  To recap the important tips to a successful meringue pie, 1) your eggs should be taken out of the fridge a few hours ahead of time and let come to room temperature, 2)  make sure the bowl and your mixer beaters are extremely clean and dry when you are making meringue, and 3)  seal the meringue all the way around to the edges of your crust.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies!

My mother has been making these cookies for over 50 years and they have always been one of my favorites.  They are really easy to make and are festive for holidays or we like them for just any old time.  The mixture of banana, oatmeal and cinnamon is really delicious. Here is what you will need for these:
1  1/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg beaten
1 cup mashed banana (2 bananas)
1  3/4 cups quick cooking oats, uncooked (not instant)
1/2 finely chopped walnuts
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugars, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Cut in the shortening.   Stir in the mashed banana, vanilla, oats, and walnuts.   Beat until well blended. 
Drop by teaspoonful 1  1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Press a maraschino cherry int the center of each cookie or you can use a pecan half.  It's best if you line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.   Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.  Remove to cool.  Once cooled remove to a serving plate.
OPTIONAL BAKING TIP:   At Christmas we have placed a gumdrop in the center or for something very different you can use a Hershey's Kiss. 


Mississippi Roast!

My sister found this roast on Pinterest originally and they really liked it, so I thought I would try it for the blog.  The recipe is a whole like what I do to make my Spicy Italian Beef, except that you use Ranch Dressing mix instead of Italian and less of the spicy seasonings. This recipe makes a really good beef gravy that is perfect with mashed potatoes or you could serve it with egg noodles or even rice.    The results were wonderful and you do it in the slow cooker.  You throw it all in the night before or in the morning before you go to work and it's ready when you get home.  As far as I can determine this recipe originated on a blog called Laurie's Life    I certainly want to give credit where credit is due and Laurie has a hit here.   You will be surprised to see how few ingredients you need for this:
Roast (I used about a 4 lb chuck roast,.  I do think the chuck roast works best. )
1 envelope of ranch dressing mix
1 envelope of au jus mix
1 stick of butter
pepperoncini peppers  (the original recipe used about 4 or 5 whole peppers, I used the pepper rings and mixed some pepperoncini and jalapeno rings)
I added a sprinkling of black pepper and a sprinkling of seasoned salt, but that is very optional.
Spray your slow cooker with nonstick spray.  It makes clean up so much easier.  Place your roast in the slow cooker and sprinkle with a little black pepper and a little seasoned salt.  Sprinkle the top with the ranch dressing mix and the au jus mix. 

Place peppers on top of mixes.  I used a mixture of jalapeno and pepperoncini peppers.  I like the pepper rings because they disintegrate in the cooking process and just become part of the gravy.  My family is not big on peppers and they never see them this way.  Don't leave these out though, because they really add flavor to this. If you don't use too many, they don't even add noticeable heat.

Add the stick of butter on top!  The butter is what makes the gravy in this soooo good!  Set your slow cooker to 8 hours on low and forget it. You do not add any additional water to this!  Your roast will be tender and delicious and will have made it's own gravy!   I served with mashed potatoes, but you could serve with egg noodles or for our deep south folks, rice.

Add the stick of butter on top!  The butter is what makes the gravy in this soooo good!  Set your slow cooker to 8 hours on low and forget it. You do not add any additional water to this!  Your roast will be tender and delicious and will have made it's own gravy!  

This is great served with mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or for our deep South friends, rice! 



Fried Apple Pies!

Fried pies are another southern classic that people love.  I don't think people make them much anymore though.  They are actually not all that hard to make, but they do take time.  It just seems that most people don't really know how they are made.  So when I went to cook with my mother last week, we did a batch of fried pies.  We usually use dried apples for the apple pies, but on this day she had some really good Gala apples so we decided to use them.  You can, of course, used the dried fruit.   We also made the dough for the pastry with a buttermilk baking mix, but a lot of folks do use canned biscuits.  In my opinion, the taste of the dough you make up is much flakier and better, but the biscuits work.  You will need the large biscuits though.    Here is what you will need:
Apple Filling
5 Gala apples or some other firm apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 stick butter (4 Tbs.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. cornstarch
2 cups buttermilk baking mix (like Bisquick)
1 cup water
1 stick melted butter (for brushing the tops)
Place the peeled, diced apples in a skillet with the butter sugar and salt.  Saute them until they cook down and get tender. 
Mix the apple juice, cinnamon, vanilla and cornstarch together.  Pour over the apples and bring to a quick boil then turn the heat to medium and cook until the juices thicken.  The apples should be cooked until they are mush but should be very tender.  Turn off and let this cool on the stove.  Place in the refrigerator and chill.  It's really best to do this the day before to allow sufficient time to get cold, but you could do it in the morning and have it cold enough by the late afternoon.   If the filling is not cold, it makes it really hard to keep it in the pies when you fry them.
Mix the baking mix and water until you get a soft dough, like biscuit dough.  You might have to add just wee bit more water than the 1 cup. It's really best to do this ahead and chill the dough also, but you can proceed from here. 
Divide the dough into 8 even sections.  Take each section and roll it out on a floured surface.
Cut about a 7" circle from each rolled dough section.  A good way to get a nice circle is to place a large saucer or bread and butter size plate down and then cut around it..voila, pretty circle of dough.  Place about 1//3 cup of the apple filling in the center. 
With a pastry brush wet the edge of the dough all the way around with a little water. Fold the dough over and seal them with the tines of a fork all the way around.  Continue with the other seven until they are all filled and sealed.  It  is a  time consuming little task making fried pies.  This might be why nobody knows how to make these!   Your family will love you for the effort though, so keep going, we are almost there!

Now time to fry and this is where we need to discuss your options.  You can deep fry these in a deep fryer of oil.  Actually, a lot of folks do it this way.  Just heat your oil to about 350 and drop them 1 or 2 at a time in and cook until golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Or you can fry them in a large skillet with about a 1/2 inch of oil in it. or my mother puts oil on her large griddle (like you cook a batch of pancakes on) and places all of the pies on them at one time.  Take the melted stick of butter and brush the uncooked side with it, then when you turn them, brush the other side with it. and brown the other side.  This actually works great and you can get them all cooked at one time and quickly.  With this method the pies are not as greasy as with the deep fried method, but for some people that is what they like about a fried pie...grease.  This produces a more buttery pie.  We love them like this, but you know between me, Mama and Paula Deen, we keep the dairy farmers in business with our butter!  You can't go wrong with either method...deep fry or pan fry. 

Fried Apple Pies!

Fried Squash...a Summer Favorite!

Next to fried green tomatoes, fried yellow squash might be my second summer favorite.  It doesn't have the little tart flavor of the green tomatoes, but it's still really good.   Some folks actually like it better for that very reason.  My mother, for example, doesn't care for fried green tomatoes, but she loves the fried squash.  

We use the yellow straight neck squash if we can get them, because they are more uniform in size and easier to slice in the same size slices.  If you don't have those available you can use the yellow crook neck squash.  You will just have some smaller slices and some bigger, slices. You need the medium size squash, not the little baby squash, but not the huge ones either.  The seeds get too big in those that have been allowed to get way too big.    It is also best to deep fry these.  They can be cooked really fast in one or two batches and then need to be served as soon as you get them done.   As an option, you could pour about an inch of oil in a skillet and fry them like that, but it takes longer to cook them and they won't be quite as crispy.  Here is what you will need:

3-4 straight neck yellow squash or crook neck yellow squash
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour (self rising or plain, doesn't matter)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere's) optional
oil for frying

Slice the squash in about 1/4 inch slices.  Pour buttermilk over them and let them stand a few minutes.   Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper.   Dredge the pieces of squash in the mixture until well coated.  Heat the deep fryer to 350 degrees.  Carefully drop the squash into the fryer in batches.  You will probably have 2 to 3 batches depending on the size of the fryer.  Let them cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip them over once to be sure they brown on both sides.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate.  I like to sprinkle lightly with Cajun seasoning at this point, but that is optional. Serve these immediately.  They are best when right out of the fryer!

Fried Squash!

Chicken and Dumplings...True Southern Comfort!

Chicken and dumplings, like so many of the southern classics, was more than likely born out of the need to stretch a meal to feed a lot of people.   Killing a chicken for dinner was not something you did every day years ago on the farm when those chickens laid eggs, eggs that could be sold or traded for other staples you needed, but didn't produce coffee and flour or sugar.   So if you sacrificed a chicken it was a big deal and you probably only gave up one.  One chicken was more than likely not enough to feed a housefull of kids, mama and daddy, and maybe grandma, grandpa and at times the farm hands.   This is where using flour to stretch that chicken out and fill a big ole pot full of goodness came in.  Nothing fills you up like all that doughy goodness and broth of a steaming bowl of dumplings.  The chicken becomes the less important part of the meal when homemade dumplings take center stage.   Weren't our southern ancestors smart people? 
Chicken and dumplings are also one of those classics that there must be thousands of recipes and techniques for making.  Nobody does it just the same.  Some cooks put shortening in the dough, some put butter, some use eggs, some just the chicken broth,  some people even make them with canned know what I think of that method, if you have read many of my  I won't elaborate on it further, but please don't do it.   Learn to make them the right way.  It's not hard, I promise and even if they aren't perfect, they will be better than made with canned biscuits.  I get queasy even typing that canned biscuit thing.   
OK, I admit it, I am a bit of a dumpling snob and my mother is to blame for this (just joking..sort of ).  Mama would say, of course, "I am to blame, the mother always gets blamed for everything" her best Jewish mother's voice (no we are not Jewish, but maybe should have been).  She's right by the way. We (mothers) do get blamed for everything, but that is a post for another day.  However, in this case, it's a good thing, because my mother can flat make some chicken and dumplings.  
My mother credits her dumpling recipe to one of her lifelong best friend's grandmother.  When Mama first married, she moved to Louisville, Ky from a town at the time that was much, much smaller.   Her best friend's grandmother, Goldie, also lived there and according to my mother, she was the best cook in the world.  She made the most wonderful dishes with the simplest ingredients and her chicken and dumplings were to die for.   My mother, being a new bride, wanted to learn, so Goldie taught her some of what she knew and chicken and dumplings was one of those things.  I think this lady gave my mother something much more than her recipes at a time she really needed it and that was comfort.   Mama was a young girl from the country, newly married and moved to a big, unfamiliar city with none of her own family anywhere near her and Goldie looked after her to some extent.  I would say that out of all of the probably hundreds of recipes my mother cooks and knows by heart, this one might be the most special to her.  
I have been blessed to have my mother around to teach me all of her recipes and she taught me to make dumplings a long time ago and I follow her method exactly, but my chicken and dumplings are never as good to me as my mother's, which is why I went to her to make these for you all.  Here is what you will need:
 4 whole chicken breasts, with the skin on ( you can use a whole chicken, but we only use the white meat in the dumplings)  
2 carrots, peeled and cut in about 2 inch pieces
1 onion, peeled and chopped in big pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut in 2 inch pieces
3 whole bay leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. chicken bouillon granules or 3 chicken bullion cubes
1 can cream of chicken soup
Dumpling Dough
2 cups self rising flour
1 cup chicken broth, chilled
Place the chicken breasts, the carrots, onion, celery, bay leaves, chicken bouillon granules, and salt in a dutch oven or similar big pan or stock pot and just cover with water.  Bring this to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered for about an hour and a half or two hours.  The chicken should be so tender it is falling off of the bone.  It's important to use the skin on chicken with the bones for this because this is what gives you the rich broth for your dumplings.   Remove the chicken to cool.  Once it has cooled, debone and either shred it or just sort of chop it in big pieces...not itty bitty pieces, they will get lost in the dumplings.  We only use white meat in our chicken and dumplings, but if you used a whole chicken do what you like. 
Place the strained, clear broth back in your pan. Discard the vegetables and bay leaves. This should be about 3 quarts of broth.Take 1 cup and reserve it for your dumplings.  Place it in the refrigerator to chill.  If I am in a hurry I put it in the freezer for a bit, but don't let it freeze.  Once the broth is chilled, you mix it with the 2 cup self rising flour to make the dough for your dumplings.  Mix to incorporate and knead just enough to make soft dough.  Do not over work the dough or your dumplings will be tough.   You can do all of this prep the day before you intend to serve this and the just store it all in the refrigerator overnight.  The dough rolls like a dream if it's cold actually, but I never plan ahead like that and just roll mine out as is.  I don't have a problem with them, as long as the broth has gotten real cold before hand.   Before you start to roll the dough and make the dumplings, add the cream of chicken soup to the broth and whisk it to mix, and turn it on medium/high heat to bring it up to a boil.   You probably won't need any more salt in this, because of the sodium in the canned soup, but taste the broth and season to your taste.  
Roll 1/2 the dough out on a floured surface.  My mother uses a marble slab which works great, what can I say that's how Mama ( okay, bad I know), but if you don't have one, like me, use wax paper, floured. Roll thin, about 1/8th of an inch. 
Sprinkle the dough with a little black pepper to your taste.  At home, I use a lot, my mother doesn't care for so much.  We use a pizza cutter to cut the dumplings.  You can use a sharp knife also.  It's so much easier taking pictures when someone else is doing the work! 

Cut all the way across in one direction and then cut across them vertically to make sort of rectangles.  This does not have to perfect by any means.
This is a better picture of how they will look.  Pick up several at a time and start to drop them in the boiling broth.  After these are all dropped, stir them gently around ONLY ONCE to be sure they aren't sticking together.  If you stand and stir the dumplings a lot, they will break up and you will have just soup.    The dumplings will puff some during this since they are made with self rising flour.  It's normal.
Roll the second half of the dough and drop these in the broth.  Turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 5 -10 minutes uncovered. 
Add the chicken and GENTLY stir it in.  You can cover the pot now.  The dumplings are cooked at this point.  Turn down to low.  When it is all heated through, the dumplings are ready to serve.
Mama's Chicken and Dumplings!

Oven Fried Parmesan Potatoes!

This is one of my favorite, easy potato recipes when I want potatoes as a side dish, but don't want anything too complicated.   There are never any leftovers when I make these, because everybody loves them.  They also don't take long to cook and you don't need many ingredients.  They are like a potato gratin without the fattening cream added.   You won't believe how easy this is and it will become an old stand by once you make it.  Here is what you need:

4-5 medium size potatoes, peeled or if you scrub them well you can leave the skin on
4 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Asiago cheese, shredded (if you don't have Asiago you could use shredded Parmesan or Swiss)
2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

Spray a shallow baking dish well with nonstick baking spray.  You can even use a deep pie plate.  I used my quiche pan.   Slice the potatoes in the thinnest slices you can get.  If you have a mandolin, that works great, otherwise just use a good sharp paring knife and slice very thin.  If they are too thick, they won't cook through and crisp in the cooking time I give here.  Layer half of the potatoes in the pan.  Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Slice half the butter in thin slices and lay over the potatoes.  Sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese.

Repeat another layer with the remaining potatoes, butter and Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and the garlic powder and seasoned salt. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese and top with the shredded Asiago cheese.  Drizzle the top with the olive oil, it's make the top crisp nicely.   Place in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Move to the top rack for 10 minutes longer to allow the top to get brown and a little crispier.

 Remove and serve immediately! 
OPTIONAL COOKING TIP:  If we are grilling out, I have cooked these on the grill.  Place them in an aluminum throw away type pan and follow the recipe instructions just like for the oven, except cover with foil and cook for about 20 minutes.  Carefully remove the pan to a plate and uncover.  They won't crisp as much on top, but will still be really good and you don't even have to turn the oven on.

These are so good and go with just about any main course!

Beef Stir Fry with Honey Ginger Sauce!

I love a good stir fry for several reasons.  They are quick, you can use just about any vegetables you have on hand and they stretch a small amount of meat into a meal that serves several people.   I usually use chicken or shrimp for stir fry, but I had this sirloin steak that was actually intended for fajitas when I bought it and I then I got this craving for stir fry.   The sauce that is used in this stir fry is the best part of it.  It's a combination of honey, soy, garlic and ginger and with those ingredients you can't go wrong.   Also, it took about 20 minutes to make, if you don't count the time for marinating the meat.   Here is what you will need:

1 1b. sirloin steak, sliced thin or you could use flank steak
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger powder or 1 Tbs. ginger root, minced
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 10 oz frozen stir fry vegetables or equivalent fresh vegetables (broccoli, red or green peppers, snow peas, water chestnuts, onions or whatever you prefer)
1 can sliced water chestnuts (optional)
1 cup cashews (optional)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
2 Tbs. butter
dash of salt
dash of black pepper

2 cups uncooked rice, cooked to serve over

I bought about a pound of sirloin steak already sliced thin and cut those strips into bite size pieces.  Mix the water, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger in a bowl.  Place the beef in a Ziploc bag and pour about 1/3 of the sauce over the beef.  Close the bag and refrigerate for at least an hour.   Reserve the rest of the sauce for the stir fry.

Heat oil in a wok or skillet with deep sides.  Add 1 Tbs. butter to it.  Drain and discard the marinade the beef was in. Place the beef in the pan and stir on high heat for about 3 minutes or until it's no longer pink.  Keep it moving in the pan.   Remove from the pan to a plate.

Place the vegetables in the pan.  If it needs a little more oil, add it first and get it hot.  I added a cup of fresh, sliced mushrooms and a cup of shredded carrots to the frozen blend.  You can add whatever you have on hand or just use the frozen vegetables.  This is very flexible to your tastes.   Stir fry the vegetables for about 3 minutes.  Add the beef back to pan along with the other tablespoon of butter.  Stir fry together for a minute or two.  Whisk the cornstarch into the remainder of the sauce.  Pour this over the beef and vegetable mixture. 

At this point, if you are using water chestnuts or cashews, add them in now.  Bring this up to a boil and then reduce the heat.  The sauce will thicken and should coat everything nicely.  Cook together for about 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately over cooked rice.
Beef Stir Fry with Honey Ginger Sauce!