Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bean and Bacon Soup

This is such a throwback to my childhood! I loved the bean and bacon soup in the red and white can. However, as an adult, when I tried that childhood favorite, I was sorely disappointed. So, I set out to make my own version of this warm and comforting soup. And I just have to say, the results are delicious! This is my all-time favorite soup to eat with grilled cheese sandwiches and my kids LOVE it. Seriously. The 1 1/2-year-old had two huge servings and the 4-year-old kept telling me how yummy it was. Score! 

This does take a few more steps compared to the canned version. But it is worth it. Trust me!

Bean and Bacon Soup

1 pound smoky bacon, cut into chunks*
1 onion, diced
3-4 stalks of celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 cans great northern (or white) beans
Salt and pepper

In a Dutch oven, cook bacon chunks until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels, then remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. To the bacon fat in the Dutch oven, add onion, celery, and carrots over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. 

Sprinkle in the flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook another minute. Whisk in chicken stock, add bay leaves and cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small blender or food processor, mince your cooked bacon. This is optional, of course, but so worth it. Bacon bits in every bite!

Add the beans and bacon and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Taste for seasonings and remove the bay leaves. Serve in big bowls and enjoy! 

*Cook's Note: We've used low-sodium bacon and found it didn't have enough taste, so we added about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke at the same time as the chicken stock and that added the smoky flavor we were looking for.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

One Pot Shrimp and Spinach with Orzo

I love it when we find a weeknight recipe that everyone likes and is easy to make. This particular one fits the bill in all those ways. From prep to table, this delicious shrimp dish took about 30 minutes, and I can't say enough about how yummy it was--for me, Hubby, and our girls. We will be including this one in our weekly meal plan over and over again, I have no doubt!

This started as a recipe on Buzzfeed. When I looked over the ingredient amounts, I felt like they were definitely off--especially if I wanted to feed my entire family, so I adjusted accordingly. The method is exactly the same, but this will feed 4 people easily. 

One Pot Shrimp and Spinach with Orzo
*Adapted from Buzzfeed 

4 tablespoons water
2 sticks butter, cut into pieces
3 teaspoons lemon zest (from 2 small lemons)
2 sprigs thyme
1 1/2-2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, diced
2 cups orzo
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups spinach
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Over low heat, add water to a Dutch oven and slowly add the butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking constantly to make sure the water and butter combines and doesn't separate. Add the lemon zest and thyme springs and stir. Add the shrimp and poach for 8-10 minutes, until shrimp is fully cooked. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Discard thyme sprigs.

Add garlic, shallots, and orzo to the remaining liquid in the Dutch oven. Salt and pepper to taste and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed (this will only take a minute or two). Increase heat to medium-high and pour in the chicken stock. Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn't stick, until the orzo is al dente, about 9 minutes. Once the orzo is al dente, add the spinach and stir until just wilted. 

Remove from heat and serve the spinach and orzo topped with the shrimp and garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

I am a huge fan of meals that can be made in one (or two) pots. The fewer dishes, the better! My least favorite kitchen chore is doing the dishes. In fact, when Hubby is on his weekend, the dishes are his job. He knows I hate doing them, but when he works, it's on me since he leaves right after we finish eating. One more reason I really, really look forward to his weekends!

This skillet chicken pot pie is a wonderful, one pot dish that is a huge crowd pleaser. When it comes out of the oven, it looks so yummy and amazing, you really feel like you've got a handle on the whole cooking thing. Look what I made! Look how pretty! It looks delicious and smells like heaven! Yep, it's a good one.

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

12-inch cast iron skillet
3-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup half and half
4 cups frozen veggies, thawed (I like a mix of carrots, peas, and corn)
Salt and pepper
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 425 º. Heat oil and butter in the cast iron skillet on medium-low heat. Add shallots and sauté for 3 minutes, then add garlic and sage and cook for 30 seconds. Add flour, stir to coat. (You can add a drizzle of extra oil here, if necessary). Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth 1/2 cup at a time, whisking as you go. Whisk in half and half and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken. Add the veggies and chicken and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Unroll the thawed puff pastry onto the top of the skillet. Carefully pinch down the edges (the skillet is warm!) and brush with the beaten egg. Cut a few lines in the pastry sheet to vent. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375º and bake for 5-7 minutes longer until the top is nicely browned. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve. Enjoy!

Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

I try to be really good about meal planning at the beginning of every week. I think that things just go a bit smoother when I have an organized plan for meals. However, I sometimes fall a bit short on that goal. When that happens, we have a few go-to recipes that do the job on short notice, such as a simple chicken noodle soup that does the job when we are in a time crunch. It's just chicken, stock, carrots, celery, and pepper. Easy!

But, lately, we've been obsessed with this slightly more complicated version. It is so delicious and full of many layers of flavor. Even though you start with boxed stock, you add so much to the complexity of it that, by the end, you'll think you used homemade chicken stock. It's comforting and a little fancy (for chicken noodle soup, anyway) and completely delicious. It's our favorite chicken noodle soup recipe, hands down!

Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup flour
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3/4 of a small bag of baby carrots (probably two cups worth), diced
5 stalks of celery, diced
Rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 boxes of chicken stock
4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons chicken base (or you could use chicken bouillon, but I really would recommend the chicken base)
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bag of Reames noodles (in the freezer section of your grocery store)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and lots of freshly cracked pepper

Melt butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté chopped onions, celery, and carrots with a pinch of salt and lots of pepper in butter and oil for 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in 2 boxes of stock and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaves and thyme and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add in 4 cups of water and chicken base. Season again with pepper. Add the noodles and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then add the shredded chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Finally, add the parsley and taste for seasonings. I usually add more pepper at this point, but we love lots of pepper! Cook for 5 minutes more, then remove the bay leaves and serve. Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Chicken Chow Mein

My husband LOVES Chinese food. He craves it like I craved beef and spicy food when I was pregnant with my girls. It's actually pretty funny, since all I have to do is say broccoli beef or fried rice or sweet and sour chicken or chow mein and he starts drooling, Pavlov's dogs style. When we stumbled across this recipe, I decided to add some shredded rotisserie chicken to it to make it a meal and we were all obsessed: me, Hubby, the 4-year-old, and the toddler. We now make this once every other week without fail. It is fast, easy, and completely delicious. I love having this chicken chow mein in my recipe arsenal, since it is always a hit!

There are a couple of important things to note in this recipe. The first is the yakisoba noodles. You can find those in the refrigerated section in your grocery store's produce section. The other is the ginger. The original recipe calls for grated fresh ginger. We tried it that way and thought that it made the recipe taste a little sweet, which we didn't like, so we use ground ginger. It has a spicier flavor that we love. These are just our preferences, so use what you like! 

Chicken Chow Mein
*Adapted from Damn Delicious

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded 
4 stalks celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cups cabbage, chopped
2 packages yakisoba noodles, sauce packets discarded 
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
Crispy chow mein noodles, optional

For the sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 heaping teaspoon white pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside. Cook yakisoba noodles according to the package directions. We do ours in the microwave. You just poke a couple of holes in the packages and microwave them separately for a minute and 20 seconds, give or take (again, we've made this so many times that we have it down to a science). Once done, break up the noodles and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat canola oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add onions and celery and sauté for 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cabbage and sauté for 2 minutes. Add chicken and noodles and stir to heat through. Make a hole in the ingredients and pour in the sauce mixture. Remove from heat and gently toss the chow mein to get it all coated in the sauce. Serve immediately topped with crispy chow mein noodles (the ones in the blue can), if desired. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

White Chicken Chili

Since fall has finally come (sort of--it's supposed to be 70+ degrees this coming week--ugh), we are in full-on soup mode. I need it at least once a week for dinner. It's good for my soul! 

This particular recipe was something we made on a whim. I took a recipe I found online and modified it based on our tastes and what I thought would work a bit better. From prep to serving, it only took me 45 minutes, and it could easily be adapted to the slow cooker. Everyone enjoyed it--Hubs, the almost-four-year-old (on Wednesday!), and the almost-one-year-old (on Tuesday!). As for me, I didn't just like it, I loved it. I had two huge bowls, and, while I'm way too full, it was worth it. So, even though I didn't take a photo of this recipe, I'm blogging it because I NEED to. I need to have it on hand next time I need soup. You know, like next week!

White Chicken Chili
*Adapted from

3 chicken breasts or a whole chicken, cooked and shredded (rotisserie chicken is great for this!)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 32-oz. box chicken stock
3 cans white beans (Great Northern), rinsed and drained
2 4-oz. cans diced green chilies
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
Shredded pepper jack and crushed tortilla chips, for serving

In a Dutch oven on medium heat, sauté onions in oil for 8 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add garlic and sauté an additional 30 seconds, then sprinkle on flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Add in green chilies, beans, salt and pepper, oregano, cayenne, and cumin and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in cooked, shredded chicken and stir. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add sour cream and heavy cream. Stir to incorporate and then serve with shredded pepper jack and crushed tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chicken and Dumplings

I love my family, especially my mom, who is one of the best cooks in the world, I swear. Nothing compares to some of her dishes for comfort and deliciousness. That said, because my dad wasn't an adventurous eater when we were growing up, my mom had a meat and potatoes philosophy when it came to dinner and had a number of meals that were on a permanent rotation. We didn't have onions or garlic in our food, unless it was the powdered form. Fortunately, Hubs and I are the exact opposite and really like to try new recipes with all kinds of ingredients-especially garlic and onions!

This recipe is one that I created because, although I didn't have chicken and dumplings growing up, Hubby did. Coming from a Ukrainian family meant that dumplings were a staple, according to him, and he really wanted chicken and dumplings a few weeks ago, so I obliged. We had a rotisserie chicken from Costco (the best kind of chicken for just about any dish) and Hubby didn't want carrots, so I used peas and celery and then chopped up the celery tops to add to the dumplings because I love, love, love the flavor of celery leaves. I've made this a couple of times since and I love it even more each time. It's even better the next day, which is really nice! The best part of the recipe is that it's easy to change it up. Add carrots or diced potatoes or any other veggies you like. We won't be changing it up much because we love it so much as is. Another permanent recipe dish, for sure!

Chicken and Dumplings

3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or one large rotisserie chicken, shredded)
1 bunch of celery, with the tops
2 shallots or 1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock (1 1/2 boxes)
1/3 cup milk
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2/3 cup frozen peas

For the dumplings:
1 1/4 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup milk
1-2 tablespoons minced celery tops

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Chop up four ribs of celery and add to the pot with the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 6 minutes, or until softened a bit. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly. Add stock and bring to a boil, whisking to remove all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pot. Boil for 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add milk, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste and cook an additional 5 minutes. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water and whisk into the broth, then add chicken and peas. Heat through for a few minutes while you make the dumplings.

For the dumplings: Mix Bisquick, milk, and chopped celery tops together in a medium bowl. Gently spoon the mixture by tablespoonfuls on top of the chicken stew. Cover the pot and gently steam the dumplings on the stovetop on low heat for 20 minutes until firm and puffed. Spoon into bowls and enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beef Stew in a Red Wine Sauce

A terrible photo of an absolutely amazing meal!

I have been very lucky this pregnancy, in that I have been able to cook and enjoy it almost the entire time (the first few months were a bit iffy!). I'm also lucky to have a husband that LOVES food and gets really, really excited about trying new recipes and techniques. He's a great help in the kitchen, too. This recipe was definitely one that required an extra set of hands because of all the steps--and because I'm eight months pregnant and the size of a duplex, so I don't move very fast!

In terms of work, this particular recipe is really up there, but the end result is worth it a thousand times over. Every flavor was amazing, every component was worth the work it took, every bite was heaven. Sometimes a dish is just so perfect that you can't help but smile when you eat it (and maybe your eyes roll back in your head a bit--I'm not saying mine did, but . . . yeah, they did). Because we changed the second part of this recipe so much, I wanted to make sure that I blogged it so we won't forget exactly what we did. I'm eventually going to make a family recipe book, which will include our favorite dishes. This one will absolutely be in that book--with a much better set of photos! My push present for this baby is going to be a new camera and lens--thanks, Hubby! Anyway, here is the beef stew in a red wine sauce in all its delicious glory!

Beef Stew in a Red Wine Sauce
*Adapted from Jacques Pépin

First phase:

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds beef stew meat, cut in 2 inch chunks
Salt and Pepper
1 yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 bottle dry red wine**
2 bay leaves
1 thyme sprig

**We used Costco's Kirkland Signature Côtes du Rhône, which was inexpensive and yummy. For more sauce, I might use a bottle and a half next time.

Preheat the oven to 350º. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper and brown in a single layer (you'll need to cook it in batches), about 3 minutes per side. Remove the meat, place on a plate, and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add a little more olive oil, if necessary. Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and any juices on the plate back into the pot and sprinkle with flour. Stir to coat the meat, then pour in the red wine. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring to incorporate all the delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Cover and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.

Second phase:

1 package of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, finely diced
15 baby bella mushrooms, diced
15 baby carrots, diced
Salt and pepper

Sauté bacon in a large skillet until cooked through and a bit crispy. Remove and place on a plate with paper towels and set aside. Drain off all but 1-2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and add onion, mushrooms, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 15 minutes, or until the veggies have softened and the mushrooms have released their liquid.

To serve:

Add a healthy dollop of mashed potatoes to a bowl. Place a few delicious pieces of super tender meat on top of the potatoes, then sprinkle on some bacon and a generous amount of the veggies. Top with the red wine sauce and enjoy every blissful bite!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

CrockPot Honey Bourbon Chicken

Instagram has become my saving grace for getting food photos in the early darkness of winter!

We are so over holiday food. After Thanksgiving, we ate leftovers for a week, so if I don't see another turkey again until next year, I'd be really happy. Hubs and I have been craving Asian food for the last few weeks, so I thought I'd try something new to satisfy the craving. I am always a bit hesitant when it comes to teriyaki-style chicken in the CrockPot with honey in the recipe. I have tried a few of these recipes and it always comes out too sweet. So, when I saw this particular recipe, I was really nervous. But it sounded good and I had all the ingredients, so I committed. I cut back on the honey a bit, which made it just about perfect. This wound up being a huge hit! It's in my permanent recipe file, as per Hubby's request. Please don't leave out the toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions; they really made the dish.

HUGE bonus: The two-year-old was a big fan, too! Lately, she's been all about oranges, carrots, and bananas, so it was great to see her scarfing down the chicken. The toasted sesame seeds were a big selling point, of course!

One more note: Despite the name, this dish does not have any bourbon in it. You could add some if you like, but it's not in the original recipe-and I didn't have any, so it worked out!

CrockPot Honey Bourbon Chicken
*Adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

4 chicken breasts (I used frozen, because that's what I had on hand)
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1-2 tablespoons water
Cooked rice
Chopped green onions
Toasted sesame seeds

Place chicken in CrockPot and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle chopped onion on top of chicken. Mix garlic, honey, soy sauce, ketchup, canola oil, and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. (My chicken was frozen, so I cooked it on high for about 4 hours.)

When the chicken is cooked and comes apart easily with a fork, remove from CrockPot and shred. Set aside. In a cup, combine one tablespoon cornstarch with one tablespoon water. Pour into sauce and stir. If it's not thick enough, repeat with an additional tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water.

Place the shredded chicken back in the sauce and stir to coat. Serve over rice with chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweet Potato, Caramelized Shallot, and Goat Cheese Tart

Oh, so good. So, so good!
 Hubby and I are on a healthy, whole foods kick. We purchased a quarter of a cow from one of his co-workers, who has a beef farm, which resulted in 175 pounds of organic, grass-fed beef filling our freezer. We are splitting it with my parents, but I can't tell you how excited I am to see all that wonderful meat! It was really cost-effective too, when you broke it all down.

In addition to our beautiful quarter beef, we have started using Full Circle produce. They deliver a box of certified organic produce to our front door once a week. Now, I am NOT one of those it-must-be-organic-or-I'm-going-to-freak-out types, but it is really exciting to get such good, local produce (I am a big proponent of eating local!) at such a great price. And delivered to our door, no less! The best thing about it is that we are being forced to cook outside the box, figuratively speaking. Just this week, we got a pie pumpkin, a bunch of kale, yams, an avocado, shallots, valencia oranges, persimmons, and fuji apples. We found out that persimmons are yummy! And I sautéed some kale with red pepper flakes, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. It was delicious!

The best thing I've made with some of this amazing produce was a sweet potato, caramelized shallot, and goat cheese tart. I actually cheated and made it the day before we got the box of produce because I had a bunch of sweet potatoes, but I'm sure it will be just as good when I make it again with the yams! This is my favorite thing I've made in a long time. Hubs enjoyed it, but he's a meat lover, so this vegetarian dish wasn't in his top 5. It was definitely in mine though! I can't even begin to describe how yummy it was, and although a bit labor intensive, the results are SO worth it. Thank you to Full Circle for posting this recipe, which I will be using for the rest of my life. I swear. The only change I MIGHT make would be to sprinkle some crumbled bacon on top. Because everything is better with bacon. Maybe.

Oh, and I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. It was 7:30 when I started it, so it didn't get done until around 9. 9pm in the fall=crummy light!

Sweet Potato, Caramelized Shallot, and Goat Cheese Tart
*From Full Circle

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 1/4 pounds (2 medium) sweet potatoes or garnet yams, peeled and thinly sliced (we used a mandolin)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

Preheat oven to 400º.  In a medium saucepan, heat oil oer medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Spray a 10-inch tart pan with non-stick spray (we used our Misto) and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Place sweet potatoes or yams in overlapping layers, starting at the outer edge and spiraling inward to make one layer. Sprinkle some shallots, thyme, Parm, goat cheese, salt and pepper, and repeat the process to create 3 layers.

Cover the top of the tart with crumbled bacon, if you're using it (I'm still on the fence about the bacon), and any remaining cheese (I set aside some Parm so I had plenty to sprinkle on top), then very lightly salt.

Bake until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 40-45 minutes. Remove and cut into wedges to serve. It also reheats really well the next day. Enjoy!