Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Here's a warm dinner (because spring is taking her sweet time arriving) that is easy to prep.

Set it up in your slow cooker before heading out to work or a busy day of running errands and come home to a slightly spicy, delicious meal.

The leftovers taste even better the next day.

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice
Inspired by this recipe from the Food Network

1 pound Italian sausage, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock (or broth)
1 smoked ham hock
Sliced green onions for serving
4-6 cups cooked rice for serving

Cook sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat until each piece is nicely browned. (Sausage does not need to be cooked through.)

Drain and transfer sausage to bowl of slow cooker. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, beans, spices and brown sugar. Stir to combine. Add chicken stock and mix well. Nestle ham hock into center of crock.

Cook on low for about 7-8 hours. Alternatively, cook on high for 2 hours, then cook on low for another 3-4 hours or until ready to serve.

Serve in bowls with rice. Top with a sprinkle of sliced green onions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Green Chile Turkey Quesadillas

I roasted a small turkey over the weekend. Winter's still clinging on here in Peoria so why not keep the oven going?

Now we have lots of leftover turkey. (Of course, you can easily sub leftover roasted chicken in this recipe.) I'll likely be making a batch of Cajun Turkey Jambalaya on Friday.

Last night, we had these quesadillas for dinner. I made them ahead and my boys warmed them up to eat while I headed out to a meeting. Nothing was left when I got home, so yay!

The recipe took about an hour from start to finish and made enough of two meals, so I froze 4 of the quesadillas. That's a win in my book.

Mangia! Mangia!

Green Chile Turkey Quesadilla

2-3 cups chopped cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 10 ounce can green enchilada sauce
1 4 ounce can diced green chilies
8 large (10 inch) flour tortillas
3 to 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray
For topping: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, sliced green onions

In a medium bowl, combine turkey, enchilada sauce and chilies. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spread pan with cooking spray. Place one tortilla in pan. Sprinkle cheese (scant 1/4 cup) on one half of tortilla. Top cheese with about 1/3 cup turkey mixture. Sprinkle more cheese on top.

(Note: I just eye balled the amounts of cheese and turkey mixture when I made these, so use an amount that seems best to you.)

Fold other half of tortilla over mixture and press down with a large spatula. Cook until cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute. Then flip quesadilla over to brown the other side, cooking for another minute.

Place on plate and cover to keep warm, or place on a baking sheet and hold in an oven warmed to 250 degrees.

Repeat process with remaining ingredients. You may need to lower the heat on the pan. You may also need to wipe out the pan once or twice to remove any blackened bits.

Serve warm with sour cream, salsa, guacamole and/or sliced green onions.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Connor's Chocolate Chip Muffins

My sister and her family are visiting this week and my nephew Connor needs at least one breakfast with chocolate chip muffins. And there can be no banana mixed into the muffins.

So Connor and my niece Layne helped me whip up a big batch of buttermilk chocolate chip muffins. We made large ones and some mini muffins, so that everyone could taste-test them.

Layne made a list to make sure everyone got a sample. Her Uncle Bob tried to refuse, but eventually ate 3 of them.

My boys, Layne and Connor say these muffins go great with bacon, hard boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast. Connor, who last appeared here when he inspired this cucumber salad recipe, also likes these muffins for dessert.

What's your favorite chocolate chip muffin recipe? Let us know!

Mangia! Mangia!

Connor's Chocolate Chip Muffins
Inspired by this recipe from

2 /12 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini or regular size)
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spread with coking spray. (This recipe makes a bit more than 12 muffins, unless you use an extra large muffin tray.)

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe dish and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture in the large bowl. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry flour and gently stir to combine.

Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tins. Fill about 3/4 of the way to the top.

Layne filling the muffin cups.
Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes. Then lower the heat and bake for about 12-14 minutes or until the muffins are browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Mini muffins will cook faster.

Mini muffins.
Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before enjoying with cousins for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack or dessert!

Connor tested and approved.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Halibut with Green Goddess Sauce

We try to eat fish at last once a week and Lent is always a great time to try some new dinner recipes.

I usually make halibut with a sauce of tomatoes and olives or capers. This Green Goddess Sauce, however, is lighter with plenty of zing. It's a healthier riff on tartar sauce with all the same flavor.

What's your go-to fish dish? Let us know!

Mangia! Mangia!

Halibut with Green Goddess Sauce
Inspired by a recipe from Penzeys Spices.

2 pounds halibut fillets
Lemon juice from one lemon
Garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup mayo
1 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Penzeys' Green Goddess dressing base mix

*Note: If you don't have Penzeys, you can make your own Green Goddess mix by combining 1 teaspoon each of dried:

  • Onion flakes
  • Basil
  • Celery flakes
  • Minced garlic
  • Dill weed
  • Sugar

Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. Place halibut fillets in a shallow pan and drizzle with lemon juice. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

While fish marinates, make the sauce and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir. Keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

Remove fish from refrigerator. Drizzle with melted butter. Bake fish for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork. Remove from oven and transfer to serving dish. Top with Green Goddess sauce and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Lemon Linguine with Peas & Citrus Shrimp

Here's some comfort food for spring. The creamy sauce is light and bright with citrusy flavor. The entire meal takes about 30 minutes to pull together, making it an easy weeknight dinner.

Mangia! Mangia!

Lemon Linguine with Peas & Citrus Shrimp
Inspired by these recipes from the New York Times, Martha Stewart and Good Housekeeping

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound linguine, cooked to package directions
1 cup frozen peas, optional
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and set to boil.

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Arrange shrimp on wire rack. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until shrimp is pink and cooked through. Remove from oven, tent with foil to keep warm, and set aside.

While shrimp is baking, cook pasta until al dente. If using peas, add them to pasta during last minute of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Drain and return to pot.

While pasta is cooking, make the lemon sauce. In a small saucepan, heat teaspoon olive oil. Add shallots, she salt and pepper and cook about 4 minutes or until tender. Add cream and lemon zest and cook until it reaches a slow boil. Continue to cook, stirring often, until sauce begins to thicken. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour lemon sauce over pasta in pot and gently toss until all pasta is coated in sauce. Add a drizzle of pasta water to thin sauce if needed.

Transfer pasta to serving bowl. Top with shrimp and parsley and a generous helping of shredded Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cheesy Spinach & Bacon Triangles

Spinach is often on our dinner table and I am forever trying to find ways to get my kids to eat the leafy vegetable.

Who wouldn't like spinach with cheese and bacon? My boys — of course.

The good news: My husband and I loved this side dish, and since there were lots of leftovers, my main course for lunch the next day was good to go.

You can tailor this to your tastes by using your favorite type of cheese or leaving out the bacon.

Mangia! Mangia!

Cheesy Spinach & Bacon Triangles
Inspired by this recipe from Family Circle

Cooking spray
3 10 ounce packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8-9 slices of thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 to 6 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Generously spray bottom and sides of a 13-by-9 inch baking dish.

Wrap spinach in a clean kitchen towel. Holding towel over the sink, squeeze out as much water as you can.

Heat a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and cook bacon until crispy. Transfer bacon to a dish lined with paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings.

In a large bowl, mix 1 tablespoon bacon fat with flour, eggs, milk, baking powder and salt and pepper. Add spinach, cheese, bacon and green onions and stir until well combined.

Spread mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until top starts to turn light brown in spots.

Remove from oven and cool slightly. Cut into triangles.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Butternut & Bean Soup with Couscous

There's nothing like a good soup to help you forget the troubles of your day.

I've made this one – from the January issue of Good Housekeeping magazine – a few times now. It's somehow light and filling. And the leftovers taste even better since the flavors get a chance to develop. (If your family is 2 kids and 2 adults, you'll probably have leftovers.)

Only one of my boys liked this, but since my husband keeps talking about eating more beans for dinner, the kids are determined not to.

The mix-in calls for couscous, but I think quinoa would work just as well.

Mangia! Mangia!

Butternut & Bean Soup with Couscous
Inspired by this Good Housekeeping recipe

1 large butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 15 ounce can white beans (like Northern) drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can chick peans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup raw couscous (or quinoa)
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
2 green onions, sliced

Cut the squash to separate the neck from the base. Reserve base for another use. Peel neck of butternut squash and chop into 1/2 inch cubes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add squash and cover. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven, add onion and 1 tablespoon oil and cover. Cook for 6 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, thyme and squash. Bring to a boil.

Using a fork, mash the white beans and add to the soup. Add the chick peas and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer.

Prepare the couscous or quinoa according to package directions. Fluff with fork and gently stir in pistachios, cilantro, apricots and green onions.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with couscous mix-in.