Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Chicken Stew with Sausage and Cannellini Beans

We all have those meals we love to make for family and friends.

Mine include Baked ZitiCajun Turkey Jambalaya and Turkey, Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili.

And this favorite, straight from the pages of the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook. The first time I made this -- way back in 2012, I was hooked. It was my first time cooking with fennel and the amazing flavor it imparts to the dish is addicting.

I've since served this up to many of our house guests, but hadn't made it recently. So glad I did. This stew does require some prep work, which makes it great for a weekend, not to mention cold, cloudy days.

Mangia! Mangia!

Chicken Stew with Sausage and Cannellini Beans

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound mild or sweet sausage links, sliced
2 onions, minced
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced (remove the stops and the core and cut in half first)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups low sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
2 bay leaves
2, 15 ounce cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
6 ounces baby spinach
Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping

Cut off extra fat from chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.

Over medium-high flame, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet. In batches, brown chicken on both sides, about 5 to 8 minutes per side. Add more oil if needed. Place cooked chicken in bowl until next steps.

Heat remaining oil in the pan. Add sausage and brown well. Transfer to bowl with chicken. Reserve 1 tablespoon of fat in pan and pour off the rest.

Add onions, fennel, garlic, tomato paste, thyme and red pepper to pan and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in wine, scraping up browned bits. Add 1 cup broth and stir to smooth out any lumps.

Transfer to slow cooker. Add 3 cups of broth and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Add chicken, sausage and any juices in the bowl. Cover and cook 4 to 6 hours on low.

Remove chicken to large plate or cutting board and shred into small pieces with two forks.

Skim off any fat on top of stew and remove bay leaves.

Stir in beans and spinach. Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes to wilt spinach. Add chicken, stir and allow to heat through.

If stew is too thick, add hot broth.

Ladle into bowls and season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Turkey & White Bean Chili

This soup is cozy, slightly spicy and easy enough to make on a weeknight.

Plus, it's got beans. My husband is on a mission to eat more legumes, much to the horror of my children.

One of my boys did taste this chili and said it was pretty good. But he still cooked himself mac & cheese instead.

Fine by me. The turkey and lime in this dish are super tasty, so I'm enjoying the leftovers.

Mangia! Mangia!

Turkey & White Bean Chili

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 cups chopped cooked turkey
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (juice from 1 medium/large lime)
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 8-10 minutes.

Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano. Stir and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds.) Add beans and stir. Then add broth and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes

Remove 2 cups of the bean mixture and puree in a blender or food processor. Return bean soup to pot and add turkey. Cook until heated through.

Add tomato, lime juice, salt and pepper. Stir and cook 5 minutes more. Dish up into bowls and top with more cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas

I have high hopes for 2018 — for my business, my family and my country. Leaving nothing to chance, I decided on a New Year's Day dinner of black-eyed peas and collard greens. Southern culinary tradition has it that you eat these foods on January 1 to bring you luck, prosperity and wealth in the new year. Who can argue with that?

Of course, to soak up all the yummy juices I baked cornbread, too. Making these foods comes naturally to me, thanks to the Tennessee side of my family. Beans and cornbread equaled a regular supper (we didn't say dinner) growing in my family. I'm pleased to say my husband and daughters now enjoy it. If you've never tried it, this wintertime meal is cozy and comforting. Give it a try. 

Wishing you luck, prosperity and wealth in 2018.


Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
6 cups chicken broth 
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 leftover ham bone with some ham remnants or 8 ounces of ham
4 sliced of bacon cut up into half-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste

Soak beans in water overnight. This step is optional. The beans will probably be fine if you skip this step; you'll just have to let them cook a bit longer.

Rinse beans and place in slow cooker.

Add all other ingredients. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until beans are tender. Serve with greens and cornbread.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Eggnog Banana Bread

My sons discovered they like eggnog this year, and now we have two half-full containers of the festive drink sitting in the fridge. So I started thinking about ways to use it up (I didn't know about Amy's Eggnog Pancakes until yesterday!) along with the ripe bananas on my kitchen counter.

My first experiment was a recipe for banana bread with the spices used in eggnog, but we found it kind of bland.

A few online searches later and I hit upon a combination of recipes that uses up some eggnog, is generous with cinnamon and nutmeg and includes an extra kick from rum or bourbon.

This bread stays moist thanks to the banana, there is limited sugar and you definitely get that eggnog-y taste.

The kicker is the icing and cinnamon sprinkled on top.

I prefer serving this warm, but my kids like it room temperature — with a glass of eggnog on the side, of course!

Mangia! Mangia!

Eggnog Banana Bread
Inspired by recipes from Cooking Light and Taste of Home

1-1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/8 cups white whole wheat flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup eggnog
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons bourbon, rum or brandy

For the icing:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon or rum
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Note: This recipe will make 3 mini loaves, 18 muffins or 2 larger loaves. Fill your pans or muffin tins 3/4 full.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bread pans or muffin tins with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a second large bowl, use and electric or stand mixer to beat together the eggs, eggnog, bananas, sugar, butter and rum. Beat until well mixed.

Add dry ingredients to eggnog-banana mixture in two batches, beating after each addition until just combined. Scrap edges of bowl as needed.

Pour into loaf pans or muffin tins. Bake loaf pans 35 to 35 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Bake muffins 20 to 25 minutes.

While bread cools, mix powdered sugar, rum and heavy cream in a small bowl until a smooth icing forms. Use a fork or whisk dipped in the icing to drizzle over the bread. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Eggnog Pancakes

Breaking culinary news: It's the last day of the kids' winter break, and I decided to whip up pancakes — using up leftover eggnog — for daughter Penny. I've put cinnamon in pancakes and French toast but never nutmeg. Why? Such wasted opportunity. It's soooo good. Thumbs up endorsement by Penny, too.

Don't waste your eggnog! Make pancakes instead!


Eggnog Pancakes
1 cup flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup eggnog

Mix together dry ingredients. Add egg and eggnog and blend thoroughly. Cook on lightly greased griddle, flipping pancakes just once.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Peppermint Pretzel Bark

My pantry is overflowing with half-full bags of pretzels and lots of chocolate chips. Some festive bark is just the way to use them up.

After reading a bunch of online recipes, I decided that making bark was the next best thing to slaving away over Christmas cookies.

Making this holiday dessert couldn't be easier. (Although my husband will tell you that the crunching sound that comes from breaking up pretzels is disturbing if you're trying to watch TV. LOL)

The bark is also nice to give as gifts when you wrap it up in a cute little box or bag and a bow.

What treats are you making this year?

Mangia! Mangia!

Peppermint Pretzel Bark

1 16 ounce package of chocolate or vanilla candy coating
2 12 ounce bags of chocolate or vanilla chocolate chips
1 to 2 cups broken pretzels (any shape) crushed into small pieces
About 12 candy canes, crushed (or buy 2 of the 2 ounce bags of crushed peppermint)

Note: To crush pretzels, place in a gallon size ziplock bag. Smash with the bottom of a metal measuring cup to break into pieces.

Line a large baking sheet or 2 smaller ones with parchment paper.

Place candy coating in a large bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Add chips and microwave another 1 minute. Stir well. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each one until chocolate is smooth.

Add pretzels and mix well, until all pretzel pieces are coated. Mix in about half of the crushed peppermint.

Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet and spread out into a layer that is about 1/4 inch thick.

Sprinkle with remaining crushed candy canes and gently press them down with the back of a spatula.

Place baking sheet in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Remove tray and break up bark by hand, or use a sharp knife to cut into pieces. Store in airtight containers. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Grandma's Corn Flake Cookies

These cookies are not gorgeous but oh, are they sinful.

And so full of memories for me. My Grandma used to make corn flake cookies. They never lasted long. After Grandma was gone, we'd often make them at Christmas, but no one in the family ever seemed to know the exact measurements or have notes on the best liner for the baking sheets (parchment!). Figuring it out was always part of the fun.

Talking with my siblings and cousins about the right way to make these cookies always reminds me of our childhood, when our biggest worry was what was for dinner.

A recent visit from my brother made me think about cornflake cookies and I wanted to make them for my boys. We ran out of time to whip up a batch while their uncle was here, but since we had bought all the supplies, I made some this week.

With just 3 ingredients, these treats are super simple to make.  The result? A delicious cookie that is hard to resist.

Mangia! Mangia!

Grandma's Corn Flake Cookies 
Inspired by Andrea's Grandma Lucy Tortora

1 18 ounce box of corn flakes cereal
2 1/2 cans condensed milk
2 12 ounce bags chocolate chips (we used a holiday variety with red and green chips)
Note: Use your favorite chip. Butterscotch, mint, etc.

Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour half the box of cereal into a large bowl. Add 1 can of condensed milk. Pour in the rest of the cereal and the second can of milk. Stir to combine, mixing until all of the cereal is coated in milk.

Let rest for 5 minutes. This helps make the mixture sticky enough so that the chocolate chips don't fall to the bottom of the bowl.

Add chocolate chips and 1/2 can of condensed milk. Stir to combine.

Using two spoons, scoop up some cookie mixture and gently press together. Drop onto cookie sheet and press together again with spoons if needed.

Bake for 8 minutes or until cookies start to brown along the edges. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Use a spatula to lift cookies from pans. Store in airtight containers.