Monday, January 30, 2017

Slow Cooker Vegan Indian Lentil Stew

For Sunday dinner, I often make a crockpot meal. I love walking into our house after Sunday evening Mass to the smell of a warm dinner that's ready to go. This is one of my favorite stews. It hit the spot last night and will again today when I eat some of the leftovers. Plus, few things smell better simmering away than a stew with garam masala.


Slow Cooker Vegan Indian Lentil Stew
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 shallots, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 cup dried French green lentils
6 carrots, diced
2 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (I used no salt added variety.)
2 14-ounce  cans of garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups vegetable broth (Add more for thinner stew.)
2 teaspoons garam masala
Salt and pepper to taste

In large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes and then add to slow cooker. Add all of the the other ingredients. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve with bread or crackers, if you like.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Asian Chicken & Corn Chowder

Every time I go to Costco, I snag a rotisserie chicken. They are so good, so easy, and so cheap. I find the biggest chicken I can and wedge it into my SUV-sized cart between the behemoth pack of paper towels and enough Goldfish to survive a week of toddler tantrums. And I rely on that chicken to make fast paninis after work, Curry Chicken Salad, and Fried Rice when I can't wait for take-out.

Last time I had a Costco bird in my fridge, I whipped up Asian Chicken & Corn Chowder inspired by the Penzey's Spices catalog. It's my new favorite speedy meal, and it's perfect for these chilly January nights. It's even hearty enough to count as an official dinner in the eyes of the husband. No side sandwich needed.

The ingredients may seem like a strange combo (sesame oil and ginger with creamed corn??), but trust me on this one. It's awesome. The creamed corn adds richness and a subtle sweetness that complements the Asian flavors of the soup.

Next time you grab a rotisserie chicken (or if you have leftovers of Amy's Roasted Chicken), give this soup a try. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Let's get cooking!

Asian Chicken & Corn Chowder
Adapted from Penzey's

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped OR 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups* low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Extra sesame oil, for serving
Chili flakes, for serving

Heat sesame oil in a pan over medium-high. Add chicken and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits into the broth. Stir in creamed corn and corn kernels. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Slowly make a figure eight stirring motion in the soup with a fork. While you're stirring, very slowly pour the beaten egg into the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of chili flakes.

*If your soup is a little too thick, feel free to add a little more broth at the end.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs with Noodles

When the constantly changing schedules in my household force a switch in our dinner plans, the results can be extra-delicious.

My kids ended up having a full day of activities when I had hoped to make this slow cooker recipe, so I let the meat marinate another day. That led to super-tender beef full of tangy flavor.

This recipe uses short ribs, which do well in the slow cooker. But while short ribs are nicely marbleized, they can also carry a lot of extra fat. I like to trim off as much as possible. This doesn't affect the taste and can really cut down on the grease.

To add more veggies and color, I spiralized a few carrots and tossed them into the hot water during the last 2 minutes the noodles were cooking. We'll definitely be making this again soon!

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs with Noodles
Inspired by a recipe from Kroger

4 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed
1 cup Hoisin sauce
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
4 tablespoons sesame oil
12 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces

For serving:
Cooked rice noodles
(Optional: Add spiralized carrots to the pot during the last 2 minutes of noodle cooking.)
Chopped green onions
1 lime, sliced into wedges

In a large container with a lid, combine and mix together Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and green onions. Add short ribs and stir to coat. Seal with lid and marinate in refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours.

When ready to cook, place short ribs and marinade in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Cook on high for about 8 hours or until meat begins to fall apart.

Using a slotted spoon, remove short ribs from slow cooker to a plate. Separate meat from the bones and shred the beef.

Pile noodles onto a platter. Top with shredded beef. Add a little sauce from the slow cooker to the beef if desired. Top with chopped green onions. Serve with lime wedges.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Shrimp and Quinoa "Paella"

I thought for sure my family would hate this dish. At dinnertime, Lucy, 10, wasn't having any of it. Penny, 7, who helped me make the entire thing liked the shrimp and quinoa parts. Jeff, age not disclosed, liked it all. That's a win, right?

It was light and tasty — just what we need after holiday binging. Looking for a new way to make quinoa? Give this a go!


Shrimp and Quinoa "Paella"
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon saffron threads (or combine 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large tomatoes or smaller tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh sliced cremini mushrooms
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 ounces baby spinach
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and cooked

Combine the wine and saffron and set aside until ready to use.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables have softened and cooked down, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Increase heat to medium high and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in wine and saffron. Bring all to a boil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add quinoa and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half — about 3 minutes.

Stir in broth, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until quinoa is tender — about 20 minutes.

Gently stir in spinach and top with shrimp. cover and cook until shrimp is heated through — about 3 to 4 minutes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Puffy Pancake

As a kid, I was always fascinated by the Dutch Baby. Whenever I saw this gigantic puffed-up breakfast pastry on a menu, it usually came with apples baked into the dough and was enough to feed an entire family.

I thought it would be fun to serve one up for breakfast for my boys — who love homemade pancakes.

This recipe is healthier than traditional pancakes and is much easier and faster to make.

I'll be baking this again soon, so that I can try adding apples into the mix.  And now that I think about it, a banana blended into the batter would be delicious, too.

The Puffy Pancake would also make a great breakfast-for-dinner entree, especially if served with some bacon or sausage on the side.

Mangia! Mangia!

Puffy Pancake

3 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh fruit or berries for serving
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine eggs, flour, milk, lemon zest, sugar, vanilla and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside to rest.

Place butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Put pan in oven to melt the butter, about 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the butter brown.

Swirl the butter in the skillet to coat bottom of pan evenly. Pour batter into skillet.

Return pan to oven and bake about 18 minutes or until pancake is puffy and golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes.

Top with fruit or berries and dust with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges and serve with maple syrup.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Chicken and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce

Last week, I wrote about this past New Year's Eve dinner theme: French. This post is part deux.

For NYE 2016 dinner we had French Onion Soup and Chicken and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce — the latter from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo.

I've cooked several of Khoo's dishes — Lemon and Lavender Chicken, Parisian Asparagus and Coq Au Vin on Skewers, to name a few. Each one has been accessible for us home cooks and delicious for all who enjoy simple French dishes. And the photography in this book is gorgeous. It's the prettiest cookbook I own. I'm such a fan that I've given it to several friends and family for holidays and weddings.

My uncle Frank, a recipient of LPK, says this is one of his favorites in the book. He sometimes makes the sauce to put on top of other dishes. Mais oui!

BTW, I didn't change up Khoo's recipe at all, except I forgot to slice the mushrooms (no big deal). Why mess with perfection?


PS: After writing this entire post, I got this feeling of déjà vu. Guess what? We rang in 2016 with a French theme and Little Paris Kitchen. Quelle surprise!

Sous chef Penny, 7, stirs the cream sauce.

Chicken and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce 
(a.k.a. Poulet aux champignons avec une sauce au vin blanc)
The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock (plus extra in case thinning is necessary)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

For rest of the dish:
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound chicken (or turkey), cut into chunks
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
Handful of finely chopped tarragon or parsley

Start by making the sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the flour and beat hard until you have a smooth paste (roux). Continue to beat until the roux begins to have a golden color. Remove from the heat and gradually add in the stock, whisking constantly.

Put the pan back over medium heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to keep sauce from burning the bottom of the pan. If sauce becomes too thick, whisk in a little more stock.

Add the wine and continue simmering for 10 minutes. When time is up, remove from heat and whisk in the cream and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is simmering, melt the butter in a large frying pan until sizzling, add the chicken and fry for a few minutes until golden. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

To serve, mix the sauce with the chicken and mushrooms and sprinkle with some fresh tarragon or parsley. (I much prefer tarragon.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

No Sugar Granola Bars

I've mentioned a time or twenty that my son is a picky eater. Selective, they say in some circles. One food that he is usually willing to eat is granola bars. His absolute favorite are iced oatmeal cookie-flavored Clif Zbars, but when I get my act together (wait...that never actually happens), we love to make homemade granola bars together.

Some of our favorites are these No Bake Granola Bars. They are crazy good, but I wanted to come up with a version that had less sugar. I was having a hard time getting my new bars to stick together, so I turned to you, friends, for help! Thanks to your comments and suggestions on Facebook, we came up with a winning recipe.

Dates add sweetness, stickiness, and a hearty helping of fiber. Peanut butter contributes protein and more holding power so these bars don't crumble. Oatmeal means you'll be full all the way to lunch time. Ground flaxseed boosts the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. I did include mini chocolate chips on top, but this is an optional ingredient. There's no way my kid will touch a granola bar without chocolate chips, so it's a non-negotiable in my house. With mostly healthy ingredients, a little bit of chocolate can't hurt, right?

One thing I do know: when it comes to granola bars, crowd sourcing for the win!

Let's get cooking!

No Sugar Granola Bars

25 pitted dates
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Pulse all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor until combined. Press evenly into a foil-lined 8" square pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press them into the bars. Refrigerate 1 hour before removing the foil and slicing into bars. Store granola bars in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ramen with Chicken & Vegetables

My kids keep seeing a commercial for Ramen noodles, so I recently bought a 12-pack at the grocery store so they could try them. It was a trip down memory lane to my post-college, working-as-an-intern days when I often ate cooked and drained ramen mixed with a little butter, the seasoning packet and (canned) chicken.

My kids now bring ramen soup (in a thermos) for their school lunch about once a week. For the dinner table, I decided to see if I couldn't expand my old college recipe a little bit.

Adding lots of veggies and some Asian seasonings did the trick. Go ahead and add more or different vegetables or leave out the chicken for a vegetarian meal and/or experiment with the sauce to find a blend that fits your tastebuds.

The great thing about this recipe is that the day after we have this for dinner, there's enough leftover ramen for my lunch, too!

Mangia! Mangia!

Ramen with Chicken & Vegetables

4 packs of ramen noodles, cooked and drained (reserve seasoning packet for another use)
2 tablespoon oil, divided
1 cup carrots, julienned (Make life easy and buy a bag of shredded carrots!)
1 cup snow pea pods, julienned
1/2 a large red bell pepper, julienned
2 cans (5 ounce) or 1 can (10 ounce or 12 ounce) of chunk white chicken, packed in water OR 1 1/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 or 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (depending on your taste)
1 or 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger (depending on your taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced green onions for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro for serving

Cook ramen noodles according to packet directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add vegetables and cook, stirring often until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

Remove veggies from pan and set aside in a bowl.

Add remaining oil to skillet and add chicken. Cook until heated through. Add vegetables back into pan and stir to combine.

Add soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for a few minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Add more soy sauce, Hoisin and ginger to taste.

Add ramen noodles to pan and stir to combine and to coat noodles in sauce. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to heat through.

Top with green onions and cilantro and serve.

Monday, January 9, 2017

French Onion Soup

On New Year's Eve, I like a food theme. I think that's because after our traditional Thanksgiving (turkey and all the fixings) and Christmas (rib roast) dinners I need a little culinary whimsy — a little je ne sais quoi.

We've done Chinese with homemade crab rangoon. We've done fondue with homemade cheese fondue. We've had make-your-own pizzas. This year's NYE theme was French with French Onion Soup, Chicken and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce and for entertainment, An American in Paris on DVD. The soup tasted just as decadent — though not quite as salty (I always use low-sodium broth) as the kind ordered up in restaurants. Everything was magnifique!

Happy 2017, mes amis!


French Onion Soup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups sliced onions (about 4 medium-sized onions)
48 ounces beef broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Nutmeg — hefty pinch or two
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices French bread (with extra for leftovers)
4 slices provolone cheese (with extra for leftovers)
2 slices Swiss cheese (with extra for leftovers)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (with extra for leftovers)

Melt butter with olive oil in large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and continually stir until tender and translucent. Do NOT brown onions.

Add beef broth, sherry, nutmeg and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Heat oven broiler.

Place oven-safe bowls on a cookie sheet and ladle soup into each. Place one slice of bread on top of each bowl of soup. (Bread may be broken into pieces if preferred.) Now add the cheeses. Layer each slice of bread with a slice of provolone, half a slice of Swiss and 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Place cookie sheet with bowls into preheated oven and broil until cheese bubbles and browns slightly. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burritos

After the insanity of the holidays, I'm struggling to get back to my routine. Back to the kitchen. Back to blogging. Back to doing laundry before I run out of clean socks...again.

When I'm struggling to get cooking, I always turn to the HDHH archives. It feels like a reading a journal. I remember when the investment dudes gave me the recipe for Baked Oatmeal, when I used to eat Peanut Butter & Stuff Sandwiches on my business trips to San Francisco, making Spring on Toast with Amy, when Therese introduced me to her Corn & Tomato Salad, my childhood babysitter who inspired Bacon Cheeseburger Rice, making Salmon with Dill Cream Sauce with Kelly and Jill, watching my mom bake Butterscotch Cashew Bars. These are good memories. And certainly inspiration enough to get hot dinner on the table.

It had been too long since I made Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burritos, a recipe I first tested for dinner co-op with Therese back in 2011. These vegetarian burritos were so stinking good, a perfect way to usher in the New Year and a return to culinary pursuits.

Do you guys have any cooking inspiration for 2017? We'd love to hear it!

Let's get cooking!

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burritos
Adapted from An Occasion to Gather
Originally posted September 23, 2011
Serves: 4-6

1 very large (or two small) sweet potato(s), peeled and cut into small pieces*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2-4 ounces diced green chiles (Depending on how spicy you like things!)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
8 flour tortillas
Salsa and sour cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 or 425 degrees. (See Baking Note below for details on baking temperature.)

Place sweet potato in a saucepan with enough water to cover and a hearty pinch of salt. Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow sweet potatoes to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until   they're easily pierced with a fork. Drain sweet potatoes and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and chiles and saute, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Stir in cumin and coriander and cook for another minute, until the spices are fragrant. Remove onion mixture from heat and set aside.

Combine sweet potatoes and black beans and mash them together with a potato masher or whatever mashing implement you prefer. (I like my burrito filling to have some texture, so I didn't mash it too much. Just use your best judgement.) Stir in cooked onion mixture, cheese, and cilantro.

Evenly divide the filling between the tortillas. Roll burritos up tightly and place seam-side-down in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Baking Note: I've experimented with a couple different ways to bake these burritos, so I'll give you options. If you like crisp burritos and/or you want to get dinner on the table fast, crank up the oven to 425. Brush a little melted butter on top of the prepped burritos in the pan and bake for 10-15 minutes, until burritos are heated through and the tops are golden brown and crisp. If you like your tortillas to remain soft and/or you have more time to kill before dinner, cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes if you'd like to crisp up the tops a little bit.

Serve with salsa and sour cream.

*If you have leftover cooked sweet potatoes, this is a great way to use them up! I made extra roasted sweet potatoes, and they were delicious in this recipe. And with leftovers, you're one step closer to dinner.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Kale

My friend Kristi is a fellow busy, hard-working mama who strives to always get a hot dinner on the table. And — like me — when there's no time or energy to cook, take-out, short-cuts and leftovers work, too. But we always try and we love to share recipes and compare cooking notes. Kristi recently texted me a recipe for a butternut squash soup from a blog called The Lemon Bowl.

I made Kristi's new fave soup with a few tweaks. She suggested a dash of sage and I decided to use a little more squash. I also couldn't find Italian turkey sausage, so I used regular. Anyhow, it tasted souper (see what I did there?!) good, especially on a cold winter day.


Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Kale
3 links of uncooked Italian sausage — spicy or sweet, turkey or regular — removed from casings
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 cups butternut squash peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
4 cups kale, roughly chopped
14 ounce can of cannelini beans, drained and rised
Dash of ground or fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese to garnish — optional

Spray inside of large pot with non-stick spray and heat pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pot. Brown sausage for 7-8 minutes, using spoon to break meat into bite-sized pieces. Don't be afraid of the sausage getting brown, because the more it carmelizes the tastier your soup.

Add garlic, onion and red pepper to pot and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until onions and peppers are tender, about 5-6 minutes.

When sausage is nicely browned and veggies are tender, add broth to the pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Raise heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Add in the squash and cook until softened, about 20 minutes.

Five minutes before serving, add kale and beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan if you like, which I did.