Monday, February 27, 2017

Slow Cooker 15-Bean Soup with Sausage and Spinach

For dinner in the winter, I'm satisfied with a warm bowl of beans. Growing up we'd often have beans and cornbread. Not fancy beans — just thrown in the crockpot with water or broth, a diced up onion,  that "ham" flavoring packet and maybe a leftover ham bone. And it was good. This is better, healthier even thanks to the spinach. In fact, I've made these beans twice in recent weeks and am officially declaring it my official, go-to, wintertime bean recipe.

The recipe is adapted from a favorite line of cookbooks: America's Test Kitchen's Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. I made a few tweaks. For starters, I omitted the mushrooms (just sounds unappealing to me to cook mushrooms and beans together for 9 or so hours). I increased the amount of sausage from 8 ounces to 9-12 ounces (for easier math) as sausage typically comes in 12-ounce, 4-link packs. Likewise, I upped the spinach by an ounce, because the baby spinach I buy comes in a 5-ounce clamshell container. Lastly, the second time I made it, I used a 4-ounce container of chicken broth and the 2 cups of vegetable broth leftover in my fridge. Why open another container of chicken broth?

Anyhow, if you are craving an easy dinner that takes the edge off the winter chill, try this out. Tweak it; make it your own.


PS: A great thing to serve with this: my Family Cornbread.

Slow Cooker 15-Bean Soup with Sausage and Spinach
Adapted from Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

9-12 ounces (3-4 links) hot or sweet Italian chicken sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
8 ounce bag of 15-bean soup mix, flavoring packet(s) discarded
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
Black pepper to taste
5 ounces (5 cups) baby spinach

Microwave sausage, onion, garlic, thyme and pepper flakes in bowl until onion is softened (about 5 minutes), stirring halfway through. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in broth, water, beans, bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add black pepper — to taste — now or later, if desired. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender — 9 to 11 hours on low or 6 to 8 hours on high.

Discard bay leaves. Stir in spinach and let sit until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Indian-Spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Onions

I'm making up for lost time using my one and only Indian cookbook. See last week's post on Chicken Tikka Skewers.

With those Chicken Tikka Skewers, I made the roasted Brussels sprouts also in Indian-Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking but with some tweaks. I added onions, because we love to roast onions with our Brussels sprouts, and upped the spices.


Indian-Spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Onions
Adapted from Indian-Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 large sweet onion, cut into large pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil and all of the spices and salt. Add Brussels sprouts and onion chunks and toss until coated with spice mix. Place vegetables on a baking dish (lightly sprayed with vegetable oil). Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over vegetables and roast until nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Molly's Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches

This dish is slow cooker gold, my friends. And I can't thank fellow mom Molly enough for sharing it with me. (Molly is also the genius behind Half-Day Chili Sauce.)

Molly's a mother of two boys like me, and we're always running our kids to some activity or another after school. Her creation is the new go-to meal at our house, especially since my son Sam declared, "This chicken is so good! Thank you for making it Mommy!"

When he asked me to pack it for his lunch, I knew we were on to something.

This recipe makes enough for a few meals (dinner and lunch!) which is especially nice.

Mangia! Mangia!

Molly's Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (I used Penzy's Italian Dressing Base)
1 cup sliced, mild banana peppers
1/2 cup juice from banana pepper jar
1 cup chicken stock
Hoagie buns
Provolone cheese slices
Extra banana pepper slices for serving

Place chicken breasts in bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Top with banana peppers. Pour banana pepper juice and chicken stock over everything.

Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. Remove chicken to a plate. Shred chicken. Return meat to slow cooker and stir to combine with sauce.

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.

Scoop chicken and banana pepper mixture into buns. Top with provolone cheese.  Put sandwiches on a cookie sheet and place in oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve with a side of banana peppers.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chicken Tikka Skewers

You know you have too many cookbooks when you realize you've forgotten about some really good ones you haven't even tried yet. This happened to me recently when I saw my copy of Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking staring back at me as if I'd never laid eyes on it before. Sssh, don't tell my BFF and fellow bringer of hot dinner Andrea; it was a gift from here MORE THAN A YEAR AGO.

OK, so new year, new goals, and one of mine is to use all of my cookbooks more.

With my one and only Indian cookbook, I decided to start with the Chicken Tikka Skewers, because my children recently discovered they love chicken tikka masala at one of our favorite Indian restaurants in Charlotte.

I also appreciated this dish because it goes with another goal: eating lighter. No sauce, no rice required. Next week, I'll tell you all about the side dish I made: Indian-spiced Brussels Sprouts.


Chicken Tikka Skewers
Adapted from Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
3-4 garlic cloves, minced

8 (6-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes.

Whisk marinade ingredients together in bowl and add cubed chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat broiler to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with olive or vegetable oil.

Thread chicken pieces onto skewers, leaving about 1/4-inch space between piece to allow for even cooking. Place skewers on lined baking sheets. Spray chicken lightly with oil.

Broil for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Eggs in a Nest

Do any of you dear readers have children whose dietary preferences change from week to week? My youngest used to want eggs every day. Then he swore them off completely.

Now, he's eating them again.

To embrace the egg love while I can, I baked this hearty skillet. It combines many of the breakfast foods my youngest currently enjoys: hash browns, eggs, ham and cheese.

Plus, it's a one-pot meal, and I'm all over the easier clean up that follows that!

Mangia! Mangia!

Eggs in a Nest
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1/3 package shredded hash browns (I like Alexia hash browns with onion, garlic and white pepper)
1 heaping cup diced cooked ham (or use crumbled sausage)
1 cup shredded cheese (use your favorite, such as cheddar or pepper jack)
6 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Diced green onions for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large (10-inch or 12-inch) oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat.

Pour in hash browns. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until hash browns start to brown. Flip over in sections and cook for another 2-3 minutes until desired crispiness.

Add ham to skillet, stirring gently. Cook another 5 minutes or until ham starts to brown lightly. Spread out ham and hash brown mixture evenly across entire pan.

Sprinkle with shredded cheese, let melt.

Remove pan from heat. Form six wells in the hash brown mixture. Crack an egg into each well.

Place skillet in oven and bake about 7 minutes or until egg whites are cooked and yolks are set. (Cook a little less time if you prefer your yolks more on the sunny side.)

Remove from oven.

Top with salt, pepper and green onions. Slice into wedges and serve with hot sauce on hand for those who like it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Slow Cooker Mushroom Bolognese

America's Test Kitchen slow cooker cookbooks never let me down. I have three of them and lately have been trying to cook more from ATK's Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. This Bolognese sauce is so savory and yummy and the texture is much like the meaty Bolognese found in ATK's original Slow Cooker Revolution.

My version below is pretty true to ATK. Why mess with a good thing? I did use more carrot — two instead of one. I used a pound of button mushrooms I had on hand, rather than all cremini as called for. I also left out the dried porcini mushrooms as they are pricey as heck.

My husband and I really liked this sauce, and that's something, because I didn't like mushrooms until well into my 20s and Jeff still doesn't really like them. The kids liked their dinner until they heard about the mushrooms. I need to keep my mouth shut sometimes.


PS: My house smelled amazing all day with this simmering away.

Slow Cooker Mushroom Bolognese
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

2 pounds cremini mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms you have on hand; I used 1 pound cremini and 1 pound button) — washed, trimmed and quartered
1 onion, chopped coarse
2 carrots, peeled and chopped coarse
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste — if desired)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (plus more to taste — if desired)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound linguine (regular or whole wheat)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Working in batches, pulse mushroom in food processor until pieces are no larger than half an inch — about 5 to 7 pulses — and transfer to a large bowl. Pulse onion and carrot until finely chopped — about 5 to 7 pulses — and transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms. Pulse tomatoes in their juice until almost smooth — 6 to 8 pulses — and set aside separately.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add processed vegetables and cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until vegetables are dry and browned, about 12 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic and oregano and cook for 1 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up browned bits from skillet, and simmer until nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetable-wine mixture to slow cooker.

Stir processed tomatoes into slow cooker. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, sugar and bay leaf. Cover and cook for 7 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high.

Discard bay leaf. Stir in parsley, cream and lemon juice. Let sauce sit on "warm."

Cook linguine according to package directions.

Plate pasta and top with Bolognese sauce. Top with grated cheese, if you like.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Garlic Orange Shrimp Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

With oranges in season, I couldn't resist buying a giant bag at my local warehouse store.

They are super-sweet and full of vitamin C, and I secretly hope that every time my kiddos eat one, they gain some extra germ-fighting powers.

To brighten and lighten-up our dinner time fare, I started searching for recipes that use fresh oranges. I hit on one from Bon Appetit for a citrus vinaigrette, which got me thinking. I had two bags of shrimp in the freezer and some nice butter lettuce. Today's dinner was taking shape.

You'll have plenty of leftover dressing, so you can enjoy it all week.

Mangia! Mangia!

Garlic Orange Shrimp with Citrus Vinaigrette
Inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit

For the shrimp:
2 16 ounce bags of peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste
2 heads of butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 orange, peeled and sliced

For the dressing:
1 small shallot, minced
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 or 2 seedless oranges, (such as Navel or Cara Cara) peeled and sliced into rounds

Rinse shrimp and dry well with paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add half of the shrimp to pan and cook until pink. Remove shrimp to plate.

Add remaining oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add remaining garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add remaining shrimp and cook until pink.

Place all shrimp into pan and warm through. Sprinkle with orange zest, orange juice and salt and pepper. Stir gently.

Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Divide lettuce among 4 plates. Top with shrimp. Garnish with orange slices. Top with Citrus Vinaigrette.

To make the dressing:
Combine shallot, oil, vinegar, lemon and orange juices and zest in a medium-sized mason jar. Tighten lid and shake to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, replace lid and shake again. Dressing keeps in refrigerator for about 1 week.