Borracho Beans (Drunken Beans)

Plus 2 pantry staples I can’t live without!

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Oh how delicious and satisfying a humble bowl of beans can be. Especially when you make them from scratch. Cooking dried beans is so simple and the result is soooo much better than canned. All you need is a little extra time.

Borracho beans are usually made with pinto beans and have a beer added for flavor. Some good quality bacon, jalapeño & serrano peppers, and a few spices transform these beans into something special. Read More




Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Guinness Stew

All of your Saint Patrick’s Day goodness in one bowl!

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Tender corned beef, perfectly cooked potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, all simmered in a rich braise of Guinness beer and beef stock…sign me up! My family has always loved my St. Patty’s day corned beef and cabbage dinner. It has never been my favorite but I make it every year for them. Since soups and stews are my jam, I decided to turn my recipe into a stew and in my humble opinion, it rocked. The family agreed…it was a big hit.

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That’s “Big Red”…my giant Le Creuset. I Love cooking in this Dutch oven because I know that something delicious will come out of it every time. This stew was no exception. I pretty much just followed the same ingredient profile I use for my slow cooked corned beef recipe except I trimmed and cut the corned beef into pieces first. The Guinness is key to flavoring the stew, as well as good quality beef stock. My favorite is sold frozen or refrigerated at stores like Whole Foods or Gelson’s. You will want to add your carrots/potatoes/cabbage at the end of cooking, otherwise they will be mushy.

 

The flavor of this is pretty different from your typical beef stew because of the corned beef. It has that signature flavor that it gets from the pickling spices that it sits in. It cooks up so tender in this stew. You will not need to salt this until the end. Normally you would salt your meat when you brown it, but corned beef is already so salty, you skip it in the beginning and taste it at the end to see how much you need. It also depends on how salty your stock is. I added about a teaspoon which is not much at all considering the amount of stew. Just add it little by little until you think it is just right.

Corned Beef LR

This would be a great St. Patty’s day dinner…especially if you are serving a crowd. Turning the roast into stew stretches it a little further. This made dinner for the 4 of us (with seconds and thirds had by the hubs and my oldest boy) and I had 2 more servings left over. I have to say it is even better the next day so it would be great to make ahead! Serve it with some crusty bread or some Irish soda bread on the side. And some Guinness, of course!

Corned Beef Cabbage, and Guinness Stew

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

    • 1 3 – 3 1/2 pound Corned Beef Brisket in pickling spices
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 3 tbsp butter
    • 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, chopped
    • 2 celery stalks, chopped
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 bottle or can (1 pint 16 oz) Guinness Extra Stout
    • 1 quart of good quality beef broth)
    • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 sprigs of thyme OR 1/2 tsp dried thyme
    • 4 medium carrots, cut into one inch chunks
    • 2 lbs of gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
    • 1/2 of a large head of cabbage (or a whole one if it is small) cut into 2 inch pieces
    • Salt and pepper
  • Plenty of fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Rinse the pickling spices off of your corned beef and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off any big pieces of fat from the roast and cut into large chunks about 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Season the meat with plenty of ground pepper but hold off using any salt at this point.

In a large dutch oven (like a Le Creuset) heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat until pan is good and hot. Add half (or a third if you have more than 3 lbs of meat) of the corned beef and brown on all sides. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside, add another tablespoon of oil and butter and brown the rest of the meat. It is important to do this in batches or the pan will get over crowded and the meat will let off all of its juices and steam instead of brown. Once all the meat is browned and out of the pan, add the remaining oil and butter and sauté the onions and celery for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the flour and stir well until all of the veggies are coated and it starts to brown a little. Add the beer and stock and mix well incorporating all of the flour and scraping up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Mix in the mustard, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce and add the meat back to the pan along with the thyme (throw in the whole stem and remove later if using fresh) and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in the oven for 90 minutes.

While the stew is in the oven, prep your carrots, potatoes, and cabbage. After 90 minutes check your meat to make sure it is tender. Leave it for another 30 minutes if it is still tough. Mine was very tender after 90 minutes. Transfer your pot to the stove and add the rest of your veggies. Bring back to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 more minutes or until all of the veggies are tender. Season with plenty of pepper and salt if needed. You won’t need much salt because the meat is so salty that it flavors the stew quite well. I added about a teaspoon at the end. Add the fresh parsley saving a little to garnish each bowl and serve with some good crusty bread or Irish soda bread!


Asian Meatloaf & Meatloaf Banh Mi Sandwiches

This is one of those dinners where the leftovers ended up being even better than the original dinner! Whenever I make meatloaf, I always make enough so that we have meatloaf sandwiches the next day. Bahn Mi sandwiches are a family favorite so I knew adding this meatloaf to the mix would be a hit. They all loved the meatloaf on its own, but the sandwiches got even more praise.

The meatloaf was inspired by my Asian Chicken Meatballs.  I thought if an Asian meatball is so tasty, why not meatloaf? I went with beef and pork for this to get the best flavor and texture. I like using organic grass fed ground sirloin for the beef. It is nice and lean and has great flavor without the fat. You don’t need a fattier meat for this because there are so many flavorful ingredients and it stays plenty moist from the added veggies. The hoisin glaze on top also adds great flavor!

Here are a  few tips I have learned along the way for meatloaf:

  1. You need plenty of salt. My rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon per pound of meat.
  2. Egg and bread crumb ratio to meat is also important. I like 1/3 cup bread crumbs and 1 large egg per pound of meat.
  3. Mix all of your ingredients before adding the meat. That way you are just combining the meat with all of the good stuff and it mixes more evenly without over working the meat. That is why my recipe has you whisking the wet ingredients/eggs together and mixing veggies/breadcrumbs together before adding the meat.
  4. Get some good disposable gloves for food handling and use them to mix with your hands! It is very difficult to mix a meatball or meatloaf together without using your hands…and handling raw meat is kinda gross.
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Mixture of breadcrumbs, milk, and sautéed veggies all ready for meat to be added. Eggs, plus other wet ingredients are also whisked together to pour over meat before mixing.

For the first night’s dinner I served the meatloaf with some green beans, baby bok choy, and jasmine rice.

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Asian Meatloaf

Makes 4 hearty servings with enough left over for 4 banh mi sandwiches

For a printable version of this recipe, click here

Ingredients For Meatloaf:

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, chopped small
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp asian hot sauce (like Sriracha)
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (I like to use organic, grass fed ground sirloin)
  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • fresh ground pepper
  • Optional garnish: sesame seeds and chopped green onion

Ingredients for the Glaze:

Whisk all of the ingredients together and set aside to glaze meatloaf

  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • Asian hot sauce to taste (I use a couple teaspoons)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and shiitake mushrooms and cook until tender. Add the garlic and ginger and cook a couple more minutes being careful not to burn garlic. Remove from heat and add the chopped green onion (reserving some to garnish later) and the chopped cilantro. Let the mixture cool.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the sesame oil, hoisin, hot sauce, soy sauce, and salt. Whisk together until combined.
  4. In a large bowl, add the panko bread crumbs and milk and mix well to soften the bread crumbs. The milk should be completely absorbed by the bread crumbs.
  5. Add the cooked and cooled vegetables to the bread crumbs and mix well. Add all of the meat, the wet ingredients, and plenty of fresh ground pepper. Mix everything together with your hands (I like to use gloves!). Try to mix without squishing the meat together. You don’t want to compact it too much.
  6. Line a baking sheet with foil and form the meat mixture into a loaf. Top with half of the glaze. Bake for 1 hour 15 min to 1 hour 30 min. You want the internal temperature to reach 160 degrees. About 15 min before the meatloaf is done, top with the rest of the glaze and finish cooking.
  7. Let the meatloaf rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.

 

Dinner number 2: Banh Mi Meatloaf Sandwiches…

Or as my 11 year old likes to call them – Banh Meatloaf Sandwiches  🙂

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Banh Mi are deliciously flavorful Vietnamese sandwiches that are made with grilled chicken or pork, pickled veggies, and good crusty bread. They are garnished with onions, cilantro, and sliced jalapeños. Sometimes you will see them on trendy restaurant menus with tofu (which is yummy!) or pork belly (even more yummy!). The key is the pickled veggies. You just need a little extra time in advance to make the quick pickled carrots and daikon radish ahead so that they can soak up some of that vinegar-y goodness in the fridge for about an hour (longer is even better).

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Pickled carrots and daikon radish

This sandwich is a serious flavor party. I’m actually sort of drooling over my own photo as I type…and I just ate these yesterday. You may want to make this meatloaf just for this purpose.

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Here is my version of a Banh Meatloaf Sandwich:

  1. Make some quick pickled carrots and daikon – Mix 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar with 1 cup water, 1 tbsp kosher salt, and 2 tbsp sugar in a mason jar or glass bowl. Add 1 large carrot cut into matchsticks (or packaged, shredded carrots) and 1 medium daikon radish cut into matchsticks. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to a week.
  2. Use good crusty rolls or cut up a baguette into sandwich size pieces (one baguette will make 3 good size sandwiches). Toast for a few minutes in your oven or toaster oven. Slice through the bread part of the way through so that the halves are still connected and tear out a little of the inside of the bread so that you have plenty of room for filling.
  3. Spread some Sriracha mayo on both sides of the bread (good mayo mixed with Sriracha to taste).
  4. Give your slice of meatloaf a quick sear in a hot oiled pan. Add it to the sandwich along with sliced cucumber, your pickled carrot/daikon, chopped green onion, sliced jalapeños, and some cilantro sprigs.

Sandwich perfection!

 


Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

It is 103 degrees as I type this right now!! Not much soup making happening around here this week. I made this delicious fall soup last week when I hosted my girlfriends for dinner. One friend’s comment after her first bite was, “This is a flavor party in my mouth!”.  With a comment like that, I had to share the recipe. This is a perfect fall soup. I actually made it a couple years ago for a holiday party  I had and served it in these cute little mugs along with some other small plates. If you are somewhere with lovely fall weather…MAKE THIS SOUP! If you are in southern California like me, make it as soon as this awful little heat wave is gone.

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This soup is subtly sweet, and a little spicy. I used some Ancho chili powder for a little heat and some harissa. If you aren’t familiar with harissa, it is a North African chili paste that is full of flavor. I bought this one at Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s also sells their own version. Be careful with how much you use…I went with 2 1/2 tbsp and it had a decent amount of kick to it. It goes really well with the flavors in this soup!  Ginger and orange zest also join the “flavor party”.

You can buy peeled and cubed butternut squash just about anywhere these days. That’s what I always use to save some time. For this I used four 12 ounce bags of Trader Joe’s squash.

Butternut squash soupGarnishes are optional, but come on…don’t they look yummy?!? I found some spicy pumpkin seeds and they added some extra punch. Good apple wood smoked bacon really knocks it out of the park!

butternut squash soup

Start out by roasting all of your vegetables. You will need 2 sheet pans for this. This part takes a little time, but adds so much flavor to the soup. And once the roasting is all done, it comes together quickly.

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Onion, peppers & carrots ready to roast. No need to chop things too small since you will puree it all later.

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Butternut Squash ready to go in the oven.

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Soft and roasty garlic cloves.

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All of the veggies in the pot with the harissa, ginger, coriander, and additional maple syrup…just waiting on some chicken stock.🙂

As I have said before on the blog…the lazy girl side of me likes to line my baking sheets with foil so I have less dishes to wash! I also made a little foil tent for the garlic so it wouldn’t  brown too much while the other veggies roasted. It came out perfectly soft and roasty.

As with salting any soup, you will need to taste as you go. You will use a lot of salt to season the vegetables while they roast, and you will also get some salt from your chicken stock, but you will need to add more. Salt is pretty important to get the flavor just right. It really enhances all the other flavors. If you feel like something is missing, it is likely just a little salt.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

Makes 8 servings
Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs of peeled and cubed butternut squash (approximately 2 butternut squash)
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 large carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 small sweet onions cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4-6 whole garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of ancho or chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 – 3 tbsp of Harissa
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger grated on a microplane
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 cup heavy cream
Optional Garnishes:
  • cooked bacon
  • creme fraiche or sour cream
  • chopped fresh mint and chives
  • roasted pumpkin seeds or spicy pumpkin seeds
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425

Line 2 baking sheets with heavy duty foil or parchment paper. Mix 2 tbsp of the maple syrup with 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large bowl. Put the squash in and toss to coat it all evenly, then put it in a single layer on one of the baking sheets. Sprinkle the squash with plenty of salt and pepper and a little of the chili powder (the more you use, the more heat you will get). Add 2 more tbsp of olive oil to the bowl (no maple syrup this time) and toss the bell peppers, carrots, and onions until they are coated in oil. Arrange the veggies in a single layer on the second baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper. Put the garlic cloves in a small piece of foil and drizzle them with a little olive oil and close the foil up. Put the foil on the baking sheet with the veggies. Roast all of the veggies for 30 – 45 minutes or until the squash is very tender and there is some caramelization on the onions and peppers. The garlic should be very soft as well.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil (or bacon fat if you have it from cooking the bacon you are using to garnish!) in a large dutch oven over low to medium heat. Add the harissa to taste (1 tbsp is mild to medium, 2 is medium to spicy, 3 is spicy!), the grated ginger, and the coriander, the remaining 2 tbsp of maple syrup,  and cook for 3 minutes. Add all of the roasted veggies and garlic and 6 cups of the chicken stock (reserve 2 cups of stock to thin the soup out if needed). Bring to a simmer and cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes. Taste your stock to see if it is well seasoned… you will probably need to add more salt at this point. You will get some salt from the seasoned roasted veggies, and some from the stock, so taste as you go to see how much more you need. I added about 2 more teaspoons of salt.

 

 The next step is to puree the soup. You can do this with an immersion blender or let it cool a bit and do it in batches in a blender. I think the blender gives you a smoother texture. You will need to do it in 2 – 3 batches depending on the size of your blender. Make sure your soup is not piping hot when you blend it. Add more stock at this point if it is too thick. I ended up using all 8 cups.
 Return the blended soup to the pot and add the the orange zest and heavy cream. Check again for seasoning…more salt and pepper may be needed. Heat over low heat until it is hot. Garnish with the cooked bacon, chopped mint and chives, and pumpkin seeds.


Asian Chicken Meatballs

Asian Chicken Meatballs

I posted these 6 years ago on Juicy Bites! I made them the other night and decided they were due for a re-post. They are a family favorite around here and always get rave reviews.

They are great served with rice and some sort of green veg. For this particular dinner I glazed the meatballs with one of my favorite sauces…San-J’s Orange Sauce. San-J makes some great Asian sauces and they are made with clean ingredients. You can make your own glaze, or use whatever your favorite is. Teriyaki or sweet and sour would be good too. I made a batsmati rice and quinoa blend and some sesame soy roasted broccoli to serve them with.  The broccoli is easy and so delicious…just whisk together some olive oil with a little toasted sesame oil and a few splashes of soy sauce, drizzle over your broccoli florets, and roast at 425 for around 15 – 20 minutes.

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Asian Chicken Meatballs

I have also served these with soba noodles (like an Asian version of spaghetti and meatballs!) and I have made a simple coconut curry sauce for them which was soooo delicious!

The leftovers were turned into Asian Chicken Meatball Banh Mi sandwiches for my boys’ lunch the next day. They went into a roll with a  little sriracha mayo and quick pickled shredded carrots and red onion. The boys liked them so much I may need to make them just for that purpose next time!

When I make meatballs, I like to use gloves (I get these on Amazon) so that I can mix with my hands and not end up with raw meat under my fingernails! It is really hard to get a meatball or meatloaf mixture combined well with a spoon…using your hands is the best way to go. This meatball mixture is on the wet side and a little hard to work with because of the ground chicken but they cook up perfectly.

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I start with some panko bread crumbs moistened in a little milk, then add in some garlic, cilantro, ginger, shallots, green onion, lime zest and salt. Mixing all of these ingredients together first helps to combine everything easier. Soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and some Sambal add a ton more flavor and a little heat. I know the milk thing might seem a little weird in an Asian meatball, but I use milk/breadcrumbs in a lot of my meatball recipes so I went it with for these as well. I’m sure you could leave it out or sub a little chicken stock, but I wanted to post it exactly how I made it because it was so good! I actually used half and half because we always have that on hand for coffee!

Asian Chicken Meatballs

Use a baking sheet lined with foil and some parchment paper…no sticking and no washing! If you don’t have parchment, spray your foil with non-stick spray. I love these parchment sheets from Amazon…they fit my sheet pans perfectly.  No struggling to get a curled up piece to lay flat and no bleaching chemicals! I use them a ton!

cooked meatballs

After they come out of the oven, you can brush on your sauce of choice for a nice glaze or throw them into a simmering pot of coconut curry! Or just eat them as is…they are super flavorful all on their own!

Asian Chicken Meatballs

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
  • 1 small finely chopped shallot
  • 4 finely chopped green onions
  • zest of one lime
  • 2  eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 – 3 tsp of chili paste (like Sambal) the more you use, the more heat you get!
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • Sweet and Sour sauce or orange sauce to glaze
  • toasted sesame seeds, chopped cilantro, and sliced green onions for garnish

Preparation

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Pour milk over bread crumbs in a large bowl and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add salt, cilantro, garlic, ginger, shallot, green onion, and lime zest. Mix until well combined.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, soy sauce, sesame oil and chili paste.
  4. Add the ground chicken to the bread crumbs along with the egg mixture and use your hands to combine the ingredients.
  5. The chicken mixture will be very wet, so carefully shape into meatballs and place on a baking sheet lined with foil and coated in nonstick spray or parchment paper.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes then turn the meatballs and bake for 10 more minutes or until center of meatball reaches 165 degrees.
  7. Glaze with sauce of choice and serve garnished with green onion, cilantro and sesame seeds.

 


Homemade Granola

I have been making this granola for years now. It is such a simple recipe and is easily adapted. Even a non-baker like me can’t screw it up! I have made it a couple of times for my neighbor, Karin, and she wants the recipe. So here you go, Karin…this is for you!

I really love granola, but I don’t care for most of the options that you can get at the grocery store. They are usually too sweet for me and they are always stingy with the nuts! By making your own, you get it exactly as sweet as you want it, with the flavor you like, and whatever nuts you prefer.

This recipe is a great starting point. You can get creative with the flavors and ingredients to suit your mood. I love adding pumpkin seeds, pecans, and pumpkin pie spice for a yummy fall granola. Another favorite of mine is macadamia nuts and coconut! I will sometimes scale back on the sugar, or add more if it is for my special Christmas morning granola and yogurt parfaits. Get creative and make it exactly as you like!

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Make sure you use good quality oats (NOT instant or quick cooking) and raw, unsalted nuts. For sweetener I like real maple syrup. If you don’t like the flavor of maple syrup, honey or agave works well too. If you want to add any dried fruit, do it after the granola has cooked and cooled. I know this takes a long time to cook, but slow and low is the only way. I tried higher temps and less time and ended up with a slightly burnt taste.

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My perfect breakfast is plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit mixed in topped with this granola…DELISH! Granola also makes a great holiday gift for neighbors and friends. You can get all cutesy with a mason jar if you are the creative type!

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Your kitchen will smell amazing while this granola bakes. It smells like sweet oatmeal cookies! The end result is just lightly sweet, crunchy, toasty, nutty and oh so good! This recipe makes a lot, but you will be surprised how fast it disappears!

 

Granola

For a printable recipe, Click here

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups rolled oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Organic Oats)
  • 2 cups assorted nuts like walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts (raw & unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (Can substitute honey or agave syrup)
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar (Can substitute brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 250.

  1. Add the 3 cups of oats to a large mixing bowl. Roughly chop the nuts you would like to use (except for the slivered almonds…you can leave those whole). Add the nuts to the bowl and mix well.
  2. Add the coconut oil to a small microwave safe bowl (I like to use my Pyrex measuring cup). Heat the coconut oil in the microwave until completely melted. It should be warm which will help the other ingredients mix well with it. Add the maple syrup, the coconut sugar, the vanilla and salt and whisk well to combine all of the ingredients.
  3. Slowly pour the coconut oil mix into the oats/nuts while stirring to combine well and evenly coat all of the oats.
  4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly filling up the whole pan.
  5. Bake for an 1 hour to an hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so to bake evenly.
  6. Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container for up to 4 weeks.

Optional Recipe Additions:

Hemp Seeds, Flax Seeds, or Unsweetened Shredded Coconut (add to dry ingredients before baking)

Cinnamon or Pumpkin Pie Spice (add to wet ingredients)

Dried Fruit – raisins, cranberries, chopped dates (add AFTER baking)

 

 

 

 


Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Chicken and wild rice soup 1

In the cooler months, I make soup at least once a week. My big green Le Creuset pretty much lives on top of my stove all winter long. Soup is not only comforting to eat, but I really enjoy making it. I know there can be a lot of chopping and prep involved with a good soup, but I actually like that part. If I can paint a picture for you…Cold night, sweats on, occupied/content children, BIG glass of wine, while making soup = perfect evening for me! I feel like all the work that goes into prepping each ingredient is like adding little “layers of love” to your pot. Kinda cheesy, I know, but that is how I feel about soup.

This soup really turned out to be so delicious. The little bit of cream and yogurt give it a richness that is satisfying without being over the top. It is definitely a “lightly” creamy soup, not a thick and creamy one. The wild rice is the star of this soup and it gives it such great flavor. To save time, I bought an organic rotisserie chicken at Whole Foods and it was perfect for this. I like when a little of everything can fit on your spoon, so I cut my potatoes and carrots into smallish cubes and I chopped the chicken into pretty small pieces to match the size of the veggies.

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When you add the yogurt at the end, don’t forget to temper it a bit with some of the warm soup so that it doesn’t separate from the heat. I talk about this trick in my post for Corn Chowder. It is such a great way to add a little rich, creamy flavor without adding too much fat. You can leave out the cream, or add more to suit your preference. Also, remember that salt is pretty key in making a soup taste great. I think the biggest issue with recipes that end up being on the bland side is simply a lack of salt. Salt brings out the flavor of every ingredient in the pot, and getting the right amount is pretty crucial. You can always add, so go slowly. And keep in mind that chicken stock will vary on salt content so you really have to taste as you go. I used regular (not low sodium) stock for this soup and added about 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

For a printable version of this recipe, click here

Makes 6 – 8 hearty servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • splash of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered or sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup wild rice (5 ounces)
  • 2 medium gold potatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups cooked chicken *See note below
  • 1/2 cup low fat or full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Instructions:

In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat (I used my 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset), melt the butter and add the splash of olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until they give off all of their liquid (you may need to turn up the heat a bit). Add the garlic and thyme and cook a minute or two more. Add the flour and stir well to incorporate it with the veggies. Cook the flour for a couple minutes letting it brown a little but being careful not to burn it.

Add the stock and the water and stir well scraping up any bits of flour from the bottom of the pot. Add the rice and potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with the lid cracked open just a bit and simmer for about 35 minutes, checking/stirring every 10 min or so to make sure it stays at a low simmer and not a boil.

Add the cooked chicken and cook for about 10-15 more minutes or until the rice done and the potatoes are tender. Temper the Greek yogurt by adding it to a small bowl and ladling about 1/2 cup of the hot soup stock from the pot in with the yogurt. Whisk until smooth, then add to the soup. Next stir in the heavy cream and parsley and turn off the heat.  Check for seasoning and add more salt/pepper if needed. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of buttery chardonnay!

*Ingredient Note* I used the meat from a whole small rotisserie chicken (about 2 lbs) and chopped it into  bite size pieces. It gave me right about 3 cups of chicken. You can chop or shred your chicken…which ever you prefer.


Baked Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

If you read my last post on  juicy favorites, you already know that I LOVE spaghetti squash! I am so happy that it is in season and showing up in my local markets. I also love a “stuffed” vegetable. Peppers, zucchini, eggplant…there is something comforting about it.  For this dish I roasted the spaghetti squash and filled it with some ricotta cheese, a zesty meat sauce, and topped it with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses before popping it back in the oven to melt the cheeses. It was a huge hit with my family and surprisingly simple to make. Now if we could only get some fall weather to go with the fall produce, I would really be a happy girl! I made this last weekend on a baking hot day and it was all I could do to snap a few photos with my iPhone, so I apologize for the lack of photographic creativity. I did, however, have the forethought to take pictures of the spaghetti squash prep for those of you who are intimidated by this lovely fall squash. It is a bit of a pain to cut it open, but oh so worth it! Hopefully the tips below will help!

The first step in prepping your spaghetti squash is cutting in in half lengthwise. This is NOT easy since it is about as hard as a pumpkin and it wobbles around! Using a folded dish towel on top of your cutting board helps it to steady it. Next you want to take a smallish knife and score the squash all the way around. Just cut a little bit through the flesh so you have a guide line.

1) Score the squash with a small knife.

Spaghetti Squash scoring

Then you want to use a large knife to cut all the way through. Use one had to steady the squash on the stem side while you cut through using your scored line as guide. Once you work your knife all the way through, you can stand it up and sort of “pull” it apart. You won’t be able to cut through the stem, so when you pull it apart into  2 halves, it will break on either side of the stem.

2) Use a large knife to cut all the way through.

Spaghetti Squash cutting

3) Scoop out the seeds.

You want to remove all of the seeds and “slimy” strings…just like you would if you were carving a pumpkin.

Spaghetti Squash seed removal

4) Season the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Spaghetti Squash seasoned

I like to line a cookie sheet with foil to roast the squash… nothing to wash when you are done!

5) Flip the halves over (flesh side down) for roastingSpaghetti Sqash ready to bake

Then all you have to do is wait! It takes about 45 minutes in 450 degree oven to get it all roasty and tender…yum!! Let your squash cool for a while so you can handle it without burning your fingers. All of the spaghetti squash prep/roasting can be done ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to use it.

Spaghetti Squash roasted

Using a fork, loosen all of the little “spaghetti” strands from the skin and fluff them up a bit.

Spaghetti Squash forked

Next spoon a few dollops of ricotta cheese on top of the squash.

Spaghetti Squash with ricotta

Then top with your meat sauce. I cheated on the meat sauce and used one of my Juicy Faves…Rao’s jarred marinara sauce. Hey – it was 90 degrees out, it was all could do to even turn on the oven. I just browned some good grass fed, organic ground beef with a little onion and red pepper flakes and added the jarred sauce to it. It was delish!

Spaghetti Squash with sauce

Top with the meat sauce, some shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then bake.

spaghetti squash biteCheesey, zesty, saucy, spaghetti squash goodness! And no pasta gut bomb when your done…total bonus! I served these right in the squash – 1/2 of a squash per person. It looks like a lot of food but I gobbled it up no problem, and so did my 12 year old. I suppose if you don’t have quite the same gluttonous hearty appetite that I do, you could serve it in a bowl and make the portion smaller.

Baked Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 small to medium spaghetti squash- halved and seeds removed
  • olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground meat of choice)
  • 1-28 ounce jar of prepared marinara sauce (I use Rao’s)
  • splash of red wine if you have it (and you should, since it is only logical that you are drinking a glass of wine while you are cooking)
  • 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil for garnishing

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Coat your prepared spaghetti squash halves with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the squash cut side down and roast for 45 minutes. While the squash is roasting, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot and saute the chopped onion until it is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and ground beef. Cook the beef, breaking it up with your spoon, until it is cooked through. Add the marinara sauce and mix well. If you have some red wine open, add about a quarter cup. Simmer the sauce with a lid for about at least 20 minutes or up to an hour on very low heat.

Once your squash is done and cool enough to handle, fluff up the “spaghetti” strands with a fork. Top each half with small spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese. Spoon about a cup of sauce (or more if it fits) into each half of squash. Reserve any left over sauce for serving if you have it (or serve it with some pasta if you have a non squash lover in the family!). Top with with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Put the filled squash back in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with fresh basil and serve!