Slow Cooker Dinner: Chicken and Four Bean Chili

20140107-091044.jpg Well, hello. Did you think I had completely forgotten what I use to do over here on these pages? That I no longer remembered how wonderful it is to share food with all of you? That I forgot how to type out a recipe?

Well, almost. It was back in March of 2013, after all, when I shared my last recipe- rustic blueberry biscuits! What??!!! And, while I'm not quite certain how much it's actually going to happen, here's a start to the return of recipe sharing. This one...it's a good one too. Yummy and simple- the adjectives that I hope you use to describe the food I share here.

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Chicken and Four Bean Chili

Ingredients 4 cups chicken broth 1 can black eyed peas 1 can black beans 1 can kidney beans 1 can cannellini beans 1 can tomato sauce 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1 1/2 tsp dried basil 1 tsp dried thyme 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt 1 tsp black pepper 1/2 tsp red chili flakes 1 medium onion 5 garlic cloves 2 chicken breasts (about 1 pound total)

Open all 4 cans of beans, pour into a colander, and rinse under cold water. Dump the beans along with the chicken broth, tomato sauce, spices, onion, and garlic into your slow cooker. Stir to combine.

Place chicken breasts on top of bean mixture. Cook on low heat setting for 8 hours.

When cooking is complete, shred the chicken with a fork and stir into chili. Top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and serve over quinoa or brown rice, or alone aside some tortilla chips or a crusty sourdough bread.

Slow Cooker: Chicken Carnitas Tacos

20130320-014137.jpg Happy Spring to everyone! Yesterday, on the official first day of spring, our weather started out with heavy rain and gray skies. Then, the wind kicked up and blew the clouds and rain away to reveal beautiful blue skies and sunshine! The pops of color from the spring flowers, amidst the lush green landscape we are so accustomed to in Seattle, is so much more astounding when the sunlight hits it just right.

Oh, spring! We are ready for you...flowers, longer days, warmer weather cocktails (I'm craving a Dark and Stormy badly these days!), grilling, Easter egg hunts, and basketball!!! Who else is excited for the official start of March Madness today??! My loyalty lies with two teams. First and foremost, my alma mater, the Davidson Wildcats who play Marquette this afternoon (Go Cats!!!) and despite being such a small school nearly always score a spot in the Big Dance! And, the Florida Gators who play their first game on Friday evening...Go Gators!!!

Today is quite the perfect day for the slow cooker to cook your meal and to have it ready to be eaten right when you get home from work, when you're ready to sit for several hours on the sofa watching all the madness of the games and updating your brackets! This chicken is really good! I prepped it the night before, cutting the onions and peppers and rubbing on the spices, then placed all of the ingredients in the slow cooker and popped it right into the refrigerator until the next morning. I started the slow cooker right before I left for work and when I got home the chicken was fragrant and very tender- I shredded it with a fork. And, it makes enough to have this same meal twice or to use the leftover chicken in a salad or on nachos! If you double the batch,you could even freeze half, which I love to do. A freezer full of stacked ziplocs filled with sauces or shredded meats makes my heart happy!

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Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas Tacos adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

for spice rub—

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

for serving—

corn tortillas

avocado slices

shredded sharp cheddar cheese

your favorite salsa

limes

Directions:

Mix together all spices in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the chicken. Then, place the chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker.

Cover the chicken with the chopped onions, pepper, jalapeño pepper, and garlic. If you are prepping ahead, place in the refrigerator until the next morning. When you are ready to start cooking, turn heat on LOW and cook for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, remove meat from crock pot and shred with a fork. It should be incredibly easy to shred.

To serve, heat your corn tortillas in a skillet on the stove or in a toaster oven on 200 degrees. Spoon some carnitas on a tortilla then top with salsa, avocado, cheese, and a squeeze of lime.

Italian Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Soup

20130305-112506.jpg David spent the day snowboarding two Sundays ago, which inspired me to cook a big pot of soup. What better dinner to come home to after a frosty day on the slopes? A house smelling of simmering sausage and vegetables in chicken broth, fresh bread warming in the oven...

I had been thinking of this pot of soup for a while, just waiting for an afternoon at home when I could put it together. I was inspired by a recipe I found in a 2011 issue of Sunset Magazine, which happens to be my favorite magazine for all things Northwest- restaurants, shopping, planting tips, travel ideas, etc.- and knew I wanted it to have chicken sausage, chard, and artichoke hearts, but I also wanted to add some more earthy elements to round out the flavors and to make it more hearty. I decided on potatoes because I have so many sitting around right now waiting to be used and mushrooms, both of which provided the earthiness and hearty element I was hoping for. The sour dough bread paired with the soup quite well and we were actually all wishing for a bit bigger of a loaf to sop up our broth with!

This was a very good bowl of soup, and quite pretty to look at too! It would be worthy of a shared meal, but also perfect for a casual Sunday supper or a quick weeknight meal with just your family. You can choose to simmer the broth with the sausage and potatoes for the afternoon or just enough time for the potatoes to soften- depends on how much time you have on your hands. The soup is yummy, versatile, and easy to make. I hope you try it.

Italian Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Soup adapted from Sunset Magazine

Ingredients 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound Italian chicken sausage, cut into small pieces 32 ounces reduced-sodium chicken broth 3 small russet potatoes, cut into small chunks 32 ounces free range chicken broth 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, quartered 1 pound chard, chopped

Warm sour dough bread

Directions Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook sausage until browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 32 ounces of broth and the potatoes and simmer for 30 minutes, or longer if you have the luxury of time. Add the remaining 32 ounces of broth along with the mushrooms and artichokes and continue to simmer. Right before you are ready to eat, add chard and cook, covered, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with warm sour dough bread and unsalted butter.

Slow Cooker Night: Kale and Mixed Bean and Barley Tostadas

20130305-103635.jpg I'm pretty sure that I don't have to tell you how much I LOVE kale. I mean, I really LOVE it. Like I could eat it twice a day, every day for the rest of my life kind of love. Admittedly, the love is not exclusive to kale, it applies to all leafy greens really. There's just something about their bitterness and versatility that seems to make every meal complete for me.

Kale appears a lot on this blog in vegetable pies, sweet potato quesadillas, minestrone soup, mixed greens and chickpeas, green smoothies, and tomato Florentine soup. It's also the star ingredient in what appears to be one of my most popular recipes- the one I hear the most about from all of you dear readers- marinated citrusy kale and black bean tostadas . This is one of my most favorite dinners and this particular recipe has inspired many more dinners of a similar sort featuring kale and beans and tortillas.

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The meal is so easy to put together and it tastes a bit different every time, depending on what you have on hand to use. For tonight's kale and bean topped tortilla, I used: 1 pound mixed beans and barley 10 ounces kale, roughly chopped 5 flour tortillas sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 2 jalapeños, minced salsa verde lime

I slow cooked the beans for 8 hours on the low heat setting of my slow cooker. This time, I used a bag of 18 bean and barley mix from Trader Joe's which was quite good. I cooked it in the slow cooker with 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of water and a few minced garlic cloves. (More slow cooked bean recipes can be found here and here).

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Once the beans are finished cooking, here's how I assembled the dinner, it's not so much of a recipe as a method: Sauté a few cloves of minced garlic in a large skillet with a good glug of olive oil. Once garlic is fragrant, add minced fresh jalapeño (about 2 medium with seeds removed) and kale (about 10 ounces) and sauté until wilted- about 4 or 5 minutes. Brush tortillas lightly with olive oil and place in toaster oven or oven, on 200 degrees for about 5 minutes or until browned. Put tortillas on plates and top with kale, a large spoonful of beans and barley from the slow cookers, a drizzle of salsa verde, and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Squeeze the juice from a lime wedge atop the mixture and eat with a fork and knife.

Enchiladas

20130220-015102.jpg Sometimes, you just want a tasty, spicy, cheesy dinner. Something warm, something familiar. Well, this is that dish. It's really good. Really, really good. And, the leftovers might even be better than what is eaten the day it's cooked. I usually make these enchiladas with shredded chicken, but I think the ground turkey wins hands down! We just had them with chips and salsa and avocado slices, but I think they might be a enough on their own (or maybe I just filled up on too many chips when cooking dinner!).

Easy Ground Turkey Enchiladas

Ingredients: 6 flour tortillas 8 oz Enchilada Sauce- we used Trader Joe's which is nice and spicy 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped 1 medium red pepper, chopped 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey 3 cups Pepper Jack cheese salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and cumin to taste salsa avocado slices

Brown ground turkey on medium-high heat. Add salt, cayenne, garlic powder, and cumin to taste. Add onion and red pepper and cook until softened- about 10 minutes.

Pour 4 oz of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.

To assemble enchiladas, lay out the flour tortilla and put just under 1/2 cup of the turkey and veggies down the middle. Add 3 tablespoons of cheese on top. Roll the tortilla by folding in the ends first, and place in the baking dish seam side down. Continue until you have finished using all of the meat. We made our enchiladas on the bigger side, so this amount of filling only made 6 enchiladas with a small amount leftover for a plain Jack- sized burrito. If you like them skinnier, you may need 10-12 tortillas.

Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top of the tortillas. Then, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is a golden brown. Serve with salsa and avocado slices.

(My Most Favorite Chili...Ever) Edamame Green Chili

20130207-120227.jpg This chili is nothing to look at. I've made it many times and have been wanting to share, just waiting to get a good picture of it, but I've never been successful! Finally, I threw my hands up and decided you deserve to have the recipe despite having a good picture to go along with it.

The chili is green and dreary, but trust me what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in taste! It has a nice spice from the peppers, jalapeños, and green chiles, yet it is not overly spicy- even Jack likes it and he only has a preference for mildly spiced foods. The edamame provides a unique twist from the typical chili recipe and also some good crunchy texture. The addition of spinach, avocado, and lime at the end is important. These ingredients are essential to balancing the chili and providing a freshness that other bowls of chili seem to lack.

I've served this chili with whole grain couscous, brown rice, and orzo pasta and all have been good. But, our preference is to eat a big scoop of it poured over cheese grits. I use stone ground grits from Logan Turnpike Mill, which is about an hour outside of Atlanta, Georgia. There is just no substitution for real southern grits, so I still have family or friends bring them to me when they come to visit! We stir in freshly shredded white sharp cheddar cheese when the grits have about 5 minutes left to cook. The combination of green chili and cheese grits is really amazing, but if grits aren't your thing, any grain will do!

Edamame Green Chili adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, October 2011

a large glug of olive oil 1 bunch green onions, chopped 2 large red peppers, seeded and chopped 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced 3 stalks celery, chopped 6 cloves garlic, minced 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp chile powder kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 12-oz bags shelled frozen edamame 2 5-oz cans chopped green chiles 4 cups chicken broth 2 cups salsa verde 6 cups fresh spinach avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped sour cream shredded sharp cheddar cheese lime wedges

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the peppers and celery, and cook 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Stir in the garlic, cumin, chile powder, and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until fragrant about one minute. Add the edamame and green chiles and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and salsa verde, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until you are ready for dinner but at least 15 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Ladle into bowls on too of grain of your choice, and top with avocado, sour cream, and/or cheese. Serve with lime wedges.

Dating My Husband: Even When It's Just Eggs

20130207-103138.jpg A date night wasn't part of tonight's plan. But it's been part of our weekly plan since the beginning of January and it hasn't ever really happened...work excuses, colds to heal, late bedtimes for Jack, and on and on...so, tonight seemed as good as any to make it happen. It actually seemed a bit more than necessary after seeing Jack kick and scream in David's arms when being hauled off for bedtime and then hearing him loudly protest to David about not wanting him to read bedtime books.

As I was making dinner, I kept hearing our beloved three year old scream from upstairs, "I don't want you to come home anymore"..."I only want to see Mama"..."I don't like you". That's when I knew that we needed a little respite. The night called for a proper dinner...with candles and wine and even a bite of chocolate. With linen napkins and matching silverware...with our places set at the table. So, our easy dinner of egg and arugula sandwiches turned into what I think we would claim as our first official casual at-home date night of the year. And, it was good. We sipped our white wine, talked about David's day of snowboarding, of our plans for the year...we enjoyed our food and our berries and our dark chocolate peanut butter caramel truffle. We enjoyed the peace the meal brought to the end of our day and realized that it's not exactly all about what's eaten, but how it is served that might matter most of all... 20130207-103223.jpg

Egg, Cheddar, Maple Turkey, and Arugula Sandwiches

Lightly toast bread of your choice. Then, cover with slices of a good, sharp cheddar cheese and broil until bubbly and browned. Add a few slices of maple roasted turkey to the cheese toast and warm. Cover turkey with a large handful of arugula. Place fried egg on top and serve immediately.

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Slow Cooker Night: Sweet Potato Chili

20130118-092625.jpg I am always searching for alternative chili recipes. I love the idea of a warming bowl of beans and spices, but truth be told, standard red chili is not my favorite thing to eat. I once blamed my dislike of chili on the chili powder, but I have come to realize that it is the combination of tomato paste and kidney bean that I do not love (and this coming from a lover of beans!).

When I stumbled upon a recipe for chili in Real Simple using sweet potatoes and no tomato paste, I knew I had to try it with a few adaptations of my own. And, boy, am I glad that I did! This chili will warm your chilled body and make your taste buds happy! The notes of cocoa and cinnamon combine so perfectly with the sweet potato, yet the sweetness does not overpower. Instead, the sweetness mellows out the intensity of heat from the fire roasted tomatoes. All the ingredients play on one another to make a perfectly harmonious dish that will greet you comfortably as you come home from work. It pairs nicely with a winter beer like Snow Day from Fat Tire Brewery.

Let me know how you like it, if you give it a try in your kitchen.

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Sweet Potato Chili

INGREDIENTS 1 medium yellow onion, chopped 1 red bell pepper, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon kosher salt 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed 1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces 1/2 cup. beef broth sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, shredded sharp cheddar, and tortilla chips, for serving

DIRECTIONS In a slow cooker, combine the onion, pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potato, beef broth, and 1 cup water. Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours. Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, cheese, and tortilla chips.

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Slow Cooker Night: Balsamic Roast Beef

I think I've been upfront with my love of the slow cooker. I try to use it frequently, especially in the winter, for rich, hearty meals that are warm as soon as you are ready to eat them. This recipe for tender roast beef beautifully seasoned with a balsamic vinegar gravy will most certainly be added to the slow cooker weekly rotation. I love it when I cook a meal, especially one that is simple to prepare, and my family loves it. This is one of those meals- David went back for seconds (and thirds and maybe even fourths!) and, after some convincing that he would be big and strong like Superman if he ate his protein, Jack even seemed to like it (and he doesn't usually like meat).

This recipe doesn't even require you to brown the roast before putting it in the slow cooker. All you do is put the roast and the combined liquid ingredients and garlic into the slow cooker...It really is that simple!

I hope your family enjoys it as much as we did!

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Balsamic Roast Beef adapted from Add a Pinch

INGREDIENTS 2 pound boneless beef round roast 1 cup beef broth ½ cup balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon honey ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 5 cloves minced garlic

DIRECTIONS Place roast beef into your slow cooker. In a 2-cup measuring pitcher, mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over roast beef and then start your slow cooker- cook 7 hours on low heat.

Once roast beef has cooked, remove from slow cooker with tongs onto a serving dish. Shred the meat using two forks and then ladle ¼ – ½ cup of gravy over the roast beef.

Store remaining gravy in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use. I plan to use it for a dinner of portobello mushrooms stuffed with spinach and mozzarella cheese...mmmmm!

Veggie and Grain Night: Quinoa Veggie "Fried Rice"

Boy, it's been a while since I've shared a recipe here. I've been cooking (promise.)! Lately, I've had been using a self-made template to create our weekly dinner menu. Instead of having a free-for-all with each day, I've decided to incorporate certain menu themes weekly. So, each week we have a slow cooker night, an egg night, pizza night, salad night, and a veggie and grain night. I leave two nights open for going out, leftovers, or recipe inspirations. And, with this type of template, I have direction in the menu planning, but can also be as creative as I want to be.

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Last week, for our veggie and grain night, I made quinoa "fried rice". I love fried rice- it's usually one of my choices when we order out for Chinese food- there's just something about the way the flavors meld together to create a perfectly satisfying dish, but, I don't often make it because it doesn't seem that healthy. Using quinoa instead of rice, however, boasted the protein and reduced the carbohydrates, creating a perfectly satisfying AND healthy dish.

Quinoa Veggie "Fried Rice" adapted from Damn Delicious

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INGREDIENTS 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 large eggs, beaten 2 cloves minced garlic 1 small onion, diced 8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms 1 head broccoli, cut into florets 1 zucchini, chopped 1/2 cup frozen peas 3 cups cooked quinoa 1 teaspoon grated ginger 3 tablespoons soy sauce 2 green onions, sliced Sriracha, for serving

DIRECTIONS Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Pour in eggs and fry until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side, flipping only once. Let cool before dicing into small pieces.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring often, until onions become translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, and peas. Cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Add cooked quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.

Add ginger and soy sauce, and gently toss to combine. Cook, until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in green onions and eggs.

Serve immediately, drizzled with Sriracha hot sauce, if you like it spicy.

Cabbage: Sautéed and Roasted

20120507-022020.jpg I'm just getting around to sharing the recipe from our St. Patrick's day dinner...it's only been 2 months, no big deal! I sautéed cabbage with sage and bread crumbs to make it perfectly caramelized before tossing it with pasta to create a dish full of flavor...one that became the perfect accompaniment to grilled sausage.

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In the past, I've always boiled cabbage, but I've been experimenting more and finding that this vegetable is so versatile and full of flavor. A member of the brassica family (along with kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, and broccoli), cabbage is extremely healthful and very low in calories (only 25 calories/100 grams). Cabbage contains more vitamin C than an orange! and many phyto-chemicals that have been linked to lowering risks of cancer as well as lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

So, first is my Caramelized Cabbage with Pasta recipe, adapted from the New York Times:

5 cloves peeled and crushed garlic 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Kosher salt 1 pound dry penne pasta 1/3 cup olive oil 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 small head of cabbage, shredded 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

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Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in one clove of the crushed garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the bread crumbs and sage and cook until bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Season with black pepper.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook about 10 minutes, until barely al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the cayenne pepper and cook until fragrant. Stir in the cabbage and cook, stirring only occasionally, until it begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. You are looking for the edges of the cabbage to brown. Toss in the pasta and bread-crumb mixture and heat through, then quickly toss in the cheese and remove from heat. Season with salt and more pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.

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And, next is my recipe for Roasted Cabbage Wedges Topped with Goat Cheese. Roasted cabbage seems to be circulating through blogs lately, so I had to give it a try. It was yummy!

1 small to medium head of cabbage Olive oil Goat cheese Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Core your head of cabbage and then slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices and brush both sides with olive oil.

Roast for 25-30 minutes, until edges start to brown.

Top with a few small spoonfuls of goat cheese and roast for about 5 more minutes, until cheese starts to brown and bubble.

Top with cracked pepper.

Some Scenes from our Weekend

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20120401-094006.jpg We had a good time this weekend. We ate some incredibly good pizza with friends at our favorite neighborhood spot, Jack had his first sleep-over and, as evidenced, by the photos, he had an amazingly fun time, we went to a birthday party, played at the playground, made chocolate chip cookies, and ended the weekend with family gathered around our table eating savory kale and cheese custards.

Suffice it to say, it was a fun one. I hope you all had a good time too.

I will leave you with my recipe for the savory custard, made two ways. I added artichoke to one custard and sausage to the other; both were quite tasty. They reminded me of a lighter quiche. Perfect, I would imagine, at any time of the day, something a bit reminiscent of a light French meal when served with a green salad and a pinch of baguette. They pair nicely with a crisp beer or a glass of rose. Happy April!

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Kale and Cheese Custard adapted from The Kitchn

olive oil 4 eggs 8 ounces ricotta cheese 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese 1 can artichokes, drained OR 6 ounces chicken and sweet basil sausage 1 bunch kale (about 1/3 of a pound)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan lightly with olive oil. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cheeses. Roughly chop the kale and artichokes or sausage, then add to the cheese/egg mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon contents into the greased cake pan and cook until custard is set, about 35-40 minutes. Cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Ravioli with Arugala and Olives

20120205-025903.jpg We made this pasta dish after we all arrived home from long days at work and school stumbling into our dark house, shedding our scarves, hats, and coats, throwing our empty lunch bags onto the counter, and gathering in the kitchen for dinner prep. I began chopping as the ravioli boiled in a large pot. Jack got in a few dances to "Farmer in the Dell" and "Oh, Susanna" playing from his farm magnet on the refrigerator, we poured 2 glasses of red wine, and all three of us were happily sitting around the table by 6 o'clock enjoying a delicious plate of pasta.

The arugula brings the perfect addition of green and the olives and feta provide just enough salt and tang to brighten the dish. This is really yummy...a perfect weeknight meal.

Ravioli with Arugula and Olives

1 pound mini cheese ravioli 1/4 cup olive oil 2 cups chopped green and black olives 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves 2 cups chopped arugula 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and stir well. Let the pasta cook at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, until tender. When the ravioli is cooked, drain completely and transfer to a large bowl.

Stir the olive oil into the pasta, then add the olives, basil, arugula, and feta cheese and toss gently to mix. Enjoy with red wine and milk ;)

Marinated Citrusy Kale and Black Bean Tostadas

Oh, you MUST make this dish. I'm serious. Scroll straight down to the recipe, hurry out to the market to gather your ingredients, and put it on your table tonight. You and your family will be so happy that you did. It is so good. So, so good... Despite the lack of ingredients, this is one of those dinners that clings to your taste buds making them sing and dance, awakening them with it's full flavors. After every bite, you will continue to be surprised by the citrusy freshness of the kale, the incredible flavor of the beans, the way the feta cheese provides just enough tanginess, and the impeccable crunch of the tostada.

This meal is sort of like a healthy pizza. If you aren't too familiar with tostadas (David wasn't), then you should know tostada is a Spanish word meaning "toasted". In Mexico, tostada refers to an open faced, flat, rigid tortilla spread with cheese, beans, sour cream, chopped lettuce, sliced onion, and salsa. Most of the time, the tortilla is deep fried to attain that toasted crunch, but I baked them in this meal and the result was crunchy perfection.

I'm excited to hear what you think about them, so please share! I know they are being added to our regular rotation, especially since we can't seem to eat or drink enough kale these days (we are adding it by the handful to our morning smoothies- recipes and pictures I promise to share soon).

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Citrusy Kale and Black Bean Tostada adapted minimally from Not Without Salt

Tostada 4 flour tortillas 2 teaspoons olive oil

Brush 4 tortillas with olive oil, sprinkle with salt then bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes or until completely crisp. Be careful not to burn!

Kale Marinade ¼ cup fresh lime juice 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped ¼ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon ground cumin 4 cups kale, thick ribs removed and roughly chopped

Mix ingredients in a large bowl, toss to coat. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Black Beans 2 teaspoons olive oil 2 garlic cloves 1 shallot, finely chopped pinch of salt 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (I know...I didn't have any in my freezer and I really wanted to make this dish! The can ones here work just fine, no need for the slow cooked ones unless you already have some made.)

In a small sauce pan saute garlic and shallots in olive oil over medium heat until just fragrant. Add beans and simmer about 5-7 minutes, until soft and warmed through.

Assemble 1 avocado, roughly cut 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Place baked tortilla on a plate, top with warm beans, marinated kale, chunks of avocado and crumbled feta cheese.

Roasted Fennel with Lemon and Olives

20120128-022104.jpg Do any of you dig fennel like I do??? I've been craving it lately and adding it to at least one side dish each week. It's crunch and freshness promise to lighten the meal, but also pack it with flavor. I like this about fennel. It's both light and powerful.

Don't know much about fennel? Well, let me share a bit...

Did you know that fennel is an herb? From large bulbs, it grows stalks with furry-looking leaves and all its parts are edible. The fennel seeds are a popularly used spice in sausages, meatballs, and rye bread and can be bought dried in the spice section of most markets. Also, the seeds are sometimes used as an after meal breath freshener and digestive aid. The furry-looking leaves are delicately flavored and similar in shape to those of dill. The bulb is a crisp, hardy vegetable and can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw. And, the stalks can be added to soups, stews, and stocks for lots of added flavor.

Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean area, so it's popular in both Mediterranean and Italian cuisines. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and folate.

Here's the first of my fennel recipes that I will share with you. This recipe features fennel in the roasted form, so your home is warmed and filled with yummy smells during the roasting process. Roasted fennel makes a perfect side dish to salmon.

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Roasted Fennel with Lemon and Olives

2 fennel bulbs 3 cloves garlic Olive oil 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives 1 lemon Cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the fennel bulbs into small wedges, you should get about 8 wedges from each bulb.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. With your hand, rub olive oil on the foil and arrange the wedges of fennel on top of it. Drizzle more olive oil over the fennel and season well with kosher salt. Roughly chop the garlic cloves and scatter it over the fennel. Place in the oven to roast until tender, 25-30 minutes.

While the fennel is roasting, slice the olives in half and zest the lemon peel.

When the fennel is done, transfer it to a bowl and toss with the olives, lemon zest, and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Serve warm.

Pesto and Goat Cheese Roasted Peppers

20120128-015338.jpgI posted this recipe years ago, back when I was doing my weekly menus with recipes all in one post. And, coincidentally, the first recipe was also posted during this time of year. The dish would actually be good in any season- a particularly yummy way to enjoy summer's fresh basil and pepper bounty- but the roasting process and the high temperature of the oven seems to make the most sense to me in the winter.

20120128-015343.jpg A friend actually reminded me about this dish (Thank you, Sarah!) claiming that it makes her husband's night when it appears on their dinner menu. It's so simple, yet so delicious, I think it might make most people excited to see it on their table.

20120128-015352.jpg The way the goat cheese browns and the edges of the peppers become charred adds to its winter appeal. The olive oil and pesto give the dish some substance, yet it remains light, calling you to eat the whole pan at one sitting. We had them with chicken sausages last week, but I also think they'd be good as a side to a hearty grain like quinoa or with other roasted vegetables as I suggested in the original post. Another idea that just popped into my head is how fabulous they'd taste over orzo pasta as a sort of deconstructed pasta sauce.....mmm!

20120128-015401.jpg20120128-015408.jpg I've made a few changes to the recipe over the years, realizing it didn't quite need so much olive oil, but for the most part it's the same. I hope you enjoy these.

Roasted Peppers with Goat Cheese and Pesto

3 peppers of differing colors Olive oil Salt and Pepper Basil leaves Pesto Goat Cheese

Half and seed the red, yellow, and orange bell peppers. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray roasting pan with olive oil and place peppers in pan, cut side up. Drizzle peppers lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put a basil leaf, a generous spoonful of pesto, and a chunk of goat cheese in each pepper half. Add the pan to the oven for about 30 minutes- you are looking for the peppers to get crispy brown at the edges. Serve with extra freshly torn basil leaves.

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Baked Salmon Filet with Lemon Slices

20120123-110226.jpg Eager to incorporate fish into our weekly dinner menu has led me to finding quick, tasty ways to prepare it without leaving our house smelling of a fishy pier.

Simply, this recipe is a keeper. One I'm sure to use monthly as it is easy enough for a week night meal, very tasty and fresh, looks elegant on a table, and provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fats. Plus, the clean up is minimal since the fish bakes in a sheet of aluminum foil!

Baked Salmon with Lemon Slices

One pound salmon filet, with skin on 1 lemon, sliced very thin Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper Olive oil

Instructions Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place salmon filet on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Season the topside only with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place thin slices of lemon on top of filet.

Gather the foil into a loose “pocket” shape being careful not to create a package that is tight. The loose shape will allow steam to form inside the foil, which helps to cook the fish.

Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees, then place salmon in the oven. Cook for about 10- 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filet.

Brussels Sprouts

20120123-102832.jpg I tried so hard to bring you a new dish today...a dish that I had dreamed up that involved rich, meaty flavors. Full flavors of winter. I wanted to use the chestnuts that we bought at Pike Place Market. It was going to be my first time cooking with them.

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I roasted them as I had read to do by making an "x" shaped cut on one side with a knife and placed them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 400 degrees for twenty minutes. I let them cool, then I settled in to peel off their hards skins only to discover that the stubborn inside skin wouldn't budge from the meat. No amount of banging, prying, or yelling helped...instead I was left with cut-up hands, a pan full of half-shelled chestnuts, and a great bit of disappointment.

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My plan was to combine the meaty roasted chestnuts with Brussels sprouts in a skillet to be slowly braised with beef broth and red wine. I wanted a dish that's scent lingered in the air, beckoning you to taste. A comforting, yet new, dish for a chilly, dark winter night.

I guess we will all be left wondering how those braised chestnuts and Brussels sprouts would taste...I hope to try it again, after the cuts on my fingers heal. Perhaps, my chestnuts were too old...

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But for now, to satisfy your Brussels sprout fix (Oh, come on...if you aren't a Brussels sprouts fan, give them another try! They are a favorite around here. And, they have a lot of fiber, and more vitamin C and K than you need in one day in one serving, which is only about 6 sprouts.).

Here's my go-to recipe, which I've probably shared before, but a reminder never hurts.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

several large handfuls of Brussels sprouts Olive oil Kosher salt

Trim the stems of the Brussels sprouts and chop them in half. Toss them in a large glug of olive oil and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Place in a roasting pan and roast at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until outer skins are charred and crispy.

Our weekly pasta dish: Greens, cheese, protein and pasta

20120109-022422.jpg As you know, I’m always on the hunt for easy and quick recipes for weeknight meals. The recipe has to be really good to land a spot in our rotation since I love trying new dishes. This pasta dish is definitely a staple in my kitchen. What I love about it is its versatility. There are so many options for ingredients in this dish that we always have enough on hand to make a pleasing pasta dinner. It usually goes something like this:

1. Pour a glass of wine- usually red, but sometimes white

2. Prepare the following:

3/4 lb of whatever pasta you have on hand Some protein- we often use chick peas, white beans, prosciutto, or salami A large bag or bunch of greens- I wish I could say I get mine from the farmer's market, but what I typically have is the bag of mixed Southern Greens from Trader Joe's A 1/2 cup of cheese- ricotta seems to be the go-to around here since I love having it around to spread on warm toast, but we also use mozzarella quite often 1 lemon Lots of olive oil 3 or 4 garlic cloves Salt & ground pepper 20120109-022429.jpg</a

Boil a big pot of salted water. Cook pasta about 12 minutes, or according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about a cup of the hot pasta water to use if your pasta dish is too dry once combined- I ALWAYS forget to do this, even if I remember to set aside the water, but I do think it would be a good addition.

While the pasta is cooking, chop the meat, if using, into small pieces, or rinse and drain your beans. Sauté the meat in a large pot over medium heat with some olive oil until crispy. Add the minced cloves of garlic to the pot and sauté until fragrant (if you are not using meat, add olive oil with your garlic). Next, add your mix of greens, sautéing until wilted. Add more olive oil here if the greens are not covered nicely. If using beans, add them after you have wilted the greens. Squeeze half a lemon on top of the mixture.

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Stir the cooked pasta, and pasta water, if you remember, into the greens mixture. Toss with cheese and perhaps another squeeze of lemon. Salt to taste...Savor. 20120109-022447.jpg

Avgolemono

20120109-012638.jpg Not that the deliciously fragrant smell of a warm rotisserie chicken isn't enticing enough by itself. The scent reaching you as push your buggy through the cheese counter, past the prepared food stations, and onto the bakery. The promise of a warm dinner on your table in minutes is alluring and then you get a second whiff of garlic and herbs. It overpowers you and suddenly your original dinner plan is cast aside for a perfectly pleasing winter supper of rotisserie chicken.

No, no. You don't need ANOTHER reason to grab a rotisserie chicken for dinner, but IF you had another reason, then maybe you would start to act like us and indulge more and more often.

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Our other reason? It's called Avgolemono, a Greek soup of lemon and eggs and, well, chicken. So, after a delicious and hearty winter meal of rotisserie chicken, we wrap up the leftover chicken (we typically leave half of the chicken uneaten) and store it for two nights later when we make this soup. And, the greatest part is, it's SO easy. I mean REALLY EASY. The-second-dinner-served-in-one-week-in-less-than-20-minutes-easy!

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Avgolemono

4 cups chicken broth 1/2 cup uncooked orzo salt and pepper 3 eggs 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 1/2 small lemons) shredded rotisserie chicken

In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. I've even used homemade turkey stock in this and it's quite good, so use whatever broth or stock you have on hand, and, of it's homemade then even better! Add the orzo and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low; let simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking quickly to combine and to prevent the egg from scrambling. Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, about 1 minute. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and the shredded chicken and serve right away.

PS Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your kind words in response to Wednesday's post. Your comments, emails, and phone calls mean the world to me! You truly lit up my week!