Monday, April 14, 2014

Beef and Barley Stew (Slow Cooker)

I thought spring was finally here. On Saturday I was sitting outside soaking in the sun, drinking a beer, and rocking sandals. I thought winter had finally said her goodbyes. But no, I was wrong. Apparently we might get snow tonight. Really? Really? Really?

A ray of sunshine from behind the snow clouds-- I can share this beef and barley stew with you. It is a hearty delicious meal that is perfect for winter days... no matter if it is January or April.

Beef and Barley Stew
1 lb chuck steak, fat trimmed and cut into about 1/2 inch pieces
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
10 oz baby portobello mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
14.5 oz can petite cut diced tomatoes
3/4 tsp dried thyme
3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown for about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan. Add the carrots and onion to the pan and cook until browned about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 2 minutes. Dump into slow cooker. Add the meat, broth, tomatoes, and thyme. Cook on high about 3 hours (or low 6 1/2 hours). Stir in the barley and cook for 1 hour on high. Stir in salt/pepper and serve.

Serves about 6.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shortcut Week Day 5: More Ideas!!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the week, I won't ever judge you if you need to take a shortcut just to get dinner (or lunch or breakfast) on the table. It happens to everyone. As much as I subscribe to the thought that cooking is a relaxing wonderful experience that I love, there are days when I just need a break. Here are some additional ideas that will hopefully make those busy days a little easier.

Quick and easy is essential.

Freezer-friendly recipes are great because you can prep them on the weekend and then just pull them out and cook as necessary.

The handy-dandy crockpot is crucial for nights when you know you'll be working late.

What is your go-to shortcut in the kitchen? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shortcut Week Day 4: Brie Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade cinnamon rolls have been on my bucket list for years. A quick perusal of my Pinterest boards shows at least 15 different recipes for these sweet breakfast treats. A while ago I made homemade cinnamon roll biscuits that were delicious and allowed me to get them to my stomach table in just over a half hour. But they aren't quite the puffy, fluffy, yeasty cinnabon-like rolls that I'm really craving to make from scratch. The ones I want to make take a long time: typically kneading, two rises of at least an hour each, plus baking. I'm sorry but I do not normally put that much effort into breakfast for myself. Now if you (any of you) came to visit and I had an excuse to get up extra early and make you a special treat, maybe I could convince myself the time was worth it.

Since most normal people don't spend hours prepping breakfast, today's shortcut recipe is a great one for when you want to impress your overnight guests. I cannot take credit for this ingenious idea of stuffing cinnamon rolls with brie cheese. One of my friends totally did this first and as soon as she told me about it, I put cinnamon rolls and brie on my grocery list. Oh it lives up to what you would expect. Delicious! And so easy!

Make this on Saturday. Or Sunday. And say thank you to Alison!

Brie Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls
1 package cinnamon rolls with icing
about 1/2 of 6 oz log of brie cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly spray a round baking dish with cooking spray.

Slice the cheese into 6 pieces. There is no need to remove the rind. Pop open the cinnamon rolls. Working with one at a time, unroll the cinnamon roll, place of piece of cheese in the center and reroll covering all sides to seal in the cheese. Place into the baking dish.

Bake for 14-18 minutes until hot and browned. Let cool slightly and then spread the icing on top.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shortcut Week Day 3: Mexican Tortilla Soup

My mom knows I love to cook so when she tries a new recipe that they love, she sends it along. This soup is one of hers. She said "I liked it because it doesn't take very long to prepare - just open the cans and heat!" It kind of resembles one of those 8-can soups but it is Mexican flavored!

All you need is 5 cans (chicken broth, corn, black beans, refried beans, chicken), a jar of salsa, some pre-shredded Mexican cheese, and cumin from your spice cabinet. It is so easy, how can you not make it?

Mexican Tortilla Soup (from my mother)
1 cup salsa (I used medium, but adjust to your desired heat)
15 oz can corn, drained
15 oz can chicken broth
15 oz can fat-free refried beans
15 oz can black beans, un-drained
10 oz can chicken, drained
2 tsp cumin
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
For serving: tortilla strips or chips, sour cream.

Combine the salsa, corn, broth, beans, chicken, and cumin in a large pot. Heat over medium low until hot, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in cheese. Top with tortilla strips and sour cream, if desired.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shortcut Week Day 2: Peanut Butter Brownie Muffins

I was invited to an impromptu dinner party (does it count as a party if there were 3 of us?) the other night and asked to bring a dessert. I could have stopped and picked up ice cream (it was too cold) or packaged cookies (I've never liked those sugar cookies from the store) but you know me, I really wanted to make something. However, I didn't have a lot of time. I had a bag of mini Reeses cups that my mom sent home with me after the holidays so I decided to dazzle up a box of brownies. Apparently I'm not the only one to think of this, so I followed along with a recipe from one of my go-to dessert blogs, Bakerella. This is so easy but no one will be able to tell you took a shortcut with the box. They'll be too excited about the fact you gave them a brownie stuffed with a peanut butter cup!

Peanut Butter Brownie Muffins (adapted from Bakerella)
1 package Double Fudge Brownie Mix (I used Duncan Hines, but any brownie mix should suffice)
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
15-20 mini Reeses cups, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place foil liners for cupcakes on a baking sheet.

Stir together the contents of the brownie mix, eggs, water, and oil until well mixed. Fill each liner with approximately 2 tbsp of batter.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and push a Reeses into the center of each cupcake. Bake about 10 minutes longer until cooked through.

Let cool completely.

Makes 15-20 brownie muffins.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Shortcut Week Day 1: Chicken Salsa Casserole (Slow Cooker)

Are you ready for another theme week?

You know those days when you are just crazy busy. Those times when you just need a shortcut. You must use pre-canned, pre-packaged, pre-cooked things to make your "home-cooked" meals. Otherwise there is no way you will get dinner on the table before 9 pm. It could be that you aren't running from one place to another but you are just feeling lazy. Maybe you don't want to wait for the yeast to rise, or maybe you don't feel like making your own stock, or maybe the thought of standing over the stove stirring risotto makes you want to cry.

Everyone has those days. And it is those days that we are celebrating this week. These dishes are meant to be the ones that you can turn to in a pinch. They promise to bring you the flavor and finesse without the time or work. All you'll have to do is recruit someone to wash the dishes and you will be in the clear.

We'll start the week off using my favorite kitchen appliance, the slow cooker. This chicken salsa casserole has actually been in my recipe box since college. My sister found it in a book (or maybe got it from a friend) and passed it on to me so I'm not really sure where it originated. If you have some diced chicken leftover from a night earlier in the week, this is super easy. Choose your spice level by varying the salsa. This was a hit among my college friends and I'm sure it will be a hit for your friends and family. Just don't tell them how simple it is!

Chicken Salsa Casserole in the Slow Cooker
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups salsa (I used medium)
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
6 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
1 tsp dried parsley
For topping: diced tomato, sour cream, lettuce

Combine the soup, salsa, cheese, tortillas, chicken, and parsley in your slow cooker. Mix to combine. Cook on low 6-8 hours (it can potentially go for 9 hours but I wouldn't let it go much longer unless you can change it to warm after the 6 hour mark).

Serve garnished with tomato, sour cream and lettuce.

Serves 4.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Banana Oreo Milkshake

On Wednesdays, we wear pink.

Everyone in Africa can read Swedish.

Oh my god, Danny Devito! I love your work.

She doesn't even go here.

I'm not a regular mom, I'm a cool mom.

Stop trying to make fetch happen!

**My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard**

Okay that last one is technically not a quote from "Mean Girls" but the song reminds me of the movie. And anytime I make a milkshake, I sing that song. Yes, I did that when I made this banana oreo milkshake. And if you ask me, I think it will bring all the boys to your yard. Or at least your kitchen.

Banana Oreo Milkshake 
1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 double stuff Oreos

Combine the banana chunks, milk, and yogurt in a blender. Pulse until fairly smooth. Add the Oreos and pulse until you reach your desired consistency.

Serves 1.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Garlic Sticks

I listen to the radio as I drive to and from work every day which means that typically my entire day only consists of 20 minutes of radio listening. Therefore, I have to pick my station very carefully. In the mornings, I am always hard pressed to find a station playing music constantly so I pick my go-to station by the characters on the morning show. I've settled into a station that I like here and one of the things that they do shortly before 9am (which is typically when I'm finishing up my drive in) is list 5 random facts of the day. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they make you think, sometimes they are a little gross. But regardless I can start my day off my learning something.

Earlier this week, one of the facts of the day was that not having friends can be hazardous to your health. The study they were quoting apparently said that being friendless is like smoking 15 cigarettes a day. How or why someone measured that is beyond me but it made me thankful for all of my wonderful friends. Throughout all of the stages of my life, my friends have helped to brighten my days and I suppose to keep me healthy. For that, my friends, I thank you. And as I move on to the next stage of my life and make new friends (here's hoping), I want to thank you in advance for keeping me healthy.

So put down those "cigarettes", invite some friends over, and fellowship over these garlic sticks. They are a perfect combination of garlic and cheese and soft and crunch.

Garlic Sticks (Topping adapted from One Preppy Cookie)
1/5 recipe frozen homemade pizza dough (if you want to up the amount of garlic, when you make the pizza dough use garlic infused olive oil instead of regular olive oil)
1 tbsp freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Let the frozen pizza dough thaw over the course of the day in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature covered with towel for 10-30 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven and baking stone to 500F.

Whisk the parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and onion powder into the melted butter.

Roll or pull the dough into a circular shape, as thin as you can; brush with the butter mixture and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Transfer to the preheated baking stone.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crunchy. Let cool for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve with pizza sauce (homemade or other) for dipping.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Greek Couscous Salad

From Friday to Tuesday we had a glimpse of spring weather. Indeed, Monday and Tuesday got into the 60s! The sun was shining. Scarves, hats, and mittens were unnecessary. Boots were left on the mat at home.

Then there was last night. The rain/hail/snow/windstorm came back with vengeance. It woke me in the middle of the night for a few hours while it was trying to break through my windows. In the morning I could hear people scraping the icy snow mixture off their cars. I almost threw the covers over my head and declared I wasn't coming out until winter leaves us alone.

Unfortunately real life doesn't allow me to do that. So I'll settle for spring on my plate. In the form of this couscous salad. It goes perfect as a side to a grilled pork chop, chicken breast, or piece of fish. Make it. Sip a fruity cocktail. Pretend spring is out of hibernation for real.

Greek Couscous Salad 
1 1/2 cups cooked couscous
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup diced red onion
kernels from one ear of corn
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1/3 cup feta cheese
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

Stir together the couscous, vegetables, olives, and cheese. Squeeze the lemon juice on top and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to your own taste.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bacon and Leek Risotto

Dad: What are you making for dinner tonight?
Julie: Risotto.
Dad: Oh so what type of wine are you drinking?
Julie: Haha. I'm using a Sauvignon Blanc for the risotto.

Okay, okay. I admit it. I like to make risotto because it gives me an excuse to open a bottle of wine. What else would you do while you are standing over the stove stirring for 30 minutes instead of drinking a glass of wine?

And this bottle of wine risotto is as good as it sounds. I mean, bacon and leeks! What really puts it over the top though is the lemon juice. Do not forget the lemon juice.

Bacon and Leek Risotto (adapted from Cooking Light January 2014)
3 cups vegetable broth (homemade or low sodium store-bought)
3 bacon slices
2 cups thinly sliced leek
1 small onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Heat the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Cover and keep warm over a low heat.

Cut the bacon into pieces and then cook over medium high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces from the pan, leaving behind about 1 tbsp bacon grease. Add the leek, onion, and garlic and saute about 4 minutes until tender. Stir in the rice and cook about 2 minutes to toast. Stir in the white wine and cook for about 5 minutes while stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add the broth about 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is at your desired consistency. Stir in the lemon juice, butter and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve topped with the reserved bacon pieces and parsley.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lemon Cheesecake Bites

Let's talk sports for a little bit.

My favorite sport (to watch) is college basketball. Obviously my favorite team is Duke, but I can (and do) spend Saturday afternoons and evenings watching back-to-back excellent college basketball games. For the most part it can be fast-paced and exciting. I love love love a close, nail-biting, ending to the game. It just makes me happy.

The weekend before last I spent all of Saturday watching my favorite sport and prepping food for that other game on Sunday. You know which one I'm talking about. The "Super" Bowl. Can I just say it? There was nothing super about that game. It was just terrible. I do enjoy football on fall weekend, but that game. Nah, bro, nah.

Needless to say, I was ready for basketball again. Good thing we've still got almost two full months left. Bring on the madness! :)

Oh and if you are watching again sporting event, you should probably have some snacks. Like these delicious lemon cheesecake bites. Perfect for sharing with all of your friends. The gingersnap crust adds enough spice that complements the lemon creamy filling.

They are just the cutest little bites. So yummy!

Lemon Cheesecake Bites (adapted from Baking Bites)
For crust:
1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies
2 tbsp sugar
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of kosher salt
2 1/2 tbsp butter, melted

For filling:
16 oz cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat)
1/4 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
zest of two lemons

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line mini-muffin tin with paper liners.

Mix the crushed cookies, sugar, zest of 1 lemon and salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle in the melted butter and stir with a fork until it is moistened. Scoop about 1 tsp crumb mixture into each muffin liner and pack down with your fingers.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or large bowl), cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and extracts. Fold in the lemon zest. Top the crust with the filling, about 1 tbsp per cake. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheesecakes are set.

Allow to cool completely before refrigerating.

Makes 48 mini-muffin cheesecakes.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Italian Stuffed Peppers

When I was a little girl, I was a figure skater. I would spend early mornings before school at the rink. And evenings for team practice. Saturdays I would volunteer to teach even littler kids. It was great.

I think I need to dust off my skates. Our weather warmed on Saturday afternoon resulting in freezing rain and a whole lot of melted snow. Of course when it refroze Saturday night, we got an ice rink on every surface. Like an inch of frozen solid ice on the parking lots and sidewalks. That makes walking (even in boots) difficult. Hence the need for ice skates.

These stuffed peppers are hearty and delicious for the cold weather. They may not protect you from the inevitable slipping and falling on your behind, but they will make you feel safe and warm at your kitchen table.

Italian Stuffed Peppers
1/3 lb ground beef
1 medium tomato
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped peppers (red, banana, green, etc)
1 baby eggplant, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
handful of basil, roughly chopped
1/3 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup bread crumbs
handful of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 whole green bell peppers, tops removed, cored and seeded

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brown the ground beef in a pan over medium heat until no longer pink, about 4-5 minutes. Drain fat. Add the tomato, onion, chopped peppers, eggplant, and garlic. Cook until the veggies are softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the basil and tomato juice and stir to combine. Stir in the bread crumbs. Remove from the heat.

Place the whole green peppers in a baking sheet sitting up. Fill with the beef mixture. Top with shredded cheese. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lentil Veggie Mac and Cheese

Do you want to know another thing that I learned about myself when I was traveling so much?

I cannot iron.

Well, I guess I can iron, but cannot iron well.

In many ways I could excel at a homemaker-- I love to make home cooked meals (obviously). I have being doing my own laundry since high school (thanks, Mom, for instilling this in me). I like to knit (yes, sometimes I'm an old lady). But I fail at the ironing. Probably because since high school my outfit of choice has been jeans and a tshirt. Every now and then I'll dress it up with a sweater. Maybe a dress here or there if I'm attending a wedding. But my day-to-day wardrobe has never required an iron. During my job interviews I was wearing some new professional clothes which certainly do require an iron. You should have seen me trying to iron out the creases I had just ironed into the blouses. And those pesky dress pants and jackets. Don't even get me started. I suppose this is a skill I should learn before I start my career this fall.... but I've got a few months yet.

Until then (or while I'm practicing), I'll stick with home cooked meals. How about some garden fresh mac and cheese with lentils. Aren't the colors beautiful? This is perfect for a meatless Monday especially when it is cold outside. Comfort food.

Now who's up for an ironing lesson? I'll pay with yummy food. :)

Lentil Veggie Mac and Cheese (adapted from The Lean Green Bean)
1 cup chopped bell peppers (I used a combination of red and yellow)
1 cup chopped broccoli
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups torn kale
1 cup dry mini ziti noodles
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 oz goat cheese
1 cup skim milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 cups cooked lentils

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat an 8-in round baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.

Heat the peppers, broccoli and garlic in a saucepan over medium high heat for about 3 minutes until starting to turn tender. Add the kale and continue to cook until everything is tender, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Melt the butter in the pan. Whisk in the flour. Slowly add in the milk whisking constantly. Add the cheeses and spices and continue to whisk until melted completely. Stir in the veggies, lentils, and pasta and toss to coat completely. Transfer to the baking dish.

Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mini Buffalo Chicken Muffins

I told you that I was traveling a lot this fall for job interviews. And I started 2014 with another trip. This one for a scientific conference. Traveling can completely exhaust you because you are not on your normal schedule and you are living out of suitcases and you are not sleeping in your own bed.

I have concluded the thing that will make or break my travel is not the delayed flights, nor the eating out so often, nor the lack of a DVR for my normal TV shows. No, it is the heater or air conditioner in the hotel room. I LOVE a new hotel that has renovated and installed real thermostats. The ones that you can set at a temperature and they will only kick the heat on if necessary. I HATE the old heaters that are either on or off with no real control of the temperature, hot or hotter or cold or colder. When I was on this last trip, this was completely cemented in my mind. It was cold in the mountains of New Mexico so I turned on the heater in my room (low and towards the hot). I fell asleep for a few hours to awake in a completely dry heat where I couldn't breathe. So I flipped the heat off, chugged some water, and climbed back into bed. I awake after another hour or so completely freezing! I tried and tried to adjust the temperature to get a happy medium but to no avail; I was stuck every night jumping up to either turn on or off (multiple times) the stupid heater.

Ah well. It just makes you appreciate your own home so much more. I am thankful that I do not travel all of the time. I love my comfy pillow top bed and thermostat that keeps it a perfect 66F so I can cuddle under my blankets and sleep.

Enough of the story time, Julie; get on to the food! Today we are making and eating delicious mini buffalo chicken muffins. Technically I made them for a party a few months ago, but give me a break okay? I just told you had been traveling a lot. But really, you need to make these. Like today. Or maybe on February 2nd for the Super Bowl. They are perfect buffalo chicken bites--- loaded with buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and green onions. Make sure you follow the instructions and wait until they have rested for at least 15 minutes before you try to remove them from the pan. They need to set otherwise you will make a disaster in your kitchen. And I'm not volunteering for clean-up duty!

Mini Buffalo Chicken Muffins (adapted from The Noble Pig)
3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, finely diced
3/4 cup buffalo sauce
1/4 cup ranch dressing
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz blue cheese crumbles
1 celery stick, minced
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 tbsp chopped green onion (just green part)
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray mini muffin pan(s) with cooking spray.

Mix together the chicken, buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, cream cheese, blue cheese, and celery until completely combined. Note: this will be easiest if the cream cheese is at room temperature.

Mix together the panko, parmesan cheese, and green onion. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix with a fork until all of the breadcrumbs are moistened.

Scoop rounded tbsp of the panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Press down with your fingers, making a crust. Spoon a rounded tbsp of the chicken mixture into each cup. Sprinkle with additional panko mixture.

Bake about 25-30 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and cool in pan for at least 15 minutes to let set. Gentle lift each muffin out of the pan.

Make 48 mini-muffins.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Boy it is getting hot out there.

Today we had a high of 22 F!! That is practically Caribbean weather, right? Well, at least relative to the high of -11 F with a windchill of -45 F on Monday. Yeah, it was really cold.

And when you are really cold, you need a chili to warm you up. Here is one of my favorites. It is a white chicken chili packed full of flavor after cooking all day in your slow cooker. The leftovers are perfect reheated or repurposed into nachos or a salad, so make the whole batch, ok?

Now I'm off to resume my comfy place on my couch with my slippers, blanket, and a mug of steaming hot cocoa. I'm not leaving until the weather warms to at least freezing.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili (adapted from Fix-it and Forget-it)
1 lb dried great northern beans
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 1/2 cups diced bell peppers (I used a combination of red, yellow, and green)
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (I seeded one and left the other with seeds, but adjust for your desired spice)
1 medium onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
4 cups chicken broth (homemade or low sodium store-bought. If using store-bought, omit salt)
2 cups water

The night before, rinse and pick over the northern beans. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Let soak overnight.

The morning of, drain the beans. Place them back in the saucepan and cover again with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the water.

Mix together the beans, chicken, peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, salt, broth and water in the crock of your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (or high 4-5 hours). Stir and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.

Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, or additional garnishes as desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mahi Mahi with Jalapeno Ponzu

Vocab lesson of the day--

Ponzu: a citrus and soy based sauce used in Japanese cooking.

My interpretation--

Ponzu: an orange salty thin sauce that makes fish (in this case, mahi mahi) extra delicious regardless of your ethnicity. I picked up some mahi mahi from Trader Joe's during a trip to Indianapolis this fall and have been looking for good recipes to use up my freezer stock. This flavor profile worked perfectly. I spiced it up with some jalapenos. Definitely a quick and easy main course dish. Try it with another hearty fish like salmon or even chicken.

Mahi Mahi with Jalapeno Ponzu (adapted from Cooking Light's The Complete Quick Cook)
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 4-6 oz mahi mahi fillet
slices of fresh jalapeno pepper

Whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, mirin and lemon juice.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mahi mahi and cook about 4 minutes on each side until cooked through.

Place your fish on a plate and top with jalapeno slices. Spoon the ponzu over the fillet. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Serves 1.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spicy IPA Hummus

Grab yourself a mug of beer and let's cheers to the start of 2014! We'll probably need some snacks to wash down that beer. How about this spicy IPA hummus and some chips or carrots? Sounds perfect.

Spicy IPA Hummus (adapted from The Beeroness)
2 jalapenos, stemmed and roughly chopped (remove seeds if you want it to be less spicy)
3 tbsp tahini pasta
15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (peeled, if you have time)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup IPA beer (I used New Holland Brewery White Hatter), plus additional if necessary

Place the jalapenos, tahini, chickpeas, parsley, oil, lime juice, garlic powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until everything is pureed. Stream in the beer while the processor is going. Add additional beer until you get to your desired consistency.

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or veggies.