Italian Sausage & Cannellini Bean Stew

italian
Italian Sausage & Cannellini Bean Stew

Today was pretty low key and awesome.  After a leisurely morning catching up on things, the hubs and I decided to take a ride out to Saxpahaw.  We were both desiring brunch at The Eddy.  It’s one of those places that can make you feel a little uncool, because the servers, bartenders and most of the customers are bohemian/hipster and awesome.  I love it and can’t get enough of it.  The menu changes often, paying close attention to what’s local and what’s in season.  The people watching is a bonus, guilty pleasure of mine.

Anyway, after lunch, I stopped in at Left Bank Butchery.  It’s the local butcher that supplies pasture fed and slow-raised meats.  The Italian sausage was one of those things that I couldn’t pass up.  We usually eat chicken or turkey sausages, so this was a decadent treat, but life is short.  So tonight I made this stew using up items that I already had at the house and it turned out to be a winner, so I hope you will try it, too.

Ingredients:

  • 32 ounce Beef Broth (4 cups) (Gluten Free)
  • 1 small Yellow Onion diced
  • 1 medium Sweet Potato, peeled & cubed
  • 1 15 ounce can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage links whole
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped Spinach
  • 2 large Garlic Cloves diced
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp. chopped Parsley

Directions:

Add butter and olive oil to a large pot on medium-high heat.  Once butter has melted, add the sausage links. Cook for 3 minutes on each side.  Remove links and set aside.  Add onions to the grease and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned.  Add garlic and let cook for about a minute.  Stir often.  Add the beef broth, cannellini beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper, salt, pepper and sweet potato and bring to a high boil.  While heating, cut sausage links into approximately 2 inch rounds.  Add sausage and spinach back to the pot and turn heat to low.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  To serve, top stew with parmesan cheese, parsley and bread.

 

Roasted Garlic & Potato Chowder

ch6
Roasted Garlic & Potato Chowder

When your yard still looks like a winter wonderland, you make chowder.  Today is day five of the Snowmageddon.  The first day was super fun, filled with four-wheeling, sledding, mimosas & bloody Mary’s, friends and even a Krispy Kreme doughnut.  It was a great day.  Day two was a day spent at home with the hubs in front of a fire looking at the beautiful snow and catching up on reading.  Day three, the hubs had to go back to work, which meant I needed to get my act together.  Day four, I braved the grocery store to re-stock and make chowder.  It was awesome.  I didn’t finish until late last night, because I snuck out for a Tai Chi class with the girls.  (worth it)  So Day five, I’m posting the recipe.  I hope you like it.  The garlic takes on a sweet taste after roasting it.  Enjoy and stay warm!

Ingredients:

  • Two large heads of garlic
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I used organic with no salt)
  • 1/2 large Yellow, sweet onion-diced
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter (I use Irish butter)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Green onion for garnish

Directions For Roasting Garlic:

Remove most of the outer paper on garlic, leaving the cloves attached.  Use a very sharp knife to cut off the tops.  Set onto a small sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle olive oil on top.  Wrap the aluminum foil tightly around the garlic head.  Place oven rack in the middle and set oven to 400°.   (I wrapped each head separately)  Place these wrapped bundles on the middle rack once the oven has preheated and roast for forty minutes.  Turn off the oven and let sit for another thirty minutes to an hour.  You can’t really roast these too long.  They just get better.

Before:  ch4After: ch2

Directions for Chowder:

Roast Garlic in the oven.  Peel the potatoes and cut into 2 inch pieces.  Boil the potatoes until fork tender.  Remove potatoes and place in a bowl until ready to use again.  In the same boiler used for the potatoes, wipe out the bottom and add butter and olive oil.  Place temperature on medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, add diced onion and saute for a few minutes until soft and golden.  Slowly add the chicken broth and potatoes back into the pot.  Bring to a simmer.  Squeeze softened, roasted garlic into the pot with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for a few minutes and remove from heat.  Use an immersion blender or a regular blender to make chowder smooth.  Once onions and potatoes are blended, add in cream slowly and blend one more time.

To serve:

Add a few green onions for garnish.  Sour cream, cheese and cooked bacon are nice additions, too.

For lunch, this chowder can stand on its own with a side of bread, but for dinner, I added a ribeye and a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing.

Holiday Gift Giving

noel
Detox Gift Basket-kind of 🙂

Well, it’s January 9th, so this idea for a Christmas gift comes either extremely early, or way too late.  I’m going to say I’m just really on it this year and wanted to give everyone a heads up for December 2017.   Glass half full, remember?

One of my friends has a great blog called Crazy Blonde Life.  She is a lifestyle blogger.  Last fall she posted a homemade detox bath that looked pretty awesome.    I’m a huge fan of any kind of detox.  My lifestyle requires that I do them.  I love to eat, drink and be merry.  Shocker, I know.  Anyway, I tried a similar version for myself and was really surprised at the results.  The combination of the peroxide and the Epson salts left me feeling refreshed and very relaxed.   Sooooo,  I decided that I would give the gift of health to my besties.  Of course with the addition of some Prosecco to be consumed at a later date.

The idea behind a detox bath is to do it when you have not been drinking.  In Crazy Blonde’s post, she talked about dry brushing, too.  Have any of you ever done this yourself?  I’ve been sloughed and scrubbed at spas before, but I had never actually done it myself.  In each basket I included a scrub brush for dry-brushing, Epson salts, liquid Epson salts, peroxide and a few other knick knacks.  My new favorite is Dr. Teal’s Ginger and Clay Epson Salts, which is what I put in the mason jars.  With it was included the liquid version in a small glass jar.  Crazy Blonde suggested essential oils, too.  Since I was making them for different people, I couldn’t decide on a scent, so I just skipped that part in the gift.  I bought the baskets at a craft store.  In some of the baskets, I included magazines, or a  book, or even slippers.  I didn’t want them all to be identical, and I wanted there to be some personalization.  They seemed to be a big hit, so I thought I’d share.  Try it at home for yourself.  Here’s the link to Crazy Blonde’s original detox post.

Flash Lightning Chicken & Pastry

pastry
Chicken & Pastry

With the snow approaching at lightning speed, I had a lot on my to-do list today.  The hubs requested that I make the home improvement stop for Ice Melt and Fire Starters and also the Liquor store to up his supply of Makers Mark.  With that done, I had my own list to attend to, which was mainly going to the dreaded grocery store.  Whenever the forecast calls for snow, there’s a mad dash to clean out the grocery stores of bread, milk, eggs, water…You get it.  I needed to get there before it was all gone.  I decided that chicken pastry was going to be one of the things that I was going to make.

Growing up with a southern mom means that I was very familiar with the process of making pastry from scratch and rolling it out on the table, boiling a whole chicken, and putting a lot of TLC into it, but alas, I’m from a different generation that is often looking for speed.  Today, I bought a rotisserie chicken, organic chicken broth, and my latest find…dried pastry in the noodle section.  After gobbling my bowl up tonight, I didn’t feel I was really missing anything.  (Well, nothing will ever beat moms) Anyway, I’m still really happy with the results.  If you are feeling the need for some fast comfort food that you can make at home, look no further than this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 2-32 ounce boxes of chicken broth
  • 1/2 box of McLib’s Dried Southern Dumplings
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion-diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Add olive oil and butter to a large stock pot and heat until  glistening.  Add diced onion and cook for about two minutes on high until softened.  Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute until fragrant.  Slowly pour in the chicken broth and heat to simmering.  In the meantime, remove the chicken meat off of the store-bought chicken and chop white and dark meat up.  Add chicken to the pot with salt and pepper to taste.  You have just made chicken and pastry that tastes like homemade in about ten minutes.  I hope you like it.  I’ll be hitting the treadmill though.  eeek.  It’s not a diet recipe.

p1

Chicken & Kale Yeah Crock Pot Soup

kale3
Chicken & Kale Yeah Crock Pot Soup

It’s been rainy and chilly again today, which in turn means it is time to pull out the crock pot!  For me-eating a large bowl of soup is like taking a long, hot bath.  It warms me to the bone like nothing else.  With that in mind, I started hunting for the perfect soup.

I looked through a lot of my previous soup recipes and one of them for Jalapeno & Bean Chicken Soup enticed me.  It inspired me to write this recipe.  Since I’m trying to eat healthier, I added Kale and made sure that my ingredients were all low-or-no sodium components.  And because I love the hot stuff,  I added extra heat by including the cayenne and red pepper flakes.  Somehow the jalapenos didn’t sound like enough heat.  So if you’re feeling like you need a pick-me-up, I hope you’ll try this recipe and let me know your thoughts.

This stuff is not for the faint of heart.  If you can’t take the heat…don’t even try it. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1-14.5 ounce can of Diced Tomatoes (low sodium or no salt added)
  • 1-16 ounce can of Northern Beans
  • 1-16 ounce can of Navy Beans
  • 1 large bunch of organic baby Kale-approximately 4 ounces
  • 4 large cloves of garlic minced-approximately 1 tbsp.
  • 1/2 large jalapeno diced with ribs and seeds removed-approximately 1 tbsp.
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/8 tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil

Topping Suggestions for Serving:

  • Juice of 2 Fresh Limes  (optional
  • Tortilla Chips  (optional)
  • Hot Sauce  (optional)
  • 2 Avocados  (optional)
  • Hot Jalapenos from a jar or can  (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Directions:

Drizzle Olive Oil in the base of your Crock pot and top with chicken breasts.  Salt and Pepper both sides of the chicken.  Sprinkle cumin and cayenne pepper on top of the chicken. Add baby Kale.  Drain beans and add to pot.  Add diced tomatoes-juice and all.  Pour the chicken broth in and add the garlic and jalapeno.  Heat to high for 4-6 hours until the chicken is done.  Remove chicken from pot and shred and then add back to the pot.

Serve with a squeeze of lime juice, cilantro-if you like it, a couple slices of avocado, sour cream and tortilla chips.  Enjoy!

 

My Green Juice

In the last few years I have fallen in love with green juices.   Luckily we have a great local juice bar, The Blend Boutique, to fill my needs.  But some days, I just don’t want to leave the house to buy one, so I made this recipe to satiate my green juice cravings.  It’s spicy and refreshing.  After a full holiday season of over-indulging, it’s time for me to get it together.   Even though I love the juices made with Kale and Collards, this one has more citrus in the recipe.  It’s my version of cold medicine.

gj2
My Favorite Green Juice

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 1/2 of a large jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1/2″ piece of fresh ginger
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup ice

When I first started making juices, I used a Magic Bullet blender.  These are affordable and available everywhere.  I upgraded last year to the Ninja blender and love it, but either of these do a great job.  

Instructions

Wash fruit.  Peel cucumber and fresh ginger.  Cut open avocado and add the meat of the fruit to the blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  This recipe yields one 20 ounce glass (give or take, depending on the size of your fruit)

  • Jalapeno can easily be left out of the recipe, but the extra kick from the Capsaicin has many good healing qualities that make it worth adding.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve been wanting to create my own butternut squash soup recipe all week.  I finally had the time today to work on the recipe.  The hubs and I really like it.  I hope you do, too.

squash2
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds butternut squash
  • 4 tbsp butter (I use Irish butter)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (2 for sauteing and 2 for roasting)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 large shallots
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup chardonnay
  • Blue cheese for garnish

Directions

Cut butternut squash in half length wise and remove seeds.  Peel carrot and place the squash and carrot on a heavy sheet pan and drizzle well with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt, pepper and lightly dust with cumin.  Roast for 40-60 minutes at 400 degrees until fork tender. (like a baked potato)

While the squash and carrot are roasting, heat a large soup pot with 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Dice garlic and shallots, add to pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper,  saute for 2-3 minutes or until softened.  Pour in the wine and stir.  Let simmer until most of the wine has evaporated and add the 4 cups of the chicken broth.  Heat until simmering then turn the temperature to low, add brown sugar, maple syrup, 1 tsp cumin and cover.

Allow squash and carrot to cool some once they are roasted.  Remove the flesh of the squash and add all of the meat to the pot of broth.  Cut carrot into fourths and add to pot. Add the rest of the chicken broth.  Use an immersion blender to blend the soup together.  Heat to a simmer, add last 2 tbsp of butter and stir.  Serve with a little blue cheese and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Enjoy!

This recipe yields 4 quarts.  I wanted to make more to share with friends, but it is also an easy way  to make soup ahead of time for your own family.  Just make sure to can properly and date. Here’s a great reference for canning soup.

*Vegetable broth can be exchanged for the chicken broth to make this vegetarian.

Cooking At Home With Blue Apron

bp7
Steak & Green Peppercorn Sauce with Sauteed Kale and Baked Potatoes

I wish I could say that Blue Apron is paying me to write about them, but in truth, I just love it and wanted to share.  As many of you know, I love to cook.  It’s a passion that I indulge in as often as possible.  I love to create new recipes and work with new flavor profiles, but like many home cooks, I can easily get stuck in a cooking rut.  With meals that everyone loves already, it can be easy to just keep making the same things over and over again.  But BOOOOOOO to that.

Blue Apron is a home delivery meal system that works for me.  I didn’t want to commit to anything, but when I read their policies, I was sold.  You can quit whenever you want to and skip week after week if you feel like it, too.  My subscription is for 3 meals per week for a family of two.  A box arrives on my doorstep on Wednesday morning with everything I need to make 3 meals for my family.  There’s usually at least one ingredient each week that is new to me and there’s often ingredients that are not my favorites, but they’ve taught me how to prepare them so I now love them.  My best reference to this is the week I received turnips.  I literally cried when my mom would serve these to me growing up, so as an adult, I never gave them another chance…until Blue Apron.  I made baked turnip matchsticks one week and I was sold.  My point is that for me, it inspires me to try new things and new cooking techniques.  Blue Apron also keeps waste to a minimum in my kitchen.  If you need a one inch piece of ginger for a recipe, that’s how they send it to you.  There’s nothing to go bad.  My only complaint is that we never have leftovers.  So here’s a few of my Blue Apron creations.  I hope you’ll try it, too!

bp1
Tinkerbell Pepper Quesadilla

 

bp5
Sesame Chicken With Bok Choy and Jasmine Rice
bp2
BBQ Sloppy Joes With Green Bean & Tomato Salad

 

bp4
Spiced Pork Burgers With Pickled Beets & Cone Cabbage Slaw
bp8
Easy Instructions with pictures come with every meal.

When Life Gets Too Easy…You Aren’t Doing It Right

Complacency leads to a life less fulfilled.  It fools us into believing we are doing things right.  When we don’t push ourselves to be more and to do more, we are short-changing ourselves and others around us.  Before 2017 begins I am really evaluating my life and the things I want to accomplish.  Without knowing the final deadline date, (as none of us do) I need to jump on it.   With that more in perspective, I’m eager to set a new pace.

Sometimes all it takes is a new point of view to remind us that life really isn’t a picnic for everyone.  It can be so easy to see only the perfect facade displayed.  Self doubt and insecurity can wreak havoc on a person’s psyche and hold them back.  Thoughts that people have it better than, are smarter than, skinnier than,  can be destructive and halt our own forward progress.  That’s when perspective usually strikes.

I was quickly reminded  yesterday morning of that very thing.  A close friend lost her sister.  It felt like a sumo wrestler sat on my chest and sucked the breath out of me when I heard the news.  I couldn’t fathom her pain of losing a sibling.  The last year plus has been so much about my grief, my sister’s pain, and my mom’s survival.  It’s been a lot of Me. Me. Me.  Damn it.   People come out of the wood work when bad things happen, too.  So many of us share the same types of loss.  Yes-it’s a part of life, but it doesn’t mean it’s okay.  It doesn’t make it easy.  We all struggle in our own ways.  Some are better at hiding their pain, while some (like me) wear it and write it all over.

But life is meant to be felt.  Pain can often create growth.  I know I’ve learned to be more compassionate with people through my own grief.  I would like to think that I’ve  learned to be a better friend, because mine have been amazing.  It has taught me how important it is to keep checking in on people and their lives.  We can miss so much when we don’t  ask.

Complacency is the easy way and not the direction I’m going to follow in my life. Life is beautiful and a gift.  It’s often hard, but through it, we can become stronger.  We can be better.  We can have a new and better perspective.  When my days feel like they are getting easier, I question what I’m missing or doing wrong now.  I wonder what else I should turn my attention to.  I want to really kick ass in life so when I take my final breath I can feel like I really lived it.  I hope this life is ready, because I have this feeling that I haven’t been doing it right.

Bring it 2017!

image

 

Good Enough Works For Me

c1

A few weeks ago, I gave the hubs about five minutes to get ready for our annual Christmas shot.  (I’ve learned that trying to plan something that he doesn’t want to do will not work, so why not catch him off guard when he’s in a cheeky mood)?  A few moments later we were over the “trying to pose” and agreed it was good enough.  Shadows on the face-no problem.  Dog wants to sit on my lap and avoid looking at the camera-who cares?  I only mailed out a few this year anyway.  I just couldn’t get it together and I’m okay with that.

Even though I am okay with not reaching perfection, I still secretly strive for it;  but this year, I let go of the effort much faster.  I played Shopkins with my niece until she tired of it.  I decided not to cook the green beans on Christmas Eve, so I could have a cocktail while everything else baked in the oven.  I attended as many social functions as I could and didn’t stress when I couldn’t make them. Even when I attended events that I normally take scrumptious food, I was okay when all I had was good wine.  I even had friends over when my house wasn’t quite ready for visitors.  It made the holiday season easier.  After the prior Christmas and the year plus of palpable grief, I just wanted to rejoice in the blessings that had been shadowed by my pain and I did.  I also convinced myself I had surely lost a pound or two, but alas, that was just a farce.

To know me is to know that I dance to my own tune and it’s rarely pretty and it is always far from perfect…but I do so with enthusiasm and a smile.  It’s just not in me to be flawless.  In fact,  my sister bought me a tank that says I’m Flawsome.  I do believe that our flawed selves can be awesome and that “Good Enough” works for me.