Red Beans & Rice

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 pound fully cooked or smoked sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 14oz cans red kidney beans; drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups cooked white rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, garnish

Directions

In a large pot, heat the bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the grease. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and sausage and cook, stirring, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans start to to thicken, about 20 minutes.  With the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.

Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.

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North African Meatballs

This is so good!  Rather than browning the meatballs in oil, I decided to bake them for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  That is the perfect amount of time to prepare the sauce.  Serve with quinoa or couscous.

For the North African Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

To make the Meatballs: In a medium bowl, add the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not overmix. Rolling with your hands, make about 24 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter.  Coat a 24 mini muffin tin with cooking spray and place meatballs in tin, or just use a regular 13×9 baking dish or cookie sheet. Bake meatballs at 400 degrees for 20 mins.  Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes.

To make the North African Sauce:

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer about 10 minutes.

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Avocado Corn Chowder

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1.5 cups water
  • ½ c fresh OJ (about 1 large orange)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1.5 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  1. Peel and coarsely chop one avocado; place in a blender.  Add water, orange juice, honey, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and red pepper.  Blend until smooth.  Place in freezer to chill.
  2. Dice remaining avocado.  Stir in diced avocado, corn, bell pepper, and onions into chilled avocado puree.
  3. Try also serving with shredded grilled chicken or grilled shrimp.

**Nice little variation on this.  Prepare through step one.  Then saute  shrimp in about 1/2 cup of basil pesto until cooked through (about 3 minutes).  Pour chowder into bowls,  top with fresh corn, neatly pile about 5 large shrimp on top, and drizzle with warm pesto.

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Chilled Asparagus Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 quarts water
  • Kosher salt
  • 32 stalks small to medium-size green asparagus, washed and ends trimmed
  • 1 pint Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

I like asparagus al dente, slightly crunchy. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add salt until it tastes like mild seawater.

Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl, large enough to hold the asparagus, with cold water. Add some ice cubes. Plunge the asparagus into the ice bath before cooking. This will help to bring any limp stalks back to life. Remove from the ice bath, plunge them into the boiling water and allow them to cook, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water, transferring them immediately to the same ice bath. Allow them to sit in the ice bath for a few minutes, swirling them gently in the water to assure they are all cooling quickly in the cold water.

Dry the stalks once they are removed from the ice bath. Taking care that no water gets into the final salad is the best way to assure that the maximum flavor will be enjoyed! Transfer the asparagus to a large plate or platter lined with a kitchen towel and refrigerate.

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, white wine vinegar, honey and mustard. Stir to blend. Whisk in the olive oil in an even, steady stream. When all of the oil has been integrated, taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

When ready to serve, remove the kitchen towel from the asparagus and toss the asparagus and tomatoes in the dressing to coat them completely. Arrange the stalks and tomatoes on plates and serve.

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Slow-Roasted Tomato Pasta

This is one of our favorites (oh, Cooking Light, we love you!).  I roasted the tomatoes on a Sunday and then put them in a container to use later in the week.  Once that step is out of the way, this dish takes about 20 minutes.

  • 3 pounds Roma (or plum) tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 12 oz uncooked fettuccine
  • ¾ cup (3 oz) shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 tbsp. fresh torn basil

1.       Preheat oven to 225.

2.       Place tomatoes on a baking pan.  Drizzle oil over tomatoes.  Sprinkle with ¾ tsp. salt and black pepper.  Bake 4 hours.

3.       Heat a large skillet over low heat.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove garlic and chop.  Combine garlic, tomatoes, and red pepper in pan.

4.       Cook pasta in boiling water with 1 ½ teaspoons salt for 8 minutes or until al dente.  Drain pasta, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid.  Increase heat to medium-high under tomato mixture, and stir in reserved liquid.  Bring to a boil.  Cook 3 minutes.  Add pasta; cook for 1 minute, tossing to combine.  Remove from heat; sprinkle with cheese and basil.

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Quickie Chicken Potpie

A couple of tips:  Roast the chicken breast in the oven for 20 minutes at 425.  Remove and let cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.   I used homemade chicken broth that I pulled out of the freezer about 2 hours before cooking.  It adds that extra bit of flavor.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 chopped leek
  • ½ cup shallot, thinly sliced
  • ¾ tsp. chopped fresh thyme, or ¼ tsp dried
  • 1 ½ cups diced red potato (skin on)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 14 oz chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped roasted chicken breast
  • 1 package frozen mixed vegetables
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust (such as Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust)

1.        Preheat oven to 425.

2.       Melt butter in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat.  Add leek, shallot, and thyme; sauté 2 minutes.  Add potatoes; sauté 2 minutes.  Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.  Stir in mustard and broth; bring to a boil.  Cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in chicken, mixed vegetables, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute.  Combine 2 tablespoons water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add cornstarch mixture and half and half to pan.  Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Spoon mixture into an 8 inch baking dish.

3.       Unfold pie crust and place over mixture.  Fold ends underneath until flush with sides of dish, creating a seal.; pinch the edges of the crust with fingers.  Cut 6 slits in top of crust.  Put baking dish on baking pan and bake at 425 for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is lightly brown and mixture is bubbling.  Remove from oven and let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This recipe is from Cooking Light. It’s healthy, gluten-free, and actually one of their “budget” recipes – and it’s GREAT!  Cooking time is about one hour.

  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp ground red pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onion, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup salsa verde
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño peppers
  • 9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • ¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1.       Preheat oven to 425.

2.       Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side.  Place skillet in the oven; bake 10 minutes or until done.  Remove chicken from pan; let stand 15 minutes.  Remove meat from bones; shred.  Discard bones.  Place chicken in a medium bowl.  Add ½ tablespoon cilantro, corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken.  Toss to combine.

3.       Return pan to medium-high heat.  Add ½ cup onion; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 3 garlic cloves; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add onion mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine.

4.       Combine remaining 1 ½ cups onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, broth, salsa, ¼ cup water, and jalapeño in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.  Carefully pour mixture into a blender; add 2 tablespoons cilantro.  Process until smooth.

5.       Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 ½ minutes each side.  Remove tortillas from pan; repeat procedure with remaining tortillas.  Cut tortillas into quarters.

6.       Spread 1 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish.  Arrange 12 tortillas quarters over salsa mixture.  Spoon half of chicken mixture over tortillas.  Repeat layers (salsa, tortillas, chicken) and end with tortillas.  Pour remaining salsa over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Serves 4.

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Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

The key to making this recipe quick and easy is using the flour as a thickener, rather than sweating over making a perfect roux, which saves about 30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3  cup + 1 tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1 lb raw Andouille sausage
  • 2  cups  finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2  cups  finely chopped green bell pepper (about 1 large)
  • 4  celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 4  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  cup  water
  • 4 cups (32 oz) chicken stock, divided
  • 2  teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for extra spice)
  • 1  (16-ounce) bag frozen cut okra
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1  pound  peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 3  cups  hot cooked long-grain white rice
  • Hot pepper sauce (optional)

Preparation

Place flour in a small skillet; cook 5 minutes over medium heat or until flour is toasty brown, stirring constantly. Place in a small bowl; cool.

Heat the oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Remove sausage from casings and cook for 3 minutes, crumbling with a spoon. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic; sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Add water, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Combine toasted flour and 2 cups of chicken broth in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually pour broth mixture into pan. Stir in remaining chicken broth, Cajun seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, and okra; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

Add shrimp and lemon juice; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done.  Remove from heat; serve gumbo over rice. Serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Try this: replace 1 cup water with 12 oz amber beer.

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Beef Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

This is one of those great work-night meals that is easy to whip up, and so full of flavor.  Make the Chimichurri the night before so the flavors have plenty of time to combine.  Using the broiler to cook the meat saves time over grilling.  Be sure to bring your meat up to room temperature before cooking.  I usually pair this with a side of steamed asparagus.

For the Chimichurri sauce

  • 2 cups fresh cilantro, firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (good olive oil makes a huge difference)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Pulse the garlic in the food processor until finely chopped.
  2. Add the cilantro and oregano and pulse briefly, until finely chopped.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl. Add the olive oil, lime juice, and vinegar, and stir. (Adding the liquids outside of the blender gives the chimichurri the correct texture. You don’t want the herbs to be completely puréed, just finely chopped).
  4. Season with salt to taste.

For the Beef

1.      Two 4-5 oz beef tenderloin steaks, about one inch thick

2.      Salt and pepper to season

Preparation:

1.      Preheat the broiler.

2.      Season both sides of meat with salt and pepper.

3.      Place meat on a broiler pan about 4-5 inches from heat and broil 5 minutes on each side.

4.      Remove and let stand about 5 minutes.

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Wine and Tomato Braised Chicken

Slow-cookers have a bum rap, but I am really digging mine and have discovered a lot of recipes that prove this is a tasty time-saver, like this one below. Serve the braised chicken over mashers. Maybe pair it with some roasted carrots. Wintry yumminess.

Ingredients
• 2 slice(s) bacon
• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
• 2 clove(s) garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon(s) dried thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon(s) fennel seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/2 cup(s) dry white wine (see Tip)
• 1 can(s) (14-ounce) tomatoes, with juice, coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon(s) salt
• 4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 ½ pounds), skin removed, trimmed
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Directions
1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Crumble when cool.
2. Add onion to bacon drippings in pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seeds, pepper, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits. Add tomatoes and their juice and salt; stir well.
3. Place chicken thighs in a 4-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Sprinkle the bacon over the chicken. Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken. Cover and cook until the chicken is very tender, about 3 hours on High or 6 hours on Low. Remove the bay leaf.

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