Slow Cooker Lentil Chili

I grew up on my mom’s amazing lentil soup (she finally told me the secret to its deliciousness) but when I want a hearty version, I use this Slow Cooker Lentil Chili recipe.  I love how healthy it is while still satisfying all the appetites in my house, of which there are a lot! The best part is that it cooks all day in a slow cooker so when you finally get home from pick ups and after school activities, it’s ready to eat.  Give it a try and enjoy, then let me know all about it.

Slow Cooker Lentil Chili

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

2 bell peppers, finely chopped

1-15 oz can tomatoes, diced

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 can water

1 cup lentils, dry

1-15 oz can Pinto Beans

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

1 tbsp oregano

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked

Instructions

Place all ingredients into slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 8 hours.  Serve.

 

Photo by Sara   / CC BY

 

White Bean, Kale and Sausage Soup

 

This White Bean, Kale and Sausage Soup has become a staple at our dinner table.  The kale and white beans make up most of this soup and give it a healthy quality while the Italian sausage give it a heartiness that make this dish perfect as a first course or satisfying enough to be served as the main attraction.  I like to think of this as a ‘rustic Italian’ recipe that can make the hungriest of men happy.

White Bean, Kale and Sausage Soup

1-2 tbsp olive oil

2-3 Italian sausage, casings removed

5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp crushed red pepper

5 cups chicken broth or stock, divided

1 bunch fresh kale, tough stems removed and finely chopped

1 small bay leaf

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 (15-ounce) cans cannelini beans , rinsed and drained

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large pot over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil, swirl to coat, and add sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the sausage is browned, add garlic and red pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute.

Pour 4 cups chicken broth/stock into pot and stir in kale, bay leaf, and garlic powder. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Place 1 of the drained cans of beans in a blender or food processor along with the remaining 1 cup chicken broth/stock. Puree until smooth.

Once kale is tender, add can of whole beans and pureed beans to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir and simmer for a few minutes until heated through. Remove bay leaf.  Serve.

 

Photo by Ted Major/ CC

 

Garlic Chicken

Being Italian I incorporate garlic into most (okay, all) of my recipes and this Garlic Chicken recipe is one of my favorites.  The garlic taste isn’t too overwhelming and the added spices create a flavor and aroma that is difficult to resist.  Besides that, this recipe has the three most important qualities that any recipe can have, it’s simple, easy and delicious.  Need I say more, really?

If you’re schedule is as crazy as mine and you still want to feed your family good, healthy food, give this recipe a try and then tell me if your family likes it as much as mine.  I really do want to hear what you think!

Garlic Chicken

4  chicken breasts, boneless skinless (can substitute for bone-in, skin-on pieces of your choice)

4 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (optional)

1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

 

Instructinos:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking dish or baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non stick cooking spray.

In small sauté pan on medium heat, cook garlic and oil, 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar and Italian seasoning, if using.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place breasts in baking dish and cover with the garlic and brown sugar mixture.

Bake uncovered for 15-30 minutes, or until juices run clear. Cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of your chicken.

 

 

 

Photo by  TheCulinaryGeek  / CC BY

 

Chicken and Asparagus Penne

This Chicken and Asparagus Penne recipe has to be one of my favorite pasta recipes.  It reminds me of a similar dish I used to get in Washington D.C. when I lived there years ago.  I used to crave that pasta dish on a regular basis and lucky for me they delivered.  The only difference I can remember is that they used spaghetti instead of penne.

And now a many, many (I won’t even tell you how many…ughhh) years later I am making this pasta recipe for my family.   And am happy to report that they enjoy it (almost) as much as I did all those years ago.  Make this for yourself or your family and let me know if you like it as much as I do.

Chicken and Asparagus Penne

1 lb asparagus, cleaned, stemmed and coarsely chopped

12 oz penne, cooked and drained

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp salt, divided

1/2 tsp pepper, divided

1 tsp garlic powder, divided

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed

1/2-3/4 cup parmesan, shredded or grated

Instructions:

Spray a 9″x13″ baking dish with non stick cooking spray, set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Take chicken and rinse, pat dry and rub with olive oil.  Take half of the salt, pepper and garlic powder and season both sides of chicken.

Place chicken on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes, flipping half way through cook.

In a pot, fill with water and bring to boil.  Add penne, cook per box instructions.  Drain and place in the baking dish, toss with olive oil.

Steam or blanch the asparagus, drain and add to penne.

Cube cooked chicken and add to penne.

Toss penne and added ingredients with seasonings, cream and 1/2 of parmesan.  Top with other half of parmesan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by  Geoff Peters  / CC BY

 

 

Lemon Pound Cake

Normally I don’t like anything lemon-y, but I have to tell you this Lemon Pound Cake recipe is outstanding.  The boys in my house requested I make this (the girls moaned) and I naturally obliged. My son has asked for it in his lunch every day and my husband has officially ‘slivered’ it gone.  The cake is dense, yet moist and the glaze on top adds just enough sweetness to compliment it.  However, the cake alone is delicious enough that you don’t even need the glaze.  Give it a try and let me know if you think it’s the best lemon pound cake you’ve ever had.

 

Recipe makes 2 Lemon Pound Cakes

For Cakes:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, large

1/3 cup lemon zest, grated

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For Glaze:

1-2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Instructions:

For Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy,5 minutes. Set on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45.

For Glaze:

In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar and the lemon juice, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Tools of the Trade:

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

All Clad Stainless Steel Set of 3 Mixing Bowls

 

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork is my favorite weekend dinner.  I usually make it on a Sunday, starting it before we leave for church so come late afternoon it’s done.  I shred it up, return it to the slow cooker, leaving some of the juices in there, but adding in barbecue sauce.  I only add a little for extra taste because not everyone in my family likes it.  Those who do make a point of adding more once they get the pork in between a sesame bun.  The best part, is there’s always leftovers, which means excellent sandwiches for my kid’s lunch boxes on Monday!

 

 

Ingredients

4-6 lb bone in pork butt (also known as pork shoulder)

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup paprika

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp white sugar

2 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

Bbq Sauce (optional)

Sesame seed buns

Instructions:

Trim excess fat off of pork butt.  Mix all of your dry ingredients and rub fully onto all sides of pork.

In a Crock Pot, pour in 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of water. place your seasoned pork butt into the Crock Pot and turn on low. Let the meat cook 8 hours. The bone should come out clean when you remove it.

Take a fork and knife and gently shred the pork. Remove (or keep) excess fat.  If using, add bbq sauce.  Serve on a bun and add a little of the drippings for extra flavor.

 

Photo by Sarah-Rose / CC

 

Caprese Bites

 

You say fresh mozzarella and I say, YES! Now take that fresh mozzarella and turn it in to Caprese Bites and I say the perfect party appetizer.

It also helps that nothing goes better together than tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil.  The balsamic is a bonus ingredient.  If you put these ingredients together on pretty much anything the end result will be absolute deliciousness (is that even a word?).

Try making these for your next dinner party or family gathering and see if it’s the first appetizer devoured.  And when it is, please leave me a comment and tell me all about it…I’m that sure it will be the winner.

 

Ingredients:

1- 8 oz pkg Bocconcini Fresh Mozzarella (about 24 per package)

Grape Tomatoes

12 Fresh Basil Leaves, rinsed

Toothpicks

Olive Oil

Balsamic Glaze

Directions:
Cut basil leaves and tomatoes in half.

Using a toothpick, stack one end of the tomato then a basil leaf then a mozzarella ball then finish with the other end of the tomato.  It should look like a mozzarella sandwich using tomatoes in place of the bread and being held together by a toothpick.  Repeat with each tomato.

Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze and olive oil. Serve.

 

 

 

Photo by  kae71463  / CC BY

 

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I’ve told you before how I prefer salty and savory foods over sweet and this Spinach Artichoke Dip is a perfect example of one of my favorite things.  First, it has spinach and artichokes (yes, yes) and second it mixes those with mayonnaise, sour cream, dijon , onion and cheese,  heats it all up so it melts all together and then I’m supposed to dip fresh bread into it and eat it (yes, yes, yes, yes and yes).  I’m in.

Give this recipe a try and tell me what you think of my favorite dip and leave me a comment.  You know I like to hear what you think:-)

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped

12 oz mozzarella cheese, grated

6 oz Parmesan, freshly grated

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and diced

10 oz bag of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard and onion.  Add the cheeses, reserving about 1/8 of the cheese to cover the top, and mix.  Stir in the diced artichoke hearts.  Mix in the fresh spinach and stir well until the mixture is well combined and everything is evenly coated.

Spray a large casserole dish with non stick cooking spray.  Transfer the spinach and artichoke mixture in to it and cover with remaining cheese.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, then if desired cook for an additional 1-3 minutes on broil to brown the top of the cheese further.

Let sit approx 15-20 minutes before serving to set.

 

Photo by Michael Saechang / CC

 

Chicken Pot Pie

I have officially converted my husband over to the ‘I LOVE Chicken Pot Pie’ camp, I’m so proud of myself.  How’d I do it? Well, let me tell you…

This year, I took everyone’s Thanksgiving leftovers, including my own, shredded up all the turkey (I know it’s not chicken, but close enough), and froze it until the holidays were over.  Then, I made pie crust, followed this recipe and made turkey pot pies, listening to my husband gripe in the background the entire time.  Luckily, my one daughter and I love pot pies, so I had her as a great excuse to make them. When they were done, he skeptically took a bit, ready to tell me why pot pies are a waste of time.  He didn’t say a word, he was too busy eating more pot pie. Victory!

Go be victorious.

 

 

Ingredients:

2 (9-inch) unbaked refrigerated pie crust OR make Pie Crust

2 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)

1 cup yellow potatoes, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

1/3 cup AP flour

1/4 tsp celery seed

3/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

2/3 cup milk

Egg Wash:

1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp water

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9- or 10-inch pie plate with 1 pie crust, set aside.

Place the potatoes and carrots in a sauté pan. Fill with cold water, until the vegetables are just covered. Heat over high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until just tender. Drain, set aside.

In a saute pan over medium/high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter, add the onions. Cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the other 3 tablespoons of butter and toss until melted. Stir in the flour, celery seed, salt and pepper. Slowly mix in the chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened. Season with more salt, to taste. Add the shredded chicken, peas and corn (if using), stir together.  Pour the entire mixture into the pie plate.

Place the other pie crust over top of the filling, then tuck the edges under the bottom crust and pinch to seal. Brush lightly with egg wash. Slice an “X” or any decorative cut in the center of the crust to allow steam during baking.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Tips:

You can make ahead-Assemble the night before and keep in the fridge, or freeze for the day you need it. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge.  Place refrigerated pie in the oven while it is preheating and bake until cooked and heated through, 1- 1 1/2 hours.  * watch crust- when it turns golden, cover with foil to prevent burning while continuing to cook pie.

 

Photo by Eliza Adam / CC

 

Pie Crust

This is it, one of my most guarded secrets, my Pie Crust recipe that I love for Chicken Pot Pies.  It can also be used for other pies, but there is something about the taste that makes me keep it for pot pies.  It yields a flaky and buttery crust that pairs beautifully with savory ingredients.  Give it a try and tell me if you feel the same about my pie crust that I do.  Enjoy

 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed

4-6 tbsp cold water

 

Instructions:

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt, baking powder and butter.. Turn on and slowly add the water, continue processing until a dough ball forms.  Remove and on a lightly floured surface, knead 5 times.  Divide into 2 balls, flatten into a round disc and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator an roll each one out on a floured surface to 9 inches in diameter.  Note* It works best if you roll your pin in one direction instead of back and forth.

 

Photo by Steven Depolo /CC