Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

We’ve been using our crockpot quite a bit lately. We’ve also discovered the wonderful boneless skinless chicken thighs from one of our favorite grocery stores (or go-see store as our toddler calls them). The benefit of cooking the thighs in the crockpot is they dry out less and are more flavorful than the traditional chicken breasts. Cooking Light’s crockpot recipes have become a go-to source. I did not expect this recipe to be as good as it was. Even the toddler ate some of it!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken stock)
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano (we ended up using dried)
1/4 cup drained capers
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (we left this out because the toddler was eating with us)
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (28-oz.) container diced tomatoes (such as Pomì) (I accidentally used only the 14.5 ounce can)
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, quartered (the grocery store was out of these, so we just left them out)
8 (6-oz.) bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 3 lb.) (we only had three boneless ones left, it worked fine)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken in half
5 ounces baby spinach
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

Directions:
Combine 1/2 cup water and flour in your favorite crockpot, stirring with a whisk. (Note: You can also use corn starch, which we will do next time.) Stir in stock and next 8 ingredients (through mushrooms). Add chicken thighs to the stock mixture; submerge in liquid. Cover and cook on LOW 7 1/2 hours (ours cooked about 9). Remove chicken. Leave whole or chop if using boneless skinless. If using bone-in, wait for them to cool, then remove bones.
Add oil and pasta to slow cooker sauce; cover and cook on HIGH 15 minutes or until pasta is done to your liking. (It took a little longer than 15 minutes for us.) Stir in spinach until wilted. Divide pasta mixture and top evenly with chicken. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

My opinion:
I didn’t expect the capers to add so much to the dish. It was the right amount of salt and sweet from the tomatoes. The pasta cooked perfectly. Next time, I will use the corn starch and reduce the amount of liquid a little for the initial cooking phase. If we need more to cook the pasta, I’ll add more at that time. All in all a good, flavorful dish that is perfect for a weeknight.

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Best Gazpacho

Gazpacho
I know I said this was the best gazpacho recipe and I promise I still really like that one. This one is a teensy bit better and reminds me of a bowl of gazpacho from a restaurant in my hometown that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the perfect HOT summer dinner. We found this gem hidden in a Mexican cookbook that we bought years ago:
Perfect Mexican
Ingredients:
1 cucumber (the original recipe says small, we just got an average size one) peeled and chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves (we really like garlic so we used about two tablespoons minced garlic)
1 fresh basil sprig (we have this growing in the kitchen and used about a quarter cup of leaves)
2 1/2 cups strained tomatoes (we had a heck of a time finding strained tomatoes in our Mid-Missouri town, so we used tomato puree)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (splurge and use the good stuff. We have some wonderful EVOO from C’s trip to Spain!)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (splurge and use the good stuff)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (splurge and use the good stuff)
1 and 1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Now the serving suggestions include:
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 3.00.04 PMBut truthfully, we don’t bother because the model didn’t include the garnishes and it’s just as good.

Directions:
Put the cucumber, bell peppers, garlic and basil into your food processor (don’t try this with a regular blender, I promise it just makes a mess!). Process until the consistency of salsa. Add the strained or pureed tomatoes, olive oil and both kinds of vinegar and blend until smooth. (You might have to do this in two batches, we do!)
Pour in the vegetable stock and lemon juice and stir. (If you’d rather just pulse the food processor a few more times, we find it helps it to blend together a bit better.)
Transfer to a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap (or a lid!) and refrigerate for at least two hours.

My opinion:
Some people keep this extra chilly by serving an ice cube at the bottom.
Best Gazpacho
Instead of crusty bread (because I’m still limited in my wheat and gluten intake) we served it with corn quesadillas! Delicious!
Enjoy!
Corn Quesadillas

p.s. Summer 2016 update: even our toddler loves this gazpacho, which she calls “sauca!” She’s been practicing using a spoon on her own and if we keep this a bit on the chunkier side, she’s 90 percent successful! 

Lamb Tagine with Potatoes and Chickpeas

Lamb with Potatoes and Chickpeas
One of the hardest parts about giving up six main food groups and items for baby A (she has protein digestion issues so I’m not eating dairy, wheat, eggs, fish, soy or peanuts) is finding quick, easy weeknight meals. Through a lot of trial and error, J and I have learned that some meals that look easy aren’t and some that look time-consuming are actually simple. This is a simple one. We’d put off making Lamb Tagine with Potatoes and Chickpeas from Williams Sonoma because it looked complicated. We were throughly surprised to learn it was easy and perfect for a busy weeknight.

Ingredients:
3 teaspoons cumin seeds (we used ground)
3 teaspoons coriander seeds (we used ground)
3/4 teaspoons peppercorns (we used ground black pepper)
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika (we used Hungarian)
1 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt, plus more, to taste (we used Kosher)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 lb. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes (we just used stew lamb, which was perfectly sized)
1 yellow onion, julienned
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup water
1/2 lb. small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (we ended up using a pound and it was perfect!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a small fry pan over medium-low heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder, add the peppercorns, paprika, ginger and the 2 tsp. salt and grind until well combined. Set aside. If using ground, skip the grinding step and just combine in a small bowl. Mix with a fork.

In a tagine over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until almost smoking. Working in batches, brown the lamb on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. If you don’t have a tagine, we used our most favorite pasta pot.

Add the remaining oil and the onion to the tagine or pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the spice mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized, about 2 more minutes. Add the lamb, water, potatoes and the 1/4 cup cilantro and bring to a simmer. Cover the tagine or pot and adjust the heat so the mixture gently simmers. Cook for 45 minutes, then add the chickpeas and lemon juice. Continue cooking until the lamb is tender, about 45 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Garnish with cilantro and serve. Accompany with couscous or rice. Serves 4 to 6.

My opinion:
I LOVE this dish. It’s flavorful and warming and just delicious. It’s as good cold as it is right from the stove.

French Lentil Soup

French Lentil Soup
Sometimes it’s a challenge to find foods that fit the No Six diet (no: dairy, wheat, eggs, fish, soy or peanuts) I’m on for Baby A. Luckily, I have a forever patient husband who is willing to search things out. He found this wonderful French Lentil Soup recipe, originally from Bon Appetit and with a few tweaks, it was wonderful.

Ingredients:
3-5 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions (we used yellow)
1 cup chopped celery stalks
1 cup chopped carrots
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups (or more) chicken stock
1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
1 14 1/2–ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
Balsamic vinegar, about 2 tablespoons (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat bacon in heavy large saucepan over medium–high heat. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the olive oil. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups stock, lentils and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and the Balsamic vinegar. Ladle soup into bowls.

My opinion:
Like any good soup, this isn’t much to look at, but it is delicious. It is hearty and filling and all around wonderful. I can’t wait to be able to eat warm pita with it!

Mexican Black Bean Soup with Sausage Recipe

Mexican Black Bean Soup with Sausage
It’s been a roller coaster of spring-like temperatures and freezing, regular February temperatures around here the last few weeks. That plus the lovely no six diet (no: dairy, wheat,eggs, fish, soy or peanuts) diet I’m on to help baby A’s digestive issues means we’ve had to get very creative with dinners. Luckily for me, J has taken the changes to our culinary repertoire in stride and has come up with a lot of alternatives to our favorite dishes. He found this lovely one from Food and Wine magazine.  Since I was baby A wrangling, I only got a picture of the finished product.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped (we used about 3 tablespoons of minced garlic, but we like garlic a lot)
1 canned chipotle chile, seeded and finely chopped (since we didn’t have this on hand, we used 1 teaspoon ground chipotle)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Two 15-ounce cans black beans, drained
3 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
3/4 pound smoky cooked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, thinly sliced (we just went with two andouille)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for garnish
2 tablespoons very finely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sour cream for serving (we left this out because it’s dairy)

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the chipotle or ground chipotle, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the black beans and chicken stock and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Using a potato masher, coarsely crush some of the beans (we skipped this step).  Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage to the beans. Then add the lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 2 minutes to allow the flavors to blend, or longer if you’d like! Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, passing the sour cream and lime wedges separately.

My opinion:
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this ended up being very filling and just the right amount of heat to warm me from the inside. It’s absolutely a soup we will add to the rotation, even once we (hopefully!) can start adding the no items back to my diet.