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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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.

Jeb’s Chili

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One of J’s favorite dishes is his father’s chili. It makes more than enough for three meals and a few lunches for us. Like most of our favorite meals, this one gets better the longer it simmers. It looks complicated, but I promise it’s easy and worth it.

Base Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 pounds chili or stew beef (you can also use ground beef if you want)
1 pound pork chop cut up (or you can use ground pork)
2-3 green bell peppers chopped
1-2 onions, chopped

Sauce Ingredients:
1 beer (any kind, cheap is particularly good)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons chili powder (REGULAR chili powder, not ancho, not super, not hot. Trust me)
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons ground chipotle (we buy them whole and use a coffee grinder for this)
IMG_6843 3 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic
1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon sugar
1 can rotel or green chiles
lime juice as needed

Directions:
Brown the meat. Add the chopped bell peppers and onions and cook until desired caramelization. In a separate pot make the sauce by adding the first 11 ingredients and simmering for about 45 minutes until smooth.

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Then add the tomatoes and meat and peppers and onions. Simmer one to two hours.
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Add 1 to 4 tablespoons massa flour to thicken if needed (most of the time we leave this step out).

My opinion: This is delicious with shredded Monterrey jack cheese, lime juice and tortilla chips. J prefers his with corn bread. It’s perfect for a cold winter’s night.

J’s Lasagna

I’ll be truthful, I prefer simple, clean flavors. I don’t like meat in the pasta sauce and I’m not in love with Ricotta cheese. After years of eating my family’s version of lasagna, J couldn’t take it anymore. He had to make his own.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
24 ounces cottage cheese or 24 ounces ricotta cheese (we used half and half to appease me)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese, divided
12 -15 lasagna noodles

Directions:
Brown ground beef, onion and garlic. Add salt and next 5 ingredients; stirring until well mixed. Simmer 1 hour. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. Combine cottage cheese, eggs, pepper, Parmesan cheese and 1/2 of mozzarella cheese; In a lasagna pan, layer noodles, meat sauce, and cheese mixture; repeat. Top off with layer of noodles; sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cheese mixture is thoroughly melted.

My Opinion:
I’m not 100 percent sure J followed this recipe exactly, but if he didn’t he followed it pretty close. He modified it from this Food.com recipe. All in all, it was pretty good. I would let him make it again. It was a bit light on the cheese, which is the part of the lasagna I like most. We’ll fix that. I’m sure over time, we can find a good blend of my version of lasagna and his version.

Don’t forget! #cookchat this Thursday, January 20 at noon! Hope to see you there!

Homemade Pasta Sauce

Last week J and I challenged ourselves to not go grocery shopping and use up the items in our pantry, freezer and fridge. That experiment led to some pretty creative meals. One of the best was our homemade pasta sauce.

Ingredients:
small can pasta sauce (plain, no seasoning)
tomato paste
can whole or crushed tomatoes (you can also use fresh! 2 cups of fresh equals about 14.5 ounces chopped tomatoes. When we use fresh we don’t peel, but you may want to!)
Italian seasoning (we used oregano, basil, marjoram, sage and white pepper. You can use whatever you like!)
Burgundy wine
garlic

Directions:
Combine everything in one saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to medium low or low. Let simmer for about an hour. This will cook down.

My opinion:
This was wonderful! Easy and filling. We actually originally used too much Italian seasoning, but by adding the wine and a can of tomato sauce, everything blended very well. In the future, we’ll add onions and maybe some green peppers to add variety as well as some red pepper flakes.

This week’s food posts are brought to you by #cookchat. My co-moderator, Matt LaCasse and I are announcing #cookchat’s triumphant return on Thursday January 20, a noon. CST. Join us for an hour of food filled conversation.