Weeknight Pork & Bean Soup with Cornbread Croutons

This rustic soup was described as a “delicious cross between baked beans and tomato soup.” It was quick to prepare and very flavorful. We ate it over rice, like a chili.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Grace Parisi. I increased the onions and garlic and used freshly made cornbread instead of a corn muffin for the croutons. We ate it with green salad and warm cornbread on the side. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 7 slices (9-10 ounces) thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 15-ounce cans pink beans with their liquid
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used homemade Turkey Stock)
  • coarse salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces cornbread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • chopped scallions, for garnish, optional
  • rice for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook the bacon strips over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Transfer the crispy bacon to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the saucepan.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the fat in the saucepan and cook, stirring, until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and maple syrup and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thick, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the beans and their liquid and cook until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the stock and bacon strips, season lightly with salt and cayenne pepper and simmer the soup over moderate heat until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, spread the cornbread cubes on a small baking sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until they are golden and crisp. Let the croutons cool slightly.
  8. Ladle the soup into deep bowls, garnish with the cornbread croutons and chopped scallions, as desired, and serve. (Serve over rice, if desired.)

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Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Chicken Stew with Biscuits or Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits… whatever you want to call it- It’s classic comfort food. This version was the runner-up dish for our Valentine’s Day dinner this year. I suppose we had two Valentine’s day dinners (plus leftovers!). Lots of love in my house. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. We ate it with a green salad. I modified the recipe to use rotisserie chicken meat, reduced the butter, and incorporated homemade turkey stock. I also steamed the carrots and heated the stock in the microwave and used a food processor to make the biscuit dough.

I made the stew and biscuit dough a day ahead and refrigerated them separately. The day I was ready to serve the dish, I warmed the stew for 1 hour at room temperature, re-heated in the oven for 30+ minutes, and then topped with the pre-cut raw biscuit dough and continued to bake for approximately one half hour. Perfect.

For the Stew:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (I used Trader Joe’s liquid concentrate chicken broth.)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 carrots, medium-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley, optional

For the Biscuits:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.
  3. Steam the diced carrots with 2 tablespoons of water in the microwave for 2 minutes.
  4. In a microwave safe bowl, preferably with a spout, heat the chicken stock in the microwave until hot. Remove and incorporate the concentrated stock. (Alternatively, the stock can be warmed in a separate pot on the stove.)
  5. In a large pot or Dutch oven (I used enameled cast iron), melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
  6. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick.
  8. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream.
  9. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley, if using. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed.
  10. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  13. Add the butter and pulse (or mix on low-speed) until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and pulse (or combine on low-speed) until the dough just comes together. Mix in the parsley, if using.
  14. Dump the dough out on a well-floured piece of parchment-paper. Using your hands, pat out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2-1/2 inch round cutter. Only re-form the dough once.
  15. Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling.
  16. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven.
  17. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

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Flattened Chicken Thighs With Roasted Lemon Slices

My buddy is always teasing me because I never roast a whole chicken. She makes a beautiful roasted “lemon chicken” weekly for her family. Well, I don’t need to roast an entire chicken when there are dishes like this! Besides, we only want the thigh meat in my house. 🙂

This recipe was described as an “easy, super fragrant weeknight version of classic chicken under a brick,” using chicken thighs instead of a butterflied whole bird. I took it a step further by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs (my favorite), reducing the cooking time even further. (and reducing the fat!)

This dish was truly flavor-packed from the loaded garlic-herb-lemon marinade. I marinated the chicken overnight. After pan-searing under a weight, the chicken is finished by oven roasting it over lemon slices- my kind of “lemon chicken!” 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. We ate it with roasted potatoes, broccoli and acorn squash. Absolutely delicious.

I’m sharing my special chicken at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #159 co-hosted by Zeba @Food for the Soul and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 to 10 servings

For the Marinade:

  • 2 lemons, rinsed
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme or oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 10 to 12 medium or large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Chicken:

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil, enough to coat the bottom of the skillet
  • 2 lemons, rinsed (I used the lemons from the marinade)
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • fresh thyme or oregano sprigs and sage leaves, for garnish
  1. Make the marinade: Use a vegetable peeler to shave 9 large strips of peel from the lemons, taking care to cut into only the brightest yellow outer layer. Put strips in a large bowl or ziplock bag and add thyme or oregano, sage, parsley, garlic, red chile flakes and olive oil.
  2. Prepare the chicken: Put the thighs in the bag or bowl with the marinade. Turn the thighs gently to coat with the marinade. Seal the bag or cover bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. (I place the ziplock bag in a glass baking dish in case it leaks.)
  3. When ready to cook, remove thighs from marinade and place them on a baking sheet. (Reserve garlic cloves and lemon peel from the marinade; discard the liquid.)
  4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the chicken, then turn over and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
  5. Transfer the chicken thighs, “skin side” down, to a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Put it over medium-high heat, cover with parchment paper, and weigh down the chicken with the bottom of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. (Or, use a lighter skillet weighed down with a large full can, a brick or another heavy object.)
  6. Once chicken is sizzling loudly, reduce heat to medium and cook without moving for about 5 minutes, until brown and crisp. To check for doneness, gently lift the corner of a chicken thigh with a metal spatula. The meat will come away cleanly from the bottom of the pan when it is done. If it is still stuck, do not pull but let it cook a little longer.
  7. When thighs are done, remove the weight and lift the chicken out of the pan. Transfer the thighs, browned side up, to a plate. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, if necessary.
  8. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  9. Cut lemons in half and squeeze gently to remove some of the juice. Cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices and lay on paper towels to absorb more juice.
  10. Place a layer of lemon slices in the skillet. Return all the browned chicken to the skillet on top of the lemons, browned side up. Tuck reserved lemon peel and garlic cloves down between the pieces. Tuck the remaining fresh sage leaves between the pieces as well.
  11. Transfer skillet to oven for 7 to 10 minutes. To test, remove a thigh, pierce it on the flesh side with a knife, and check that the juices are clear, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  12. Remove pan from oven and let thighs rest in the pan 5 to 10 minutes.
  13. Garnish with thyme or oregano sprigs and fresh sage around the thighs and serve from the pan at the table, with roasted lemon slices and garlic cloves.

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Crème Brûlée

My son wanted a dessert that he could “light on fire” to celebrate his 12th birthday. I hope that this is age appropriate. 😉

After rejecting my suggestion of Bananas Foster, he chose a classic crème brûlée. andyes, with close supervision, he torched his dessert!

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, slightly adapted the method and increased the baking time. Special and delicious.

Yield: Makes 6 ramekins/servings

  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low-speed until just combined.
  3. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it’s very hot to the touch but not boiled.
  4. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. (I transferred the hot cream to a liquid measuring cup to ease adding it into the mixer bowl.)
  5. Add the vanilla and liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
  6. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 pyrex baking pan (I placed a square silicone pot holder underneath the ramekins so that they didn’t shift in the pan.)
  7. Glide the oven rack out of the oven cavity and place the pan on the rack. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (I used a tea kettle.)
  8. Slowly glide rack into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken.
  9. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm. (I refrigerated them overnight.)
  10. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly.
  11. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

and…

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday in our house without also having Number Cookies. 🙂 I had to make a couple of numeric “12’s” to go along with my son’s Roman Numeral “XII’s”. 🙂 They were swimming pool blue for my swimmer this year. ❤

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Birthday Lasagna

I am partial to lasagna laden with mushrooms and spinach… with plenty of cheese, of course. 🙂

When requesting his birthday menu, my son wanted “regular” lasagna, “you know, with just meat and cheese!” His wish was my command. 🙂 It was delicious!

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart. I used ground turkey and chicken sausage, added red pepper flakes, and increased the amount of garlic. We ate it with garlic bread and Caesar salad. He absolutely loved it. It was even more celebratory for him to eat it with our special “Happy Birthday” fork. 🙂

  • 1/2 sprig basil, (3 tablespoons coarsely chopped)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, (1 cup finely grated)
  • 14 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella (5 cups grated)
  • 1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (I needed 2 additional sheets.)
  • 28 ounces canned, diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-2 dashes red pepper flakes, optional, or to taste
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (casings removed) or sun-dried tomato-basil chicken sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make the sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook onion, garlic, salt, and pepper 1 minute.
  3. Add turkey and sausage; cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Reduce heat; simmer 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasonings, as necessary.
  6. Coat baking dish with cooking spray or oil; spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  7. Top with a layer of noodles. (I used 6 noodles per layer.)
  8. Next, spread a third of the ricotta, then 1 1/2 cups sauce, on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Repeat these steps 2 more times.
  9. Top with a layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.
  10. Cover with parchment paper topped with foil; bake 20 minutes.
  11. Remove foil and parchment; bake 20 minutes more. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Vegetarian Variation: Clean and trim 8 ounces button mushrooms; finely chop in a food processor. Follow the recipe, but in step 2, cook onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. In step 3, add mushrooms, 1 cup diced zucchini, and 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper instead of turkey and sausage; cook, stirring, until just tender, about 6 minutes. After simmering with the tomatoes and oregano in step 4, stir in 4 cups chopped spinach along with basil.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I had a very productive snow day… I made this amazing bread! 🙂 I was inspired to make it with my kids ever since I read this post from Quinn @Dad What’s 4 Dinner. I should have doubled the recipe as he suggested. It was beyond delicious.

I had delayed making it for such a long time, waiting for the perfect time to bake with both of my kids. On their second consecutive snow day, I decided it was the perfect time. What else did they have to do? Ironically, they weren’t really interested in my baking plans. 😦 As disappointed as I was, I really wanted to make it. What else did I have to do? 😉 and… In case you were wondering, yes, they were interested in eating it!

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I made the dough in my bread machine before rolling it out for the filling. I also used a proofing oven for the loaf to rise prior to baking. Fabulous.

Baking Time: 45 min
Total Time: 3 hrs 40 min

Yield: 1 loaf

For the Dough:

  • 361 g all-purpose flour
  • 46 g potato flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 35 g dry milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 35 g granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 57 g butter (about 4 T)
  • 227 g lukewarm water (about 1 cup)

For the Filling:

  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 35 g raisins or currants
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg beaten with 14 g water (about 3 tsp water)

For the Streusel Topping:

  • 28 g unsalted butter, cubed (about 2 T)
  • 28 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 28 g all-purpose flour
  1. Add the liquid ingredients and butter to a bread machine pan and top with dry ingredients. (If not using a bread machine, combine all of the dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mixing until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.)
  2. Knead the dough with an electric mixer for 2 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until it’s smooth. If you’re kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; knead it for 3 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading till smooth, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. *You can also simply knead the dough using the dough cycle of your bread machine.*
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (if you’re not using your bread machine’s dough cycle), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours; it’ll be puffy, if not doubled in bulk.
  4. Transfer the dough to a rectangular piece of plastic wrap or a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into a long, thin rectangle, about 16″ x 8″.
  5. To make the filling, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour in a food processor (mini preferred) or blender, processing until the fruit is chopped.
  6. Brush the dough with some of the egg/water, and pat the filling onto the dough. Reserve the egg wash for the streusel topping. img_8674
  7. Beginning with a short edge, roll the dough into a log.
  8. Pinch the side seam and ends closed (to keep the filling from bubbling out), and place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. img_8676
  9. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 hour at room temperature or in a proofing oven, or until it’s crowned about 1″ over the rim of the pan. (Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes.) Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. img_8678
  10. In a small bowl or mini processor, combine the streusel ingredients, cutting in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. If you’re using a mini processor, watch carefully; streusel will go from crumbly to a cohesive mass in just a second or so.
  11. Brush the loaf with some of the remaining beaten egg and add the streusel, using your fingers to gently apply it to the dough, being careful not to deflate the loaf.
  12. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, then tent the loaf lightly with aluminum foil and continue to bake 15 additional minutes.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, gently remove it from the pan. Some of the streusel will fall off, but you can alleviate this by first loosening all around the edges of the loaf with a knife, then turning the pan on its side and gently pulling it away from the loaf. Streusel will continue to fall off as you maneuver the bread — we’ve never figured out how they make that stuff adhere so nicely on the store-bought loaves! — but you’ll still be left with some nice, sweet topping.

Note: For a deep-dark, moist, cinnamon swirl inside the bread: Blend together sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour until smooth. The addition of raisins or currants adds moistness, as well as subtle flavor.

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Baked Spinach Rice

Yes! More baked rice! 🙂 SO so SO delicious!! This one is loaded with cheese. It is meant to be served as an indulgent side dish, but we ate it as a main dish with a green salad. I loved it. It had fabulous contrasting textures.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. This wonderful dish is an upgrade of one of his favorite family casseroles.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 pound spinach (about 2 bunches), washed
  • 1 ½ cups long-grain white rice, such as Carolina, Jasmine, or Basmati
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more to butter the baking dish
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère
  • ¼ cup currants or raisins
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped sage
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add spinach and wilt for 30 seconds. Remove with a wire mesh spider or tongs and rinse in a colander with cold water. Squeeze dry and chop roughly.
  2. In the same pot, boil the rice for 10 minutes, keeping it slightly underdone. Drain and spread on a baking sheet to cool, then transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish (or other baking dish) and dust with about 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan.
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and add contents of skillet to rice.
  6. Add remaining Parmesan to rice, along with the ricotta, Gruyère, currants, nutmeg, lemon zest, thyme and sage. Season lightly with salt and add pepper to taste.
  7. Add chopped spinach and gently toss rice with hands or wooden spoons to distribute ingredients evenly.
  8. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. (May be prepared up to this point several hours in advance of baking.)
  9. Cover and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 minutes more, until top is browned.

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