Monthly Archives: December 2013

Top 10 Recipes of 2013

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A combination of customary holiday busy-ness and being sick during this time has left me without a recipe ready to share with you this weekend. So I thought instead it would be fun to recap some of the highlights from 2013. It has been a great year for my little blog and it is all thanks to you, my dear readers, who continue to follow my adventures and devour my recipes.

I truly hope you have enjoyed these dishes as much as I enjoyed creating them. Thank you for following me in 2013! Here’s to many new recipes in 2014!

Slow Cooker Moroccan Spiced Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew1. Slow Cooker Moroccan Spiced Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew – 3,002 views in 2013
I was so surprised that this recipe beat out all the others for the year. It received more than 1,200 page views in just one day! Don’t get me wrong, I love this stew, and obviously many others do too, but I am surprised that lentils beat out everything else, including 2 recipes with bacon in the title. Maybe that means that people are more health focused, and I am beyond good with that. I will be doing more red lentil recipes in the future!

2. Slow Cooker Guinness Beef Tacos with Chimichurri – 2,013 views in 2013
Now how convenient is that? As of this post, exactly 2013 views in 2013. Spooky! This little recipe got a nice boost from a pickup from TheKitchn in an article they did on slow cooker recipes that feature beer. Is it just coincidence that 3 of the top 10 recipes of the year are slow cooker recipes? I hope not because the slow cooker is a fantastic tool for creating easy delicious, healthy meals without a lot of effort.

Curried Quinoa and Strawberry Salad3. Curried Quinoa and Strawberry Salad – 1,139 views in 2013
I am so pleased to see this recipe in the top 10 because I just loved creating this. I love using ingredients in unconventional ways and that’s exactly what I tried to do with the strawberries here. These early summer beauties are so often used in desserts or fruit salads, I wanted to feature them in a more savory dish. Which I did. If you haven’t tried this yet, please do. It’s a good one!

4. Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers – 1,078 views in 2013
If there was one recipe that I made in 2013 that screamed “Summer!” this is it. Tender steak, marinated overnight in bold, jammy Zinfandel wine and ripe, tart blackberries, these skewers should be served at any summer barbecue. With a glass of Zin to accompany them, of course.

Butternut Squash Lasagna5. Butternut Squash Lasagna with Four Cheeses Р1,077 views in 2013
I was especially proud of this recipe. I created a lean, yet creamy, lasagna using strips of sweet butternut squash instead of pasta. That’s right, this recipe is also gluten free. A pick-up from Greatist in an article they did on healthy squash recipes also benefited traffic on this post. I’m just glad that great ingredients like squash are so popular with people today. Maybe I should do a recipe with squash and red lentils! ūüėČ

6. Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta – 681 views in 2013
Just like my Blackberry Zinfandel Steak Skewers scream “Summer!” this dish screams “Fall!” Fresh, seasonal vegetables are roasted and served over creamy – yet creamless – polenta for a deceptively quick and easy weeknight dish. I had so much fun experimenting with the polenta to reduce the fat while still keeping it full of flavor, and I think I succeeded very well. Have you tried this dish yet?

Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie Soup

7. Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie Soup – 533 views in 2013
One taste of this soup and you would swear you were eating chicken pot pie, without the crust, of course. Yet it’s lean and low-fat. How do I do that? That’s just what I do and why I’m here. And I hope that’s why you keep coming back! A feature from BloomingT – and continuing love from her kitchen – has helped this little recipe reach an audience. If you haven’t tried this soup yet, please do and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

8. Spicy Grilled Tuna Wraps with Minted Yogurt Sauce – 444 views in 2013
How can any recipe with sriracha be wrong? This is one you better make while you can still get sriracha. It’s tasty, it’s easy, it’s good for you. What are you waiting for?

Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad9. Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad – 423 views in 2013
Brussel sprouts suddenly became one of my favorite foods in 2013. I previously avoided these little gems, scarred by memories of my grandmother’s steamed-to-death-brussel-sprouts from my childhood. Roasted or sauteed, though, these fall staples take on an entirely different flavor. And they’re good for you. What’s not to love?

10. Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew with Rosemary Bread – 293 views in 2013
And finally, rounding out the top 10 of the year is this scrumptious red wine and beef stew. I packed it full of veggies to make it thick and hearty and combined it with beef marinated overnight in rich red wine. As a bonus, I shared with you my favorite recipe for homemade bread. They are a perfect combination on a cold winter night.

What do you think of this list? What other recipes do you think should have made the top 10?

Southwest Stuffed Delicata Squash

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Southwest Stuffed Delicata Squash

I have to admit that in all my culinary adventures I haven’t experimented with delicata squash much. And now I know what I’ve been missing.

I think what I love most about this sweet little squash is the thin, tender skin that is entirely edible. It roasts up perfectly and makes a beautiful addition to anything from stews to salads to this stuffed dish.

Southwest Stuffed Delicata Squash

I used leftovers from that Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew I made last week as the basis for the stuffing in this dish. It lends a great smoky, spicy flavor that contrasts wonderfully with the sweet delicata squash. And did I mention that this is one of my budget dishes?

That’s right, for less than $35 I bought groceries for a work-week’s worth of meals that will actually yield enough leftovers for work lunches as well. The trick to eating healthy on a budget is meal planning. Plan your meals out for the week and look for common ingredients, or staples, that you can use throughout the week. You’ll reduce waste and increase your economies of scale.

Tune in next week to see how I turn a delicious delicata squash into nachos. You won’t want to miss this one!

 

Southwest Stuffed Delicata Squash
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: ½ squash
  • Calories: 325.5
  • Fat: 5.0
  • Saturated fat: 1.9
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.2
  • Carbohydrates: 66.6
  • Sugar: 3.3
  • Sodium: 143.8
  • Fiber: 11.0
  • Protein: 16.8
  • Cholesterol: 57.5
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Pork
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Tender delicata squash is stuffed with spicy black bean stew, rice, and more for a healthy, budget-friendly meal for two.
Ingredients
  • 1 1-lb. delicata squash, sliced in half lengthwise and seeds and pulp removed
  • ½ cup cooked brown basmati rice
  • 1 cup Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ⅓ cup frozen roasted corn
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 oz. shredded light Mexican cheese blend, divided
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Combine the rice, stew, cilantro, tomato, corn, onion and ½ oz. of the cheese in a medium bowl.
  3. Stuff each half of the squash with the rice-stew mixture and place in a shallow baking dish.
  4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining ½ oz. of shredded cheese over the tops of each squash half.
  6. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Brussel Pancetta and Quinoa Skillet

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Brussel Pancetta and Quinoa Skillet

Sometimes, in my kitchen experiments, there are happy accidents. I set out to craft a recipe, I throw a wee bit of this and a dash of that in, and then give it a try. And then I make it over and over again, tweaking this and that, until I have it just right. But not this time.

Brussel Pancetta and Quinoa Skillet

Have I mentioned how much I love my new Analon skillet?

I pulled out my gorgeous new Analon skillet and magic happened. First I browned up the pancetta, which is an Italian style of bacon. Now I know what you’re thinking: how can pancetta possibly have a place in a healthy lifestyle?

You’re right, pancetta is extremely high in fat, one standard 2 oz. serving has 16 grams of fat. Yikes! The secret is to use it in a smaller amount in order to infuse the dish with the salty flavor but minimize the amount of calories and fat that it contributes. I use just 1 oz. in this dish that serves 2 people.

Brussel Pancetta and Quinoa Skillet

You’ll notice that I don’t add any salt to the dish, and that’s because the pancetta and parmesan are already salty enough.

The pancetta lends a salty, smoky flavor to the shredded brussel sprouts, which I add in after the pancetta has browned up a bit so that they get coated in the renderings. Once the brussels cook up, there’s nothing left to do but mix in some cooked tricolor quinoa, which adds a healthy dose of protein to the dish, as well as a handful of tart dried cranberries and a bit of shredded nutty parmesan cheese.

That’s it. It’s really that easy. And, the dish was so scrumptiously good on my first attempt, I decided not to tweak it further. I mean, why mess with perfection?

The entire meal takes about 20 minutes to prep and cook, which is perfect for one of my typically busy weeknights. Plus, the dish is so pretty in the skillet. I love kitchen magic.

What’s your favorite go-to weeknight meal?

 

 

Brussel Pancetta and Quinoa Skillet
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 404.4
  • Fat: 13.5
  • Saturated fat: 4.4
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.3
  • Carbohydrates: 56.1
  • Sugar: 15.2
  • Sodium: 54.1
  • Fiber: 3.9
  • Protein: 17.7
  • Cholesterol: 20.2
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Pork
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Tender brussel sprouts combine with salty pancetta and hearty quinoa for a quick, easy and gourmet weeknight skillet meal that even a novice can master.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup homemade, salt free chicken broth
  • ½ cup tricolor quinoa, rinsed in cold water
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 oz. cubed pancetta (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ lb. fresh brussel sprouts, halved and very thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 oz. shredded parmesan cheese (about ¼ cup)
Instructions
  1. Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa; stir, cover, reduce to low and cook for 10-15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook about 2-3 minutes until the pancetta is lightly browned.
  3. Add the brussel sprouts; stir to coat in the oil. Continue cooking until the thickest pieces of the sprouts are al dente, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir the cooked quinoa into the brussel sprout-pancetta mixture. Turn the burner off and add the cranberries and parmesan cheese.
  5. Stir to combine and serve immediately.
Notes
To prepare the brussel sprouts, trim off any dead spots on the stalk. Cut the sprout in half lengthwise then place each half cut-side down on the cutting board. Thinly slice each half into ribbons.

 

Homemade Holiday Chocolate Candy Special

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Homemade Holiday Chocolate Candy Special

I know this sort of post is entirely out of place on a blog that stresses the importance of healthy living, but I must admit that I have a weakness for making chocolate at the holidays. If I ever win the lottery, I will move to Paris and become a chocolatier. Seriously.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

My love of chocolate making goes back to my childhood. Every year my Nana would bring all of her molds and tools out, we would put a Christmas album on the record player, and we would set to making chocolates. I remember spending hours patiently painting the intricate molds with the rainbow of colors she made from melted white chocolate and food coloring. Once painted, we would chill the outer shell then fill the mold with some sort of filling , and finally seal the back with another layer of melted chocolate, chill it again, and pop it from the mold.

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Years ago, before my grandfather died, when my grandparents sold their home and moved into a retirement home, I suddenly received a very large box in the mail. I was delighted to open it and find nestled in there all of my Nana’s candy molds, tools, and her recipe book. Jackpot!

Coconut Pecan Chocolate Truffles

Coconut Pecan Chocolate Truffles

I eagerly started leafing through the recipe book but quickly stopped in disbelief. It was just copies of recipes from old Wilton books. All of those lovely fillings we squeezed into the molds? They were store-bought tubes of processed, corn-syrup based candy fillings. I was a little disappointed, to say the least.

Salted Almond Toffee

Salted Almond Toffee

So I started researching the art of chocolate making online. I found some recipes, I experimented, I failed, and I experimented again. Over the years, I’ve improved my chocolatier skills substantially. Best compliment I received this week: “You made these? These are like Moonstruck quality!”

Chocolate Making

Painting one of my new molds

I don’t use any corn syrup or the pre-made fillings that my Nana was so fond of. And I don’t have the patience to paint all the little details of the molds different colors. I prefer to put my energy into making a delicious, quality candy.

I do, however, still use my Nana’s molds. They are yellowed with age – I suspect they’re from the late 1970’s or early 1980’s – but they work great. In fact, they are easier to use and clean than the new Wilton molds I bought this weekend, which crack and break under the slightest pressure.

Cherry Cabernet Chocolate Truffles

Cherry Cabernet Chocolate Truffles

Today, I set Pandora to the Christmas channel and set about making these holiday gifts in my little kitchen. And I hope that someday, hopefully many years from now, I have a granddaughter that I can make similar happy memories with. And pass my recipes to.

 

Peppermint Bark
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy
A holiday classic, Peppermint Bark is easy to make and great to give as gifts.
Ingredients
  • 2 bags white chocolate chips
  • 1 giant candy cane stick
Instructions
  1. Remove the wrapper from the candy, put it in a resealable plastic bag and pound with a hammer or mallet until it is in small pieces.
  2. Fill the bottom pan of a double boiler about ⅓ of the way full with water. Put the chocolate chips in the top pan and turn the burner to medium.
  3. Put the crushed candy into a colander and sift it over the chocolate, letting the finer crumbs and dust combine with the chocolate and the larger chunks remain in the colander ‚ÄĒ set these aside.
  4. Use a rubber spatula to stir the chocolate and candy until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
  5. Pour onto a baking sheet and use the spatula to spread it out into an even layer.
  6. Take the remaining candy pieces from the colander and sprinkle them over the top, lightly pressing them into the chocolate so that they will stick.
  7. Put in the fridge to cool completely. Break into chunks and store in airtight containers or bags.

 
Salted Almond Toffee
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy
Reminiscent of Almond Roca, this easy toffee is always a hit with my friends and family at the holidays.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Spread the almonds and chocolate evenly over the bottom of a baking dish and set aside.
  2. Heat the butter and sugars in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until it reaches a boil.
  3. Let it continue to boil, without stirring, until it reaches 300F degrees.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it over the nuts and chocolate in the baking dish, using a rubber spatula to spread it in an even layer.
  5. Sprinkle sea salt over the top of the mixture ‚Äď usually a teaspoon is enough, you don‚Äôt want it to be too salty.
  6. Once completely cooled and hard, break into chunks with a knife and store it in airtight containers or bags.

 
Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy
Salty, buttery and chocolaty, these will be a welcome addition to any candy tray.
Ingredients
  • 1 jar Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce
  • 3 bags extra dark (>60% cacao) chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler about ⅓ full with water. Place 2 bags of the chocolate chips in the top of the boiler and place over the water. Stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Use a paint brush to coat the inside of a candy mold with the melted chocolate. The coating should be thin enough to leave room for filling but still thoroughly coating the inside of the mold as that will become the top of the truffle.
  3. Chill in the refrigerator. (Keep the melted chocolate warm over the double boiler as you will need it in a later step.)
  4. While the molds are chilling, use a second double boiler to melt the remaining bag of chocolate. Stir in the jar of caramel sauce until smooth.
  5. Fill the mold with the caramel filling, leaving about 1/16-1/8" room at the top of the mold cup.
  6. Pour melted chocolate over each mold cup and use the back of a butter knife to even out the chocolate.
  7. Chill the filled molds until the candies are hard. Pop the candies out of the molds and use a small knife to gently trim off any excess chocolate. Store in an airtight container, in a cool spot.
Notes
Optional: Once the candies are removed from the mold and trimmed, use the paintbrush to dab a little melted chocolate on the top of the truffle and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

 
Cherry Cabernet Chocolate Truffles
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy
Try bringing these gourmet truffles as a hostess gift to a holiday party instead of a traditional bottle of wine. Your hostess will love them!
Ingredients
  • 3 bags extra dark (>60% cacao) chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cabernet sauvignon wine
  • 1 cup dried cherries
Instructions
  1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler about ⅓ full with water. Place 2 bags of the chocolate chips in the top of the boiler and place over the water. Stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Use a paint brush to coat the inside of a candy mold with the melted chocolate. The coating should be thin enough to leave room for filling but still thoroughly coating the inside of the mold as that will become the top of the truffle.
  3. Chill in the refrigerator. (Keep the melted chocolate warm over the double boiler as you will need it in a later step.)
  4. While the molds are chilling, use a second double boiler to melt the remaining bag of chocolate. Stir in the butter, wine and dried cherries until smooth.
  5. Fill the mold with the cherry-wine filling, leaving about 1/16-1/8" room at the top of the mold cup.
  6. Pour melted chocolate over each mold cup and use the back of a butter knife to even out the chocolate.
  7. Chill the filled molds until the candies are hard. Pop the candies out of the molds and use a small knife to gently trim off any excess chocolate. Store in an airtight container, in a cool spot.
Notes
Optional: Once the candies have been removed from the molds and trimmed, use the paintbrush to dab a little melted chocolate on the top. Press a piece of dried cherry into the chocolate and let firm up.

 
Coconut Pecan Chocolate Truffles
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy
Also known as Martha Washingtons, these are a family favorite in my home.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 7 oz. sweetened, condensed milk
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 bags extra dark (>60% cacao) chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler about ⅓ full with water. Place the chocolate chips in the top of the boiler and place over the water. Stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Use a paint brush to coat the inside of a candy mold with the melted chocolate. The coating should be thin enough to leave room for filling but still thoroughly coating the inside of the mold as that will become the top of the truffle.
  3. Chill in the refrigerator. (Keep the melted chocolate warm over the double boiler as you will need it in a later step.)
  4. While the molds are chilling, Beat the butter, sugar, and milk until smooth. Add the coconut, pecans and vanilla and stir to combine.
  5. Fill the mold with the coconut-pecan filling, leaving about 1/16-1/8" room at the top of the mold cup.
  6. Pour melted chocolate over each mold cup and use the back of a butter knife to even out the chocolate.
  7. Chill the filled molds until the candies are hard. Pop the candies out of the molds and use a small knife to gently trim off any excess chocolate. Store in an airtight container, in a cool spot.
Notes
Optional: Once the candies have been removed from the molds and trimmed, use the paintbrush to dab a little melted chocolate on the top. Press a pinch of coconut into the melted chocolate and let firm up.

 

Rosemount Estate 2012 Shiraz

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Rosemount Estate 2012 Shiraz

I must have been a very good girl this year because I made it on to the new sample release list of Treasury Wine Estates, a unique global wine company with an international wine portfolio. Among their many renowned brands is Rosemount Estate, one of their budget labels that has won many awards over the years.

And by budget, I mean budget. As in these beauties run, on average, less than $10 a bottle. Yes, you read that right: less than $10 a bottle. I mean, who needs 2 buck chuck when you can have this quality at these prices?

I recently received three bottles of red Rosemount Estate wine to sample: a 2012 Shiraz-Cabernet blend, a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2012 Shiraz. All were incredibly decent wines for the price point and I would recommend any of the three for those shopping for a budget wine.

Rosemount Estate 2012 Shiraz

Hot and hearty stew, warm crusty bread, and a glass of Shiraz makes me one happy girl!

While the Cab was pleasantly peppery and herbaceous, and the Shiraz-Cab blend was a lovely blend of the two, the Shiraz was my favorite. It’s big and jammy with flavors of blueberries and a subtle hint of oak that leaves me dreaming of summer barbecues. This time of the year, though, it’s perfect with a thick, hearty stew, such as my Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew.

Marinating the beef overnight in the Shiraz lends a ton of flavor to the dish while the fruit of the wine pairs nicely with the sweet root vegetables that permeate the dish. Give me some warm, crusty bread on the side and I’m a happy girl!

Get the recipe for Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew here (along with a bonus recipe for my scrumptious Rosemary Bread!)

Find a bottle of the Rosemount Estate 2012 Shiraz here.

As with any part of a healthy lifestyle, always enjoy alcohol in moderation.

Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew

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Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew

For my next series on eating healthy on a budget, I’m using a simple stew prepared in the slow cooker as the base for a work-week’s worth of meals. Black beans are cheap and plentiful in the bulk food bins and make a healthy add to all sorts of meals. This flavorful stew can transform into many different dishes, starting with the stew itself of course.

Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew

First, here’s my grocery list, costing a total of $35.24:

  • 1 lb. dried black beans – $0.99
  • 2 slices bacon from the meat or deli counter – $0.86
  • 1 onion – $0.59
  • 1 lb. bag of organic carrots – $0.79
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added – $0.79
  • 7-oz. can chipotle in adobo sauce – $2.49
  • 16 oz. plain, nonfat Greek yogurt – $2.79
  • 1 bunch cilantro – $0.79
  • 3 limes – $1.29
  • Brown basmati rice – $4.39
  • 2 delicata squash, about 1 lb. each – $5.23
  • 3 tomatoes – $2.10
  • 8 oz. shredded, reduced-fat cheese – Mexican blend – $4.19
  • 1 head of red leaf lettuce – $1.29
  • 1 dozen large eggs – $2.69
  • 2 medium haas avocados – $1.98
  • 1 bag frozen roasted corn – $1.99

 

And here’s the menu we will be preparing:

  • Meal 1: Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew with brown rice
  • Meal 2: Southwestern Stuffed Delicata Squash (serves 2)
  • Meal 3: Delicata Black Bean Nachos (serves 2)
  • Meal 4: Burrito Bowl with Cilantro Yogurt Dressing (serves 1)
  • Meal 5: Black Bean Rice Cakes with Avocado Cilantro Sauce (serves 2)

 

Note that I don’t include in the price list those cupboard staples: olive oil, spices and garlic. I buy these in larger quantities and use them in multiple recipes over a long period of time so it’s difficult to quantify the cost for these purposes. But if I were to calculate a per meal cost it would be pennies on the dollar.

Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew

For our base stew, I use just 2 slices of bacon to add a tremendous amount of flavor to the dish while keeping the fat content down. I like to fry the bacon in the pan then saute the onion, carrots and garlic in the renderings before adding everything to the slow cooker. This adds a salty, smokiness to the stew that can’t be substituted with anything else, in my humble opinion.

The stew makes 8, 1-cup servings and leftovers freeze very well. I like to serve the stew over brown rice, but rice and beans are one of my all time favorite combos. Maybe it goes back to my days as an exchange student in Brazil where black beans and rice were served every day with the noon-time meal. Sometimes for dinner we would scramble an egg with beans and rice leftover from lunch – it was delicious!

Tune in next week when I show you how to turn some of this leftover stew into scrumptious Southwestern Stuffed Delicata Squash.

 

Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 8
  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 131.0
  • Fat: 2.2
  • Saturated fat: 0.7
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.2
  • Carbohydrates: 28.4
  • Sugar: 3.3
  • Sodium: 83.4
  • Fiber: 16.3
  • Protein: 12.9
  • Cholesterol: 100.0
Recipe type: Soup or Stew
Cuisine: Pork
A small amount of smoky bacon infuses a ton of flavor in a spicy, slow cooked bean stew. Delicious over a bit of brown rice, leftovers also transform into a variety of versatile dishes.
Ingredients
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon
  • ½ large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 can diced, no salt added tomatoes
  • 2 cups dried black beans, cooked
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 4 cups homemade, salt free chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Coat a skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.
  2. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, turning to cook on both sides. Remove from pan and set on a paper towel to cool. Once cooled, crumble into small pieces.
  3. Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes or until very lightly browned.
  4. Add the bacon, onion, carrot, garlic, tomatoes, beans and chipotle peppers to the slow cooker.
  5. Stir in the chicken broth.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste
Notes
Serving Suggestion: Serve each serving of stew over ¼ cup dry brown, basmati rice cooked according to package directions and topped with a dollop of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, cilantro and a squeeze of lime (not included in nutritional breakdown).

To cook dried beans: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add the 2 cups dried black beans and continue boiling for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water. Put into a container and cover with fresh water. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain before using.

 

Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew with Rosemary Bread

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Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew

Winter paid an early visit to the Pacific Northwest last week. Various days brought us snow flurries, freezing rain, ice, and temps that dipped down into the low teens. I bundled up in my coat, hat and gloves when outside, and inside I lived in layers of sweats and slippers, but it still seemed as if I would never get warm.

It’s times like this that I crave hot soups or stews with some warm crusty bread. Snuggled under a blanket, watching a good movie on the TV, and spooning warm bites of deliciousness into my mouth, it warms me from the inside out. The best thing about a slow cooker dish is that it’s so effortless to make, especially this dish.

Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew

I start by marinating the beef overnight in a full-bodied, dry, red wine. The beef turns a lovely, dark purple.

I start the night before by marinating the lean beef stew meat in red wine. I like to use a full-bodied, dry red wine with beef because of the flavor it adds. I selected a Rosemount Estate 2012 Shiraz from Australia for this particular recipe because of it’s bold, peppery flavor.

Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew

I like to load my stew with vegetables for added nutrition and a hearty, chunky texture.

The next morning, I then simply combine the beef, and the wine it marinated in, in the slow cooker with loads of root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, parsnip, onion. I also add mushrooms and a can of diced tomatoes for additional flavor. I like to load my stews up with lots of vegetables to give the stew solid nutritional value while also lending a thick, chunkiness to it. And that’s it – once the slow cooker is done, there’s nothing left to do but serve it up.

But wait, I’m not done.

Stew is best with some warm, fresh crusty bread. Years ago I was in Philadelphia for work and had lunch at the historic City Tavern while there. It started with a tray of assorted house-made breads, each of which was a little slice of heaven. The chef was there that day and I ended up buying a copy of his cookbook, which he signed for me, and taking home those wonderful bread recipes.

Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew

Freshly baked Rosemary Bread completes the meal.

I’ve tried many of the bread recipes in here over the years, the cranberry orange quick bread is particularly good on Christmas morning. But the Rosemary Bread, a yeast-based bread, is hands down my absolute favorite. I’ve made my own modifications to it over time: using a blend of whole wheat pastry and white bread flour, using olive oil instead of vegetable oil, and increasing the amount of rosemary (and only using fresh rosemary). I also divide the dough into two pieces and form them into long loaves instead of doing as the book says and rolling out the dough into a rectangle then rolling it up jelly roll style and making one giant loaf. Sometimes I also like to add cloves of roasted garlic to the dough for a different flavor.

You need to have some time on your hands to make homemade, yeast-based bread. The typical process takes 2-3 hours with all the setting and rising that it has to go through. The end result, though, is so worth the effort. Freshly baked bread is, in my humble opinion, far superior to store-bought bread.

Do you bake your own bread? What’s your favorite?

 

 

Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew with Rosemary Bread
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 8
  • Serving size: 1.5 cups
  • Calories: 281.8
  • Fat: 6.7
  • Saturated fat: 2.3
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1
  • Carbohydrates: 32.4
  • Sugar: 5.5
  • Sodium: 302.1
  • Fiber: 5.7
  • Protein: 21.4
  • Cholesterol: 2.5
Recipe type: Soup or Stew
Cuisine: Beef
Chunks of beef are tenderized with bold, peppery Shiraz red wine and combined with aromatic rosemary and loads of veggies for a deliciously hearty stew.
Ingredients
  • 1.5 lbs. raw lean beef stew meat, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 cup full-bodied, dry red wine
  • 2 cups chopped fresh carrots
  • 2 cups chopped fresh parsnip
  • 1.5 cups sliced fresh brown (crimini) mushrooms
  • 1.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 can diced, no salt added tomatoes
  • 4 cups reduced sodium beef broth
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
Instructions
  1. Place the beef in a shallow dish and cover with the wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Place the carrots, parsnip, mushrooms, potatoes, onion and tomatoes in a slow cooker.
  3. Add the beef and wine and stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the broth, rosemary and salt.
  5. Submerge the bay leaf in the center of the stew, cover and cook on low for a minimum of 8 and up to 10 hours.
  6. Stir and serve immediately.

 
Rosemary Bread
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 24
  • Serving size: 2 oz.
  • Calories: 128.7
  • Fat: 4.0
  • Saturated fat: 0.5
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5
  • Carbohydrates: 20.0
  • Sugar: 0.3
  • Sodium: 74.2
  • Fiber: 2.0
  • Protein: 3.2
  • Cholesterol: 0.0
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
From City Tavern Cookbook: "Rosemary was most likely brought to the New World by the French, who prized it for its therapeutic value - it was believed to relieve digestive ills - as well as for its symbolism - it was often used to represent a declaration of love. Rosemary bushes also were used in hedges to ward off garden pests. This recipe introduces the herb's distinctive flavor into a finely textured bread. if you don't have your own rosemary growing in the garden, the fresh herb is available at most supermarkets."
Ingredients
  • 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (110-115F)
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2.5 cups bread flour
Instructions
  1. Place the water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let dissolve and stand about 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.
  2. Stir in the ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary and salt. Mix in the flours, 1 cup at a time, to make a soft dough.
  3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic and adding only enough flour to prevent sticking.
  4. Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Turn the dough to coat all surfaces with the oil then place in the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp towel. let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  6. Punch down the dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  7. Knead for 3 more minutes, until smooth, then cover with the towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Lightly coat a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet with olive oil.
  9. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  10. Separate the dough into 2 even pieces. Roll and shape each piece into a loaf about 12" long, tapered at the ends and thicker in the middle. Place the loaves on the baking sheet, leaving at least 3" between the loaves.
  11. Cover with a towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until almost doubled in size. Brush the top of each loaf with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
  13. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Notes
Each loaf will bake up to about 1.5 lbs equaling a total of 3 lbs., or 48 oz. At a serving size of 2 oz. per person, the total recipe should yield 24 servings.

 

Upland Estates 2011 Gew√ľrztraminer

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Upland Estates 2011 Gew√ľrztraminer

If you’ve been following my wine pairings for a while, you’ve probably gathered by now that I’m primarily partial to red wine. Surprise!

That’s right, I can swing both ways.

For spicy Asian food, there’s nothing better than an off-dry white wine, in my humble opinion. This 2011¬†Gew√ľrztraminer from Upland Estates in Washington state’s Yakima Valley is the perfect pick for just such a dish.

Upland Estates is the oldest winery in Eastern Washington with it’s first plantings dating to 1917. Owned today by the Newhouse family, the vineyards are located on Snipes Mountain, which just received the distinction of becoming Washington’s 10th American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2009. The soil in the area is known for its rocky make-up as a result of the Columbia River that used to flow through here until the Missoula floods changed its course.

Upland Estates 2011 Gew√ľrztraminer

The 2011¬†Gew√ľrztraminer has a lovely bouquet of floral and fruit notes. On the palate, it is smooth and satiny¬†with hints of pear, lemon, and slight spicy undertones balanced with a clean refreshing finish. ¬†It is the perfect partner for my Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry. The very slight sweetness of the wine enhances the spiciness of the dish, while also bringing out the sweet coconut flavor. It is a must try.

And did I mention that this gem of a wine is also surprisingly affordable? I picked up this bottle in-person at WineUp on Williams in Portland, Oregon, for $10.99, but you can buy it online at the link below for just $8.75 a bottle. What a deal!

Get the recipe here: Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry

Buy a bottle by clicking here.

As with any part of a healthy lifestyle, always enjoy alcohol in moderation.

Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry

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Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry

I think that what I love most about this recipe – aside from the fact that this quick and easy dish is packed full of delicious flavor and perfect for those nights when I want to go meatless – what I love most is that experimenting with this recipe really gave me an opportunity to play with my new Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel 10.5″ French Skillet.

Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry

This dish starts with a 7 oz. block of extra firm tofu

I won this skillet at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle at the end of September, a real stroke of luck considering it was my first food blogger conference ever. It is hands down the best quality piece of cookware I’ve owned, aside from my treasured Le Creuset pot.

Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry

The tofu is cut into strips and submerged in a bath of red curry paste, light coconut milk, Greek yogurt, turmeric, fish sauce and lime juice.

This skillet is deep and roomy, making it perfect for a stir fry. The stainless steel makes for easy clean-up while the copper base assures even heat for gourmet quality cooking. I also love the French-style sloped edges of the pan which make it easy to toss the sauteed vegetables with a quick wrist movement, no tools needed. I am already plotting how to get my hands on more of Analon’s fabulous cookware.

Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry

My Analon skillet cooks up the veggies perfectly!

For this recipe, I used my skillet to saute up a mixture of carrots, mushroom, red cabbage, edamame and bean sprouts. Not only is it delicious, but I love the colors of orange, brown, purple, green and white that combine on the plate.

Of course the star of the show is the tofu. Most tofu stir fry recipes involve sauteeing the tofu with the vegetables. I don’t find that method satisfying, though. The tofu usually falls apart and turns into these wet little blobs in the stir fry. I prefer to bake my tofu instead. This method brings out an entirely different flavor dimension in the tofu: lightly crisped on the outside and tender on the inside.

Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry

The colors on the plate are so pretty!

The secret to making a good tofu dish is the flavors you cook the tofu with. You see, tofu absorbs the flavor of whatever you cook it with. In this case, it takes on a spicy, sweet and creamy quality from the red curry and coconut milk. I like to use a wee bit of Greek yogurt in the marinade for the tofu as well, it helps to really coat the tofu with the flavor and keep it moist during the baking process.

How do you like to prepare your tofu?

 

 

Red Curry Coconut Tofu Stir Fry
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Calories: 508.7
  • Fat: 20.6
  • Saturated fat: 5.9
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 3.0
  • Carbohydrates: 61.8
  • Sugar: 11.6
  • Sodium: 692.9
  • Fiber: 7.8
  • Protein: 22.7
  • Cholesterol: 0.0
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegan
Spicy red curry and sweet coconut milk glazed tofu is baked and served with a healthy stir-fry of carrot, red cabbage, mushrooms, edamame and bean sprouts.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup light coconut milk (divided)
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste (divided)
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 7 oz. block of extra firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • ½ cup carrots cut into thin strips
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage, loosely packed
  • 1 cup sliced brown (crimini) mushrooms
  • ¼ cup shelled edamame soybeans
  • 1½ cups fresh bean sprouts
  • ½ dry brown basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 tbsp chopped green onions (optional)
  • 2 lime wedges (optional)
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the yogurt, ¼ cup of the coconut milk, 1 tbsp of the red curry paste, fish sauce, turmeric, and lime juice.
  2. Slice a block of tofu into ¾" strips and submerge in the red curry-coconut-yogurt marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 425F. Lay tofu in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning half way through.
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, garlic, and salt. Cook until the carrots are al dente, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the red cabbage and mushrooms. Continue cooking just until the mushrooms have released their water, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the edamame and bean sprouts. Cook for 1 minute more.
  7. Add the remaining ½ cup of coconut milk and remaining 1 tbsp red curry paste. Stir to combine, let warm through about 1 minute, then remove the stir fry from the heat.
  8. Serve stir fry over brown basmati rice. Top with strips of tofu, sliced green onions, and the juice of ¼ lime wedge.

 

Lapostolle 2010 Canto de Apalta

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Lapostolle 2010 Canto de Apalta

If you haven’t tried a Chilean wine yet, the Lapostolle 2010 Canto de Apalta is a great introduction to this up and coming wine region.

Lapostolle Winery was founded by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, whose family has been producing the world renowned Grand Marnier for 6 generations. Canto de Apalta, or Song of Apalta, is a red blend inspired by the harmonious sounds of the birds found around their Apalta vineyard. Situated in Chile’s central, semi-arid Rapel Valley, the days are warm and dry here while the nights are cool.

I also have to note Lapostolle’s admirable approach to sustainable viticulture. All of their vineyards are certified organic and they embrace a forward-thinking approach to water-recycling and energy conservation.

Lapostolle 2010 Canto de Apalta

Awarded 90 points from Wine Spectator and 91 points from Wine Enthusiast, the 2010 Canto de Apalta is a big, bold blend of 36% Carmenère, 31% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. Like the song of the birds it takes its name from, these grapes come together in their own symphony of rich flavors. It has brilliant aromas of smoky tobacco and dark fruits, and in the mouth it is full and velvety with notes of jam, pepper and chocolate. The Lapostolle 2010 Canto de Apalta is an ideal companion for hearty stewed or grilled meat dishes.

I like this wine with my Maple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Chicken and Roasted Chipotle Bourbon Carrots. The rich, smoky, peppery characteristics complement the sweet maple and bacon in the chicken while the dark fruits play well with the spiciness of the side of carrots.

Get the recipe here: Maple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Chicken and Roasted Chipotle Bourbon Carrots

Buy a bottle (or more!) here.

As with any part of a healthy lifestyle, always enjoy alcohol in moderation.