After Juneuary and Febuly here in the Pacific Northwest, March has returned us to the normalcy of rain. I love waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of raindrops plopping on the roof, splattering against my window. I snuggle down into my blankets and the noise lulls me back to sleep.
There’s something about a rich, thick stew on a cool, rainy day that makes me feel warm and happy from the inside out. I love to dunk hot crusty bread in the broth, soaking the bread through with the flavor of the broth, and slowly savor it in my mouth.
I’m particularly fond of this recipe that combines the dark, chocolate flavor of a rich stout beer with sweet winter tangerines. I slow cook some chopped up beef bottom round roast with tender sweet potatoes, carrots, and chewy dried tomatoes for a bowl of deliciousness that is out of this world. It makes my mouth happy just thinking about the goodness to come from each bite.
The best part? This is truely a fix-it-and-forget-it meal. I simply marinate the beef overnight in the stout then throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning before I leave from work. When I come home from the office, all I have to do is mix in the tangerine juice and dig into a bowl. Home-cooking does not get any easier than this.
Getting back into the kitchen after my injury has not been so easy. I find that even minimal effort leaves me with an aching ankle and as exhausted as if I had just completed a hard workout.
Thank goodness for my slow cooker.
I use my slow cooker this time of year for many a dish, but I’ve found myself using it more since I’ve been slowly getting back into the kitchen. I can set it in the morning, dinner is ready for me at the end of the day, and I have leftovers to keep me fed for at least a few more days.
This Rioja Red Potato and Chicken Chorizo Stew makes some of my favorite leftovers. Rich red Rioja wine makes for a complex and tasty broth that swims with creamy red potatoes and spicy chorizo sausage. Chorizo sausage made from chicken lowers the fat and calorie content, making a great stew also good for you.
Bonus? The stew also freezes well. I like to ladle it into containers in individual serving sizes. Then it’s just a matter of popping the container into the microwave for a satisfying lunch or dinner.
What are you making in your slow cooker?
Slow Cooker Rioja Red Potato and Chicken Chorizo Stew
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, garlic and salt and cook until the onions are transparent.
Stir in the sausage and continue cooking until the sausage is cooked and crumbly and the onions are browned.
Add the red wine and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, getting all the cooked bits off the bottom of the pan.
Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the contents into the slow cooker.
Stir the potatoes, tomatoes, broth and paprika into the chorizo mixture in the slow cooker.
Submerge the bay leaf in the stew, cover and cook on low for 10 hours.
Stir in the fresh cilantro and ladle yourself up a bowl of steaming deliciousness.
Rioja wine comes from the Rioja appellation in Spain and is made primarily from tempranillo grapes. The wines from this region are beautiful and worth seeking out. If you're looking for a domestic wine, though, seek out a tempranillo for this recipe.
This past week has been so cold and blustery here in the Portland area that my dog has taken to lying directly on top of the heater vent. The wind gusted through the city, knocking down limbs and and blowing over my trash and recycling cans. The rain pelted down, turning my backyard into mud. And I? I sat inside, still confined to my couch with my injured leg, and listened to the commotion outside.
In other words, it was the perfect weather for stew.
I love a thick, hearty stew this time of year. It warms me from the inside out and is so much more filling and satisfying than soup. Of course, it must always be accompanied by a hunk of hot, crusty bread. Buttered, preferably.
This week I decided to craft a Tuscan-inspired stew, full of chunky red potatoes and hearty cannellini beans, slowly simmered in a red-wine based broth. Doesn’t that sound divine? I added in some tender chicken breast and juicy tomatoes to bulk it up, as well as some fresh rosemary for flavor. I think this may be the perfect cold weather stew.
Heat the olive oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat.
Add the chicken and sear just until lightly browned on the outside but still pink on the inside, about 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously.
Remove the chicken from the pan onto a plate or bowl and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add the carrots, onion, salt, rosemary and garlic to the pan. Continue cooking about 10 minutes or until the onion is transparent.
Add in the potatoes and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring frequently. There should now be a good amount of crusty goodness stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Pour the wine into the pan, over the vegetables, and use the back of a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, scraping up all that crusty goodness from the bottom of the pan. Let cook until the wine reduces by half.
Add the chicken back into the pan then stir in the diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, chicken broth, and red chile pepper flakes until well combined.
Submerge the bay leaf in the stew then cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 hour.
Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste (not included in the nutritional information).
Serve yourself a steaming bowl of stew and enjoy!
Be sure to use a good Tuscan-style wine in this recipe. A Chianti is always a good choice, which is made from Sangiovese grapes.
Weeks ago when I was working on my recipe for Chili Roasted Butternut Squash Farro Salad, the thought occurred to me: why not use this same preparation technique for the squash in a real chili recipe? Oh my what delicious thoughts that conjured!
And so I set about crafting this recipe for Chili Roasted Butternut Squash Chicken Chili.
I started with the butternut squash prepared exactly as I prepared it for my salad, but that is where the similarities ended. I then used my deep cast iron skillet to brown up some lean ground chicken with red onion and a spicy jalapeno for extra heat. Finally, I mixed in some diced tomatoes, tomato paste, cannellini beans, chicken broth, and the roasted butternut squash cubes.
All that was left to do was to reduce the heat to low, cover, and let the chili cook for an hour. This is probably the most torturous part of this cooking adventure as the amazingly delicious smells that waft from the kitchen will leave your mouth watering and your eyes watching the clock. The final slow cook is absolutely essential to a flavorful, thick chili though.
As with any good chili, I like to serve this with a chunk of cornbread. It’s true comfort food on a cool wintry evening.
This time of year when I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, I love to break out my slow cooker. What’s better than throwing some ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave the house and have it all ready and waiting for you when you walk in the door? Plus, the house always smells amazing.
The slow cooker is filled and ready to cook.
My first slow cooker recipe this season is this Thai inspired soup that is creamy, sweet, and mildly spicy, yet entirely vegan. I start by throwing everything in the slow cooker, covering the pot, and letting it cook on low for up to 10 hours. When I come home, there’s nothing left to do but to puree it up and serve.
But wait! There is one secret to the success of this dish: Nasoya Silken Tofu.
Add a few peanuts for garnish if desired.
Nasoya Silken Tofu is extra soft and creamy and makes a perfect substitute for cream in a dish like this. I simply puree it up with the cooked soup, let the soup reheat a bit, and serve. It’s thick, creamy, and you would never know that there’s tofu in there. Bonus: using tofu also adds a nice little nutritional pop of protein to the recipe.
Would you like to try Nasoya Silken Tofu or other Nasoya product? The first 3 people to leave a comment below telling me what you’d like to make with Nasoya Silken Tofu will receive a coupon for a free Nasoya product!
Have you ever had a truly insane day at work? One of those days where time seems to fly, everything is urgent, and it’s all you can do to find time to even slip away to the bathroom?
I had one of those days this past week. There were so many demands being made of me that I didn’t know where to start, and it seemed like it was never ending. As the day started to ebb, and my energy levels were sagging, I began to dread going home and making dinner. I was just too tired to even think about cooking.
And then I remembered I had put this delicious Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew in the Slow Cooker before I left the house that morning. My spirits were buoyed. All I had to do to complete the meal was to warm up some crusty bread and ladle some stew in a bowl. Heck, there was even wine ready to be poured with it!
I first published this Slow Cooker recipe almost 2 years ago, but it has remained one of my all time favorites. I find myself in a bit of a bind right now because, while I have many recipes in the hopper that I’m working on, I don’t have one that is ready to share with you yet. You need to realize that I’m very particular about having things just right before I publish a recipe to the world.
So I decided to recycle one of my favorites, this gorgeously delicious Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew. It’s spicy and hearty, and the tomato and red wine infused broth is delicious soaked into a piece of warm, crusty baguette. What I love best, though, is that I can have a roller-coaster day at work, come home, and have dinner waiting for me. Perfect!
As much as I look forward to sunshine and the bounty of fresh produce it brings, the weather this time of year is still highly unreliable. Last Sunday morning I woke up to sunshine then, just as I stepped outside to get some yard work done, the sky turned black, the wind kicked up, and rain began pelting down. It is days like this that I still crave a hot and hearty soup.
This Carrot Orange Coconut Soup is perfect for such cold, wet spring days. It’s thick and hearty enough to make a meal, along with a green salad and a chunk of warm, crusty bread. However, the sweet carrots, brightened by a hint of orange and made creamy with light coconut milk, also scream spring. I like to slurp a spoonful, close my eyes and dream of the warm summer days to come.
Bonus? This soup is also soup-er easy to make AND it’s completely vegan! I especially love to make this for Meatless Monday. I throw everything in the slow cooker before I leave for work, and when I come home, after a quick finishing touch, dinner is ready. It’s effortless for even the most novice cook, delicious, and healthy. What’s better than that?
Here’s the lesson of the week: never pack your laptop in checked luggage.
It all started with a trip to beautiful Napa, California. I go there every other month to visit my aging grandmother, which is not exactly a hardship for a food and wine lover such as myself. On this trip, my cousin and her husband from my mother’s side of the family were also there on holiday and so we met up to tour some wineries and taste some delicious wine.
Beaulieu Vineyards has beautiful big cabs.
I wasn’t impressed with the wine at Heitz Wine Cellars but their back patio was beautiful.
The back patio at Heitz Wine Cellars was topped by a pergola covered in a gorgeous blooming wisteria.
I loved the dogwood off to the side of the patio at Heitz Wine Cellars. The dogwood is my favorite flowering spring tree, especially fitting for Easter. Do you know the story of the dogwood?
Benches surround a firepit on the patio of Heitz Wine Cellars, looking out over the miles of vineyards coming into bloom.
Our final stop for the day was Sterling Vineyards, which makes a decent budget cab. Here you ride a tram to the winery high above the valley.
Once at the winery, you wander from terrace to terrace, stopping at different tasting stations, and appreciating the view down St Helena Highway in the Napa valley.
Of course as a result of these excursions I came home with some wine, as well as some delicious, high quality balsamic vinegar from Olivier. I packed these carefully into my carry-on, which means that I had to check my bag as the liquids would never make it past security. With a severe case of Sunday lazies after a busy weekend with my family, I decided to squeeze my laptop into my carry-on as well. I just didn’t feel like toting it around.
Can you guess what happened? Somewhere in between being squished in my luggage and being thrown around by the baggage handlers when I checked it, the screen was damaged. When I turn my laptop on, I see only a series of rapidly flashing streaks of color.
All of this is my way of explaining to you why you haven’t heard from me in a while. I was fully ready to share this recipe for Slow Cooker Parmesan Bean and Spinach Soup with you last weekend, only to discover my laptop was not cooperating. While it is almost 4 years old and I could certainly use an upgrade, for now I’ve connected it up to a monitor that I picked up on the cheap at Goodwill and am making do.
Leftover parmesan rinds become the base for a delicious soup.
I suppose this soup is a way of making do as well. I mean, what do you do with leftover parmesan cheese rinds except throw them away? I always thought that is such a shame, after all a good block of parmesano reggiano is so good and there’s so much flavor still left in that hard rind. So I decided to use the rinds as a base for a soup, injecting a unique flavor into the broth without all of the heavy calories of actual cheese.
I added some cannellini beans, onion, sundried tomatoes and herbs to round out the flavors and give the soup some bulk. Then at the end I throw in some fresh baby spinach for a pretty pop of color and additional nutritional value. With a hunk of crusty bread for dunking, it’s a deliciously easy dinner.
Place the parmesan cheese rinds at the bottom of a slow cooker pot.
Add in the cannellini beans, onion, sundried tomatoes, broth, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, red chile pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.
Stir, cover and cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours.
Remove the parmesan rinds and bay leaf from the soup.
Stir in the baby spinach leaves, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
I love to use dried beans because they are so much cheaper and healthier than their canned counterparts. Simply cover these dried cannellini beans in 6 cups of water, bring it to a boil then simmer on medium for about 45 minutes until tender. Drain, rinse and they are ready to use!
Here I was thinking that spring had spring and warmer weather was finally on the way in the Pacific Northwest. Oh how mistaken I was.
Rain has been pounding the area this week, leaving me with a bit of cabin fever. Luckily, I like to play in my kitchen and a soup in the slow cooker is perfect for a dreary, wet day such as we’ve been having.
For this soup, I decided to use boneless pork tenderloin because it plays so well with the juxtaposition of sweet and spicy flavors. Slow cooked in the crockpot, the tenderloin becomes amazingly tender and juicy. Coupled with tiny hearty navy beans and fresh baby spinach, it’s a soup that you’ll want to make again and again.
I like to pair this soup with a side salad of baby spinach, pears, red onion and a light vinaigrette, along with some warm, crusty bread. I think fresh, warm baguette with a dab of butter is a pre-requisite for just about any soup. Is there anything better than sopping up the broth with a piece of fresh baked bread? Delicious!
What are you making in your kitchen today?
Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Tenderloin and Bean Soup
Place pork tenderloin in the bottom of a slow cooker.
Add in the cooked beans, onion, molasses, honey, worcestershire sauce, red chile pepper flakes, and garlic. Stir in the broth, salt, and sage. Cover and cook for at least 8 and up to 10 hours.
Remove tenderloin from crockpot and use 2 forks to shred to a fine pulp. If desired, do a rough chop to create even smaller pieces.
Mix the shredded tenderloin back into the soup. Add in the baby spinach leaves and stir well. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes then serve.
I like to use dry beans because the sodium content is so much lower and it is so much less expensive than their canned counterparts. To reconstitute or cook the dried navy beans, bring the dry beans to a boil in 4 cups of water. Continue cooking at a very gentle boil for 45-60 minutes. Drain, place in a container and cover with fresh water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
I was at a local grocery store today and upon entering the store I was greeted with a large sign that said:
“Irish Soul Food: This weekend get a taste of St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef from the hills of the Northwest.”
Really? Corned beef is Irish soul food?
I don’t how this corned beef and cabbage nonsense started, but here is a revelation for you: there is absolutely nothing Irish about it. That’s right! Nothing!
When you go to Ireland, you will not find corned beef and cabbage on any menu. In fact, most of the Irish people I met didn’t even know what corned beef is. This “Irish soul food” is actually an American invention.
What you will find in Ireland is Guinness Beef Stew. This is a staple in just about every Irish pub. It’s stuffed full of potatoes and traditionally also topped with a mash of potatoes. Sometimes, the pub will also serve it with a plate of chips (aka fries) on the side. That’s right – potatoes are typically in, on and around this stew.
My Guinness Beef Stew is different from other recipes in that (1) I braise the meat in the oven instead of cooking it on the stovetop, and (2) I have a secret ingredient – molasses. That’s right, I use just a wee bit of molasses to enhance the dark smokiness of the Guinness while adding a touch of sweetness. It’s absolutely perfect.
So if you’re looking for some authentic Irish soul food this St. Patrick’s Day, for the love of God put aside that corned beef and cabbage. Try this stew instead, your tummy will thank you for it.
This St Patrick's Day skip that American invention of corned beef and cabbage and try this rich, hearty beef stew slowly braised in dark and smoky Guinness Extra Stout, a pub staple in the fair emerald isle of Ireland.
1 lb. beef chuck roast, trimmed of all visible fat
1 - 22 oz. bottle Guinness extra stout
1 tbsp olive oil
3 medium carrots, trimmed and chopped
2 large stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1½ tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
generous pinch of salt
12 oz. (1½ cups) Guinness extra stout
3 cups beef broth
2 tbsp black strap molasses
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 lb. yukon gold potatoes, chopped
Place the beef roast in a bowl or container and cover with the contents of the 22 oz. bottle of Guinness extra stout. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 300F. Heat olive oil in cast iron dutch oven on medium high heat.
Remove the meat from the Guinness and pat dry with paper toweling. Discard the Guinness.
Sear the meat in the oil for 1 minute on each side, making sure to get all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium then add in carrots, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and salt. Cook until the onion is transparent.
Stir in the 12 oz. of Guinness Extra Stout, using the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the stuck on bits at the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes to let the mixture reduce a bit.
Turn burner off and add beef broth and molasses, stirring to combine.
Stir in parsnips and potatoes. Place seared beef roast back into the pan, covering it almost to the top with liquid. Cover the pan and bake in the oven at 300F for 1½ hours.
Remove roast from stew and cut or shred into pieces. Stir the meat back into the stew, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.