Recipe: Easy Chicken Cassoulet

I apologize for taking so long to get this typed up, but things have been a bit chaotic in our apartment-life lately.  Nevertheless, here’s a very easy recipe to throw together if you’re looking for a comfort meal without a lot of excess fuss.  It’s one that you can work on pulling together and then pop into the oven to “tighten up”, so it comes out looking amazing… and isn’t that the best kind of recipe to have in your arsenal?SimpleChickenCassoulet

It starts with half a package of canadian bacon, diced into small even pieces. Saute these in a bit of olive oil until they’re crispy and then add your vegetables (I used a mixture of diced onion, celery, and carrots) to saute until they’re translucent and smell wonderful.

I love using boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe so there are no bones or excess fat from the skin to worry about, but if you prefer to use the other, feel free… it’s your dinner you’re making,  I seasoned each thigh with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence before putting the meat (seasoned side down) into the hot pan to sear.  Once the first side was seared nicely, I flipped the thighs over and seared them on the other side.  I wasn’t as patient as I should have been, so my “searing” didn’t look as golden as it could have, but I wasn’t too concerned this time.

Once the meat was seared on both sides, it was time to add liquid and beans.  For the liquid, I used a cup of one of my favorite white wines (James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay), but I’ve used a number of different white wines in this recipe from time to time.  Use what you like to drink and the recipe will come out just the way you like it.  I also added a cup of chicken broth and an extra chicken broth bouillon cube to deepen the flavor of the stock.   I also added two cans (with liquid) of white cannellini beans, but have used other beans when that’s what I’ve found in my cupboard.  If you have a preference, roll with that… it’s not a huge deal.

I brought the cassoulet up to a simmer and decided to stir in about a quarter cup of orzo pasta that I had in a baggie in the cupboard – I had no idea where I might use it otherwise, and this was a way to soak up some of the stock, if needed.  This is totally unnecessary, but it used up something I already had, without wasting it, so I was happy.

I popped the cassoulet into a 325 degree oven for about an hour and stirred it occasionally.  At some point, I took a potato masher and smashed some of the beans to thicken the stew, which gave it a lovely homey feel when dished out.  I may have cooked the cassoulet for another hour, but as time went on, I reduced the heat so nothing was going to burn.  The idea is to cook everything through until it’s falling apart and all the flavors combine.  I love cooking this way!

As I got ready to serve our dinner, I sliced a single ciabatta roll, sprayed each slice with cooking spray and sprinkled on some garlic salt to make easy garlic toasts to go with our meal.  5-7 minutes in the oven was all that they needed to get crispy and toasty.

I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe sometime on your own.  It’s so easy to swap out ingredients and make something entirely personalized… you’ll come up with a new “family favorite” in no time!

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Recipe: Chicken Veggie Gris

Ok, I’ll admit that this is a strange name for a recipe, but at least it gives you an idea of what you’re getting… right?

Let me share a little background before launching into this recipe with you.

We recently relocated to a new state, in a new town, in a furnished corporate apartment.  Have you ever had to do this?  It’s sort of like cooking in “your own” kitchen, but it’s not.  The pots and pans are different… the utensils are unique (even though I *did* bring my own)… and even the cooking vessel (an electric stove instead of my beloved gas range) is different.  Challenges to be sure, but I was determined to make our transition to this new place as smooth as possible… which meant cooking dinner each night.  

Yesterday, our first weekday in our new apartment, brought on my first challenge.  I had to purchase *enough* food and seasonings without purchasing *too much* because, remember, this is only our temporary home.  I already have the necessary pots, pans, seasonings, etc to make the meals that I want to make… but they’re currently sitting in a Jessup, MD storage unit.  So, in the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to create delicious meals without purchasing too many items that will end up being duplicates if I don’t use them up before we move from our current residence.  I hope you find my journey to be interesting and maybe even a little helpful!

Dinner on Monday was a challenge.  I went to the local Walmart to pick up some things, but this particular store was rather sparse in selection, especially since it carried no fresh produce or proteins.  This is where I bought the kitty litter, toilet paper, skim milk, orange juice, spaghetti sauce, canned chicken, a loaf of bread, foil, and a large bag of individually packaged chips. While I could have stopped at the Fresh Market store a block from our apartment, I was on a particular mission to find something that would help me get groceries (and cat litter) from my car to our new home, so I was traveling around town with this goal in mind.  I eventually found a collapsible cart that will be perfect for my needs and darted into the closest grocery store to stock up on some fresh items.

Since this was my first venture out for supplies, I was trying to mentally flip through a number of meal options that could create the most amount of duplicate ingredients.  I ended up choosing two packages of ground turkey, two packages of chicken breasts (with three in each, which could yield three meals for the two of us), some broccoli slaw, a bag of onions, romaine (for my lunch salads),  a bag of onions, a small box of frozen meatballs, cooking spray, and spices (garlic salt, herbs de provence, dry mustard, italian seasonings, pepper, and Hungarian Paprika).  Using these basics, I decided to go with something very simple for dinner… and my Chicken Veggie Gris was born.ChickenVeggieGris

I started by seasoning two chicken breasts with garlic salt and herbs de provence.  Using the apartment’s skillet, I turned the electric burner to “8” and allowed the pan to heat.  Clearly, this is not the way to do things with an electric oven because when I added some margarine and a thinly sliced onion to the pan, there was entirely too much smoke in the apartment. I quickly turned down the heat and turned *on* the vent fan to keep from setting off the fire alarm so things calmed down a little.  NOTE: there was never any real danger, but it really did freak me out a bit. 

Once the onion had time to saute in the margarine to soften, I opened a bottle of white wine (I used a Pinot Gris, but only because I couldn’t find a bottle of James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay fast enough) and added that to the onions to allow them to soak up some of the yummy wine flavor.  I then moved the onions away from the center of the pan, placed the chicken breasts in the center to brown, and seasoned the underside of the breasts with the same seasonings as mentioned above.

Dinner was looking a little bleak at this point so, after I flipped the breasts over to cook through, I added some broccoli slaw to the pan for color and veggie-goodness.  Seasonings were now the priority… dinner couldn’t be bland, especially for my first attempt.  I opted to add a few dashes of soy sauce, some balsamic vinegar, and about a half cup of the wine to create a sauce that would make things come together.  I then cooked everything until all the flavors combined, about 10-15 minutes.  The chicken was poaching nicely and, while I would have preferred to have the veggies with a little more crunch and color, the softened broccoli slaw suited my husband’s tastes and still looked pretty on the plate.  To finish off the meal, I cooked a packet of brown and wild rice and used that as our starch for dinner.  It wasn’t exactly the meal I’d planned, but it was tasty and home-cooked… the best way to finish out a stressful “first day”.

I’ll continue to add recipes, both from before and during our move, so I hope you’ll check back to see how things are progressing.  I have some recipes that I never had the chance to share, so I’ll let you know when those are posted.  My attempt tonight is going to be something along the lines of a lasagna, without lasagna noodles…. will that even work?

Follow me on this journey… I promise to share both the highs (yummy recipes) and lows (how in the world am I going to learn to cook without a gas stove?) of the coming weeks.

Recipe: Wine Cupcakes

Ok…. Even I was a bit skeptical when I came up with this idea.  I had a box of white cake mix… I had James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay white wine… I had some Pinot Noir red wine… what’s a girl to do?  Swap the wine for water!

WineCupcakes

I weighed out the cake mix to make sure that I actually was able to separate the mix into separate bowls and then went to work.  I used the cake mix directions and simply swapped out the water in each half with a different wine.  I used exactly the same ingredients for each half of the mix, but I used James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay white wine for the “white cake” and I used a Pinot Noir red wine for the “red cake”  Don’t they look interesting?  NOTE:  I would absolutely have used James River Cellars Rad Red, if I’d had some in the fridge when inspiration took hold this morning.

Rather than add frosting to these cupcakes, I decided to add sprinkles.  I had gold sanding sugar to add to the white/chardonnay cupcakes, but I didn’t have any red sanding sugar on hand, so I used multi-colored tiny sugar balls for the red/pinot noir cupcakes.

I know this is a weird way to use wine, but I just had to try it… nothing lost by trying and everything gained by finding another fun use for wine!  I hope you’ll consider trying these out sometime.  It’s bizarre, but I think they’re surprisingly tasty.  Have fun!

NOTE:  I shared these with my co-workers and we all agreed that the Reserve Chardonnay cupcakes were tastier than the Pinot Noir ones… but check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

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Crock Pot Recipe: Pork Roast

This recipe was so ridiculously easy that I’m almost embarrassed to post it… almost.  I was on the schedule to work earlier this week and decided to through a few things in my crock pot to see how dinner would turn out.  The meal was filling and flavorful, just what I needed after a busy day, but it came together so simply that I just had to share it with you.

CrockpotPork

I found (literally… my husband defrosted our freezer over the weekend) a lovely 2-3 pound pork loin that needed to be used and decided to be a bit creative in what I was making that evening.  To the bottom of the crock pot, I layered 2 sliced onions, 1 sliced apple, 1/2 cup James River Cellars Rad Red, and 1/2 cup James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay.  I un-bagged the pork loin, placed it on top of the vegetables, seasoned it with garlic salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.  I realized that I wouldn’t have time to cook and make mashed potatoes, so I popped 4 small potatoes in the same pot and cooked everything on low for 6-8 hours.  By the time I got home, the house smelled amazing!

Adding the finishing touches on dinner was fairly simple.  I pulled the potatoes out and mashed them in a bowl.  I added some of the liquid (along with the cooked veggies) from the pot to the potato mixture to smooth everything out, then added a touch of margarine (or butter), salt, and pepper before serving.  I sliced the pork, which honestly was falling apart at this point, and served dinner in under 15 minutes after my arrival home.  It was simple, tasty, and satisfying… three things that I look for when trying to come up with a work-night recipe.

I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe or a variation thereof… making dinner doesn’t have to be a huge production… it can be as easy as thinking ahead.  Enjoy!

Leftover Recipe: Stuffing Waffles with Turkey Gravy

I’m always looking for a new and unique way to use leftovers, especially from holiday meals.  We seem to have extras of everything in the fridge, so I find it very exciting when a new idea comes around.  This recipe idea was one that my husband found and it really looked fun.  A new way to use my waffle maker other than just making waffles?  I’m IN!

I started by making the turkey gravy that would go on top of our dinner.  Basically, I reheated the leftover gravy from Thanksgiving and, using James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay, flour, and chicken stock, I thinned the gravy out to make more and then added chunks of leftover turkey.  Once this was done, I turned my attention to making the waffles.StuffingWaffles&TurkeyGravy

I preheated my waffle iron and then sprayed it with cooking spray before starting.  Using a large cookie/muffin scoop, I put one scoop of cooked stuffing into the center of each quarter of the waffle iron and let it all cook for 7-10 minutes.  Seriously, it was that simple.  I didn’t add anything to the stuffing… it was already moist enough that it toasted up nicely in a short amount of time.  When the waffle was crispy, I turned it onto a plate, topped it with turkey gravy and added a side of homemade cranberry sauce.  It was a really delicious way to enjoy our favorite parts of Thanksgiving in a new and tasty way.

I hope you’ll try this way of making your leftovers into something different instead of just reheating the same meal for a few days in a row.  As yummy as that is, having a new and unique meal that incorporates your leftovers can be really fun.  Honest!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season with lots of leftovers…

Recipe: Sausage and Apple Stuffing

I absolutely love making stuffing.  I don’t make it only for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but those are the two times when I make a massive amount and want to use it in sandwiches and leftover meals for a few days.  It’s just so incredibly tasty!

I start making the ingredients for my stuffing a day or so before I actually put everything together for the meal.  It’s easier to cook the sausage a few days in advance and, since I bake the stuffing bread (see previous post) for most of my stuffing, that *has* to be done earlier.

I start two or three days ahead and bake a loaf of bread, then cube it and allow it to dry on a tray.  NOTE: Make sure to let your family know that you’re starting your holiday meal prep or your drying bread may get a little toastier than you expected.  The sausage can be cooked two to three days ahead and kept in the fridge – I like to rinse the sausage once it’s cooked to remove an excess fat, but that’s simply because the cooled fat grosses me out.

Here’s the basic recipe for my Sausage and Apple Stuffing:SausageAppleStuffing

  • 2 loaves of bread cut into cubes (I like to use 1 loaf of Italian bread and 1 loaf of Stuffing bread)
  • 1 lb bulk sage sausage (browned and cooled)
  • 2 apples (I use 1 sweet apple and 1 granny smith apple), chopped fine
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups liquid (I use half Oaked Chardonnay and half chicken stock)
  • turkey liver (from the bag inside the bird)
  • 3 ribs of celery with tops, diced
  • 1 small to medium onion, diced
  • 2 packets G. Washington Golden Bouillon (use your own preferred brand)
  • 2 eggs (keep a third egg on hand in case needed)
  • Salt and pepper to taste, herbs as you want * I like to add some poultry seasonings (both ground and dried) and parsley.
  1. Mix the bread, sausage and apple together in a HUGE bowl (you need a big enough bowl to get everything incorporated well)
  2. Melt margarine into the liquid,  and cook the turkey liver.
  3. Once the liver is cooked, add this mixture to the celery and onion and blend until everything is well pulverized.  I use a Stick blender (immersion blender) in a high-sided bowl until everything is totally incorporated and all the veggies are unrecognizable.  Add bouillon packets to the liquids and stir to combine.
  4. Add your liquid to the bread mixture, top with the two eggs, and use your hands to incorporate everything into the stuffing. Add salt and pepper as needed and use the third egg if the stuffing doesn’t hold together well.   NOTE: Take your time with this step and make sure to taste the stuffing as you are blending.  As my mom always said “if it doesn’t taste good raw, it won’t taste good when it’s cooked”.  This may seem gross, but the nuances in taste as you add a little more salt or extra parsley will make the difference between a stuffing that tastes good and one that knocks your socks off.  We’re going for the “knock your socks off” taste here.
  5. Once the stuffing is done, stuff the turkey everywhere you can find space.  I use the neck cavity as well as the body of the turkey.  I’ve also taken to layering stuffing under the skin, on top of the breast meat and between the body and legs of the bird.  This seems to add to the moist taste of the meat when you carve your turkey.

Enjoy!  This should be a great addition to your holiday meal…

Recipe: No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is one that my husband loves and it comes to me, courtesy of my wonderful Mother-in-Law.  I have played with this recipe a bit, but try and make it as close to the original as possible, since it’s my husband’s favorite.  Everyone should have a favorite food that doesn’t get “edited” or “upgraded”, so this is the one recipe that I don’t change.  HOWEVER, if you are interested in making a few edits, this is a simple change you can make to include wine in your dessert.  NOTE: Lest my husband reads this post and worries that this year’s pie has wine… it doesn’t.  It *has* in the past, but it doesn’t this year.  NoBakePumpkinPie

Mom’s No-Bake Pumpkin Pie:

  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I use the Fat-free version)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope Knox brand geletin
  • 2 Tablespoons water **Here’s your substitution opportunity
  • 16 oz can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  1. Blend the sweetened condensed milk, egg, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand one minute.  Stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves.
  3. Blend in milk mixture
  4. Stir over how heat until thickened, about 7-9 minutes.  Blend in pumpkin and mix well to incorporate.
  5. Pour into pie shell and chill for several hours.
  6. Cut and serve with Cool Whip.

NOTE:  I substituted James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay for the water last year.  The only major difference was that the gelatin/wine mixture became “like glue” for a bit until the heat allowed it to loosen and blend together.  I enjoyed the hint of Chardonnay in the background of the pumpkin pie but will use that for the baked pumpkin pie recipes that I use instead of using it for this recipe.