Heavenly Slow Cooker Meals: Sweet Pepper, Corn and Potato Stew

You know what’s really great? Frozen vegetables.

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Everything outside has been noticeably dead since mid-January when the temperatures plummeted and sucked the life out of everything. I’m skeptical about where my tomatoes are coming from at a time like this, because I’m pretty sure it’s not the farm upstate.

So frozen veggies! What an idea! For these slow cooker meals, it’s a great solution. Not least of all because I’m usually only making a slow cooker meal in the first place because I am trying to save time. So if I don’t have to slice up a vegetable, that’s a big win.

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One quick note about this dish – if you don’t eat dairy or you hate the idea of buttermilk, leave that ingredient out of the recipe. Another option is to top the dish with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

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What You Need:

  • 5 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 10oz bag frozen sweet corn
  • 2 cups chopped bell peppers (I used red, yellow and orange for some summertime color)
  • 5 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (seeded if desired to reduce spiciness)
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded cheddar

What You Do:

Put everything except the buttermilk into the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 8 hours, or high heat for 4.

When it’s done, add the buttermilk and stir well. Top with cheddar cheese.

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Haddock Baked in Spicy Cajun Tomato Sauce

I think we all kind of feel the same right now. It’s that post-holiday food coma and seemingly perpetual exhaustion from too many glorious days off that makes it feel almost impossible to get back on track, go back to work and get motivated to put down the holiday cookies and champagne and pick up a salad.

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One thing that helps me is cooking up a big batch of something super light and super healthy so I can enjoy it for dinner and then take the leftovers for lunch. Having a set lunch plan helps me avoid unnecessary mid-day splurges at the bakery and sandwich shop located RIGHT BELOW MY OFFICE. They sell bagels and sandwiches and cookies and coffee. Oh, so an entire day’s worth of food less than 50 feet from my desk? Awesome. A day without a pre-meditated food plan basically means sacrificing my diet to this restaurant.

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So, to avoid taking the easy route in the new year, I wanted to start things off with just the right dish to last a couple days. I prepared it while Mike was at work so he would have something yummy to come home to, so with his seal of approval under my belt, I present you with this delicious Haddock dish.

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What You Need: 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and discarded if desired for less heat
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 3 cups tomatoes, diced, with juices (canned diced tomatoes also work for this)
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
    • 1 lb Haddock or other white fish such as flounder or tilapia

What You Do:

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In a large, deep skillet with olive oil heated on medium, cook the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the peppers and white wine, cooking until just soft.

Add the tomatoes and Cajun spice and combine well.

Place the haddock in the skillet with the tomato sauce, cover and let simmer for 5-8 minutes or until fish is fully cooked and flakes easily.

Then it’s ready to serve! Check out the whole plate – I also made raw shredded lemon Brussels sprouts that made one heck of a side dish. Stay tuned for that recipe later this week!

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Pro Tip: This dish makes excellent leftovers, but be sure to eat it within 5 days 🙂

 

Easy Herbed Roasted Whole Chicken

I know, it wasn’t too long ago that most of us gorged ourselves on turkey. But I was perusing this lovely farm store near my house and came across the most fantastic meat counter ever. I’m talking all local, grass-fed meats, at shockingly reasonable prices.
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Because of the recent success of our BBQ pulled chicken dinner, I couldn’t resist picking up a whole chicken to cook in a different way. I also learned something really important about roasting meat. Since I’m apparently super lame and don’t own a roasting pan, I had to come up with a quick alternative way to cook it without lighting my oven on fire or ruining the entire chicken.
The trick is to cook the chicken over a bed of sliced onions and potatoes. Doing so gives it a nice lift off the bottom of the pan, plus you get to enjoy a delicious chicken-infused side dish with dinner.
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The best thing about roasting a whole chicken is how much food you get out of it that will last for days. Kind of like…the turkey from Thanksgiving. But let’s not focus on that.
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What You Need: 
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3-4 pounds)
  • 4  medium red or yellow potatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 bay leaves

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 450F

In a large oven-safe pot (preferably round with high sides), line the bottom with the potatoes and onions.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil through lemon juice and mix well.

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Generously slather the olive oil rub over the entire chicken, making sure to spread it over the bottom as well. I also lifted up the skin in places and applied the rub underneath and directly on the chicken meat. This will really infuse the flavor of the rub during the roasting process.

Place the chicken bottom-side-down in the pot.

Place the bay leaves on the potatoes and onions around the chicken.

Cook the chicken covered on 450F for about 10-15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350F and cook the chicken for about 20 minutes per pound. If you aren’t sure exactly how heavy your chicken is, roast it for 30 minutes and then check the temperature with a meat thermometer – your chicken is ready when it reads 180F. (Since all ovens vary, you should always check the temp even if you do know the weight just to be sure it’s done).

Pro Tip: You can make a rub for this chicken out of some various ingredients depending on what you like. Substitute the rosemary for fresh chopped sage or thyme, and use 2 tablespoons of melted butter instead of the olive oil.

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Thanksgiving Day 4: Vegetarian Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms

If a mushroom is stuffed with stuffing, is it redundant to call it a stuffing stuffed mushroom?

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Say that 5 times fast! Either way, the real point here is that stuffing is one of the greatest foods served at the Thanksgiving table. I know I have my whole affinity for squash thing going on, but it’s basically trumped by stuffing.  Stuffing is always flavorful and goes so well with all the other foods on your plate – especially the turkey. Even the name stuffing just makes me love it that much more.

Stuffing is mostly always served in a big bowl, but for the purpose of my 5-day Thanksgiving meal extravaganza (I’m calling it that now, by the way) I wanted to come up with something that would act as more of an appetizer, and be friendly to those traveling who want to bring something unique that can be easily heated up.

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This dish is a fun twist on the classic stuffing in a bowl. And it’s really easy to make. It may look like a staggering amount of ingredients but it’s actually very simple. It does include a homemade vegetable broth so you could always make things easier on yourself and use a store-bought kind. There’s 4 ingredients off the list right there!

And this recipe has some great vegetables in it that add amazing flavors so you don’t need to add spices outside of a pinch of salt and pepper.

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What You Need:

  • 2 leeks, one cut in half and one diced
  • 1 large yellow onion cut in half, one half left in tact (skins and all) and one peeled and diced
  • 1/2 a tomato
  • 1 jalapeno cut in half
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and diced into cubes
  • 2 leeks, one cut in half and one diced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into cubes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 medium sized load of French bread (about 3.5-4oz in weight) OR your favorite gluten free bread to make this a 100% GF dish
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • 5 large portobello mushrooms
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

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What You Do:

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. This is for your vegetable broth. Once the water is boiling, add the leek that is cut in half, the 1/2 tomato, the in-tact onion half and the jalapeno and boil until the vegetables are soft and the water is colored with vegetable leavings.

Strain the broth into a separate pot to separate out the vegetables. Discard the vegetables and set 2 cups of the broth aside. (Freeze the rest for future recipes).

In a very large skillet, melt the butter. Once melted, add the parsnips and let them simmer in the butter for about 2 minutes.

Then, add the leeks, onion, garlic, eggplant and a pinch of salt and pepper (no more than 1/4 tsp each) and cook, covered, on a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft.

Add 1 cup of the vegetable broth, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the broth has been absorbed.

Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes and lay them in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Sprinkle the sage and rosemary over the bread.

Then, pour the vegetable mixture over the bread as well. Spread it out so it evenly covers the bread.

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Pour the remaining cup of vegetable broth over everything, gently pushing aside the vegetable mixture to allow the broth to work through to the bread and the bottom of the casserole dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

While the stuffing is baking, gently clean any dirt off your mushrooms.

Slice off the stems and gently dig out the gill-like material on the underside of the mushroom caps.

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Place the hollowed-out mushrooms cap-side down in a baking dish and bake them in the oven (also at 350F) for about 10 minutes or until they begin to look slightly droopy or wilted. A small amount of liquid might appear inside the caps – this is a good way to know you need to remove them from the oven.

Once the stuffing is done, add a generous scoop of stuffing to each mushroom cap.

Top each with a tablespoon of cheese and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

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These make for a gorgeous presentation lined up on a serving tray. I hope you enjoy them as much as Mike and I did!

Pro-Tip: Try to pick out portobello mushrooms that have high sides so they’re more cup-shaped instead of flat. These will maintain their shape a lot better after being heated up and make it easier to stuff them.

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Imitation Jambalaya Stew with Chorizo

This weekend was a bit of a wash, literally and figuratively. It rained and/or snowed almost the entire two days, basically rendering any serious prospects of trail running, hiking or long walks with our dog impossible. Well, unless we wanted to get drenched and freeze our fingers and toes off, which we didn’t.

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On top of the weather, we also woke up Saturday in a bit of a haze from Friday night’s Halloween shenanigans (worth it) and sacrificed actual productivity for egg sandwiches and re-watching movies on HBO (also worth it).

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Can you guess what we’re dressed as?

But we finally put on our rain coats and begrudgingly left Madison behind to head to the Farmer’s Market’s last outdoor market of the season. I almost can’t believe we’re already making the transition to the winter market, but then again, it snowed on Sunday, so nothing really surprises me anymore.

It was raining, it was cold, and Mike had just found out that a show we bought tickets to see that night had been cancelled, so the day really wasn’t shaping up very well… until we found chorizo.

Let me tell you – chorizo has some serious mood-improving qualities. With our night suddenly wide open, the promise of a chorizo-filled dinner was the answer to turning a fairly crappy day into an actually pretty OK one. We scuttled around from market tent to market tent, buying up all different kinds of veggies to put in our chorizo stew – just a germ of an idea so far but quickly shaping into something great.

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A few mildly productive hours later, we were back home, prepping our rainy day chorizo stew. Mike wanted it to be like a jambalaya, so we gave it just enough kick to have that Louisiana Creole flavor. He was head over heels for the chorizo, and I was excited for the return of tri-color carrots into my life. A perfect match.

What You Need:

  • About 6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 4-5 medium potatoes (any kind is fine) cut into cubes
  • 4-5 large tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 small-medium bell peppers, cut into small slices
  • 1 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large chorizo sausage links, sliced into small rounds
  • 1 cup rice cooked according to package directions

What You Do:

Because the potatoes and carrots will take longer to cook, start these first. Fill a 5-quart pasta pot about halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and carrots, and boil until both are soft. Don’t overcook these as you will be adding them to a hot sauce at the end.

While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, start your tomato sauce. The best thing about this dish is the spicy tomato sauce, which is easy to make by quartering your tomatoes and gently pulsing them in a food processor until they have formed a chunky sauce.

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Pour the sauce into a wok or large skillet and heat on low-medium.

Make your rice, and keep it warm until the meal is complete. This dish is great over a bed of rice, but you can eliminate the extra carbs if you want and it will still deliver.

In another pan, heat a tablespoon of oil on low-medium heat and add your sausage. Let them simmer and flip with the bottom sides are browned.

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Also in another pan, on low-medium heat, heat a teaspoon of olive oil and add the garlic and onion and cook until the onions are translucent and soft.

Add the bell peppers, chives and the jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. When they’re ready, add them to the tomato sauce and stir well.

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Strain the potatoes and carrots when ready and add those to the tomato sauce.

Also add the sausage, careful to leave behind any oil or juices left in the pan.

Then, add your spices, and stir well, bringing to a slight boil.

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Leave the entire jambalaya stew on the stove to, well, stew, for about 10 minutes before serving, just to make sure all the flavors can interact.

Serve over a bed of rice.

Pro Tip: Jambalaya is traditionally a spicy surf and turf dish, so this could be great (and authentic instead of imitation) with shrimp, mussels and/or scallops as well. The great thing about this dish is being able to make the sauce as spicy or as mild as you would like, so feel free to mess around with the ingredients and do frequent taste testing! 🙂

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Ratatouille with Coconut Curry Sauce

I feel bad calling myself a cooking enthusiast since I had not even heard of ratatouille until I saw the Disney movie. After seeing a rat prepare it, I thought, “I could do that.”

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But then, a lot of time went by. (A LOT of time. I just checked, and that movie was released in 2007 – yikes!)

So seven years later, I got my act together and made a decision to prepare this undoubtedly delicious meal for my in-laws, who were visiting from New York. I learned the basic gist of the recipe, and I was only feeling a little apprehensive about being able to pull it off.

But then, I was totally sidelined. The power of suggestion is absurdly effective. One second, I am happily going about my day thinking about trees and flowers (not really, just trying to make a point here), and the next, I see a commercial for pizza and suddenly, that is ALL I WANT.

As I was preparing for ratatouille-making, a friend happened to mention having had a delicious coconut curry dish at lunch.

Well. I’ll be damned. I LOVE coconut curry.

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So, since I was already feeling overwhelmed by the recipe, I made an effortless decision to swap out the sauce for a coconut curry tomato sauce.

I’ll tell you – it was an amazing decision. This dish does not disappoint, and was a hit with my in-laws (at least that’s what they told me) 🙂

Quick Disclaimer: If you don’t own a mandolin, this recipe is still possible to make – it just might drive you crazy. Make sure you have a sharp knife, at the very least!

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What You Need for the Ratatouille:

  • 1 medium zucchini squash, ends cut off
  • 1 medium summer squash, ends cut off
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 each red bell pepper, green bell pepper and yellow bell pepper, tops cut off and de-seeded but still bell-shaped
  • 2 cups dry Jasmine or white rice

What You Need for the Coconut Curry Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalepeno, minced (seeded if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (powdered ginger will also work fine)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes and their juices (this is equal to 3 1/2 cups diced tomatoes if you wish to stay away from canned foods)
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

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What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

In a large wok or skillet, pour in the olive oil and lightly simmer the onion, garlic, jalepeno and fresh ginger until soft. (If you only have powdered ginger, add it later).

Add the tomatoes and curry powder (also add ginger powder if using).  Turn heat up to bring to a slight boil and stir well.

Add the coconut milk and sugar, stirring well. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

Set aside, but keep warm on low heat.

Using a mandolin, thinly slice all of your vegetables. As I said, if you don’t have a mandolin, you can get away with cutting everything by hand. Try to make very thinly-sliced pieces. Thicker pieces really only impact how long the dish will take to cook.

Layer the vegetables in alternating order along the bottom of a large baking dish or dutch oven. Each time you complete a layer, spoon about 1 cup of the still-hot coconut curry tomato sauce over the veggies.

Continue layering and alternately pouring with sauce until the veggies have been used up. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may find you have vegetables left over. This is ok! They make great snacks, after all!

Pour remaining sauce over the top, gently poking apart the vegetables to let it seep through.

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Cover, and place the whole concoction into the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and are easily pierced with a fork. You may find it takes slightly longer depending, again, on the size of your baking dish and thickness of your layers.

While the dish is baking, cook your rice according to package directions.

When everything is ready, serve the ratatouille over the rice and enjoy! It’s where French cuisine meets Indian cuisine, right? Bon’ appetite!

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Pro Tip: If you have leftovers and want to re-purpose the meal to try and pull a fast one on your family, simply pulse the ratatouille (without the rice) in a food processor with a small amount of vegetable broth to turn it into soup! Make it as chunky or pureed as you desire, and add the rice after for some additional texture.

Vegetable Saute with Kale and Corn Pesto

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Everyone likes to talk about how pretty fall is and how awesome the leaves are, yada yada yada. Can we chat for a second about how EVERYONE IS SICK?

I can count the number of days I’ve felt healthy since the end of summer on one hand at this point. I feel as though every time I turn around, someone is sneezing or coughing, and two days later, so am I. It obviously doesn’t help that one day it’ll be 85 degrees out and the next day it’ll be 40.

As someone who is first to brag about how infrequently I get sick, I’ve certainly had to check myself this time around. Is anyone else experiencing this? If you are, please do not come near me.

Potato and Pesto Pics (11)To cater to my tissue-cough-drop-Robitussin dependency, I embarked on this meal with full intentions of completely mailing it in. I should know better though, that the way to truly mail it in is to either do nothing so Mike ends up taking care of dinner, or to just make pasta.

Well I didn’t. This is the result of more time in the kitchen than I intended.

What You Need for the Vegetable Dish:

  • 1 cup dry Jasmine or rice of choice, cooked according to package directions
  • 5 plum tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes.
  • 1/4 lb green beans, sliced in half
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 each: red bell pepper, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

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What You Need for the Pesto:

  • 2 cups kale leaves, roughly shredded
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • The corn from one cob (cooked and cut off) – or about 3/4 cup of cooked corn
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tsp)
  • A pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

What You Do: Potato and Pesto Pics (12)

Cook the rice according to package directions.

While the rice is cooking, pile your veggies EXCEPT the chives, into a large skillet, cover and slowly heat on low-medium until they are cooked through and the tomatoes have burst and appear pinched.

While the vegetables are cooking, pile your pesto ingredients EXCEPT the oil, into a food processor or blender. Slowly add the oil as the ingredients are mixing together until everything is combined and has formed a loose mixture similar to the consistency of dip.

Scoop out a desired amount of rice, and cover it with the cooked vegetables, adding some of the liquids for flavor.

Top with a dollop of pesto and sprinkle the chives over the pesto. Viola!

Pro Tip: Don’t make this dish if you’re too sick to stand up for more than 5 minutes.

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