Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili in the Slow Cooker

 A few years ago, when I started following food blogs, I discovered one called Can You Stay For Dinner by blogger Andie. She has an amazing weight loss story and has kept the weight off while embracing her love to cook. Her recipes are healthy yet do not compromise on flavor. Her voice is inspirational because she loves herself and she is comfortable in her own skin; yet she openly talks about her own struggles and body image issues, and she come across as being real.  I adore her. She even introduced me to smoked paprika last year. 

This recipe is from her blog, and I've been waiting for the perfect cool evening to toss the ingredients in the slow cooker. Of course, I had to make my favorite white bean chicken chili first, but this was second in the queue for fall slow cooker chili.  It had all the qualities I was hoping for: healthy, hearty, warming, and flavorful.  I will definitely be making this recipe again. Thanks, Andie! 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili in the Slow Cooker

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1'' pieces
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 ounce can kidney beans
15 ounce can black beans
1 lb 90% lean ground beef sirloin (optional)

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker (including raw ground beef, if using) and stir to mix well. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

welcome to the blog world, Lexi!

Over the weekend, I learned that one of my great friends, Lexi, took the big scary leap that I took a few months ago and started her very own blog.  I can't begin to express my excitement at getting my mitts on her recipes! 

Lexi is a fabulous woman, nurse, wife, and one of the best cooks I know. She has tons of family recipes, loves Ina Garten, and enjoys making her husband a homemade dinner. She brought a delicious layered Mexican dip and Ina's stuffed mushrooms with sausage and mascarpone cheese to an engagement party last weekend and stole the show. We even hid the mushrooms to the side so only the insiders knew where they were! 

Lexi was my wedding coordinator, and the day went smoothly because of her outgoing and assertive personality, and lots of hard work. The girl stopped at Sam's club at the last minute to pick up extra cups AND had a warm cloth waiting when my husband smeared cake all over my face. After she planned the perfect honeymoon the year before, I totally copied her, went to the same island and neighboring resort (Sandals St Lucia Grande) and we had the time of our lives. Before we left, Lexi emailed me the inside scoop on what to pack and which restaurants were the best. Seriously, she is AWESOME.

With no further ado, I want all of my friends to check out her blog. She will totally kill me for doing this, but I will soothe her with red wine, cheese, and the amazing Molasses Chews she just posted! 

helping my brother with his boutineer

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October Favorites & the Perfect Red Lipstick

All of my friends know that October is my favorite month of the year, and 2013 has been an epic year with a few new brilliant discoveries.  Since I love my blog readers so dearly, I wanted to share my new favorite things. 

1. Festive glassware - we have had SO much fun drinking out of these Moscow Mule mugs! From microbrews to the new signature house cocktail, these mugs are fun to hold and keep your beverage extra cold!  I bought mine on Amazon. The wine glass was a gift from my friend Sue, and I smile every time I see it. 

2.  the quintessential red lipstick - Lancome 151 Absolute Rouge

I must give credit where it's due, which belongs to my wonderful friend Cindy from Mississippi. She knows lipstick, and she pulled a tube of this out last night when we were getting ready for our Halloween party. She confided that for years she searched years for the perfect red, and this was the best she'd found. As soon as I saw myself in pictures I knew this was the one, and it's flattering on everyone. I made a special trip out today to purchase this color. I've never spent so much on lipstick, but I looked at this as an investment and loved the magnetic closure and chic black case. Today, I made Marilyn Monroe (and my mother) proud. After the purchase, I swore to the lipstick gods to wear this color at least once a week. 

3. The Brookie (the s'more I named for an engagement party) which consists of Ritz crackers, a Reese's cup, and marshmallow. I must credit Kevin & Amanda's blog for giving me the idea, which needs no explanation. The combination of a salty Ritz cracker with chocolate, peanut butter, and a gooey marshmallow is out of this WORLD. 

4. Adult halloween parties where you can dress up in a ridiculous costume, dance to 80's music, and be silly.  Josh and I embraced Halloween this year, and I plan on continuing this mindset every year. I danced with Luigi more than I danced my husband at our wedding! Next silly party - tacky sweaters! 

Mario & Luigi

Honey Badgers - if you don't get it, get on You Tube immediately. 

two of the most amazing cardiothoracic surgeons dressed up as 
Jase Robertson and the devil, complete with custom cape

impromptu 80's dance party

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rotel Taco Soup in the Slow Cooker

I must confess, I have really become smitten with my slow cooker this year. I've always liked it, but in the last month we have become besties. 

Here is another super easy and fast slow cooker recipe. Literally, 5 minutes to open these cans and you don't even have to rinse the beans. I would have taken pictures of the soup in bowls, but I had hungry boys to feed, and there are (ahem) no leftovers.


Rotel Taco Soup
From StockPiling Moms blog

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes (original or hot) undrained
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can white beans, undrained
1 can red beans, undrained
1 can corn, undrained
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch
1 lb ground beef
2 cups water

Toppings - sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, fire crackers (click here for recipe)

Place tomatoes, cans of beans, corn, ground beef, and both packets into crockpot.
Add two cups water and stir.
Place lid on crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. 
Serve soup with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sweet Potato and Sausage Hash

The day that I discovered that sweet potatoes were a separate entity from the marshmallow brown sugary southern dessert was a game changer. Click here to see one  of my favorite dinner recipes, loaded sweet potatoes with Mexican chili. Divine.

Tonight, we are having BFD! (Breakfast for Dinner). I'm already excited, at 9am, to make this delicious hash topped with a fried egg. On the dessert menu I am testing out my brand new Belgian waffle maker, as a hint of breakfast recipes to come! This recipe was shared with me by my friends Ryan and Brooke, who thought we would love it. 

If you're looking for a new perspective this morning, head over to my newlywed friend Taryn's blog and read this post on being present in your life. It's amazing and I haven't stopped thinking about the sentence below. As simple as it sounds, it's so important to focus on one thing at a time, and commit 100% of your attention and energy to that task. 

Spend your time actually spending time together.  When you're talking to your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriends, or family make an effort to put down the iPhone, put away the iPad, turn down the TV and focus 100% on what they're saying. 

Sweet Potato and Sausage Hash
from Rachael Ray Magazine (December 2006)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 pound bulk pork sausage (I use the low-fat Jimmy Dean sausage)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
green salsa, for serving

Optional - top each bowl with 1 fried egg 

In a medium pot of boiling, salted water, cook the sweet potatoes until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned and crumbly, about 10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with paper towels to drain.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, cumin, and sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with green salsa on the side.  For extra flavor, top the hash with an over medium fried egg. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

the finished ribs, pulled out from under the oven broiler

One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is to surprise my husband with a nice homemade dinner, and it just so happens that he especially loves beef, pork, and more beef. I've been wanting to make him slow cooker ribs for ages, and last night was just the perfect night to eat fall-off-the-bone ribs. I stopped at the grocery on the way home after a stretch of night shifts, and had the slow cooker set within ten minutes. I then snoozed while this delicious recipe was simmering in the kitchen.

straight out of the slow cooker, before broiling, the meat just falling off the bones

You finish the ribs at the end, which was perfect since I was rested and ready for our date night. These ribs were fantastic, and EASY. I got the recipe from another blog, and she scaled the recipe down for 2 people. The whole recipe serves 6, and to make the whole recipe just follow the amount in (parenthesis). 

I served the ribs with baked potatoes and cast iron skillet succotash, and we watched a really great Jamie Foxx movie called The Soloist. 

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs
from this blog

1.5 Tbsp (3 Tbsp) sweet paprika
1 Tbsp (2 Tbsp) lightly packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp (1/4 tsp) cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used 1 tsp of each)
2 lbs baby back pork ribs (6 lbs) - leave the membrane on the ribs to help hold them together
1 cup BBQ sauce (3 cups)
Vegetable oil spray

In a small bowl, mix together paprika, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and S/P. Rub this mixture all over both sides of the ribs. Spray walls of slow cooker with vegetable oil spray. Arrange ribs in the slow cooker by standing them up against the wall of the pot, with the thicker side down and meaty side against the pot. Pour BBQ sauce over the ribs, cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

To finish the ribs, we need to reduce the sauce and then brown the ribs under the broiler. Very carefully, remove the ribs from the slow cooker and place on a foil-lined baking pan with a rack on top, ribs with bone side up. Set aside. Skim any fat that has risen to the top of the sauce and strain all the remaining juices from the slow cooker through a mesh strainer into a small saucepan.

Bring sauce to a boil and allow to simmer and reduce by a third, approx 15 minutes. Put your ovens broiler on to heat up and make sure the oven rack is about 10 inches below the broiler element. When the broiler is preheated, brush the ribs with sauce (meat side down) and broil for 3 or 4 minutes. Take them out and very carefully flip them over, brush with sauce and broil again, this time meat side up, for approximately 9 minutes, taking them out twice to baste with more sauce. Serve any remaining sauce on the side with the ribs. 

Cast Iron Skillet Succotash

I pulled out my Lodge brand cast iron badass wok last night to make this classic southern succotash. The wok put the perfect crisp edge on the zucchini, and after adding a good dash of Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning at the end, this was an instant favorite. 

Cast Iron Skillet Succotash
from Bon Appetit

3 Tbsp butter
1 large white onion, diced
4 zucchini (18 ounces) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large orange bell pepper, diced
1 (10 ounce) package frozen lima beans 
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn kernels
1 Tbsp minced fresh marjoram
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slap Ya Mama seasoning (optional - Tony Chachere's would also work well)

Melt butter in heavy cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
Add onion, cook until golden, about 5 minutes.
Add zucchini and peppers; cook until beginning to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Add lima beans and corn; cook until heated through, 5 minutes.
Mix in marjoram. 
Season with coarse salt and black pepper. Transfer to large bowl and serve. 

My Signature Cocktail: the Moscow Mule!

 I have a big announcement to make, the kind of announcement that requires standing on top of a chair and clinking a wine glass. Today, I would like to announce our signature house cocktail. According to Queen Ina (the expert in all matters culinary) every household needs a signature appetizer, entree, and cocktail, which your friends look forward to when they come to visit. I have been (im)patiently waiting to have that overwhelming sense of "this is it" until I tasted this refreshing drink out of the perfect mug. 

The moscow mule requires a special mug, which is totally fun and worth the investment. I bought mine on Amazon (here) for $18 dollars a mug. You also need to find a store that sells good ginger beer, I purchased a 4 pack of Reed's at the Fresh Market. 

ginger beer
Moscow Mule
serves 2

1 lime, cut into halves
4 ounces good vodka (we love Russian Standard) 
8 to 10 ounces ginger beer (D&G Jamaican brand or Reed's) 
Mint springs, optional garnish
Lime wheel, optional garnish

Squeeze half a lime into each mule mug, and drop in the rest of the lime. Add 3 large ice cubes, then pour in the vodka (2 ounces each glass) and top with cold ginger beer (4 ounces each glass).  Garnish with mint leaves and lime wheel. 

Click here to watch Oprah get creative on lime squeezin' for this bevie on a camping trip to Yosemite.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What I'm Reading Now

 On my kindle 

On audibles (starting my very first audiobook for commuting this week!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

a gentle reminder.

Scarecrow Crunch

I decided to turn up the volume on my favorite fall trail mix (the classic candy corn and dry roasted peanuts) to carry on a girls trip to Tennessee. I was so proud of my houser gift for Elisabeth that I had to take a photo - one of my favorite bottles of wine with a giant ziplock bag of scarecrow crunch. 

Scarecrow Crunch

2 bags candy corn
1 jar dry roasted peanuts
1 box Cheez-Its (I bought the Monsters Inc version)
1 bag Reese's pieces
1 box Ritz bits peanut butter crackers

Combine above ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese Sauce

Spaghetti squash made it's fall debut in our house last week. It's a great substitute for pasta, and there are so many different sauces you can put on top.  Just yesterday at work, my friend Shayna told me she loves a simple topping of salt, pepper, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. You can be lazy and just warm up a jar of your favorite marinara sauce. I wanted to do a slightly more fancy recipe, since I made this for our weekly date night meal.

My original spaghetti squash post is here, which made me laugh this morning as the photo is terrible! In that recipe, I used a jar of my favorite trader joe's three cheese marinara sauce and ground chicken. 

The recipe below is a simple classic bolognese sauce, but feel free to substitute your family recipe or your personal favorite. 

Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese Sauce

1 spaghetti squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, peeled and chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Garnish - parmesan cheese, thinly slices roma tomatoes, and julienned basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half (lengthwise) and scoop out the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and bake (cut side up) for one hour. Prior to serving, scrape spaghetti squash into thin strands using a fork. 

In a dutch oven over medium high heat, add olive oil. Once hot, add onions, celery, and carrots, and saute until soft. Add beef and season with oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt/pepper. Brown the meat while breaking into smaller pieces. Once cooked, add the tomatoes, wine, and bay leaf, and reduce heat to low. 

Cover, and simmer for an hour or until spaghetti squash is roasted.  Place a scoop of scraped spaghetti squash in each bowl and top with bolognese sauce, then freshly grated parmesan cheese, julienned basil, and thinly sliced roma tomatoes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brenda's Fireball Apple Cider

My dad's very cool and very fun sister told me about this fall inspired beverage, and given my love for cinnamon, apples, and cider, it was calling my name. Think cinnamon candy apple. 

Once again, Brenda introduced me to a new favorite . She is also responsible for my love of Anthropologie jewelry and the cashmere Garnet Hill wrap I will be opening this Christmas. That's right, she pretty much rocks.

Brenda's Fireball Apple Cider

1 bottle Angry Orchard cider
1 shot Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey

Combine above in a cold mug with ice (optional) and enjoy! 

awake my soul

these lyrics leave me speechless every time I hear them - thank you mumford & sons

Monday, October 7, 2013

The BBC (Bailey's Banana Colada)

The BBC was the quintessential tropical cocktail of our honeymoon. The bananas grown in Saint Lucia are divine, and this tropical adult banana smoothie provided our daily potassium. We enjoyed several of these (a day) on our trip, and had the last one before boarding our shuttle to the airport. A definite favorite for hot pool days, or any day for that matter. 

the happy day we discovered the BBC

Of course, I just had to buy us a pretty new blender to make this tropical cocktail in big batches to share! 

The BBC (Bailey's Banana Colada)
makes 2 drinks

4 oz Dark Rum (we bought Appleton's special blend)
4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur
1 ripe banana
1 oz Banana Liqueur
2 oz Pina Colada Mix
1 cup ice

Blend all the ingredients in a blender until smooth and the banana is incorporated. 

If you don't want to buy pina colada mix, you can use coconut milk and pineapple juice which are the ingredients that make up the mix. Just use one ounce of each. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mom's Famous Bruschetta

Without doubt, this recipe is my mom's signature appetizer. She makes it for every party, and her friends go nuts over it. She uses her own ripe garden tomatoes and basil, and always a fresh baguette. 

My mom is here visiting me this weekend, and I slyly requested that she make her signature dish for the blog - which really meant we had a whole batch to share between bruschetta lovers! My aunt Brenda and her daughter Kaitlin came into town as a surprise for mom, and Kaitlin turned out to be the perfect sous chef. 

Mom's Famous Bruschetta
recipe from my mom (Petra)

3-4 ripe tomatoes (good ripe tomatoes really make all the difference)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp thinly sliced green onion
1 cup fresh basil
1 tsp lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves slivered garlic
french bread
  1. Dice tomatoes and toss with garlic and green onion
  2. Coarsely chop basic, add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a small frying pan, saute the slivered garlic over low heat until golden. Discard garlic. 
  4. Cut bread into thin slices, and brush with garlic-infused oil. Toast rounds in 350 degree oven on cookie sheet for 10 minutes (until lightly toasted) and then top with the tomato mix.