Search

Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

a bit on spiritual eating… and one spicy and spectacular sausage and lentil stew.

IMG_3992

ok… I know what you’re thinking… sausage and lentil stew?  how good could it be?  TRUST me… it is beyond good. Tis amazing.  absolutely bursting with flavor in every bite, super duper healthy and full of vitamin rich ingredients!  best of all… very easy to prepare, so that most anyone can whip this up on a weeknight, no problemo.   this freezes wonderfully in small 16oz containers… making for stellar lunches at any given time, or a quick little dinner for a willing friend.   I love feeding others.  it’s my thing.  I love to hear what they say about the dish… how much they enjoyed it… and it makes me smile knowing I was able to nourish another, physically… but possibly mentally as well.  allow me to spill on that a bit.  people are busy.  we all have jobs, maybe kids, pets, homes, bills, cars,  the list goes on.  when you make time to see and connect with friends and family in your life… you’re saying something.  you’re letting that person know that they are important.  they are a priority.  their presence in your life, hopefully, brings you comfort and joy.  it’s why you make time, right?  do me a favor.  think back to the last noteworthy home cooked meal you may have had with say, your mom… or your sibling… or a significant other… that food, more than likely, was prepared with love.   when you cook with love and compassion and your soul is happy… all of that shows up in your dish.  ie: the people who eat it can feel that shit.  it is a mindful practice… where the cook is thinking fondly on those who will consume their dish… and they long to nourish that person inside and out… it becomes almost a spiritual culinary experience.  taste goes beyond flavor.  it involves all of the senses… sight, smells, sounds, touch and texture… the company for the meal…  your head space as you nosh… right??  all of it plays a role in your food experience.  are you sad? are you content? are you rushed? are you relaxed??  all of these affect the taste.   I love this… and it’s why I love feeding others.  it is also… why I love foods that require one utensil.  soups, stews, shallow bowls full of rice or pasta swimming in deliciously flavorful sauces.  things that can be eaten with one spoon, or one fork.  things that can be carried to a favorite chair or couch or beside a fire… and enjoyed with both hands… one holding the vessel, and the other doing the work to bring food to mouth.  easy.  comforting. simple, but memorable.  these are the types of foods I enjoy sharing with others.   experiment with your dining experiences, and notice the way food tastes differently in various settings.  I can be by a bonfire on a crisp cool night with a few friends and a few beers… and the hot dog I roast over the flame can taste better than a fancy steak almost every damn time.  it’s the setting.  the vibe.  pizza on a rooftop patio with Edison lights strung about vs. inside the sterile pizza shop in a tomato red booth with fluorescent lighting.  food on vacation vs. food after a stressful work meeting…  we know the answer to that.  don’t even get me started on music…. haaha!   food is love.  feel the love yo.  anyway…. enjoy this stew.

 

WHAT YOU NEED:

a little  over a pound of bulk (loose) hot sausage

cup of dried lentils (cooked according to package directions)

half of a butternut squash, peeled and diced (or buy it pre packaged and already prepped)

two large carrots (peeled and diced)

two large stalks of celery (leaves included: diced)

three cloves of garlic, chopped or minced

one large onion, diced

one bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)

one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

one 14oz can chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 heaped tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch of turmeric

Prepare all vegetables.  Wash, peel, chop and set aside in a large bowl.  You will be adding them all at once, so don’t worry about keeping them separate.  This way, once your stew gets rolling and you brown your sausage, you’ll be ready to add them.  if you’ve never prepped a BN squash, lop off the top and bottom with a sharp, sturdy knife and stand it on it’s bottom.  Carefully cut it straight down the middle top to bottom.  Spoon out seeds and discard.  with a vegetable peeler, carefully peel off the outer layer of skin.  you are now ready to chop it up into bite sized chunks.  you could also buy pre peeled and chopped “ready to cook” if you are feeling lazy.

cook lentils as per package. drain and set aside.

add a generous swirl of olive oil in your favorite dutch oven.  turn on your flame and begin to brown you sausage, careful not to burn.  break it up with your spatula and stir frequently.  once you are sure it is browned and cooked through, remove it onto a place with a slotted spoon, keeping juice and grease in the dutch oven.  you will be cooking your veggies in this grease. set aside.  add your vegetables and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  add a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of chicken broth and all of your spices.  stir together to combine. bring up to a boil.  add your sausage back in and stir to combine.  turn heat down to medium low and cover it, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. uncover, stir, and check your carrots and celery for doneness. cook few mins longer if necessary.  once these are cooked to your liking, cut the heat and add in the cooked lentils. stir once more and serve it up! I like to add a large handful of chopped fresh parsley.  fine without though. Enjoy! you will enjoy this stew for days… I’ve even been known to eat it for a late breakfast.   for the most part… pretty easy… and very very comforting…  the way life SHOULD be, if we’re doing it right.

peace and love.  spags.

IMG_3995

 

the girl with kaleidoscope eyes

greetings.  it’s been a spell.  things have changed.  greatly.  time to spill on it a bit.  I won’t overshare… but you’ll get the gist of it via my verbiage.  i’m reading oscar wilde again.. the picture of dorian gray.  my all time fave.  it corrupted my tender psyche years ago, and it will do so again.  my daughter desperately wants to read it, but mostly because I’ve told her she cannot do so until she is eighteen.  a quote: ‘I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter, and grow sad.  I want a breath of our passion to stir their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain.’  the book is riddled with beauty and thick loveliness… I long to fall into its pages and take long naps on rich, burgundy velvet bedding. enough about the book.  enter a changed, but still genuine me.  let’s talk about it.  i’m single now.  I modified my equation this past may.  I did the hard work.  my kiddos did the hard work.  we can do hard things.  i’m proud of us… proud of me.  I can now be a more genuine version of myself.  my happy is a more authentic happy.  it’s an inside job.  i’m on it… daily.  who am i?  listen up yo.  my motive is to draw from people. allow them to seep into me.  let their personalities recreate a new mode of thought and expression.  some I see nothing in, some too much.  people are funny that way.  I know pretty quickly and act accordingly.  i’m perceptive af.  I find balance extraordinary, and absolutely necessary.  a useful passion is priceless.  a useless passion even more so.  having zero passion is a deal breaker.  I broke said deal, in fact.  I loathe dull people.  first time blogging about it actually, but the dread became unbearable, the gray, all consuming.  I watched my light begin to flicker, and I grew absolutely terrified.  he never even noticed the fear.  no longer could I allow my soul to be under the microscope of such blindness and misguided opinions.  did you ever dedicate time to someone or something, only to reach the sad, long, drawn out conclusion of “it’s hopeless.”  so heart breaking.  in particular when the time spent nears two decades.  tis life.  time is a gift.  I do not enjoy wasting it.  I absolutely adore meaningful exchanges, and engage as often as I can with friends and family.  I love flattering others, if it’s warranted…. and often find strange pleasure in saying things I know I will regret.  but the rawness of it… it’s irresistible.  if someone has pleased you, be it words, or touch, or a gift… tell them.  don’t wait.  worse still, don’t ever assume they know your gratitude.  expression is essential to a happy life.  be with someone who loves to hear about all the fantastical ideas in your head.  be with someone who loves sharing their soul AND their body, on equal levels.  for the two should never be separated.  to do so is mad.  I want a lover and a friend.  (isn’t that a song lyric? LOL)  truly, I do.  someone who can set their heart right in the middle of the dinner table next to the bottle of red we’re sharing and our kiddos glasses of milk.  no games, no drama, just real as real can be…. real AF.  ready to grab some happiness every day.  somedays your hands will be more full than others.  somedays your hands are empty… but if thoughts, feels and daydreams were matter and tangible… you’d need a basket.  I see things differently than most.  i’m a bit intense at times.  there is no lack of imagination, but still desire to be taken seriously.  I do not long to be the adornment on ones coat… but the whole damn coat itself… purposeful and necessary and desired for optimal comfort.  I bore at tedious, but will endure if I see a light or a prize at the end.  I am in love with love.  with a warm embrace, the bad of the day can be washed away.  this I believe.  have you ever been in the comfort of someone’s arms, and it felt so perfect and so god damn right that you wanted to curl up and remain?  I have.  recently actually.  it caught me off guard.  I’ve started dating again.  a small handful… and all very different… (well, two of them can juggle LOL)  it’s fun, and a bit scary.   i’m trying to have fun with it and not take it too seriously…. while staying true to myself and knowing who and what my end game looks like.  it looks like comfort.  it looks like the black and white insert in a picture frame.  it’s full of love and respect.  it’s full of acceptance.  it’s a blended family.  it’s loud at dinner time, but a shared knowing glance for what comes later.  it’s packing lunches and managing schedules and taking hikes and snow sledding and going out for ice cream and planning summer and winter vacations.  it’s four kids plus four of their friends and music thumping through the house and sleepovers and making 28 pancakes the next morning.  it’s taking sick days for sick kiddos.  it’s quiet nights at a favorite restaurant, or walking through the door with take out and craft beer sixers.  it’s sharing your most intimate thoughts and fears.  dreaming together.  opening yourself up to be discovered without fear of critique.  it’s taking a risk when you’re terrified.  it’s leaving your comfort zone behind every now and again and overcoming obstacles together.  never needing… but always wanting.  NEED is a strong word, with a fuck ton of pressure… and peril in the periphery.  I would never want anyone to NEED me.  now WANT me morning, noon and night.  giddy up.  I can get on top of that shit.

so life is lighter now.  (understatement of the year)  I have my own little place.  it’s so cute I want to punch it in the face.  I knew I had to have it about three minutes into the tour.  my poor realtor.  she saw me light up as if there was an aura around me.  it’s an adorable little plum purple arts and crafts bungalow… and I firmly believe that the universe led me here.  here’s the rub:  (lol, a guy I dated said that, and i’m hooked on it now)  (he also said ACES and liked ALL the same music as me… but the timing was off for us- and that timing can be a real motherfucker.)  anyway… here’s the rub.  the owner lived here for 26 yrs.  her initials were KLS.  mine were SLK.  (maidens for us both)  she moved here when her kids were 11 and 9,  as did I.  she left her marriage and her A frame home that she lived in for ten years… AS DID I.  she poured her heart and soul into that A frame and it killed her to leave it.  same same.  she left a man who made her feel small and who never fully appreciated all that she was.  same same.  crazy right?  we are both hopeless free spirits with hippie souls and madly creative and strong willed women.  the house knew I needed to live in and love on it…. and here I sit.  having dropped crazy attention on it already in a short four months, including a name.  LITTLE PURPLE BUNGALOW.   I know.  this is my life now…  and  i’m embracing the pace.

even still,  life is confusing sometimes.  timing is everything.  synchronicity baby.  you can work magic, do the time and connect… and someone from the past can come out of left field at the last minute and shoot that shit down like gangbusters.  trust in yourself, trust in the process, and be open to what comes next.   a last quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray… ” the aim of life is self development.  to realize one’s nature perfectly– that is what each of us is here for.  people are afraid of themselves nowadays.  the have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self.  their own souls starve… and are naked.”

I hear music… it stirs me as do words.  there is magic in both.   words beautiful words.  I shall shoot my arrow into the sky and see if it hits my mark.  that is all.

peace and love.  spags.

Slow and Low Chicken wings!

IMG_7353

three years ago, almost to the day, funny enough… I stumbled upon these here chicken wings while cruising recipes online.  I love looking at food blogs, and I definitely have my favorites, however this one came from a site I hadn’t visited before.  the dude’s blog was/is called Macheesmo, and I got to clicking around on it back then when trying to locate some great chicken wing recipes for my son, Eli, who is a wing aficionado!  the way he described them being almost effortless struck a cord (i’m all about the path of least resistance in certain instances!) and I decided to give them a go.  well guess what… they were AWESOME, and we’ve been enjoying them ever since!  I take them to parties, and they are usually the first thing to go.  I typically serve them with ranch, mostly out of habit, but honest to pete they are absolutely fabulous right as they are with zero sauce.   you need three pounds of wings.  now this recipe is for the split wing, not the whole wing.   I have always used fresh… (see pic below)- but I am assuming one could thaw a bag of frozen wings and use those just as easily! just pat dry before starting.  ALLOW FOUR HOURS COOK TIME FOR THESE WINGS! that being said, this IS something you have to time out.  the prep is like fifteen mins- and then once they’re in the oven you’re golden- you just have to flip every hour.

IMG_7337

WHAT YOU NEED:

3 pounds of wingettes

1 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp black pepper

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Ranch or favorite dipping sauce

EQUIPMENT:  WIRE RACK AND FOIL LINED BAKING TRAY

 

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

combine all of  the spices into a large bowl.  stir to combine.  take your chicken wings and toss to coat, working one package at a time.  once coated, place them on a wire baking rack that you have placed on top of a foil lined baking sheet for easy clean up.

IMG_7339

place wings into a preheated 275* oven and set timer for 4 hours.   flip them every hour.   they will come out falling off the bone juicy and delicious.  you will love these, and seriously… how easy was that!?  enjoy!

IMG_7353

Healthy Hippie Stew

IMG_7082

SWEET MAGNOLIA  it has been almost two years since i have blogged.  this makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. cry because i love love love writing and blogging and collecting thoughts in print… and smile because this just shows that my life, this beautiful life, is consuming me and filling me right the hell up so that blogging has slipped my mind entirely!  that being said, my new years resolution was to blog more, so giddy up on that.  also, i plan to buy a go pro with some of our income tax money- so i will likely be sneaking in a few cooking videos on here. i know for a fact i have said such things in the past and never followed through, but i think i’m feeling it this time.   i have shut down both of my ETSY shops, just not feeling it anymore, and the fees- albeit small, do add up when you have lots of listings.  the nice thing is, they leave the shop intact, so that when you want to come back- all is as you left it.  sooooo, yeah- recent events:  March in Pittsburgh means more snow just when you become sick of snow.  it also means 60’s one day and 25 degrees the next.  it’s bananas.  i looked out the window this morning and the roads were clear.  i heard my dog barking like a loon an hour later, and the roads were covered and a car had wrecked and flipped over across the street!  i’m telling you, Pittsburgh weather is bananas.  we just got back from an amazing ten day tropical vacation on a small island forty minutes off the coast of Belize.  it was called Caye Caulker… and it was amazing.  i booked our little cottage on Airbnb and then secured some flights.  the exchange rate was fantastic, 2 to 1!  i highly recommend visiting that island if you are looking for something off the beaten path and free of huge resorts, huge hotels and large shopping malls- etc.  this place is tiny.  you can bike one end to the other in under fifteen mins, but it lacks nothing.  there are bars, restaurants, little markets, a bank, two cemeteries- but no hospitals- lol.   it is super authentic Caribbean, with a hippie vibe and lots of smiling happy faces.  which brings me to my dish i created.  HIPPIE STEW.  when in caye caulker, we ate a lot of what they called- “stew chicken” which was traditionally served with red beans and rice as well as coleslaw.  it was beyond delicious, yet so simple.  it inspired me to create a dish that i could enjoy eating for many days, and even freeze portions for quick lunches.  i wanted to be able to make it in under an hour- and have this large return for my time.  i succeeded!  this is also quite inexpensive to make- and actually gives you a whole extra chicken breast to create another meal with!  i made my husband a tomato based sauce with capers and sauteed onions and spices and added the chicken and served it to him in a bowl over linguine! (he loves pasta!)  i was happy with my healthy hippie stew and he was happy with his pasta!  win-win.

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:

one package of bone in, skin on split chicken breasts (two breasts in pack- usually around five bucks total- maybe less)

1 cup of lentils (green or red- whatever)

1/2 cup white rice (not minute rice people… real rice)

1/3 cup orzo pasta (or pastini if that’s all you have)

1 tsp of curry powder

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

1 large onion diced

1 large carrot diced (2 if smaller)

2 celery stalks diced

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 small zucchini diced

large handful of fresh bagged spinach (chopped)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

few squirts of hot sauce

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

fill a large dutch oven halfway full with water. mine is a 6 quart pot.  adjust accordingly.

IMG_7184

 

bring water to a boil and add your TWO skin on/bone in chicken breasts.  turn heat to medium and let these go for about a half hour uncovered.  prep all of your vegetables at this time.  slice/ dice your heart out.  put them into nice little organized cereal bowls so you’re ready to add to stew at given time.

this recipe is crazy versatile.  if you don’t like zucchini, don’t add it.  wanna use kale in place of spinach? DO IT!  hate chick peas?  Add black beans! celery turn your stomach? double up on carrots! you feelin’ me?

OK so after about a half hour, remove cooked chicken to a large plate and set aside to let it cool down.  turn heat up to high again and add the ONIONS, LENTILS, RICE AND ORZO.  cook these over high heat,  stirring occasionally for about five or six minutes.   Then add the carrots, celery, spices/herbs/salt/pepper/hot sauce,  and chick peas.  return to boil.   once this comes back to a boil, turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and let cook for 15 mins.  stir it once during cooking.  water should be starting to be absorbed by the grains a bit.

while it is cooking, take and prepare your chicken.  you are only using ONE of the breasts here folks.  we used TWO in order to properly flavor the broth- but all of that chicken would be waaay too much in this, so do as i said and utilize it for another meal.  ((shred for chicken salad, use it for chicken and waffles, make the kids chicken quesadillas with cheese,  whatever you can dream up.))   OK- slice or chop or shred or however you choose to create bite sized pieces of chicken to add back into the stew.  set it aside and be ready.

uncover the pot after the 15 mins and add in your zucchini, chopped spinach and prepared chicken.  stir well and cover again.  let cook a few mins more over medium heat and then turn off heat, leaving lid intact.   at this point i like to tidy up the kitchen and get ready to enjoy some hippie stew!  ladle yourself a small portion, allow to cool a bit and then taste.  tweak accordingly with salt/pepper or maybe some hot sauce.  take a picture and attach this blog post!!  let me know how it turned out.  i love to hear from people who have cooked from my blog.  food is love.  enjoy!!

IMG_6718

“life is either a daring adventure… or nothing at all.”  ~helen keller

IMG_6395

Allow your soul to rest,  stop and be amazed by the sea.   

Don’t listen to what i say… go and SEE !!

embrace the pace yo.  spags.

 

Pasta Carbonara ~ a new fave!

IMG_7609

about a month ago I yanked this recipe from a website as I was surfing along food sites, jumping to and fro between blogs and ingredient research… as I usually do.  this activity usually leaves me salivating and chomping at the bit to get in the kitchen and CREATE!  I printed this particular recipe, and decided I would make it the very next  night for my pasta loving Italian hubby.  the guy would eat pasta every night if i’d let him.  hell who am I kidding- so would I!!   so this recipe came from a website called cookingclassy.com – and believe it or not, I followed it to a T.  so this is pretty much a reblog…. giving full props to whoever wrote this recipe, because they’re a friggin genius!  when I first thought about pasta carbonara, I thought it had cream in it… probably based on looks alone… I mean how creamy does that pic look above?? yeah, no cream. not a drop.  what creates that beauty is the raw egg quickly combined with grated cheese and scalding hot starchy pasta water. (you gotta work fast with this one people, be ready… and giddy up.)  it’s comes together like magic.  -and I can happily say…. this is now my  husbands FAVORITE pasta dish that I make. follow the instructions verbatim, especially the procedure for cooking the bacon (which is genius) and you will be in noodle nirvana in less than an hour.  get busy yo.

WHAT YOU NEED:

8-10 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (just leave it how it is outta the package and slice it up, no need to separate the pieces.)

1/2 cup of water

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 lb. linguini or spaghetti (we like linguini)

1 and a 1/4 c finely grated parmesan cheese (don’t you DARE use that shit in the green can, spring for a package of grated parm at your cheese counter people)

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp each of salt and pepper

chopped fresh parsley for garnish

WHAT YOU DO:

PREP ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS THAT YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME, BECAUSE TRUST ME, YOU HAVE TO MOVE FAST TOWARD THE END OF THIS RECIPE… AND IT GOES EVEN BETTER IF YOU HAVE A PARTNER TO HELP YOU PRODUCE IT. you got this.

Add bacon and 1/2 cup of water to a large non stick skillet and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  Allow it to simmer like this (stirring occasionally) until the water evaporates and then switch to md-low and cook until crispy (stirring occ).  Place a fine mesh strainer over a glass bowl and strain bacon, reserving all of that money oil…  set aside. to that very pan, add a tsp of the fat back in, while the pan is still hot.  take your minced garlic and saute it in the oil for about thirty seconds… then add it to a medium sized mixing bowl.  set aside.  here is a pic of the bacon once I strained it….

IMG_7605now here is what I want you to do next.  get out a sturdy pot, and add 8 CUPS of water to it.  no more, no less, because you want the ultimate starchiness from this water once you cook the pasta in it.  bring it to a boil and add your pasta, cooking according to package directions. WHEN YOU STRAIN THE PASTA IN YOUR COLANDER…. DO SO OVER A LARGE BOWL SO THAT YOU RESERVE THE PASTA WATER!!! be careful…  do not get burned people.

IMG_7604OK so while your pasta is cooking, get back to the bowl with your garlic in it.  Add to it a Tablespoon of the bacon fat. (I think I added an extra teaspoon, bc I love the bacon-y flavor!)  then add in your eggs, salt and pepper and your parm cheese. whisk this all together nicely. now you are ready to focus on your pasta. don’t overcook it yo!

once you strain the pasta over a large bowl, carefully give a shake to the pasta and set the colander aside. now take a one cup measuring cup and scoop out a cup of HOT water. (I took an extra cup just so I had back up in case it spilled or some shit.)  empty the rest of the water down the drain and then transfer your pasta to that hot bowl.  head over to your egg/cheese mixture and while whisking, pour in about a half cup of HOT water…. whisk whisk whisk…. this is cooking the eggs…. then immediately pour this mixture OVER the hot pasta…  and add the bacon.  toss toss toss…. more cooking of the eggs… more magic happening right before your eyes as this turns into a beautiful creamy dreamy dinner. take and drizzle more HOT water in as you toss as needed. this is an eyeball thing… if it looks good to you and isn’t clumping, you’re golden. Oh, toss in the parsley if you want, or take and garnish with a little parsley shower each individual bowl you serve up.  either way, you do you.   let pasta rest for two to four minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a little bit before you serve it.(however, this IS best served HOT)   Just enough time to open a bottle of wine and pour two glasses and toast your accomplishments!  (if you’re anything like me, the bottle is already half empty, as I like to imbibe while I cook!!)

enjoy!!  peace and love, spags.

IMG_7606

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous Fall Stew! ~Chicken, butternut squash and quinoa! Oh my!!

Go on get happy!
Go on get happy!

Yes-sir-ee bobbo…. Fall is in full swing. The pumpkins are carved, the mums are lining my front stairs leading to the house, we’ve had our first frost, the leaves are falling by the second, pumpkin spice lattes are being consumed mid-day as i put off moving wood down the side of the house…. it is here and i am THRILLED!  Fall is my favorite season, hands down.  i welcome its chill after the long hot summer months… i love the smell it brings… the air is crisp, almost spicy smelling… the risk of colder nights gives full permission to go ahead and start that first fire of the season in the fireplace… switching out all the sundresses and skirts for those lovely corduroy pants in varying earthy fall hues… sipping hot apple cider at night after you put the kiddos to bed…. sweet magnolia there are SOO many good reasons to wrap your arms around Fall and love it with all you’ve got.  However, all of that goodiness being said… i haven’t even begun to speak of warm soups and stews being back in the weekday rotations -and the pure joy that brings to my foodie soul!  this stew i am about to blog for you is a winner.  a friend asked me last week if i had a recipe on my blog for quinoa**, as she had some she wanted to use up.  i was shocked to see that i did NOT- and set out to remedy the hell out of that ASAP! i got to researching quinoa stews… and stumbled upon one that used butternut squash- another of my fall faves.  giddy up i said… let’s do this.  i took some things i didn’t like out of the recipe (olives) and added some things i felt would lend heartiness and healthy benefits.  i tweaked it. i always do.

**let me first tell you about QUINOA – if you are not familiar with this superstar grain.  Quinoa is considered a high nourishment food source, because it is essentially a ‘complete protein source.’  (super important words if you are a vegetarian or vegan).  you’ve all heard the buzz words ‘SUPER FOOD’ … well this guy is one fo sho.   quinoa is also gluten free, in fact it is not even in the same family as wheat or barley or rye.  it has origins in South America around 1200AD- and most of the quinoa we consume today in the US comes from Peru, the largest commercial producer of it to date.  this little guy packs some punch- it is a valuable source of heart healthy supportive fats (ALA and oleic acid) … and making it a part of your regular diet greatly lowers your risk of inflammation related diseases.  eat some.

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED: 

  • a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into half inch pieces (or if lazy- buy it recipe ready and packaged in your produce section) you need around a pound.
  • 3 cans chicken broth
  • some boneless skinless chicken (i cooked a bone in breast in the oven and then let it cool and chopped it) you could also cheat and get a rotisserie chicken and use the breasts of that- and then reserve the rest for making a pot of soup later in the week.  or cook up some tenderloins however you like- and cool and chop into bite sized pieces.  (see pic below for how much chicken)
  • olive oil
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • one large onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1 and a 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz can)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh spinach leaves, chopped

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

place your diced butternut squash into a pyrex dish and add a little water (maybe 1/2 cup) and pop it into a 350* oven for about 15 mins. check it. if you can get your fork into it fairly easily and it seems to be getting tender, take and remove HALF of it onto a plate.  set aside. put the other half back in the oven and keep it steaming for maybe 10 mins more.  at this point you should be able to mash it with ease. (if not cook longer and keep checking)  see visual.

mash it mash it.
mash it mash it.

053

set this aside, you will be adding it to the stew in a bit.   to a heavy pot, add some olive oil. maybe a generous Tbsp? i never measure.  get it on md/high. if you like some spice, give a shake of red pepper flakes into the oil. i literally start SO many recipes this way- i can’t even tell you.  to me, it is background flavor.  ok- add in your chopped onion.  saute until becoming soft. add in your garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, stir for a minute to heat up the oregano and release the oils.  then add in your broth (3 cans), your tomatoes, your beans, your mashed butternut squash (not cubes yet), and your quinoa. stir to combine. bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. cover and cook about 15 mins.  Add in the chicken, the spinach and the cubed/cooked butternut squash. stir gently, cover again and cook a few more minutes to warm through the last three additions.  SERVE IT UP YO!  ultra good for you and chocked full of vitamins to keep you healthy for flu season!  make some this weekend!

i used THIS much chicken. (i never measure)
i used THIS much chicken. (i never measure) (one whole bone in breast)
everybody in the pot!
everybody in the pot!
finito!  simple pure flavors shine through.
finito! simple pure flavors shine through.

ENJOY!! Happy Fall ya’ll.

Hearty and Healthy ~ Chicken Farro Stew

powerhouse dinner
powerhouse dinner

So i met Farro last year… i was thumbing through a magazine and saw a lovely rustic one pot meal involving some browned sweet sausages, bright and beautiful spinach and carrots and something called ‘farro‘… what in the hell, i asked, is FARRO??  (linked wiki there for ya)  so i got to googling it and hopping around on food sites, and long story short, i was in Whole Foods later that afternoon buying some in bulk!  -and i’ve been cooking with it ever since. it is the most amazing and easy addition to various soups, stews, salads, etc.  you literally toss it into a pot, add water until level is about two inches above that of the farro, and bring it up to a boil. reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 mins. drain and set aside.  that’s it!!  then you can take and add it to whatever you have in mind!  OR, keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week, adding it on top of salads, mix it into your morning yogurt, stir it in with some oatmeal, add it to wonton soup when you get Chinese…. you feelin’ me?!?  Farro makes an already healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner choice all the more healthy… and it’s great post workout too, to help the body recover. WHY? it contains lots of B3’s (niacin) which helps your body break down fats & carbs like a motha.  it has tons of magnesium for muscle support too! it’s protein and fiber rich- and it has a fantastic nutty and chewy texture!  get on board yo!

so the other day i was thinking… “spags, you have some leftover tortellini in there, you have some farro in the pantry, you have plenty of canned tomatoes, a fridge full of veggies, fresh thyme in the garden begging to be used and some tomato paste in a little baggie in the freezer you’ve been meaning to use up.”  visions of a stew started to dance in my mind…. totally could have gone ‘meatless’ here PS. -and please do if you desire!  i happened to also have two bone in chicken breasts begging me to rub them down and roast them. so they got invited to this soiree.

HOPPING ON SOAP BOX….  if you have never been educated by Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa on how easy and mouth watering it is to roast bone in chicken breasts for use in almost any capacity…  then you need to listen to this.

basically you are lining a baking sheet with either foil, parchment, or silpat –  rubbing the chicken with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper,  and place it into a 350* oven for 45 mins. walk away! that’s IT! no fussing, no mussing.  take it out, let it cool on the pan or a plate- and slice it up later to use in your recipe- or serve as is… with some garlic mashed potatoes and freshly steamed green beans!  the possibilities are endless here folks.  i added some fresh thyme to mine, just under the skin.

ready for the oven.
ready for the oven.
Finito! yummy.
Finito! yummy.

next up- get your Farro going.  just like i told you up in the first paragraph. giddy up.

i used one heaping cup of dry.
i used one heaping cup of dry.

While the farro is cooking, chop up some vegetables.  IDLE HANDS YO…. i used :

  • one large carrot, diced
  • one large onion, diced
  • half of bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups or so of fresh spinach leaves (roughly chopped) 1 small bag is fine! use it all.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

Then you need:

a bag of tortellini- (cook according to package instructions and set aside to cool), olive oil, red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp), a small can of tomato paste, 28oz can diced tomatoes, 1 can chicken broth,  1/2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp nutmeg

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

in your favorite cooking vessel… heat up a glug of olive oil… add to it your red pepper flakes. once they dance around, begin adding your chopped vegetables. (NOT the spinach)  saute them over medium heat until they start to look tender and delicious.  see below:

i used a big sprig of fresh thyme here and just fished it out at end. you do you...
i used a big sprig of fresh thyme here and just fished it out at end. you do you…

then take and add your can of chicken broth, your can of tomatoes, your tomato paste and all of the spices. bring up to boil, and then immediately reduce heat to simmer and cover.  cook like this for 15 mins.

086

Then give it a stir, and add in your chopped chicken, if you are using chicken.  see below.

even one breast would be adequate here... make some chicken salad with the other one!
even one breast would be adequate here… make some chicken salad with the other one!

Then go ahead and add the spinach and the farro and stir well to combine! Lastly, add in the tortellini, and stir gently to combine.  Replace the lid and simmer for ten more minutes and then it is ready to serve!!

089

don't even need to use the whole bag... just enough to cover the stew, as shown. save the rest for a salad the next day!
don’t even need to use the whole bag… just enough to cover the stew, as shown. save the rest for a salad the next day!
FANTASTIC!!
FANTASTIC!!

Egg noodle stir fry with crispy Turkey Kielbasa! (a modified version of my ‘pittsburgh pasta’)

Aside from being wickedly colorful, this dish is wonderful for you, because it is loaded with antioxidant rich veggies and healthy fat from the olive oil.  yes, it could be lightened up a bit by using ‘yolk free’ egg noodles… but i usually just roll with plain old.  ‘And yes, there ARE healthier alternatives than the Turkey Kielbasa…. but honestly, it MAKES the dish here.  you will see what i mean when you cannot stop sneaking pieces of the crisped up discs off of the plate while you finish the dish! 🙂  when i wrote that last line, it occurred to me that i had blogged something with Kielbasa in the past where i warned you about the yum factor of these crispy pieces of meat.  i looked back, and it (linked the article) was quite similar to this dish i am about to blog, but a bit more fussy, as it used some red wine and tomato paste to give depth of flavor.  this one is a bit easier, and the perfect week night meal, with enough for a work lunch the next day.  anyway, here’s what’s up dude:

019

WHAT YOU NEED: 

two bell peppers of varying colors (not green tho)  – i used red and orange for this one.

one large onion

package of wide egg noodles

package of turkey kielbasa

15 oz can of diced tomatoes (i had the seasoned ones)

1/2 cup of water (can use some of the hot water from cooking pasta if you remember to reserve some)

your favorite spices (i used a few shakes of: chili powder, cumin, coriander, dried parsley, dried oregano and dried basil, and a big pinch of nutmeg)

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

i added about a cup of spinach leaves that i roughly chopped- i stirred these in at the end- totally optional- but i feel like it gave this one more bright fresh color, as well as adding wickedly good nutrients.  your call. (i always have a bag of spinach in my fridge because i put it on all of my sandwiches and burgers in place of lettuce)

HERE IS WHAT YOU DO: 

get your egg noodles cooking according to package directions. drain, rinse and set aside. (scoop out a half cup of the water and set aside prior to draining)

slice or dice your two colorful bell peppers into whatever size you like.  peel your onion, cut it in half, and then thinly slice those halves. set aside with the peppers on a plate.  slice up the turkey kielbasa. thin but not too thin.  open your can of tomatoes.  get out the largest non stick skillet you have (i use a wok sometimes for this)  and hit it with some olive oil. start it up on high, and once it is hot, add in the kielbasa.  stir fry it until done to your liking (crispy edges) and remove to a plate.  add one more whirl of oil, and toss in the peppers and onions.  stir fry over medium-high heat until soft and looking yummy. while you are doing this, add in your spices right on top. cooking them intensifies their flavor. add salt and pepper last.  then go ahead and add in the tomatoes and the half cup of water. bring to light boil and reduce heat to low. stir the kielbasa back in, and add the spinach if you’re rolling with it.  stir around for a min and cut the heat. place the egg noodles in a LARGE bowl where you’ll combine everything. hit the noodles with a swirl of olive oil.  dump the mix right on top of the noodles.  Stir to combine all.  taste it. needs more salt or pepper? Add some.  At this point if the fam is ready to eat, serve it up.  If not, go ahead and add this back over into your big hot pan and toss a lid on that bitch.  You’re gonna love this dish. honest.

before the mix
before the mix

enjoy!! 

Cherry/Feta couscous salad! Wowza!

bright and bold flavors
bright and bold flavors

this salad.  this is the one.  i am already thinking ahead to upcoming potlucks where i can share its awesomeness with friends.  the original came from a blog i follow and dig, called Not without Salt.  the recipe is here.  she suggested it be used as a loose guide… so that is what i did.  (like i wouldn’t have anyway… come ‘on)  but the end result is pure bliss.  AND looks pretty too, which doesn’t always happen with great tasting food.  Bonus for me, hubby LOVED it.  he kept sneaking spoonfuls of it every time he’d walk through the kitchen.  once i warned him there would be none left to ride alongside his Delmonico, he stopped.  so with this salad- i didn’t have fresh cherries, but i did have dried cherries… which are SUPER sweet. we’re not talking about cherry flavored craisins here people… i mean REAL legit dried cherries in a package.  so i took a big handful (about a half a cup)  -but if you can get a hold of some fresh cherries and have the patience to slice and pit them, giddy up. i’d use a cupful.  You HAVE to use Israeli couscous.  (couscous’s chubby cousin)  otherwise it won’t look or taste the same and it will be a bowl of mess.  trust me. i found some at Aldi surprisingly, so i bought five boxes! lol.  any grocer will have it though. (if it has a flavor packet just pitch it) you only need the couscous.  anyway- let’s get down to it.

WHAT YOU NEED:

around  two boxes (or two cups or so if bulk) of Israeli couscous

four or five green onions, washed and sliced -all but top two inches.

a cup of freshly pitted and sliced cherries- or about a half cup of dried cherries

a small container of crumbled feta

1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds (i love the delicacy of these in this salad- super thin, but still crunch)

a large shallot (or two small ones) sliced thinly

juice from a lemon

2 T of red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar- whatever you have

a small glug of molasses (maybe a tsp?)  if you don’t have this, use honey- but to be honest, i feel like it gave it such depth of flavor.

a large rip of fresh parsley (maybe a half a cup chopped)

1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin if you have it)

1/2 tsp of salt (few shakes more on top once combined)

pepper to taste

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

cook your couscous in some boiling water per package directions (maybe a min less) and drain.  Rinse super well with very cold water to stop the cooking process, and then hit it with a round of olive oil and shake it in to prevent sticking.  set aside.

prep your onions, add to a large bowl where you’ll be doing all of your mixing.

prep the shallot, add to bowl.

toss in the almonds.

toss in the cherries

Add in the cooked couscous- and toss it all a bit with clean hands.

up close and personal
up close and personal

Then in a separate smaller bowl,  add your vinegar, olive oil, the molasses, the salt/pepper and lemon juice.  whisk together and dump on top of the couscous.  Add in the chopped parsley and the feta. stir gently, but well- to combine all.  Transfer to a pretty bowl for serving, and hit the top with some salt and pepper.  Enjoy!!  Awesome at room temp, but even better the next day truly- as a part of a bigger heartier salad of mixed greens and fresh cucumbers, etc!  no need for dressing when you’re adding a spoonful of this bad boy to the top!

pre toss
pre toss

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

A Cup of Jo

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

Everybody Likes Sandwiches

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

Dimity Jones

Creative Director. Original Content Creator- Food.

Sew Mama Sew

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

Not Without Salt

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

%d bloggers like this: