Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta

SNOW DAY!!!! I am currently sitting in my cozy living room drinking a giant cup of tea while the winds of Winter Storm Stella (aka #blizzard2017) howl outside. Knowing that we would be home from work today, Matt and I decided in advance that we’d make a big dinner last night that could serve double-duty as an excellent lunch after shoveling today. We settled on a riff of Ina Garten’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, a warm, stick-to-your-ribs pasta dish with a creamy, rich sauce.

Our riff originates from the first time we made this: we didn’t have the heavy cream that Ina called for but we DID have ricotta cheese so we subbed that in. The ricotta melted into the sausage and pasta and tasted amazing. So good, in fact, that we never even considered going back to heavy cream for last night’s meal.

A note about the pasta for this dish… we made it ourselves!! Matt and I got a pasta machine last winter and we make fresh pasta all the time. Like, multiple times a week. Good thing I’m a runner and need my carbs!!! Homemade pasta tastes fresher and has a chewier, more complex texture than the boxed stuff. For our pasta we combine semolina flour, AP flour, eggs, salt and water and the Philips machine does the rest. It’s really crazy to watch it pump fresh pasta right out the front of the machine. I really should have taken a video but here are some photos. I never knew fresh pasta could be so easy to make!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey; serves 4 Continue reading

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Curried Butternut Squash and Lentil Stew

September has flown by!! This month was marked by several “blog-worthy” events, including a race, two vacations and a major room makeover. If only I could find the time to actually write these posts!! For tonight, however, I have an easy entry to share because I made it last fall and have been saving the photos since then. 😆

1203 Curried Butternut Squash Stew

This fantastic one-pot stew dish features curry-roasted morsels of butternut squash, flavorful red lentils, a hearty helping of kale and crumbled Italian sausage.  Sounds like a perfect fall dish, right?!? The curry-coated butternut squash smells amazing when it’s in the oven and the lentils, kale and squash cook down to form a thick, tasty mixture that completely makes you forget that you’re eating healthy food. Well, except for the sausage… but you can also use ground turkey (shown in my photos here from last year) or opt to leave the meat out altogether if you prefer a vegetarian dish.

1216 Curried Butternut Squash Stew

Curried Butternut Squash and Lentil Stew with Kale and Sausage

Serves 4-6; Slightly adapted from HealthyFoodForLiving.com.

Ingredients
For the curried squash…
4 cups cubed Butternut Squash
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons Madras Curry Powder
2 teaspoons Garam Masala

For the stew…
1 teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
OPTIONAL: 1 lb. Ground Italian Sausage or Ground Turkey
1 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
3 teaspoons Madras Curry Powder
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
3 cups Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth, if going the vegetarian route)
3/4-1 cup Red Lentils
Curried Squash from above
1 bunch Kale, washed, stems, removed, and roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Naan flatbread

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the cubed squash in olive oil and then add several grinds of salt and pepper plus the curry powder and garam masala. Stir well to coat the squash evenly. Spread the squash out in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway through. The squash cubes are ready when they are just starting to brown on the edges. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add in the (optional) crumbled sausage or turkey and saute until cooked through. Transfer the cooked meat to a plate. Add the chopped onion to the leftover oil in the pot (drain off a bit if the meat was very fatty) and saute the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, curry powder and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour in the chicken broth and stir in the lentils. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the roasted butternut squash, sausage and chopped kale to the stew and stir to combine. Cook the stew for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale has wilted down. If you have a lot of kale covering the pot will speed up this process! Season with salt and pepper to taste.

1209 Curried Butternut Squash Stew

Serve a hearty portion of curried butternut squash stew with a few slices of naan. Enjoy!

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans

This one pot pasta dish with sausage, kale and white beans is hearty, warming and satisfying… perfect for a cold winter night!  Of course, winter is drawing to an end (or it better be, at least!) so I figure I should hurry up and get this recipe up on the blog while we’re all still in the mood to see some comfort food.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 1

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of cooking an entire pasta dish in one pot but it wasn’t until a few months ago that Matt and I actually tried this technique for ourselves.  It turns out that there’s nothing particularly hard about making a one pot meal… you simply layer in each ingredient as you go.  First you brown the meat, then throw in the onions and beans, toss in a little garlic, add broth, water and uncooked pasta, then add in your kale in two batches… the first to cook down into the dish and the remainder to add a little bite and pop of color.  Easy!  Thanks to the cooked-down white beans, the resulting dish has a creamy, thick, almost stew-like consistency that is very different from a normal “two pot” recipe where the pasta is cooked separately in boiling water.

Matt and I have been making variations of this pasta almost every week this winter.  Sometimes we use spinach instead of kale or we throw in steamed broccoli along with the greens.  Feel free to change up the meat (hot sausage adds a nice kick) and the pasta… we’ve had delicious results with gemelli, fusilli lunghi, rigatoni and penne.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans  (serves 4; recipe adapted from Cool Spring CSA)

You will need…
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. ground Sweet Italian Sausage, ground (remove casings if using normal sausage)
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 – 15 oz. cans Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
5-6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 lb. Pasta (we used Gemelli this time)
1 bunch Kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large (6+ qt.) dutch oven brown the crumbled sausage with 1-2T olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the sausage is cooked through, add the onion and beans and saute, stirring occassionally, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano and red pepper and stir for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.

Pour in the chicken broth, water, pasta and half of the chopped kale and stir well to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cover with a tightly fitted lid.  Allow the mixture to cook undisturbed for 6 minutes, then layer in the remaining kale on top of the pasta without stirring.  Recover and cook for another 4 minutes.  Remove the lid, stir, and taste test a piece of pasta.  (My favorite part!)

Allow the dish to continue to simmer uncovered for another few minutes until the pasta is cooked to your desired consistency.  Remove from heat, stir in the cheese, drizzle in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 2

What’s Cookin’?

I haven’t posted a new recipe on the blog for a while but, rest assured, Matt and I are eating well!  We’ve been re-making a lot of our favorite recipes and, quite frankly, I’m finding less motivation to try new recipes since we know we can throw together a garlicky pasta dish, flavorful stir fry, or quick rotisserie chicken burrito in less than a hour with delicious results.  Here are some of the dishes that we’ve been enjoying this Spring…  (mouse over for a link to each recipe)

This Spring has been pretty hectic with traveling, racing, and LOTS of yard work, but I have a feeling that things will slow down soon and we’ll find ourselves paging through our trusty cook books in search of new recipes to try.  We’d like to try smoking something (ribs? brisket?) this Summer and maybe try a grilled Romaine recipe.  I also definitely want to make Paella and I’d like to start making more desserts (cobblers and crumbles, anyone?).  I better start looking at those cookbooks!!

Do you have any go-to Summer recipes that you love making at this time of year?  Tell me about them (and feel free to link to them) in the comments!

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage and White Beans

How do you prepare for a snow day?  Do you rush to the supermarket for bread, milk and eggs?  Or maybe turn up the heat so the house feels warm and toasty when you come in from shoveling?  In our house we try to take advantage of being snowed in by planning a big, slow-cooked meal that we normally wouldn’t have time to put together on a regular weeknight.

Flashback to Thursday, February 13th… A huge storm was dumping more than a foot of snow on our already snow-covered region, the local kids were all enjoying yet another snow day, and our office was closed.  Knowing that we’d have lots of time to cook, Matt and I decided to try a new stew recipe… something that required a little prep up front and that would be guaranteed to fill the house with the delicious aroma of slow-cooking meat and herbs as it simmered in the crockpot all afternoon.  I found the perfect candidate on MyRecipes.com… smoked sausage cassoulet!

616 Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic french dish that features slow-cooked white beans and meat.  White traditional versions of cassoulet call for duck confit, our snow day version of cassoulet kept things simple.  All of the ingredients were readily available at our local grocery store (on the eve of a snow storm, no less!) and, after being sauteed and slow-cooked all afternoon, they came together to make a delightfully hearty stew with smoky kielbasa, richly flavored white beans, and pork that was so tender you could cut it with a spoon.  Top that off with some freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley and we had the ultimate culinary reward for all of the shoveling we did on Thursday… and it was a LOT of shoveling: about 14 inches of heavy, wet snow!

February 13 Snow Collage

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage, Pork and White Beans (adapted from MyRecipes.com; serves 5)

You will need…
2-3 slices Bacon, uncooked, cut into approx. 1″ x 1/2″ pieces
12 oz. Smoked Sausage,* halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
2 cups Chopped Onion
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 – 14.5 oz. cans Diced Tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 – 15 oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained and divided
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Fresh Parsley, for garnish

*Choose a good quality smoked sausage as this will have a major impact on the overall flavor of the dish.  The first time we made this recipe we used Johnsonville Smoked Pork Kielbasa with great results.  The second time we also added in some spicy Andouille sausage (leftover from Jambalaya) and that added even more flavor.

621 Cassoulet

Directions:
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chopped bacon bits, stirring occasionally, until crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a bowl and set aside.  Add the smoked sausage to the bacon fat and saute until just starting to brown.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to another bowl and set aside.  Add the onion, rosemary, thyme and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Add the bacon, tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan, stir well, then bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place 1 can’s worth of drained Great Northern Beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until chunky.  (I found that doing this in a 3 qt pot worked well since the bottom of the pot is flat.)  Add in the remaining can of beans along with the browned sausage and pork and stir well.

Assemble your cassoulet in layers in a crockpot.  First, spread half of the bean mixture on the bottom of the crockpot.  Then, in layers, add half the tomato mixture, the remaining bean mixtue, and the remaining tomato mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW for 5 1/2 hours.  Stir the cassoulet before serving and top each individual bowl with grated Parmesan and parsley.  Enjoy!

597 Cassoulet

Do you have any go-to recipes that you love to make on snow days?
Tell me about them in the comments section!  🙂

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

Happy Mardi Gras!  I was not raised observing Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, or any of the other Lent traditions, but I’m certainly happy to use a holiday as an excuse to try a new recipe!

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

I’ve been a huge fan of hearty one pot meals this winter so last weekend when we realized that Mardi Gras was just a few days away we decided that a flavorful Jambalaya would be the perfect recipe for Sunday night.   We consulted our trusty Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe cook book and decided to make their version of a creole-style Jambalaya with shredded chicken thighs, andouille sausage, shrimp, tomatoes and rice.  The recipe came together fairly quickly (compared to some of our stews, at least!) and the resulting dish featured an impressive range of flavors from the smoky andouille and clam-juiced shrimp to the fresh parsley, and slow-cooked chicken.  Yum!

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya (from The New Best Recipe; serves 5-6)

You will need…
1 Yellow Onion, quartered
1 Celery Rib, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, quartered
5 Garlic Cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons Vegetable Oil
4 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
8 oz. Andouille Sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ pieces (buy a good brand of Andouille if possible; it should give this dish a lot of flavor!)
1 1/2 Long Grain White Rice (uncooked)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Thyme, minced (we used dried Thyme)
1/4 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1 – 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup of juice reserved
8 oz. Clam Juice
1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
2 Bay Leaves
1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined (we used frozen 30 ct. shrimp and thawed them beforehand)
2 tablespoons minced fresh Parsley

Directions:
Begin by transferring the onion, celery, red pepper and garlic into a food processor.  Pulse the vegetables briefly to finely chop them without pureeing them.  We have a miniature food processor so Matt did this in 4 steps (one per vegetable) and then combined all of the chopped veggies together on a plate.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Use tongs to place the chicken thighs in the oil, skin-side down, and cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes or until golden brown.  (Watch out, there’s a lot of splattering!)  Use the tongs to flip the thighs over and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, then transfer the thighs to a plate.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the chopped andouille, and brown for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  (This step smells amazing, in my opinion.)  Transfer the browned andouille to a paper towel-lined plate.

Reduce the heat further to medium low, then add in the chopped vegetables.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and stir the veggies until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add in the rice, salt, thyme, and cayenne and stir well for about a minute to coat the rice in the chicken fat.  Stir in the tomatoes, tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth and bay leaves.  Remove the skin from the chicken thighs then use your tongs to place the chicken, skinned-side down, on top of the rice mixture.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes stir the mixture once and flip the chicken thighs over, then cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Place the shrimp on top of the rice mixture then cover and cook for 5 minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  (Be careful not to overcook the shrimp.)  When the shrimp are fully cooked remove the pot from heat and discard the bay leaves.  As soon as the chicken thighs are cool enough to work with, shred the meat into thin strands with your fingers.  Gently stir the shredded chicken and minced parsley into the stew and serve immediately.

Jambalaya

728 Jambalaya

Do you have a favorite Mardi Gras-inspired dish or tradition?
Please tell me about it in the comments section!

White Bean Chili with Sausage and Chicken

It has been bitterly cold here in southeastern PA.  We haven’t seen above-freezing temperatures in a week and the 14 inches of snow that fell last Tuesday still look fresh and powdery… no melting whatsoever!  I’m not complaining, though.  I’ll take extreme winter weather with lots of snow and cold over a mediocre, unexciting winter any year!

The cold weather means that Matt and I have been making soups, stews, and chilis almost every week.  Right now we have a beef chili simmering on the stove that’s made with “real” dried beans that we had to soak overnight… first time I’ve ever done that!  Tonight’s chili still has another hour or so to cook before it will be ready so I thought I’d use that time to post about another stew that we made a few weeks ago… white bean chili with hot sausage, chicken, bacon, and five types of peppers… yum!!

White Bean Chili with Sausage, Bacon and Chicken

This white bean chili comes together really quickly… just under an hour from start to finish.  That’s much faster than tonight’s beef chili which has been simmering for nearly 7 hours! (Can you tell that I am impatiently waiting for it to be done?  I’m starving!!)  Getting back to the white bean chili, I found that the “white” cannellini beans and navy beans were a nice change from the basic kidney beans and black beans that my chilis usually include and I definitely liked the combination of bell peppers, jalapeño, green chiles, and chipotles en adobo.  Oh, and of course I thoroughly enjoyed the bacon and hot sausage… how could you not like that winning combination?  🙂

White Bean Chili with Sausage and Chicken (adapted from this recipe at Food52)

Chili Ingredients:
Olive Oil
5 slices Bacon, chopped
1 lb. Chicken Breast, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage, ground (or removed from casing)
2 Yellow Onions, diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, minced
2 – 4 oz. cans Diced Green Chiles
2 Chipotles en Adobo, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
3 tablespoons Cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons Chili Powder
3 tablespoons Mexican Oregano
3 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 – 15 oz. can Cannellinni Beans, partially drained
1 – 15 oz. can Navy Beans, partially drained

Garnishes:
Your choice of Sour Cream, Grated Cheddar Cheese, Fresh Cilantro, Lime Wedges, Avocado, and/or Tortilla Strips

White Bean Chili In Process

Directions:
Heat a large (7-8 qt) stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and brown the chopped bacon until it is just starting to get crispy.  Add in the chicken and sausage.  Brown the meat, stirring frequently, for approx. 12 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sausage is well crumbled.

Stir in the next seven ingredients (onion thru garlic) and saute until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the spices (black pepper thru Mexican oregano), stir well, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, stir, and cook for 3 more minutes.  Next, add the chicken stock 1 cup at a time, stirring and scraping the browned bits off of bottom of the pot between each cup.  Bring the chili to a boil then add the beans and stir well to combine.  Reduce the heat and simmer the chili for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve the white bean chili in large bowls and top with your choice of garnish.  We enjoyed our chili with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and cilantro and it was delicious!

White Bean Chili 4

Here are some of the other Chilis and Stews that we’ve been making lately.  Enjoy and stay warm!
•  Pozole Verde
•  Pork and Green Chile Stew
•  Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili