chicken & dumplings

Cold and dark winter evenings beg for comfort dishes to be prepared for dinner.

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Chicken and dumplings is the perfect dish to whip up on days like that. Easy to prepare and made, essentially, in one bowl. It’s an ideal entree that can be made even on the busiest of weeknights. Who doesn’t want to sit down after a long day of work to a dinner like this? Steaming hot and chock full of warm goodness, even the pickiest of eaters would be hard pressed to not enjoy this. Shredded chicken provides a boost of protein, vegetables pack in copious amounts of vitamins  and the dumplings, well, they steal the show. Fluffy and moist, so tender that they practically melt in your mouth.

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You can find me on the couch enjoying this dinner, wrapped up in my coziest blanket. Because the chilly evening has nothing that this dish can’t make better.

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Chicken & Dumplings {recipe adapted from The Gracious Pantry}

You can’t mess with a classic like this dish. Perfectly wonderful served piping hot, right off the stove top. 

Ingredients:

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 garlic clove, minced

2 to 4 chicken breasts, precooked and shredded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced

Dumpling Ingredients:

2 cups flour {I used gluten-free}

1 tablespoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 butter {I used a Greek yogurt and butter blend}

1 cup buttermilk

pepper, to taste

Stew Directions:

In a large sauce pot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Once hot, add in the onion and carrot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano and thyme. Pour in the stock and raise heat to bring to a boil. Fold in the shredded chicken.

Prepare the dumplings while waiting for the stock mixture to boil – in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine and then add in the butter, buttermilk and pepper.

Once the stock mixture is boiling, drop the dumpling dough in using two large spoons {like making drop cookies}. Boil until the dumplings are cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Ladle into large soup bowls and enjoy!

butternut squash enchilada casserole

This is a rainbow of colors, flavors, and deliciousness…all layered up into one glorious casserole.

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For me, it’s simply impossible to not get excited about a dish when it has so many colors, flavors and textures. I happened upon a large stash of butternut squash not too long ago, and rather than going my usual course of roasting {for a side dish} or pureeing {soup style}, I knew I had to try something different. In the past, I’ve had great success incorporating it into mac-&-cheese recipes, but it just didn’t feel right. With unseasonably warm weather, I was craving something hearty but not heavy, light but full of flavor.

I set about searching for the perfect casserole, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for what I’m sharing today, I knew I had found a winner. This casserole is the perfect one to start for your season of autumnal flavors – you’re still using fresh produce {corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions} but starting to introduce the flavors of fall; creamy beans, luscious squash and bolder spices.

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This dish is more or less a one-pot wonder; very little preparation is required, too! I like to roast the squash ahead of time {say, the night before I plan on making it} so that it is ready and waiting for me and not the other way around. Simply prep, assemble, bake and voila! – dinner is served.

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Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from Making Thyme for Health}

An unusual but delicious option to use up an overabundance of butternut squash, this casserole is a dream for any lover of Mexican-style cuisine! Not to mention, it’s a great way to pack in a vegetable punch.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 onion, sliced

1/2 a large red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small can of diced green chilis

1 {15-ounce} can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of corn

2 cups salsa

6 large tortillas, quartered

1-1/2 cups shredded cheese {optional}

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the diced butternut squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin until evenly distributed. Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large non-stick skillet, drizzle in olive oil. Add in onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add in the corn and red pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until slightly tender. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and oregano. Transfer to bowl and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.

Into the same bowl as your sauteed vegetables, add in the diced green chilis, drained black beans, and one cup of the salsa. Toss gently to combine.

Spray a glass baking dish, and begin to assemble the casserole. Spread 1/3 cup of the remaining salsa along the bottom, then cover with a layer of tortillas. Tops with 1/3 of the roasted vegetables and then 1/2 cup of cheese.

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Layer two more tortillas on top of the vegetables, then top with 1/3 cup of salsa, then another 1/3 of the roasted vegetables, then 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Lastly, layer two more tortillas, the last 1/3 cup of salsa and the last 1/3 of the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve. Top with sliced avocado, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream. Enjoy!

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**don’t feel limited to the ingredients listed out here – use what you have on hand! It doesn’t get much easier than that. I also think that, should it fancy you, a bit of seasoned taco meat {be it chicken, beef, bison, etc.} would make a wonderful addition**

homemade wonton soup

I have long strove to find and make a wonton soup worthy of sharing. And today, y’all, I’ve finally done it!

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Wonton soup and I go way back. As in, I can still remember the first time that I had it – the hubs and I had spent the weekend camping with friends, and after coming home cold, wet and famished, there was simply no time to cook dinner {gasp!}.We had to eat, and we had to eat NOW. I let him pick, and after settling on Chinese delivery, the doorbell rang not five minutes later with the traditional box full of goodness. When he passed me a tupperware of soup, I looked at it curiously. We didn’t do Chinese much when I was a child, but it was a cuisine that I enjoyed. So I ladled myself a bowl and dug it. And, y’all, I demolished the.entire.bowl. I couldn’t help myself; it was so good!

I look back on this memory fondly, but now that I’ve got more experience with cooking {and recipe developing} I realize that this was probably not all as comforting as it could have been. As much as we all love it, a lot of delivery food is oftentimes high in sodium and other ingredients we may not want to enjoy. I’m in no means knocking it, because we still looooove a good Chinese takeout, but this recipe for wonton soup is going to knock your socks off. It’s unbelievably delicious, for real.

I kept the ingredients super simple, and used what I had on hand. Traditionally, wontons are filled with a mixture of pork and shrimp, but I personally like to use ground chicken instead. It’s super lean, so there’s less of a risk of fat/grease leaking out when you boil them. Paired with the minced shrimp, they make the perfect canvas for the spices we will be adding in. Low-sodium chicken stock lets us control the amount of salt we add in, making it easy for anyone to customize according to their taste. Ad the add-ins once the wontons are complete totally take this dish to the next level.

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Yes, preparing wontons at home is a bit of a process, but I promise you, it’s totally worth it. I like to make double or triple for what I need when making this soup, because they freeze beautifully. Simply prepare them as followed, them placed them on a sheet tray in the freezer for about 30 minutes. After that, transfer them to a baggie and they will last until you next need them! That way, whenever you have a hankering for wonton soup, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. Enjoy!

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Homemade Wonton Soup {recipe adapted from The Little Kitchen}

Deliciously warm and comforting, with the perfect amount of spice, this wonton soup is absolute perfection. 

Ingredients: Wonton Filling

1 lb. ground chicken

1 lb. shrimp {peeled, deveined and washed, finely diced}

1 cup of your favorite greens, finely shredded

3 green onions, finely diced

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

wonton wrappers

salt and pepper, to taste

Ingredients: Broth/Soup Base 

8 to 10 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 large onion, peeled and sliced in half

1 lime, washed and sliced in half

1 large clove of garlic, peeled

1 head baby broccoli, washed and cut into florets

sliced green onions

optional add-ins/toppings: soy sauce, sriracha, soft-boiled egg, sesame oil, kale, arugula

To Prepare:

Add wonton filling ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and mix together, being sure to incorporate well. Everything should be smooth and well combined.

Add water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.

In another {larger} pot, add chicken broth, onion, lime and garlic. Turn onto low heat.

To make the wontons: Add 1/2 Tbsp. filling into the middle of a wonton wrapper, and fold it so that forms a triangle. Flatten out to ensure that there are no air bubbles when boiling. Using your fingers and thumb, pinch the wrapper shut. I find it helpful to lay out an entire baking sheet, brush all edges with a big of egg white, and make an assembly line of sorts…scoop all filling out, then go back and triangle, then go back and pinch shut.

Boil wontons 6 to 8 at a time for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to platter.

While cooking the wontons, increase the heat of the broth to high and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. 1 to 2 minutes before you are ready to serve, add in the baby broccoli florets and green onions.

To serve: place desired amount of wontons into a large soup bowl, and ladle broth over. Garnish with additional toppings.

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individual chicken pot pies

Who wouldn’t want to dive right into a bowl brimming with warm, savory filling and topped off with a flaky pie crust?

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We’re in full-blown, top-of-the-line, let’s-get-a-little-bit crazy comfort food mode her on K.K. As soon as the leaves start changing, my heart {and my tummy} crave rich, savory casseroles and dishes that may or may not require a bit of a nap afterward.

Enter this chicken pot pie. It fits the bill perfectly – a luscious white sauce, piping hot with steam when you puncture the top, and full of chicken and vegetable goodness. But it’s a bit sneaky, y’all! As you’re well aware by now, just because it’s comfort food doesn’t mean it needs to make you feel UNCOMFORTABLE after you’re done eating it. That’s right…I’ve put a bit of a twist on this traditional {and traditionally unhealthy} dish.

I combed through a good amount of recipes until I settled on one to use as my base. By making some minor substitutions, we’re able to capitalize on this dish and enjoy it without the guilt! We’re making individual servings to help with portion control, and only using a top and bottom crust – no sides here! You can make the top crust larger to hang over the dish, or a bit smaller so that the filling bubbles over; it’s whatever you like. And you can skip the bottom crust, but I would recommend leaving it : ) We are also swapping out the whole milk for 1% {if you are a 2% drinker, go ahead and use that!}. The amount of butter we’ll be using to thicken the sauce is just the right amount, and won’t overpower the taste of the chicken and vegetables/herbs. It’s perfectly velvety and smooth, the perfect backdrop for the gorgeous filling.

And don’t feel as though you have to follow the recipe down to a ‘T’! The vegetables I’ve listed out are, honestly, what I had on hand at the time. Sometimes, a girl just doesn’t want to run to the store for one or two things, am I right? So feel free to swap anything out – I could see this being absolutely magical made with an assortment of mushroom and chicken, or do a combination of root vegetables {sweet potato/parsnips/beets} with the chicken, or you could even go meatless! This is truly a dish that’s adaptable to any pantry.

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The best part about this recipe? It will make enough filling for a least 4 individual servings; perfect to serve up as two for now, and then freeze the rest for an easy weeknight meal!

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Individual Chicken Pot Pies {recipe adapted from Food Network}

makes enough for at least 4 individual servings, in bowls with about a 4″ diameter

Steaming, full of warm and hearty goodness, these will be sure to put a smile on your face. Your stomach, and soul, will thank you after enjoying one of these!

Ingredients:

1 box prepared pie crust {I like Pillsbury because it gives two 9″ rounds, enough for a top and bottom crust}

4-1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock

large handful of baby carrots {or 5 medium ones}, evenly diced

1 to 2 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/3 cup 1% milk

3 stalks celery, evenly diced

3 cups shredded chicken, skin removed

1 bag {about 2 to 3 cups} fresh broccoli

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

On a floured surface, lay out both pie crusts and cut out 4 circles. Two will be the same size as the bottom of your individual bowls, and the other two will be slightly larger {to fold over the top and seal in the filling}.

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Spray the dishes with non-stick cooking spray, and lay down the smaller ones in each of the bowls. Prick with a fork and bake in the oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly golden and the edges begin to pull away from the bowl. Set aside.

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Bring the chicken stock, carrots, thyme and oregano to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes; cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add in the milk and the warm broth mixture and simmer until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, celery, and broccoli. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer filling into each of the baking dishes, and top with the remaining two pieces of dough – these are larger, so they will drape nicely over the rims, helping to seal in the filling. Make sure to press it tightly against the sides of the dishes!

Place on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving – the filling will be very hot!

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Let’s Discuss: did you ever have the frozen individual pot pies as a kid? What other vegetables do you like to put inside yours? 

ramen bowls with chicken & vegetables

Broth-based soups are the perfect canvas for taking on any flavor you want to impart.

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Whether we’re talking a seafood or meat based, a vegetable base, or a combination of sorts, there is really no limit to the imagination what you can do with a good box of stock {or homemade, if you have that!}. It makes for an easy dish, and warms you to the core.

But sometimes, you want a soup that comes together quickly, no? Sure, using the crockpot is great, or letting it slowly simmer on the stovetop for an hour or so, but sometimes that just won’t do. Tempting as it is, you might want to call in take-out…I won’t judge! But next time you’re thinking of doing so, consider making this soup! It’s bursting with flavor, texture, and color. It comes together in just a quick bit, and most of the ingredients you probably have on hand. If not, go crazy and throw in a few substitutions! – short on arugula?…throw in some kale or spinach. – don’t have any chicken?…frozen shrimp would be great!

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This soup is adaptable to any palette, and soooooo.much.better than any take-out can deliver. It can be easily doubled or tripled for leftovers the next day, too!

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Ramen Bowls with Chicken &Vegetables {recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats, original recipe from Easy Gourmet}

Quick to put together and full of flavor, this ramen bowl will warm you through and through. I especially like it drizzled with some sriracha sauce for a bit of extra flavor – and even more drizzled if I’m feeling a bit under the weather. 

Ingredients:

4 large eggs

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup sweet corn

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

8 ounces arugula

1 quart low-sodium chicken stock

6 ounces ramen noodes {I get them at a local Asian market; if that’s not available, a pack from the grocery store will work just fine!}

6 ounces cooked chicken

4 green onions, thinly sliced

optional: toasted sesame oil for drizzling, nori/seaweed pieces from serving

To Prepare:

Begin by soft boiling the eggs so that they can cool. Heat about three inches of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Once boiling, reduce the heat until it’s barely a simmer, add the eggs gently and cook for 6 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath. Let cool completely before peeling.

Prepare the ramen noodles by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Once there, drop in the noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and add the corn, stirring to coat. Add in the onion. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Once warmed through and the onions are slightly translucent, transfer to a bowl.

Heat the chicken stock just until it’s boiling, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Begin preparing the ramen bowls. In separate sections {it makes for a pretty presentation!} add in the noodles, corn, arugula and chicken.

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Ladle broth over the top, and finish with sliced green onions. The eggs can be halved and served right in the soup, or on the side. Enjoy!

pumpkin chili

Chili is one of the quintessential dishes of the autumn season. It’s versatile, comforting, and can be transformed into thousands of different variations. Some people take it on top of rice, others with spaghetti….left plain, or piled high with cheddar cheese and sour cream and Fritos and onion, it’s a safe bet that few and far between people take theirs exactly the same way.

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The recipe that we’re making here today is probably one of our favorites here in the KK house. I still remember seeing this pop up on my feed, via Skinnytasteat least 2 years ago. My initial reaction was – pumpkin in chili?! So I bookmarked it for later, not sure if it would make it into the crockpot.

…I am so thankful that it did, and the hubs is too! This chili is seriously one of the best flavor combinations that I’ve yet to find in chili. It combines my favorite traditional chili spices {cumin, chili powder, & LOTS of oregano}. The onions and garlic give it that extra punch we all love.

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The great northern beans, when mixed with the green chili and creamy pumpkin, results in the most luxurious mouth feel; it’s truly one that I have not yet been able to replicate in any other recipe. And if you’re concerned that the pumpkin flavor may be too pronounced, fear not! It lends the perfect taste of fall; it lets the other flavors and ingredients shine and takes the back seat. It gives a gorgeous color, however!

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When it comes to the style of meat used, I take a note out of Gina’s book and go with the ground turkey. However, I use a less lean version…we’re going with a 93% lean. But feel free to take liberty, and sub in your favorite! You could go even leaner with the turkey; ground chicken is great {I can attest to this!}, or even mix it up with a spiced sausage and beef mixture {chorizo, anyone? WOW!}.

Just make sure you serve a side of tortilla chips with this dish – you’ll be happy you did!

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Pumpkin Chili {recipe adapted, slightly, from Skinnytaste}

Rich and creamy due to the pumpkin puree added during the cooking process, this chili is sure to warm you through. With just the perfect amount of smoky spice {thanks, cumin and chili powder!}, this is the perfect fall dish.

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 lb. ground turkey {I like to use 93% lean, but you can substitute as necessary!}

1 medium onion, finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 tsp. chili powder

3 bay leaves

1 tsp. cumin

1-1/2 tsp. oregano

1 {15 ounce} can white northern beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15} ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15 ounce} can pumpkin puree

4.5 ounce can chopped green chili

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings: baked tortilla chips, low-fat sour cream, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, chopped chives

To Prepare:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and lightly spray with cooking spray. Add meat and cook, breaking it up until white, about 5-7 minutes.

Reduce the heat slightly and add in the diced onions and garlic, stirring to distribute through the meat. Add in the spices and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the meat/onion/spice mixture into the bottom of the crockpot. Add in both of the beans, the chopped green chilis, and the pumpkin puree. Stir to combine, then add in the stock and the bay leaves. Give one final stir and cover.

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Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.

Once complete, remove the bay leaves and ladle into bowls. Serve with desired toppings – enjoy!

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Let’s Discuss: how do you like to dress your chili? 

summer vegetable lasagna

This recipe I’m sharing today is a fresh and healthy twist on a classic, tried and true favorite – the lasagna.

Now, before all you pasta purists rise up against me, hear me out. Because, don’t think for one second that I don’t love lasagna…I do, I really do! In fact, this is probably one of the classic dishes that as I child I absolutely loathed {ricotta cheese? that was beyond my taste buds then…things have changed now!}. I don’t know what transformed it over the years, but now it’s a total comfort dish, perfect for chilly fall evenings and those blustery winter nights that practically scream “you know you want to make and devour some lasagna!”

But here I go, digressing from the above-mentioned recipe. Getting back on track, y’all; it’s the end of summer, it’s still HOT, and honestly, I’m okay with turning on my oven. But, here’s where it gets a bit tricky – a big, heavy, carb-y pasta dish does not sound that appealing. So I do what I always do….poke around in the kitchen until I find something to make it work. And here enters my plethora of vegetables.

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I know that vegetable lasagna is really nothing new; in fact, if you Google it, so many hits will come up that your head will start to spin. So as I mentioned, I nixed the recipe-searching and came up with my own. We’re basically taking some of the more well-known concepts for building a veggie lasagna, but incorporating a few of my staples into it.

And we’re making it healthy and light! Noodles are replaced with thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant. Canned tomatoes are replaced with hearty slices of garden-ripened fresh tomatoes. And the cheese sauce? We’re using my favorite: my tofu sauce, with some tweaks! Once all baked together, in its bubbly and satisfying glory, it’s divine. So much so that I wish I had doubled the recipe for some freezer meals, because…yeah…we ate the whole pan. In one night.

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Summer Vegetable Lasagna {original recipe, serves 4}

An updated healthy twist on an old favorite! By swapping out noodles for veggies and tofu for cheese {or the majority of it}, we’re basically baking up a vitamin and protein packed entree! Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste buds; I think some hot pepper flakes would be wonderful. 

Ingredients {for the “noodles”}:

1 large zucchini

1 large yellow squash

4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes

kosher salt

*special equipment: mandolin {if you don’t have one, simply make thin slices using a sharp chef’s knife}, baker’s sheet lined with paper towels, 9″ x 9″ glass baking dish, food processor 

Ingredients {for the sauce}:

1 block tofu, coarsely chopped

1 large white onion

1 egg, slightly beaten

2-3 cloves garlic

1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. rosemary

3 to 4 tbsp. nutritional yeast

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Toppings:

nutritional yeast

fresh grated cheese {optional}

bread crumbs

extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the “Noodles”:

Using a mandolin set on the 1/4″ thickness of the flat blade, slice both the zucchini and the yellow squash, making sure to stop before reaching the center seed pods. Lay all the slices on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.

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Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and slice into thin strips. Lay on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.

The goal of salting the vegetables while prepping the other ingredients is to draw out the moisture. After about 10 minutes, blot the first side very well with another towel, making sure to remove any additional salt. Flip the vegetables over, salt the other side, and leave to sit for another 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat the process of blotting and removing additional salt. Set aside. 

*because we are being more liberal with salt than usual {not all of it will be removed when blotting}, I opted to omit the salt from the sauce we’ll be making. Feel free to adjust to your taste buds as needed, though! 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and spray a 9″ x 9″ glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Prepare the Sauce:

Add a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil into a medium saucepan. Once the oil is hot, coarsely chop the onion and garlic, and add into the pan. Cook until the onions are translucent and they are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add in the herbs and cook for another few minutes, allowing the flavors to marry. Remove from heat.

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In the bowl of your food processor, add in the block of tofu. Top with the cooked vegetables, and puree for 5 minutes, taking care to scrape down the sides to make sure all chunks are eliminated – you’re looking for a consistency similar to ricotta cheese. Add in the nutritional yeast, and blend for another minute. The longer it processes, the smoother it gets; this also helps it cool down quickly!

Once all blended, add the sauce into a mixing bowl. Fold in the egg, making sure it’s fully incorporated.

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Prepare the Lasagna:

In the baking dish, ladle in a small amount of sauce.

Add in the first layer of squash “noodles”, then top with slices of tomato. Ladle on sauce in an even layer. Repeat until you have done about 2-3 layers…you want to finish with the sauce on top.

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Sprinkle with bread crumbs and nutritional yeast {and cheese, if using}, then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then increase the heat to 400 degrees for the last 15 minutes.  You’ll want the top to be a nice golden brown, and you’ll notice how bubbly the sides of the dish are.

Remove from heat and allow to cool about 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

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Let’s Discuss: Do you have any funky twists on lasagna, or other classic pasta dishes? If so, please share!

‘get sauced’ pulled pork

Things are getting saucy in the kitchen today, dears!

I don’t know about y’all, but one of my most favorite meals to enjoy during the summer months is pulled pork. Tender and succulent, full of flavor, it’s a great meal that is easily adaptable to any palette. Prefer using chicken breasts and thighs over a pork shoulder? Go ahead and make the swap! Or are you a red meat lover and want to use a chuck roast? Go right ahead!

In addition to being a multifaceted meal, it’s great for summer because we get to use our trusty crockpot. By now, everyone knows that I have a {not-so-secret} love for this great kitchen tool. It keeps my kitchen cool {because I have yet to turn on the air conditioning}, it requires minimal prep work, and I can simply toss it in and set it before heading to the office in the morning. Does life get any better?

I am particularly fond of this recipe because it makes use of some of my favorite herbs and spices. But don’t think of this as a set in stone recipe! It is not that in the least. As I talked about above…just like you meat preference, feel free to swap out any of the ingredients listed below. I promise…you won’t hurt my feelings! You can take a “tex mex” twist on this recipe by subbing in some cumin, adobo spices, and a Mexican beer {I think a Negra Modelo would be fantastic} for the more traditional BBQ spices I’ve outlined. Feeling a little fancy? Throw in other root vegetables {potatoes, etc.} and sub out the beer for a bold red wine. Not a big fan of cooking with alcohol? Simply use a good, quality beef stock {or chicken if you’re cooking with white meat}.

It’s versatile dishes like this that keep me coming back in the kitchen. It makes for a wonderful al fresco dinner, sitting outside and enjoying the summer air, candles lit and music playing. Good food, good company, and good weather is perfection on said days.

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Oh…and it’s absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

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‘Get Sauced’ Pulled Pork {adapted slightly from 100 Days of Real Food}

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. paprika

1 tbsp. salt

2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper {I used closer to 1/2}

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 C. honey

1/4 C. red wine vinegar

1 bottle beet {I opted for a Newcastle, which paired extremely well with the flavors of the pork and spices}

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 lbs. pork shoulder, trimmed of any excess fat

 

To Prepare:

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together the first six ingredients {all of the spices} with a fork.

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Pour in the honey, vinegar and olive oil. Stir to form a paste.

Place the onion in the bottom of your slow cooker, making sure to create a nice bed for the pork to rest on. Place the pork atop the onions, and then pour the spice/honey paste over all the sides of the pork. Expect some to drip down the sides  – that’s ok! Coating the onions slightly with it will only enrich the flavor.

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Pour in the bottle of beer and mix around to coat the pork. It will come about halfway up the sides of the meat, give or take the height of it. I made sure to place a good amount of the sliced onions on the top of the pork.

Turn the slow cooker on to low and cook for at least 8 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. Mine cooked from about 8am until 4:30pm, there upon which I lowered the crokpot to ‘warm’.

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To Serve:

{optional} Scoop the majority of the cooking liquid, onions and all, into a small sauce pot. Mix well with about 1/2 to 1  C. of tomato sauce {I used homemade marinara because it’s what I had on hand, but ketch up or BBQ sauce would work great too…really anything goes!}. Cook over medium-high heat until bubbly and slightly reduced in volume.

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Served atop toasted buns and pass around coleslaw, shoe string potatoes, salad, etc.

 

preparing a sunday roast, crockpot style

Turning the oven on on a steamy summer day just does not appeal to me. It never has, actually. Between the tiny space I {lovingly} call my kitchen and the fact that I have thus far refused to turn on the air conditioning results in a hot and bothered cook working in, essentially, a sauna.

So. What’s a girl to do on such a night?…

Crockpot, obviously!

We all know that I harbor a deep and profound love for said appliance {see here, for starters} and that it is, hands down, one of the hardest-working appliances in my kitchen. The hubs is probably a close second, as the dishwasher master for when I’m whipping up crazy concoctions and creations, but let’s leave that for another day, shall we?

What makes these crockpot meals so wondrous is all the prep work is done the night before. I had settled on making a roast, a venison {read: deer meat} roast, to be exact, because I was lucky enough to be gifted one by a lovely friend of mine. Living where we do, the hubs and I have several friends who are avid hunters, and that I was fortunate enough to score an almost 5-pound beauty was cause to celebrate. I kept this stowed away, wrapped tightly in my freezer, waiting for the perfect opportunity to cook this up.

The great thing about the following recipe is that it can be perfectly adapted to just about any cut of meat you prefer. I know that many people do not have the availability {or palette} for venison – I’ve done this particular dish with rump roasts, pork shoulders…really, any big cut of meat will work great. Using one that is still bone-in is even better, because as this roasts low and slow all day, the flavor from the bone is going to be released, adding an entire layer of flavor to the resulting cooking liquid produced.

Feel free to adapt the seasonings to your preference as well! I love a classic blend of herbs and red wine, but if you’re looking for something a bit lighter, use a good beef stock instead of wine. Thyme is a great, well-purposed herb to use in here, or you can go super simple {but still delicious} with a simple combination of salt and pepper, bay leaves, and just a touch of rosemary.

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And fear not, dears, if you’re cooking a roast large enough to feed a small army. The hubs and I hardly put a dent in the resulting dish, but what I love to do is shred the leftovers and freeze in snack-size bags. It makes the perfect portion for lunch…think sandwiches, folded into leftover pasta, or used taco-style.

This truly is a wondrous dish, adaptable to please, and just tasty! I hope you enjoy!

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Sunday Roast, Crockpot Style

Ingredients:

1 piece of meat, roughly 3-5 lbs {or whatever will fit comfortably in your crockpot}

4 to 5 large cloves of garlic, left whole

assortment of mixed root vegetables {I chose a blend of large carrots and onions, but russet or sweet potatoes make a great addition, as does celery, parsnips…whatever you like!}

2 cups red wine {I use a good Cabernet Sauvignon}

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

4 tsp. dried herbs, more or less to suit your taste {I used a mixture of oregano and rosemary, because I like how it complements the flavor of the venison}

salt and pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 tsp. butter {for the gravy}

1-3 tsp. flour {for gravy}

 

To Prepare:

Begin by peeling and dicing your garlic and root vegetables, being sure to leave them in larger chunks so they don’t break down and disintegrate  during the cooking process. Add into the bowl of your crockpot, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle all with olive oil, and toss to coat.

Prepare your meat – depending on the cut I am using, I like to go over the meat and trim off any excess fat {this is particularly important if using a piece of chuck roast, or something similar}. In this case, because I am using venison from a local hunter, I went and removed remaining pieces of “silver skin”…chewy pieces that don’t taste ideal. Pat dry, then season liberally with salt and pepper.

Optional step: depending on your time schedule, give the meat a good sear on all sides! I do this in a large non-stick skillet on my stovetop. Coat the bottom of the pan with a good dose of extra virgin olive oil, and once hot, add in your roast. Allow the meat to sit for several minutes on each side, flipping when brown. When we transfer this to the crockpot, you’ll want to scrape in the cooking liquid and bits up from the bottom of the pan – that’s flavor gold right there!

Once the meat is trimmed and seasoned, place atop the vegetables in your crockpot. Add in the wine and stock, making sure there is just enough liquid to almost cover the entire roast. Add in your herbs and mix well, making sure to really get that meat as close to the bottom as possible.

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Cook on low heat for about 8 hours {I set mine around 8:15-8:30am and let it cook away while I’m at work, returning at 5:15pm}. Drop the heat setting to ‘warm’ and remove most of the cooking liquid and the root vegetables, transferring into a bowl.

Make the gravy – in a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Once completely melted, whisk in the flour and cook for several minutes, making sure that the raw flour taste is removed. Slowly add in the cooking liquid and set to high heat, whisking vigorously so as to avoid any lumps forming. Cook on high until mixture thickens and begins to slowly bubble. Add in the root vegetables, and puree with an immersion blender.

Serve with roasted vegetables {I had asparagus on hand, but mashed potatoes make a fabulous accompaniment}, a good crusty French bread for dipping, and a glass of red wine on the side.

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summer salmon with roasted asparagus

Hands down, one of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of fresh, bright produce and gorgeous seafood. It just doesn’t get any better than that, no?

Happily making my way down the produce and seafood section not too long ago, I couldn’t help but notice lovely stalks of bright green asparagus. This being one of my favorite vegetables, I quickly scooped up a bunch, knowing that half of dinner was already taken care of. Thinking to myself what kind of protein to pair with it, I immediately thought a filet of wild-caught salmon would be absolute perfection. I knew that I had some leftover artichokes and Roma tomatoes at home waiting to be used, so I thought that this would pair well with the salmon as well.

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Not only is this a healthy dinner, bursting with flavor and color, but it comes together in a flash. We start by making a quick dressing of herbs and mustard together, then setting it aside so the flavors can merry together. The salmon gets seasoned well with salt and pepper then placed, skin side down,  onto a lightly sprayed piece of foil. We then build layers of flavor by adding first the tomatoes, then the artichokes, then finally, everything gets drizzled with the marinade. Covered tightly with foil {we’re doing foil packet baked fish, after all!}, everything gets roasted off in the oven.

And, dears, the asparagus couldn’t be any simpler. All we’re doing with these lovelies is tossing generously with salt and pepper, a good drizzle of olive oil, then spreading evenly onto a baking sheet. The end result is a perfectly roasted vegetable, with crispy bits.

A lovely plate for dinner, easy enough to throw together during the week but can be trussed up into a date night at home. Light some candles, pour some wine, and enjoy!

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~~~

Summer Salmon with Roasted Asparagus {original recipe}

Serves: 2, & can easily be doubled

Ingredients for the Salmon 

1 lb. fresh, wild caught salmon

1/2 can artichokes, drained and rinsed well

1 large Roma tomato, sliced thin

1/2 tsp. dried dill

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried basil

1 T. honey

2 T. dijon mustard

1 T. whole grain mustard

few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, or chicken stock {used to thin the marinade}

salt & pepper, to taste

 

Ingredients for the Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, rinsed well and trimmed of any undesirable leaves/stems

salt & pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

 

To Make {both the salmon and asparagus!}

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dill, thyme, basil, honey, both types of mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, and then drizzle in the liquid as needed {I ended up using about 2 tsp of stock}. Set aside.

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Line a baking sheet with foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the two pieces of salmon, skin side down, on the foil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Layer each piece with the tomatoes first, then the artichokes, and finally finish with the marinade. Seal tightly and set aside.

Place the asparagus on a piece of foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper {sometimes I even like to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on there as well – be careful of seeds if you do!} Toss to coat, then either place that sheet of foil on the same pan as the salmon packet {if large enough} or on a separate sheet.

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Roast both the salmon packets and asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until desired done-ness is achieved {I prefer mine slightly on the pinker side, with a velvety texture}. Give the asparagus a turn about halfway through, to ensure even cooking.

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For an even crispier roasted asparagus, place in the oven 5-10 minutes before the salmon goes in, making sure to toss halfway through.