Dinner

Slow Cooker White Bean & Sausage Soup

Due to the wacky weather of a Texas Spring, it fortunately still affords us the opportunity to enjoy a warm bowl of soup.  Now, I won’t delve into the rich, hearty, creamy versions that I indulge in come Fall and Winter.  I will, however, sit down to a light broth style.

This meal is so stinkin’ easy as you simply cook and sauté your sausage and onions and then it all goes into the pot!…or the slow-cooker so to speak.  *In many, if not all, slow-cooker meals, I advise always sautéing you’re veggies prior.  Your dish will have SO much more flavor!  Same goes with meatloaf, precook your veggies first people, do not add them to your meat blend raw!…I digress…

So back to THIS bowl of light and flavorful soup, my other tips and/or advice is to use the hot Italian sausage, not the mild or the sweet.  If you insist on the others, so be it, but I promise this soup is anything but spicy.  Also, please drain and rinse your beans with a fine mesh sieve or colander.  Removing the extra starch the beans contain in the can will ensure a light broth.

Now, I suggest if you’re in a slump for what to make this week, please try this out!  You can serve it with warm bread and butter, a half sandwich or a light salad… and life will be good.

The Starting Lineup

  • 4 (15oz) cans of white cannellini (or great white northern) beans, drained & rinsed
  • 2 (32oz) cans or boxes of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (14.5oz) cans of Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, fresh/bagged
  • 2 lbs of hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil, torn (garnish)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (garnish)

In a skillet on your stovetop, over medium heat, brown the Italian sausage with the onion, garlic and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper.

Drain and add the cooked meat mixture to your slow cooker along with the beans, chicken broth, tomatoes and spinach leaves.  Set the slow cooker on HIGH for 3-4/LOW for 5-6 hours.

To serve:  Ladle into bowls and top with a bit of the fresh basil and parmesan cheese and serve with warm crusty bread.  Enjoy!

WhiteBeanSausageSoup

Balsamic Strawberry Chicken Quesadilla

I’m quite the advocate of a great balsamic reduction.  No, not the vinegar (though good where it is needed), but the rich, slightly sweet glaze.  Now, while I mainly consume it over pillow-like soft slices of mozzarella sprinkled with coarse salt, I felt I needed to broaden both the sauce’s and my horizon.  With that being said, I have concocted the easiest hand-held, Springtime delight!

Likely from my raising in Arizona, I am quite partial to the quesadilla, so I decided what better than to “stuff” a few of my favorite light and fresh ingredients into a tortilla and grill up!

Man oh man, when I tell ya that the popular Mexican favorite doesn’t have to contain south-of-the-border ingredients after all!  It was everything sweet, tangy, crunchy and fresh with the addition of fruit and herbs, vegetables, goat cheese and pecans…last but not least, the balsamic reduction to bring it all together!

*If you like it extra, ooey-gooey cheesy, please feel free to add mozzarella as well! 🙂

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 6 flour tortillas (regular, spinach, low-carb, whole wheat, etc)
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 4oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 (8oz) bottle Balsamic Reduction (not to be confused with vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

In a Ziploc bag, combine the extra virgin olive oil, a hefty pinch of salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of the balsamic reduction with the chicken.  Zip up, massage to coat and set aside for 20-30 minutes to marinate.

Grill the chicken, until cooked through and the juices run clear; thinly slice.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat with the butter.  On each tortilla, layer an even amount of the cooked chicken, strawberries, spinach leaves, pecans and goat cheese crumbles.  Fold in half and cook each side of the quesadilla until golden brown in color.

To serve:  Slice into wedges with a pizza cutter, sprinkle with a bit more fresh basil and drizzle the remaining balsamic reduction overtop, enjoy!

quesadillaStrawBasilChx

 

Bourbon Pecan Pork Tenderloin

This pork tenderloin recipe will be the show stopping centerpiece at your next dinner and honestly, it doesn’t take too much effort!  I gave it a bit of Southern flair, with the addition of pecans and bourbon, and I’m sure I made all the lower states proud!  Your taste buds with have texture, flavor and nuttiness from the spiced pecan crust and the sauce brightens the entire dish with tang and color!

Please feel free to try this out for Easter or even a Mother’s Day brunch or dinner.  The flavors are also great on chicken, ham or pork chops!  You really can’t go wrong. xoxo

*If concerned about the sauce, alcohol does cook way down annnddd even my 6 year old asked for “more gravy”; it’s not too strong! 🙂

*I bought chopped pecans and then added them to a large Ziploc bag and gently “smashed” them with a heavy bottomed pan.  You can also use a food processor, just be careful not to pulse too much, or you’ll have yourself a paste similar to peanut butter and zero texture ;).

*All ovens heat a bit differently, so please check the internal temp to ensure it is cooked to your liking.

The Starting Lineup

Pecan Pork Tenderloin

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, any silver skin removed
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup Pecan, almost ground
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt & pepper, to taste

Bourbon Dijon Sauce “Gravy”

  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp bourbon 
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce, low sodium
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp butter, cubed
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet/dish with foil and spray with non-stick.

In a small bowl, combine the crushed pecans, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Liberally rub the 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard all over the outside of the pork and then coat the tenderloin with the seasoned pecans, as it will stick to the mustard.  Pack it on there!

Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, uncovered, or until a meat thermometer registers at least 140 degrees.  **Though we prefer no pink in ours and I register about 155 degrees for an all white, no pink center.  Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

While the pork is resting, in a small saucepan, combine the chicken broth, bourbon and cornstarch.  Whisk and bring to a boil.  Reduce to medium-low heat and whisk in the dark brown sugar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, pinch of salt and the butter until smooth and coats the back of a spoon.

Serve the sliced Pecan Pork Tenderloin over warm, buttery mashed potatoes and a hefty drizzle of the slightly sweet and tangy Bourbon Dijon Sauce over top, enjoy!

PecanPork

 

Tropical BBQ Sliders

As of late, there has been a cooking phenomenon of baking the King’s Hawaiian rolls with ham and cheese, roast beef and cheese, turkey and cheese, do I need to go on?  ..and quite frankly, I LOVE it!  I have tried them all and they are all delightful.

On that same note, stay with me…my oldest son has been on a Lilo & Stitch movie binge.  Every single night before bed, for the last 2 weeks, he requests this now somewhat old movie, at least compared to his 6-year-old self.  Fifteen days into it later, he randomly asked me if I could make “Hawaiian Sandwiches” for dinner.  Now, I wasn’t about to go buy a can of SPAM, so I got creative while thinking of those new, beloved baked sandwich recipes.  Below I give you another favorite that needs to be added to the Pinterest lineup of such.  You can make them for an appetizer, party, a dinner with a side of fries…  A super easy and fun recipe to enjoy with your whole family!

*You can use fresh pineapple, by all means, but for this I actually prefer the canned variety, as fresh is pretty tart and overpowering for this recipe.  That being said, my preferred brand is the new’er Libby’s Brand “Skinny” Pineapple…It is not canned in that heavy syrup, so it’s not cloyingly sweet.

The Starting Lineup

  • 12 ct package King’s Hawaiian Rolls
  • 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce (I prefer also the King’s Hawaiian original barbecue sauce)
  • 1 lb thinly sliced or shaved ham (I prefer honey or Black Forest from the deli)
  • 1 package swiss cheese (about 8 slices); Colby Jack is a good alternative too
  • Pineapple (about 6 slices or 1/2 cup segments)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon (hefty fill) of ground ginger (i.e. McCormick brand)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp shredded coconut 
  • **Optional: fresh jalapenos slices, for a savory-sweet-heat flavor

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease or non-stick spray a rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish.  Most recently, I used my Pyrex 8×11, but I have used a foil-lined & sprayed baking sheet when I made a double batch.

In medium microwave safe bowl, slowly melt your butter.   Whisk in the soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic powder and coconut.  Set aside.

With a large bread knife, halve the ENTIRE 12 (or 24) rolls horizontally, so that the rolls are still connected to each other and you have two “bread rectangles”; a bottom halve and a top half that will form your sandwich slider.

Place the bottom half of bread into your prepared bread and lay on half of the cheese, followed by the ham.  Next drizzle the BBQ sauce evenly overtop, followed by the pineapple and then the remaining cheese.  Place the other “bread rectangle” topper on top.

Whisk your butter mixture once more and evenly pour or brush overtop it all (don’t worry, it doesn’t get soggy).  **If using the  fresh jalapeno slices, I like to place 1 slice ON TOP of each roll (12 slices) and then pour on the butter mixture. 

Immediately transfer to your preheated oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, till the top will be a deep golden brown and the cheese is super melty.

Serve immediately and enjoy!  Maybe with a Mai-Tai or two?? 😉

TropicalBBQSliders

 

BLT Goat Cheese Pasta

I probably crave a traditional BLT sandwich a few times per week…arguably one of the best, simple sandwiches ever invented.  Now, one night at dinner, I wanted to elevate somewhat from my 12-year-old-self appetite and I figured out how to do just that!  Pasta!!

Yes, to feel the age I really am, all it takes is some yummy Italian food and a glass of wine to transport me back into my 30’s.  Plus, my husband prefers this sort of meal as well, not a random sandwich I put before him. 😉  So I already had the bacon on hand, a must, and I substituted the spinach leaves for iceberg and halved cherry tomatoes for the traditional beefsteak or Roma variety.  The kicker though, is that added touch of crumbled goat cheese at the end.  It melds beautifully into the warm pasta with the savory and sweet bacon and maple sauce.

Let me also note and close with…this meal takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and have on the table!  Gourmet, simple and oh so flavorful!

 

*As always, you can pair this with any sort of pasta, whether gluten free, spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, etc.

The Starting Lineup

  • 10 oz linguine (or other long noodle)
  • 8 strips bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (plus more for thinning sauce, if desired)
  • 1 hefty Tbsp real Maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima here please)
  • 3 cups spinach leaves
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 2oz goat cheese, crumbled

Prepare your pasta according to package directions/ al dente.  Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet (as you’ll be adding all of your cooked pasta to this), cook your bacon pieces over medium heat till slightly crisp.  Remove all but 2 Tbsp of the bacon grease (depending, you may have that exact amount of bacon grease in your pan and won’t have to drain any).

Pour in the chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up any brown bits of bacon flavor.  The “fancy” word for this is deglazing..look at you!

Now over low heat, add in the maple syrup, spinach (1 cup at a time as it wilts), halved cherry tomatoes and mushrooms (<-optional), toss together.

Finally, add the cooked pasta and the goat cheese to the sauced skillet.  The goat cheese will melt in to the dish creating a creamy texture (If you like a thinner coating, just add a tablespoon of chicken broth at a time).  Serve with warm bread and a salad for a truly great and easy meal, enjoy!

BLTGoatCheesePasta

Enchilada Meatball Sub

When a Turkey and Swiss just won’t cut it…I give you THIS!  Now, like most sane adults, I’m a sucker for a meatball sub, hoagie, grinder..whatever.  They’re gooood no matter what you call your sandwich!  The last time I played around with the ever popular recipe, I tweaked it with a cheddar and barbeque flair (try that one too please….ughhh sooo good).  However, THIS TIME, I’m giving it that TexMex flavor and turning the great state of Texas’ favorite enchilada into a handheld vessel.  Genius you say?  Yes.  Yes it is.

Now, you do not have to use the enchilada flavored meatballs to make only a sub sandwich.  By all means, use them on their own with a plate of rice, refried beans, warm tortillas or chips…wrap them in a large flour tortilla with extra enchilada sauce and beans or place them on a platter alongside toothpicks for a great appetizer!  No disappointment will follow.

* I used Oaxaca Cheese for my meatballs (Mexico’s version of mozzarella), but feel free to use any of your favorite melty cheese! I.e. Monterey Jack, mozzarella, cheddar blend, Pepper Jack, etc.

The Starting Lineup

  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef
  • 15 ounce can enchilada sauce, divided
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (I kept seeds in on for mine)
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, rough chop
  • 2 tsp each: cumin, chili powder, Mexican oregano
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used Oaxaca cheese), to top

If making into sub sandwiches:

  • Bakery roll or Torta bread
  • Avocado/guacamole
  • Pickled onion
  • Jalapenos, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9×13 casserole dish.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, panko, eggs, jalapeno, onion, garlic, cilantro and spices until just incorporated.  I just use my good ol’ hands for this and no need to overwork.

Using an ice cream scooper or again, your hands as I did, make about 2″ balls and place into the 9×13 dish.  *Try to make them relatively the same size for even cooking.  You can always add/take away the meat mixture to make even.

Pour the remaining enchilada sauce overtop all of the meatballs and cover with foil.  Bake in your 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.  Uncover and add the cheese overtop, bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes more.

Serve warm straight from pan with a side of rice, beans and tortillas OR turn into a monster sub sandwich with Mexican inspired toppings of your choice!  Enjoy!

EnchiladaMeatballs

Sweet Lemon Pasta

This is a great way to kick off the warmth of Spring!  So good that I’m sure you’ll carry this lightly sweet and tangy dish all the way through summer!  It’s bright, fresh and quite versatile as I like to pair it with grilled shrimp or chicken, or just eat it as is for a light lunch!

*To amp up your veggie intake, prepare this with roasted spaghetti squash instead of pasta noodles.

The Starting Lineup

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, the leaves (if using dried about 1 tsp) 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8oz of pasta of choice (I prefer a thin noodle for the light sauce) or roasted spaghetti squash

If adding chicken:

  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cubed in 1″ pieces
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Garnish (optional)

  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Lemon wedges

Bring water to a boil, cook noodles to package directions, drain and set aside.  Alternatively, roast spaghetti squash in oven, shred with fork, set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine the honey, lemon juice, thyme leaves, salt and olive oil.  Whisk and set aside.

Bring a large, non-stick skillet to med-high heat.  Add in the olive oil and the chicken seasoned with salt and pepper.  Allow to cook 3-4 minutes on each side to create a nice browned color.

With the chicken still in the pan, pour in the chicken broth and scrape up any brown bits (flavor!) and then pour in the sauce.  Turn down to med-low heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, till slightly reduced, stirring occasionally.

Add your cooked pasta or spaghetti squash straight to the chicken and sauce and toss to combine.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese and lemon wedges…oh, and LOTS of warm, garlicky breadsticks!!  Enjoy! xo

SweetLemonPasta2

 

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