Harissa Ravioli

I have a fun one for you today!

We’re now combining the concept of ‘eating less meat’ and ‘Lent’. I’ve been searching high and low for a few new meatless meals that aren’t all about grains and dairy (which we all know hold the first several spots in my list of favorite foods) and may be relative nice on the waistline.

I came across this one in a cookbook that had been circulating around the bakery; lately we’ve been passing around a cookbook or two to get inspired in our own kitchens. I came across this recipe and was hooked because of its use of harissa.

Harissa is a spicy chili pepper paste that is THE condiment of Tunisia. It has a very rich, spicy flavor and is used for meats, vegetables, dips…you name it. There are several different variations of harissa; all of which vary based upon household preferences and regions. Our version that I found at Spice Merchants (I loooooove this store) includes caraway, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and dried chiles. It has such a neat flavor profile and after trying this recipe, I cannot wait to use it again (I’m thinking roasted veggies).

 

Harissa Ravioli

adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp harissa paste/powder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12-oz cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen) (tortellini works too)
  • 8 oz broccoli florets, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (broccolini/rapini works too)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (almonds or pepitas work, too)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 5 or 6 kalamata olives, sliced
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While it’s heating up, prepare the harissa mixture: Take the smashed garlic clove and sprinkle the salt over it. Then, chop into a paste. Transfer this to a small bowl and stir in the lemon juice, harissa, and olive oil. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add the ravioli. Cook until they float to the top of the water (usually 1-2 minutes is all it takes). About 30 seconds before the ravioli has finished cooking, add the broccoli to the pot. Boil for about 30 seconds to a minute, then remove from heat.
  3. Put the ravioli and broccoli in a large mixing bowl. Add the harissa mixutre, nuts, cheese and olives. Toss to combine and serve.

This meal from start to finish took approximately 20 minutes to make and was absolutely perfect for a weeknight meal and a Lenten Friday, at that. I used spinach & cheese ravioli; you can use whatever kind you wish, however. The leftovers heated up very well for my hubby and it really was a nice change from our usual meal line-up as of late. The harissa does have a kick, so if you are a bit wary of the heat, use less sauce when you mix up the ravioli for serving.  It’s simple, flavorful and relatively healthy, too.

If you see harissa at your local store, pick some up and give it a try. It’s a really neat condiment that adds depth, heat and flavor to what are otherwise ordinary ingredients. As I said before, I’m thinking that roasted veggies with harissa will be next :)

Crockpot Potato Soup

At this moment I’m texting my parents and siblings about the crazy weather back in Cleveland, and I’m gloating about the fact that northern Michigan is not receiving any snow. It is however, bitter cold out there with temperatures just above single digits (in comparison to last year, though, these temperatures are just fine; we’ll take ’em). It is perfect soup, stew and casserole weather.

Every time I make soup, I always remember how much I like to eat it and wonder why I do not make it more often. My husband is an even bigger fan of it, too. If made right, they’re satisfying, filling, and chock-full of all the stuff that’s really good for you. What’s not to love?

My February schedule is, for a lack of a better word, ridiculous. I do not have a lot of time during the week to really cook and have fun doing it, so I’ve got to think ahead and be practical these next few weeks – our Crockpot in particular is really going to have to pull its weight.

This soup is a crockpot recipe that really worked well yesterday. I spent my Saturday working in the bakery, so it was my husband’s job to finish up cooking and get dinner ready by the time I rolled in at 6:30. It’s delicious, filling and really hit the spot.

Crockpot Potato Soup

adapted from Cooking Classy

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes (or any potatoes that you have hanging around), peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 cups chicken/veggie broth
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • several dashes of salt and pepper
  • a dash of celery seed (if desired)
  • a dash of paprika (if desired)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • your favorite potato toppings (cheese, bacon, green onions, etc.)
  1. In a 6 quart crockpot, add the potato, onion, broth, milk, and seasonings. Cover with the lid and cook – 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.
  2. When you’re about ready to eat, measure out two cups of the liquid from the slow cooker. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, gradually add the flour and whisk to combine. Whisk in the reserved liquid. Once this mixture is nice and thick, pour it all back into the crockpot.
  3. At this point, you can either a) use a potato masher or emulsion blender to break down or puree the potatoes, or b) leave it alone. Whatever you decide, afterwards turn up the heat on the crockpot to high and let the mixture thicken up (it takes about 10 minutes).
  4. Once the soup is nice and thick, turn the heat to warm and stir in the sour cream. Serve topped with loaded potato ingredients, or mix ’em in.

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This soup was very low-maintenance and tasted great! My husband ended up adding the bacon to the soup, and leaving the cheese and scallions for topping later. We did notice that after a day or two in the refrigerator, the soup did condense a little bit – but it wasn’t anything that a little heat and stirring couldn’t fix when we were ready to eat it.

What impressed me the most was using evaporated milk – I had never thought to use that for a soup before, but it makes so much sense! It adds depth and richness to a soup, without overloading it with a ton of fat like regular heavy cream or even half-n-half would. I’ve used it already in another creamy crockpot soup and it really works. Obviously this soup wouldn’t work as a vegan dish, but would be so for vegetarians or Meatless Mondays.

If you’re as busy as we are, and as cold as we are, I could not recommend this soup more! Enjoy!

 

Chicken with Artichoke Pan Sauce

You all know very well (or, maybe you don’t) how much I love to read cooking blogs, cookbooks, and other things of related nature. I’ve added so many to my feed that I often have trouble keeping up; I had saved so many recipes in 2014 that I got overwhelmed and deleted them all – so I’m starting fresh :) I’ve had a subscription to Cooking Light for the past few years and figured that maybe it was time to save a little paper and cancel my subscription, too.

I found this recipe in the last issue that I received. It was so good that I may change my mind and keep my subscription after all…and maybe just do the digital subscription instead!

Chicken with Artichoke Pan Sauce

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 cup chicken stock/broth
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into halves
  • salt and pepper (eyeball it)
  • 1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary, chopped/crushed
  • 2 oz pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the stock and flour together. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 tbsp of the oil, the lemon juice, and garlic powder. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes (or in the refrigerator for a few hours).
  3. When you’re ready to cook, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and add to pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook about 5 minutes on each side until the chicken is done cooking. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan onto a plate or dish and set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil; swirl pan to coat. Add the shallots, rosemary, and pancetta, cooking until the shallots are tender. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the sherry to the pan and let the liquid reduce (about 4 minutes or so). As the liquid boils down, scrape the pan to loosen the browned bits. Add the stock/flour mixture and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add artichokes and cook until the sauce thickens just a bit. Add chicken and turn to coat. Sprinkle with parsley.
  7. IMG_2443

    This photo is proof that I may be the worse plater ever.

Don’t let this *awful* picture fool you – looks can be deceiving as this dish was terrific! I realize after the fact that I let the mixture thicken a little too much after adding the stock/flour to the pan.

The chicken has a great lemon flavor to it that compliments the richness of rosemary-pancetta pan sauce. The artichokes only add to the depth of flavors. I served it atop some couscous I had in my pantry, but you can use rice or orzo if you’d prefer. I served this along with some braised kale – which paired really well with it. According to my husband, his portion reheated very well.

Not only was this dish tasty…it didn’t take very long to make! Make sure to marinate the chicken ahead of time – I did it several hours before and was able to complete the dish in a half an hour after coming home from work.

Now we have another 2 oz of pancetta left in our refrgerator…I’m seriously thinking about making this dish again next week. It was that good. :)

 

Chicken Cacciatore

Okay – I feel better now :) I made a dish that didn’t fail; granted it’s a tried and true recipe and the previous ones were ones that I hadn’t tried before. Even so, I feel like less of a failure and I feel that it’s relatively post-worthy.

red pot Look at one of my pretty Christmas gifts from my husband! A gorgeous red Le Creuset dutch oven. I’m so in love with it. I’ve been wanting one for quite a while and he remembered…I wasn’t picky about the color, but I do like red things for my kitchen so again, he remembered!

I’m not very well-versed in cookware like this, so I still have a lot to learn in terms of what I can and cannot cook in it. I figure “low and slow” is a good mantra for this pot – soups, stews, and dishes that need at least a good 30-45 minutes to meld together. I am proud of the fact, however, that I remembered that it’s a coated cast iron pot – meaning that you need to wear oven mitts whenever dealing with it or else you risk some major burns.  This is also a step in the right direction for me, as I’m that person that will carelessly forget when a pan has been in the oven, and will accidentally grab it with my bare hands when I’m ready to serve it (my husband will vouch for me on this one).

Anyways – it’s winter time. It’s pep band season. We’re working a lot, and to save a little bit of cash, we need dinners that are going to last us a while so we’re not stopping at the store for a quick meal or even *ugh* fast food. Dinners that are still delicious and (relatively) healthy, but still stick to the ribs to keep us warm. Know what I mean? I thought about something to cook this week with my new pot, and immediately thought of chicken cacciatore!

Chicken cacciatore is “hunter-style” chicken; chicken with mushrooms, onion, and tomatoes. It’s a hearty dish that fills you up, goes a long way and tastes amazing. The recipe that I based my dish off of, however, doesn’t include mushrooms! I think I’ll have to make a note in my cookbook for next time.

Chicken Cacciatore

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 4 boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, quartered (or 4-6 tenders, halved)
  • salt and pepper (just a sprinkle of each)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (based on your preference)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth/stock
  • 3 tbsp drained capers
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  1. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. On a plate or in a shallow bowl, dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat.
  2. In a large heavy saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and saute just until they’re just brown (~5 minutes). Do not crowd the pan; feel free to brown the chicken in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and wait two minutes. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute until the onion softens. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid reduced by half (~3-5 minutes). Add the entire can of diced tomatoes (including the juice), broth, capers and oregano. Stir to combine.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan and coat it in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until all the chicken is cooked through and the flavors have melded together.
  6. Serve hot, sprinkled with basil and with pasta if desired.

cacciatore

As I said in the recipe, you can serve with or without pasta. This makes a lot of sauce and leftovers reheat really well. I had mine with a piece of baguette from work on the side to pick up any last sauce that was leftover in the dish.

I cannot recommend this recipe enough this time of year – it really warms you up and sticks to your ribs!  Delicious Italian food in the dead of winter. How can you go wrong!? Enjoy :)

 

Out of Practice

I am sad to admit that in slightly out of practice in the kitchen lately. I’ve had two dinner fails in a week – two! – and my husband is on a new shift, so I’m readjusting to the concept of “cooking for leftovers” once again. I feel as though its like a game of baseball…even my Christmas cookies didn’t turn out right (my cookie press broke midway through making spritz cookies :-( )

On the flip side, though, Santa brought me a beautiful Le Crueset Dutch oven for Christmas! And Grandma bought us a new rice cooker, which is great, seeing as rice is the one food i just cannot seem to get right! Especially brown rice…

I promise that I haven’t forgotten about you all – I just seem to be in a slump of sorts. I’m also considering starting “fresh” in my blog reader to get some new inspiration. Thus, fear not! I’ll be simmering again shortly!

Lemon Parmesan Tortellini

One of the first cooking blogs that I ever started reading was Stephanie Cooks.  Stephanie’s tastes are very similar to my own and I really like her down-to-earth, simple writing style. Her recipes are easy to follow and really user-friendly, too. And, I can’t help but love that she’s also a teacher! :)

I too am not the biggest fan of cream sauces, – I feel that they can become extremely ‘heavy’ and almost a little to decadent. The opposite goes for my husband – he loves them and will be the first to admit that I do not cook with them enough! I decided to trust Stephanie’s judgement on the consistency and flavor of this sauce; since I love lemon 24/7, I figured this would be a good compromise for dinner.

Lemon Parmesan Tortellini

adapted from Stephanie Cooks

 

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup broth
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound tortellini
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. Heat up a pot of hot water to boil.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, heat up the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the broth and turn up the heat to high. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the cream, lemon juice and zest, and Italian seasoning. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Once you’ve got your sauce going and the water is boiling, cook the tortellini (according to the package directions).
  5. After about 10 minutes, add the parmesan cheese to the sauce and stir to combine, allowing the cheese to melt. Add the peas, stirring constantly so that they begin to thaw. Add the tortellini to the sauce as they finish cooking. Toss and serve.

 

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As you can see, I added peas to the original recipe to get a vegetable into the main dish. You can definitely leave these out if you wish! This dish was filling and decadent, without being too heavy, as some cream sauces tend to do. The lemon in the cream sauce takes it to the next level and makes this meal really shine on a cold winter’s night. It also came together fairly quickly, which you know I never complain about :)

If you’ve been an avid fan of my cooking, I definitely recommend you head on over to Stephanie Cooks! You won’t be disappointed.