Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Peasant Bread

I have made this bread several times.  It's easy and taste great.  It's a great base to use and then experiment with different flavors.  Today I added in some Thyme and baked half the dough in muffin tins and the other half just in a normal glass loaf pan.  The kids loved buttering the dishes and I made it earlier in the day when I had more time and then just punched it down after several hours, let it rise again, then separated it in the pans and let it rise some more.  It's super forgiving!  And the fact that there's no kneading makes it even better!  I used instant yeast, so no proofing.  This dough comes together in about 5 minutes.  If you've been wanting to try making your own bread but kind of scared to -- start with this one!

*Photo credit: Alexandra Cooks

Lemon Herb Chicken

I made this chicken tonight and it was a HUGE hit! See the link below the photo for the full recipe.  I followed the directions as stated with minor changes:

  • I used 6 organic chicken thighs (versus the recipe's 8-10) but used the same amount of marinade.  Which seemed perfect.  If using anymore chicken, I would increase the marinade. 
  • I did not have onion powder, so I put onions directly in the marinade, tossed onions once I put the chicken in the baking dish (I don't really know why I did this....) and added freshly sliced sweet onions when cooking it. 
  • Because I only had 6 thighs (and were smaller since they were organic), I baked the thighs for only 30-40 minutes.  Once they were done, I covered with foil while the rest of the meal was prepared. 
  • I used Meyer lemons and sweet onions. 
I will definitely be making this again!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easy Spaghetti Squash Primavera

My friend shared this amazing recipe with me for Spaghetti Squash Primavera.  It called for basically making your own spaghetti sauce and using cream and all kinds of yummy goodness.  I went to make it for dinner today and realized I was missing like half of the ingredients.  Ooops.  So I whipped this puppy up instead.  I'm sure the "real thing" is much better but this tasted great, was really easy and everyone ate it.  Sounds like success to me! :)

1 cooked spaghetti squash (HERE'S how I make it in the crockpot.  I had made it the other day as a side dish, so I used the leftovers tonight)
2-3 Sweet Italian Sausages, casing removed
Tomatoes -- whatever you got.  Canned, grape, Roma, beefsteak.....whatever, it's up to you. 
1/2 -1 Onion diced (to your liking or Onion powder if you aren't fond of the onions)
1 Jar of tomato-based spaghetti sauce (again, whatever ya got! -- just not Alfredo or anything)
Parmesan Cheese for topping
Seasonings -- I used some salt and African Smoke seasoning from Trader Joe's.   You can use whatever sounds good to you - Italian seasoning would also be great. Throw in whatever looks good!
2 TBSP Olive Oil
**HINT -- this is probably the easiest recipe in the world and lends itself so well to being customized.  Don't hesitate to throw in more veggies (carrots, bell peppers, artichoke hearts, zucchini....etc) or switch something up.  Play with your food and be adventurous!

 Remove the sausage casings and brown the sausage with the onions in the 2 TBSP of oil.  Add seasonings while you're browning it.  Once it looks pretty good (doesn't have to be perfect, it'll continue to cook with the sauce), dump in your tomatoes.  Let those break down a little bit --maybe 5 minutes or so.  Then add the jar of spaghetti sauce.  Turn temperature to low and let that simmer, stirring occasionally.  Prepare your spaghetti squash and divide it onto the plates (personally, I would NOT mix the sauce and the squash until it's on the plate).  After the sauce has simmered for about 10 minutes or so, taste it.  Depending on the tomatoes you used, you might need to add a bit more salt, seasonings or even some sugar.  I find that I sometimes need to add some sugar if I'm using canned organic tomatoes.  It'll taste a little acidic or bitter.  But again, it all just depend on the tomatoes and the jarred sauce.  Taste, season, taste again.  When it's yummy, pop it on top of the squash and sprinkle (or cover it ;) ) with Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Crockpot Spaghetti Squash

Yes.  It's true. Spaghetti squash can be made in the crockpot. I loathe cutting raw squash of any kind, so when I found out about this super easy way to cook spaghetti squash, I may or may not have squealed with delight.  So...Wanna know how? Its' super tricky, but don't worry, I'll break it down for you:

1. Grab the squash and a knife or large fork.  Prick the heck out of the squash. Then, put it in your crockpot
2. Pour 2 cups water into the crock
3. Cover and let it do its thing for 7-8 hours.
4. Take squash out (careful - it's HOT!), cut lengthwise, scoop out seeds and then with a fork, scrape out all the squashy goodness.
5.  Eat it.  With butter, or sauce, or as a side or let your baby throw it all over herself and giggle to her heart's content.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Shrimp and Black Bean Chimichurri Soup

Photo: CookTJ 

I made this soup last week and we all loved the sweet and spicy flavors. I love that this is only 4ingredients and all stuff I can keep stocked in my pantry for an easy dinner.   I had sour cream on the table for those who wanted to add it in.  I, however, enjoyed the slight kick sans sour cream.  You can also add some spicy sausage. And I'm sure this would taste wonderful with a nice loaf of crusty bread to sop up all the soupy goodness.  I just followed the recipe as is. My only word of caution is to remember that shrimp are so delicate and can overcook so easily.  Saute them over medium- low heat and watch it closely! Check out the link for a tip on enjoying it cold. :)  Enjoy! 

Shrimp and Black Bean Chimichurri Soup  *Credit: Zach Stafford at CookTJ 


  • 1 (16 oz) bag Trader Joe’s Frozen Shrimp (cooked or uncooked), thawed
  • 1 (15 oz) can Trader Joe’s Black Beans, drained
  • 1 (32 oz) container Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
  • 1 (16 oz) bag frozen Trader Joe’s Chimichurri Rice
  • Salt and pepper (optional)


  • 1. If using cooked shrimp, skip to step 3, adding shrimp to pot with other ingredients.
  • 2. If using uncooked shrimp, place medium size pot over medium heat; add a 1 tsp of cooking oil (olive or vegetable, your choice). Add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat or until fully cooked; add a dash of salt and pepper to season.
  • 3. Add chimichurri rice and black beans to pot; stir and allow to cook for 3-5 mins.
  • 4. Pour in Roasted Red Pepper Soup, stirring to fully incorporate with rice.
  • 5. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TJ's Southern Greens with Onions and Bacon

I found this recipe via the Nom Nom Paleo blog. This blog is such a fantastic resource ....even if you're not on any special "diet" (aka - way of eating...).  She just has really good, kind of different recipes and meal ideas.  Fabulous.

I picked up a bag of TJ's Southern Greens Blend the other day and decided to make it tonight as a side to our meatballs (made in the crockpot with grape jelly and ketchup --or Chili sauce...whatever your fancy -- don't judge me and my yummy meatballs) and quinoa.  I whipped up this bad boy and even my kiddos enjoyed (well....Jake and Brooke enjoyed, Rylee tolerated it, which is actually saying a lot).

I basically did exactly what it said to do on Nom Nom Paleo but added bacon (per her suggestion).  Everything is better with bacon:
  • I finely sliced half a sweet onion and chopped a couple strips of bacon.  I sauteed the onions and bacon pieces in some EVOO, until they were brown and succulent and all bacon-crispy. mmmm
  • While that was doing it's onion/bacon goodness thing, I boiled up some salted water.  Once water was boiling, I threw in the bag o' greens (I had to do it in 2 batches since my pot wasn't big enough).  I blanched it for about 3 minutes, then drained and squeezed out all the excess liquid.  
  • Then once the onions and bacon were done, I threw in the greens, mixed it around really good (breaking it up with my spatula), tasted, salted, mixed a tad more and then plated them.   
It was good, my friends.  And easy.  A tad expensive since we ate the entire bag (which I think was like $3 or so), but we ate an entire bag of greens.  I mean come on....that's gotta count for something, right? :)

Tex-Mex Style Quick White Chicken Chili

Tex-Mex style White Chicken Chili 
Adapted from CookTJ

I found this recipe when I was snooping around the good 'ole web via my iPhone, for gluten free meal ideas while in the TJ's parking lot. Because these days, that's how I roll.  Quickly trying to find meal ideas before I run into the store with a baby in tow while the big kids are at preschool for a couple hours.  I'm SO happy I ran across it.  It's quick. SUPER easy, and easily adapts to whoever you're making it for. It's also a one-pot, dump-and-cook kind of dish.  Perfect for this busy mama who tries to put dinner on the table while kids fight over toys and a baby crawls up my leg. :)  I chose to go a little more spicy route, but it's still not that spicy.  The little bit of kick is on the back end while the front notes are a mix of savory and sweet. I do think it's missing something though -- I just can't place my finger on it.  Don't get me wrong, it's a good dish, but I feel like the flavors could somehow be taken to a deeper level.  I just don't know how to take it there. :) 
Anways --  I think this would be a GREAT dish for a "helping hand" meal of some kind -- comfort food, but still lighter than a heavy pasta meal.  Makes enough...but not TOO much.  And a bit different than the normal casserole or tomato-type chili.    I served it with cilantro, sour cream, avocado, and chips and salsa.

Here's the description via CookTJ :
White chili is a delicious alternative to traditional tomato-based
versions.  This sweet and spicy white chili gets its flavor and kick
from Trader Joe's well-known and loved Corn and Chile Tomato-less
Salsa.  To thicken this chili, I added quinoa, which is a great way to
add body to any soup, chili, or stew.  The quinoa will absorb most of
the liquid and soften, becoming a flavorful component that binds it all
together.  Quinoa is also a healthy addition to any dish since it's
packed with protein and high in magnesium, calcium, and iron. 

  • 4 cups of cooked and shredded chicken  (or 1 1-lb container of Trader Joe's Just Chicken cut into bite size chunks)
  • 4 cups (1 box) TJ's Organic chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup quinoa 
  • 1 15-oz can White Kidney Beans (Cannellini Beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 13.75-oz jar Trader Joe's Corn and Chile Salsa 
  • 1 (or 2 if you want a little more kick) Southwestern Caliente Chicken Sausage from Sprouts -- taken out of the casing (this is just chicken sausage with a southwestern kick to it.  You could use any kind of spicy or tex-mex style sausage. 
  • TJ's South African Smoke seasoning grinder -- a good several grinds. **This is a GREAT grinder to have on hand, but if you don't want to buy it, all it has in it are paprika flakes, sea salt, garlic and basil
  • Optional: Garnish of your liking - cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, chips, cilantro...
  •  I poured the entire box of broth into a dutch oven, added the 1/2 cup of quinoa and brought it to a boil.  
  • While that's coming to a boil, rinse and drain the beans and take the sausage out of the casing. 
  • Once at a boil, add the remaining ingredients (just dump it all in and give it a could stir.  Give the Smoke seasoning some good grinds)  and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.**Note - it WILL continue to absorb the liquid.  So just pull it whenever you feel like it's ready! 
  • Taste and season again to your liking!
  • IF you'd like, after the liquid has mostly been absorbed, turn the heat off and stir in chopped cilantro.  Or just serve the cilantro on the side.  OR a little of both! :) You could also stir in some lime juice for a little bit more of that tex-mex flavor!
Eat, enjoy, pack up leftovers and eat again later. :)