Crock Pot Chicken in Wine Sauce

Some work days are just too long to bother with cooking when I get home. Yes, I love to cook. Yes, I truly find it to be relaxing and a great expression of my creativity. Just not after a long day.

This is where the crock pot comes in! Start dinner before work and come home to a delicious meal. Another positive to using the crock pot? The house smells absolutely divine when you walk in after a long day.

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The first goodies to go in the crock pot are eight boneless skinless chicken thighs. Followed by one pound of your favorite mushrooms. Slice the mushrooms on the thick side so they don’t lose their texture as they cook. Layer them on top of the chicken.

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Can you spot the difference? Add six to eight cloves of garlic. Smashed for easy peeling but still whole.

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Wash one bunch of kale well. No need to dry, just tear into the crock pot on top of the mushrooms.

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Now, for the sauce. Reach into the fridge and pull out your favorite bottle of wine. Do not cook with it if you would not drink it! I used a nice blush since it was already open. Whisk together one cup of wine and two teaspoons of corn starch. Season with salt, oregano, basil and red chili flakes to taste.

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Pour the sauce over the chicken and veggies. Strange, I know, but this dish smells wonderful already.

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After seven hours on low, you walk in the door to this beautiful dish and an aroma that starts you salivating. All that is left is to boil some water and cook some pasta. Toss the pasta in some olive oil after cooking so it does not stick. Sticky pasta is not enjoyable at all.

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Ten minutes or so later you are enjoying this quick, easy and nutritious meal. Start with the pasta, scoop the chicken and veggies on top and finish with a ladle or two of the sauce. All that is left? Enjoy!

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Bacon Mac and Cheese

When I am in the mood for something decadent, this is my go to dish. The title may deceive you just a tad, because this is a dairy free dish. Don’t let that scare you! Try it my way or use full dairy products if you prefer. This is a great make ahead meal, because you can start it, pause, top, bake, and no one will know you started it this morning for dinner tonight!

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This recipe starts with? You guessed it! Bacon! Cut one-half pound of slab bacon into strips and brown in a large skillet over medium heat.

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Once the bacon is nicely browned and all the fat is rendered, remove from the skillet to a paper towel lined plate.

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This is where we get truly decadent, and why we do not eat like this every day. Leave the rendered bacon fat right where it is and add about one-half cup of flour to make the roux.

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Stir the roux until it takes on a nice sandy consistency.

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Add in one cup of plain almond milk and whisk until smooth. At this point it starts to look like a white gravy. You can also use plain soy milk or plain old cow’s milk if you prefer. As you continue making the sauce, add more of your milk of choice as the sauce thickens up too much. I typically use a total of two cups.

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Time to add in four ounces of your favorite dairy free cream cheese and two tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Or for the dairy crowd, four ounces of cream cheese and two tablespoons of parmigiana reggiano. Again, whisk until smooth.

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Add in four ounces of dairy free cheddar, whisk until smooth, and then add additional four ounces and whisk until smooth again. Cheddar cheese works here also.

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Add in four ounces of dairy free sour cream, and again whisk until smooth. I think you should be getting the idea by now, but full dairy sour cream would also work.

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What you end up with is this rich, decadent, dairy free cheese sauce. No one ever misses the dairy when I serve mac and cheese around here!

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Add back in half of the browned bacon, salt and ancho chili powder and stir well to combine. I used peppered bacon. If you used plain bacon, add in some fresh cracked black pepper here as well.

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While you were hard at work whisking, one pound of pasta will have cooked two minutes shy of the package directions. It will cook the rest of the way in the oven. For this recipe I used campanelle. Add the pasta to the dairy free cheese sauce.

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Gently stir in the pasta until well combined.

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Empty into a greased baking pan. It is very important to grease the pan so your mac and cheese doesn’t stick when you are ready to serve it. If you are making ahead, stop here, cool and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

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Preheat oven to 350*. If you made ahead, bring to room temperature before placing in the oven. Bake covered for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven, stir well, and top with remaining bacon and an additional sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Place back in the oven uncovered.

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Remove from oven when slightly browned and crunchy on top. This takes about another fifteen minutes.

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Scoop out on your favorite plate and enjoy! I served with some homemade stewed tomatoes to cut the richness just a little.


Sriracha Orange Chicken

Sriracha is by far my favorite condiment. Whether I am cooking with it or using it in place of ketchup I absolutely love it. Take out orange chicken from the local Chinese restaurant was the inspiration for this dish and the sriracha takes it up a notch. There is no need to order take out when this dish comes together in the same thirty minutes it would take for the delivery guy to knock on your door.

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Start by heating two tablespoons of sesame oil in a large skillet. Cut one pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs into bite size pieces. Coat in corn starch seasoned with chili pepper, white pepper and salt. My favorite method for this is to shake the chicken pieces around with the corn starch mix in a ziplock bag.

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While the chicken is browning, cut up one small bunch of asparagus into small pieces. Take advantage of the delicious fresh asparagus while it is in season.

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When the chicken is browned, but not quite cooked through add in the asparagus pieces and continue sautéing. The chicken will take approximately fifteen minutes to brown nicely.

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While the chicken and asparagus are cooking through, it is time to whisk the sauce together. It will take an additional five minutes or so for them to cook through. In addition to sriracha, garlic and ginger add flavor to the sauce.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the zest and juice of two oranges, two tablespoons (more or less depending on how much heat you want) of sriracha, four tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce, two tablespoons of honey, two tablespoons of mirin, six cloves garlic grated and a one inch piece of ginger grated. Whisk together until well combined.

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Pour the sauce over the chicken and asparagus. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer.

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It will not take long for the sauce to thicken. Five minutes or so is all it will take. The dish is ready when the sauce is thickened up.

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All you need to do now is plate it up! I served it over red quinoa but it would be equally delicious over rice or noodles.


Home Brewed Kombucha!

Recently, I have developed an obsession with Kombucha. So, the hubby and I did some research and decided to start home brewing it. Yes, we can do this! I never realized how easy it would be, and how much better the result than most of the store bought brands I have tried. The best part is you can personalize it to your own taste.

Right about now, some of you maybe thinking kombu-what?!?!? Kombucha is basically fermented tea. It is tangy and sweet all at the same time. It is also chock full of probiotics and nutrients.

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We decided to start with a half gallon kit from Kombucha Brooklyn, and our first batch was started with all the ingredients therein. We decided to switch from the standard Black Tea to organic Dragonwell Green Tea and organic cane sugar for the first fermentation of our second batch, shown here.

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Once the tea is brewed and sweetened, it is time to add the additional water and the SCOBY. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. In other words, the good bacteria and yeast needed in the process of fermenting Kombucha. We obtained ours from Northeast Homebrew Supply, however, more SCOBYs are produced during the process for future use or sharing.

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Once the SCOBY is happily floating in the nute, also known as the sweetened tea, it is time to cover it with some organic cotton. This prevents anything from getting in to the Kombucha and allows it to breathe. Now, for the primary fermentation. For the sourness level I prefer this step took seven days.

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From the half gallon, we were only able to fill three sixteen ounces bottles. Not nearly enough to support my new habit! Since we are new to this, we decide to flavor during our secondary fermentation using dried fruit. We used strawberry ginger, blueberry and raspberry. The secondary fermentation takes about two days for light carbonation which is my preference.

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After our first few batches we realized brewing a half gallon at a time was not going to work for us. We decided to purchase these beautiful one gallon crocks. Now we can brew two gallons at a time!

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One happy SCOBY waiting to get to work in it’s new home.

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It’s new home? Our first one gallon batch! We are using organic Wu Yi Oolong Tea for this gallon.

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For the second one gallon batch we are again using organic Dragonwell Green Tea. This SCOBY is smaller since this is it’s first batch.

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Now we wait! In seven to ten days we will be bottling two gallons of Kombucha for our drinking pleasure.

The basic ingredients for one gallon are:

Twelve grams of loose tea
One cup of organic cane sugar to feed the SCOBY
Fourteen cups of water (four to heat and brew the tea, ten cold to add once brewed and sweetened)
One cup of nute from your last batch
SCOBY

If you want to check out Kombucha Brooklyn, this is their website:

http://www.kombuchabrooklyn.com

I purchased their book Kombucha! I read it from front to back in one day and learned so much! Here is the link:

http://www.kombuchabrooklyn.com/supplies/books/kombucha-the-amazing-probiotic-tea-that-cleanses-heals-energizes-and-detoxifies.html#.U0qhWye9KK0

Also, a shout out to our local Homebrew store, Northeast Homebrew Supply! Check them out on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.


Sausage Pasta skillet

Whenever dinner can be ready in under thirty minutes while only using one skillet, it is a good thing. Lately, there have been an overwhelming number of pasta one pot wonders floating around the internet. I admit, I was skeptical, but it really works! This recipe is my first attempt at one of these meals and I will definitely be creating more.

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First, lightly brown one pound of sweet italian sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. This will add flavor and make the sausage easier to slice. When the sausage is lightly browned, remove from the skillet and set aside until cool enough to slice.

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While the sausage is browning, slice one onion, two shallots and five cloves of garlic.

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Add one tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil into the skillet and add in the aromatics. Salt well and sauté until they begin to soften.

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Add the sliced sausage, oregano, basil and red chili flakes to the aromatics. continue to sauté until the sausage is almost cooked through. The onions and shallots will be beautifully caramelized by now.

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At this point, add in one quart of tomatoes, two cups of chicken broth, and one-half cup of plain almond milk. We canned tomatoes this summer so I used those. You could substitute one can of whole or diced tomatoes. You can also use milk or soy milk instead of the almond. Bring to a boil.

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Add in the pasta, turn down the heat, and cover. You want it to remain at a strong simmer. Cook for ten to twelve minutes until the pasta is cooked to your taste.

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When it is done cooking, the pasta should be tender and the sauce will have thickened up nicely.

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Now it is time to add in the cheese! I used dairy free ricotta, but soft tofu, full dairy ricotta, or even fresh mozzarella would also work well. Also add in a generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast, or parmesan cheese if you prefer.

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Stir well until the cheese is fully incorporated. The sauce will take on a beautiful pink hue.

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Allow to sit off the heat for a little while prior to serving so the sauce thickens up to your desired consistency.

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Serve topped with additional nutritional yeast or parmesan. Had I not forgotten, I would have also served garlic bread on the side.


Simple Guacamole

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First, let me apologize for the lack of pictures. No excuses. I simply forgot and didn’t want to wait until I made another batch to post.

This is my simplest guacamole recipe. Just the basic ingredients, but in no way basic tasting. Only two tools required; a knife and a fork!

No fancy food processor required, unless you prefer smoother guacamole. If using the food processor, toss all the ingredients in at once and pulse until desired consistency.

First, of course, the avocado. Cut three avocados in half. Discard the pit and skin. Place into a mixing bowl and smash them well with a fork.

Now, mix in the rest of the ingredients. Zest and juice of one lime. One red onion, diced. Three cloves of garlic, minced. One can of rotel tomatoes with chillies, drained well. Lastly, cilantro and salt to taste. Mix until well combined.

One side note. If tomatoes are in season and delicious, omit the canned tomatoes in favor of one tomato and one jalapeño. For a milder flavor, remove the seeds and ribs of the jalapeño.

Serve with chips or pita for dipping, on nachos, with tacos, instead of mayo on sandwiches, or however else you like. There are endless possibilities, limited only by your imagination.


White Bean Kale Hummus

I love hummus. It is such a delicious and healthy snack; one that I am always changing and evolving. This recipe is an interesting hummus option.

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Toss one whole head of garlic, which has been peeled, into the food processor. Roasted garlic would be even more delicious.

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Rough chop one large bunch of kale and toss it in. Be sure to rinse and dry the kale well. Remember, kale is a superfood, which makes this hummus even healthier!

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Chop one red onion and a handful of scallions and toss them in.

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For a spur of the moment snack, rinse and strain two cans of white beans and toss them in. If planning ahead, soak dry white beans overnight, rinse and strain them instead of canned.

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Pulse while slowly streaming in extra virgin oil until it reaches the desired consistency. Watch for it to become rich and creamy. Serve with pita chips, bagel chips or sliced veggies.


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