Pantry Vegan 3-Bean Chili {thwarted plans}

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Sometimes, even the best laid plans get thwarted. There I was, after work, at a honey tasting from an amazing local company called Waxing Kara. Kara Brook has made some amazing products that are local to Maryland but she’s gotten some amazing national recognition. She’s even been featured by Martha Stewart! What an inspiration.

So anyway, I’m having fun tasting 6 types of honey (the Spring honey is my favorite), trying every possible beauty product you could imagine made from honey, picking out (spoiler alert mom) Mother’s Day gifts, and in no hurry because the hubs is getting the kids and we’re going out to dinner.

And I get the call. Plans have changed, can I pick up the kids? Dinner out tomorrow night instead.

How many times do weekday plans change? Or, even just a simple dinner changes on a dime? I can’t tell you how many times whatever I’ve planned for dinner is still frozen/ingredients have been eaten/no longer sounds good.

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Enter the quick pantry meal. 15 minutes, only ingredients from the pantry or freezer, but amazingly delicious and wholesome. That’s where this Vegan 3-Bean Chili came from. It really couldn’t be easier, you probably already have all of the ingredients in your house, and it’s awesomely delicious.

What’s your go-to pantry meal?

Pantry Vegan Chili

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Pantry Vegan Chili


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and washed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 can chopped green chills
  • 1/2 of a beer (or 1 cup of water or veggie stock if you're going gluten free)
  • 1 14 ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 cup corn
  • cilantro, optional
  • avocado, optional
  • chopped jalapenos


  1. Saute the onion in olive oil until translucent, stir in garlic cooking until fragrant.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except cilantro and avocado. Cook over medium low heat just until heated through.
  3. If the chili is too thick, add a little water until you get your desired consistency.
  4. Serve topped with cilantro, diced avocado and jalapeños.
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Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops {spring fever}

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Yippeee! yahooo! It’s SPRING!

Why am I so excited, you may ask? Well, you probably don’t ask–who doesn’t like spring?

I am so excited because…WE GET TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. Cold, wet, grey weather does NOT mix well with young, active children. I can categorically declare that I can build just about anything with Legos and that I know every word in Frozen. It’s time to move on to outside activities.

  • Outside activity #1: Farmers Markets. They’re back! Local produce, local artisans, and scooters–our preferred mode of best-way-to-wear-the-kids-out transportation.
  • Outside activity #2: Gardening. I love having the kids help me plant plants, watch them grow, pick the flowers/veggies. We just have a small city patio and garden space but it’s still plenty to give them some exposure to what it’s like to grow your own produce and plants.
  • Outside activity #3: Playground Happy Hour. Oh come on, you’ve never taken the kids to the playground after school, met up with other parent friends, and brought a little special bevvie?

In addition to outside enjoyment, springtime fare is just the best. Some of the most delicious, and most elusive or short-lived, ingredients come to pass during spring so you’ve got to take advantage of them. Ramps, fiddlehead ferns, morels, and of course asparagus!

A friend gave me asparagus fresh-picked from his garden with a bottle of Gruner Vetliner–a perfect pairing with asparagus. So I wanted to create an easy, delicious dish that highlighted the asparagus but didn’t overpower the wine. And I wanted to use some fresh herbs from my garden. And I had a farmers market leek in the fridge.

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Herby Asparagus and Leek Gnocchi with Scallops was born. A little strategically, a little kitchen sinky, a lot deliciously.

It looks and sounds all fancy so is great for a special weekend meal, but honestly I made it on a Wednesday in 20 minutes with mostly ingredients I had on hand. So it can double as a mid-week pick-me-up. And the kids love the gnocchi, so it’s an easy sell.

I actually created this dish specifically to pair with a Lagler Gruner Vetliner that was given to me. It’s crisp enough to compliment the asparagus, but has enough body to hold up to the gnocchi and scallops.


Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops


  • 1 pound packaged gnocchi?
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • ?1 Tablespoon olive oil?
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced?
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus?
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs (I used a mix of chives, parsley, tarragon, oregano, basil)?
  • 1 pound fresh sea scallops?
  • salt and pepper


  1. Boil the gnocchi according to package directions. While you’re bringing the water to a boil, prepare the sauce. 
  2. Trim the asparagus where the tough, woody stem naturally breaks off. Then cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook just until tender but not brown--5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the asparagus and cook just until crisp-tender, only about a minute or two. Toss in herbs and drained gnocchi. Cover and set aside. 
  5. In a clean large skillet (I just wipe clean the skillet I just used for gnocchi), melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high to high heat (you want to get it really hot, but not smoking or the butter will burn). Pat the scallops very dry and season with salt and pepper. When the butter begins to sizzle, place the scallops into the pan with at least an inch of space between them.
  6. After 2 minutes, flip. Outside of the single flip DO NOT TOUCH the scallops. After another 2 minutes, remove.
  7. Place the gnocchi on a plate and garnish with scallops. Serve with a seasonal green salad.
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***this was updated from an original post in May, 2013, with new photography. Like it?

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

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Congratulations! We made it through another week! Doesn’t it often feel like you’ve finished a marathon by Friday night? Like you walk through the door and there should be confetti and a medal and champagne?

Well, I suppose there is confetti for me. In the shape of tiny legos scattered all over the house.

And it does look like I’m wearing a medal since I didn’t notice the giant circular peanut butter smear the little one planted on me this morning.

And champagne, well I can do something about that.

In our house, making it to Friday night deserves a celebration. But not too big of a celebration since we only have 30 minutes to dinnertime. So, pasta is a go-to Friday night meal. A little decadent and a lot easy.

Since I’m embracing spring, even if it won’t embrace me back, I springed up a classic decadent pasta dish–Carbonara–by adding asparagus and shiitakes to the classic eggs, cheese and pancetta.

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I only recently discovered Carbonara and I can’t believe I’ve spent this much of my life in the dark. It’s basically tossing spaghetti with the easiest hollandaise sauce and then adding cheese. And bacon. And anything else that makes you happy. Right now asparagus and mushrooms make me happy. And wine. Like a Soave. Or even champagne would do well here. Yeah, there’s my happy place.

Hey look, confetti. Nope, that’s just a lego that landed in my eye. Oh well, it’s the weekend. Cheers to Friday!

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara


  • 1/2 pound thick pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4 inch by 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound shiitakes, stems discarded and caps sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough woody ends snapped off and stalks cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced in half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I like a mix of Parmesan and Romano)
  • parsley


  1. Start the pasta water for boiling.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and bacon and cook until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove to a plate.
  3. Skim off some of the fat until there is 2 Tablespoons remaining. Saute the mushrooms in the fat until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to plate and turn off skillet.
  4. When the pasta water is boiling, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute, just until blanched. Skim off and put in an ice bath.
  5. Add the salt to the pasta water and cook pasta until al dente--9 to 10 minutes.
  6. While the pasta cooks, rub the cut garlic all over the inside of a large bowl.
  7. Whisk the eggs in the bowl until frothy. Whisk in wine and cheese.
  8. When the pasta is almost finished, grab 1/2 cup of the pasta water and whisk into the egg mixture.
  9. Drain the pasta and toss into the sauce with the pancetta, asparagus, and shiitakes. Toss the pasta into the sauce constantly until it's thick and coats each piece of pasta equally.
  10. Serve, topped with parsley.
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Someone was surprised that my kids would eat carbonara and I’m not sure if that’s because they’re surprised that a kids would eat it, or if they were surprised that I would serve it to my kids since the eggs start raw in the sauce. Why anyone would be surprised about kids eating a creamy, cheesy, bacon-y spaghetti is beyond me, so it must be because of the raw eggs. So let say something about that: when you’re making the sauce you add boiling pasta water to the eggs and cheese and then add steaming hot pasta and stir constantly until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick and creamy. The eggs are not raw. But if they’re not fully cooked, I do buy farm fresh eggs from the farmers market so I don’t worry too much about fully cooking eggs for them. We love over-easy eggs with a dippy center so this really isn’t any different.

If you’re still a little ooged out by the undercooked eggs, just pop the pasta back in a hot pan and heat. Or microwave individual portions. It ruins the consistency in my opinion, but you can guarantee cooked eggs.

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Apple Cherry Oatmeal Muffins (sugar free, fat free)

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For your Sunday morning, I give you some fresh baked fruit-filled muffins. For your Monday morning I give you an awful commute, and some delicious and healthy fruit-filled muffins.

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Commuting is the pits. I doubt I’ll get any argument about that. Dan and I both commute–me about 45 minutes, him over an hour, each way. What a complete waste of time.

But at least we can productively (and safely) eat a healthy breakfast along the way.

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Here are some more muffins that substitute fat and sugar with applesauce. But since the fruit in these muffins isn’t terribly sweet I’ve added a recommendation on how to sweeten it up with honey.

Apple Cherry Oatmeal Muffins (sugar free, fat free)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup honey (optional)*
  • 2 apples, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Beat or whisk eggs until mixed.
  3. Add milk, applesauce, honey if using, and apples and mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, and flours. Whisk until mixed.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in 3 batches, mixing briefly after each one, until just combined.
  6. Stir in dried cherries.
  7. Grease or line 12 muffin cups.
  8. Scoop batter into muffin cups. They will be very full.
  9. Bake the muffins for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. Remove to a cooling rack and cool. Store in the refrigerator.


* these muffins are not terribly sweet with just the applesauce and the apples. If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to add some honey to sweeten this recipe up a bit.

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Mustardy Sweet Potato Wedges {kids cooking}

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Sweet potatoes and I, we didn’t understand each other for a long time. They didn’t make sense to me. I dunno, I guess I feel like if you want potatoes have potatoes and if you want something sweet have fruit. Or chocolate.

When we collectively discovered that sweet potatoes are better for you than regular potatoes they started showing up everywhere. Sweet potato fries, sweet potato tots. Meh. Once you stick something in a deep fryer, do the 2 extra vitamins you get with sweet potatoes really make that much of a difference?

Then I started roasting them in the oven in thick wedges. That’s when I realized: if you treat a sweet potato like a sweet potato (instead of a substitute for something else), there is magic to be had!

The sugar in the potato caramelizes beautifully, giving the wedges a burnt sugar crusty thing. And the inside is totally light and fluffy. The only thing that makes them better is slathering on some mustard to give it some tang  and balance out the sweetness a bit. I used Dijon but whole grain would be cool too.

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The kids absolutely love them and it goes great with meat loaf, fish sticks, or even as a light main dish. Plus, the they can make them for you. After you cut the potatoes into wedges, have the kids measure out the other ingredients and toss them around. They’ll love it and be more apt to eat anything they’ve help to prepare anyway.

Mustardy Sweet Potato Wedges

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper


  1. Heat the oven to 400.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes into large wedges. Small/medium potatoes into fourths, large maybe eighths. These aren't fries, they're thick, meaty wedges so you can get a nice, thick caramelized crust on the outside and a light, creamy inside.
  3. Toss potatoes with all other ingredients and spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  4. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until they are soft in the middle.
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Individual Meat Loaves

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Let’s all admit it…the best part of meatloaf is the crust. Sweetened by ketchup, the caramelized, crusty outside is reason alone to make meatloaf.

That’s one reason that I made these meatloaves individual-sized–to maximize the crust-factor. The other is that they freeze better and who doesn’t want their very own meatloaf for dinner any night of the week? Plus, the kids love that they get their own meatloaf. Territorial much?

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I sit squarely in the oatmeal camp for classic meatloaf. I think breadcrumbs give it a meatball–like texture. Not that that’s a bad thing, just not what I’m going for here. I want moist, hearty-but-not-heavy, meatloaf inside that crazy crust. The oatmeal does cause it to fall apart a little more easily–the price you pay for moisture!–but the individual size helps with that as well. If you let it sit out a good 10 or more minutes out of the oven you should have no trouble cutting without it falling apart.

This is a great recipe to have the kids help with. They can dump the ingredients into the bowl, help to mix the meatloaf and form the loaves. They can even make crazy shapes if they want!

Individual Meatloaf with Red Wine Ketchup

Yield: 12 individual meat loaves


    For the meatloaf
  • 4 cloves garlic, skins removed
  • 4 small onions or 1 very large, cut into large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 carrots, cut into large chunks (I don't even bother peeling them)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons worcestershire
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 pounds ground beef or turkey or a beef/pork/veal mix (my favorite)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence or a mix of rosemary, thyme, maybe a little sage
  • For the Red Wine Ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon worcestershire
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (or 2 cups crushed tomatoes)


    Make the ketchup:
  1. Saute garlic in olive oil for a minute until soft.
  2. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring regularly, until it starts to turn a copper color.
  3. Add the worcestershire, white pepper, salt, and brown sugar. Then add the red wine and cook, bubbling vigorously, until most of it has cooked off and you only have a couple of tablespoons of syrupy goodness. About 10-15 minutes.
  4. Then add the tomatoes. If you're using sauce, you're done at this point. Turn is off and let cool. If you're using crushed tomatoes you'll now need to let it cook down again by half. Then turn it off and let cool.
  5. Make the meatloaf:
  6. Heat oven to 400.
  7. Put the garlic, onions, celery and carrots in a food processor, and pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides a few times. Add the salt, pepper, and worcestershire and pulse just to mix it up.
  8. Kids Cooking Steps:
  9. Put the vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add the eggs, meat, oats, and herbs. Mix gently with your hands until everything is equally distributed. Be as gentle as you can though; you don't want to knead it or massage it or it will get tough.
  10. Shape into 12 individual loaves and place at least 2 inches apart on a couple of sheet pans. Don't use a pan with high walls, like a cake pan or roasting pan--you won't the the maximum crust.
  11. Brush the ketchup over the loaves, reserving half of ketchup for serving.
  12. End Kids Cooking Steps.
  13. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer--meatloaf is done when it reaches 165 degrees.
  14. When it's done, remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes. This is important for it to keep from falling apart as soon as you serve it.
  15. Serve with remaining ketchup.
  16. To freeze: put leftover loaves on a clean sheet pan and put in the freezer. Once frozen, place individually or in pairs into food saver bags, vacuum seal, and return to freezer. They'll stay fresh for a good 6 months.
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Navy Bean Soup on a Snowy Day (slow cooker)

This winter is the pits. Frigid, grey, slushy, and it. just. won’t. end. Here we are today on another snow day, this time with some actual snow, so at least that’s pretty.

Snowy Baltimore

The upside is: I have been really racking up the hearty soup recipes this season!

Here’s another one: Navy Bean Soup made in the slow cooker with ingredients I usually have in my pantry and freezer.

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Navy Bean Soup

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ham hock
  • 2 quarts water or stock
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil


  1. Put beans in the bottom of the crock pot. Put vegetables, fresh herbs and bay leaf on top.
  2. Nestle the ham hock among the beans and vegetables.
  3. Add stock or water, set crock pot to the lowest setting for a longer cook, high for a shorter cook
  4. Cook for 8-10 hours for low setting, or 4-5 for high setting (you may want to stir now and again on the high setting), until beans are tender.
  5. Remove ham hock and pick the meat off. Stir it back into the soup.
  6. Season like crazy, splash of vinegar and some olive oil because, why not, and dine.
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Dan said it was the best soup I’ve ever made and the kids ate every bite.

Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwiches from the Crock Pot

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Barbecue is like an accent; how you cook it is indicative of all of the places you’ve ever lived or visited or tried barbecue.

For me, barbecue is pork. It’s pulled. It’s vinegary. And it’s also a bit sweet and spicy. Pork is southern, pulled is Carolina, as is vinegary. Sweet and tomatoey is Northern Florida (where it’s often sliced, what???). Spicy is kind of everywhere but more mid-western.

So yeah, that’s about right, I’ve lived all over and my barbecue tastes reflect that.

While nothing can replace real-deal smoked pork butt, these Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches give me the flavors I crave for an easy weeknight meal.

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The recipe calls for your favorite store bought barbecue sauce…I like Stubb’s since it’s got the sweet and spicy thing going on. Then I add a dash of Carolina with some extra vinegar.

Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwiches

Yield: 4 sandwiches


    For the pulled pork:
  • 2 cups pulled pork
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I like Stubb's)
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • For the coleslaw:
  • 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage


  1. Mix together pork, sauce and vinegar. Set aside.
  2. Make coleslaw: whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt, and mayonnaise. Fold in carrots and cabbage.
  3. Pile pork on hamburger buns, top with coleslaw. Serve.
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The reviews? I think this one liked them!

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Red Beans and Rice

On a cold, snowy day like this I think of warm, hearty food inspired by…the south? Yep, it’s New Orleans inspired Red Beans and Rice for dinner tonight. It started snowing earlier today than expected so I didn’t have time to go to the store. After rummaging through my pantry I discovered I had all of the fixings for a rich, hearty, and actually healthy meal right here at home.

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The great thing about Red Beans and Rice is that you don’t really need to follow a recipe. Traditionally made on Mondays, it was a way to use the leftover bones from the weekend meals and stretch them into the week, so really it’s a scrappy kind of dish–use what you’ve got, give it some love, and you’ve got an amazing dinner for a crowd or for your family for a week.

If you’re looking for baby food ideas, this is a great one to puree up for some Stage 2 or 3 food. Just wait to add the creole seasoning and salt until near the end. When the beans are cooked but there’s still a lot of liquid, scoop some out, add some rice and away you go. The add the seasonings to the main pot and cook it down.

Since I was home (and didn’t get started until the afternoon) I did this on the stove. But you could just as easily do this in a crock pot. Just don’t soak the beans and put it on low all day.

Red Beans and Rice

Yield: 8 servings

Red Beans and Rice


  • 1 pound dried kidney beans, soaked overnight and liquid drained
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon creole or blackening seasoning
  • 6 cups water or stock
  • 1 ham hock and/or andouille-type sausage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Chopped parsley, optional


  1. In a large, heavy bottom dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Then add onions and cook until they're translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery and peppers and cook until soft, another 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir until fragrant about 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in tomato past and creole seasoning and cook until tomato paste becomes copper-colored, approximately 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add drained beans, water or stock, and ham hock. If you're just using sausage put some in whole now to be discarded later, and save some for slicing and adding at the end.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down to a simmer and cook for 2-3 hours over a very low heat until thick and rich. If it's still watery after an hour or so, turn up the heat and uncover to thicken.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve over rice and garnish with parsley and scallions.
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And the kids couldn’t get enough. More please!


Plus, I’ve been working on transitioning my site from to It’s still in transition, but let me know what you think so far!

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Make ahead and quick meals for a week: turkey squash enchiladas, white chili, bean soup, chimichurri

make ahead and quick meals for the weekIt got COLD this week! Seriously, it’s only early December in the mid-Atlantic. I’m all for wearing a jacket and all, but snow and ice and high’s of 20’s? No thank you, it’s too early!

But, the one good thing about the cold is that it’s officially soup season. Yes! I’m all about drinking my dinner. Soup, people! Get your mind out of the gutter.

At the farmers market, they’re about ready to close up shop for the winter so when I tried to purchase one bunch of cilantro they handed me a 5-lb bag of various herbs and scallions and spinach. Oh darn, whatever shall I do?

Plus, I cleaned out my freezer of Thanksgiving-y stuff so have room for all that’s to come.

On this week’s menu, we went crazy for stick-to-your ribs kind of stuff like soup and warming baked squashy things that used up leftovers and our bounty of herbs. Read on for recipes and plans. [Read more…]