Bean & Bacon Pasta

I love bean and bacon soup, and grew up eating the Campbell’s condensed variety. I love pasta just as much, so I thought – why not combine two great things into one easy dish?

6-8 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 onion, minced

1 carrot, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups cooked white beans

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown the bacon until starting to crisp, then add the onion and carrot and cook until lightly golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two longer.

2. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up the brown bits.

3. Add the chicken stock and white beans.

4. Season with the thyme, salt and pepper.

5. Cook for 20-30 minutes until all of the flavors have melded and the sauce is slightly thickened (though it will be fairly loose).

Serve over penne or your favorite pasta. Another great feature of this dish is the leftovers – it makes a lot, and you can certainly have pasta again the next day, but if you’d like something different just thin the sauce with a few more cups of chicken stock and you’re back to bean and bacon soup!

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Sausage & Pepper Pasta

Pasta is one of my favorite things to eat. I love pasta. So I’m always looking for and thinking up new recipes to try. I saw a recipe online awhile back for sausages and peppers in alfredo sauce, which we don’t eat because of the dairy, but that got me to thinking – how about sausages and peppers in some kind of white sauce? So I just threw something together, and it’s been so good that it’s now in our regular rotation. Good thing I wrote it down! I figured I’d share it with all of you too, since who doesn’t like a filling pasta dish in the winter?

1 pound Italian sausage

1 sweet pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 pint of mushrooms, sliced

1 cup soy milk (or milk)

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon corn starch in 1/4 cup cold water to form a slurry

salt and pepper

1. Saute the peppers and mushrooms until the mushrooms are slightly browned, then set aside.

2. Brown the Italian sausages on all sides. Add the vermouth to deglaze the pan, put the lid on, and simmer on low heat to cook through.

3. While the sausages are browning, cook your pasta and make the sauce. For the sauce, combine the soy milk, chicken stock, onion powder and garlic pepper. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the corn starch slurry, stirring constantly until thickened. Put on the lowest flame to keep warm while the sausages and pasta finish cooking.

4. When the sausage is nearly done, add the peppers and mushrooms back to the pan. If you like, slice the sausages (I always find it’s easier to slice cooked sausage than raw) and return them to the pan. Stir in the sauce and simmer for a few minutes to meld all the flavors.

5. Stir the completed sauce into the pasta, and let sit for 5-10 minutes so the flavors really lock into the pasta.

It’s so delicious – and perfect with a nice glass of your favorite white wine.

Wait! Don’t Go To Bed Just Yet!

I almost made a terrible, terrible mistake. I almost forgot to put our turkey in the fridge to defrost. If you got a frozen bird this year as well, you’ll want to be sure to get up out of bed, trot over to the kitchen and spend ten minutes rearranging your refrigerator so it fits. Especially if you plan on using a recipe that requires you to brine your turkey for 24 hours.

According to the USDA factsheet on turkey it can take 3-4 days to defrost a 12-16 pound turkey, and up to 5 days to defrost a 16-20 pounder. So that means you’ve really got to get on it! Leave it in it’s original wrappings and place it on a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest shelf.

But fear not – if you didn’t see this post in time all hope is not lost. The USDA also says it’s safe to defrost your bird in cold water – 6-8 hours for 12-16 pounds and 8-10 hours for 16-20 pounds. You could even put it to defrost on Wednesday night and be able to put it in the oven Thanksgiving morning. You’ll need to change the water every 30 minutes. You can do it in your sink, but if you’ve got to use the sink for other things (as most of us do) you can do it in a large stockpot (at least 16 quarts should work, but if you’re a canner your 21 quart canning pot would be perfect) or even a clean plastic bin or tote. One of these days I’ll get a proper food storage container to tackle these types of jobs, but until then I’ll just try to remember to defrost my turkey on time.

Make Ready – Thanksgiving is Coming!

Okay folks, it’s one week until the Big Feast. Where are you with your pre-holiday preparations? I’ve got the lists all made and ready to go. Three lists are key to getting your big dinner on the table without a hitch – the menu, the shopping list and your prep outline. Here are mine for this year – not so simple that I’ll be bored getting it together, but not so complicated (as in previous years) that I won’t be able to pull it off with a baby on the scene.

The Menu

Roasted turkey (still trying to convince husband we should also apple smoke it)

Honey glazed ham

Mashed potatoes

Bread stuffing (with white and rye breads)

Stuffed sweet potatoes

Braised greens (whatever’s on sale – Swiss chard, kale, collards…)

Home made cranberry sauce

Turkey gravy

Pumpkin crescent rolls

Pumpkin pie

Chocolate icebox pie

Shopping List

12-15 pound turkey

8-10 pound ham

5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

celery

carrots

onions

chicken stock

4 sweet potatoes

3 large bunches greens

cranberries

flour

sugar

eggs

soymilk

mini marshmallows

Prep Itinerary

Monday – Bake white bread and rye bread for stuffing.

Tuesday – Parbake and freeze crescent rolls; make chocolate pie; make cranberry sauce.

Wednesday – Bake pumpkin pie; prep all veggies and keep in fridge.

Thanksgiving – Get turkey and ham in oven by 9:00; cook bread stuffing in crockpot; cook mashed potatoes; bake sweet potatoes; braise greens; finish baking rolls.

 

Of course the Thanksgiving work list needs expanding and refining. I like to have times listed out so I know when to start each item so that everything is ready to eat at the same time. It takes a little maneuvering. That’s why I’ve decided to sacrifice the crisp crust on the bread stuffing this year and do it in the crockpot. I can just set it and forget it. Actually, I suppose I could throw it under the broiler for a few minutes if I’m so inclined, but personally I like a softer stuffing anyhow. So we’ll see. And juggling the turkey and ham in the oven will be tricky. Another pro to apple smoking it, as it can be done on the grill. But if we go that route, I’ll have to take the turkey down into pieces so it will fit on our grill. Not a big deal, since we don’t make a big thing of presenting the whole bird at the table anyway. But if we don’t smoke it, I may have to cook the ham through on Wednesday night so I can just heat it up on Thursday when the turkey is out and resting. So, I’ve got the master plan all set to go but we’ve still got some planning to do in the next week. And we’ve got to do the grocery shopping this weekend for sure!

Summer Recipe Roundup

I just popped a pound cake in the oven, so we can have pound cake with fresh strawberries for a few breakfasts this week. And that got me to thinking of all the great, simple summer food out there. So I thought I’d share a collection of easy recipes for tasty summer treats. Enjoy!

Grandmother’s Pound Cake from Cherry Hill Cottage

Summer Nectarine Cakes from Dailydelicious

Blueberry Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen

Raspberry Icecream from The Adventures of an Epic Baker

Crawfish Boil from A Taste of Koko

Grilled Sweet Corn Salsa at Food Republik

Barbecued Chicken Kebabs from Pink Parsley

 

The Easter Menu

Easter is just around the corner, and this year it just happens to fall on my husband’s birthday! So we’re hosting a small family dinner for that Sunday afternoon. Being exhausted in general these days, I have relinquished the appetizers to my mother-in-law and aunt-in-law, so I don’t know what they’ll bring just yet but I’m sure it will be delicious.

And due to the aforementioned general exhaustion, I will only be doing one meat entree this year instead of the usual two I do for holidays. I debated for a few days between lamb and ham, and finally decided on ham. I’ve been on a bit of a pork kick these days, and it just sounds really good. I plan on getting an eight pound fresh ham from my favorite butcher in town, Paulina Meat Market. We’ll be serving seven for dinner, so that will be a generous amount of ham and we’ll likely have leftovers, which I always look forward to from holiday dinners. I’m thinking that a simple honey glaze with some studded cloves is what I’ll do for it – fresh and light is perfect for a springtime meal.

And I’m only going to do three side dishes for this one – French potato salad, roasted Brussels sprouts with a mustard sauce and either an onion or a leek and pancetta tart. And I’ll probably bake up a couple of packages of croissant rolls too.

For dessert, the husband has demanded I make my carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I’m going to bake that the day before so it has time to chill properly in the fridge. And finally I’ll be able to put my new icing knife to good use when I make it!

I’ll probably do up half a dozen colored hard boiled eggs just for fun too, to have as an appetizer/centerpiece. And I’ve got to get on making my Easter decorations so the house is in top form. All in all it’ll be a good time and I’m looking forward to hosting a big holiday meal this spring.

The Last Vestiges of Winter: Flemish Beef Stew

While it has been gloriously sunny all weekend, the sun has been deceptive. It’s bitingly cold outside, which is not condusive to outdoor pursuits. So instead of working on the garden and firing up the grill for the first time, I’m thinking soups and stews. During the colder months, I favor hearty fare like Bacon & Whiskey Chili (or my variant on that winner – Bison & Bourbon Chili) and Rustic Beef Stew but after several months of spicy or wine-based dishes, I’m a little worn out on them.

That’s when I remembered that beef also pairs really well with beer. Epicurious, as usual, turned up a great recipe for Flemish Beef Stew. My recipe below is a slight adaptation of the it.

8 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/3 cup flour, seasoned with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon pepper

1 onion, diced

2 potatoes, cubed

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups beef broth

1 bottle beer

1 can tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 tablespoons light brown sugar

1. Fry bacon in a large stockpot. While the bacon is frying, dredge the beef in the seasoned flour.

2. Brown the beef with the bacon.

3. Add the onions and cook until just translucent. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute.

4. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for a few minutes until slightly darker in color.

5. Add the broth, beer, potatoes, thyme and brown sugar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Serve over egg noodles if desired.