pasta e fagioli soup

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I hope everyone had a great, fun-filled Thanksgiving. If you’re anything like my family, you ate and then ate some more! And now you need to detox from all the eating. Look no further. This hearty soup is the cure. (Don’t ask me how eating more food cures holiday overeating, but in my humble opinion, soup cures pretty much everything.) One of my foodie co-workers introduced me to this soup, and I am so grateful he did. Now it’s hard for me to imagine my life without this dish in it. It’s so good with its medley of flavorful herbs, beans, pasta, and last, but not least, cheese!

There are a couple things to note with this soup. One, do not, I repeat, do not add the pasta until right before you are ready to serve the soup. In fact, you may want to add the pasta to the individual bowls right before serving. The ditalini pasta will absorb the liquid and become soggy. And two, my foodie co-worker suggested substituting Italian sausage for the ground beef, which I am going to try next time I make this. I used ground beef because I already had some on hand, but I think the Italian sausage would turn a delicious soup into an out-of-this-world, where-have-you-been-all-my-life kind of soup. But really, whichever kind of meat you go with, you can’t lose making this dish. Buon appetito!

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justin’s slow cooker chili

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Y’all are in for a treat! I didn’t have to be the cook this week since Justin decided the weather had gotten cool enough for chili. Since this has become a staple of cool/cold weather in our house, I asked him to take pictures and document what he was doing (we really work on measuring and not over seasoning over here!).

A few weeks back, a discussion was started on a favored social media site about chili versus stew, what the difference is, and, of course, the usual banter about the “right” way to do it. One of Justin’s friends at work, Scott Bibbee, makes some fantastic worldly meals, regularly posts photos of his creations (we already have our favorites), and he is one of those people who can tell what the ingredients of something are just by tasting it (so jealous!). I asked if he would write something up about the different ways chili is made around the U.S. Here’s what he said,

Many folks, mostly Yankees, believe strongly that they can add whatever they want to a chili and still call it “chili”. Never mind that “chili” is short for “chili con carne”, that it originated in San Antonio, TX more than 150 years ago, and certainly did not contain frijoles or any other additions when it was invented. The addition of anything other than meat, chiles, and spices is a culinary appropriation of a regional specialty with a long, well documented, and distinct history. Here’s the simple fact – all chili is stew, but not all stew is chili.

There are many reasons that people debase, taint, and dilute this dish. The most reasonable explanation Continue reading “justin’s slow cooker chili”

slow cooker barbacoa tacos (or nachos)

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Up until recently, I just assumed everyone loved leftovers. I mean, it’s already prepared food you just have to reheat or assemble. It saves so much time and prep especially on weeknights when you’re tired from the day and don’t feel like cooking. I know some people don’t want to eat the same food two meals or days in a row. Other people think that leftovers aren’t as good the second day, and for a lot of foods like salads with dressing, I wholeheartedly agree. The lettuce becomes soggy and it affects the integrity of the salad. But there are other foods like pasta that I believe are better the second day because the flavors have had time to sit and coalesce.

In fact, liking leftovers is one of the first things that first attracted me to Justin. We were on an early date at a cocktail bar that served artisan pizza, and while trying to decide whether we should split a pizza or I should get one of my own, Justin said, “Why don’t you get your own so you have leftovers?” And I thought, Hey, this might work out!

These barbacoa tacos are easy, tasty, and make for great leftovers! The original recipe called for the roast to be cooked in an instant pot, which we don’t have, so we repurposed the recipe for the crock pot to great results. We literally dropped all ingredients up through the bay leaves into the crock pot and let it cook for 6 hours on high. The chipotle chile in adobe gives the barbacoa a spicy and smoky flavor, which is awesome! We added salsa and pico de gallo, as well as the cotija cheese, which is tangy! It makes for one delicious taco!

Update: The second night, we tried the the barbacoa on nachos, and we actually liked it even better than the tacos. We liked the crispy, salty chips with the spicy barbacoa. Give it a try!

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beef sliders with pepper jack, bacon, guacamole, and the hottest d*@# poblano peppers i’ve ever had

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I learn something new nearly every time I cook, and this week, I learned that poblano peppers can be extremely hot. And that when you handle hot poblano peppers and touch your eye, your eye will begin to burn. And when you get in the shower to rinse your eye, the water can transfer the burn to the lower part of your face. It was an eventful evening. There I was with one hand holding an ice pack to my eye and the other snapping photos of food on the grill. Am I a dedicated blogger or what? See, I go through all the trials and tribulations and fall into all the cooking pitfalls so you don’t have to. You’re welcome. 🙂

I wonder if other bloggers undergo these trials…

The pain in my eye subsided after a couple hours, but the burning in my hand burned well into the night. At midnight, I finally plunged my hand into a bowl of cold milk, which helped immensely. I had never had hot poblano peppers in my life—these were jalapeno-level spicy.  I love spicy food, but there’s spicy food and then there’s just pain. And when your mouth is in pain, the pain definitely overwhelms any taste there might be in my humble opinion.

Other than the near-ER visit, everything else went smoothly, and the beef sliders were tasty though very messy. If there’s a trick to eating a burger without all the toppings falling off, I have yet to learn it. This slider has all my favorite foods: creamy tangy guacamole, crispy BACON, a sliver of crunchy poblano pepper (I’m still bitter!), and pepper jack cheese atop a ground beef burger with spicy and creamy chipotle mayo. We utilized our grill for the bacon, peppers, and beef patties, which gave them a delectably smoky flavor. This is a slider recipe to keep! Enjoy! Oh, and if anyone wants to take these poblano peppers off my hands, you’re welcome to them! Just be sure you have some milk in the house.

So, we made the sliders with grilled corn with butter, chili powder, and salt (recipe), pasta salad with marinated tomatoes (recipe), and iced peach tea with mint (recipe). The pasta salad and iced tea recipes you can make ahead of time. Since the corn is also cooked on the grill and takes a little longer to cook than the beef patties, I would start with the corn and then move to the slider recipe. This gets you nice hot burgers.

Happy grilling!

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steak and chicken dinner with the neighbors

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In the year and a half that Justin and I have lived in our  house, we have only gotten to know two of our neighbors. I think this is partly due to the garages being in the back of the houses instead of the front.  The only time we really see our neighbors is when they are getting their mail or mowing their yard. The couple across the street are fun and enjoy good food and drink so we invited them over for dinner. Continue reading “steak and chicken dinner with the neighbors”

ulapalakua beef and shrimp kabobs

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Early on in the Hawaiian trip, we went to Merriman’s for happy hour on the northern side of the island. They are a gourmet restaurant that specializes in Hawaiian food. While we were there, I bought their cookbook. This recipe is called Ulapalakua Beef and Shrimp Kabobs, and if you have a grill, you should make this! And while restaurants on the island use a lot of local ingredients in their dishes, for the most part, we can get everything here on the mainland and it will be just as good! We only added a couple of pineapple slices to our kabobs as we’re not big pineapple people, but we thought this dish was good with and without pineapple. Enjoy!  Continue reading “ulapalakua beef and shrimp kabobs”