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Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Can you tell that I’m a little obsessed with my slow cooker? This puppy gets some major use around our house. And you are going to love this recipe! It’s so simple that my 2-year old seriously did 90% of the work.  Next time you don’t think you have time to make dinner, take 5 minutes in the morning and pop this in (and 20 seconds to soak the beans the night before), and you will be rewarded with a delicious, comforting meal that’s practically ready to go when you walk in the door. What makes this recipe extra special is the added ham hocks, which you can shred and leave in or remove once they are done cooking. You could also do sausage if that’s more your speed, but I love the smokiness from the ham.

If you want to make this super easy, heat up some frozen pre-cooked rice. The rice in the bag that you microwave is an option too, but personally, it gives me the hebegebees. Best option – get yourself a small rice cooker. I love ours and it takes out all the guesswork. Rice, water, hit button, (wait 20 minutes), done. Enjoy!

Red Beans & Rice with Smoked Ham Hocks

Adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It

1 lb. package dried red beans
2 ham hocks
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
4 cups water
6 oz. can tomato paste
8 oz. can tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
cooked rice

  • Soak beans in water overnight. Drain and discard water.
  • Place all ingredients (except rice) in slow cooker, cover and cook on low 10-12 hours, or until beans are soft.
  • Remove or shred ham hocks and stir back into beans.
  • Serve over rice.

Rao’s Lasagna

Where did Fall go? I feel like it’s already Winter outside! After 7 years in NYC, I’m still a Floridian at heart, so I don’t exactly welcome the colder months with open arms. A warm, comforting meal like this lasagna makes it a bit better though. Lasagna is not a weeknight kind of meal. Although none of them are difficult in the least, there are numerous steps and it does takes a bit of time to get to the finished product. But it’s so worth it. And this recipe makes enough to feed an army, so you will certainly have leftovers to put in your freezer for a second meal (unless you are, in fact, feeding an army).

I have had great luck making many of Rao’s famous dishes at home, and this is another classic to add to the list. I love this recipe because it has a meaty, flavorful sauce that is in perfect balance with the salty bite of the Pecorino Romano. If you like, make extra sauce and freeze it to serve with pasta. It’s delicious.

Rao’s Lasagna

Adapted from Rao’s Cookbook
Makes 12 servings

1/2 cup olive oil
1 T minced garlic
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage meat (sweet or hot, casings removed)
1/2 cup red wine
3 T tomato paste
5 cups water
salt & pepper
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1 pound lasagna noodles
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced

  • In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high, add onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.
  • Stir in beef and cook until browned (about 5 minutes).
  • Remove beef mixture from pan, then add sausage and cook until browned.
  • Return beef mixture and wine into the pan with sausage and cook for 5 minutes (until wine has evaporated).
  • Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and salt and pepper.
  • Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Add more water if necessary (1/4 cup at a time), and skim off excess fat with a spoon or by laying paper towels on top of sauce.
  • Meanwhile, place ricotta into a cheesecloth-lined colander and allow it to drain in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  • Combine drained ricotta with egg yolks.
  • Cook noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water according to package directions (you want them al dente). Drain and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further.
  • Place noodles in a single layer on a kitchen towel and cover with a damp towel.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large pan (12 x 18 x 2, or multiple smaller pans, just make sure they are 2 in. deep), ladle a thin layer of sauce.
  • Cover sauce with noodles, laid lengthwise, then cover with sauce, a thin layer of ricotta, a sprinkle of grated mozzarella and Pecorino Romano.
  • Continue to layer in this order, but alternate direction of pasta (lengthwise then crosswise).
  • Finish with a layer of meat sauce covered with sliced mozzarella and Pecorino Romano.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until cheese has melted and lasagna is bubbling.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Tuscan Ribolita with Tomato Garlic Bread

Originally posted on Culinary Wannabe – this is one of my favorites!

We have had a busy week packing up the fam to head down to GA for my little brother’s wedding, so I thought I would share one of my all time favorite Fall go-to’s that I’m sure you will love. This soup is loaded with veggies and beans, possibly making it the healthiest thing I’ve posted to this blog thus far. But that’s not the reason I love it – I love it because it tastes amazing!! It’s a slow cooker recipe, so the prep is a cinch. Go ahead and whip up a bowl of this delicious and soul satisfying soup this weekend. And even though there already are some scrumptious little bread pieces in there, I just can’t have a bowl of soup without some crusty bread to dip into it. So here’s my recipe for tomato bread – so yummy and the perfect compliment to this soup.

Hope everyone is off to a great Fall!

Tuscan Ribolita

Adapted from Slow Cooker – Willams-Sonoma

1/4 cup olive oil, plus some for drizzling
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
6 cups canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale or savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper
3 cups day-old crusty bread
Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)

  • Warm olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened.
  • Stir in tomato paste and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add broth to the pan and bring to a boil.
  • Remove from heat once the liquid begins to boil.
  • Place beans, kale, carrots, celery, and thyme in slow cooker.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.
  • Add in the broth.
  • Cook in slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
  • Stir bread into soup about 10 minutes before serving.
  • Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  • Optionally, each serving can be drizzled with olive oil and parmesan shavings.

Tomato Garlic Bread

Slices of crusty bread (I use ciabatta)
Garlic cloves, peeled
Tomatoes, halved
EVOO
Coarse Salt
  • Lay the slices of bread over a hot grill pan for a few minutes on each side until they are toasted and have nice markings.
  • Rub each piece of toast with a garlic clove then the cut side of the tomato half.
  • Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and follow with a sprinkle of salt.

Cooking the Blogs

I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, and a lot of my new recipes are courtesy of amazing food blogs. Please go and check out these sites to get the recipes for the below dishes. They are all winners and have been big hits with my family & friends.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Picky Palate —> Very dangerous for anyone with a sweet tooth!

I mean, it just doesn’t get more ridiculous than these. They are over-the-top in every way! I made a batch for Brandon’s teachers on the first day of school, and they were a huge hit!

Southwestern Pasta Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
Two Peas & Their Pod —> go visit Maria, Josh and Caleb (they are the cutest little family!)

Still hanging on to the last days of summer? Well this is the perfect side dish to any kind of grilled meat. I actually ate a huge bowl of this all by myself for dinner. It’s totally addicting!

Blackberry Cobbler
The Pioneer Woman —> Like you don’t know who she is!

You just can’t go wrong here. This is a surefire classic, and so easy to make you will find you don’t even need a recipe the second (or third, or fourth) time around.

What are some of you favorite food blogs? Cooking up anything amazing lately?

Mexican Lasagna

I have totally been having one of those days. And at the end of a day like today, grilled chicken and steamed veggies just ain’t gonna cut it. But I also don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking up a feast worthy of a major guilt trip afterwards. I just want something yummy (i.e., not healthy) that will be ready in the time it takes Special Agent OSO to do his 3 special steps. So Mexican Lasagna is what’s on the menu tonight in our house. There might also be a michelada or two (or 3).

Mexican Lasagna

Adapted from Eva’s Kitchen

cooking spray
1 lb ground beef
salt & pepper
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
5 flour tortillas
8 oz. salsa (not chunky)
1/2 can black beans, rinsed
8 oz. shredded Mexican cheese
4 oz. sour cream
1 4.5 oz. can green chilies (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 375°F, and coat a 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray.
  • Season beef with salt and pepper and brown over medium heat.
  • Pour broth into a sided container and dip each tortilla in, making it moist but not soggy.
  • Place tortilla at the bottom of the pan, then top with 2 T sour cream, 1/4 cup meat, a scattering of black beans, 2 T salsa, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, and 2 T chilies, if using.
  • Top with another tortilla and repeat with 3 more layers of filling, finish with a final tortilla on top.
  • Spread remaining salsa and cheese on top, covering the final tortilla.
  • Spray one side of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that side down on top of pan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, serve hot with additional salsa and sour cream if desired.

Carolina Style Pulled Pork

I’ve tried a lot of pulled pork recipes in my time, and this is by far my favorite. It’s North Carolina style barbecue, so it’s a vinegar based sauce, which is there to serve as a compliment to the meat instead of overpowering it. The meat itself is super flavorful after chilling out in the fridge all night with a serious dry rub. It’s combined with smoked ham hocks that give it an awesome depth of flavor. Plus, it’s super easy and cooks all day in your slow cooker. I served it with corn, kale chips, and blackberry cobbler. If you are still searching for that perfect pulled pork recipe, I would definitely give this one a try!

Carolina Style Pulled Pork

Adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution, 6-8 servings

6 T brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 1/2 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
salt & pepper
1 (4-pound) boneless pork butt roast
2 smoked ham hocks
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
hamburger buns

  • Combine 3 T sugar, paprika, chili powder, cumin, 2 tsp salt, and 2 tsp pepper in bowl.
  • Pierce pork with a fork all over, then cover with spice rub. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • Place ham hocks in slow cooker, position pork on top, and pour broth over.
  • Cook for 9-10 hours on low, or 5-6 hours on high, until pork is tender.
  • Transfer pork & hocks to a bowl and, using forks, shred into bite-size pieces (it will further break-up when mixed with sauce).
  • Discard any bones, skin, or excess fat.
  • After letting braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, skim off fat using a spoon.
  • Strain liquid into a saucepan and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Whisk in vinegar, ketchup, and remaining 3 T of sugar, and bring back to a simmer.
  • Season with S&P to taste (note it will taste very vinegary on its own).
  • Toss pork with 1-2 cups sauce, adding enough to keep meat moist.
  • Serve on buns with additional sauce.
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