Southern Living’s Chicken and Wild Rice Skillet Bake


The weather this weekend in VA was beautiful, but confusing! I sat by the pool, baking in the sunshine with a cold iced tea, while flipping through the latest issue of Southern Living, full of crockpot meals, soups, and other fall favorites. I enjoyed one last poolside weekend, but bring on the chilly weather! This recipe from Southern Living caught my eye and didn’t disappoint. It takes a little time, but was savory and satisfying and good for a crisp fall night. Make sure to use a big enough skillet or oven-proof pan! I started off with a smaller cast-iron skillet and halfway through had to switch to a bigger pan. Oops. Enjoy!

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
6 oz uncooked wild rice
3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
3/4 tsp fresh black pepper, divided
1/2 cup bacon, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp dry sherry
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
fresh flat-leaf parsley and sliced almonds for garnishes

1) Bring 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in rice, return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 30 min.
2) Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat, then whisk in flour until smooth.
3) Gradually whisk in milk, then broth and dry mustard. Turn heat up to medium and cook for 4 minutes, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened and starting to bubble. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.
4) Cook bacon in 1 tbsp oil in a large (12-in +) cast-iron skillet or large oven-proof pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. Stir in the onion, carrots, and mushrooms, and cook for another 5 minutes or until onions are tender.
5) Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute. Stir in sherry, and cook 1 minute until evaporated. Remove mixture to a bowl.
6) Preheat oven to 375.
7) Season chicken with remaining 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Add remaining 1 tbsp oil to skillet or pan you were using before, and cook chicken in oil over medium-high heat for 4 minutes on each side, or until brown.
8) Remove skillet from heat, transfer chicken to a plate.
9) Drain rice if there’s any water left over, then pour into your skillet. Mix in the bacon/veggie mixture and the sauce, and stir together.
10) Put chicken on top of the mixture and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Serve with chopped up fresh parsley and sliced almonds!


Pioneer Woman’s Black Bean Soup


As I dragged myself out of bed for a lazy Saturday, I turned on the Food Network channel just in time for a new Pioneer Woman episode. She was cooking up a big batch of black bean soup as a “mothership” recipe, to use for several different meals. Brilliant! Maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t had breakfast yet, or because it looked so damn tasty, but I decided I had to make these beans. We had them as a dinner side to green chile chicken and cilantro lime rice. I’m having them for lunch today. And they’ll be a side to slow cooker tacos tomorrow! Mothership recipe, indeed.

1 pound dried black beans
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1  yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin

1) Put beans in a large pot and cover with hot water. Bring to a boil and boil for two minutes, then turn off heat and cover the pot. Let sit for one hour.
2) Drain beans and rinse with cold water, then return to pot.
3) Add chicken broth, water, garlic, onion, and bell peppers to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for an hour and a half.
4) Stir in salt, chili powder and cumin, and cook for another 30 minutes to an hour. Serve with your choice of toppings, like sliced avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo – it’s up to you!

Spaghetti Squash Sausage Bake


In an attempt to eat a little healthier, I’m making an effort to come up with some recipes that don’t include pasta, or rice, or bread or some other carb. But for the love of all things delicious, don’t take my cheese! I found this recipe on a great blog you can find here. Roasted spaghetti squash is combined with chicken sausage, garlic, and onions and topped with skim milk mozzarella cheese and scallions. Savory and cheesy, but without all the carbs!

1 3-lb spaghetti squash
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2 links spicy chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup shredded skim-milk mozzarella
scallions, sliced

1) Preheat oven to 370.
2) Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out all the seeds and stringy thingies. Drizzle a tbsp of olive oil on a baking sheet and place spaghetti squash cut side down on the sheet. Roast for 45 minutes.
3) Remove spaghetti squash from oven to cool slightly. Meanwhile, heat the other tbsp of oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for a minutes. Stir in the sausage and cook until done.
4) Add the spaghetti squash to the skillet and stir until well combined. Top with mozzarella and bake for 6-8 minutes until cheese is good and melty.
5) Remove from oven and top with scallions and serve!

Jamie’s Bad Day Spicy Meatballs


Ever have one of those days where you just need some feel good food that makes both your heart and your taste buds happy? My friend Jamie sent me this recipe for just that. I made it on a Monday and it was just what the day needed. I mean really… who doesn’t feel better after spaghetti and meatballs? Especially ones filled with basil and spicy Italian sausage.

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
19 oz package spicy Italian sausage links

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Mix together the 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
3) Remove sausage from their casings and add to bowl. Stir in basil and mix together well with your hands.
4) Grease a baking sheet and form meatballs (makes around 18-20).
5) Bake for 20 minutes and serve with spaghetti and marinara, or some veggies and fresh bread. And feel better!

Spiced Roasted Chicken, Three Cheese Macaroni and Strawberry Spinach Salad


Three recipes all in one post! These dishes pair so well together – a sweet and tangy salad, cheesy pasta and salty spiced chicken. If you have the time, brining the chicken overnight or since the morning makes a world of difference.

Roasted Chicken:

4 split chicken breast on the bone
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
bay leaf
2+ tbsp Montreal seasoning blend (divided)
onion powder
garlic powder
fresh black pepper

1) The night or morning before your dinner, fill a large pot (I use a soup pot) with water and stir in kosher salt, sugar, brown sugar, bay leaf, and 2 tbsp Montreal seasoning. Bring to a boil.
2) Once boiling, remove from heat and let cool. Fill a large bowl with chicken and pour some ice over the chicken. Then pour brine over chicken (make sure it’s not hot anymore or it will start to cook the chicken). Cover and put in fridge and let soak in brine overnight or all day.

1) Once you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat oven to 350.
2) Rinse chicken and pat dry. Then season each piece to taste with Montreal seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, fresh black pepper and paprika. Feel free to add any more spices too. This can’t really be over spiced (just be careful not to over salt – Montreal seasoning has salt in it).
3) Spray a roasting pan with pam and place chicken bone side down. Roast for 1 hour.
4) Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Spinach Salad:

6 cups spinach
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
half red onion, sliced thin
poppyseed dressing (I like Brianna’s)

1) Combine spinach, strawberries, almond, and onion in a large serving bowl.
2) Just before serving, add avocado and toss with poppyseed dressing.

Three Cheese Mac & Cheese

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup panko
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
dash of nutmeg
dash of cayenne (optional)
2 tbsp butter

1) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan and cook 8-10 minutes or until tender. Add flour and garlic, cook one minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thick (stirring constantly with a whisk). Add Gorgonzola, 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt, and stir until cheese has melted. Discard the bay leaf.
2) Preheat oven to 350 (you can cook this while the chicken is roasting – I put it in for the last 30 minutes and then remove and cover with foil while chicken is resting).
3) Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain.
4) Add pasta to cheese mixture and stir well. Stir in mozzarella and sprinkle in some nutmeg and cayenne to taste.
5) Spray a square baking dish with Pam and pour in the pasta and cheese mixture. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and panko.
6) Spray top of pasta with Pam and sprinkle with a little black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.


Crispy Salt and Vinegar Potatoes



It’s safe to say we have a potato side dish at least once a week. And regular old roasted potatoes and mashed potatoes are delicious, but I wanted something a little different. This side dish from Bon Appetit was simple and had great flavor. Try them with steak!

2 lbs baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (quartered if large)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tbsp unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1) Combine potatoes, 1 cup vinegar, and 1 tbsp kosher salt in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, 20–25 minutes; drain and pat dry.
2) Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and season with kosher salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 8–10 minutes.
3) Drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp vinegar. Serve topped with chives and more salt.