Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili

March 9, 2014 19:17 by Suzy

JD has been "gettin healthy" in 2014 and so far the results are amazing...he's lost 20 pounds and his cholesterol dropped from over 200 to 134! We're basically going with a plant based, whole-foods diet. This recipe was a great find, and with our modifications, it's been a favorite for both of us.

The flavor in this chili is amazing...smoky and rich and with just the right amount of heat and bite. You won't even miss the meat!

Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili
adapted from

2 large onions, chopped
2 large bell peppers (red and yellow), chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
4-6 cups vegetable stock (preferably salt free)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
a few dashes of Cholula sauce
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and dry-saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add diced bell peppers and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute.

Add beans, 4 cups broth, spices, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add more broth if chili seems too thick/dry for your tastes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Taste and add salt, pepper, and more Cholula or chili powder if necessary. Add corn and quinoa, stir and cover.

Simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!

Cajun-Style Red Beans and Rice

June 16, 2012 19:38 by Suzy

Another item I can cross off my Kitchen Bucket List!  For some reason last week, I got it in my head that I wanted some really good red beans and rice...and I was determined to finally conquer this yummy dish that has eluded me forever.  The result...a definite success!

I spent some time Googling recipes before I found one that I thought would be a good starting point.  I made some changes (brown the sausage and saute the veggies in the fat, used chicken broth) and we were very happy with how it turned out.  JD even said they were better than what you can get at Popeye's!

Cajun-Style Red Beans and Rice
adapted from

1 pound small red beans
12 ounces andouille sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)
hot cooked rice

Rinse and sort beans; drain.  Put in large pot with plenty of water to cover and bring to a boil.  Let boil for five minutes, then turn off heat, cover, and let soak for a few hours or overnight.  When ready to start cooking, drain and rinse the beans.

Slice the sausages in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons.  Saute in large heavy pot over medium-high heat until nicely browned and some of the fat has rendered out.  Remove sausage with slotted spoon and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, green pepper, celery and garlic to the pot and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the drained, rinsed beans, the broth, water, and spices to the pot.  Don't add salt yet; wait until later after the flavors have mingled and the sausage has been added.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer, covered, for 2 1/2 hours.  Stir in the sausage and continue to simmer until the beans are tender.  Depending on your beans, this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours.  My beans were definitely on the old side so it took them FOREVER before they were soft.  Be patient!

Taste beans and add salt to taste (I ended up using about a tablespoon).  If you like a more creamy consistency, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot.  To serve, spoon beans into serving bowls and top with a scoop of rice.

Cajun Style Red Beans and Rice

Chicken Fried Steak

May 21, 2012 10:28 by Suzy

Growing up in California, chicken fried steak was not a common meal.  I think the only time I ever had it was at the school cafeteria, and I'm sure it was poor quality at best.  It was definitely not something we had at home.  I think I was in my twenties before I even realized that it was steak and not chicken.

After I moved to Texas, I learned that not only did people really eat chicken fried steak, they made at home, they ordered it in restaurants, and they took it VERY seriously.  There is no quicker way to show your Yankee background than (a) thinking chicken fried steak was chicken or (b) calling it "Country Fried Steak."  Now that we are in Maryland, JD complains that it is nearly impossible to find good chicken fried steak anywhere.  The last time he ordered it in a restaurant they served it with brown gravy (horror!) and mushrooms (sacrilege!) and it was actually chicken (say it ain't so!).

So after I found the Homesick Texan blog, I knew I would have to at least attempt to make this for my sweetie.  I was hesitant, though, because frying is not one of my strengths in the kitchen.  But it actually turned out really good!  JD was impressed and even I thought it was tasty.  Not something I would make regularly...way too messy and my house still smells of grease...but nice for the occasional meal.  JD loves unleashing his inner redneck every now and then.

Chicken Fried Steak
adapted from Homesick Texan

1 1/2 pounds top round steak
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
vegetable oil for frying

2 tablespoons drippings
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

Add enough vegetable oil to skillet to reach halfway up the sides.  Heat over medium heat.  Line an ovenrproof plate with paper towels and put into a 200 degree oven.

Cut steak into 4 equal sized pieces.  Pound with meat mallet (the spiky side) until flattened.  Or, like me, you can find the steaks already tenderized (usually called "cube steak") at the store.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in large bowl.  Beat eggs with milk in another large bowl.  Carefully dip steak into seasoned flour, then the egg/milk mixture, then the flour again.  Carefully add to the hot oil.

After about 3-4 minutes, there should be some blood seeping through the top of the steak.  Using tongs, carefully turn the steak over.  Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, until crispy and brown.  Remove and keep in 200 degree oven while you make the other steaks and the gravy.

In skillet, combine 2 tablespoons drippings and 2 tablespoons flour.  Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring, until a nice dark brown.  You are making a roux...the idea is to get rid of the raw flour taste and toast it enough to give it a nice flavor, but be careful not to burn it or your gravy will be gross.

Still stirring, gradually add the milk, whisking to remove any lumps.  Once all the milk is added, reduce heat to low and continue to cook until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chicken fried steak with gravy and mashed potatoes.

Chicken Fried Steak

(I apologize for the dark photo; my camera battery died so I had to take this using my iPhone)

Super Bowl Recipes

February 3, 2012 19:08 by Suzy

Growing up, didn't you hate it when your favorite TV show cheated you with a "clip show" episode?  I haven't seen a "clip show" in quite TV shows still do them?

The memory of clip show episodes came to me when writing this post.  I know it's a total cheat, but I wanted to post SOMETHING before the big game...(1) to confirm that my blog still works and (2) to hopefully get my creativity going again.  Fingers crossed this actually works!

Here's some of my favorites that would be perfect for a Super Bowl party...


Pretzel-Wrapped Sausage Bites

Pretzel-Wrapped Sausage Bites

Spicy-Sweet Wings

JD's Chex Mix

Caramel Popcorn

Main Dishes

Dinner on the Grill

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork (sorry no picture for this one)

Yankee Chili



Fudge Brownies

Chocolate Toffee Bars

Peanut Butter Cookies


Classic Margarita

Tequila in the Tropics

Enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday!


September 13, 2011 10:40 by Suzy


Like many food bloggers, I am a huge fan of Ree Drummond over at The Pioneer Woman.  She always makes me laugh, she takes beautiful photos (food, family, and life around the ranch) and I have yet to try one of her recipes that wasn't delicious.

So although I first reviewed this recipe with trepidation, I had faith in Ree's culinary wisdom and made the lasagna exactly as written.  Many foodie snobs would turn up their nose at this...a lasagna made with dried herbs and Kraft parmesan cheese and breakfast sausage?!?!?  Blasphemy!  And yet, The Pioneer Woman was right.  This is really the most delicious lasagna I have ever had.  Hands down.

"From the Pantry" Lasagna
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 pound ground beef
1 pound hot breakfast sausage (I used Bob Evans)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 ounces) whole tomatoes (I used a quart jar of homemade canned tomatoes)
2 cans (8 ounces) tomato paste
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used good ol' Kraft in the green jar)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package (10 ounces) lasagna noodles
more grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt and olive oil to the water.  Cook the lasagna noodles, following package instructions, until al dente.  Don't overcook.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef, sausage, and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Drain off most of the fat, but leave some behind.  Fat is yummy.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons dried parsley and 2 tablespoons dried basil, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer 45 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, the other 2 tablespoons dried parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In 9" x 13" or similar pan, arrange 4 lasanga noodles at the bottom of the pan, overlapping if necessary.  Spoon half of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the noodles and spread evenly.  Arrange half of the mozzarella slices over the cottage cheese mixture.  Spoon a little less than half of the meat sauce mixture on top and spread evenly.  Repeat one more layer:  noodles, cottage cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese, and meat sauce mixture.  Sprinkle more Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.  Let the lasagna sit for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Throwdown Spaghetti and Meatballs

May 8, 2011 11:13 by Suzy

Of all of the Food Network stars, Bobby Flay has always been my favorite.  Aside from his cute Irish-tough-guy looks, he is fun on camera and I love his food.  This recipe is from Throwdown!, his latest show.  Bobby lost this challenge to Mike Maroni, a restauranteur in Long Island who is famous for his meatballs, made from his grandmother's 100-year old recipe.

Growing up, we never had meatballs with spaghetti.  We usually just added browned ground beef to the sauce...and the sauce was never homemade.  Not that there is anything wrong with jarred sauce, especially Newman's Own Sockarooni Sauce.  Yum.

I was curious to taste a meatball that beat Bobby in a throwdown, so I thought I would give this recipe a try.  Dee-lish.  The meatballs were so flavorful and tender, not dry or tough like I imagined them to be.  The sauce was delicious, too.  JD commented that there was a bit too much garlic, but he still said the meatballs were awesome.  Me, I can never have too much garlic, but I'll probably tone it down a little the next time I make it for him.

Mike Maroni's Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown!

1 pound ground chuck
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 small onion, grated
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves minced
1 large onion, finely diced
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (or 2 quart jars home grown canned tomatoes, crushed, if you have them)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
handful basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush baking sheet with olive oil.

Combine all meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Roll mixture into meatballs, each about the size of a golf ball, and place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through and browned.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 20 minutes.  Taste and add salt if necessary.  Remove from heat and stir in the basil leaves.  Add the meatballs to the sauce.

To serve, put some spaghetti on serving plate, and top with meatballs and sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Roast Chicken with Jus

March 20, 2011 19:34 by Suzy

Roast Chicken sounds boring and blase, but it can be one of the most delicious things you could ever learn to make.  We learned to make this last week in my class, and it looked so unassuming...until you tasted it.  Tender, juicy, flavorful...anything but boring.  I was so excited that it turned out just as delicious when I made it at home.  Even JD said he had never had chicken so good.

Simply Delicious Roast Chicken with Jus

1 4-5 pound roasting chicken, giblets removed
kosher salt
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon peppercorns, cracked
canola oil
1/2 cup or so of dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock

Rinse chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle cavity generously with salt.

Stuff chicken cavity with diced onion, carrot, celery, thyme, garlic cloves, and cracked peppercorns.

Tuck wings underneath the bird.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Heat a few tablespoons of canola oil (or clarified butter if you have it) in a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan over medium-high heat.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Carefully place the chicken on its side in the skillet so the leg/thigh is on the bottom.  Sear for a few minutes until the leg is nicely browned.  Repeat with the other side.

Lay chicken flat on its back and place in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, baste with pan drippings, and sprinkle with salt.  Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and place back in the oven.

Repeat every 10 minutes until oven temp is reduced to 350 degrees.  Continue to roast until nicely browned, and instant-read thermometer inserted into thigh reads 165 degrees.  Carefully remove chicken to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 15 minutes.  Pour off the fat from the pan.

Using a sharp slicing knife, carve the legs and breast from the chicken.  I'm not even going to try to describe how to do this (I can barely do it myself!) but there are plenty of websites and videos available out there.  Keep chicken warm on platter while you make the jus.

Heat skillet/roasting pan over medium-high heat.  Scoop out the veggies from the chicken cavity (discard the thyme sprigs) and put in pan.  Hack the chicken carcass into large pieces and put in the pan with the veggies.  Saute until vegetables and chicken pieces are lightly browned.  Deglaze with some white wine, and reduce until nearly evaporated.  Add chicken stock and heat to boiling.  Taste and add salt as needed.

Strain jus.  Drizzle some jus over carved chicken and serve the rest on the side.

Risotto with Butternut Squash and Mushrooms

February 20, 2011 17:20 by Suzy

We made this risotto in last week's cooking class, and my kitchen partners and I were amazed with our success.  Every once in a while, you make a dish that tastes so incredible, so delicious, that you can't help but feel like a real chef.  Or at least that you should be getting paid for making it.  This is one of those dishes.

Risotto with Butternut Squash and Mushrooms

1 cup diced butternut squash
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
olive oil
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
chopped parsley for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in saute pan.  Add squash and a sprinkle of kosher salt.  Saute until the squash is tender and lightly browned.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Repeat with the mushrooms.

Bring chicken stock to a boil in saucepan, reduce heat and let simmer, covered.

In another saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium to medium-high heat.  Add onions and sweat until softened, 3-4 minutes.  Do not let onions brown.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add rice and stir until rice is evenly coated with butter.  Saute for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until rice becomes translucent at the edges, 3-4 minutes.

Add white wine, stir, and cook until evaporated.

Begin adding chicken stock, a ladle at a time, allowing rice to absorb stock before adding next ladleful.  Stir frequently and keep the risotto at a simmer...not a fast boil.

After about 15 minutes, add squash and mushrooms to risotto, stir to combine, and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Taste risotto and check for doneness.  The grains should be tender but with a little bite and the risotto itself should be creamy but not soupy.

Add 1 tablespoon butter and Parmesan cheese and stir.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

Pour into serving dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.

Be prepared for rave reviews, bribes for the recipe, and marriage proposals.

Chicken Normandy

October 24, 2010 14:46 by Suzy

Fall is the perfect time for meals like this...slow-braised meat, soft onions, and warm, rich broth.  Makes the house smell delicious too!

Chicken Normandy
adapted from Simply Recipes

4 tablespoons butter
2 Fuji apples, cored, peeled and sliced into wedges
8 chicken thighs
1 onion, peeled, sliced in wedges lengthwise
1/2 brandy
2 cups apple cider
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup cream (I used milk)

Season chicken pieces with salt and let it at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Saute apple slices in 2 tablespoons butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat until they start to brown.  Remove apple slices to plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Sprinkle with salt.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to pan.  Dredge chicken pieces in flour, shake off excess.  Fry chicken on medium heat 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Remove and set aside.  Add onions to skillet; increase heat to medium-high.  Saute onions until just starting to brown.

Add brandy to the skillet.  Use wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Cook until reduced to about half.  Add apple cider and bring to a boil.  Stir in thyme and pinch of salt.

Place chicken pieces back in skillet on top of onions, skin side up.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove pan from oven (watch out for the hot handle!) and remove chicken; set aside on warm plate.  Add apples to skillet, return to stove on high heat, and boil until sauce is reduced by half.  Remove from heat and add cream (or milk) and stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chicken with the apples and onions and top with sauce.

Chorizo, Beef and Bean Chili

October 10, 2010 15:25 by Suzy

Most cooks have a standard favorite recipe of a specific they always rely on for consistent quality and comments.  Those are great, but there is the danger of getting too comfortable, to the point where you don't make any other variations or even look at different recipes for that same dish.  Don't get stuck in a rut...branch out!  Do something different!  Take a leap!

Remember that episode of "Frasier" where he tells everyone to take advantage of the extra day and "Take a Leap" on February 29?  Daphne gets a disasterous new haircut, Roz makes a fool of herself on air trying to meet a guy, Martin takes a horrible Frasier chickens out of his own "leap" (singing a difficult aria instead of his usual "Buttons and Bows") and then forgets all of the words..."Hippity-bippity-boppity-bow, something and something buttons and bows!"

Anyway, my chili recipe is one of those "old standbys" for me.  It's always good and I get raves from JD so it's great for a stress-free meal.  So recently I decided to branch out and try a completely different recipe for chili, and I'm so glad I did.  YUMMY.

Chorizo, Beef and Bean Chili
recipe adapted from Cooking Light

2 links chorizo sausage
1 1/2 pounds stew meat, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground coriander (I didn't have this, so I left it out)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup lime juice
32 ounces reduced sodium beef broth
1 quart canned tomatoes, undrained and chopped
2 tablespoons masa harina or fine ground cornmeal
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

You'll notice I rarely post a picture of a recipe's's the main reason.  I left out the following items from this picture:  the other can of pinto beans, tomato paste, red wine, sugar, and masa harina.  Oh well.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Brown chorizo in pan until browned; remove from pan and set aside.  Brown the stew meat in batches; remove from pan and set aside.

Add onion and garlic to pan; saute for 3 minutes, or until softened.  Remove 2-3 chipotle chiles from the can and chop.  Save the remaining chiles and sauce for another use (put in zip-top bag and freeze).  Add chorizo, beef, chopped chiles, tomato paste, sugar, salt, cocoa, coriander, oregano and cumin to the pot with the onions.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the wine, lime juice, beef broth, and tomatoes to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

After 1 hour, gradually add the masa harina, stirring well to avoid lumps.  Stir in the pinto beans and black beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions...or all on its own.