Thursday, September 29, 2011

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

There are countless versions of Red Beans and Rice out there, but to me, real Red Beans and Rice means a couple things: no tomatoes, lots of kidney beans, cajun inspired seasoning and just to get in the right frame of mind, learning to say the words "New Orleans" as "Nawlins."

My deep affection for our slow cooker continues, so this version calls for a slow cooker, but you could easily make it on your stove-top too, just be sure to simmer for a good hour or two.

One last note: I make our Red Beans and Rice with bacon, but you can use a ham hock, smoked sausage or even omit meat and make it vegetarian.

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, deseeded and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1/4 cup smoked bacon, ham hock or sausage (or omit to make vegetarian)
6 cups kidney beans (either soaked overnight or from 3 - 15 oz cans)
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon salt (if using canned beans, you may want to reduce the salt a bit)
3-4 cups water
3 cups cooked rice
optional: hot sauce (for serving)

Add all the ingredients in a slow cooker, except water and rice. Stir well. Slowly add the water, being sure it fully covers all the ingredients, about 3-4 cups, depending on the size and shape of your slow cooker.

Cook on HIGH for 6-8 hours, LOW 10-14 hours.

Once done cooking, remove approximately 2 cups of the beans and puree in a blender, with an immersion blender or in a food processor (jsut be careful when processing them, as they will be hot)

Add the bean puree back into the slow cooker and stir well.

Serve rice in a bowl, topping with bean mixture.

Sprinkle with a few dashes of hot sauce, if you desire.

Serves 6-8.

Life is sweet, y'all,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Seafood and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Seafood+Mexican Food=Huge Love

You know what I don't love? The rich, heavy, creamy sauce that accompanies most seafood enchiladas you order in a restaurant. It drowns out the flavor of the seafood and makes me feel like I have a rock in my belly post-meal.

Here's a healthful, flavorful recipe for seafood enchiladas that enhances the seafood taste and adds some extra nutrition too.

Click here for my recipe, which I posted today at

Peas out-

Monday, September 26, 2011

Forgetful Fish and Busy Night Garlic Pasta

Please tell me I am not the only one who does things like this.

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store, primarily to get *one thing,* some fish for dinner. I went by the fish counter, gave it a passing glance and picked up the remaining 5-6 other items I needed thinking, "I'll get the fish last so it is fresh."

So, I get the few remaining items, head to the check-out lane, unload all my groceries on the belt, and start thinking, "something's missing." Aha! The fish! Back the groceries go into my cart, so I can head to the fish counter again.

An older woman, in line behind me asks, "honey, is something wrong?"

I tell her I just need to go pick up my forgotten fish, to which she responded:

"ahhh, bless your heart."

I don't know where I heard it (and if someone knows, please share, but since I can't remember the item for which I took an entire trip to the grocery story...) but I recently heard someone aptly explain, "when someone says 'ahhh, bless your heart,' it is really a kind way to say 'ahhh, you poor idiot.'"

Yep, that's how I felt.

Completed grocery trip behind me, we're gearing up for another busy week (perhaps the reason I am forgetting fish) here in Sweet Peaville:

Easy Baked Fish, Broccoli, Perfectly Oven Roasted Potatoes
Pizza Soup and Salad
Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash and Green Beans
Chipotle Taquitos, Guacamole, Rice

I'm also over at today, blogging about this delicious, super-fast, tastes so creamy, but is healthful, pasta. The best news? You can adapt it to suit your family's taste preferences:

Have a sweet week,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Easy Chocolate S'Mores Cake

Hold on, because this cake is going to rock your world (only a slight exaggeration). As in, "it's-so-bad-it's-good" sort of way.

If you've read my blog for long, you know we live by a 90% rule. 90% of the time we try to eat healthful, natural foods, while 10% of the time we just throw culinary caution to the wind. Not that I have some chart measuring our percentage of healthy-to-splurge foods in the's not an exact science, just a general rule to guide our eating.

This recipe falls under the "10%" category: Chocolate S'mores Cake...drumroll please...that you make in your slow cooker. I've been on a bit of a slow cooker roll lately, so trying to come up with a new dessert you make in the slow cooker, just developed naturally.

This cake is so good, your kids will be asking you to S'make S'more.

Easy Slow Cooker Chocolate S'Mores Cake (directions and cooking time based on an oval 5 1/2 quart slow cooker)

1 box chocolate cake mix (I used a Devil's Food mix), mixed as box explains
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup marshmallows, any size, cut into small pieces if large
4 whole Graham Crackers, crumbles into small pieces

Line your slow cooker with foil so that it extends 2 inches up from the side all along the edges and grease well. Turn the slow cooker to high.

Mix the cake batter, adding the chocolate chips at the end, if using. Pour the batter into the foil.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours (the first time you make the recipe, keep an eye on the cake after about 2 hours--slow cookers vary in their cooking temperatures), making sure a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn off the slow cooker and remove the lid. Let the cake sit for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the marshmallows on top.

Preheat your oven broiler. Pull the cake out of the slow cooker (just gently lift the foil up) and place the cake under the broiler for 40-60 SECONDS. The marshmallows brown quickly so keep a close eye on them!

Remove from the broiler and sprinkle with Graham Cracker bits. Let the cake cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serves 12-16.

Life is sweet,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daddy's Boy and Meals

It's starting to happen.

For years, R has been a big daddy's boy, which is a-ok by me, since well, he's 7 1/2 and should be starting to relate better to his dad than his mom. Don't get me wrong, I feel wholly loved by both my boys and their tender hearts. But a big reason for me being okay with R's leaning has been that G, my 4 year old, is my big mama's boy.

I've always told SPH, when G was asking for me for the zillionth time, that "he'll start to be a daddy's boy here soon." It started happening this weekend...G fell down while playing soccer, and instead of running to me for comfort, he made a b-line to dad. G wanted dad to read his bedtime story and sit next to him at dinner too.

This is the way it is supposed to be, I assume, but it is still another sign that G is growing up...way too fast for his mama's liking. Another sign?

G "signing in" for his first day of his last year of preschool. He's gone from his preschool's toddler room to pre-K in no time flat. They grow up fast, these little ones...

Now for our menu plan for the week:

Mom's Tilapia
, Summer Italian Vegetables, Tomato/Basil Salad and Peas
New Red Beans and Rice Recipe (recipe testing)
Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup
Tofu and Japanese Eggplant Stir-fry (recipe testing)
Chicken(less) Pot Pies (recipe testing)

I'm trying out some new recipes this week, will share if they pass muster!

Have a sweet week, y'all,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

We had one of those nights this week...both boys, both had soccer practice, both at the same time. Thankfully, SPH is one of R's coaches and was able to rush home from work to take R to his practice while I went to G's practice. The timing necessitated that R and G eat before practice, a bit early, with me. But SPH needed to eat late.

What's a mom to do? Whip out the slow cooker. I think one of the unsung heroic feats that the slow cooker allows is for a dish to be eaten at different times of day. It's like a kitchen helper that says, "don't worry about the food. I'll be here, cooking and then, I'll keep it warm for the next round of eating. You just go out, do your thing, I'll take care of it all."

(I think if someone were to create the laundry-equivalent of a slow cooker, they'd be an instant billionaire)

Not all slow cooker meals can cook for longer than the recommended amount of time, but soups, stews and chili are delicious exceptions. If you are looking for other recipes that can withstand extra time, all of these recipes can sit an extra hour, two or even three or four and not turn out burnt.

This chili is vegetarian, healthful and most of all, delicious. R had two bowls which translates to: "this is a make-again, mom." One last note or two: if you still crave meat you can either check out my Fast-or-Slow Chili that we often make in the slow cooker and is more of a traditional chili -OR- you can replace two of the cans of beans with one pound of ground meat, just cook it on the stove top before you place it in the slow cooker. I also have a Golden Chili and White Chili that might be something you'd like to try. In other words, we heart chili in Sweet Peaville.

Vegetarian Chili

1 medium onion, diced
1 sweet potato, diced (or try carrot, squash or even corn)
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 - 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 - 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 - 15 oz cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
2 - 15 oz cans Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 12 oz beer (or just use 1 1/2 cups water)
3-4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon +)

Toppings: light sour cream, shredded cheddar, diced red onion, cilantro (all optional)

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker.

Stir well. Cook on high for 5-7 hours, low for 10-14 hours. Serve with desired toppings.
Tastes even better the next day!

(serves 12-16, but can be halved -OR- freeze the extra, since this chili freezes great)

Perfect for a busy soccer practice night, a family gathering or a football tailgate!

Life is sweet,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy in Sweet Peaville

A happy morning here in Sweet Peaville. For the first time in nearly 4 months, both R and G are back at school, and at least for next hour, I have some time to myself. feels good.

I ran to the grocery store this morning, alone. Had to pick up some items for our meal plan for this week:

Lemon Dill Couscous with Cashews

Slow Cooker Carolina Pork BBQ, Coleslaw, Best Baked Beans
Vegetarian Chili (a new recipe--will share if it makes the cut)
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Chicken Sausages in the Slow Cooker with Sauerkrat, Green Beans and Applesauce

If I have the time, I am going to whip up another batch of our favorite, updated Autumn Pumpkin Muffins. Loaded with pumpkin and Vitamin A, these muffins are fantastic with breakfast or as an on-the-go snack.

(You can make these with raisins or walnuts, but R and G are loving these plain jane)

Have a sweet week,

Saturday, September 10, 2011

200 South Street Inn Granola

A few weeks ago SPH and I left R and G with their Grandma and Papa, and their cousin E for a boys' visit in Virginia. SPH and I traveled to Charlottesville, one of our favorite places to visit.

We stayed at 200 South Street Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast...that defines Southern Hospitality. When we arrived, there were freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, their smell still wafting throughout the inn. Each late afternoon there was wine, cheese and fresh fruit waiting to be enjoyed in the dining room. But it was the breakfast, specifically the granola, that captured my attention.

Each morning there was a bowl of homemade granola. Perfectly balanced between sweet, nutty and a touch salty too, to me, this granola was the best I've ever tasted. I asked for the recipe, and they graciously shared it with me...and I want to share it with you!

200 South Street Inn Granola

4 cups whole oats
1 1/2 cups buckwheat
1 1/2 cups raw sunflower seeds
1 cup whole roasted almonds
1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt*
1 1/2 cups dried, shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup dried currants or raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the oats, buckwheat, sunflower seeds and almonds in a large, shallow stainless steel bowl. Add the oil, honey, vanilla extract and salt. Stir well.

Cook for 30 minutes in the bowl...if you do not have a stainless steel bowl, a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet will work fine, but cooking in the bowl makes stirring it as it cooks a breeze.

After 30 minutes of cooking, stir and put back into the oven. Stir every 30 minutes, cooking for a TOTAL of 90 minutes.

Granola should be light brown, just past golden when it is ready to be removed from the oven. Remove and add the coconut and currants. Stir a few times as it is cooling to prevent clumping.

Makes about 9 cups granola.

*for the recipe, I used salted almonds, but if you use all unsalted nuts, you may want to add a touch more salt to taste.

Thanks 200 South Street, for sharing your amazing granola with me!

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken

I'm over at today, blogging about a new original slow cooker recipe, Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken:

I made this just last week and it was a perfect "welcome to fall" type dish. Click here for the recipe.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

After a scorching Saturday afternoon with temperatures approaching 100 degrees here in Ohio, yesterday’s weather was a welcome break. The high struggled to reach even 70, so SPH, R, G and I spent most of the day outside, working, playing and preparing a really yummy Labor Day meal, including SPH’s first-ever smoking of jalapenos to make homemade chipotle peppers.

Ahhh...fall, I can feel you coming...and with the fall, comes the perfect weather for a delicious and healthy lasagna.

This is my favorite lasagna recipe, a perfect “assemble it in the morning, pop it in the oven for dinner” type of meal. It uses roasted vegetables, and any ole’ combination will work. This time of year we use zucchini from the garden, broccoli and mushrooms. But whatever you think will appeal to your family’s tastes, you can try.

Oh, and one bonus: this lasagna is egg-free.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

1 medium zucchini, cut in half circles
1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
8 ounce package of mushrooms, quartered
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella, or "Italian" cheese
3 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, chopped well
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 - 32 oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 - 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 box no-cook lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place zucchini, broccoli and mushrooms on a cooking sheet or two if needed, brush or spray with about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil, sprinkle with approximately ¼ teaspoon each of salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Cook for 10 minutes, stir veggies on pan, cook 10 minutes more or until they are slightly browned. Remove from the oven to cool.

Reduce heat in the oven to 400 degrees, if making immediately, or off, if making ahead of time.

Mix spinach and ricotta cheese in a bowl. Season with an additional ¼ teaspoon each salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Spread 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or like-sized dish. Place lasagna noodles to cover bottom. Spread 1/2 the ricotta cheese mixture, 1/2 roasted veggies, 1/3 each of the pasta sauce, diced tomatoes and shredded mozzarella. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles.

Repeat--spread 1/2 the ricotta cheese mixture, 1/2 roasted veggies, 1/3 each of the pasta sauce, diced tomatoes and shredded mozzarella. Place one more layer of noodles, then remaining pasta sauce, tomatoes, and then top with the cheese.

Bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes to set before serving.

If making ahead, cover and refrigerate. Can be assembled up to two days before baking. Once ready to bake, bake at 400 degrees covered for 20 minutes, then uncover for 10-15 additional minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes to set before serving. Sprinkle with fresh basil, if desired.

Serves 8.

Life is sweet,

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Top Ten Slow Cooker Faves

Crock Pot Girls has gone viral. Tuesday morning my friend Jenn, who lives in Texas, sent me their link. By the end of yesterday dozens of my friends had already "liked" their site. These CP girls collect and share recipes for using your slow cooker.

Maybe because of this CPG craze, or maybe because it is now September, but a lot of you have been asking for slow cooker recipes too.

So here are the Sweet Pea family Top Ten Slow Cooker Faves, I think they'll be some of your favorites soon too:

Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Carolina Pork BBQ

Chicken Taco Soup (can easily be made vegetarian/vegan)

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Italian Bean and Artichoke Soup (can be made vegetarian/vegan)

Slow Cooker White Chili

Beef, Cremini Mushroom and Squash Stew

Chicken Paprikash

Moo Shu Pork

Chicken Tikka Masala

Enjoy--and if you haven't already, dust off that slow cooker and get cookin',