Tomato Basil Chicken Stew

Image

When you’re spending thousands of dollars on the Lazaro wedding dress of your dreams, you want to be damn sure you look good in it. So, before we got married, my husband and I worked together to lose any excess poundage before the big day. We were in the gym 5 days a week, either taking a spinning class, running on the treadmill, or, in my case, shaking it in a cardio hip hop class. We probably looked ridiculous to the meatheads lifting 400 lbs right outside of the classroom, but I swear it was an awesome workout, and I learned lots of fun dance moves. In fact, I may or may not have taught an entire wedding how to “dougie” once after a few too many sweet tea vodkas with lemonade. Long story.

Just as important to our weight loss regimen was our diet. As someone that loves to cook and bake and eat, this part was a lot less fun for me. However, this recipe for Tomato Basil Chicken Stew was a lifesaver. It is seriously flavorful and loaded with filling veggies and chunks of chicken. Even now that we’ve become more lackadaisical in our diet and exercise, we still make this stew because it doesn’t taste like “diet” food. This recipe makes a bunch of stew and freezes great. Reward yourself for going to the gym tonight with this stew, a crusty piece of bread, and a sweet tea vodka with lemonade.

Tomato Basil Chicken Stew
Adapted from: Gimme Some Oven

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes (with their juices)
  • 1 14 ounce can cannelinni beans, drained
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (I put a few breasts in the slow cooker, cover them with water and let them cook on low while I’m at work)
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, zucchini and celery and saute for until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute or two until fragrant.

2. Add in remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or all day. Nom.

Applesauce Mac & Cheese with Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage

Image

I wanted to be sure to get this recipe up here before Spring comes around and we all, inevitably, start thinking about swimsuit season. The combination of gooey cheese, sweet maple sausage and homey applesauce makes this one sexy, cozy dish, perfect for these frigid nights we’ve been getting in Columbus. And hey! Apples and chicken are on your bikini diet, right?

I first made this Applesauce Mac & Cheese with Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage in late summer, just when the leaves were starting to change and I felt like I needed to do something…I don’t know…Autumnal? It has since become one of my favorite dishes for the  colder months. We’ve gone on to eat the scrumptious chicken sausage in quiches and even on its own for breakfast. I use Al Fresco brand, which can be found at Meijer and Giant Eagle. To save ourselves from spending $20 on Gruyere , we tweaked the original recipe and bought Swiss instead. This recipe makes a big ‘ol pan and it freezes well. Enjoy it with a salad, a side of applesauce and an IPA.

Applesauce Mac & Cheese with Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage
Adapted from: Adventures in Cooking

  • 1 pound pasta (elbow mac, shells, whatever you prefer)
  • 3/4 pound chicken apple sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces
  • 3 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 12 ounces Swiss cheese, grated, 1/2 cup of it set aside
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare the pasta. When it is al dente, drain it well and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the apple sausage and cook until it is caramelized on the outside.

2. While the pasta is cooking and sausage is browning, heat the milk and applesauce in a medium saucepan over medium low heat until hot. Be sure to not let it boil and stir every few minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butta in a large dutch oven. Once it is completely melted, whisk in the flour. Continue whisking the butta/flour mixture for two minutes, then whisk in the hot milk and applesauce. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes. The mixture should begin to thicken.

3. Remove the dutch oven from the heat and stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, Swiss (except the 1/2 cup), cheddar, and the apple sausage pieces until evenly distributed. Add the cooked pasta and coat with the cheese sauce. Spread everything into a baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of the grated Swiss and a few dashes of pepper. Place the uncovered pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the macaroni on top just begins to turn golden brown at the tips. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Nom.

Dark Chocolate Fig Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

fig

I think I suck at baking.

I want to be really, really good at it and surprise my loved ones with gorgeous birthday cakes or delicious congratulatory cookies, but I’m never completely happy with the way my baked goods turn out. My cakes are dry and my frosting gets crumby. My sugar cookies are rock hard and my royal icing is never shiny.

Cooking, on the other hand, is something I have much more success with. I’m good at it, it’s fun and I have a sexy sous chef (my husband).

Perhaps I struggle because baking is such an exact science and cooking is more of an art where you can throw butta and cheese and meat into a bowl and odds are it’ll turn out yummy. That may be the reason I am so thrilled that these Dark Chocolate Fig Coconut Oatmeal Cookies turned out so well.

I was also thrilled that my meat n’ taters husband enjoyed them. When I placed the dried figs into our cart at the grocery store, he gave me a look that said, “what are you trying to do to me?,” but he liked them so much he even packed a few for lunch (and might have had one for breakfast).

Don’t be intimidated by the figs. Their flavor is like a raisin, only a little less sweet, and they end up giving the cookie this awesome, chewy texture. Don’t like coconut? Feel free to omit it, but I really loved the extra crunch it offers. Cook for 15 minutes and enjoy with a cup of coffee on a Sunday afternoon while you marathon Breaking Bad.

Dark Chocolate Fig Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from: Food52

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butta at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats (not the instant kind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate chunks or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butta and sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together all of the remaining (dry) ingredients. Whisk lightly to eliminate any lumps and evenly distribute the ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the butta mixture on low until fully combined.

3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Drop 2 tablespoon scoops of dough onto greased baking sheets. Bake each sheet one at a time for 15 minutes, keeping the remaining dough chilled in the refrigerator while each batch bakes. Cool the cookies on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Nom.