On Weeknight Dinners [mediterranean chicken stew with cinnamon couscous]

There are few things in life I’m more wary (warier? I like the sound of that) of than a recipe that contains the words simple or easy in the title.  This chicken stew is not that.  It claims to be a weeknight dinner, and I think that’s an adjective I can get behind in my dinner descriptions.  While “simple” and “easy” recipes often skips steps, or entire ingredients, to save time, that also often leaves them lacking in flavor or substance.  But a “weeknight” dinner is most likely both simple and easy, without having to be directly advertised as such.

Did I just overthink that?

I overthink almost everything.


I made this weeknight dinner from The Kitchn on a weekend, which is good, because while I’m fairly confident in my ability to put dinner on the table on a weeknight, I’m certain I can do it on the weekends.  I wanted to add toasted almonds, but otherwise, it’s a great dinner, and a real departure from our usual standbys (read: PASTA).  I’d make the cinnamon couscous on its own, should I find myself alone for a meal in the future.  That’s the stuff dreams are made of.

To make Mediterranean Chicken Stew with Cinnamon Couscous, you will need:

For the chicken stew:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, in puree
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, cut into bite sized pieces, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (I left this out because I hate olives)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the cinnamon couscous:

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (10-ounce) box plain, quick-cooking couscous
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice (throw some zest in if you’re using juice from a real, live orange)

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and oregano, cook for one minute while stirring. Pour in crushed tomatoes, chickpeas, chicken broth, bay leaves, and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add chicken, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
For couscous, heat chicken broth, oil, and salt until boiling. Add couscous and raisins, stir, remove from heat and cover. Let rest until all liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, add cinnamon and orange juice. Use fork to mix until combined. Set aside.
Remove stew from heat. Add olives and lemon juice. Serve hot over couscous.

You Can Never Have Enough Mac and Cheeses Up Your Sleeve [slow cooker mac and cheese]

To everything there is a season.

There is a time and a place for Wooden Nickel’s macaroni and cheese.  It’s the classic, and it’s perfect, and if you for some weird reason, deem it necessary to only have one macaroni and cheese recipe in your arsenal, let it be this one.

But then there is baking sheet macaroni and cheese, because sometimes you need mac and cheese quickly, and you need to feed an army.

And then there’s slow cooker macaroni and cheese because sometimes you don’t have time to deal with dinner.

In keeping with CV(D)’s request to showcase these glorious recipes I dump in the slow cooker, and promptly ignore, I did make The Kitchn’s macaroni and cheese.  AGOMYR had made it, and liked it but didn’t love it.  Which gave me pause.  But ultimately, no great mac and cheese recipe should go untested, so I had to give it a try.

IMG_9306First things first, it is completely un-photogenic.  So please accept this shot of my kitchen counter with a bowl on it, instead of the awful one of the slow cooker I took closer up.

Second, it’s really not bad at all.  AGOMYR noticed a bit of a graininess to it, and I almost wonder (and here I’m about to say something I never thought I’d say), did it have too much cheese?  It had 3 1/2 C, and I couldn’t move off the couch for about 2 hours after eating it.  It’s like eating a brick of cheddar.  Which isn’t bad.  And is something I’ve probably come scarily close to doing before.  But it just seemed a bit much.  Next time (yes, there will still be a next time), I’m ditching the half cup they want you to throw on top at the end.

The beauty of this particular recipe, of course, is that you dump everything in the slow cooker and walk away.  The Kitchn suggests you return with 10-30 minutes left of cooking to sprinkle a layer of cheese on top, but we already know I’m skipping that next time.  And with a call for that much cheese, you can use up whatever is left in the fridge.  For me that was some Parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar.  Anything that melts easily (the aforementioned cheeses, or fontina, or gruyere if you’re fancy) will be just fine here.

To make slow cooker macaroni for 6, you will need:

3 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups 2% or whole milk
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, or 1 teaspoon dijon or yellow mustard (I didn’t have that and used cayenne instead because it’s what I use to complement the cheddar in these)

  1. Combine ingredients in the slow cooker: Set 1/2 cup of grated cheese aside, then combine the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir to make sure that everything is evenly distributed and the pasta is evenly coated. Smooth the top so the pasta is submerged.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 4 hours*: The pasta is done when it has absorbed all of the liquid and the pasta is soft. It will look soupy up until the last half-hour of cooking, and then it will quickly finish cooking and absorb all the liquid. If this is your first time making this recipe, start checking the pasta after about 2 hours, then continue checking it every 20 to 30 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Every slow cooker will be slightly different; once you’ve made this recipe once, make a note of the cooking time for future reference.
  3. Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the pasta in the last 10 to 30 minutes of cooking. Cook until the cheese has melted or the rest of the liquid is absorbed into the pasta.
  4. Serve: Serve this macaroni and cheese straight from the slow cooker. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

*I have an All Clad slow cooker, and my macaroni was perfectly done after just 2 hours.

The Humble Breakfast Casserole {bacon, potato, and egg breakfast casserole}

bacon, potato, and egg breakfast casserole.It’s no secret the casserole is a food blogger’s nemesis.  There is no good way to photograph a casserole.  But breakfast casseroles are worth singing (or, you know, blogging) about.  I wouldn’t say this is a “lightened up” version of Cracker Barrel’s hash brown casserole, but it’s one step closer to being healthy.  In that it has a vegetable and a fruit (you know, a tomato).  And it does not contain sour cream or cream of mushroom soup.  Nor butter.  It does contain eggs and bacon, ergo, this is a hash brown casserole for a rich and sophisticated crowd.

Should you need to feed one soon, you can get everything ready up tot he point of baking, cover tightly with foil or plastic wrap, and set in the fridge overnight.  Unwrap, and place in the oven as it heats in the morning.  When something is coming straight from the fridge I like for it to reheat slowly, along with the oven.

It’s a forgiving recipe, so take this list of ingredients with a grain of salt.

To make bacon, potato, and egg breakfast casserole, you will need:

  • 4 slices thick bacon, cut into strips about 1/2-inch wide
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cleaned out and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk, fat content between 1% and 4% (whole)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups frozen diced potatoes, unthawed (I used refrigerated hash browns)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13×9″ baking dish with baking spray or olive oil.

Put the bacon slices in a large skillet and turn the heat on to medium. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until it is crisp. Add the onion, yellow bell pepper, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook over medium heat until all the vegetables are fragrant and soft — about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly and whisk in the milk. Whisk in the remaining teaspoon of salt, and the black pepper. Stir in the cheese, frozen potatoes, and the bacon and vegetables from the skillet. (Don’t worry; the frozen potatoes cook just fine!) Pour the whole mixture into the prepared baking dish. (At this point the casserole can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

When you are ready to bake the casserole, bake for 40 minutes, or until the eggs are firm and the top is slightly golden. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

The Oatmeal Club [mocha crunch steel cut oats]

In the middle of February, I wrote about wanting to be in The Oatmeal Club, that group of people who eats oatmeal for breakfast and knows something I don’t.  After 29 years of life on this planet, I found an oatmeal recipe I didn’t hate, and even kind of liked, and I enjoyed it for breakfast for about a week.  And now I’ve got another to share.  And now I really know why you Oatmeal Clubbers have all this energy.  You put your coffee in your oatmeal, don’t you?  Come on, don’t lie!

mocha crunch oatmeal

That’s what I did.  And truth be told, I think there’s still a little tweaking to be done here.  I didn’t have espresso, so I used coffee instead, and the flavor didn’t come through enough for me.  And I wonder about making this particular oatmeal with milk instead of water for more of a latte feel.  But there are times when a dish is too unique not to post, and this is one of those times, so dear readers, have some coffee.  And some oatmeal.  Together.

To make mocha crunch steel oats for 2-4, you will need:

  • 3 C water
  • 1 C steel cut oats
  • 1 1/2 T cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. espresso
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 C sliced almonds, toasted is always better, for serving
  • 1/4 C chocolate chips, for serving
  • cream, for serving

Bring water to a boil and add oats, cocoa powder, espresso, and salt.  Stir everything till combined.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, until oats are done.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar.  Spoon servings out into bowls and top with almonds and chocolate chips.  Pour some cream on top if you’re feeling super daring.

A Simple Dinner

For a busy night.

spaghetti with mascarpone, meyer lemon, spinach and hazelnuts

To make The Kitchn’s spaghetti with meyer lemon, mascarpone, spinach and hazelnuts walnuts, you will need:

  • 1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced (about 3 tablespoons juice)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • a few grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 5 cups (loosely packed) fresh spinach, washed, spun dry, and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts (but I only had walnuts)

Combine the zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Bring a pot of water to boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta until al dente, taking it off the heat about 1 to 2 minutes before you would normally remove it. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Return the pasta to the pot, and set over low heat. Stir in the mascarpone sauce. Add the spinach and toss so that the spinach begins to wilt. Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water (more if necessary) to keep the sauce fluid but not too watery. Continue to cook and toss until the spinach is cooked. Add the nuts and stir to combine. Serve immediately.



If you’re looking in your refrigerator, dear readers, wondering what on earth could come from the lack of ingredients resting before your eyes, consider the frittata. It’s something I’ve mentioned before.

This particular week found us with almost a dozen eggs (10, to be exact) on their last legs, 2 leftover (cooked) sausages, some broccoli that had seen better days and the remnants of a box of pasta from the night before.  And a vacation looming before our eyes.  Translation: no trips to the grocery store to restock the fridge, just a dinner that has to come from what’s already there.

Here’s how I took a bunch of loser ingredients, and turned them into a killer dinner (that would also make a killer brunch).

With a little inspiration from The Kitchn.

The eggs got whisked, the cream splashed in (what I had left in the bottle, between 1/4 and 1/2 cup), the sausage crumbled, etc, etc.

Oh, and there was cheese, too.  No good dish is without it.

It all went into the oven for about 25 minutes, and breakfast for dinner was born.

More specifically, the best breakfast for dinner this kitchen has seen in some time.  All with loser ingredients, that would have earned a trip to the trash can had they been left untouched a mere day or two later.

Open up your fridge and see what you can throw into your eggs.  You might be surprised at your own genius.

To make a Broccoli and Pasta Frittata for 8, you will need:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced (I used a red onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/3 C cream (or whole milk, or not)
  • 4 C broccoli florets
  • 1/2 box pasta (whatever cut you have is fine)
  • 2 links cooked sausage (these were are leftovers, you could throw in leftover chicken, or leave the meat out and make this vegetarian), crumbled
  • 1 – 1 1/2 C grated cheese (I used cheddar, but there’s no reason mozzarella, Gruyere, colby jack, and more wouldn’t work)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

To get started (and I did this the night before, while making a whole box of pasta), boil the pasta according to package directions.  In the last 3 minutes, throw in broccoli.  Drain the whole mess.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Saute the onion in olive over medium heat till softened, and just starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic clove and cook for about 30 seconds, just until fragrant.  Add red pepper flakes and some nice pinches of salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs and cream together until frothy in a large bowl.  Add cheddar cheese.

Place pasta, broccoli, sausage, and onion mixture in the casserole dish.  Pour egg mixture overtop, and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes, till eggs are set (when they puff up a bit).

On Picky Eaters

When I was a kid, I was a seriously picky eater.  If it didn’t come off of the kids’ menu I wouldn’t eat it.  I remember going to fancy (well they seemed fancy at the time) New York dinners with my mom’s side of the family and stressing over whether there would be anything on the menu I would actually eat.  And then I started to cook.  At first, I made my favorite foods.  Which means I cooked a whole lot of pasta.  You would be shocked to discover just how many ways Women’s Day can combine white wine, sausage, and rigatoni all in one skillet!  As my repertoire grew, so did my taste buds, I suppose, and before you know it I was cooking with things I wouldn’t have touched in my childhood days.

Now that I’ve worked so many new foods into my diet, I’m always excited to see my old favorites used in new ways.  I’ve always loved TheKitchn, but lately, they’ve been killing it.  And in the past week or so, I’ve seen two quick snacks that combine some of my kitchen staples in ways I never would have dreamed of.  Can’t see what that is up there?

Perhaps this will help.  Yep, that’s a potato chip in my hand, and yes, I’m dunking it in cottage cheese.  So weird, right?  But just as The Kitchn suggested, it’s also strangely addictive and good.  Trust me, dear readers, this is dangerous snacking territory.  There’s something going on between the creamy cottage cheese and the salty, crunchy potatoes.  I’d stop to figure out what it is, but that would detract from my inhaling of the two together.

And this little concoction is what happened on a whim when Sarah Kate from The Kitchn needed to serve a gluten free guest for dessert.  She scooped out vanilla ice cream, and topped it with olive oil, lemon zest, and sea salt.  So I did too.  A layer of each in between each scoop and an extra helping on top.  I was cautious with my drizzles and sprinkles because I didn’t know how this would fare, and would hate to ruin a perfectly lovely bowl (or jar) of Breyers.  I wish I could have gone back and added more, but again, I was too busy inhaling what was in front of me without looking back.  Click the link above to see a picture with a proper amount of toppings.

If you had told my 7 year-old self, or even my kitchen-experimenting 15 year-old self, that I’d be eating these foods together, I would have given you a prompt, “Whatever.”  But something’s happened after so many years in the kitchen, and there’s not much I wouldn’t try anymore.

Finger Foods

My Grandfather never ate anything at cocktail parties.  He swore he would never be caught nibbling on something while chatting with anyone, in case some crumbs flew astray mid-story.  And I respect that.  But I can’t imagine a enjoying a party without sampling the food.  Sorry Granddad.

Hopefully, these two-bite savory oatmeal cookies offer a compromise.  I put them on my good china, after all.

These were Sarah Kate’s featured recipe on The Kitchn this week, and I was drawn to them immediately.  They contain my olive oil, Parmesan, and herbs holy trinity, in a completely unexpected way.  Before I left work on Friday I shared with a co-worker that I knew these would turn out to be either a complete success, or an utter failure.

File this under win.

Though they are reminiscent of Grandma Glass of Milk’s crackers, they are decidedly cookie.  They are soft and chewy (it is my hope and dream right now that you are having Armageddon flashbacks while reading this), and despite their flavor, are almost delicate.  But they are not sweet.  They are intensely savory.  Dare I say, they put the savor in savory.  If you truly take your time with them, two bites is all you need (okay fine, I had four bites).

To make 3 dozen, you will need:

  • 1 C oats
  • 1/4 C warm water
  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 C sifted unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In large bowl (if you look at my photos, you’ll see I missed that memo) pour water over oats.  Stir, and let sit.  In small bowl, whisk olive oil, brown sugar and egg.  Pour over oatmeal mixture, stir to combine and set aside.  In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, rosemary and pepper.  When well mixed, stir in Parmesan till combined.

Gently pour mixture over oat mixture.  Stir just till combined.

Form small balls of dough, about 1 Tablespoonful in size (mine may have been slightly smaller, as I used a small cookie scoop), and place on baking sheet.  Using your fingers, gently flatten dough till it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle sea salt atop each cookie.  Bake 15-17 minutes, until edges are darkened.

Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

*A note – I would love to try these again with at least half the white flour swapped out for wheat.  But that’s another post for another day, and there’s no room at the inn for another batch.
*Another note – There is no reason any number of cheeses wouldn’t be equally delicious.  Blue cheese, anyone?