Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hearty Four-Bean & Kielbasa Soup

Beans, soup, chili, kielbasa hearty comfort food

In South Florida, there is no such thing as "winter," just occasional, beautiful, coldish days. The lowest it has been so far is probably 49 degree, which believe it or not, is freezing for us Floridians. We break out our boots, scarfs, turtlenecks, and large sweaters, it is the funniest thing. My boyfriend is from New York, so obviously this weather is a joke to him. He goes out in shorts and I just freak out, but I digress and the point of me bringing up the weather is that in the event of these random cold days I make yummy, comforting warm soups, thus this recipe. This I made when I got home from work on Thursday evening with no plan of what to make. I'm trying to consume less red meat, so I knew chili was out of the question but I did have turkey kielbasa sitting in the fridge begging to be used. I put flavors together in my head with the kielbasa, the beans and the spices and the result is this yummy soup! You can almost clear out your pantry with this recipe. Use what beans you may like as well as regular kielbasa instead of turkey. The next day it was just as delicious if not more since the spices had even more time to mingle. I hope you enjoy my impromptu soup and hope it'll help warm up your chilly nights!

Eryka on Wednesday with Eryka
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 16oz turkey kielbasa, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 15.5oz can black beans
1 15.5oz can red kidney beans
1 15oz can pork and beans
1 8.3oz can baked beans
1 14.5oz can diced tomato
1 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large stew pot, heat oil on medium. Add the onions, peppers and onions. Cook until fragrant and soft. Add the kielbasa; cook together for about 5 minutes.

2. In the same pan, add all the canned products with their juices (important: do NOT drain). Stir to combine. Follow with the tomato paste and all the spices.

3. Stir and bring everything to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste to check to seasonings. If ready, serve in bowls, top with your favorite cheese and enjoy!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chicken, Orzo & White Bean Soup

Chicken, Soup, White Bean, Orzo, Spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion diced
1 bell pepper diced
 8 ounces of cremoni mushrooms sliced in thick slices
4 skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped 
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh basil, finally minced
1 cup white wine
28 ounce can of San Marzano whole tomatoes (tear apart with your hand as you add to pan)
2 bay leaves
4 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of cannellini beans (previously soaked) or 1 can, drained and rinsed.
1/2 teaspoon of dried orange peel
Parmesan rind (optional)
1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup uncooked orzo
3-4 handfuls spinach
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

  • Heat a dutch oven or deep pan over medium heat. Add oil followed by onions and peppers. Saute 5 minutes.
  • Add mushrooms, cook 3 minutes.
  • Add the chicken, allow to lightly brown, then add the garlic. Stir to incorporate.
  • Sprinkle the rosemary, oregano and basil over top and stir well to incorporate. Saute 2 minutes.
  • Deglaze the pan with wine, scrape brown bits from bottom of pan.
  • Add the tomatoes,  bay leaves,chicken stock, beans and orange peel. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer. (At this point you can transfer everything to the slow cooker and set on high for 2 -3 hours or low for 6-8 hours.)
  • Cook until the beans are softened about 45 - 60 minutes
  • 30 minutes before serving, bring to a low boil add, salt, pepper, orzo and spinach, stir, lower heat to simmer.
  • (For the slow cooker, raise heat to high and stir in, salt, pepper, orzo and spinach - cook 30 minutes or till orzo is al dente).

To Serve: Grate parmesan over each serving and with your favorite bread.

Recipe notes:  You can use dried herbs in place of fresh just be sure to adjust  quantities as dried herbs are much more potent.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Easy 3-Course Valentine's Dinner

I am not fond of going out to dinner on Valentine's Day. The restaurants are crowded, the service is lacking and the food generally atrocious. I'd rather make a delicious dinner at home that I know we will enjoy more. Today I am sharing a 3-course dinner that is high on the flavor barometer and low on the fuss, a beautifully light pea soup, a parchment baked fish and yummy nutella and banana pastry bundles. If you do some of the prep work ahead of time (like chopping or slicing the veggies etc), it will all come together in about 30 minutes. The soup you can make ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a day or two. You can even make it at the beginning of week and freeze it till you are ready to serve it, just defrost it and gently warm through. 
I hope you and your loved one have a beautiful Valentine's celebration!

First Course

Spring Pea Soup

Serves 2
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 tablespoon light butter
3 - 4 shallots, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic gloves, crushed
5-6 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup milk (use your preference, whole, 2%, skim etc)
1/2 cup half and half

In a medium stainless steel pot heat the oil and butter over medium heat and add shallots, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, saute for 3 minutes. Next add garlic gloves, basil and parsley, cook for another 2 minutes and add stock and the peas. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 5-7 minutes.

Using either a blender or immersion stick blender, process until smooth. Stir in milk and half & half, heat through but do not boil. Add remaining salt or season to taste.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream.

Second Course

Lemon & Paprika Infused Parchment Roasted Grouper

1/8 cup of olive oil
1/2  teaspoon of minced garlic
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika (sweet or hot your choice)
3 shallots*, sliced into rings
2 fish fillets* - use your favorite firm whitefish -  I used grouper

Place the first 5 ingredients into a medium bowl. Whisk together until ingredients are incorporated. Add the sliced shallots rings. Let sit for 15 minutes or a few hours (you can even prep this part the night before).

Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees F

Cut two sheets of parchment* enough to create an envelope around the fish. Pat fish dry. Salt and pepper both sides to taste and place in the bottom half of the sheet. Place shallots ring atop each fish fillets and spoon marinade over each fillet. Like you would for an empanada or hand-pie make a pouch with the parchment to enclose the fish.  Place pouches on a lipped baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or 15 minutes per inch of thickness if you are using a thicker cut of fish.

Third Course

Banana and Nutella Pastry Bundles

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 banana, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces, 9 pieces total
9 teaspoons of Nutella
1 egg, beaten

1. Thaw the puff pastry until you can easy handle it. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Lightly flour your work surface and place your puff pastry down to cut it into 9 squares (remember do not worry about being perfect, it's ok!).

3. In each square, place a teaspoon of nutella topped by the banana slice. Brush the egg along each edge. Take each opposite corner and press tightly together. Repeat to all pastry pieces.

4. Place the pastries on a baking sheet and brush all over with the egg for the extra golden color when baking. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden in color.

5. Place on a cooling rack when done for about 5 minutes

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mayo-Panko Crusted Chicken

Mayonnaise Panko Bread Crumb Chicken Breast Baked

It is Tuesday afternoon, 5pm after work and I'm staring at a defrosted bag of chicken breast. What to do?!

I had no time for a decent marinade or for a brine to make the forever dry chicken breast moist.... but alas it hit me! Mayonnaise!

You must be thinking, what in the world? How does that make sense?

Baking chicken is, to me, the fastest, easiest way to cook chicken but baking tends to make the chicken breast dry out.  Here's how I fixed that little problem...

The mayonnaise in this breaded chicken recipe not only does the job of adhering the panko but adding much needed moisture and flavor to the breast. The panko makes it fluffy and crunchy ... it a perfect marriage. The recipe was a hit at home! I even shared it with a co-worker and it was a hit at her home; we were both successful in feeding our tired, hungry men AND they both asked that it be added to our cooking routine. Now that is a compliment. You could substitute chicken breast for chicken tenders. For an accompaniment, I made macaroni and cheese but the options are endless: pasta, corn on the cobb, baked potato, steamed veggies, rice pilaf, salad, beans, coleslaw, French fries and the list goes on. Have fun with it and enjoy!

Mayo-Panko Crusted Chicken is a
Wednesdays with Eryka Recipe
1lb chicken breast, halved
salt and pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup panko
1/2 grated parmesan cheese

1. Butterfly the chicken breast so that they are thin resulting in faster cooking time and more pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In one bowl or shallow dish, place the mayonnaise. In another dish, combine panko and parmesan cheese. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray with non-stick spray.

3. Take the first piece of chicken breast and coat in mayonnaise. Followed by coating the chicken with the panko-parmesan mixture then place on the baking sheet. Repeat for all pieces of breast.

4. Place baking sheet in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. Flip half way through cooking to ensure browning (it also adds a pretty color). Once done, serve and enjoy!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Moroccan Ras-el-Hanot Carrot and Chickpea

Carrot Chickpea Ras-el-hanot Sumac Moroccan Recipe

Recently I was going through one of my old cookbooks and in the back of the book I found an old yellow, lined sheet of paper with my chicken scratch for this recipe.  This recipe was given to me by a co-worker when I worked in International Banking in the 80s. The co-worker was Moroccan and I remember she brought me a serving of this very vegetarian dish and I loved it.

I am pretty certain I never got around to making it because back then, it was next to impossible to get any of the exotic spices this recipe takes.  Nowadays, you can find most of them at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's and of course ... the internet.

I use several exotic spices in this recipe which is what gives this vegetarian dish it's heartiness. Ras-el-Hanot, is a mix of several different spices, such as cardamon, cloves cumin, etc. Sumac is a red berry colored spice that has a tangy lemony flavor, often you'll see it sprinkled over hummus. Pilpelchuma  is a fiery spice, use sparingly, but it adds lots of depth to the overall flavor of this dish, so even a pinch is good.

Can you tell I am totally into this recipe and the spices?  I just love Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Indian food and I am pretty sure it's the combination of spices that I am so infatuated with.
Well I've rambled enough, here's the recipe... Oh and the Hub? Yeah, he gave it his usual blessing.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pistachio oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • Salt to taste - about 1 teaspoon
  • 1/8 teaspoon Pilpelchuma 
  • Black pepper to taste 
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Ras-el-Hanot
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled, sliced on the diagonal 
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock (if you use chicken stock - the recipe is no longer vegan)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons clover honey
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of raisins
  • Sumac

  1. Heat a skillet over medium low heat, add oils, followed by onions and garlic. Saute for 5-8 minutes or until onions are softened.
  2. Add the spices and stir to incorporate. Allow to cook for 1 minute, stirring to keep from burning.
  3. Add carrots and stock, stir and bring to a low simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid.  Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Add raisins, honey and chickpeas, cook and additional 10-15 minutes or until sauce has thickened. 
  5. Sprinkle each serving with a pinch of sumac

Serve with brown basmati rice or warm naan bread.  Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:  You can use just olive oil and not the combination I used here.  I just like that little extra something the nut oil gives.  You can use other dried fruit like apricots or dates. You can use cayenne pepper in place of the Pilpelchumal but there are no substitutes for the Ras-el-Hanot or the Sumac.

Friday, January 30, 2015

What's Your Slow Cooker Doing Besides Cooking Slowly?

Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central, slow cooker cooking food recipes
Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central

Last year was a record year in slow cooker usage in my household.  It was also the year I went through two slow cookers.

The first slow cooker I'd had about a year and a half and midway through last year it died. There is nothing worse than coming home to a cold slow cooker and having to throw out the entire batch of food ... especially when it's lamb.

The second one lasted all of six months max.  Both were from the Crock Pot brand which I've never had problems with at all in the past. In fact, the one prior to the last two, I'd had for over 10 years.

But I have to confess ... secretly I was a little happy the slow cooker broke.  Why? I'd had my eye on two slow cookers in particular.

The All-Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker with non-stick cast-aluminum insert you could use on the stove top to brown foods before slow cooking. The fact that I had to move the insert to the stove top to brown was a turn-off for me. But the All-Clad brand made it a contender.

Or the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central, a combination cooking unit, which works as a slow cooker, a somewhat very deep electric "skillet" and a steamer. In the slow cooker function you can program it to cook at high, low, simmer or warm AND my favorite feature you can brown/sauté your food before slow cooking right in the slow cooker. Temperature can be set from 175 to 400 degrees.  The insert is non-stick, it's not as heavy as the conventional ceramic inserts, and best of all it's easy to clean.

After reading reviews, about the feature and the practicality of each appliance I decided on the Cuisinart. I put it on my Amazon wish list, crossing my fingers that someone might get it for me. And, of course, that someone turned out to be The Hub. It was one of my Christmas presents and boy did I do the happy dance when I saw it!

It is now over a month old and I've been using it 3 - 4 times a week. I can say that I made the right choice for me.

So far ...
  • I've used it as a slow cooker
  • I've used it to brown food before turning on the slow cooker function and it really browns nicely
  • I've used it to brown/sauté and simmer food that was ready in 30 minutes or less - told you it's like an old-school electric skillet  ... only better
  • I've steamed vegetables, fish and mussels
  • I've used it to heat up these two soups from a frozen state and it was faster than in the microwave, plus you can switch it to warm to keep your food warm till you are ready to eat
  • Mostly kept it out on the counter because I find I am using it as more than just a slow cooker
If you are in the market for a new slow cooker, you might want to consider the
Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central. For about $150 you get an appliance that has more than one use/function. That's a big plus in my book!

I want to make it clear, that I am not being paid or compensated in any way to write this post.  I just wanted to share my personal opinion and experience with this particular unit. I use both brands, Cuisinart and All-Clad, at home, no preference for either brand skewed my opinion.

NOTES: I was not able to link the All-Clad unit directly to All-Clad because they do not carry it nor show it on their site.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Where's Wednesdays with Eryka?!

Relax folks! I've given Eryka the week off because it's her birthday week. She and her boyfriend, Mike, have a trip planned to Disney World to celebrate the coming of her 27th year! It's an all out trip with a fun character breakfast and fancy dinners at Epcot's World Showcase. I know they will have a great time. So Happy Birthday to my sugarplum, Eryka!

While she's out I'm sharing one of her top most viewed, liked and shared recipe and of course it's a dessert!

Banana Nutella Pastry Dessert Puff Baked

Banana and Nutella Pastry Bundles, only four ingredients and so easy to make, but they look so impressive!  If you are hosting a SuperBowl party this Sunday, serve these.  Just be sure to make a double batch, because your guests will want more for sure!


  • 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
  • 1 banana, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces, 9 pieces total
  • 9 teaspoons of Nutella
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Thaw the puff pastry until you can easy handle it. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Lightly flour your work surface and place your puff pastry down to cut it into 9 squares (remember to not worry about being perfect, it's ok!).

3. In each square, place a teaspoon of nutella topped by the banana slice. Brush the egg along each edge. Take each opposite corner and press tightly together. Repeat to all pastry pieces.

4. Place the pastries on a baking sheet and brush all over with the egg for the extra golden color when baking. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden in color.

5. Place on a cooling rack when done for about 5 minutes then enjoy!