Category Archives: Food

Herbed Chicken Stew

This is an excellent hearty meal that tastes like it took all day but really is less than an hour. I like to do the chopping and such throughout the day when I have a few minutes here and there. That way when I’m ready to throw it all in the pan, everything is waiting and ready to go.

herbed chicken stew










You’ll need:
2 Tbl. flour
2 tsp. chili powder (or you can use paprika for a milder spice level)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary (or about 2 tsp. fresh chopped)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
2 lbs. chicken
2 tsp. olive oil
5 medium carrots, cut into 2″ pieces
2 medium onions, chunked
3 cups chicken broth
2 lbs. potatoes (small reds can be scrubbed and quartered, russets either scrubbed or peeled and chunked)
1 pinch of dried dill

1) Combine the first 6 ingredients (flour through garlic) in a large ziploc or a big bowl. Slice the chicken into serving size pieces. I normally cut each breast into 6-8 pieces. Add to the bag/bowl and toss to coat.

2) Heat the oil in a deep skillet or a dutch oven. Add the chicken and any remaining flour mixture. Lightly brown both sides of chicken pieces.

3) Add carrots and onions. Pour chicken broth over everything and arrange the potatoes on top. Sprinkle potatoes with the pinch of dill. Bring the skillet to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes or so until the chicken is done and veggies are tender.

4) During the last 15 minutes of cooking time, make a roux in a small pan by melting 2 Tbl. of butter over medium heat and whisking in 2 Tbl. of flour. Season with a pinch of each salt and pepper. Stir and let it brown a little. Scoop a ladle or two of pan juices into the roux and whisk until combined. You want this to be the consistency of a loose gravy, not too thick but not too liquidy. Do one ladle of juice, whisk it in, and then do another if you need to. When you’re happy with the roux, pour it into the stew and stir to thicken the sauce.

I made a version of this a year or so ago and though the flavor was almost right, there wasn’t enough juice and everything dried out just a bit. I tweaked the seasonings, added more broth, and decided that the roux would help bring it all together. The chicken stays at the bottom of the skillet under the veggies and stays nice and moist. Carrots and onions get so sweet and the potatoes sit mostly on top of the broth and basically steam, that way they don’t boil and more or less keep their shape. When I served this to my family last night, my nearly-7-year-old gave it a glowing review: “Delicious + excellent times a thousand!” All bowls were scraped clean, all tummies were full, and Mama is really happy to add another family favorite to the recipe box.

** Fair warning: This recipe makes a LOT of stew. It was enough to feed my family of 5 and leave enough for everyone’s lunch the next day. Feel free to cut this in half for a smaller family or if you’re not a leftover lover.


Smokey Chicken Baked Pasta

There is this really great locally-owed restaurant here in Mobile called The Hungry Owl. They make this great pasta dish with shredded chicken and smoked sausage in a spicy cream sauce. I ordered it our first time there and while I liked it very much, I wasn’t aware that green chiles were going to be an ingredient. There were a lot of them and it was just too much for me, but Jason *loved* it. However, the few bites I was able to get without the chiles were absolutely delicious. I kept thinking about it for weeks but since it is a single restaurant and not a chain, there are absolutely no copy-cat recipes for their yummy creative dishes on the internet (at least not anywhere I could find), so I gave up looking.

Almost a year ago I went to a cooking party at my friend Brittney’s house during which we purchased and used Wildtree seasonings to make lots of freezer meals. Over the last several months my family has been enjoying the meals and the other night we used our last one, the Chipotle Lime Chicken Fajitas. Problem was, the recipe had six chicken breast halves and since we are down one child (Jeremy is in California), we only ate three of the portions. What to do with the other three?

The next day I wasn’t really feeling a simple chicken quesadilla and I felt like this really yummy marinated chicken had great flavor to lend to a dish instead of just nuking it in the microwave. So I applied my new favorite kitchen activity… throw a bunch of things into a casserole dish and hope for the best! In this case, it was a tremendous hit!!


You’ll need:
1 1/2 cups chicken, cooked & chopped (that was about three chicken breast halves)
1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cups shredded cheese (divided 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup)
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

1) Marinate the chicken in Wildtree’s Chipotle Lime Rub (or seasoning of your choice – just make sure it’s very flavorful). Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook the chicken. Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for ten minutes or so then chop it up into bite sized pieces.

* This is a great dish to use up leftover chicken. Keep this recipe in mind for when you have some extra chicken from a meal earlier in the week. If you just have one chicken breast, use that and maybe throw in some chopped veggies like onions/celery/mushrooms.

2) In a bowl, combine the cream of chicken soup, milk, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken and cooked pasta.

3) Pour the mixture into a medium casserole dish (mine was an 8×11″) and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top. Now that I think about it, a little bread crumb added to the cheesy topping would be an incredible crunchy boost to the creamy texture. I’m going to try that next time. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

I went in just wanting to make something yummy with some leftover stuff I had in the fridge. We loved it and you know what Jason said? “It tastes familiar. Smokey and just a little bit spicy.” Just then we knew I had somehow thrown together an almost exact replica of the yummy dish at The Hungry Owl that we’d both liked. Theirs had smoked sausage in it, which would be tasty, or you could put some bacon, but we liked it just with the chicken. That’s the best thing about casseroles, they are so versatile!

Special Occasion Potatoes

I got this recipe from my good friend Ericka and it was called “Funeral Potatoes”. My family loves them and they are always a hit at potlucks, so I just can’t call them Funeral Potatoes anymore. I’ve found similar recipes that call them Duchess Potatoes but I just call them Special Occasion (even though I make them for parties as well as an average Wednesday dinner).

7 medium russet potatoes (or 4 of the monster size baking potatoes)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream (I often swap low fat cottage cheese and it’s delicious)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter (salted or unsalted, doesn’t matter)
2 tsp. dried chives
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic

1) Scrub the potatoes and place in a large stock pot. Cover with water and boil them whole with the skins on. When a knife slides easily into the potatoes, drain and remove them to a cutting board and let them cool to room temperature. I do this in the morning and then leave them out for a few hours.

2) Heat the remaining ingredients in the stock pot that you cooked the potatoes in. Once everything is combined and the cheese is melted, turn it off and leave the sauce in the pot.

3) The original recipe said to shred the potatoes, but I prefer more texture, so I take the easy method and just slice the potatoes into rounds, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Add them into the stock pot and stir until everything is mixed together.

4) Dump everything into a 9×13″ pan or similar 3-quart casserole dish and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Or, this is a great dish to make up ahead of time and keep in the fridge (covered) unbaked for a few hours until you’re ready to pop it in. If you bake it from refrigerated, it will take about 45 minutes. I usually up the oven temp to 400 and bake it covered for 20 minutes and then uncovered for 20-25, that way the top doesn’t burn before it’s heated through.

5) If it’s even possible, these are better as leftovers. I don’t know why, they just are. I usually put a serving on some foil in the toaster oven pan and heat it up in there instead of the microwave or turning my oven on just for that. Since the heating element is closer to the food it only takes about 15 minutes or so and it gets the edges a little more browned and crispy. I love it!

Lastly, since this makes a huge dish full and is meant to be potluck size to feed a crowd, I have adjusted the recipe by about half and baked it in my 7×11″ dish to make just enough for a family dinner.

3-4 medium potatoes (or 2 huge baking size)
1 cup sour cream or cottage cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 butter
1 tsp. dried chives
1/2 tsp. each salt, pepper, and granulated garlic
no cream of chicken soup (it’s kind of hard to use just half a can – you could and then just put the other half in a tupperware to use later, but I’d forget about it)

Follow directions as above, but bake it for just about 20 minutes (or 30 from refrigerated). Cooking time depends on how big a dish you use and whether it’s a glass Pyrex or metal. When the cheesy sauce is bubbling around the edges, it’s done.

Beef Stew

Tonight we had the best beef stew that I’ve ever made. I’ve made several over the years using various methods: stock pot, slow cooker, packaged seasoning mix, and more homemade seasoning recipes than I can remember. I finally did it though, I worked up my own mixture and it is shockingly simple. 🙂


1 large onion, large chunks
4 medium russet potatoes (or 12 small red potatoes), chunked
4 carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch lengths
1 pound stew meat, cubed

1 tbl. ground cumin
1 tbl. paprika
1 tbl. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1-2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
5-6 cups of beef broth

1) Melt a tab of butter in a skillet and cook the onions just until there is a little color on them. Just for a few minutes. Dump them into a large slow cooker.

2) Add a bit of oil to the skillet and toss in the meat. Salt and pepper to taste and sear the meat on all sides. Dump it into the slow cooker on top of the onions.

3) Add the potatoes and top with the carrots.

4) Sprinkle the seasonings on top and pour in enough beef broth to almost cover everything (sometimes it takes 5 cups, sometimes 6).

5) Cook on high for 5 hours.

I love this recipe because it doesn’t use any flour or cornstarch to thicken the broth, it stays the consistency of a soup (the packaged seasoning mixes always turn the broth almost to gravy, not what I want) and the meat and veggies are in nice large pieces which definitely makes it eat like a meal. The cumin gives it a really nice well-rounded warmth in the background and the paprika adds a little heat that isn’t at all overwhelming. Of course, if you want more heat, you can always add some cayenne or red pepper flake. I hope you enjoy this recipe for all it’s delicious simplicity.

Pound Cake

I have to admit, until the other day I had never before made a pound cake. For no reason at all I had imagined them to be difficult and use up lots of ingredients.

How silly! This pound cake came together so quickly I had to check to make sure that I didn’t forget anything. When it was finished baking and we sliced it up, I couldn’t believe how light it was! The pound cakes I’ve purchased for years from the grocery store (both frozen and bakery) have always been very dense and dry. This one, while still being dense, was also airy in a way that made it feel like a cross between a typical cake and a pound cake. Kind of hard to describe, but if you make it you’ll know what I mean. Also, the outside browns up quite a bit and the crust looks too dark, but trust me that it’s great. It’s not burnt, those edges aren’t crunchy as they appear to be – they taste like a sugar cookie.

I wish I’d gotten a picture before we sliced it and served it up with strawberries and homemade whipped cream, but unfortunately I did not. Next time!

1 cup softened butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Cream the butter until it is light and fluffy, then add the sugar and whip for about 5 minutes.

2) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.

3) Add the flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in the vanilla.

4) Spread into a 9×5″ loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour at 350°.

Tip: If you double the recipe it’ll fit perfectly into a 10″ tube pan.

I saw another recipe that used a cup of slivered almonds (run through the food processor) in place of some of the flour. That would add a really yummy flavor.

Smoked Sausage Hash Bake

My good friend Patty makes a really great Breakfast Bake with ground sausage, eggs, cheese, and a crust made of crescent roll dough. I have made it a bunch of times and we’ve always loved it. However, one time when I signed up to bring a casserole to a MOPS meeting I realized quite late that I did not have the ground sausage nor the crescent roll dough. Now what? It was too late for a grocery store run, so I pulled out what I did have and rolled with it. I must say, this turned out really excellent as well.

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, skins on, scrubbed and diced

1 pound smoked sausage, diced (sometimes they come in 14 oz. packages instead of 16 oz., it’s not a whole pound but it works just fine)

6 eggs

2/3 cup buttermilk (naturally, regular milk will work fine, but I think the tang from the buttermilk plays well with the spicy sausage)

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. onion powder (or dried minced onion)

1/2 tsp. dill weed (I love dill in my eggs but if you don’t, just substitute dried parsley or basil)

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. chili powder or paprika (depending on your spice preference and how hot your sausage might already be)

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese

1) Cook diced sausage in a skillet over medium heat just until heated through, not crisped on the outside. Remove to paper towels to drain.

2) Pour out all but a teaspoon or two of the rendered fat. Toss in the potatoes and cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned and softened, not crunchy.

3) Layer the potatoes on the bottom of a 9×13″ pan that has been sprayed with non-stick.

4) Scatter the sausage evenly over the top.

5) Whisk up the eggs, buttermilk, and seasonings. Pour evenly over the sausage and potatoes.

6) Top with shredded cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350° until the eggs are set.

7) Allow to rest for a couple of minutes before cutting and serving. Jason and my boys appreciate a little ketchup on top, but I like mine as-is so that I can taste all the flavors that the ketchup would cover. So good!

Tip: I have seen a Spanish version of this on Food Network with sliced potatoes instead of diced, no cheese, some fresh diced tomatoes tossed in, baked in a round skillet, and flipped out like a pancake after the eggs were set and the whole thing was partially cooled. I’m looking forward to trying it that way some time.

Sausage & Potato Soup

I do love a good bowl of soup. For the past few years I’ve been trying to find new soup recipes that we like. I found a copy-cat recipe for my favorite Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden and then made some changes to better suit our taste. If you’re familiar with this soup at the restaurant you’ll notice that my recipe is missing the kale. When I order this soup I always eat around the greens because I’m not a fan, so when making it at home I just omit it (and then add an extra potato to bulk it up). I’ve been thinking about substituting julienned carrots or perhaps a little sliced celery so that there will be some more vegetal substance to it, but so far we’re really happy with the way I have it now.

1 pound ground sausage (I use regular but feel free to use the hot variety if you prefer.)

1 onion, diced

2 tsp. fresh minced garlic (a few cloves)

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flake (This amount makes the soup about medium spicy. I like to leave it there because it’s not too hot for the kids and you can always add a shake or two of extra pepper flake to your own bowl if you want.)

1 tsp. dried basil

6 cups water + 6 cubes of dried chicken bouillon (or just use six cups of prepared chicken stock)

2 pounds of russet potatoes, scrubbed, skins on, sliced thinly (I do mine somewhere around 1/4-inch, thin enough to cook quickly but just enough heft left to them so they won’t completely disintegrate while boiling.)

1 cup heavy cream

1) Saute the sausage with onion and garlic until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain the fat.

2) Add the red pepper flake, basil, water and bouillon cubes. Bring to a soft boil. Add sliced potatoes. Boil until tender but not falling apart.

3) Add heavy cream. Stir and serve.

I like to serve this with a fresh green salad since we’re missing the greens inside the soup. Delicious!