Brazilian Black Bean & Pork Stew

We had a considerable amount of snow over the course of the past two weeks, probably the most that the Eastern Shore has seen in quite a few years. Both little ones were home with me, cooped up in the house, for a majority of those days.   Needless to say, comfort food was in order.

I’d had this recipe bookmarked to try since I bought my copy of Slow Cooker Revolution, and would add it to our weekly menu – but it just kept getting pushed back for one reason or another. I finally decided that it would make a great snow day meal, so it finally came together in my crockpot last week – and I’m kicking myself for not getting around to it sooner. I assumed that I wouldn’t really like it…I’m not the biggest kielbasa fan, and it seemed really meaty. Not that I dislike meat, quite the contrary. But, on initial inspection it just didn’t seem like my cup of tea. But, I knew all the little carnivores in this house would adore it. I was right on that count at least, but was wrong in assuming that I wouldn’t love it too!

The flavors were out of this world. Everything blended together perfectly when cooked, creating a symphony of meaty goodness in one pot. The pork and kielbasa were tender, but still retained their shape and texture. And the beans – oh my word, those beans! Absolutely perfectly cooked – nice and creamy, just the way I like them. I served over a bed of cilantro-lime rice, and topped with some sliced avocado and the Brazilian hot sauce they suggest in the book. It kind of reminded me of pico de gallo…but with the addition of green bell pepper, white wine vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil – it definitely added more layers of complexity.

It made a large batch, so we enjoyed it for dinner one night – and I stuck the other half in the freezer for a quick meal one night when I’m not feeling like cooking. Which, I must admit – is getting more and more often as the due date for baby boy #3 approaches. It’s good to know that such a hearty and comforting meal is just a thaw out and re-heat away!

Source: adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution

Tequila-Braised Short Rib Enchiladas

 A couple of weeks ago my friend Josie shared a recipe for a tequila-braised short rib enchilada. I was immediately sold. I made it for dinner one night last week, and my boys haven’t been able to stop talking about it since then! I know they’ll be on the menu again sooner rather than later, which is always a sure sign of a winning recipe.

Short ribs are braised in a bath of tequila and beef stock, with some onions and a poblano pepper tossed in to bring a little extra flavor to the party. I used boneless short ribs, because that’s what I had in the freezer – but bone in would be fine as well. The flavor of the beef after 3 hours in the oven was unparalleled to anything I’ve had grace my kitchen before, and I’m not just saying that. This will most definitely be my go-to  “barbacoa-style” beef for any Mexican dishes I make from here on out – tacos, burritos, quesadillas…you name it! Perfectly flavored and seasoned, it was just out of this world. Plus it’s a relatively hands-off dish, just browning the beef in a pan followed by softening of the onions and pepper, then a slow cook in the oven. I love those kinds of meals!

Once the beef was done I rolled it up in corn tortillas with a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, topped with a quick homemade enchilada sauce and some more cheese, and baked to a melty, bubbly goodness. I think we all agree that these took the crown for favorite enchilada in our house, taking the position from my infamous chicken enchiladas. Which, really says something, you guys. Served with a simple Spanish rice, this was a filling and delicious meal that the whole family could get behind. I just you know your family will enjoy it as much as we did!

Source: adapted from Pink Parsley

Vegetable Beef & Barley Soup

Gosh, it’s cold here. And I know our 10 degrees is nothing compared to some of my friends up north, who have been fairing in the negative temperatures this week. In this kind of weather, there’s nothing that’s better than a big pot of soup bubbling away on the stove.

Soups was one of the things I found hardest to “get right” in the kitchen when I was just learning how to cook. My mom made THE BEST vegetable beef soup, and for something that seemed so simple – the hell if I could ever get it right. I finally figured out I was being too fussy with it, it really does come down to simplicity. And time. Time is key too. Unlike chicken soups, beef soups don’t take all day. With the aid of a good store-bough beef stock (I personally love the Campbell’s brand found in the condensed soup aisle) a delicious, hearty, and filling soup can be on your dinner table in just a couple hours.

We usually reserve this meal for when I’ve cooked a roast of beef – either a big fancy prime rib roast, or a more affordable cut like an eye-of-the-round. In fact, I think we all might look forward to the second meal of soup than the first meal of roast beef! Well, I do at least. I can’t speak for the 3 other carnivores in my house. Did I tell you guys we found out Baby #3 is ANOTHER BOY?! It’s a good thing I love to cook, as I’m going to have quite a few bottomless pits to feed in a few years with three growing boys in the house! Big pots of soup will be my savior, and this one is my absolute favorite!

Don’t be afraid to play around with veggie combinations either. This is just usually what I have on hand in the pantry, and in the freezer – so I go with that. But I love to add chopped cabbage if I have that hanging around, or any other veggies that are hanging out in the fridge at the time. You can’t really go wrong with anything in here. I hope it becomes a favorite in your home too!

Rigatoni with Beef & Sausage Ragù

I don’t know about where you guys are, but there was a hint of fall in the air here this weekend. We turned off the air-conditioning and opened up all the windows, and I even had to don a long-sleeved shirt at the local fireman’s carnival on Friday night.

Needless to say, I was feeling something in the way of comfort food. And what better fits that bill than a big bowl of baked cheesy pasta? My girlfriend made this dish for me after we brought home our first son Andrew, over 5 years ago now. She drove all the way from Annapolis to come and make us this pasta, and share dinner with us. It quickly became a favorite in our home, and consequently my “go-to” baked pasta dish.

Ground beef and spicy Italian sausage is simmered in a rich tomato sauce, releasing all their meaty flavor into the sauce. Then at the end, a bit of heavy cream is stirred in…making it lighter in flavor, but yet richer at the same time. Layered with a bit of mozzarella cheese before baking, it’s becomes bubbly and crusty in the oven – everything that a baked pasta should be. Paired with a glass of red, a fresh green salad, and some crusty bread – it’s the perfect Sunday meal to gather your family around the table. We intend to enjoy every last day of summertime, but I’m definitely looking forward to that chill in the air being here to stay!