Chipotle Butternut Squash Chile

One of my greatest loves during the fall and winter months is soup. Not broth. but chunky, hearty, filling soup. It’s easy, comforting and warms you up down to your toes. Soup leaves the kitchen smelling homey. It is easy to double or triple a batch for company. Easy to store, reheat and freeze…and you can cook it so many ways. If you search our posts, we have no shortages of soup here. While I can’t complain about the winter being warmer this year, it has left me less in the mood for soup.

Last week, though, I found myself craving a bowl. I ransacked my fridge to see what I had. Last year I made a delicious butternut squash black bean and quinoa chili, but have since lost the recipe. In my search, I stumbled upon this Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili with Avocado from Cookie & Kate. I already knew that butternut squash and black beans were an excellent combination, and I felt that you can’t really go wrong with chipotle and avocado, especially since I had recently learned to pick a perfectly ripe avocado. So I gave it a go…

The results were far better than I hoped. We ate it back to back meals, and leftovers. My hubby was quite disappointed when it was all gone. The recipe calls for about an hour of cooking time and a half hour of prep, but I cut this way down, by throwing everything in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. To adapt it for the pressure cooker, I started by sauteing onions, bell peppers and squash in a pan with olive oil. (Costco sells pre-cut squash!). Once soft, add garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin and cinnamon and just enjoy the fragrance. Add the bay leaf, black beans, tomatoes, and broth, put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. At this point I simmered my chili for about 10 minutes until it was reduced, in the future I will put less liquid… though truth be told, I think pureeing it in a blender for a hearty creamy soup would also be absolutely scrumptious

There are notes on the original recipe, that you may be able to cook this in the slow cooker also.

You can top the chili with corn tortilla strips/chips, avocado, cheese, sour cream, red pepper flakes, cilantro, hot sauce or whatever else you think would be good. I topped mine with cheese, sour cream and avocado. Find the recipe here; and let us know what you think!

#TBT – Using Your Pressure Cooker

Welcome back to another Thowback Thursday!  Here is one of our most popular posts from the past. The pressure cooker has become one of Kayte’s most-used kitchen appliances, and several of our regular readers have invested in (and love!) one.  I recommend it highly for anyone who is cooking for a family and needs to be able to put a good meal together without spending a lot of prep time.

Click here to read the original post.

Feta Pesto Pasta


This meal is so simple I’m a little embarrassed to even make a blog post out of it. I wouldn’t, except it’s become a family favorite and my husband would happily eat it every night of the week if it were up to him. These days I’m feeling less than inspired to be ambitious in the kitchen, being 33 weeks pregnant and sporting a significant waddle. Honestly, all I want to do is sit on the couch with my feet up, eating my fetus’ weight in Butterfingers, and work on various craft projects for the nursery. 

What Butterfingers do to ya.
This meal is almost exclusively from Costco (everything but the pasta), but can easily be done with ingredients from a regular grocery store. You just won’t be able to brag that you made 8 meals out of a $9 jar of (the best ever) pesto sauce! Considering a small 4 oz jar at the grocery store is about $5, that’s a very good deal. This dish is so quick to prepare that it is literally done by the time you boil the pasta.

A great use for leftover rotisserie chicken.

My method is to start my pot of water to boil, roughly chop leftover cold chicken (don’t forget to save the carcass for chicken broth), and dice the onion before adding the pasta to the boiling water. Next I throw the onions in a hot skillet to sauté, then add the sun dried tomatoes and chicken just long enough to heat them through. The results look like this:

Onions, sun dried tomatoes, chicken.

When I strain the pasta, I add the cold pesto sauce to the hot pot and dump the pasta in on top of it. This is referred to as “Being Too Lazy To Dirty Another Pan.” Next I simply combine all the ingredients and stir, topping with feta. Voila!

This is probably the tastiest 15 minute meal I know how to make. I have bags of Costco rotisserie chicken in my freezer that will make this meal even easier (as if that’s possible) after this baby comes. The onions and sun dried tomatoes are completely optional, and I’ve substituted fresh chopped tomatoes, broccoli, goat cheese, and other frozen veggies in the past. 

Feta pesto pasta

Feta Pesto Pasta

  • 1 box pasta (penne or rotini works best IMO)
  • 1-2 cups diced cooked chicken (rotisserie works great)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons pesto
  • feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package. In the meantime, chop onions and chicken. Saute onions, adding chicken and tomatoes and stir until heated through, then remove from heat. When you strain the pasta, add the pesto sauce to the hot pan and cover with hot pasta. Stir all ingredients together and top with desired amount of feta. Serve with garlic bread for best results (and maximum carb overload).


#TBT Chicken Bouillon

This blog post is a Throwback Thursday on Chicken Bouillon. I gave it that title too, but I’m temped to change it to reason #546 Kayte has completely changed my life. Ok – If we are being honest, its really how Mary has changed my life, but Kayte is the one who insisted I try it. If you saw the post on Chicken Bouillon, and thought “Hey, that’s neat, I’d like to give it a try” and you still haven’t – you need to. Like today. Like now. If you missed that gem, click on the link at bottom of this post.
Photo from when I made Chicken Broth

I tried it for the first time this week. I’m not really sure why I waited so long. I had tried years ago to make my own chicken broth, but found it lacking. I tried again a few months ago, at Kayte’s insistence and it was gold. We buy a lot of Costco rotisserie chickens, and it’s a great way to use up what would otherwise be garbage. Definitely more bang for your buck.  As an avid soup lover, and a orzo addict, it’s really helped my grocery bill. Chicken broth may be cheap, but it adds up. Frozen Chicken broth also takes up way too much room in my freezer. That’s where the boullion comes in handy. It is a reduced version of the delicious chicken broth! It takes up only 1/4 of the space!

My poor pot was filled to the brim!

I’ll be honest, I was purely motivated by necessity – I was in desperate need of freezer space, and I had FOUR chicken carcasses and a sandwich bag of veggies for just this purpose. I made two batches of broth, slow cooking for nearly 24 hours. Then cooled, skimmed fat/grease, and then heated and reduced. I poured mine into an 8×8 dish and cooled in fridge overnight, then cut into squares. Look at these beauties.

It’s like chicken broth jello!

Make Your Own Bouillon

It is very easy to make your own homemade bouillon if you are already making chicken stock (or any other kind, for that matter).  (I would not recommend that you use the purchased broth.)  Since I discovered how to do this, I no longer have multiple jars of broth in my freezer, and also don’t have to remember to take a jar out and let it defrost before I can use it.
Plan on starting with a generous amount of broth, because it cooks way down.  I started with a little over 3 quarts of broth (because that’s all my pot would hold).  Add the broth to the pot and bring to a boil, uncovered, then continue to boil until it starts to thicken a bit.  (Mine took about 2 hours from start to finish.)  If a scum forms on the top, skim it off. After the first hour or so, keep a close eye on it because you don’t want it to burn. When it coats the back of a spoon, it is done. As you can see, although mine is chicken broth, it is fairly dark in color.  This is because I always roast my chicken bones before making the broth, although that is not necessary.  I feel it gives a richer flavor.

The first time I did it, I poured it out on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, but this time I used a parchment paper lined 9″ x 9″ casserole dish to keep the final product in a more uniform shape. You can also use plastic wrap instead of parchment paper, but you will want to cool the broth down until it is just barely warm before transferring it.  Put it in the refrigerator to let it cool completely, and then turn out of pan, peel off parchment paper, and cut into cubes (it should have gelled to a consistency of Jello).  I cut mine into quarters one way and then quarters again the other way, ending up with 16 cubes.  After doing the math, that worked out well to make each cube the equivalent of approximately 1 cup. To use, add cube to one cup of hot water to reconstitute.  It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month, but I chose to freeze mine, separating the cubes slightly, and put in freezer bag and return to freezer.
If yours didn’t gel, you may not have boiled it quite long enough, or your original broth didn’t have much collagen in it. A great way to add collagen (which is super healthy) is to add chicken feet to the bones – I get mine from a local Asian market.  Even if yours didn’t gel, it is really good stuff.  Pour into ice cube trays, freeze and then transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen.  It takes up much less room to store and is ready to use on short notice.

White Bean Chicken Chili

     We recently hosted a small Christmas card family get together for my husband’s family (mostly as a last ditch effort to force ourselves to actually send some out this year). Everybody came with their Christmas cards and address books, and the plan was to make it a group activity. Every year my husband and my intentions and plans for Christmas cards get more elaborate, and each year we fail miserably. This year we were going to take photos for the cards at a Christmas tree farm, the children frolicking like tiny adorable wood nymphs among the trees, me looking like a winter goddess, and my husband manly and strapping as he cut down our tree in his annual Christmas kilt. The reality? It’s the day before the Christmas card party. My 10 year old has lost his only slightly festive and dressy sweater: reindeer t-shirt substituted. We were unable to gather our brood and leave the house as planned that morning before baby’s naptime: instead we rolled down the driveway at 4:45 p.m., just as the sun was going down. My husband is a man determined at this point, and still considered making the trek even after his GPS announced we were 40 minutes from the tree farm. Needless to say, pictures were NOT happening. A 10 minute trip to Home Depot for a tree was in our future.

Last year’s Christmas photo. Will probably take us another 12 months to do this year’s.
     Thankfully, the party was much more successful than our efforts to document our family for the holidays. While the company was awesome, the cookies were divine (OMG everybody must try the Jo’s peppermint cookies from World Market), and the children were adorably well behaved and entertaining, the white bean chicken chili was the piece de resistance. I’ve always loved beans, and this recipe is one of my favorites. This time, however, was off the charts due to borrowing a page from my mother’s brilliance and the innovation forced by missing ingredients. On a side note, my mother successfully freezes cooked beans, and I suspect this meal would translate well into a freezer meal. It is also very cost effective, as I fed 10+ people for under about $15.
     At the last minute I realized I did not have a sufficient amount of frozen homemade chicken stock (gasp!) in the freezer. Thankfully, I had some frozen homemade chicken bouillon squares my mom had made as an experiment, which she made by reducing a gallon of her chicken broth down to approximately 1 cup, then freezing on parchment paper. At the time I had no idea how concentrated these squares were, so I started with the two cups of water and 3-4 squares of the bouillon (approximately 2 in. squares). The broth this made was deep brown like beef broth, and smelled amazing. I had no idea this recipe could taste this good until I took my first bite. 
     My husband, who is usually a man of few words at the dinner table, muttered to himself at least 3 times, “Wow, this is really good.” Even more impressive, my 10 year old took his first bite then looked at me and said, “Wow, I had no idea this was going to taste like this!” This soup received rave reviews from my husband’s family, and was the perfect recipe to make a triple batch and feed a crowd of 10+. The original recipe calls for it to be cooked in the slow cooker (Low, 3.5 hours), but I’ve done it both in the pressure cooker (High, for 20 minutes) and in the oven (250 for 2 hours) with great results.
Best served with crusty bread or cornbread. 

White Bean Chicken Chili

3/4 pound chicken thighs, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I’m lazy and mash jarred diced jalapeno with a fork)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 15-oz cans white beans (I prefer Great Northern, made from scratch to avoid BPA)
3 cups chicken broth (or water with a few squares of reduced broth bouillon, recipe HERE!)
Optional toppings: sharp cheddar, sour cream, cilantro
Directions:
1. Brown cubed chicken in oil
2. Add onions and garlic the last few minutes and cook until the onions are translucent.
3. Rinse and drain beans into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker, and add broth and spices.
4. Mash the beans lightly a few times with a potato masher, as this thickens the final soup into a creamy stew-like consistency.
5. Add chicken and onion mixture into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker and stir.
6. Slow cook on low 3-3.5 hours OR pressure cook on high 20 minutes OR bake at 250 for 1.5-2 hours or until chicken is tender.

Uncle Guy, a satisfied customer who came back for seconds.

FYI – Best. Cookies. Ever. (Buy them here at World Market). I wish I could un-learn of their existence.

Salmon With Orzo Pilaf and Veggies

This meal is in regular rotation at our house. It’s not exactly a freezer meal, though the ingredients come straight out of my freezer, or pantry. We always have a bag of Kirkland Signature Boneless/Skinless Salmon Fillets in our freezer. These bags retail for about $28, and contain 7 individually wrapped fillets (around $4/Fillet, a pretty good price for Salmon). I usually have a variety of frozen veggies on hand, too.  I also keep several types of pasta in my pantry, including orzo. Again, I stock up when both these items are on sale and use them as needed. 
The picture above is salmon, cooked according to the bag directions, with a bit of olive oil and Penzy’s Shallot Pepper Seasoning. I’ve made it with salt & pepper, seafood seasoning, and other seasoning mixes, as well. The recipe for the orzo is listed below. 
 Orzo Pilaf with Veggies

Ingredients

  • 1 TBL Butter
  • 2+ Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 2 Cup Water (Or Chicken Stock)
  • 8 oz Orzo (1/2 box)
  • 1/4 C Italian Cheese/ Parmesan/ Goat Cheese
  • 1 Bag frozen veggies (see pic for my favorite!)
Directions
  1. Melt butter in pan on medium heat. 
  2. Saute garlic, until fragrant
  3. Add orzo. Cook until it begins to brown, approximately 3 min. 
  4. Add water (stock), frozen veggies, and seasoning,
  5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add cheese, stir and remove from heat. Serve.