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Barley with Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion

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This is one of the “meals” (it’s really a side dish but I like to eat it as a meal) I’ve been making for years and usually resurrect come fall/winter.  My family absolutely loves it too, even my little nephew (or at least he did at 4 years old, the last time he ate it)!  I appreciate delicious vegetarian meals that satisfy me and this one fits the bill fo sho. The combination of the creamy squash, chewy barley, crisp red pepper & apple, and the contrasting savories and sweetness–it’s all just magic to me.  And I guess if a four year old boy will relish something that only contains unrecognizable healthy ingredients, it is pretty magical.

Barley with Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion

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3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup uncooked barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups butternut squash, peeled & diced
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, diced
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup fat-free chicken or vegetable broth

Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan; add barley. Cover saucepan and simmer barley until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes; drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add squash and cook, stirring often, until it’s starting to soften–about five minutes. Add the onion and red pepper and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Stir in apple, garlic, thyme, black pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until apple is almost tender, about 2 minutes; stir in broth, scraping bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Stir in cooked barley; toss over low heat to mix and coat. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves 4, about 1 cup per serving.

Per serving: 192 calories; 4.2 g fat; 0 g cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 5 g protein; 5 Points Plus

Recipe source: WeightWatchers.com

Shredded Chicken with Noodles

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I made this two years ago, it’s about time I shared it!  This is basically chicken noodle soup but with sauce instead of broth. As I’m all about chicken noodle soup, especially with homemade egg noodles, I love it with or without the broth (forget that my “sauce” looks more like broth, I obviously messed up by not thickening it enough, but you’re not going to, right?), and this is one of those hot comforting meals that seem essential during cold winter months.

In other news, today is the last day to enter my Tropical Traditions Gold Label Coconut Oil giveaway, and I also posted my announcement about February’s Sweetest Swap a lot later in the day than usual (after staying up until 6 AM on Monday so I could get all the details worked out and schedule the blog, I forgot to schedule it! Of course.) , so if you missed it, please check that out as well.  Now let’s scare the chill out of our bones with some savory chicken and noodles shall we?  And if you’d like to make your egg noodles from scratch, it couldn’t be easier, you can snag my recipe here.

Shredded Chicken with Noodles

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1 whole cut up fryer chicken
2 whole carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ whole medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoons turmeric
¼ teaspoons white pepper (more to taste) (I used black)
¼ teaspoons ground thyme
2 teaspoons parsley flakes
16 ounces, weight frozen “homemade” Egg Noodles or same amount dried large egg noodles
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1. Cover chicken in 4 quarts water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Remove chicken from pot with a slotted spoon. With two forks, remove as much meat from the bones as you can, slightly shredding meat in the process. Return bones to broth and simmer on low, covered, for 45 minutes.
3. Remove bones from broth with a slotted spoon, making sure to get any small bones that might have detached. Add the carrots and celery and onions to the pot, followed by the herbs and spices. Stir to combine and simmer for ten minutes to meld flavors.
4. Increase heat and add egg noodles and chicken. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Mix flour and a little water. Stir until smooth. Pour into soup, stir to combine, and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until broth thickens a bit. Test and adjust seasonings as needed.
Recipe Source: The Pioneer Woman via Framed Cooks

Taco Chili

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Usually on the rare occasion I ask Dennis if he will make something while I’m at work, I get the irritated face.  The “I hate to cook why must you torture me?” face.  The “wouldn’t you rather me rather scrub the toilet and clean the sink drain out by hand instead?” face.  Cooking just isn’t his thing.  It stresses him out.

But chili is another story.  It’s what he lived on as a bachelor and may be the only thing that he really likes to cook.  I handed him the recipe for this with instructions for adapting it to what we had, preparing myself for the sound of grinding teeth (worst sound ever!), but there was no teeth grinding and he didn’t even frown a little.  He actually seemed excited.  It was like I’d been speaking a foreign language all these years and I finally communicated something he understood.  Even better, he reported that he “really enjoyed” making it.  I think his enjoyment translated into the final product because this chili is incredible!  It’s very simple, but oh so good, and if you top it with sour cream and cheese and scoop it up with tortilla chips, you get the total deluxe taco effect. :)

Taco Chili

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1 lb. ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning (or 2 1/2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning)
1 (16 oz) can black beans, drained
1 (16 oz) can kidney beans, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
10 oz package frozen corn kernels (Dennis used fire-roasted frozen corn)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Optional toppings: Additional cilantro, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, chopped scallions, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, etc.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat; drain.  Combine with remaining ingredients in a large pot  and stir together.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until you can stand it no longer.  (Dennis simmered his for one hour.)  Serve hot with optional toppings.

Veronicas note: There’s no need to remove the seeds from the jalapeno, unless you are very sensitive.  Dennis left half the seeds in and this was a mild chili.

Recipe source: adapted from The Comfort of Cooking

Favorite Cornbread


With three different cornbread recipes on my blog already, you might think I was cornbread crazed since I’m adding another.  Well, I guess maybe I am.  Growing up, we practically lived off of beans and cornbread during the winter months.  Plain pinto beans with no spices save salt, and whole wheat cornbread that was dry, not sweet at all, and was perfect for absorbing copious amounts of salty butter.  It might not sound particularly tasty, but we loved it.  I think it was the magic of butter, which we surprisingly were allowed to consume without limits since Grandpa deemed it a healthy fat and Mom learned all her health-nut ways from  him.  So we loved our beans and butter, er, cornbread.

This cornbread is the antithesis of the cornbread I was raised on, and truth be told, the first time I made it I was completely aghast that Mel dared to call it cornbread.  This wasn’t cornbread, this was cake.  And her whipped honey butter? The frosting!

But everyone (I brought it for a chili day at work) loooved it.  I didn’t bring the honey butter the first year and at first, some were disappointed, but after tasting it said, “This doesn’t even need butter!”  It really doesn’t.  It practically melts in your mouth, it is so soft and moist.  I noticed when I brought the honey butter last year they barely touched it.  The cornbread is perfect on its own but if you really think you need some sweet butter, go to Mel’s blog for her unique recipe, which includes marshmallow fluff and is very good.

Anyway, after making this for others for two years and taking little tastes, I finally made it just for us for the first time last week when the temps were cooler and I wanted something to go with some ham & bean soup.  I have to say, I’m a convert.  Sorry, Mom.  This is definitely my new favorite and I have to tell you, Dennis is gaga for this stuff and he would never eat any of my cornbread before, not even Jiffy mix, which is similar to this, just not as soft.  The Lighter Northern Cornbread recipe on my blog is also crazy good, but it’s lower in fat and sugar so it’s not quite as melt-in-your mouth.  If you’re looking for some full fat goodness, I gotcha covered.

Favorite Cornbread

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1 ½ cups (6 ¼ oz) all-purpose flour
½ cup (3 oz) corn meal
2/3 cup (5 oz) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cups milk

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray an 8×8 baking dish with oil; set aside.  Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, make a well and add oil, butter, eggs, and milk into the center. Stir well until mixed (batter will be runny – don’t be alarmed!). Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes. This doubles perfectly for a 9X13-inch pan, but will have to be baked longer (start checking after 45 minutes-I can’t remember how long it took when I doubled it in previous years).

Recipe source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Cheeseburger Salad

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Usually when I want to enjoy a cheeseburger in salad form, I make a hamburger salad and just top it with some shredded cheddar.  But I knew I had to try this Pampered Chef version when PW featured it a while back.  So glad I did because it’s so much better than my old stand-by!  I love how the sauce is mixed into the meat so that you don’t need dressing.  Saucy, flavorful meat, crisp lettuce, pickles & onions, juicy tomatoes, cheddar cheese–this salad just can’t be beat!

OK, now Pampered Chef and PW get all crazy and actually turn hamburger buns into croutons by baking them.  So cute, right?  But grizzle, puh-lease!  I may be crazy in certain ways, like adding way too much butter and sugar to my desserts to where they are literally swimming in evil, but I’m not the kind of crazy that likes to bake my own croutons in the summer for a simple salad.  If I’m turning on my oven, it’s for something sweet, not for croutons.  If you’re not my kind of crazy, you might want to just go to the original recipe for the crouton instructions.  As for me, Texas Toast croutons suit my salad just fine.

But, truth be told, this is the way I prefer to eat my cheeseburger salad:

Sans croutons.  I mean, the reason I like to turn hamburgers and cheeseburgers into salad is to get away from the bread because it gets in my way, and I like the veggies way more than the bread.  Plus, I get enough carbs from sugar. :)

Cheeseburger Salad

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2 lbs. ground beef
1 ¼ cups ketchup
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 small red onions, one sliced into rings, the other diced
8 dill pickle spears, sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered and sliced
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
16 cups chopped Romaine lettuce (about 2 heads)
Texas Toast croutons (optional)

Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat, drain the fat, and stir in the ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the diced onions and pickles (you can set some aside for garnish if you like). and stir to combine. Put 2 cups of lettuce on each plate, then divide the burger mixture between them. Top with cheese, tomato, onions and pickles if you set some aside, and croutons if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe source: adapted from The Pampered Chef

Suzie’s Next Day Chili

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Thank you guys for sticking with me through my “no recipes” week! I had a lot of fun with it, especially reading all your comments about the pigs you’d like to make fly on Danielle’s Flying Pig. If you didn’t catch that post, you might want to check it out–there is a giveaway for one of Danielle’s kumquat bath & body sets on it, and the deadline for entry is this Thursday. (Update: this giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Ken!)

Now, let’s get back to the recipes, shall we? I’ve got enough saved up that I’m going to be sharing all OLD recipes that I’ve been saving especially for December, which means, you guessed it, LOTS of sweets. Which is why I’m starting off with a savory recipe, to stabilize your blood sugar in preparation for all the sweetness that is soon to come your way from my blog. :)

“You know I luvs you…I have never, ever shared this recipe with anyone!! I’ve been making it for about 10 years now.  :)”

This was the note at the end of the recipe my friend, Suzie, emailed me for her Next Day Chili.  She’s been holding an annual chili cook-off in her neighborhood for the last five years and her chili has won four years out of those five.  She doesn’t allow herself to win the prize since it’s her contest, but hers is almost always voted number one!  She has kept the recipe secret, telling everyone that if they could guess some of the secret ingredients she used, she would share it, but no one ever has.  Knowing all this, I still had the audacity to ask for the recipe.  And I was pleasantly surprised when she obliged me!  (I guess I’m just irresistible, right? LOL!)

I was so excited to get my hands on such a precious recipe, and promised I wouldn’t share it on my blog, thinking she’d want me to keep the secret recipe a secret.  But she surprised me again by granting me permission to share it here.  WOW!  Thank you, Suzie!  Don’t we feel special?! :)

Usually, I like my chili with lots of beans and veggies, so I was actually pretty nervous to make this since it only has one can of beans and a scant 1/2 cup of onion for veggies.  When a friend shares a recipe with you that you’ve never tried, do you get nervous that you won’t like it?  I’m probably ridiculous, but I feel almost obligated to like a recipe that comes highly recommended from a friend, and sometimes put off making it just for the fear that I won’t like it and will have to disappoint the friend when I tell them.  But not this time!  I was nervous, but I wasn’t going to wait–this recipe is special.

Well, I needn’t have worried.  This chili is spectacular!  Spicy, hearty, meaty, with a wonderful & unique flavor. Once you scan the ingredients, you’ll see why it doesn’t taste like any other chili.  I bet you’ve never seen a chili recipe with bacon, chorizo, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, sage, or maple syrup in it!   My husband loved it and ate most of the batch by himself.  In fact, he told me this was his favorite of any chili I’ve ever made!  This is also the only chili that Suzie’s husband will eat so I’d say this is some real man-pleasin’ chili.

Thank you, Suzie, for sharing your wonderful recipe with us!  Rock on, Chili Queen. :)

Suzie’s Next Day Chili

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3 lbs. good ground beef
1 lb. chorizo
1/2 lb. bacon
1 tablespoon bacon grease
1 can Bush’s mild chili beans, undrained
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (or 2 1/4 teaspoons table salt)
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3-5 tablespoons hot sauce (depending on your taste)
1/2 cup chili powder (more if desired)
1 teaspoon dried cilantro (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1-2 cups chicken or beef broth (or mix 1/2 and 1/2), depending on desired thickness
1 (6 oz.) can of tomato paste
1 (46 oz) can tomato juice
Red pepper flakes, to taste

Brown beef and chorizo. Drain grease, cover and set aside. Slice 1/2 lb. bacon into 1 inch pieces. Cook bacon until crisp, set aside on paper towels to drain off excess fat. Take 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease and add to the burger/chorizo mixture. Add all remaining ingredients, except bacon, to a large pot. Simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust salt, pepper, chili powder and red pepper flakes to taste. Let cool for an hour or so and then refrigerate overnight. Refrigerate the bacon separately.  Simmer again the next day for 2-3 hours, adding bacon the last hour. It’s now ready to serve.

Suzie recommends serving with homemade cornbread, so I served mine with Lighter Northern Cornbread.  I also have a southern-style Homestead Cornbread recipe if you like yours without sugar and flour.

Recipe source: Suzie S.

Dixie Pie


This is one of the pies my friend, Teri, and I made during our pie-palooza, which is why the pie pictured is so small.  We made each recipe into two small pies so each of us could have one to keep.

This pie was the most popular of the four we served before a Bible study at her house that night.  It was gone in a flash!  It’s similar to a pecan pie, but it has chocolate chips (or raisins, if you prefer) and coconut in it too, so it’s even richer.

Which brings me to the reason I’m sharing it with you now instead of back in July, when we made it.  Something this rich is what I deem a winter holiday dessert, and it certainly fits the bill!  It would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving and Christmas spreads.

*Note:  I cut this pie when it was still warm, hence the gooey runniness.  It will set up nicely if you give it time!

Dixie Pie

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1 9-inch pie crust
3/4 cup chocolate chips or raisins
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup flaked coconut
Whipped cream, for serving

Bake pie crust at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes; remove to cool on a wire rack and reduce oven temperature to 350.

If using raisins, place in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth. Drain raisins. Stir Raisins, coconut, and nuts into creamed mixture ( mixture will appear curdled). Pour mixture into crust, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until set. Cool completely, ideally 6-8 hours to allow it to completely set up, before serving. Serve with whipped cream.

Recipe Source: adapted from Desserts In My Kitchen

Banana Pepper Roast

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Our friends Joe and Marissa (of the “good peas” fame) invited us to lunch after church one day a million years ago, and she served a roast along with many delightful sides.  I only took a small portion of the roast ,being much more interested in the salad, her mashed potato casserole, and butternut squash bread, but once I took a bite, I was going back for more.  I’m not much of a meat eater, so when I found her roast irresistible, I asked her what her secret was.

“Banana Peppers.”

“Banana peppers?” I repeated, surprised.  “What else did you use?”

“That’s it.  I just poured a jar of banana peppers over the roast in the crockpot.  The acid from the brine really helps tenderize the meat.”

This was so simple, I had to try it at home.  I’m just surprised it took me so long!  But I’ve made it twice in the past month, to make up for lost time. :)

I adore the salty, piquant flavor the banana peppers & juice impart to the beef, and it really is melt-in-your mouth tender after roasting all day in the slow cooker.  And talk about easy!  Although Teri taught me to sear the outside  of a roast before sticking it in the crockpot, I didn’t even do that. Easy peasy & delicious…squeezy?

I know this combo sounds a bit odd, but you’ve got to try it to believe it!  It goes really well with mashed potatoes topped with a pat of butter and garlic salt, as I discovered after taking this picture. :)

Banana Pepper Roast

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1 (3-5 lb) beef roast
1 (16 oz) jar mild banana pepper rings

Place roast in a crock pot and pour the jar of banana peppers, juice and all, over the top. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until tender.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

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Grilled cheese sandwiches paired with tomato soup seem to be childhood staples in America, but I never had a grilled cheese sandwich until I was a teen, and never with tomato soup until much later.  I remember when I went to babysit my neighbor’s little boy she asked me to make him a grilled cheese sandwich and I meekly asked her how to do it.  She was dumbfounded, needless to say.  That was my first grilled cheese experience, at sixteen, but after that I started making them at home.

No one gave me the memo that tomato soup pairs perfectly with them until a few years later, but I ignored it since I’ve never liked condensed tomato soup.  That is until I discovered Pacific Natural Foods’ Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup.  That’s when I started serving the classic combo of grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I loved that stuff!

This homemade version is thicker and a little tangier, perhaps because I used jarred red peppers and yogurt rather than roasting them myself and adding heavy cream or milk, but it is just as delicious with the benefit of a homemade taste.  Add more or less sugar to your tastes, and if you decide to use peppers you roasted yourself, please let me know how that turns out–that’s how I’m going to try it next!

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

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1 jar (12 oz) roasted red peppers in brine, drained
1 can (14.5 oz) fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can (28 oz) tomato puree/crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium and fat-free chicken broth
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
Croutons, for serving

Combine drained peppers and diced tomatoes in a blender. Puree until smooth. Alternatively, you can place them in your pot and use an immersion blender to puree until as smooth as you like. I left some little chunks in mine because I like a little texture. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, or just add it to the pot if your puree is already in it. Add pepper-tomato mixture, tomato puree, chicken broth, sugar, salt and pepper. Heat just to simmering, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in yogurt. Return to stove and heat through. Ladle soup into bowls; top each with a few croutons.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving:  139 calories; 2.5 g fat; 24 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 3.5 g protein.  (Calories calculated with 4 croutons per serving)

Recipe source: adapted from Family Circle, February 2011.

Jimmy Fallon’s Crock-Pot Chili

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Funny man Jimmy Fallon can cook?  Apparently so!  This is his recipe for chili in the crockpot (OK, slightly, very slightly tweaked by me) and honestly it’s the best chili to ever come out of my kitchen!  I bought a 12-pack of beer two years ago (does beer ever go bad??) so I’d have it on hand whenever I felt like making my favorite buttery beer bread (seriously the best bread evar!), so I was super excited to finally get rid of the last two cans of it when I made this chili, one for the chili and one for the bread to go with it.  Win-win!


Jimmy Fallon’s Crock-Pot Chili

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3 1/2 pounds ground beef
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and very finely chopped
1/4 cup chile powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped with their juices
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
1 (12-ounce) bottle amber beer
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Tortilla chips, for serving
Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
Chopped tomatoes, for serving
Sour cream, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

In a large skillet, working in batches if necessary, brown beef over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper; drain in a colander, discarding fat, and set aside. Add olive oil, onions, garlic, and habanero to skillet; season with salt. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. In a 6-quart Crock-Pot, combine beef, onion mixture, chile powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper; stir to combine. Add tomatoes, cilantro, and beer; cover and cook on high, stirring occasionally, for 5 hours, or on low for 8 hours. Add kidney beans and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve with desired toppings.

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