Month: September 2013

lunchbox life: turkey white bean pumpkin chili


It’s fall, y’all!

I know, I know…it’s that time of year when people become annoyingly fond of all things apple picking, pumpkin, gourds, chilly weather, crunchy leaves, jack-o-lanterns, and fall festivals…and I’m unapologetically one of those people.  Autumn is my favorite season (with spring as a close second), and I’m all in with the trendiness of the pumpkin.

When fall weather comes to say hello, it’s officially time to break out the Crock-Pot and make some chili.  This week, I’ll be enjoying this turkey white bean pumpkin chili with some pita chips.  Here’s how to make it yourself:

Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili

Adapted from Skinnytaste

1 lb. lean ground turkey

1/2 tsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 Tbsp. garlic powder)

1 tsp. chili powder

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. coriander

1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

4 oz. canned chopped green chiles

2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground turkey, then place in a crock pot.  In the same pan, add the olive oil and garlic; cook for five minutes.  Add the cumin and cook for one more minute, then place in the crock pot.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot and cook on high for four hours or on low for eight hours.  Serve with pita chips, Fritos, tortilla chips, or your favorite salty snack.

wild card wednesday: muenster and chorizo stuffed chicken breast with broccoli rabe pasta in a browned butter pecorino romano sauce

Roll that beautiful cheese footage

Roll that beautiful cheese footage

As challenge cheese entered its third week, it was time to go a little more bold with my flavors, maybe take things a little more international. Last time around I stuffed a burger, this time I thought I should stuff some chicken. When I went to the store, I was thinking of a take on cordon blue, which this might be, but it is certainly not your boring airplane fare. This meal was fun to make, is full of great flavors, and is a great meal for all seasons. I served it with white wine, which maybe I enjoyed a little too much, else I’d have posted Wednesday… oh well!

Muenster and Chorizo Stuffed Chicken breast.

2 large chicken breast, butterflied
1 link chorizo
4 thick slices of muenster cheese
1/4 loaf rosemary sea salt bread
2 TBSP olive oil
Garlic powder, black pepper to taste
Flour with paprika, pepper, cayenne for dredge
1 egg for binder

Start by heating a pan to medium and adding the chorizo and break it up with a spoon. Stir occasionally until cooked. Meanwhile, pound the chicken breast until thin and tender.

After the chicken is prepped, take the loaf of bread (preferably the rosemary sea salt loaf from Fresh Market, mmmm) and cut into chunks. Place chunks in a food processor with garlic and pepper. Begin to chop into crumbs and slowly add the olive oil. Remove and place in a pan.

Dredge one side of the chicken in the flower and then dip in the egg. Press the egg side into the vat of breadcrumbs and let sit for a minute. Add the chorizo and one slice of cheese to the inside of the chicken. Cover the filling by folding the chicken on itself and add to a hot pan (medium) with a little olive oil in the bottom. Cook the chicken 2 minutes on each side and top with the extra cheese. Cook in 325 oven 7-10 minutes until cheese is completely melted and chicken is done throughout. Garnish with fresh rosemary.

Broccoli Rabe Pasta with Browned Butter and Pecorino Romano Sauce

You ever want to impress somebody without doing much work? Go to the browned butter well. It is an amazing flavor and so easy to make.

8 oz pasta
1 stick butter, in 1 tbsp slices
Garlic Powder
1/4 cup pecorino romano
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped
Salt and pepper

As usual, begin by boiling water in a large stock pot for the pasta. Once boiling all the pasta, stir and check every couple of minutes until al dente.

In a large pan, heat some olive oil with salt and pepper and add the greens. Stir occasionally until wilted completely and florets are tender. Remove from heat.

Heat a deep frying pan over medium heat, add the butter. Once melted and bubbly, whisk frequently until brown flakes begin to appear (this should take about 5 minutes). Once browning begins lower the heat and add the garlic and continue to whisk. Add the pasta and cheese and stir until the pasta is coated and cheese has fully integrated with the butter. Add the greens and toss.


OH YEAH, since we were doing challenge cheese, I just had to a marscarpone cheese cake!



This is modified from, I kid you not, a Brian Boitano recipe. I used crumbled almond cookies for the crust, vanilla instead of almond extract, no citrus and cut the recipe in half, but the idea is there. Cream cheese, marscarpone, sugar eggs, vanilla. So yummy.

What cheesy things can you thing of for us to try???

tasty tuesday: cherry vinegar chicken with pearl onions, orange, and spinach


Unless you’re a first-time reader, I don’t have to remind you that Alex and I are kind of obsessed with Hugh Acheson, particularly his cookbook A New Turn in the South.  After a marathon of a Monday (complete with a four-hour class) and a super busy Tuesday, I knew that I wanted to choose thoughtfully for tonight’s dish, yet go with a trusted source.  This recipe has caught my eye a few times when thumbing through Hugh’s cookbook, mainly because it sounds so strange.  Vinegar chicken?  With oranges?  As weird as it kept sounding, I knew that Hugh wouldn’t steer me wrong.  I also had a few of the ingredients on hand already, so I took it as a sign to try this one out tonight.

This one-pot dish has a great depth of flavor.  When the cherry vinegar thickens and cooks with the chicken stock and the tiny pearl onions, the chicken thighs soak up all of the yummy goodness.  The spinach and orange pieces brighten up the dish, and the citrus is surprisingly mild.

I served this dish alongside some homemade mashed potatoes.  A word on mashed potatoes: I don’t often make them, but when I do, I try to keep them as light as possible while still making them taste good.  I boiled four small, cut up Yukon Gold potatoes, drained them (reserving about 1/2 cup of the starchy boiling water), mashed the potatoes, then added 2 Tbsp. butter, the starchy cooking liquid, and about 1 Tbsp. half and half.  Then I added some crushed garlic, salt, and pepper.  The fat-to-potato ratio really isn’t that high here, and this version will leave you satisfied with flavor but not plagued with guilt or bloated with fullness.

Cherry Vinegar Chicken with Pearl Onions, Orange, and Spinach

Adapted from A New Turn in the South

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

about 20 pearl onions, peeled

1/4 tsp. paprika

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 cup cherry vinegar (this is not a typo–I do mean cherry rather than sherry); available at Fresh Market

1 cup chicken stock

2 large navel oranges, sliced into large bite-size pieces

1 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves

2 cups fresh spinach, stems removed

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken thighs.  Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy pot that had a lid (leave the lid off for now).  When the butter is melted, add the chicken skin-side down.  Cook for 7 minutes, then turn the thighs over and add the paprika, garlic, and onions.  Cook for 5 more minutes, then add the vinegar and cook until the vinegar reduces by half.  When that happens, add the chicken stock, cover the pot with the lid, then cook for 20 minutes.  Lastly, add the spinach, orange pieces, and mint.  Stir for about 30 seconds or long enough for the spinach to slightly wilt.  Serve with mashed potatoes or as a stand-alone stew.

lunchbox life: stuffed sweet potatoes with spinach, hummus, and feta


Is that you, Fall?  Do I feel your sweet gusts of wind?  There’s not quite a chill in the air, but my favorite season just might be upon us soon.

Alex and I have just watched the most recent episode of Breaking Bad (agggghhh that show is so crazy!), so since I’m at a loss for pleasantries due to shock, I’ll cut right to the chase this evening.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Spinach, Hummus, and Feta

5 small sweet potatoes, individually wrapped in aluminum foil

2 cups fresh spinach

1/2 cup hummus (I prefer Sabra brand)

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees and roast sweet potatoes for about 2 hours (or until tender to the touch with your oven mitt).  Let potatoes cool for at least 30 minutes, or in my case, a whole episode of Breaking Bad.  Take the potatoes out of the foil and make a slice lengthwise on top of the potato, keeping the bottom side intact.  Scoop out the flesh of the potato and place in a medium mixing bowl.  Add the fresh spinach and combine until the spinach begins to slightly wilt.  Next, add the hummus and stir to combine.  Finally, add the feta, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and stir to combine.  Evenly distribute the potato mixture into the potato jackets/skins and serve OR refrigerate for lunches!

wild card wednesday: asparagus manchego tart, kale gratin with comté, and roasted chicken thighs


Ohhhhhh yeahhh.  Wild Card Wednesday: Challenge Cheese is in full effect this evening.

Last week, Alex used Swiss, sharp cheddar, and Boursin.  This week, I used manchego and comté.  Manchego is a Spanish goat’s milk cheese that is hard in texture and nutty in flavor.  Comté is made from French cow’s milk, is semi-hard in texture, and, similar to Gruyere, is creamy and buttery in flavor.

My name is Eleta Morrison, and I am a cheese-a-holic. (Hi, Eleta…)  I’ve been sober from this affliction for…zero days.

Seriously–if I were on a desert island, if I had my last meal, etc., I’d have a cheese plate with a nice wine, thank you.  When Alex asked me to choose the theme for September’s Wild Card Wednesday, I knew just the thing: cheese.  Why not?

First, I’ll start with the asparagus manchego tart.  Let’s look at it again:


Mmmmmm.  I found several recipes for asparagus tarts with Gruyere, ricotta, and fontina (all delicious), but when I saw the plethora of manchego at Fresh Market, I changed my plans.  Here’s the recipe:

Asparagus Manchego Tart

Flour, for work surface

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (I use Dufour Pastry Kitchens brand, available at Fresh Market)

1 1/2 cups manchego cheese, shredded

1 1/2 pounds thin asparagus

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a large rectangle.  Place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with manchego. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the manchego, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Next, let’s tackle the kale gratin with comté, or as I like to call it: kale and cheese.  This gratin is so tasty and totally hits the spot when you’re craving mac-n-cheese, but the silver lining is that along with all of that ooey-gooey cheese and cream, you’re also getting an awesome dose of vitamin K and fiber.


Kale Gratin with Comté
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp. butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) coarsely grated comté cheese

Over medium-high heat on a stove top, cook down the kale and olive oil.  Turn off heat and set aside.

For the sauce, combine creamand garlic in a small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in warm cream/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Assemble: Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 8×11 baking dish. Distribute half of the greens mixture, then half of the cheese, then sprinkle some parsley on top of the cheese.  Pour half of bechamel sauce over the first two layers then continue with the remaining greens, cheese, and parsley. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the gratin.

Bake gratin for about 1 hour until golden and bubbly, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Lastly, the roasted chicken thighs.  I think I’ve already expressed my love of dark meat chicken to you (yes, it’s not as good for you; now pass me a leg and no one gets hurt), but let me say it again: dark meat chicken is underrated!  Chicken thighs are cheaper and juicer that chicken breasts, and they’re definitely worth a look.


Roasted Chicken Thighs

1 lemon

4 small skin-on, boneless chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 sprigs oregano

1 Tbsp. minced shallot

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425°. Very thinly slice half of lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Coat a large room-temperature skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook, letting skin render and brown, and pouring off excess fat to maintain a thin coating in pan, until chicken is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes.

Scatter half of lemon slices over chicken and half on bottom of skillet (the slices on top of the chicken will soften; those in the skillet will caramelize). Transfer skillet to oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp, and lemon slices on bottom of skillet are caramelized, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, and caramelized lemon slices from bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave softened lemon slices in the skillet.) Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over and season sauce with salt, pepper, and juice from remaining lemon wedge, if desired. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil. Return chicken to skillet, skin side up, to rewarm. Serve topped with caramelized lemon slices.

tasty tuesday: “ricky saltado” steak tacos with french fries and a mango salsa

Fries in a Taco

Tonight’s meal is a recreation of one of my favorites from Cali and Tito’s in Athens, GA- Ricky Saltado. A specialty of the Peruvian restaurant, Ricky Saltado is a fajita dish with steak, onions, and salty french fries. Served with tortillas, it is a wonder of flavors and textures. For some reason this dish popped into my head and I just had to make a version of my own.

Ricky Saltado

1 2 lb flat iron steak, tenderized
7 cloves garlic
1/2 jalapeno
Juice of one lime
Salt and Pepper
2 idaho potatoes, cut into fries
Bowl of water
Container of Canola Oil
1 whole sweet onion, frenched
1 bunch each, cilantro and parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
Grilled corn tortillas

In order to get the most of this dish, you have to start the night before with the marination. Tenderize the steak with a mallet and both sides. In a food processor, pulse the garlic, jalapeno, an line until fine. Smear over the tenderized steak and place in a freezer bag. Refrigerate until ready to cook. To cook, heat a grill pan to medium high and cook about 4 minutes per side. The steak should still be quite rare. Slice thin.

In a separate pan, melt butter and saute onions until soft. Add the cilantro and parsley and cook for about 1 minute. Add the steak to pan and toss. turn heat to low for about five minute. Toss in fries and transfer to tortillas.

Oh yeah, the fries!

~~A short lesson in fries… hand cut fries should be fried twice. First to cook the potatoes, then to crisp the potatoes. It is vital to get good color and crunch.

In order to get uniform cuts I recommend a mandoline slicer with fry setting. Soak the potatoes in ice cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain and dry before cooking

Heat the oil in a deep pot, preferably a dutch oven or electric fryer. Add the potatoes and fry about 3-4 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through, but are still white. Remove and drain and allow to completely cool.


I've always relied on the friedness of potatoes.

I’ve always relied on the friedness of potatoes.

When ready to get the fries, re-heat the oil and cook the fries about 1-2 minutes until brown and crispy. Salt while still hot to ensure it sticks.


Enjoy. ~~

When plating the tacos, add queso fresco a little lettuce and lime. MmmMmm.

Mango Salsa

1 large mango
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 Jalapeno
Juice of one line
Salt and pepper

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until course and blended. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving with chips.

Plate the meal with some beans and gobble it up!

Salt Plate

lunchbox life: jalapeno cheddar chicken sausage, sauteed kale, and parsley brown rice


This weekend was crazy busy, but loads of fun.  First Friday was a blast, Saturday was spent at Lake Sinclair with new and old friends, and Sunday was spent in Atlanta with my mom as we snatched up a few remnants of Labor Day sales at Lenox Square Mall.  As I drove back to Macon on Sunday evening, I realized that I had not planned anything yet for my lunches, so I decided to head to Kroger to find something that wouldn’t take too long to prepare.

I knew I had some cooked brown rice in the freezer, so I decided to find a protein and a green to complement my whole grain.  I found some Kroger brand chicken sausage links (kind of like bratwurst) that were low in fat and stuffed with jalapeno and cheddar.  Sure, I thought!  Sounds good to me!  There are five in the pack, so I knew I would have one for each day.  I grabbed a bunch of kale, an old standby (and superfood), and headed out the door.

I defrosted the brown rice in the microwave, then heated 1 Tbsp. olive oil, three minced cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes over medium heat.  When I began to smell the garlic, I added the rice, stirring constantly, and let the rice soak up the garlic infused oil.  Next, I turned off the heat and added some fresh chopped parsley.

I sauteed the kale in the good stuff: 1.5 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes.  Kale takes about 5 minutes to cook down over medium-high heat.

The sausage can be cooked in a pan, in the oven, or on a grill.  I just cooked them on our flat-top grill pan, then sliced them into bite-size pieces for easy lunching.  I would definitely buy these again–they’re full of flavor, much lower in fat and calories than pork sausage, and are a great source of protein.  I’ve said this before, but I get so tired of the same boneless skinless chicken breast, so I like to mix up my lean protein!

I also packed an apple with this lunch (not pictured).  Enjoy!

wild card wednesday: mushroom and caramelized onion stuffed cheeseburgers, beer cheese and mac with blackened shrimp, parmesan sauteed spinach

We're getting wild

We’re getting wild

If you can’t tell this time the challenge is CHEESE. Eleta made the challenge this time, and I am not sure she knew what she was getting.

I decided to take it to the limit with something I have seen on TV several time, so I had to make it for myself- Stuffed cheeseburgers. It really works to hold flavors together, taste the meat, and to experience good gooey cheese. MMMMM.

Stuffed Cheeseburgers with mushrooms and caramelized onions:

1 lb ground sirloin
2 slices swiss cheese
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced into strips (pinch of sugar)
4 oz portabellas, sliced
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 TBSP Worchestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic
Salt, Black Pepper, Paprika, Red Pepper Flake to taste.
2 buns

Mix the spices, garlic, Worchestershire and crumbs into the sirloin until just mixed and crumbs disappear, set aside.

Heat a saucepan with olive oil and add the sliced onions and the pinch of sugar. The sugar will help the onions color well. Cook over medium high heat until they sweat and lower and cover. Stir occasionally until they have begun to brown. Add the mushrooms to the pan and stir. Cook until mushrooms are softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan.

Divide the burger meat into 4 equal quarters and mash until thin. Place one half of a slice of cheese on each patty. Add enough of the onion shroom mixture to satisfy on two on the patties and cover with the other two. Press to seal the mixture in.

Heat a griddle to medium-high. Once hot, grease the griddle and toss the burger on. Cook about 4 minutes on one side, flip and reduce heat and cover with a pan lid. Cook another 6-8 minutes, until done to taste. This added up to medium for me.

Place, with no further adornments, on a bun.

How could I avoid making a delicious mac and cheese for challenge cheese? Exactly, I couldn’t. But, I also had to ad beer because it is delicious.

Beer Mac and Cheese with Blackened Shrimp

1/2 lb rotini
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
8oz Pale Ale
8oz evaporated milk
12 oz sharp cheddar
3 TBSP white cheddar Boursin
Grilled green onions, chopped
8oz Shrimp, chopped into bite size pieces
Blackening spice (or paprika, chili powder, black pepper, red pepper)

In a large stock pot, boil about 2 quarts water and cook pasta. Season the shrimp with spices.  In a fry pan, heat a little bit of olive oil and cook shrimp, about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside.

In a sauce pan, melt butter and add flour. Whisk into a roux and cook for about 3 minutes. Whisk in beer and milk and cook 2 minutes. Add the the cheese and whisk until fully melted. Lower heat to low and stir occasionally add green onions (to grill green onions, take the whole bulb and stock and cook on a grill pan for about 4 minutes per side). Once pasta is ready, drain and return to pot. Add shrimp and pour in cheese mix. Stir, devour.


Sauteed Spinach

1 lb spinach
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup of parmesan
Olive oil

In fry pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add the spinach and stir until coated. Once the spinach begins to wilt, add cheese and continue to cook until all leaves have wilted down. It is ready to eat.

All told, it was great, hearty, and enough to induce a coma. I highly recommend this dish and exploring flavors you like with the burgers and the mac and cheese. Let me know what you come up with!

Juicy, gooey, sweet. No drool in picture.

Juicy, gooey, sweet. No drool in picture.


lunchbox life: grown-up lunchables, continental style


I think I’ve had about three Lunchables in my entire life.

I can remember going to the grocery store with my mom as a child and begging for Lunchables for my packed school lunches.

“No,” she’d say.  “Those are packed with sodium and are not good for you.”

Then she’d pack me what was (in retrospect) a stellar lunch: different variations of sandwiches on whole wheat bread, yogurt, fruit, veggies, crackers, and usually a sweet note like “Good luck on your vocab quiz!” or “I love you!  Happy Friday!”

…and to think I wanted a Lunchable.

As my tastes changed through the years, though, I found a good compromise between my lunches of yesteryear and the preservative-packed cheese-and-cracker Lunchable combination.  Do you remember the first time you had cheese and charcuterie plate?  I don’t remember mine, but I do know that there are few things I like better in this world than sharing a plate of delectable cheeses, olives, cured meat, and fruit with good wine and even better friends.  I’ve done a twist on this (sans wine–I don’t think this would go over well during the work day) in the style of an old-school lunchable, and I think even my mom would approve.

I don’t have much of a recipe here, but I’ve included:


sopressata salami



almond crackers

red grapes

and, because every Lunchable has a dessert, a small piece of 88% dark chocolate.

Bon appetit!  I’ll enjoy my European continental lunchables all week!