Wild Rice Stew

Category : Featured, Main Dishes, Pork, Stew/Soup

When the days get cold, and the vegetables are delicious, it’s time to make a stew!

1 cup wild rice
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (used water and 2 tsp chicken stock and 2 tsp mushroom stock)

5 strips of thick bacon cut into 1/2″ chunks

1 butterflied boneless pork loin chop cut into 1″ chunks
2 medium leeks, cleaned and chopped coarse
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, chunked
1 Tbls finely chopped garlic
1 Tbls dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne

4 tbsp flour
1 cup chardonnay
1 bunch thin asparagus, cut into 1″ segments

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine wild rice and broth in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cook rice until tender. This will take approximately 45 minutes.

In a large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until well done. Removed bacon and set aside. Add the pork to the bacon grease and cook for a few minutes until opaque.

Add button mushrooms and leek.  Stir occasionally until the mushrooms soften and create a liquid, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and other spices and cook a few more minutes. This allows the garlic to cook, but not brown and become bitter.

Sprinkle vegetables and pork with flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour starts thicken. Make sure that you are scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add wine along with the cooked rice and broth.

Bring to a boil,  add the asparagus, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in cream and cook until thoroughly heated, about 1 minute.

Serve with a garlic bread and enjoy!

Chicken-roni with Avocado

Category : Chicken, Featured, Main Dishes

This was based on a dish my mother used to make*. It’s become a comfort meal for us and a favorite of my husband. It’s a fusion of flavors from savory chicken with rice & pasta, to the creamy coolness of diced avocado and the spicy zest of the salsa. This is a hearty dish that satisfies!


4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup uncooked whole wheat vermicelli broken into 3/4″ pieces
1 cup uncooked rice
3 cloves garlic chopped fine
4 green onions chopped coarse
20 oz chicken stock
13 oz canned white chicken breast
9 oz chopped green chilis
1 cup shredded cheese, Mexican blend
4 avocados


Melt the butter over low heat in a large lidded pan and add the vermicelli.  Cook until the vermicelli starts to brown, stirring frequently. It’s very easy for it to burn if left unattended.

Browning the vermicelli

Add the rice, garlic and green onions and stir until well mixed and the garlic starts to be fragrant.

rice-roni mixture with onions & garlic

Carefully add the broth to the mixture and bring quickly to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Start checking the pan as you get to the 2o minute mark to make sure that the mixture hasn’t cooked dry. Add the chicken and chilis and cook until everything is warmed.

Chicken & Chilis

Turn off the heat and add the cheese. Stir thoroughly.

Finished chicken rice & roni mix

In bowls, cut and chop the avocado into bite-size pieces. Place a generous helping of the rice, chicken and cheese mixture on top. Spoon a little of the salsa on top and enjoy!

Yummy Finished Chicken-roni & Avocado Meal

*When my mom used to make this, we just used rice-a-roni.

Garam Masala

Category : Featured, Spice Mix

I have a kitchen full of wonderful whole spices. Ever since I got a good spice grinder, I’ve been a snob about pre-ground spices. If you haven’t tried fresh ground cinnamon, you’re cheating yourself. So, when I wanted the flavor of Garam Masala, I toasted the whole herbs and ground my own. The house smells spectacular!

2 Tablespoons Coriander seeds
2 Tablespoons Cumin seeds
2 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns
2 Tablespoons small Cinnamon stick pieces
1 Tablespoon Cardamom seeds
(decort – no shells)
1 teaspoon whole Cloves
1 teaspoon grated Nutmeg

Place all spices except the nutmeg in a small but heavy bottom saute pan. Toast over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes until the fragrance is released and the seeds look toasted. Stir or shake the pan over to prevent burning.

Let the mix cool completely, add the grated nutmeg, then grind fine.

This makes about a 1/2 cup of spice…enough to share!

There is nothing on any shelf that compares to freshly ground spices and fresh herbs.

Lamb in Acorn Squash

Category : Featured, Lamb, Main Dishes

This popped into my head as I meandered through the farmer’s market the other week. The flavors kept crossing my mind until I finally had to give it a try. It really turned out to be very flavorful, the spices, lamb and squash are naturals together!

2 large Acorn Squash
1 lb ground lamb
1 leek
, sliced into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 oz tomato paste
1 cup of cooked rice
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup red beer
(like Killian’s)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (or maple sugar) – divided
2 Tablespoons Garam Masala – divided
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Put ground lamb in a frying pan and break it up so that it cooks like ground hamburger. Season with 1 Tablespoon Garam Marsala, both peppers and salt. Add the leeks and garlic as it starts to cook.

When the lamb is cooked through and crumbly, and the leek is soft, drain off any fat. In the pan add the tomato paste, wine, the other Tablespoon of Garam Marsala and 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir well and add the lamb back in. Add the beer and mix well.

Once it’s all mixed, add the rice and turn off the heat while you prepare the acorn squash.

Slice the squash lengthwise and remove all the pulp and seeds. Rub the insides with the rest of the sugar.

Fill the squash with the lamb and rice mixture until heaping, but packed tight. Put a small square of tin foil over just the filling to protect it from drying out.

Place the squash on a baking pan and place in the middle of the oven. Baking times will really depend on the size and thickness of the squash. Expect a minimum of 45 minutes, up to 75 minutes. Test squash by poking the flesh with a fork. It should be soft and tender.

I like to finish this dish with a sprinkling of fresh ground Parmesan cheese.

Jalapeno Chicken Stew

Category : Chicken, Featured, Stew/Soup

Today we bundled up, stoked the fire, and prepared for what they promised would be the ice and snow storm of winter. With some foresight, my husband and I made the excursion to the local farmer’s market for root vegetables and chickens. We also found a woman selling Amish made pasta called Pot Pie Pasta. They were thick and square cut and made me want to create a thick chicken stew to showcase them. Among the stands of vegetables, we found a basket of firm, plump jalapeno peppers, carrots and sweet onions. We also nabbed a late season sweet potato that had to have easily weighed 2 lbs. A plan was coming together! A loaf of Challah and we were set!

We built a nice fire in the wood stove with the Ash and Oak. I wanted a smokey flavor to the stew, and this allowed me to roast the peppers right in our fireplace.

3.5 lb whole fryer chicken (cleaned, quartered, & patted dry)
2 lbs sweet potato (peeled and cut into quarters or very large chunks)
2 sweet onions (chopped coarse)
3 large carrots (peeled and sliced)
4 jalapeno peppers, roasted (chopped coarse)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
5 cups water
1 cup Chardonnay
4 Tablespoons olive oil or bacon grease
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon
garam masala
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup of cooked pasta in noodle form.

Put the olive oil or bacon grease into a deep stock pot. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the chicken and brown slightly. Add the herbs and garlic when the browning is just about done and coat the chicken.

Add the Chardonnay to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the pasta) and simmer for 2 hours.

During this time I roasted the jalapenos over the fire. You can also roast them under the broiler for about 7 minutes, until the skin is black and blistered. Turn to get all sides. Put the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Use a knife to scrape off the skin, which will come of very easily at this point. Don’t rinse. Cut off the stem end and split the pepper in half, scooping out and discarding the seeds. Chop the pepper coarsely and add to the stew. It is highly recommended that you use gloves to handle the peppers. Roasting the peppers isn’t critical, but once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand how it mellows the flavor, but not the heat and blends well with the sweet and smokey flavors of this stew.

After 2 hours, remove the chicken from the stew carefully with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl. Your goal is to make sure no bones end up in the stew. I put mine into a colander and pick off all the meat to add back to the liquid in the pot.

At this point, fish out all of the sweet potato chunks. Put these into a bowl and mash well. Add this back to the stew to give it body. This stew has a very distinct flavor of sweet potatoes, which matches fabulously with the smoke and heat of the jalapenos.

Make sure you get all the tender meat from the chicken to put back into the stew. This is a tedious, finger singing step, but it’s completely worth it in the end.

Let the stew simmer for a while longer. I let mine go for another 2 hours before not being able to take the delicious smells any longer. Add the cooked pasta as the last step.

This dinner was paired with a sweet bread, Challah. There was a definite heat to this dish, but not a tongue blistering hot. It was a huge hit to warm us up against the ice outside.

My husband has taken the task of cleaning the whole chickens we get from the farmer’s market. A year ago I shattered my wrist and he picked up a lot of awesome kitchen skills helping me while I healed. This is one task he didn’t give back and the one that netted me a nice set of Henckel knives for Christmas! He takes the backbone out and the wings off of the bird and puts them in the freezer for making chicken stock. He removes the cartilage and a few of the small bones, then cleaves the halves into quarters. This little bit of kitchen work saves us a considerable amount of money.

Sage Blackberry Cookies

Category : Appetizers, Featured, Sweet Treats

I discovered that sage and fruit go together to make both sweet and savory dishes exotic and delicious. I’ve combined sage with peaches, black raspberry, blackberries, and cherries with much appreciation!

Dry Ingredients:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup yellow cornmeal
1¾ teaspoons rubbed sage
½ teaspoon baking powder

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1 cup seedless black raspberry or blackberry fruit spread

Preheat oven to 350°F

Combine all dry ingredients and mix well.

In a large bowl, blend butter until slightly fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar and mix well.

Add remaining wet ingredients until blended.

Add the dry mix. If you have a stand beater, add all the flour mix. If you are using a hand mixer, the batter will be too stiff for the beater, so blend what you can and then kneed in the rest by hand.

Roll dough into ¾ inch balls and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie pan. I prefer to put a sheet of parchment paper, but it works just as well without.

Press your thumb lightly into the middle of each cookie to make a slight depression. Place ¼ teaspoon of the fruit spread into the depression. Place the fruit spread carefully to keep the cookies looking neat after baking.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool the cookie before moving.

Makes 60 cookies