Vegan Winter Squash Chili

It may seem silly to crave warm, hearty dishes in the middle of August, but it’s been pretty grey and foggy in Monterey for the last couple weeks, and I’ve been increasingly turning into foods I normally wouldn’t start making until October or November. Last week it was soup; this week it was chili.

And, of course, I had some lovely vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo just begging to be used. Paired with the buttercup squash I got in my CSA box, it was hard to resist making a winter squash-heavy chili.

Note: This recipe produces a reasonably spicy chile. Due to that, and to the fact that I feel all chili is better with a side of cornbread, I made some Jiffy mini-cornbread muffins to nosh on alongside. If it’s still too spicy, you could stir in some sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Whether it’s cool enough where you are to enjoy this now, or you put it in your back pocket for fall, give this a try!

Ingredients

1.25 cups dry Rancho Gordo vaquero beans (you could also use black or pinto beans)

1 tbsp olive oi

1 yellow onion

1/2 head garlic (about 6 cloves)

1 tbsp New Mexican red chile powder

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

12 oz lager or light IPA

24 oz vegetable stock or water

2 small buttercup squash (or other slightly sweet squash)

Directions

Soak beans for 2-4 hours.

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Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Dice and add the onion, then cook over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Mince the garlic and add with the spices. Cook for 2 -3 minutes, or until the spices are aromatic.

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Add the beer and 18 oz of vegetable stock. Cook for 5 minutes until liquid is partially reduced, occasionally scraping the onion/garlic/spices mixture from the bottom of the pot.

Strain the beans, then add with the tomatoes.

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Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until beans are almost tender, checking after 1 hour and then every 30 minutes. Depending on how long you soaked the beans (and how fresh they are), plan on cooking them for 2 – 3 hours.

While the beans are cooking, cut the squash in half, remove seeds, and dice into bite-sized pieces. Buttercup squash has an edible skin; if using a different type of squash, you may need to peel it before dicing.

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Once the beans are almost finished cooking, add the squash and remaining vegetable broth and cook for another 30-45 minutes until the beans and squash are both fork tender.

Serve warm (with cornbread!).

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Lemon Zucchini Quick Bread

When I was growing up, summer always meant a bounty of vegetables from the garden; corn, beans, tomatoes, summer squash . . . the list goes on. And while I’ve been living the apartment life for the last several years, summertime farmer’s markets and CSA boxes can result in a similar produce overload.

Enter the zucchini. Toss it with pasta, make it into succatash, add it to a summer gallete – there are so many ways to turn this tasty, healthy vegetable into a satisfying summer meal. But, I’ve been on a bit of a baking kick recently, so when I started at the last two zucchini in my fridge, I decided to turn to an old classic: zucchini bread.

I knew I didn’t want a dense, autumnal-spiced bread, so I was thrilled when I found this recipe from Lemon Tree Dwelling.

As always, I made a few tweaks. I was going for a not-so-indulgent-you-feel-bad-having-it-for-breakfast feeling, so I skipped the lemon glaze (although I’m sure it would be fabulous)! I also wanted to try a bit of the bread and still have most of it as an intact loaf to serve at a gathering tonight, so I doubled the recipe and put 2/3 of it in an oversized loaf pan and the remaining portion in a much smaller pan. But, you could easily make two equal size loaves, or simply cut the recipe in half. And I reduced the lemon flavor a bit, wanting to highlight the zucchini.

A perfect treat for your next summer potluck, or simply a lovely mid-morning weekend nosh with a cup of tea. Give it a try!

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose (or white whole wheat) flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 medium-large zucchini

1/2 cup sunflower oil (or other neutral cooking oil)

2 eggs

1 lemon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Finely grate the zucchini. One handful at a time, squeeze out most of the moisture over the sink or into a bowl. You want to take the zucchini from a very wet consistency (left side of the photo below) to the point where it just sticks together and you can form a pancake with it (right side of the photo below). The zucchini should still be slightly damp. You should have about 2 cups of zucchini (I ended up with 2 1/4 cups).

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Add the zucchini to a large bowl with the sugar, sunflower oil, and egg. Zest and juice the lemon, add to the bowl.

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Stir until combined, then add the dry mixture. Stir until combined, then set aside.

Butter and flour your loaf pans.

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Add the batter, filling each loaf pan about 2/3 of the way full.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool on a trivet or wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the loaf. Invert the loaf pan, release the loaf, then set right-side-up on a wire rack to cool.

I strongly recommend enjoying a slice fresh out of the oven with a pat of butter!

 

Roasted Carrots with Couscous and Yogurt Sauce

The normal foggy weather in Monterey has been interrupted by several days of warm, bright sunshine. This time last year I was in full on soup/stew/braise mode, but all these blue skies call for something a little lighter.

So, when two beautiful bunches of organic carrots showed up in my CSA box, I racked my brain for a summer-weather recipe. I decided to tweak a side-dish we served last year at Thanksgiving (the original recipe is from The Almond Eater). I swapped out the farro for whole wheat couscous (I already had some at home, plus it makes the dish feel a little lighter), and used fennel rather than tarragon. Mint would also work well.

Give it a try! A nutritious meal that’s plates well and tastes good – what more can you ask for?

Ingredients

1.5 lbs carrots

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1 lemon

2 tbsp fresh fennel fronds

1 can chickpeas

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp each of salt, pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325.

Trim the tops off the carrots, scrub, pat dry and set aside.

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Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Toss with half of the olive oil and the smoked paprika in a medium bowl, then place in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Place on the lower rack of the oven.

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Place the carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet, brush with the remaining olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

After the chickpeas have been in for 15 minutes, add the carrots to the upper rack of the oven. Roast for another 35 minutes, or until carrots are tender and chickpeas are crispy.

While the carrots and chickpeas are roasting, cook the couscous according to the package directions, then prepare the yogurt sauce. Mince the fennel. Add to a small bowl with the yogurt. Zest and juice the lemon, then add both to the yogurt mixture. Whisk until smooth and set aside.

 

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Plate carrots on top of a layer of couscous, then top with yogurt sauce and chickpeas. Enjoy!

Brown Rice Bowl with Greens, Chorizo and Romesco Sauce

First off, apologies to our (small but loyal) readership for the lack of new posts over the last few months. What can I say – life got a little busy.

However, what’s the New Year if not an opportunity to make a fresh start? So, back in the saddle we go.

It’s been cold and misty in Monterey for the last several weeks, and I’ve been craving warm, filling meals. During my most recent how-can-I-use-up-the-random-odds-and-ends-in-my-pantry rummage, I was drawn to a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. When a large bunch of chard showed up in my CSA box this week, I knew it was time to revisit this recipe.

Pulling inspiration from this recipe from The Kitchn, with a few tweaks, produced a week’s worth of brown rice bowls topped with greens and a just-spicy-enough tomato sauce. With the extra body from the chorizo, this concoction will keep you going as you settle back into the post-holiday work routine.

Ingredients

2 cups brown rice

1 tsp salt

1 lb chorizo sausage

1 large onion

1/2 head garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp each salt, pepper

1 28 oz can chopped plum tomatoes

3 chipotle chiles in adobo (if you want to crank up the spice, add a few more)

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup almonds, peeled*

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 medium bunch parsley (about 2 cups once chopped)

3-inch piece sourdough baguette

1 large bunch chard (about 12 large leaves)

4 handfuls baby spinach (or other greens)

Directions

Bring 4.5 cups of water to a boil, then reduce the heat and add the rice and salt. Simmer covered for 45 – 55 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat, fluff rice with a fork, then let sit covered for 5 minutes.

Crumble chorizo into a large skillet. Stirring frequently, cook over high heat until browned, around 5 minutes. Set aside.

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Coarsely chop the onions and garlic, then add to skillet with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften and turns translucent. Add the tomatoes (including the juices) and the chipotle chiles. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

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Add the smoked paprika, balsamic vinegar, almonds, pine nuts and parsley.

img_0787Add the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Tear the baguette into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the blender; blend again until the sauce is smooth.

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Slice the chard into thin ribbons, then add back into the skillet with the spinach, sauce, and chorizo. Stir over medium heat until the chard and spinach have wilted, then remove from heat.

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To serve, top the brown rice with the sauce and enjoy!

*Note: if you can’t find (or don’t want to spend more to purchase) peeled almonds, you can use raw almonds instead. Place the almonds in a small bowl and bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Pour the water over the almonds, then let sit 10 minutes, until the skins begin to soften. Rub the almonds between your fingers to remove the skins. Voila!

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas with Green Chile Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

One of the best things about roasting a whole chicken is the sheer number of meals you get out of it (especially when you’re cooking for one!) My typical go-to meal for using up leftover roasted chicken is tacos, but I was in the mood for something a little more exciting. Plus, I’ve been having a tomatillo craving recently. Enter this creation.

This recipe will keep you in tasty, healthy enchiladas all week long. Or, invite some friends over and share the wealth. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

If you don’t happen to have half of a leftover roasted chicken, never fear – you can easily cook up a couple chicken breasts and go from there.

Ingredients
3 lbs fresh tomatillos

4 cups shredded cooked chicken

2.5 cups cooked black beans

1/2 head garlic

1 small bunch cilantro

2/3 cup roasted New Mexican green chile, peeled

1/2 cup canola or safflower oil

24 corn tortillas

1.5 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

Directions

Peel off the tomatillo husks, then rinse under warm water. Place stem-side down on a baking sheet. Turn on the broiler, then roast until tomatillos are slightly charred (about 12 minutes), rotating the sheet a few times to ensure all of the tomatillos cook. Some of the tomatillos may burst while cooking. Set aside to cool.

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Add the chicken and beans to a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

Add the tomatillos to a blender. Peel and chop the garlic and cilantro, add to the blender. Dice the green chile, add to the blender. (Note: The large volume of tomatillos relative to the amount of green chile will cut a lot of the spice out from the dish. However, if you’d rather have the flavor with even less spice, remove some of the green chile seeds before dicing.)

Blend for approximately 30 seconds; just enough to combine the ingredients. Set aside.

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Heat half of the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add sauce and stir frequently. Once sauce starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and let sit.

Preheat oven to 350.

Add the remaining oil to a heavy skillet and heat on medium-high. Prepare a plate with a paper towel, leave near the skillet. Leave another plate near the pan with the sauce.

Working in batches of 6, briefly pass each tortilla through the hot oil, then lightly pat with the paper towel to remove excess oil. Place on the other plate.

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Tortilla prep station in action.

Once a stack of lightly fried tortillas has accumulated, pass each one through the pan of sauce, then add a large spoonful of the chicken and bean filling to the center.

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Roll the tortilla around the filling, then place seam-side down into a 9 by 13 pan. Repeat until the pan is full; you should have used about 12 tortillas.

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Take just under half of the remaining sauce and pour over the rolled tortillas, covering them with a thin layer. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the top.

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Assemble the remaining 12 enchiladas and add to the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve warm. While best fresh from the oven, enchiladas will also keep well in the fridge for several days.

Braised Lamb Shanks

Every family has their traditional holiday meals, dishes that encapsulate the essence of the holiday spirit. For us, at Easter, it’s all about the lamb (preferably with some mint jelly). It’s been several years since I’ve celebrated Easter with family, but even so preparing my lamb-based meal for one calls to mind family gatherings held in years past.

This year, I had trouble tracking down mint jelly, so I went in a different direction. The local lamb shanks in my freezer were begging for a slow-cooked preparation and I was feeling very French, so slow-braised lamb shanks in Bordeaux it was. I served mine over a bed of polenta with some steamed green beans, but you could also serve this dish with risotto or baguette and a side salad, or simply enjoy it on its own.

Ingredients

1 1/3 lbs lamb shank

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

2 medium carrots

5 oz chicken broth

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

250 ml red wine (I used a relatively inexpensive Bordeaux, but any red wine will do. Just remember that while there’s no reason to buy an expensive bottle, you should never cook with wine you wouldn’t also be willing to drink!)

salt and pepper

Directions

Pat lamb dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, rubbing the seasoning into the meat on all sides. Add olive oil to a dutch oven on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, place the lamb in the bottom of the dutch oven. Cook until meat is just browned on all sides, then remove and set aside.

 

Dice onion, carrot and garlic. Add to the dutch oven and cook until onion and garlic are fragrant. Add the wine and chicken broth, then nestle the lamb in the mixture.

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Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook covered on low for 2.5 – 3 hours, or until lamb is extremely tender and falls off the bone with very light pressure (it is very hard to overcook lamb using this method – if you aren’t sure if the lamb is done yet, give it another 20 – 30 minutes and check again).

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Once the lamb is done, gently remove from the pot and place on a plate. Tent the plate with aluminum foil.

Continue simmering the vegetable-broth-wine mixture until the sauce has thickened substantially, about another 20-30 minutes.

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Plate the lamb, pouring the sauce over the shanks. Makes 2-3 servings.

Creamy Celery Root Dip with Roasted Garlic

Well, it’s been a while since we’ve posted anything, but never fear – several more recipes will be up this week. What can I say – between moving and starting a new job, I’ve been cooking plenty but haven’t been keeping up with the blog as much as I would like. Hopefully, we’ll be getting back into a more regular schedule!

I mention this mostly because it is a necessary part of the “why” behind this recipe. In my last post, I shared a recipe for a celery-root based “No Noodle Asian Noodle Salad,” and while I quite enjoyed eating it the following week, I wanted to do something a little different with the last (and largest) of the celery roots I had bought. In particular, I wanted to try cooking it and compare the flavor with the raw preparation.

I ended up on the Food and Wine website with a recipe for “Celery Root Skordalia.” I was intrigued by the recipe, but wanted to pair the earthiness of the celery root with a richer garlic flavor, so instead of steeping the garlic in the olive oil, I roasted it. All I can say about the result is that it was quite a hit at the potluck I went to later that evening, and I highly recommend it as an appetizer or light afternoon snack, paired with pita chips or veggies.

Note: For a more complete step-by-step guide to roasting garlic (and better photos), check out this post from The Kitchn.

Ingredients

1.5 heads garlic

1/2 tbsp + 3/8 cup olive oil

2 tbsp almonds

1 celery root

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400 deg.

Peel back most of the garlic layers, keeping the majority of the clove intact. Chop off the top portion of the garlic head, exposing the inside of each clove. If some cloves are too short to expose this way, remove them from the main bulb and slice off the top portion separately. Place intact heads and stray cloves cut-side up within a small piece of aluminum foil, then drizzle with the 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Wrap the foil tightly around the garlic, then place in the oven. Roast for 1 hour.

Place almonds in a small heat-proof bowl. Heat 1 cup water until boiling, then pour over almonds. Set aside. Once almonds are softened and water has cooled, about 5 minutes, remove the skins and set aside.

Slice off the top and bottom of the celery root, then peel. Cut into medium pieces and add to a medium pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then add salt and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes, then strain.

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Once garlic has finished roasting, keep oven on, then remove and open foil packet. Allow garlic to cool 5-10 minutes. Carefully separate cloves, then one at a time squeeze cloves from the root end towards the cut end, forcing the roasted garlic out and placing into a small bowl. Set aside.

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Place almonds on a baking sheet and roast for 5-7 minutes or until just shy of golden brown. Set aside.

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Toasted almonds

Once celery root has finished cooking, drain and add to food processor with remaining olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and almonds. Puree until smooth.

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Serve immediately or, if making ahead, store in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to serve, add to a small pot and reheat slowly over low heat.

No-Noodle Asian Noodle Salad

I’ve always been intimidated by celery root (or celeriac, as it’s sometimes called). It’s ungainly exterior supposedly hides an incredibly versatile ingredient – raw or cooked, added to soups or mashed potatoes. But I’m proud to say, I finally took the plunge and picked some up at the local farmer’s market over the weekend.

Of course, impulse produce shopping when you have no prior experience cooking said ingredient leads to pulling cooking books off shelves and browsing blogs in search of something to do with it. Since Monterey is unseasonably warm right now, I decided to stick with a spring/summer preparation, and found inspiration in this recipe.

Of course, I made a few tweaks to the recipe above, largely with the proportions in the dressing – I added a little more soy sauce as well as some lemon juice. Fair warning: the recipe as written below makes 5-7 generous servings, so feel free to cut the listed amounts in half if you’d rather not commit to quite so much of this tasty salad.

Ingredients

2 large celery roots

7 large carrots

1.5 – 1.75 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 cup basil

4 large cloves garlic

1 inch fresh ginger root

6 tbsp white vinegar

6 tbsp toasted sesame oil

4 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp maple syrup

1.5 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the chicken thighs. Cover and cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165. about 15-20 minutes. Set chicken aside to cool for another 15-20 minutes.

As the chicken cooks, peel the celery root and remove the very top and bottom of each carrot. Using a mandolin, food processor, or sharp knife cut the celery root and carrots into thick julienned pieces. Add the celery root to a medium-large bowl and the carrots to a very large bowl. Shred basil and add to the bowl with the carrots. Set both bowls aside while you prepare the dressing.

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Peel and dice garlic, then peel and grate ginger. Add to a small bowl with the white vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Whisk to combine.

Once chicken has cooled, thinly shred and add to the bowl with the carrots.

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One third at a time, add the celery root and mix to combine. Once all of the celery root has been added, pour the dressing over the salad and stir to fully incorporate before serving.

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Baked King City Pink Beans

Aah, baked beans. There is something so delicious about them. Paired as a side with the best from the grill, served party style as a Game Day appetizer – any time of year, these beans do the trick.

I whipped this batch up as I worked through my pre-moving-eat-everything-in-my-pantry-and-use-up-as-many-condiments-as-possible routine, and I’ve got to say- this recipe is a keeper! It makes a great meal for your next car camping trip: make in advance and then re-heat in your camp stove.

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups cooked King City pink beans (you can substitute pinto beans or something similar)

1 large onion

1 lb bacon

10 oz Sriracha BBQ sauce (sold at Trader Joe’s – I liked the extra kick from the Sriracha sauce but if you aren’t into spicy, feel free to use another type)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp red chile flakes

1 tbsp yellow mustard

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.

Cut bacon into small pieces and dice the onion. Cook bacon and onions over medium-high heat 3-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add beans and stir.

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Add BBQ sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, red chile flakes, and yellow mustard to the pan.

IMG_8937Cook over medium-low heat or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.

Pour beans into a medium-large baking dish. Bake for 2 hours, then serve hot.

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Chicken Casserole with Cruciferous Vegatables and Carrots

Ok, so the name isn’t really all the catchy, but the finished product is. This recipe is adapted from the Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole by Ree Drummond, but adds chicken, additional vegetables, different cheese, and changes the proportions for the sauce.

Ingredients:

2 lbs chicken thighs (Costco now sells organic chicken, so I use that)

1 lb broccoli florets, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 head cauliflower, same

10 large Brussels sprouts, quartered

6 carrots, chopped

2 brown onions, diced

I head garlic, peeled and diced

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

4 ounces whipped cream cheese

Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

1 jalapeno pepper

1 cup crumbled feta cheese (or other cheese with a bite, like cotija)

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

This recipe calls for four different vegetable choices: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and carrots. You can use all four, or any combination of 2 or 3, which makes this a great recipe to use when you have some extra vegetables on hand and want to do something yummy with them.

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Once all your vegetables are bite-sized, steam them until just barely cooked, 3-5 minutes.

The secret to this recipe is for the vegetables not to overcook. While the vegetables are steaming, cook the chicken using what ever method you prefer, or, if you are having a busy night, buy it pre-cooked. I grilled mine in a non-stick pan.

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Once the vegetables are steamed, set them aside. Ditto with the chicken once it is cooked.

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Now take your diced onions, diced jalapeno and chopped garlic and sauté it all for 5-10 minutes in olive oil. I added the oil to the chicken juices that were still in the pan for some added flavor.

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Add 1/2 cup flour and stir until the onion mixture is coated. Now start pouring the broth into the pan, and stir. Once it is all combined, let it cook on low for 5-7 minutes. Then add the whipped cream cheese (or room temperature block cream cheese) and stir until dissolved into the mixture. Taste the mixture and add some salt, pepper and paprika to taste — I used about 1 tsp of salt, a tablespoon of paprika and 1/2 of tablespoon of pepper.

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If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it with more broth or some of the water from the steaming of the vegetables (here in California that is a good use of water – I used the rest of it for the patio plants). You want it to be the consistency of prepared cream of mushroom soup, but the recipe is very forgiving if it is thinned out too much.

Now you are ready to assemble the casserole. First layer is vegetables. Followed by diced chicken (dice it after the chicken has rested for awhile). Followed by sauce, and then cheese. Repeat. The original recipe calls for 2 layers, but I sometimes do 3.

Moving Day 2016 078Melt the butter in the microwave (mine takes a minute, but I think it is old and slow so watch yours carefully and take it out as the last bit just melts). Pour the breadcrumbs into the melted butter and mix.

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Sprinkle the buttered bread crumbs on top of the casserole and bake for 35 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Let set for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

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There will be some sauce accumulation at the bottom of the casserole pan — be sure to distribute it over each serving to give it some extra moistness.