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A Perfect Pair: Shrimp and Grits for Josie
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Skillet Shrimp and Grits

If you’ve been around these parts long enough you’ll know that I’m truly in love with breakfast.  And truth be told, I love it even more when I’m eating for other meals.  Like those gratin potatoes with spinach, kale, and a runny poached egg?  That was my lunch one day over holiday break.  It was spectacular.  Well this shrimp and grits dish rates right up there.

Lord knows I’m not from the South but my great pal Josie sure is and she knows her grits.  Creamy, cheesy, stick-to-your-ribs sort of good.  Add some shrimp to a killer pan of grits and you’ve got a perfect pair.  And speaking of Josie, she’s having herself a perfect pair this week…in the form of twin boys!  Josie and Joey are adding 2 more to their family and I knew this shrimp and grits dish would be an amazing way to help celebrate a little surprise shower a few of us decided to have for her.

Skillet Shrimp and Grits

Josie loves breakfast just as much as I do and she’s all over shrimp and grits.  Being the Yankee that I am, I think this meal really does Southern comfort food justice (especially since I used the stone-ground white cornmeal Josie brought me from Atlanta in October) and I know she would love it as much as Kyle and I did.  Because you’ll bake the grits for a final 15 minutes, they aren’t quite as creamy as I would have liked for them to be but it’s a stellar recipe, nonetheless.  The only thing that could possibly make this shrimp and grits any more awesome would be a poached egg.  Surprised?  I know Josie would agree.

Here’s what the other girls made for Josie:
Annie: Paloma Cocktail (Tequila & Lime)
Courtney: Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream
Elly: Sausage-Cheese Biscuits

Wouldn’t this menu would make for an amazing brunch?!

Skillet Eggplant Lasagna
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How do you cook 4 vegetarian dinners per week and have none of them ever include tofu?  This skillet eggplant lasagna is one of my answers, my friends.  Last fall we made the decision to eat less meat for a variety of reasons (health, cost, carbon footprint) and to my surprise when I took a critical look at our menus from the past few weeks recently, I realized that more than half of our dinners have been vegetarian each week.  And I think what shocks me the most is that Kyle is no longer asking where the meat is in his meals!

We’ve been eating lots of quinoa and incorporating more beans as protein substitutes and boosting our vegetable intake by eating meals centered on portobello mushrooms and eggplant.  So it hasn’t been a diet of salads and I couldn’t be happier.  This recipe is one that I adapted to a veggie version by simply swapping out the ground beef, a traditional ingredient in lasagna, for eggplant.  Since eggplant can be a tricky vegetable to work with due to its high water content, I took the method from this eggplant pasta recipe (which we also loved) and used it for this recipe.  It added a little extra to the overall cooking time but the method works great since sauteing cubed raw eggplant can take forever and oftentimes results in a mushy mass.

And while I wouldn’t categorize this a healthy vegetarian recipe (what lasagna recipe is healthy?), plain and simple, it’s awesome.  Using broken-up noodles gives you the chance forgo all the laying that happens with a traditional lasagna and you’re using just one pot and few dishes so clean-up isn’t a disaster.  The fact that it’s loaded with mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses certainly doesn’t hurt either.  It’s a warm and hearty meal for the chilly and rainy fall days we’ve been having recently but I can certainly see this meal happening throughout the winter as well.

Skillet Penne with Chicken Sausage and Spinach
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This is the time of year when I’m constantly searching for quick meals to make at night when more important things trump a long-winded weeknight dinner…like cookie baking, tree decorating, vanilla eggnog drinking, and old-school Christmas carol singing.  And this year, add organizing my house for a big move to that list.  Yep, that’s right…our house is almost finished and we expect to be moved in during the week between Christmas and New Year’s!  It’s been quite an insane time of my life and much to my excitement (and relief?), I’ve recently discovered a gold mine of quick meals with my new Cook’s Illustrated online subscription.  (Don’t have one?  Want to win one??)

Skillet Penne with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

This recipe is one of those.  It’s a one pot meal that I had on the table in under 30 minutes from prep to finish and after running to UPS.bank.lunch.Barnes&Noble.kitchenplace.bathplace.graniteplace.gasstation.grocerystore between noon and 5 yesterday, the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner.  But you know what?  This meal practically got itself on the table and I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out.  I tweaked the recipe a little, adding some white wine in place of the chicken broth and finishing off the sauce with some cream (it needed a little boost) and I’ve reflected my changes below.  It’s a killer meal and I can tell you that it will be on my table again in the next couple of crazy weeks, for sure.

Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans
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I’m sorry I’ve been holding out on you for so long.  I’ve been making this Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans for well over a year and I’ve not once had the opportunity to take a photo.  Actually, I’ve probably had many opportunities but I can’t say that I’ve had the desire to have to wait to eat this meal while I take photos.  It’s just too good.  You see, it’s a simple one-pot meal of rice, black beans, chicken, chicken broth, and some spices.  And somehow, these very basic ingredients are magically transformed into this amazingly comforting meal as they simmer together.  A little smoky undercurrent of heat from the ancho chile powder (my favorite chile powder) sears into the chicken then infuses the chicken broth and rice and leaves you with an unforgettable meal.  We sometimes serve this with some sour cream and a little shredded cheese on top but toppings certainly aren’t necessary.  Mix-ins are good too – I had an ear of corn hanging out in the fridge and I sliced the corn off the cob and threw it in at the end – lovely!  And if you consider serving this to company, which it would be perfect for on a crisp fall weekend night or for a game day Saturday or Sunday, I think some jalapeño cheddar cornbread or chile cheese bread would be great accompaniments.  Regardless of how you decide to serve it, make this soon and thank me later.

Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans
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When deciding on what to post today, I had originally planned on posting about the Peanut Butter Dulce de Leche Chocolate Cupcakes that I made for Cupcake Camp New Haven last weekend.  You’ll get your cupcakes, no worries, but I just saw the trailer to Pam Anderson’s new cookbook, Perfect One-Dish Dinners, over on Three Many Cooks and there was no question in my mind what today’s post would actually be.

The lovely Pam and her two darlings, Maggy and Sharon, opened up their home in Bucks County, PA to Big Summer Potluck back in August.  Maggy and Erika from The Ivory Hut were the brains behind the operation of this unforgettable food blogging workshop and part of the event’s swag bag was Pam’s soon-to-be released cookbook.  Yay!!  After a 3 1/2 hour drive home after the workshop that night, I dove right into the book – how could I resist?  And the first recipe I bookmarked to make was the Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans.  Everything about the recipe appealed to me including the fact that the whole dish was to be baked in the oven.  No stove-top prep is always a bonus, isn’t it??  Well it just so happens that Pam demos this dish in the cookbook trailer so I figured that there would be no better time to post about my love for these sausages and white beans than on the day that Pam released the trailer for Perfect One-Dish Dinners.

The prep for this, one of my new favorite dishes, couldn’t be easier.  You literally toss all of the ingredients except for the white beans into a roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes then add in the beans and bake for another 10 minutes.  Umm, does dinner get any easier than that?? But it wasn’t the ease of prep that moved this dish to the top of my list; it was the flavor.  It’s the tomatoes that burst when they are roasted that brings all of the flavors together and ever since I fell head over heels in love with Scalloped Tomatoes, I’ve been smitten with what roasted tomatoes can do for a dish.  I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll love these sausages and white beans as much as I do so why wait to make it?? They were on my menu for this week before I decided to post about them today and with the rainy raw day we’re having here, I’ve just decided that we’re having this again tonight.  Don’t you just love it when you can look forward to dinner so much?

Perfect One-Dish Dinners is filled with recipes organized by theme: Stews for All Seasons, Worldly Casseroles, Roasting Pan Complete and Big Summer Salads and Grilled Platters.  Every single recipe includes at least one side dish or starter recipe plus a dessert – in other words, Pam does the hard work by setting up the menu for you! Some of the recipes I’m dying to make this fall include Carnita-Style Beef with Roasted Peppers and Onions, Jerk Chicken Chili, and Salsa Verde Chicken with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings, and One-Pot Penne with Turkey-Feta Meatballs.  And for you vegetarians, Pam includes a vegetarian alternative for a number of the recipes.  You can’t go wrong with this book and if you’re looking for a new book full of fantastic recipes that will make your heart sing and tummy happy, don’t hesitate to invest in Perfect One-Dish Dinners.