Super Food for Super Bowl Sunday!

Super Food for Super Bowl Sunday - Dinner Is Served

As a born and raised and current resident of the Chicago area,  I technically belong in the “long suffering Chicago Bears Fan” group (1985’s Super Bowl XX aside).  If there is one silver lining to come out of this year, it has to be our hometown hero, Jake Elliott, the Eagle’s kicker who’s rookie season can only be described as a Cinderella Story.  Many of us in our tiny little suburb west of the city will be shouting “Fly Eagles Fly” next Sunday!

Super Bowl Sunday is also a day to celebrate food in the best of American traditions: chili, wings, nachos, beer.  To that end, I’ve assembled some of my favorite recipes on the blog over the years.  All well suited to a football cheering crowd.  Or maybe you’re just in it for the commercials or the Puppy Bowl?  No worries, these dishes go great with those as well.

Until next time…be well, eat well and love lots

  1. Weekend Slow Cooker Steak and Bean Chili – Chili and football: probably #1 food and sports pairing.  Using steak instead of ground beef and slow cooking all day takes your chili to the next level.  Just remember to unplug your slow cooker when done! (#ThisIsUs)2013-10-28-10-51-42
  2. Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas with Honey and Lime – Wow this dish was immensely popular on the blog and with good reason.  It’s one of our favorites!honey-lime-chicken-enchiladas5-dinner-is-served
  3. Emeril’s Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya – my most recent blog post. Great make ahead dish that’s satisfying and economical!Emeril's Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya2 Dinner Is Served
  4. Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese and Thyme Au Jus Absolutely delicious and easier to eat while cheering on your teampot-roast-sandwich
  5. Sweet Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup – The first sentence in my post describes this as “guy soup” but for sure this is for EVERYONE soup.  Since this is one of my earlier blog posts, the photo is a bit dicey but trust me this soup is fantastic!photo-41
  6. Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts – Ok, so not quite a traditional Super Bowl Sunday app but it’s such a crowd pleaser, I think it definitely deserves a place alongside your wings and guac 🙂 hummus-with-parsley-oil-and-pine-nuts-6-dinner-is-served


Emeril’s Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya

Emeril's Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya2 Dinner Is Served

With Super Bowl Sunday and Mardi Gras right around the corner, now is the perfect time to offer this soul warming jambalaya which I have been making ever since purchasing Emeril Lagasse’s Louisiana Real & Rustic cookbook about 20 years ago (wow..time sure does fly when you’re cooking a lot).  It’s one of the few recipes I made the first time exactly as written and have not made any alterations since.

The secret to transforming what is a very simple list of ingredients into this richly flavored and complex dish is the technique.  Don’t rush the process and add the ingredients exactly as written.Emeril's Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya3 Dinner Is Served

It’s all about the slow caramelization and layering of flavors and seasonings.  Slow cooked onions and peppers melt into the browned andouille sausage.  By the time the rice is added to saute, you should have beautifully browned bits in the bottom of the pan which, when deglazed with water, add an incredible richness.

A few specifics about the ingredients.  I know 1/2 cup of vegetable oil seems like a lot and honestly the first time I made this dish, I thought it was a typo!  But it does end up getting absorbed by the meat and rice and this makes a generous 8 portions so that amounts to about 1 TBS per serving.  Your choice of course.  If you wanted to reduce it to, say 1/3 cup go for it!

For the rice, I prefer medium grain rice, which will give you a slightly stickier texture reminiscent of risotto.  Long grain is fine too but I would caution against some brown rices that may take longer to cook (check the package to be sure!). Medium Grain Rice

Finally for the meat, I just LOVE this combination of spicy andouille sausage and tender chicken thighs.  You can also use a combination of chicken breasts and thighs or, just breasts alone.  And if you’re not a huge fan of spice, regular kielbasa or any kind of smoked sausage can be substituted for the andouille.

Jambalaya is perfect “one pot meal” for a group of friends or Sunday supper with the family.  Easy, economical and comforting on a chilly day.  I absolutely LOVE this recipe and have not and probably will not ever change a thing!

Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots.

Emeril's Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya5 Dinner Is Served

Emeril’s Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya*

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 pound andouille sausage (or regular kielbasa), sliced 1/4″-thick
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces (or a combination of breast and thigh meat)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cups medium-grain white rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped green onions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottom Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of cayenne pepper. Stirring often, brown the vegetables for about 20 minutes or until they are caramelized and dark brown in color (lower heat after first 10 minutes if vegetables start to scorch).

Add the sausage and cook, stirring often for 10-15 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to loosen any browned particles.

Season the chicken with the remaining 1 tsp of salt and remaining 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper then add to the pot along with the bay leaves. Brown the chicken for about 8-10 minutes, continuing to scrape the browned particles from the bottom of the pot.

Add the rice and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to coat evenly. Turn up heat and add about a cup of the water and bring to a boil scraping up remaining browned bits.  Add remaining 5 cups of water.  Cover, then reduce heat to medium/medium-low and simmer for about 30 to 35 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed.

Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.  Stir in chopped green onions and serve.

Serves 8-10

* Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse Louisiana Real & Rustic


Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas with Honey and Lime

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas5 - Dinner Is Served

Happy 2018 to one and all.  I’m looking forward to posting more great recipes in the coming year although not sure I will be able to top this one.  I have been making these heavenly (ultimate!) chicken enchiladas for quite some time now and have passed on the recipe to others with rave reviews all around.  For some reason though, it never made its way to my blog so I am here to right that wrong!

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas4-DinnerIsServed

The secret to this dish is the sweet and tangy chicken filling which is marinated in a simple lime and honey marinade.  What’s interesting and a bit different is that the chicken is cooked BEFORE it is marinated so it’s extra juicy and flavorful.  It’s also reduces marinating time, anywhere from half an hour to about 4 hours max.Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas1-DinnerIsServed

Also honey…um yep, I’ve got that in spades!  Pictured above is a golden batch of our very own Fall 2016 honey.  Love finding new and different ways to use the honey from our bees 🙂

Regarding the chicken, this is a great way to use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken.  This time, I took advantage of organic chicken breasts on sale at Whole Foods and just poached a big batch (see The Kitchn blog for easy to follow directions on poaching chicken), using some for the enchiladas and some for weekday salads.Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas2-DinnerIsServed

After marinating the chicken, it’s just a matter of combining some green enchilada sauce with a little cream and leftover marinade, wrapping the chicken in tortillas along with cheese, a quick assemble and then more cheese and popping into the oven for half an hour.

No doubt about it, these are rich, but oh so good.  A perfect make-ahead dish for a crowd or make on Sunday and reheat for family dinners for the week. I like to serve mine with a side of Vigo Yellow Saffron Rice, a simple mixed green salad and plenty of cilantro and lime wedges.  Oh yes, and a margarita!  Kid/Teen/Young Adult/Family tested and approved!

Until next time be well, eat well and love lots!Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas with Honey and Lime Dinner Is Served

Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas with Honey and Lime

  • 5 TBS freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6 TBS honey
  • 1 TBS chili powder (I love Penzey’s Chili 9000)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1 package of 8 “burrito” sized flour tortillas, or smaller tortillas if preferred
  • 16 oz. freshly shredded co-jack cheese (or Sargento Reduced Fat 4-Cheese Mexican Cheese)
  • 16-oz can green enchilada sauce (I use mild for my family but you can certainly up the heat a bit and use medium)
  • 1 cup half & half, sour cream or Mexican Crema
  • Sour cream (or Mexican crema), fresh chopped cilantro and lime wedges to serve (all optional)

Whisk together lime juice, honey, chili powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.  Add cooked chicken and coat well.  Marinate, refrigerated, for at least half an hour or up to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Drain chicken and reserve marinade.  Lightly grease a 9″x13″ baking pan and pour about 1/2 cup of the green enchilada sauce in the bottom of the pan.

Place tortillas on work surface.  Divide chicken evenly among tortillas.  Reserve a generous cup of the shredded cheese and divide the remainder among the tortillas.  Roll each tortilla up and place, seam-side down, in the pan.

Combine the reserved marinade, remaining enchilada sauce and cream in a bowl and pour sauce over enchiladas.  Sprinkle with reserved cheese.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until enchiladas are heated through and cheese has melted.  Let rest for about 5 minutes then serve with lime wedges, sour cream and freshly chopped cilantro.

Serves – 8 Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas6 - Dinner Is Served

The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce

The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce - Dinner Is Served3When was the last time you raved about cranberry sauce?  Too often it’s an afterthought to the Thanksgiving meal.  Hosts feel obligated to include it but often do not put a lot of effort into it.  Well with just the minimal amount of effort and the addition of tart cherries, you can elevate this side sauce to new levels.  20171119_201227250_iOS

The entire sauce comes together in under 20 minutes and can be made several days in advance.  A pinch of cloves adds a nice depth to the flavor as well.

Remember too that cranberry sauce is not just for Thanksgiving! It makes a wonderful topping for warm, baked brie  or served alongside roast pork or a seared duck breast.  And of course with leftover turkey sandwiches!

If you’re not feeling the cherry thing, take a look at the other fantastic cranberry sauce recipe here on Dinner Is Served: Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Pinot Noir

Happy food prep to one and all!The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce - DInner Is Served1

The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce*

  • 2 1/2 cups cherry cider, cherry juice or cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 8-ounce package dried tart cherries (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Bring juice to simmer in a heavy, large saucepan.  Add dried cherries and remove from heat. Let stand 8 minutes. Mix in sugar, then cranberries and cloves. Over medium-high heat, bring sauce to a boil.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst, about 9 minutes.  Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours (sauce will thicken). Can be prepared up to four days in advance.  Let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving.

*Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce - Dinner Is Served2



Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes


Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 3Thanksgiving has always held a special place in my heart.  A wonderful mix of comfort food, family time.  And chaos.  A little of which is expected but too much can quickly turn the fun family celebration into “next year we’re getting take-out!”   One of the biggest culprits in that mix of kitchen calamity: mashed potatoes.

To be clear, mashed potatoes are a MUST at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner if for no other reason than to serve as a vessel to hold all the delicious gravy.  But that last minute mashing and hauling out of the hand mixer or ricer and “how do we keep them warm while we carve the turkey” conundrum.

The solution?  This incredibly easy make-ahead mashed potato casseroleThanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 5 Buttery Yukon Gold potatoes are whipped with a little sour cream and topped with a golden, crunchy Parmesan/Panko topping.  And best of all: IT CAN ALL BE prepped up to three days before so no frantic, last minute mashing!

A couple of recipe notes. You may certainly use any kind of potatoes you wish, although I am very partial to the Yukon Golds when it comes to mashed potatoes.  Purchase the largest ones you can find to minimize the amount of peeling.Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 1

And speaking of peeling, if you don’t already own a Zyliss Vegetable Peeler, BUY ONE NOW!  For about $9 and free shipping (if you’re an Amazon Prime member), you will get a peeler that will peel vegetables with such ease, you’ll wonder how you ever got along with out it.  WELL WORTH THE MONEY!Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 2

Another item worth purchasing for this dish and countless others is a jar of Trader Joe’s Seasoning Salt.  It’s wonderfully balanced and adds a nice depth of flavor without overwhelming the dish.Trader Joe's Seasoned Salt

Lastly a plug for using freshly grated Parmesan cheese in all that you cook. If you can spring for the real deal, Parmigiano Reggiano, go for it!  Otherwise there are plenty of domestic brands that taste great (BelGioioso’s Parmesan Cheese is a fave).Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

The more you can do ahead of time, the more you can spend with your family and loved ones and enjoy a chaos-free holiday.  Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!

Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole*

  • 7 TBS softened unsalted butter + more to grease pan
  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 TBS + 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp Trader Joe’s Seasoning Salt (or other brand of seasoned salt)
  • 3/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dash paprika
  • Chopped chives (optional)

Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish (See Note 1>)  and set aside.

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by about 1 inch. Add 1 TBS salt and partially cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat then lower heat, uncover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are just tender and still holding their shape.

Drain, then place potatoes back in the pot.  Place pot over medium heat, shaking pan, for about 30 seconds to let some of the excess moisture evaporate.  Remove from heat.

Mash potatoes using either a ricer, potato masher or hand mixer (see Note 2>).  Add 5 TBS of the butter, sour cream, 3/4 tsp each: Kosher salt, Seasoned Salt and white pepper.  Using a rubber spatula, spoon potatoes into prepared baking dish. (Can be prepared up to three days ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before final baking).

Combine in a small bowl, remaining 2 TBS softened butter, Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Using your fingers, break up butter and combine to form coarse crumbs.  (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate.  Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before final baking).

Heat oven to 400°.  Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the casserole.  Sprinkle a little paprika over top.  Bake until golden and bread crumb topping is golden, about 30 minutes (Note> If you double recipe, it may take up to 40 minutes).

Remove from oven.  Garnish with fresh chives and serve.

Serves: 6

*Recipe adapted from New York Times

NOTE 1> If doubling recipe, use a 9×13-inch baking pan

NOTE 2> For fluffy, super smooth mashed potatoes, nothing works like a Potato Ricer.   Standard Potato Mashers get the job done, although more likely to leave some lumps behind (which…some people LIKE lumps!).  Last but not least, a sturdy Hand Mixer will get the job done in no time.  Just be sure not to over mix or potatoes will become gummy.

NOTE 3> For a gluten free version, use Kikkoman’s Gluten Free Panko Breadcrumbs.

Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served



A Celebration of Blogging, Likes and Honey and…a Give Away!

Just over seven years ago, I decided to take the plunge and start a food blog.  The first recipe I posted was for this Really Great Sirloin Steak Marinade (still one of my very favorites).   There was no text, just the recipe and a somewhat dingy, out-of-focus photo, thanks to an old model cell phone camera and incandescent lighting.  /shuddersirloin-steak2

Now, 200 posts later, I have hopefully evolved into a more competent photographer and writer of words.  While not a prolific poster, my heart and soul still belong in the kitchen and in my garden <3, and I love sharing it all with you.

In addition to hitting the 200th post milestone, last week I also crossed over the 700 likes threshold on my Facebook Dinner Is Served page  .  I do believe this is cause for a celebration!


If you’re wondering what honey has to do with this post, well it has EVERYTHING to do because to celebrate these milestones,  I’m giving away one jar of our beautiful, golden fall honey!  Just leave a comment below or on my Facebook page and tell me your favorite way to enjoy honey and I will pick one winner at random.

PicMonkey Collage 1

I haven’t had the opportunity to talk at great lengths about our beekeeping hobby.  Honestly I have enough information and photos to start an entirely separate blog.  But the short and sweet (haha get it?) version is: YES, this is our second year beekeeping!  WE have two hives in our back yard that produce about 100# of honey (that does not include the honey produced by the bees to get them through the winter).IMG_0857

The honey is, in our humble opinion, amazing and makes all the effort worth while.  We enjoy it daily on toast, in tea or drizzled over yogurt.  Also  works great in salad dressings and marinades (like this one for  Honey, Lemon and Thyme Grilled Pork Tenderloin.

Again, THANK YOU for your likes and support.  Here’s to many more years of cooking and sharing recipes ❤

Until next time, be well, eat well, love lots!

Ann @ Dinner Is Served






A Few of My Favorite Things: September, 2017

How did it get to be September already?  And how is it possible I’m not quite ready for Fall (my favorite season) yet? Maybe it has something to do with the fact my back yard is at the peak of summer splendor right now and I just don’t want that to go away anytime soon. Backyard 2017

There are still plenty of tomatoes to harvest, basil to turn into pesto and more honey to extract. In other words: IT AIN’T OVER TILL IT’S OVER!

I’ve also been busy discovering a few *new favorite things lately and thought this would be a good time to share a few with you. They are all from Trader Joe’s so if you don’t happen to have one nearby, I apologize and promise next time I will review products that are more universally available.

But for now, let’s start with this completely amazing cheese that we cannot stop eating at our house.IMG_3484

TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar has apparently been around since 2011 so eh….guess I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the cheese section in a while!  We’re more than making up for lost time, by going through large quantities of this rich and nutty cheese.  I’ve been putting it on burgers and into salads. But mostly just nibbling on it on a cracker or with some apple slices and a glass of red wine. At $3.99 for a  oz. block, it’s a MUST TRY!

And speaking of red wine, this Petit Reserve Meritage Blend is also a must try, especially at the low low price of just $7.99/bottle.  Two words: CASE WORTHY.  This red blends Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes into a full-bodied, versatile wine.  Fantastic balance of fruit, spice and oak all rolled into one.  Pair with some Unexpected Cheddar and your life will be complete.IMG_3488

Next up is Trader Joe’s Frozen Brown Rice. Rice = not exactly THE most exciting food topic but something I serve to the family at least a few times a week.  It took me years to convert the young ones over to brown rice (mom fail for starting them off on white rice and white bread :-/ )  But now that I’ve finally gotten to eat it, I try to serve as often as possible and TJ’s make this so easy with pre-cooked frozen rice that is actually good and way better than those pre-cooked rice in the bags at the store.

Trader Joe's Brown Rice

And now the best for last…Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken. Total game changer, this one!

Trader Joe's Spatchcocked Chicken

For just $3.99/lb (price as of 09/2017), you get a whole, butterflied chicken marinated in a delightful blend of lemon, garlic and rosemary.  And the best part?  You just put in a pan and bake for an hour.  We’re talking ZERO EFFORT here.  The kind of meal that’s right up my alley after a long day at the office.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up from the teens (really now young adults) as well.

Until next time, be well, eat well, love lots.  Eat cheese and drink wine too!

Ann @ Dinner Is Served

A Few of My Favorite Things - Dinner Is Served




Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto



This one’s been on my list FOREVER to share with you as it’s one of my very favorite ways to serve shrimp. It’s very simple to make and…I just happen to have an ample supply of basil in my garden right now (yes, basil pesto has already been made!)Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served4 Grilled shrimp make the perfect summertime patio meal, accompanied by a green salad, fresh ciabatta bread and a crisp white.  They also make a wonderful appetizer.  Versatility: it’s a good thing!

Start with a classic white wine/lemon marinade that’s spruced up with some fresh chopped basil and Dijon mustard: Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served1

Then let your gorgeous shrimp marinate for a good three hours in the fridge. You can probably get away with two hours.  I wouldn’t go longer than four:Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served2Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served3

To assemble, just wrap a fresh basil leaf around each shrimp, followed by a strip of prosciutto and grill, basting with the reserved marinade. The result is juicy shrimp with just enough lemon and basil flavors, surrounded by smokey, crispy prosciutto.

We’re headed up to the great state of Wisconsin for a little R&R then back to harvest this year’s honey (you can see our hives in the photo below).   Looking forward to sharing that with you!  Until then…be well, eat well, love lots!  And may all your days be as beautiful as the one we had yesterday here in Chicago20170729_232905956_iOS

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto

  • 1# Jumbo – to Colossal size shrimp, peeled and deveined (See NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Fresh or coarsely ground black pepper
  • About 15 large fresh basil leaves (or 1 per shrimp)
  • About 15 thin slices of prosciutto (or 1 per shrimp)  For smaller shrimp you may get by with 1 slice of prosciutto for two shrimp
  • Two thick lemon wedges for grilling and garnishing (optional)
  • Toothpicks
  • Non-stick grill spray + basting brush

Combine the white wine, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, chopped basil and pepper to taste in a bowl, whisking to combine.  Place shrimp in a shallow glass or non-reactive dish.  Pour marinade over, turning shrimp a few times to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 4.

Remove shrimp from marinade, reserving marinade for basting.  Wrap the middle of each shrimp with a basil leaf followed by a slice of prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick and repeat with remaining shrimp.

Preheat grill and clean surface.  Spray with nonstick spray. Grill shrimp for several minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade.  Make sure the shrimp is cooked through the prosciutto is just starting to crisp.  While shrimp is cooking, place lemon wedges on grate and cook until slightly charred.

Remove shrimp to a platter. Serve with fresh sprigs of basil and grilled lemon wedges

Serves: 3 as a main course; 8 as an appetizer

NOTE> Shrimp sizes and descriptions can be tricky which is why I usually end up just eyeballing it when I’m at the store.  For this recipe, I found some GORGEOUS pink Key West shrimp that were labeled “U12,” meaning under 12 shrimp per pound.  To me, that’s THE perfect size for grilling.  Technically these fall into the “colossal” category but they’re not really all that huge!  You can step it down to Jumbo shrimp, especially if you’re making this as an appetizer.  Just keep in mind they will cook in no time at all on the grill so be prepared with that spatula and platter.  ENJOY!

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto . Dinner Is Served



Spring Lamb Stew w/ Spinach and Chick Peas

Spring Lamb Stew5 - Dinner Is Served

Does it feel like I spend an inordinate about of time talking about the weather?  Mostly…COMPLAINING about the weather! Maybe it’s a “Chicago” thing, I don’t know.  Our seasons seem so jumbled lately.  A mild winter, followed by a cold spring and delayed summer. Or a blistering hot summer that carries on till fall.  As I write this post, I am staring out at a sea of mud and puddles in my back yard. Grey skies and drizzle.  Spring…sigh.

Thankfully, I always have a good recipe in my back pocket, to make us happy even when the weather is getting us down and this Spring Lamb Stew is perfect for those chilly spring evenings when winter just won’t let go.Spring Lamb Stew3 - Dinner Is Served

Especially if you’ve been stuck in the beef stew rut, this stew is a welcome change.  Very simple ingredients that require minimum prep time and best of all: it’s ready in a little over an hour!  I imagine if you have one of those fancy “Instant Pots”, you could probably pull this off in no time! Spring Lamb Stew - Dinner Is Served

Also love this recipe because it offers something a bit different that your typical “run of the mill” lamb stews.  Chick peas (See Resources section after recipe) and an abundant amount of fresh spinach at the end, add a nice touch of texture and color, not to mention health benefits!  If chick peas aren’t your thing, definitely feel free to substitute canned white beans.Spring Lamb Stew4 - Dinner Is Served

Also recommend serving over mashed potatoes or soft polenta to complete the meal and of course some red wine and plenty of candles to make you forget all about Mother Nature’s wrath.

Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!20170326_014157478_iOS

~Spring Lamb Stew with Spinach and Chick Peas~

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (see Note>)
  • Garlic powder, Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups pieces peeled carrots (1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 15-ounce can chick peas (or canned white beans), drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 8 or 10-ounce package ready-to-use spinach leaves
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Piece of parchment paper, cut to fit inside pot

Pat the meat dry with paper towels and season all over with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  In a large pot, heath olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add stew meat in one layer and leave undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Then turn and continue browning about five more minutes.  Add onions and carrots and continue to brown, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften (about 5 minutes longer).

Stir in tomato sauce, chicken stock, chick peas and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Carefully lay parchment paper over the surface of the stew.  Cover with lid and reduce heat.  Simmer until stew meat is tender, about 1 hour.

Remove lid and discard parchment paper. If stew seems too dry, just add a little more stock to your liking.  Add spinach by the handful, stirring. Cover and cook until spinach wilts, about 4 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve over mashed potatoes or polenta, with lemon wedges.

Serves 4

NOTE> Lamb shoulder chops are usually your best bet for stew meat, unless your butcher or grocery store happen to have meat already cut up.  If purchasing shoulder chops, be sure to purchase about 2# to yield 1 1/4# of stew meat.



Evidence of chicken pea (aka garbanzo bean) consumption dates back to thousands of years B.C. This legume is known for its versatility, health benefits (high in fiber, iron and protein) and is used widely through many different cuisines.  They can be roasted, added to soups, stews, salads and pureed for dishes like my world famous hummus.

Canned chickpeas are widely available but the quality varies, as this tasting panel from Fine Cooking Magazine discovered.  Their #1 pick: Goya brand chick peas, followed by Pastene (a brand I have never seen here in the Chicago area).  I also think La Preferida brand to be superior as well.  So next time you’re in the market for best quality canned chick peas, head to the Hispanic section instead of the canned vegetable aisle!

Chocolate Irish Stout Cupcakes with Mint

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Mint - DInner Is Served

What an odd weekend it’s been. We moved our clocks forward and the tulips are up yet at the same time, Chicago is preparing for a week of…snow!  My beloved Chicago Blackhawks had a morning game which has totally thrown me off kilter, watching hockey while drinking coffee. My no longer baby girl turned 21 last week and came home beaming with her first ever purchase of a 6-pack of beer.  There’s corned beef in the slow cooker and in the midst of it all, I am BAKING!20170312_173311856_iOSGuess I just felt like I really needed a chocolate cupcake in my life right now.  And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner why not add Irish Stout beer to the cake batter and chopped chocolate mint candies.  All topped with a minty white chocolate cream cheese frosting. I don’t bake often but when I do, there’s no holding back!20170311_205609733_iOSThese cupcakes and frosting are wicked easy to make and store well in the fridge so you can enjoy throughout the week, paired with a cold glass of milk or a little Jameson on the rocks 😉  I know I’m biased but in all seriousness, these are probably some of the best cupcakes I’ve had the pleasure of making and eating.

From my crazy kitchen to yours, be well, eat well and love lots!


Chocolate Irish Stout Cupcakes with Mint

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup dark stout beer (I used Murphy’s stout)
  • 6 TBS salted butter
  • 4 ounces Ghiradelli® 70% Cacao Extra Bittersweet Chocolate
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 28-count box Andes® candies

For the frosting:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces Ghiradelli® white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 teaspoon mint extract
  • Green sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cupcake pans with 18 liners and set aside.

Combine the beer, butter and chocolate in a double boiler (or, a metal bowl set atop a pan of simmering water). Stir the mixture until the butter has melted and about 3/4 of the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat and slowly add the sugar, stirring constantly, until the granules melt and the mixture is smooth.

In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until combined. Slowly add the beer mixture and beat till smooth.  Add in the flour and baking soda and mix until smooth.   Chop enough of the Andes® candies to make 1/2 cup (reserve rest for garnish), and stir into the cake batter.

Pour batter into prepared cups and bake for about 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about five minutes, then remove cupcakes and let cool at room temperature.

For frosting, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Add softened butter and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the melted chocolate and mint extract and continue mixing until smooth.  Pipe or spread onto cupcakes and top with green sprinkles.  Garnish with a whole piece of Andes® candy.  Serve immediately or store cupcakes, covered, in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 18 cupcakes