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.

-RESOURCES-

chickpeas

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!

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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

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