Greek Meatballs with Mint, Tomatoes and Yogurt Sauce

Greek Meatballs with Mint - Dinner Is Served

I’ve been in this weird food limbo lately. Totally a seasonal thing as we’re beginning to transition from almost the end of winter to almost the beginning of spring.  In Chicago that usually means wild weather and temperature swings that some days feel like summer and 24 hours later we’re back in the deep freeze.

This causes quite a conundrum for those of us who like to cook seasonally.  I’m a little over soups, stews and roasts but not quite ready to brush off the Weber grill.  These savory Greek-style meatballs fill the gap perfectly.  A touch of bright spring with fresh mint and a cooling yogurt sauce.  Simmered in crushed tomatoes and served with egg noodles adds comfort to the dish.

Greek Meatballs with Mint2 - Dinner Is Served

Greek seasoning, fresh mint and the addition of ground lamb bring the Greek elements to the dish, but if lamb isn’t your thing, feel free to reduce or omit all together and just go with beef.  Either way, make sure you’re using the best quality meat, preferably grass fed and/or freshly ground.

The sauce could not be easier to throw together while the meatballs are simmering.  Just one container of good-quality Greek yogurt, fresh parsley and crushed garlic.  Also feel free to toss  a little crumbed feta cheese over everything to complete the meal. Greek Meatballs with Mint3 - Dinner Is Served

If you’re looking for a awesome meatball-making-tool, this Medium Scoop from Pampered Chef scoops up a perfect 2 TBS portion of meatball mixture every time.  Also perfect for cookie dough and melon ball scooping.  A “must have” for the well stocked kitchen and only $18!


Until next time, eat well, be well and love lots.  Or, as they say in Greece: Yamas!

Greek Meatballs with Mint Cover - Dinner Is Served

Greek Meatballs with Mint, Tomatoes and Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 pound ground beef (either 90% or 85% lean)
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 1/2 TBS finely chopped fresh mint or 2 tsp dried
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs (see Note 1>)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt (reduce to 1/2 tsp if using Cavender’s Greek Seasoning)
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Greek seasoning (either Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Seasoning or Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning)
  • All purpose flour
  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 28-oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 carton plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Buttered Egg Noodles for serving (or buttered orzo or pita bread)

Crumbled feta cheese for serving (optional)

Combine ingredients for yogurt sauce and set aside.

For meatballs, combine beef, lamb, mint, breadcrumbs, eggs, onion and seasonings in a large bowl.  Mix gently until combined. Portion out about 2 TBS sized meatballs, rolling gently and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Place flour in second sheet pan or shallow dish.

Heat 2 TBS vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Roll about 10 meatballs in the flour.  Dust off the excess, then brown in the oil, shaking pan and rolling meatballs so that all sides brown.  Adjust heat as necessary to avoid scorching.  When meatballs are evenly browned.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining meatballs until they have all been browned.

Wipe out skillet and discard any oil or grease.  Empty can of tomatoes into skillet and using your hands, crush whole tomatoes.  Add in basil, then return meatballs to pan.  Bring to a simmer, then cover, reduce heat and continue cooking until meatballs are cooked through and tender (about 15-20 minutes).

Serve alongside buttered noodles or with pita bread, the yogurt sauce and a Greek salad.

Serves 4


Note 1> Food processors do a great job of turning every day bread into fresh bread crumbs.  Just coarsely break apart bread and pulse a few times.



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

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!

THE Three-Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast

three-envelope-slow-cooker-pot-roast-dinner-is-servedBehold the one and only slow cooker pot roast recipe that takes under one minute to prep and requires only a slow cooker and a pair of kitchen shears!

If it seems like I have quite a few slow cooker pot roast recipes on my blog, you would be correct. Four of them to be exact!  Do we really need another one?  Well yes of course we do!  Especially one that is hands down the most basic and simple and can be assembled in about a minute or less in the morning.  Intrigued?  Read on…

I first spotted this recipe a few years ago on Facebook. At that point I had already perfected my original Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic Thyme Gravy so this recipe, which uses just three packets of gravy/salad dressing mix and water seemed to be a step back.  Actually a few steps back.three-envelope-slow-cooker-pot-roast1

Pardon my food snobbery but this is not the way I cook!

As is often the case fate intervened one day. I found myself with a chuck roast that was near its expiration date and neither the time nor the ingredients to make my classic pot roast. But lo and behold, I did have on hand these three magical packets of seasoning so I decided to give it a go.20170127_133713550_ios-1

Much to my surprise/chagrin, the roast was delicious!  My fears that the gravy would be overpowering or salty or just plain weird, were totally unfounded. I mean I didn’t even brown the roast and it was STILL delicious.  How can that be?

I did make some minor modifications to the original recipe, diluting the seasoning mx a tad. And because I love carrots with pot roast  added them in along with about 1/2 of a large onion, sliced.  On the back end, you’ll want to strain and degrease the cooking liquid as well.

But for the most part that’s it.  Pure comfort food with the minimal amount of effort. I’ve added an Equipment Note below highlighting the key kitchen tool for this recipe: the best ever pair of kitchen shears.  No kitchen should be without one!

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


THE Three-Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast

  • 1 chuck roast, about 3 pounds
  • 1 (0.7 oz) packet dry Italian Salad Dressing Mix
  • 1 (1.0 oz) packet Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 (0.75 oz) packet Brown Gravy Mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 2-3 cups peeled carrots or parsnips (optional)
  • 1/2 large onion sliced (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Trim any large pieces of fat from roast and place in a slow cooker.  Combine the three packets of salad dressing and gravy mix with the 2 cups of water, whisking to combine.

Scatter carrots and onion (if using) over roast and pour only about 1 1/2 cups of the gravy mixture over all.  Note I do not use the full 2 cups as that is just slightly more liquid than you’ll need.  Discard remaining liquid.

Cook on low for between 8-9 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove roast and vegetables and transfer to a platter to keep warm. Strain liquid through a fine mesh metal strainer.  Using a spoon or a gravy separator, remove any excess fat from the gravy.

Pour over roast and vegetables, top with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 4-6

***Equipment Note***

20170128_153814127_iosWhen you think of kitchen essentials, a pair of scissors probably does not come to mind and yet a solid pair of shears like these from Pampered Chef can multi task and become one of your most valuable tools.

From cutting up chickens, to snipping chives, trimming an artichoke, cutting up clusters of grapes and yes, opening packages of seasoning mix, a good pair of shears can do it all.  I especially love these from Pampered Chef as they are spring loaded and make even the toughest tasks, easy on the hands.

My only caveat would be: keep your kitchen shears IN THE KITCHEN!  You don’t want to use these for craft projects or cutting through cardboard boxes, etc.  Not only do you risk dulling the blade, but they’re likely to get lost (I speak from experience!).

No well stocked kitchen should be without them!





Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-coverHard to imagine a dish more worthy of Sunday Supper than a bowl of tagliatelle served with a hearty Bolognese Sauce, warm Italian bread and a bottle of red. I grew up in a non-Italian household with the quick “Americanized” version of this sauce (browned ground beef and a jar of marinara)  and not ashamed to admit I still make that version for the family when I’m pressed for time.  Simply referred to as “spaghetti,” it may not be the real deal but we all enjoy it.

This year, I have decided to go back to my Sunday Supper roots and resurrect some of the classic recipes, made from scratch with no shortcuts.   I’ve made Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce many times, but wanted to give my new slow cooker (see Equipment Notes after the recipe) a try, so made some adaptations and came up with a sauce that will comfort one and all.

Start with the holy trinity of flavor bases: onion/carrots/celery.  First chopped then finely minced (note the personalized Dinner Is Served cutting board!)slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-3

Add a few pinches of classic Italian herbs:slow-cooker-bolognese-sauce-dinner-is-served-1

And let us just pause for a moment to admire this freshly opened bottle of Savory Spice Shop’s California Basil:slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-2

And some best quality tomato products:slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-4

Along with a little vino (red instead of the traditional white wine), and balsamic vinegar.  Then just let your slow cooker do all the work!  A last minute addition of creamy mascarpone cheese or cream cheese provides that extra dose of richness.

I have to say, this sauce is MADE FOR the slow cooker. The meat is incredibly tender and the sauce develops such a unique complexity. I will still approve of the “quickie” version for a busy weeknight but weekends are made for slow, old-school kind of cooking.

Until next time…be well, eat well, love lots!slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-cover2

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound mild bulk Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup EACH chopped onion, celery, carrots
  • 1 TBS chopped garlic
  • 1 can whole tomatoes (28 oz), preferable imported Italian San Marzano
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add beef and sausage and cook until no longer pink. Drain through a sieve and place on a paper lined plate; set aside.

Mince the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor and transfer to a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Pour the whole tomatoes along with their juices into the food processor and pulse a few times until chopped.  Add to the slow cooker.  Add all the additional ingredients except for the mascarpone cheese.  Stir.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Just before serving, stir in mascarpone or cream cheese.  Serve over pasta and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese or slivered fresh basil.

Serves 6


On Christmas Day, I was heating some cocktail meatballs and sausage in my slow cooker when my old faithful totally died.  Bummer!  I looked up my order history on Amazon and turns out the model was six years old.  Eh…not a super great lifespan, in my opinion.

I decided to go with another brand, Cuisinart, as a replacement and found this ultra cool model on It not only slow cooks, it has a heating element to brown food and a steamer insert (perfect for steaming artichokes, corn, etc.).  I love the lighter weight interior and non stick surface.  So far I am totally in love with it and fingers crossed it will make it past 6 years!cuisinart-slow-cooker





Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

Pot Roast CoverThings that cause amateur food bloggers to fall off the wagon:

  • Full time job
  • Being a parent
  • Being a wrestling (or fill-in-the-blank sport) parent
  • winter/dark at 5:00/NO GOOD NATURAL LIGHT FOR PHOTOS!

Indeed a perfect storm of all the above have caused me to take a brief hiatus from blogging. But trust all is well, and slowly but surely I am getting back into the swing of things in the kitchen. Dusting off my faithful slow cooker and ready to share with you this  slow cooker pot roast recipe that I more or less pulled out of my hat last week.

A few years back, I was introduced  to Three Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast which is quite possibly THE easiest slow cooker recipe in the history of slow cookery.  My Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary is a version of that roast. In place of the “three envelopes” I’ve chosen just one envelope of Knorr Au Jus Gravy, enhanced with a little tomato paste. I then piled on the vegetables because, well,  who wants to come home after a busy day and fuss with more food prep!?Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 1

Because this is a “classic” pot roast, I stuck to the basics: carrots, onions, parsnips and potatoes. The vegetables take on a wonderful flavor after cooking low and slow all day long.

Flavor enhancements are a must! I like to rub my chuck roast with a simple savory rub comprised of salt, pepper, granulated onion and garlic. All pantry staples!Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 3

And finally to top it off, fresh rosemary and chopped fresh garlic. If rosemary is a deal breaker for you, fresh thyme makes an excellent substitute.Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 5

Last but not least, check out my Time Saving Tips at the end of the recipe, with “make ahead” suggestions and product recommendations. Enjoy and happy cooking!

Pot Roast Cover 2

Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

1 2 ½-3 pound boneless chuck roast

1 tsp Kosher salt

½ tsp each: pepper, granulated onion and granulated garlic

1 tsp olive oil

1 packet Knorr Au Jus Gravy

1 ½ cups water

1 tsp tomato paste

1 cup sliced sweet onion, about 1/2 of a large

1 # red skinned potatoes (about 4 large), scrubbed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces

2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped carrots

1  to 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped parsnips, about one medium

1 TBS chopped fresh garlic

5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 TBS cornstarch

1 TBS red wine or water

Chopped fresh chives (optional)

Combine salt, pepper and granulated onion and garlic in a small bowl to blend. Pat chuck roast dry with a paper towel and sprinkle spice blend all over roast.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering.  Brown roast on both sides until well browned, about five minutes per side.

While roast is browning, combine au jus mix and water, whisking to combine.  Add tomato paste and whisk.

Place onions, a few rosemary sprigs and bay leaf on the bottom of a slow cooker. Place browned roast on top.  Scatter carrots, potatoes and parsnips around roast.  Pour au jus gravy mix on and around roast. Scatter chopped garlic on top and place remaining rosemary sprigs on top.

Cook on low for at least 8 hours or up to 9 ½ hours.

Using a large slotted spoon or strainer, carefully remove roast and vegetables to a platter (make sure all rosemary stalks and bay leaf are removed). Tent with foil to keep warm.  Strain and de-grease liquid and transfer to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Whisk cornstarch and wine in a small bowl, then whisk into gravy.  Continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about five minutes.  Add additional salt and pepper to the gravy if necessary.

Break apart roast using a fork.  Sprinkle chives over all and serve with hot gravy.

Serves 4-5


  • Onions, garlic, carrots and parsnips can all be chopped the night before. Just store in a zipper bag in the fridge
  • Peeled baby carrots can be used in place of whole carrots
  • The seasoning mix and gravy can both be mixed the night before. Store seasonings at room temperature and refrigerate the gravy.
  • Tired of throwing away unused tomato paste from a can? Try Savory Spice Shop’s Tomato Powder. Just dilute with water to whip up a little paste or sauce.  Keeps well in the fridge for months, so you can have quick tomato paste on hand whenever you need it!
  • While you’re checking out the Savory Spice Shop site, try a bottle of their Onion & Garlic Tableside Sprinkle. You can use 1 tsp of the blend in place of the granulated onion and garlic in this recipe. It’s salt free, so also a great way to add a dash of flavor for those on sodium restricted diets!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic & Rosemary - Dinner Is Served

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 1Wasn’t it just last week that I was commenting to someone how mild our winter has been thus far in the Chicago area? Well apparently I neglected to knock on wood because today we are MORE than making up for our snowfall deficit with the “Superbowl of Snowstorms.”  I have officially declared it an “all pajama day” at our house, along with getting the fireplace going and of course the game later on.

Days like this also call for hearty and comforting soups, like this Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup, a recipe passed on to me a few years back by my sister. I actually made this soup earlier last week and it’s the perfect thing to make for a crazy busy work week.  Just prep some onions/carrots/celery the night before: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 3

The next morning, into the slow cooker it goes with some chicken stock (I use my Smitten Kitchen Slow Cooker “Uncluttered Chicken Stock” which I always have on hand in the freezer). For a true vegetarian version simply substitute vegetable stock. Add a can of tomatoes:

IMAG0973Some beans of your choice (I used Great Northern Beans this time around) And of course the secret ingredient for any minestrone soup: a Parmesan rind.  Low and behold, look what they carry at my most awesome grocery store, Mariano’s: Parmesan rinds!


Into the slow cooker it all goes and simmers away for a good 8 hours (on low)

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup| Dinner Is ServedThen about thirty minutes prior to serving, stir in some chopped zucchini, spinach and al dente ditalini pasta.Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 2

As for my snow day today, I’ll be cooking up a big batch of my favorite Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya, enjoying the winter wonderland, some football and later, a glass or two of red wine by the fire.

Winter Wonderland 2015

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

5-6 cups homemade chicken stock (or reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth)

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can beans (either Great Northern, Cannellini, Kidney or Chick Peas), drained and rinsed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 Parmesan cheese rind

Salt and ground black pepper

2 cups slightly undercooked (al dente)  ditalini pasta

1 medium zucchini, chopped

2 cups fresh baby spinach

Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving

  •  In a slow cooker, combine 5 cups broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, oregano, basil, thyme, Parmesan rind, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Add additional cup of chicken stock if soup is too thick. Remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top.

Serves 6-8

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 4


Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups

Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups | Dinner Is ServedFunny that as long as I have been cooking, certain dishes continue to elude me. Most often they are the most basic dishes, like meat loaf or ribs. I’ve tried countless recipes and techniques but can’t quite nail it. Lasagna is also a dish I was never 100% satisfied with. Too watery, too dry, pasta not quite right, too heavy, and so on and so forth.  Like Goldilocks searching for the perfect porridge or chair.

Then this past weekend, while flipping through some back issues of Cooks Illustrated, I came across a technique for making streamlined manicotti.  No tedious filling of pasta shells, just spread the cheesy filling over no-boil lasagna sheets, roll up and bake. I had great confidence, being from Cooks Illustrated, the recipe would be fantastic, which it was. What I didn’t expect was to realize that this was the perfect lasagna I’ve been searching for!

Just in a slightly different form.

The pasta is melt-in-your-mouth tender, the cheese filling light and airy and the fresh tomato sauce takes just 15 minutes to make but is bright and fresh. As with all recipes, I made several modifications and proclaimed the dish “blog worthy.” So browse through some of the photos, if you wish, or dive straight into the recipe and all it’s cheesy, tomato goodness!

Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups | Dinner Is ServedYou don’t need many ingredients or time to make a delicious tomato sauce. I upped the amount of garlic from the original recipe and also gave the sauce a shot of tomato paste at the end to thicken it a bit.  Isn’t it beautiful?

Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups } Dinner Is Served

The filling contains all the traditional ingredients you’d expect in a cheese filling, along with fresh herbs.

Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups | Dinner Is Served

And assembly could not be easier.  Just soften the no-boil noodles in a little boiling water, spread some filling on each one, combine with the tomato sauce and bake.

Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups | Dinner Is ServedSunday supper at its very best!

Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups | DInner Is Served

Cheesy Manicotti Roll-Ups *

Tomato Sauce

2 (28-ounce) cans petit cut tomatoes, with their juice

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2 TBS minced garlic

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes


1 TBS tomato paste (optional)

2 TBS chopped fresh basil leaves

Cheese Filling & Pasta

3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese

2 cups grated Parmesan/Romano blend cheese

2 1/2 cups freshly shredded mozzarella cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 TBS chopped fresh parsley

2 TBS chopped fresh basil

16 no-boil noodles (prefer Barilla® brand)

Preheat oven to 375°

Heat oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, but not browned (1-2 minutes). Stir in tomatoes and about 3/4 tsp salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. If you want a slightly thicker sauce, stir in tomato paste. Sauce can be left chunky or, if you prefer a smoother tomato sauce, puree a bit using an immersion blender. Stir in fresh basil, adjust seasonings, and set aside.

For the cheese filling, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese, 2 cups of the mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper and herbs in a large bowl. Adjust seasonings.

To assemble, pour 1-inch boiling water in a 13×9-inch broilersafe baking dish. Add noodles, one at a time, completely submerging them. Let noodles soak until pliable, separating then with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels. Discard water from dish and wipe dry.

Spread bottom of baking dish with 1 1/2 cups of the sauce. Using a large spoon, spread a heaping 1/4 cup of the filling evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle, leaving top quarter exposed. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. Repeat with remaining noodles and filling. Top pasta evenly with remaining tomato sauce, making sure pasta is completely covered. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for bubbling, about 40 minutes.

Remove baking dish and adjust oven rack to 6 inches away from broiling element. Heat broiler. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese blend.  Broil until cheese just begins to brown, about 4 minutes.

Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8

*Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated