Category Archives: Main Dishes

Cold Day Pork Cassoulet

It has been cold. This should come as no shock to most, if not all of you. This of course means I have been making lots of soups, stews and chilies (Is that honestly the plural of chili? Spell check says so; must be true). Though, I have to admit that it hit 72 degrees in St. Louis the other day, but it is cold again now.

Look at that piggy goodness!

Look at that piggy goodness!

I have been rather busy recently keeping to a pretty rigorous exercise regimen and actually writing my dissertation. I have over 3 pages of that done! Small start I know, but every single word is one step closer to being finished. Anyway, with those two big time sucks, I have been using and abusing my slow cooker. I recently purchased a slow cooker cookbook with nothing but low-cal meals. On what I knew would be a particularly cold day, I decided to try out the pork cassoulet. This meal has pork three different ways: bacon, smoked pork sausage and pork tenderloin and it is somehow still low-cal! If you are like me, you get frequent desires for meat, you may choose to view that as a double entendre or not. But seriously, I will often feel an intense need for more protein in my diet often the day after some heavy weightlifting. This meal definitely satisfies that craving. It is incredibly hearty without making you feel heavy. The ingredients are actually pretty simple but it is full of flavor. And literally, after frying up a couple slices of bacon, you cut up the rest of the ingredients, bung ‘em all in the slow cooker, turn it on low and come back 5 hours later to the perfect post weightlifting winter meal. It goes great with some nice, crusty bread, though I served it with some leftover low-cal corn muffins (recipe to come). So, on your next cold day or perhaps for the Super Bowl, make a pork cassoulet. Ha! That rhymed, and it is only 249 calories per 1 cup serving!

And again!

And again!

Smoked Sausage Cassoulet
Adapted from Cooking Light: Slow Cooker Tonight

2 bacon slices
2 cups chopped onion (2 medium onions)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
4-5 garlic cloves minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper – I put in more because I love black pepper
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15 oz) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 lb lean bonless pork tenderloin trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1 inch cubes
½ lb reduced fat smoked sausage cut into ½ inch cubes
8 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
8 teaspoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley


1. Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and place on towels to drain grease. When cool enough to handle crumble it up into little bits. Do NOT get rid of grease in pan.

2. Add onion, thyme, rosemary and garlic to the bacon drippings in pan and sauté until the onions are tender. Stir in bacon, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Bring to boil and remove from heat.

3. Place half the beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until chunky. Add remaining half of beans, pork and sausage with the mashed beans and stir to mix.

4. Place half of bean pork mixture in slow cooker, place half of tomato mixture on top of that, put the rest of the bean-pork mixture on top of that and then the rest of the tomato mixture.

5. Put the cover on the slow cooker, turn on low and let cook for 5 hours.

6. When ready to serve, sprinkle with one teaspoon Parmesan and one teaspoon parsley.

So delightful!

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Low-Cal, Main Dishes, Pork


Tequila-Lime Turkey Chili – Healthy Super Bowl Recipe

This chili is a low-cal recipe that combines chili AND booze! Also, it is another slow cooker recipe, so you can set it and forget it! Isn’t that phrase from some obnoxious infomercial? Meh, I really do not care enough to take the time and Google it. Anyway, this is a lighter version of chili that has an awesome bite of both lime and tequila. Despite being lighter, it is very hearty and filling. It is great with a topping of some avocado and a few extra squirts of lime juice. And, yes, it still goes well with cornbread. So, if you are looking for a slightly healthier super bowl option, here it is. It is 270 calories for a 1 1/3 cup serving. You will have to add in extra calories for other toppings you may want to include. And if you are like me and think this year’s Super Bowl is a rather boring matchup where you could not care less who wins, then at least you can have some awesome chili.

I unfortunately did not add any toppings and it looks boring...sorry.

I unfortunately did not add any toppings and it looks boring…sorry.

Tequila-Lime Turkey Chili
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2012

1 slice of hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
Salt and Pepper
2 onions chopped fine
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 teaspoons chili powder –add extra or use chipotle chili powder if you want to bring on the heat
5-6 garlic cloves minced – or 2 great big squirts of the pre-minced stuff in a bottle
3-4 teaspoons ground cumin
2-3 teaspoons fresh minced oregano or ½ – 1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup tequila
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon lime juice
Avocado for toppingLime wedges for serving


1. Mash bread and milk into a fine paste in a large bowl with a fork. Mix in ground turkey and pepper to taste using hands until uniform.

2. Combine onions, oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a large skillet. Cover and cook on medium low heat until soft, 8-10 minutes.

3. Uncover, increase heat to medium, stir in tomato paste, chili powder, garlic, cumin, oregano and pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds.

4. Stir in turkey mixture and cook, breaking up large pieces until all the pink is gone.

5. Stir in tomato sauce, scrap up any brown bits and cook for about a minute. Pour into slow cooker.

6. Stir beans, tomatoes, 3 tablespoons tequila, soy sauce, honey and chipotle into slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours.

7. Once time is up, stir in remaining tablespoon tequila, lime zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

8. Serve with your choice of toppings.

Eat, and maybe watch the Puppy Bowl with the Kitten Halftime Show instead…

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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Low-Cal, Main Dishes, Turkey


Christmas #1, Dinner Part 1: Bad Ass Meatloaf

Yes, I know this is March, but I still have a ton of recipes from this past Christmas I want to share.

As a child multiple Christmases is sheer wrapping paper ripping heaven. As an adult multiple Christmases is sheer cooking, baking, gift wrapping hell. Well, maybe it isn’t that bad, but it does require organization and built-in time for stress relief. This year, I had five Christmases. I cooked a full on dinner for the first two, cookies for the third, breakfast for the fourth and a monster cake for the fifth. The first Christmas was a small one just between my boyfriend and I. When we do this, I go all out and make a ridiculously huge meal. This year’s menu was:

  1. Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with a Brown Sugar Glaze
  2. Root Gratin
  3. Dijon Braised Brussels sprouts
  4. Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits
  5. Pear-Vanilla Blueberry-Ginger Pie (the flavor was amazing, but the consistency was off, will post about this once I try it again and fix a few things)
The GORGEOUS meatloaf ready to go into the oven

Yeah, all this for just two people. I will post about each of these recipes in due time, but let’s start with the meatloaf. When I asked Aaron, what he wanted for Christmas dinner, he replied, “You know I have never had a meatloaf I actually liked.” I took that as a challenge! How do you make someone like meatloaf? 1. Wrap it in bacon. 2. Make sure it is moist because there is nothing worse than dry meatloaf. You might as well eat cardboard. My reference recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). I love this site; hell, I would love to work for these people. I only made minor changes with some of the spices and doubled the glaze recipe (doubling included here), but other than that I kept true to ATK, and Aaron LOVED it. I demolished that challenge!

That's right two people ate half a meatloaf, it was that good.

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Brown Sugar – Ketchup Glaze
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen – I can’t give you the direct link since it is a membership only recipe.


Brown Sugar – Ketchup Glaze
1 cup ketchup or chili sauce – I chose ketchup
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cider vinegar or white vinegar

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic – I loved crushed garlic, but it can be minced as well
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
½ cup whole milk or plain yogurt
1 pound ground beef chuck
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground veal
24 Ritz-like crackers crushed up (basically the round butter crackers) – you may need more
½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
6 – 8 ounces bacon , thin sliced (8 to 12 slices, depending on loaf shape)


1. For the glaze: Mix all ingredients in small saucepan; set aside.

2. For the Meatloaf: Heat oven to 350°. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing remaining ingredients.

3. Mix eggs with thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in large bowl along with crackers, parsley, and cooked onion and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended and meat mixture does not stick to bowl. (If mixture sticks, add additional milk or yogurt, a couple tablespoons at a time until mix no longer sticks. If the mixture is too wet and falls apart on you, add more crackers)

4. Turn meat mixture onto work surface. With wet hands, pat mixture into approximately 9-by-5-inch loaf shape. Place on foil-lined (for easy cleanup) shallow baking pan. Brush with half the glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise, over loaf, overlapping slightly and tucking only bacon tip ends under loaf, (see illustration 1, below).

5. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Cool at least 20 minutes. Simmer remaining glaze over medium heat until thickened slightly. Slice meat loaf and serve with extra glaze passed separately.

One last shot, yes from above, these pictures were taken before I had slightly more than zero knowledge about photography.

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Beef, Main Dishes, Pork


Asian Cuisine Exposure Therapy Part I: Kung Pao Chicken

Cooking Asian cuisine has always scared the living daylights out of me. I am unfamiliar with many of the ingredients, have a poor bead on the techniques used to create the unique flavor profiles, and I figured there was no way I could ever make anything that could hold a candle to even the dingiest Chinese carry-out. Well, I decided to face my fear head on and in a rather grandiose fashion…at least in my mind it was grandiose. I planned a menu of homemade Kung Pao chicken, homemade veggie eggrolls and homemade pork pot stickers (including that awesome spicy chili sauce you get at restaurants!). This, for me, was the very definition of exposure therapy. I turned to a blog I frequent, Use Real Butter, for the basic recipes. She has some fantastic recipes for a wide range of Asian cuisine; you should give the site a visit.

Kung Pao Chicken - this is what was left for lunch the next day

Here are my thoughts on the Kung Pao chicken. (I will put the eggrolls and pot stickers in a separate post.) WARNING! Chicken marinates for 30 minutes – plan accordingly! I followed the recipe pretty closely actually. I had a little over a pound and a half of chicken which is more than the original recipe called for, so I doubled the marinade recipe and tripled the sauce – I also just like my Kung Pao to be saucy. I could not find Shaoxing cooking sherry or black vinegar, so I replaced it with regular cooking sherry and balsamic vinegar respectively. It was still very tasty, but I would recommend that if you can find the proper ingredients use them. I minced rather than sliced the garlic and ginger so it would distribute more evenly throughout the dish. I also added water chestnuts, thinly sliced red pepper and tripled the amount of peanuts ‘cause I love me some peanuts! I found this dish incredibly easy to make and just as good as – if not better than – what I would get at a local restaurant. I have officially overcome my fear of Asian cuisine, well at least some Chinese cuisine. Perhaps I shall tackle Indian food next!

Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from Use Real Butter


For Chicken
1.5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast – remove fat, cut into cubes or short, thin slices (I prefer slices)
2 tsps cornstarch
4 tsps soy sauce
2 tbsps Shaoxing cooking sherry – or regular cooking sherry
2 tsps sesame oil
3 tbsps vegetable oil (not olive oil)
8-12 dried red chili peppers, halved and de-seeded
2 tbsps of minced ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper sliced thin
1 cup whole bamboo shoots
2 cans sliced water chestnuts
1.5 cups peanuts or cashews, roasted and unsalted
Black pepper to taste
2 stalks green onions, diced

For Sauce
6 tbsps soy sauce
3 tsps sugar
3/4 tsp black vinegar – or Balsamic vinegar
6 tbsps water
1.5 tsp cornstarch


1.  Mix the chicken with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, 4 teaspoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing cooking sherry, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix together and set aside – yes it is that easy! This is also a good time to start cooking rice to serve with the Kung Pao chicken.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok, sauté pan, or large frying pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and stir-fry until half-cooked. Remove the chicken from pan and put into a bowl.

4. Heat the remaining cooking oil in the same pan on high heat. Toss in the ginger, garlic, and chili peppers, stirring until the oil is fragrant. Add the chicken, bamboo shoots, sliced red peppers, water chestnuts and peanuts and stir for a few turns. Pour in the sauce and continue to stir-fry until the chicken is coated and cooked. Add black pepper to taste.

5. Serve over hot rice and sprinkle with green onions and extra peanuts

Dig In!


Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Chicken, Chinese, Main Dishes