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I’m pretty proud of the job I did cooking this year! I pushed myself and my tastebuds (and my husband’s!). I had some wins and some losses, but overall it was definitely a success!
Here are my favorites meals from the year:

Comforting and Warm:

best of 2013 comforting and warm
The Best Ever Turkey Chili / Sweet Onions with Lentil Stew

Quick and Chicken-y:

best of 2013 quick and chicken
Roasted Chicken & Beets with Couscous and Yogurt SauceOne Pot Lemon Chicken & Zucchini

Summer Magic:

best 2013 summer magic
Grilled Poblano & Corn Quinoa with LimeGrilled Chicken & Asparagus Salad with Parsley Pesto

Meatless: 

best of 2013 meatless
One Pan Farro with TomatoesAsparagus Carbonara

For the slow cooker:

best of 2013 slow cooker
Sunday Night Italian Meatballs / Slow Cook Corned Beef & Cabbage

Yum! What were your favorite things you made this year? I’d love to hear your best recipes.
Here’s to new flavors and challenges in the new year!

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Ok, so I cheated on my paleo a bit with this one. I started out strong and then noticed a bottle of stout in the fridge and knew it would be the perfect additional to this hearty winter-y stew. Kale? Butternut Squash? Perfectly tender beef? Yes, please! Next time I swear I’ll get it right and stick to the plan, but the stout added this extra level of flavor that took this lovely stew to another level.

Butternut Squash and Kale Beef Stew

Butternut Squash & Kale Beef Stew
via girl meets paleo

2 tbsp olive oil or other cooking oil
2 lb stew beef, 1″ cubed
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbsp fresh sage, minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 small butternut squash, cubed (about 4 cups)
1 bunch fresh kale, roughly chopped
4 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
1 cup stout beer (optional)
salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven heat 1 tbsp oil over medium high. Working in batches, brown the meat, making sure not to cook it through (it can turn tough). Set browned meat aside. Lower heat to medium and add the 2nd tbsp oil. Once it’s melted add the onions, garlic, smoked paprika, and sage to pot, along with a big pinch of salt and fresh pepper. Cook about 8 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Make sure to stir frequently so the mixture doesn’t burn.
Add the beef, butternut squash, and kale to the pot. Stir to combine, then add the stock and two cups of hot water (if using the beer, replace 1 cup water with the stout). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook, covered, for at least an hour. I recommend about 2 hours to get the beef nice and tender. Serve and enjoy. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

This dish had a really interesting and different flavor, packed with herbs and greens. We used collard greens, kale and rainbow chard and it turned out quite lovely. Husband’s was served over rice and mine was over a baked sweet potato (1 hr in the oven at 400 degrees!), since I’m trying the paleo thing this month. The original recipe called for 2 bay leaves, but the flavor was a bit sharp on this, so I’d recommend only using one. Uli’s is always our sausage of choice, and this andouille packed a nice amount of heat, it was a nice balance to the tangy-lemony greens.

Lemony Gumbo Z'herbes

Lemony Gumbo Z’herbes
via food52

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other cooking oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery, preferably the innermost ribs (reserve the leaves for later)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 cups water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock
2 pounds assorted greens: collards, turnip, beet, mustard, chard, kale, or spinach, coarsely chopped
All the celery leaves from your head of celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 bay leaf (preferably fresh)
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (leave out if you want this to be vegetarian)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 small links smoked andouille sausage, cut into small pieces (also optional)
Fruity olive oil, for serving
1 scallion, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
Cooked white or brown rice, for serving (or baked sweet potatoes)
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, celery, bell pepper, and salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally until softened but not browned. Stir in garlic and let it sweat with the other vegetables for a minute or two. Add water or stock to the Dutch oven. Raise heat until it comes to just below boiling. Add greens and celery leaves a little at a time until they are all wilted into the soup. Add thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Halve and juice a lemon, and put both lemon halves into the soup. Add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, if using. Reduce heat to low and simmer soup, uncovered, for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours. The vegetables will become mushy and the soup will be very green. This is what you’re going for. Taste and add salt, freshly ground black pepper, and more Worcestershire sauce to your taste. Fish out the bay leaf and the lemon halves and discard them. Stir in the andouille sausage if using. To serve, place a scoop of rice (or baked sweet potatoes) into a bowl, pour soup over the top, and add about a teaspoon of olive oil on the top. Sprinkle with scallions. Add hot sauce as desired.

Oy! It’s the flu. My darling husband suffered through over the weekend and this week it’s my turn. Now that I’m working on eating again, I’m ready to get a few more vitamins in me. While perusing Pinterest in bed, I stumbled across this kicked up ramen recipe and knew it was just the thing for me today. Thankfully, we had a moderate range of veggies on hand already and very little effort was involved to make this veggie-packed meal.

ramen upgrade

Ramen Upgrade (for one)
adapted from martha stewart

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 medium yellow onion, diced medium
1 small carrot, diced medium
1 small stalk celery, diced medium
3/4 cup chopped kale
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
1 package (3 ounces) ramen, broken into quarters (seasoning packet discarded)

In a medium pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, carrots, and celery and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Season with pepper. Add broth, bring to a boil. Add ramen and kale, reduce heat, and simmer until noodles are tender and the kale is just wilted, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve hot.

Wow! I never cook with lamb, even though it’s a favorite, and this first attempt really turned out well. The flavor was rich, the stew filling, but not too heavy. The meat, beans, and spinach with feta in a lightly spiced tomato broth made for a perfectly balanced dish. This one will be a regular this winter!

Lamb and Bulgur Stew with White Beans

Lamb and Bulgur Stew with White Beans
via martha stewart

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 pound ground lamb
2/3 cup bulgur
3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
28 ounce can diced plum tomatoes
2 cups water
15 ounce can gigante or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
5 ounces baby spinach (about 5 cups)
3 1/2 ounces feta cheese (about 2/3 cup), plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, lamb, bulgur, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring to break up lamb, until lamb is cooked, about 5 minutes. Add paprika; stir until fragrant and toasted, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and water, bring to a simmer, and cover. Lower heat; gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until bulgur is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in beans, spinach, feta, and oregano; cook until feta is almost melted and beans are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with feta and oregano.

I was looking for a new chili recipe this weekend and stumbled across a post labelled The Best Ever Turkey Chili. A bit skeptical at first, I read through the ingredients and saw my favorite thing to add to a soup or stew: beer! I was sold. There were a few minor tweaks I made, such as adding a bit of cumin (can’t live without it in chili!) and doubling the beans (more is better!) and a little bit of shredded carrot to cut the acidity, but the flavor of this chili really was the best I’ve ever made. I know I’ll be coming back to this recipe again and again.

best ever turkey chili

The Best Ever Turkey Chili
adapted from food52

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-large onion, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon hot paprika
3/4 teaspoon cumin
2/4 teaspoon dried coriander
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Dash of cinnamon
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 cup dark beer such as Leffe Brown
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
Dash of hot sauce
Salt and pepper
Sour cream, chopped chives, cilantro, shredded cheese for toppings

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, grated carrot and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the chili powder, cumin, hot paprika, coriander, oregano, and cinnamon; stir and allow to cook until aromatic, 1 minute. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until lightly browned. Pour in the beer and allow to cook down slightly. Add the tomatoes, beans, and a dash of hot sauce (to taste). Season with salt and pepper. Allow to simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Top with sour cream, chopped chives, cilantro, and/or shredded cheese.

The temperature around here dipped for about, oh, two days, and I immediately thought, “time for soup!” This simple recipe had a whole lot of kick (especially after I accidentally doubled the cayenne!) and I doubled the vegetables to kick up the heartiness too. Simple, perfect flavor. Husband threw it over some rice for leftovers the next day too, the seasoned broth providing just the right sauce. We’ll be seeing this one again, come fall.

Lentil Soup with Beef and Red Pepper

Lentil Soup with Beef and Red Pepper
via bhg

1 pound boneless beef sirloin steak
4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1 cup French lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1 medium coarsely chopped red sweet pepper
1 medium chopped onion
2 medium sliced carrots
3 stalks sliced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup snipped fresh parsley

Trim fat from meat. Cut meat into 3/4-inch pieces. If desired, in a nonstick skillet cook beef over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Place meat in a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. Stir in broth, lentils, water, sweet pepper, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Stir in parsley. Ladle soup into bowls.