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Rockit’s Bacon Grilled Cheese Patty Melt Burger

To celebrate National Burger Month, Rockit Bar & Grill and Rockit Burger Bar are hosting their 9th Annual Burger Fest from May 12 – 16. Each day a different over-the-top burger is featured on the special menu, created by Executive Chef Amanda Downing.

My personal favorite is the Bacon Grilled Cheese Patty Melt Burger, which Chef Amanda has kindly allowed me to share with you. It’s a double quarter-pound Black Angus beef pattie burger, topped with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, applewood-smoked bacon and served on a cheddar grilled cheese bun along with a side of tomato soup for dipping and tater tots. Yum!

Click here for the complete Rockit Burger Fest menu.

Rockit's Grilled Cheese Burger

Photo provided by Rockit Ranch Productions

Rockit’s Bacon Grilled Cheese Patty Melt Burger

Rating: 51

Yield: 2 servings


4 thin 4-ounce Black Angus beef patties
4 slices Gruyere cheese
1 cup yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 slices thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, cooked
8 slices sharp Cheddar cheese
8 slices soft half-inch-sliced white loaf bread
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt & ground black pepper for seasoning


Heat a medium sauté pan to high heat, add in about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add in the onions and lightly season with salt and pepper. Stir onions occasionally until golden, reduce heat slightly and continue to cook until onions are very golden and tender. Remove from heat.

Heat grill to medium-high heat, make sure grill is clean.

Lightly season each burger patty with salt and pepper. Place patties on grill and cook for approximately 2 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Add one slice of Gruyere to each patty.

Heat a large non-stick pan or griddle to medium heat, add about half of the butter, add the bread slices (do in batches if there’s not enough space to lay out all eight pieces), top each slice of bread with a slice of cheddar cheese, allow for bread to toast and cheese to melt.

Lay a piece of bacon on four of the slices, top with the other slices of bread to build the grilled cheese sandwiches. Add more butter and flip sandwiches until evenly toasted.

To assemble, place on patty on top of a grilled cheese sandwich, top with half of the caramelized onions, top with the second patty and then with another grilled cheese sandwich. Cut burger in half. Repeat with remaining set up and serve!


Recipe by Rockit Executive Chef Amanda Downing


Crunchy Fiesta Chicken

It’s rainy and damp, and hardly festive right now. But Cinco de Mayo is almost here, so I’m hopeful that spring will decide to return soon…and stay for while!

To get into the celebratory spirit, I wanted to add some spice to a traditional baked chicken recipe featuring panko breadcrumbs. I love the crunchy texture of the panko so much that I’ll use it in turkey meatloaf and I’ve been known to eat them right from the bag.

With this Crunchy Fiesta Chicken, I’ve simply blended store-bought taco seasoning with panko breadcrumbs for my breading mixture.

panko bread crumbs

Some recipes have you mix the shredded cheese with the breadcrumb mixture, but I prefer to put the cheese on last in the baking process. That allows the breadcrumbs to stay crunchy and for most of the cheese to stay on the chicken breast.

mix the spices and cheese with the breadcrumbs

After dipping in an egg/water mixture, you dredge the chicken breasts in the glorious panko breadcrumbs on both sides. Then it’s ready to pop in an oven.

coat the chicken breasts with breadcrumbs

Turn once in the baking cycle for both sides to crisp up. Then top with 4-blend Mexican cheese a few minutes before the baking is done; just enough to let the cheese lightly melt. And you’ve got a crunchy, lightly spicy chicken breast that would be perfect for your Cinco de Mayo dinner. Pair it with a taco side salad and a great Mexican beer or tequila. Now that’s a meal worth celebrating!

crunchy fiesta chicken

Crunchy Fiesta Chicken

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


4 large chicken breasts, refrigerated
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided
1 package taco seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons water


Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, lightly coat with nonstick spray or olive oil. Then set aside.

In a pie pan, whisk together breadcrumbs and taco seasoning. Set aside.

In another pie pan, beat the eggs and incorporate 2 tablespoons of water. Take each individual chicken breast and dip (one side at a time) into the egg mixture, then the breadcrumb mixture. In some cases, you may need to dip each side twice to ensure full coverage.

Lay the chicken breast in the prepared baking pan, and repeat for the remaining chicken breasts.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender. Turn the chicken breasts halfway in the cooking time to ensure a crispy texture on both sides of the chicken.

During the last 3 minutes of baking, add about 1/4 cup of Mexican cheese on top of each chicken breast. Return to the oven and let it melt completely. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.



YOLO BOLO: Bolognese Spaghetti Sauce for the slow cooker

I call this recipe YOLO (You Only Live Once) BOLO because the Bolognese sauce is so rich, intense with Cabernet Sauvignon flavor that it’s the only Bolognese recipe you’ll need for the rest of your life! Yep, that’s right! Seriously.

bolognese spaghetti sauce for the slow cooker

It’s made in a slow cooker, so it is so easy to make. You could literally turn it on when you leave for work and when you return home you’ll have perfectly cooked Bolognese spaghetti sauce.

bolognese spaghetti sauce

This recipe is a modern take on a classic Bolognese sauce; I’m using lean ground turkey and I left out the chopped celery. Trust me, you won’t miss it. In my opinion, celery is the most overrated vegetable. And it only takes up “valuable space” in the slow cooker that is better served by more Cabernet Sauvignon.

bolognese spaghetti sauce

After browning the ground turkey, put all of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Turn it on HIGH and let it cook for about 4 hours. You can use any pasta, but I like to use thin, whole grain spaghetti. And, of course, top it with some quality grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

bolognese spaghetti sauce

If you have any leftovers, freeze the Bolognese spaghetti sauce in an airtight container for up to 4 months.

spaghetti bolognese sauce

SHAMELESS PLUG: This recipe for Bolognese Spaghetti Sauce is entered in Better Recipe’s Slow Cooker Blogger Recipe ContestIf you like this recipe, please vote for YOLO BOLO Bolognese Spaghetti Sauce. The top vote-getters from the general public will compete for the grand prize. Thanks for your consideration and support.

YOLO BOLO: Bolognese Spaghetti Sauce

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 4 hours

Yield: 8 servings

YOLO BOLO: Bolognese Spaghetti Sauce


2.5 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
2 cans (28 ounces each) Dei Fratelli Crushed Tomatoes
4 carrots, finely chopped (about 24 baby carrots)
2 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste (about 6 ounces)
1 cup cabernet sauvignon (or any dry white or red wine)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.5 pounds thin whole wheat spaghetti
grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish


Brown the ground turkey in a large skillet.

In a 6-quart slow cooker, mix together the cooked ground turkey, tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, tomato paste, wine, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours, or until the vegetables are tender. You may also cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaves before serving.

About 15 minutes before serving, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Plate the spaghetti, top with Bolognese and sprinkle with grated cheese.


Fiesta Mexi Turkey Meatloaf, Ole!

fiesta mexi-meatloaf_hero

Last weekend was National Margarita Day. Did you miss it? I was all set to enjoy some great margarita recipes from some of Chicago’s hottest bars, like a Salted Caramel Margarita from The Underground. But all the margarita madness got me hungry for some Mexican-inspired cooking, which led to some serious salsa experimentation in the kitchen.

The best outcome was a Fiesta Mexi Turkey Meatloaf. In addition to brown rice, which I use instead of bread crumbs, I added crushed tortilla chips. Such. Crunchy. Goodness. And the salsa in the meatloaf, along with the salsa on the meatloaf, is a perfect pairing with a strong, ice cold margarita. Now that’s inspired Mexican cuisine!

Fiesta Mexi Turkey Meatloaf

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings


1.25 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
1 cup brown rice
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
2 eggs
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup and 1/2 cup mild chunky salsa, divided
1 1/2 cups white Cheddar cheese, shredded


Preheat your oven to 375 F degrees. Spray a standard loaf pan with nonstick spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together ground turkey, brown rice, crushed tortilla chips, eggs, chili powder, and 1/4 cup salsa. Shape and put mixture into prepared loaf pan.Top with remaining salsa.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until done. Top with cheese and bake for 10 minutes more, or until melted.

Entrees/ Events & Entertaining

Find the perfect match for your Valentine’s Day menu at Mariano’s Chicago bakery

#MyMarianos, #CollectiveBias, #shop

Collective Bias Social Fabric

What's cookin' good lookin' #shop #MyMarianos slow cooker coq au vin

Does Valentine’s Day stress you out? Do you find yourself running around to every grocery store in Chicago, or calling every Chicago bakery on Yelp, to find the right romantic dessert for your sweetie? Well, stop it. Take 3 deep breaths, and just stop for a moment. You’re in need of a Valentine’s Day smack down – given out of love, of course! I totally understand because we’ve all been there before. With so many options and such high expectations (that we force upon ourselves), it can be challenging to know where to begin.

Valentine’s Day is not about how much money you spend on the one you love. It’s not about mindlessly following the crowd to celebrate the heart-iest of holidays with the masses. In the same way each relationship is unique, the way you honor your significant other and the way you celebrate Valentine’s Day together should reflect the uniqueness of the relationship you share.

I don’t like crowds, so spending Valentine’s Day with the rest of Chicago crammed inside a busy restaurant can cause a panic attack. For me, nothing speaks louder than thoughtful actions…like a quiet, home-cooked meal that reflects a shared experience. One easy way to create a Valentine’s Day menu is to build it around a theme like your favorite destination as a couple. Personally, I adore Chicago; that’s why I live here. But Paris is hands-down the most romantic city I’ve ever experienced. There is literally romance in the air throughout the City of Lights.

So for Valentine’s Day this year, I want to bring a bit of Paris into my home. Mariano’s makes that easy to do. I’m going to make a slow cooker coq au vin recipe for dinner using fresh poultry and produce from #MyMarianos. And with my Mariano’s Rewards Card in hand, I’ll supplement everything else (including flowers and wine) that I need for a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast and dinner at home with items from the Mariano’s Bakery, Deli, International Market, Liquor and Floral departments.

Parisian all-butter croissants #MyMarianos #shop #CollectiveBias slow cooker coq au vin

In the Bakery Department, I picked up some Parisian all-butter croissants for breakfast and chocolate mousse cups for dessert. My Valentine’s Day authentic Parisian breakfast will start with:

  • French roast coffee with cream (French vanilla flavor, maybe?!)
  • orange juice
  • Mariano’s all-butter croissants
  • Bonne Maman® blackberry preserves
  • fresh blackberries from Mariano’s produce department

And don’t forget the butter! French cuisine focuses on simple, high-quality ingredients. If you’re going to have croissants made with real butter, then enjoy real butter ON them as well. Warm the croissants before serving, and consider having breakfast in bed for an indulgent start to Valentine’s Day. Oui, oui!

Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin

This recipe for slow cooker coq au vin is perfect for Valentine’s Day dinner because it only takes 20 minutes to prep; it’s easy to assemble before you head out the door for work. It cooks all day (8 hours), so it will be ready to enjoy with your sweetie when you get home. All of the ingredients for my authentic Parisian dinner menu are available at Mariano’s including:

Entrée / Side Dish
  • slow cooker coq au vin, with chicken breast, button mushrooms, pearl onions and baby carrots
  • Parisian parsley potatoes (recipe below)
  • chocolate mousse cups from Mariano’s Bakery
Drink and Table Décor
  • wine (at least 2 bottles of red, white or sparkling) from Mariano’s Liquor Department
  • bouquet of flowers from Mariano’s Floral Department

Most of the slow cooker coq au vin ingredients I purchased on this #CollectiveBias #shop at Mariano’s were already fully prepped, except for the carrots. To give your carrots a bit of sophistication (yes, carrots can have sophistication!), cut them on the diagonal. It’s a simple trick that makes them look a bit more special.

slow cooker coq au vin diced carrots and button mushrooms #MyMarianos #shop #CollectiveBias

Valentine’s Day Menu Ideas

ooh la la - Parisian parsley potatoes are the perfect side dish for slow cooker coq au vin #shopA traditional side dish served with slow cooker coq au vin would be Parisian Parsley Potatoes. This recipe takes about 30 minutes to cook and it continues the buttery decadence that Parisian food embraces. A definite must to add to your Valentine’s Day menu.

Coq au vin would normally use a Burgundy (red) wine but this recipe uses a white wine. There are variations of coq au vin that also use champagne. Use whichever you prefer. My suggestion is to buy 2 bottles of your favorite wine. Pour one cup into the slow cooker (that’s all it takes) when you’re ready to start cooking and save the rest for your dinner.

My Valentine’s Day menu is obviously inspired by Paris. But maybe another global destination holds a more romantic meaning for you and yours. Did you honeymoon in Italy or meet the love of your life in the Mediterranean? Mariano’s Bakery (my favorite department within the store!) has hand-made Italian cookies, biscotti and cannoli. And across the aisle at Mariano’s Deli you’ll find big, beautiful Greek olives and a variety of Mediterranean salads. The point is to fill your Valentine’s Day menu with items that have meaning for you.

Still need some inspiration? Just take a stroll in Mariano’s International Market aisles. Mariano’s has items from Italian, Hispanic, Asian, Polish, Kosher, Indian, Mediterranean, German, Eastern European, British and Southern cuisines. It’s the supermarket version of around the world in 80 plates! And any of these global goodies would be a perfect match for your Valentine’s Day menu.

Mariano's international market #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias #shop slow cooker coq au vin

If you know what kind of cuisine you want to prepare but you don’t know what wine or cheese to pair and serve, Mariano’s has a team of people who are ready with suggestions. They even have a Wine & Cheese pairings area in the store to kick-start your brainstorming.

Ideas and inspiration are plentiful at Mariano’s; that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy shopping there so much. It’s not just a grocery store. For foodies, it’s like an adventure theme park filled with all kinds of deliciousness. And when I’m not inside my local Mariano’s store, I stay connected to get ideas by following #MyMarianos on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

What are you planning for your Valentine’s Day menu? Or if the proverbial oven mitt were on your significant other’s other hand, what dish would you want them to be making just for you?

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin

Rating: 51

20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Yield: 2 servings

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin


6 ounces button mushrooms, cut in half
10 ounces pearl onions, frozen
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound baby carrots, sliced on an angle in 3/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine (red wine works, too)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken broth
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces


In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the mushrooms and pearl onions. Set aside.

Lightly season the chicken breasts (both sides) with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high. Cook the chicken over medium-high heat until browned (about 10 minutes on each side). Place chicken over the vegetables in the slow cooker.

Using the skillet with the remaining drippings, add the chopped onion and sliced carrots. On medium heat, cook for 3 minutes or until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Stir frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the wine, tomato paste and bay leaf. Heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste.

Pour the wine mixture, followed by the chicken broth, over the chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

About 15 minutes before you're ready to plate, cook the bacon in the microwave using a microwave-safe plate. Put 8 paper towel sheets on the plate and top with the bacon slices. I recommend cutting the bacon AFTER the cooking process. Put 4 paper towel sheets on top of the bacon slices and cook, following manufacturer's directions. For my microwave, 4 slices of thick-cut bacon will cook in 5 to 6 minutes. Cook until crispy, then cut into 1-inch pieces.

Remove the bay leaf from the slow cooker. Transfer the chicken, vegetables and sauce to a deep serving platter or plate immediately on individual plates. Sprinkle each serving with bacon and enjoy.


Let this cook during the day while you're at work. But if you need to whip it up faster, you can cook it on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.


My Latest Mariano’s Adventure: Tex-Mex Rice Bowl with Salsa Fresca

tex mex rice bowl #shop

Collective Bias Social Fabric

With the recent shakeup in the Chicagoland grocery store landscape, I’m glad I can still count on #MyMarianos store in Jefferson Park. The store has ample parking, it’s clean and the aisles are wide, easy to navigate. The selection? It’s HUGE! Chicago has a reputation as a melting pot of global cultures, and I think Mariano’s does a good job of living up to that reputation by having such a wide variety of global cuisines and ethnic foods. It’s a bit like an Epcot for foodies. And their latest innovation is Mariano’s health key™ System, which simplifies the shopping experience and makes it easier to put healthier food in my cart.

Mariano's health key system #shop

With so many new food products coming on the market these days, and classic foods being recalibrated to make them healthier (e.g. gluten-free or no salt added), I’m reading food labels more than the newspaper on some days. And I read the paper everyday!

I used to be near-sighted, so reading labels wasn’t an issue. As I get older, so do my eyes — and now I have reading glasses in addition to glasses for distance and driving. But I’m always leaving my reading glasses next to my favorite chair, so I’m having to read food labels at arm’s length at the grocery store. But not with Mariano’s health key™ System, thankfully. The labels are bold, color-coded and have large text that make them easy to read. 

Mariano's health key™ System makes it easier to put healthier food in your cart #shop

Mariano’s health key™ System really does make grocery shopping easy.
The tags are big, brightly lit and have large text, so I can easily find healthier food options
– even when I forget my glasses!

If you’re like me, every now and then you need some new inspiration for dinner. I get Mariano’s weekly email newsletter that shares recipes and showcases local chefs, or I’ll go to the Community Page on their website to learn about in-store events and cooking demonstrations. For more information about Mariano’s health key™ System, visit the Mariano’s website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

On my excursion to Mariano’s this week, I decided to try a south-of-the-board-inspired dish quite popular throughout the Southwest. I used to live in Houston and Tex-Mex “anything” was always a popular item on every restaurant’s menu. So I wanted to take some of my favorite ingredients (brown rice and ground turkey) and create a healthier version of a Tex-Mex Rice Bowl.

tex-mex rice bowl

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

First, I made a salsa fresca, which is also known as pico de gallo, with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, sweet peppers, olive oil, lime juice and cilantro. I got all of my ingredients for salsa fresca in place (mise en place) and I was off-and-running.

salsa fresca mise en place #shop

This portion of the Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe, the prep for the salsa fresca, takes about 15 minutes of cutting and dicing. After that, the recipe goes quite fast.

I tend to prefer mildly spicy foods, so I’m using sweet peppers in this recipe. But if you like something with more fire, definitely swap out the sweet peppers for jalapeno peppers. Combine all of the salsa fresca ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl.

salsa fresca

Then set aside to let it marinate while you prepare the ground turkey and rice mixtures. Gather all of your ingredients and measure out the spices to make cooking a breeze:

tex mex rice bowl ingredients mise en place #shop

First you’ll cook the instant brown rice, following the package directions. Set aside.

In a large stock pot, heat the ground turkey over medium-high heat. Cook until done and stir to crumble. Stir in the water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring this to a simmer, then stir in the corn and black beans. Cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the brown rice and cook for another 2 minutes.

Ladle the rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and sprinkle with cilantro. I’ve found that when I have a large group or if your family has different levels of spice, heat they like that it’s best to let each individual add as much (or little) of the salsa fresca as they like to personalize their own Tex-Mex Rice Bowls. That way everybody gets what they want.

This Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe makes a large batch; enough for 8 to 10 people. If you have leftovers, freeze the turkey-rice mixture for up to 2 months in an airtight container. For any leftover salsa fresca, that will keep for only a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Use leftover salsa alone or add to melted Cheddar cheese as a dip.

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: about 8 to 10 servings

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

This dish has many variations in texture, from the rice and beans to the corn and salsa fresca. Personally, I like to add a small dollop of creamy, cool sour cream on the top of a hot Tex-Mex rice bowl to help cleanse the palate from the spice.


For salsa fresca:
4 medium plum or vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, seeded (with ribs removed) and diced (substitute with jalapeno peppers, if desired)
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh-squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For Tex-Mex bowl:
1 pound lean ground turkey
16 ounces instant brown rice (about 4 cups, dry)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups whole kernel corn
30 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained
4 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped


Instructions for salsa fresca:

In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside to let it marinate.

Instructions for Tex-Mex rice bowl:

Cook instant brown rice according to the package directions; set aside.

Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey. Cook until done, stirring to crumble. Stir in water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer.

Stir in corn and beans. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in rice and cook for 2 minutes.

Scoop rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and cilantro.


I would rate the level of spiciness for this recipe at medium. If you prefer a milder spice level, reduce the amount of chili powder and cumin. If you like a very spicy dish, substitute jalapeno peppers for the sweet peppers.

The majority of prep time for this dish is for the salsa fresca. You could also make the salsa fresca in advance and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.


Hearty 6-Bean Slow Cooker Chili with Sweet Peppers

six bean slow cooker chili

Feeding a huge crowd for the Big Game? This chili will feed a very hungry army so it’s a perfect quarterback for a Souper Bowl Party on any game day. It’s loaded with lots of lean protein and has a mild heat from the sweet red, orange and yellow peppers.

2 more kinds of beans drained

This chili has 6 beans. Yes, count them, 6 beans:

  1. garbanzo (aka chick peas),
  2. dark red kidney,
  3. light red kidney,
  4. white kidney,
  5. black, and
  6. butter

I used to make chili with four beans: butter, garbanzo, dark red and light red kidney. And that was fine for many years. But when I made this new version, I doubled the amount of ground turkey to 2 1/2 pounds. So I thought I should up the bean count as well. As I scoured the shelves at the supermarket, I found (for the first time) white kidney beans. My mind thinks in polar opposites quite a bit so I grabbed a can of white kidney beans and a can of black beans and was ready to get cooking.

3 kinds of kidney beans drained


It’s important to rinse the beans before putting them in the slow cooker. Depending on the type of bean, there will be a lot of starch in the bean juice and there will be little flavor (or nutritional value) in that. Simply empty the cans in a colander and rinse with cold water before putting in the slow cooker.

sweet peppers for slow cooker chili


Then dice some small sweet peppers. To get about 1 cup of sweet peppers, I cut up 7 small red, orange and yellow sweet peppers. It adds a mild heat to the chili and a nice pop of color, as well.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and give it a good stir before putting on the lid to the slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours, stirring every hour or so. Serve warm. Top with your favorite garnish, like popcorn or shredded cheese. Got any leftovers? It freezes well for up to 6 months.

So easy. So satisfying. So deliciously good.

6-Bean Slow Cooker Chili with Sweet Peppers

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

6-Bean Slow Cooker Chili with Sweet Peppers


2 1/2 pounds ground turkey, cooked
16 ounces garbanzo beans (aka chick peas)
16 ounces dark red kidney beans
16 ounces light red kidney beans
16 ounces butter beans
15 ounces white kidney beans
15 ounces black beans
32 ounces tomato juice
28 ounces chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons onion, minced
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 cup sweet peppers, diced


In a 6-quart slow cooker, add the ground turkey, beans, tomato juice, chopped tomatoes, garlic, onion, chili powder and sweet peppers. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours.


Lasagna Primavera

lasagna primavera

Italian food is so comforting, but it can sometimes be heavy. This lasagna primavera has many of the classic Italian flavors yet it is chock full of fresh vegetables.

Lasagna is a dish that I love, but rarely make at home. The preparation can sometimes be a bit much when cooking for one. But once it’s all assembled, everything after popping it in the oven is easy-peasy. So when I do make lasagna, I make a MEGA-batch so I can freeze portions to enjoy later. Cook once, eat thrice!

This lasagna primavera showcases baby spinach, baby carrots and sugar snap peas, along side rich cheeses. There’s no meat, and you won’t miss it. On a snowy weekend [like 70% of the country is experiencing this weekend] it’s a great dinner option your entire family can enjoy – especially when paired with hot garlic bread. Yes!

And while this recipe uses fresh vegetables, you can easily substitute baby spinach for frozen spinach and sugar snap peas for frozen peas. Whatever vegetables you have will work here so it can also be a great way to clean up odds-and-ends from the fridge and freezer.

Lasagna Primavera

Cook Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 8 servings


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups milk
20 ounces baby spinach, chopped
10 ounces sugar snap peas, chopped
8 ounces zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/2 pound baby carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 cups (about 15 ounces) ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles (12 to 16 noodles)
1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium setting. Add flour and garlic; stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let the flour darken. Whisk in milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened while whisking occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes. Add spinach, peas and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

In the bottom of the prepared baking dish, spread a thin layer of vegetable sauce. Layer four of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Then layer about half of the remaining vegetable sauce on top of noodles. Add half of the remaining noodles in a layer over the vegetable sauce. Then half of the ricotta mixture, half of the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan. Repeat by layering the remaining lasagna noodles, followed by remaining vegetable sauce, and the remaining ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cover with aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes (or until bubbling and browned). Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.


Adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe for Freeze-Ahead Lasagna Primavera.


Ad: Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio, Family-Style Recipe

Collective Bias Social Fabric

crock pot chicken vesuvio

With the arrival of the new year, like many of you I am looking to recalibrate my food choices to make up for the over indulgence of holiday goodies. One of my go-to ingredients is boneless, skinless chicken breast. I’m also trying to make good use of my slow cooker, so I have more time to shovel snow! I’d be joking if we hadn’t received 13+ inches of snow in the last 2 days with about 6 more inches to arrive over the next 24 hours. I guess that will be my cardio workout.

Before the snow storm hit, I made my way to my local Sam’s Club to stock up on pantry items. You can always find some really good deals on quality ingredients, and I love discovering new products. One of the new product lines that Sam’s Club is carrying in 2014 is NatureRaised Farms® Boneless, Skinless Chicken. If you’ve never heard of or used NatureRaised Farms® brand before, their products are quite remarkable.

NatureRaised Farms Chicken at Sam's Club

I always prefer to focus on fewer, high-quality ingredients in a recipe to get the best flavor and nutrients possible. That goes for any recipe, sweet or savory. The NatureRaised Farms® chickens are vegetarian-fed, antibiotic-free and cage-free. There are no fillers, preservatives or artificial colors either. So I picked up a few packages of the Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts to make a big ole batch of Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio, Family-Style.  If you’d like to try the NatureRaised Farms® product before you buy, a select number of participating Sam’s Clubs will have in-store product demonstrations on January 4. Or for more information about NatureRaised Farms®, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

The Origin of Chicken Vesuvio

It may surprise you that Chicken Vesuvio was born in Chicago. It’s an Italian-American dish typically made from chicken on the bone and wedges of potato. Both are sautéed with garlic, oregano, olive oil and white wine, then baked until the chicken’s skin becomes crisp. The dish would often be garnished with green peas for color. In many Chicago restaurants, you’ll often find the “Vesuvio” technique applied to other foods like Steak Vesuvio or Vesuvio Potatoes. The origins of the dish are widely attributed to the Vesuvio Restaurant, which operated on Chicago’s Wacker Drive in the 1930’s. The original recipe can be a bit heavy, because of the richness of certain ingredients, including olive oil, white wine and lots of potatoes.

Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio

I wanted to make a Chicken Vesuvio that offered a healthier option by using a healthier cut of chicken (skinless) and lower-sodium broth, as well as replacing some of the potatoes with other nutrient-rich vegetables that pack a real flavor punch, like edamame, sun-dried tomatoes and sweet peppers. And by using a crock pot to cook the dish instead of the oven, it uses far less oil, chicken broth and wine. That makes  this Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio more moist and delicious.

chicken vesuvio mise en place

I always find it easier to execute a new recipe by getting all of my ingredients in order: mise en place. “Mise en place” is a French phrase which means literally “putting in place,” as in set up. In addition to the protein-rich, all-natural chicken, the other star ingredients of Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio are:

new, red potatoes

new, red potatoes

sun-dried tomatoes

sun-dried tomatoes

sweet red and yellow peppers

sweet red and yellow peppers


and my favorite, edamame!

Use a sharp chef’s knife to Julienne the peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, as well as quarter the potatoes. Julienning is a simple technique that cuts food into short, thin strips. It not only looks great (we eat with our eyes first!) but also reduces the cooking time, while ensuring even cooking.

julienned ingredients 2

To get started, preheat a frying pan – lightly brushed with canola oil – on medium high heat. I used the sautée and browning setting on my 3-in-1 slow cooker, so I had one less dirty pan to wash. Score another point for Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio! Take a barbecue or pastry brush and lightly coat one side of each chicken breast with canola oil. Then season the first side of the chicken breasts with a pinch each of salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Put the chicken breasts in the prepared pan, seasoned side down. Then repeat with canola oil and seasonings for the remaining sides of each chicken breast. Brown both sides of the chicken breasts (about 6 minutes per side).

Place the potatoes, edamame, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes inside the crock pot. Add the onion, garlic and remaining salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Pour in the chicken broth and white wine. [Because this dish requires less than a cup of white wine, I recommend picking a bottle of your favorite white wine to pair with this dinner. After pouring the half cup for the recipe, save the rest of the bottle to have with dinner!]

Gently stir until the ingredients are combined. Top the vegetables with the chicken breasts and cook for 3 hours on HIGH. You see, Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio is really that easy!

Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio, Family-Style

Cook Time: 3 hours, 12 minutes

Yield: 4 servings (1 chicken breast and approximately 1 cup of vegetables, each)

Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio, Family-Style


2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound small, red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 4 or 6 wedges each
12 ounces edamame, shelled
1 cup sweet yellow and red peppers, julienned
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
3 tablespoons minced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, optional garnish


Lightly coat a frying pan with canola oil and place on a stovetop burner, set at medium high. Warm the pan for a minute; you want it hot to properly sear the chicken breasts.

Pat the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. Using a barbecue or pastry brush, lightly coat the top of each breast with a thin layer of canola oil. Season with one pinch each of sea salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Place the chicken breasts in the hot frying pan, seasoned side down, and cook for about 6 minutes.

Immediately coat the remaining side of each chicken breast with canola oil. Again, season with one pinch each of sea salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Cover the pan with its lid until you're ready to turn the chicken breasts. After you turn the chicken breasts, cook for another 6 minutes, or until browned on both sides.

Place the potatoes, edamame, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, garlic and remaining sea salt, black pepper and Italian seasonings in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add chicken broth and white wine. Gently stir to immerse vegetables evenly in the broth-wine mixture. This will help the vegetables to properly steam and cook evenly. Top the vegetables with the chicken breasts.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 to 3 1/2 hours (or LOW for 6 to 7 hours), or until chicken and potatoes are tender.

Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving plate. Top with juices from the slow cooker. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired.

Award-Winning Recipes/ Entrees

Ground Turkey, Edamame & Brown Rice: Harvey’s One-Skillet Wonder

Ground Turkey, Edamame & Brown Rice One-Skillet Wonder

I grew up loving all the “meal helper” products that were first introduced in the 70’s. If you’re old enough to remember the introduction of Hamburger Helper, you may recall how ‘innovative’ it seemed back then. But after college when I was responsible for making my own meals, I realized that some of the “cheesy powders” and other pre-mixed ingredients probably weren’t the healthiest things to eat – especially because I couldn’t tell what was really in them.

But it wasn’t just the taste of Hamburger Helper that I loved, it was also the convenience of cooking everything in one skillet. After learning how to cook with whole or less-processed ingredients, I started to create my own homemade version of a “helper” dish which has become my go-to main dish to make any day of the week. It’s hearty, satisfying and filled with ingredients that everybody in the family loves – even my nieces and nephews!

I submitted this recipe in the Healthy Recipe Challenge earlier this fall and was excited when it was selected as one of the five finalists. While it didn’t win the recipe challenge (turkey nachos reigned supreme!), it is a recipe that is so versatile. I can make a large batch on Sunday and have enough for Sunday dinner and four more lunches/dinners throughout the week. It also freezes well for when you need to dive into the freezer to save dinner.

Ground Turkey, Edamame & Brown Rice: Harvey's One-Skillet Wonder

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ground Turkey, Edamame & Brown Rice: Harvey's One-Skillet Wonder


1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)
1 tablespoon minced fresh onion
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
32 ounces vegetable or chicken broth
16 ounces edamame, shelled
1 1/2 cups instant brown rice
10 3/4 ounces cream of mushroom soup (preferably low sodium, low-fat)


In a large skillet, begin to brown the ground turkey on medium-high. Pour in the broth and, using a cooking spoon or spatula, start to break up the meat. Add in the onion, basil and oregano. Stir regularly until the skillet starts to boil.

Then add in the edamame and brown rice. Stir until well mixed, making sure there is still enough broth to cover the ingredients. If necessary, turn down the heat to allow for the dish to simmer on the stove’s burner. Typically, it should take about 15 minutes or so for the rice and edamame to properly cook and absorb the broth. Stir regularly to ensure even cooking.

Watch the level of broth in the skillet. As soon as it almost disappears, remove the skillet from the burner and stir in the cream of mushroom soup until well blended.


Stir Fry Italian-style Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Petite Green Beans

italian chicken french green bean stir fry

More turkey, stuffing or yams, anyone? Not me! At least for a few weeks. As much as I love a traditional Thanksgiving menu, I hate having leftovers that last into the new week. So my answer is to pull some staple ingredients from my freezer and create a quick, healthy one-pot meal that reboots my palate.

This stir fry combines one of my favorite proteins (chicken breast) with sun-dried tomatoes (which I adore) and petite green beans. Though I am not a traditional green bean fan, I really enjoy petite green beans.  They’re so “petite” and when properly seasoned with fresh black pepper and olive oil they are delicioso!

Stir Fry Italian-style Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Petite Green Beans

Stir Fry Italian-style Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Petite Green Beans


extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh black pepper


In a large skillet, cook the green beans - just covered in water - on medium high. Let boil for about 4 minutes, stirring regularly. Then blanch the green beans by adding cold water to halt the cooking process and keep the beans as green as possible. Drain the water from the pan and move it back to the stove top.

Add the chicken breast strips and sun-dried tomatoes. Generously pour olive oil over the contents and stir to coat. Heat on medium-high until chicken starts to sear, stirring regularly.

Remove from heat and serve immediately. Season to taste with salt and pepper.