Pasta with Italian Sausage and Swiss Chard

We had leftover farfalle pasta from a recent recipe (check our earlier January 2018 blog entries), and we came across a recipe for pasta, Italian sausage, and Swiss chard. Of course, we could not leave the recipe alone; modification and substitutions are in our wheelhouse. Here we go again!

This recipe also comes from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street January/February 2018, but you may not recognize our version. We used farfalle, not orecchiette, pasta. We substituted a dash of Worcestershire sauce for the anchovy fillets, and we used canned cherry peppers in place of Peppadews (difficult to find). We had left over ground fennel from the previous coconut soup recipe. Oh, and forget about the sweet Italian sausage–hot is the way to go. Nonetheless, this makes a great weeknight meal, and preparation is quick. If you’re afraid of Swiss chard, this is a good place to start with that hearty vegetable. The recipe uses both the stems and leaves, so there is no waste!


12 oz. orecchiette pasta

1 lb. crumbled sweet or hot Italian sausage

Extra-virgin olive oil

3 minced anchovy fillets

2 tsp ground fennel

1/4 cup finely chopped Peppadews

8 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 lb. Swiss chard

3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, divided

3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese


Boil pasta in well-salted water until al dente. Drain, return to the pot and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Meanwhile, cook Italian sausage in 1 tablespoon olive oil until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, then pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. To the skillet, add anchovy fillets, ground fennel, and Peppadews. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in garlic and the stems of Swiss chard. Cook for 30 seconds, then add chicken broth. Cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves (roughly chopped) and another 1/2 cup broth. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook until the leaves are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the chard and sausage to the pasta and heat over medium-low. Stir in grated Parmesan cheese, then season with salt and drizzle with olive oil.

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Red Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Spinach

Coconut soup not your idea for a hearty winter meal? This recipe may change your mind. Flavorful and satisfying, we are planning to add this dish to our routine January fare, and the recipe is simple enough for a weeknight meal. The basis for the dish comes from the cuisine of Goa, a Portuguese colony in India until 1961. We found this one in the January/February 2018 issue of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street magazine. If you are unfamiliar with lentils, there are several varieties widely available in grocery stores. Get the red lentils for this recipe, because the red lentils break down better than brown or green lentils, and that characteristic is important for proper body in this soup. Ground fennel may not be easy to find; don’t worry, fennel seeds are always available, and grinding them is simple.


2 Tbsp coconut oil or peanut oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

Kosher salt

3 tsp finely grated fresh ginger, divided

2 tsp yellow or brown mustard seeds

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground fennel

3/4 tsp red pepper flakes

3 1/2 cups water

14-oz can coconut milk

1 cup red lentils, rinsed

6 oz. (about 6 cups) baby spinach, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp lime juice


In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the oil, onion, garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion has softened and is just beginning to color, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the ginger, the mustard seeds, turmeric, coriander, fennel, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water, coconut milk and lentils, then bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the lentils have broken down, 30 to 40 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and return to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 teaspoon ginger and the lime juice. Taste and season with salt. Serve in bowls; it is optional to sprinkle shredded coconut and chopped tomato on top.

Serves 6.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

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Crispy Orange Beef

Take out isn’t always the best option. Here’s a flavorful, simple alternative to the little paper containers from your local Chinese take-out favorite. This gem comes from (by BEC). The recipe takes some preparation, but the results are well worth it; you can still eat in a little more than an hour!

We were out of broccoli, so we substituted strips of red pepper. We also increased the grated ginger. Along with the orange, the extra ginger produced great flavor.


1 1/2 lb. top sirloin beef, thinly sliced

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 cup long grain rice

2 cups water 1/4 cup cornstarch

2 tsp orange zest

3 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic

8 broccoli florets, lightly steamed or blanched

2 cups oil for frying


Lay beef strips out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Allow to dry in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, rice vinegar, orange juice concentrate, salt and soy sauce. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine rice and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Add more water at the end if necessary.

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Toss dried beef in cornstarch to coat. Fry in the hot oil in small batches until crispy and golden brown; set aside. Drain all of the oil from the wok except about 1 tablespoon.

Add orange zest, ginger and garlic to the remaining oil, and cook briefly until fragrant. Add the soy sauce mixture to the wok, bring to a boil, and cook until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Add beef, and heat through, stirring to coat. Serve immediately over steamed rice, and garnish with broccoli.

Serves 6.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ready in 65 minutes

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Best of British Pot-Roast Beef

Here’s a toothsome addition to your slow cooker repertoire. Americans may not be familiar with topside beef roast, which is what this recipe calls for. This cut comes from the inner muscle of the cow thigh, and is both tender and lean. Ask your butcher to help out; ours was impressed we specifically asked for the cut. If your butcher is not so accommodating, any hind quarter cut such as point of rump will do fine. You can use Dijon mustard as a substitute if you don’t have the English mustard which packs some heat. Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot, and Chianti would work well for the red wine.

This recipe comes from the book The Essential Slow Cooker Cookbook by Lorna Brash, page 129. Our edition was from 2013. We served the melt-in-your-mouth beef over mashed potatoes. We hope you enjoy this dish, too!


3 lb. beef topside

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 carrots, cut into chunks

2 onions, roughly chopped

4 celery sticks (strings removed), thickly sliced on the diagonal

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups hot beef stock

1 1/4 cups red wine

1 heaping tsp English mustard

1 tsp dried oregano


Rub the beef all over with the garlic. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat and fry the meat until well browned on all sides. Transfer beef to the slow cooker pot.

Add the carrots, onions and celery to the frying pan and fry for 5 minutes, until they begin to soften.

Sprinkle over the flour and pour over the stock and wine. Stir in the mustard and oregano and bring to the boil, scraping up any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the mixture over the meat. Cover with the lid and cook on high for 7 hours (turning the beef halfway through cooking if you like) or until the beef is tender and cooked through.

Carefully lift the beef out of the slow cooker, place on a warm plate, and cover with foil.

Use a stick blender to purée the sauce. Turn the slow cooker off and strain the gravy through a sieve. Season with salt and pepper and serve spooned over the sliced beef. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes.

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook: 7 hours

Serves 4

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Beer-Braised Chicken with Parsnips and Carrots

Happy New Year! We had extra root vegetables and no interest in heading out into the subzero temperatures to go to the grocery store. This recipe from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street magazine (January/February 2018) got our attention. We had all the ingredients on hand! If you don’t have Belgian wheat ale, we suggest you wait until you can go to the liquor store for the ale, because the results were fabulous. If you substitute another type of ale (beer), we can’t guarantee the results!

We served this dish over our leftover farfalle (bow-tie pasta), but mashed potatoes, quinoa, farro, and other pasta would be great complements as well.


3 lbs. bone-in, skin=on chicken thighs

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

8 peeled and halved small shallots

2 cups peeled carrot chunks (1-inch pieces)

2 cups peeled parsnip chunks (1-inch pieces)

5 smashed, peeled garlic cloves

1 Tbsp toasted ground coriander

12-oz. Belgian wheat ale

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp cider vinegar

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped


Deacon the chicken with salt and white pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat oil, then brown the chicken 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, skin side up. In the same pot over medium heat, combine shallots, carrots, parsnips, and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add ground coriander and ale. Scrape the pan, then stir in Dijon mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then add the chicken, skin side up. Bake at 350º F, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender and the chicken reaches 175º F, about 40 minutes.

Transfer the chicken skin side up to a platter. Reduce the braising liquid over medium heat, stirring about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cider vinegar and chopped dill. Pour the sauce and vegetables around the chicken. Sprinkle with more dill.

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Mulled Wine with Clementines

This has been a cold winter. Warm drinks, especially when there as good as this one, help us get through the coldest nights. We found this recipe in the winter 2017 issue of a trade magazine from Surdyk’s, a local wine and cheese shop. The recipe was reprinted from Hot Drinks, published by the British firm Ryland, Peters, and Small.

We tried the recipe as written, but we have already made our own modifications. We cut the sugar in half, and we omitted the vanilla bean. Please try it!


6 cups red wine

1/3 cup brandy

Zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 clementines

Zest of 1 lime

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cup caster/superfine sugar

1 cinnamon stick

4 cloves

4 pinches of grated nutmeg

1 vanilla pod/bean, split

Lemon zest and cinnamon sticks, for garnish


Add all the ingredients to a large saucepan set over a medium heat. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in heatproof glasses garnished with extra lemon zest and cinnamon sticks.

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Royal Riviera Pear Salad

We received some scrumptious pears from Harry & David as a Christmas present from some special relatives. It was tempting to just dive in and eat the pears as snacks, but we had enough resolve to save two of those mammoth pears to make this salad recipe that came along with the gift. It was definitely worth the wait!

We substituted Gorgonzola for the blue cheese, and we choose toasted walnuts over candied nuts.

Dressing Ingredients

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp honey

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup walnut oil

Salad Ingredients

1 head butter or other lettuce, washed and dried

2 large pears, peeled, cored and sliced

2/3 cup blue cheese

2/3 cup candied nuts or toasted walnuts


To create dressing, whisk together the first five ingredients. Gradually whisk in the walnut oil. Gently tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Arrange on four chilled plates. Place fans of pear slices on lettuce. Crumble blue cheese evenly on top. Drizzle dressing generously over the salad. Sprinkle with nuts and serve at once.

Serves 4.

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