Sunday, December 14, 2014

Crockpot Beef and Barley Soup

Crockpot Beef and Barley Soup

Oh boy.  The past week in our house has been pretty miserable.  Tuesday morning, Tucker was sent home from school with a fever.  Wednesday, he was diagnosed with the flu.  Thursday morning, Henry was sent home with a fever, and the flu followed.  Saturday afternoon, Joey and I both succumbed to the flu.  Not fun.  Knocking on wood, but so far Caroline and Smith are healthy.  And we hope to keep them that way.

Have you and/or your family gotten sick yet this year?  It's a doozy!  So I have a recommendation for you.  Make a big pot of this beef and barley soup.  Eat some, then freeze some.  So if/when you get sick, you have something nourishing and comforting to eat without any work.

My sweet friend Katy dropped off some chicken and orzo soup to us this afternoon, and it was so very much appreciated by my whole family.  We've been subsisting on take-out, crackers, and applesauce; thus, a filling and healthy meal was a treat.  So I have another suggestion.  Make a big pot of this soup.  Split it in half, and then take half to a friend who's sick.  I know you have a sick friend who could use this, no?  Tis the season for giving, and all.

Oh, and about this soup?  It's really very good.  Tender beef, a rich broth, and filling barley.  This soup far exceeded our expectations.  It takes only minutes to prepare, and the payoff is huge. This immediately became one of our favorites soups, and I'm already planning to make it again very soon… to share with friends, of course.

Crockpot Beef and Barley Soup

Crockpot Beef and Barley Soup
adapted from The Make-Ahead Cook
serves 6 to 8

  • 2 medium white or yellow onions, chopped fine
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2-3 lbs beef blade roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 4 chunks
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, for serving
In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the onions, tomato paste, oil, thyme, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Stir well to combine and microwave for 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened.  Transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir in the tomatoes, beef broth, chicken broth, carrots, soy sauce, wine, and barley.  Generously season the beef with salt and pepper and nestle it into the slow cooker.

Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 9 to 10 hours on low, or 6 to 7 hours on high.

Carefully transfer the beef to a cutting board.  When it's cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces with 2 forks, discarding any fat.  

Use a large spoon to skim any fat from the surface of the soup.  Stir in the shredded beef and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the parsley and serve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Skillet Chicken Shepherd's Pie

Skillet Chicken Shepherd's Pie

I've never been a big fan of shepherd's pie.  I don't have a good reason other than it's… just not my thing I guess.  But when I saw this version of shepherd's pie in the new Cook's Country Magazine, I couldn't resist.  I mean, look at those potatoes!  Look at that filling!  It's basically a chicken pot pie topped with buttery potatoes, then baked.  Nothing wrong with that, eh?

This shepherd's pie varies from the classic version in that it uses chicken instead of lamb (duh), but also in the potatoes.  Typically, a shepherd's pie is topped with mashed potatoes.  But in my experience, they often get dried out in the oven.  This version simply tosses cooked potatoes in butter, salt, and pepper, then spoons them over the filling.  An egg wash gives them a nice crispy top and pretty golden color, and I promise you this is world's better than dried out gummy mashed potatoes.

This was a huge hit with my whole family, and it's definitely becoming a new favorite in my house.  As we hunker down for what is sure to be a long, cold winter, I'm happy to have this comforting, delicious recipe in my repertoire.

Skillet Chicken Shepherd's Pie

Chicken Shepherd's Pie
barely adapted from Cook's Country, December/January 2015

  • 2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 Tbs water
Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat to 375 degrees F.  

Pat the chicken dry and season both sides generously with salt and pepper.  Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in an oven safe 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken in 2-3 batches, about 5 minutes per side, or until the chicken is well-borwned.  Transfer to a plate and pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet.

Return the skillet to heat and add the onions, carrots, and a large pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until they are just softening, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme and cook an additional 30 seconds.  Stir in the sherry and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1-2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Stir in the broth.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, skin-side up.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover.  Cook until the chicken registers 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 12 to 14 minutes.  

Remove the skillet from heat and use tongs to transfer the chicken to a clean plate.  Once he chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with about 1 inch of water.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a strong simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 10-12 minutes.  

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Return the pot to the stove and cook over low heat, stirring gently, until all of the water has evaporated.  This will only take about 1 minute or so.  Remove from heat and gently stir in remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Cover and set aside to keep warm.

Whisk the cornstarch together with 3 tablespoons of water.  Return the skillet with the broth and vegetables to the stovetop and bring to a boil.  Slowly whisk in the cornstarch  mixture, and cook until the thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the peas, lemon juice, and shredded chicken, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the potatoes over the entire surface of the filling.  Brush the potatoes with the egg.  

Bake in the oven until the pie is bubbling, about 15 minutes.  Turn the oven to broil and cook until the potatoes are golden-brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sparkly Cranberry-Apple Jellies

Sparkly Cranberry-Apple Jellies 

You know how you finish a big meal, and are super stuffed and full, but you just want something small and sweet?  Just me?  Well, these sparkly little jellies are the perfect small treat.  Just sweet enough to be satisfying, but tart enough to be a nice little palate cleanser.  The perfect ending to a big meal.  Or the perfect little snack to give your guests as they leave.

I really love making candy -- it makes me feel like I'm back in the chemistry lab (nerd alert!).  But I realize that a lot of you are intimidated by it.  Don't be.  Just buy a candy thermometer; they're really inexpensive, and invaluable when it comes to confections.

These jellies are really simple and straightforward, and look how pretty!  They taste like a fancy fruit snack, and I mean that in the best way possible!  If I were a fancy-party-throwing type of person, I'd totally make these to pass out to guests as they left.

Tis the season for sweets and treats, and here's to having a fun and sophisticated recipe in your back pocket!

Sparkly Cranberry-Apple Jellies
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2014

The jellies can be made and chilled a few days ahead of time, but roll in sugar just before serving.  They quickly absorb the sugar, and while they still taste great, they don't have the pretty sparkly appearance.  And we all know that's the most important part!

  • 1 large granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 1 lb fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar, divided; plus more for coating
  • 2 tsp pectin
  • 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with 2 pieces of parchment paper, leaving overhangs on all sides.

Puree the apples, cranberries, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 cup of water in a blender until very smooth.  Pour it into a large heavy pot.  Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is thick and bubbly.

Combine the pectin and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk it into the cranberry mixture, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until the thermometer registers 200 degrees F, 8 to 15 minutes.  

Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon juice.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Cool at room temperature until it's firm and set, about 4 hours.

Just before serving, mold the jelly onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares.  Gently toss jellies in a bowl of sugar to coat, and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bacon-Cheddar Quiche with a Grits Crust

Bacon-Cheddar Quiche with a Grits Crust 

Is it just me, or did November absolutely fly by?  Guys, I made it!  I posted every single day for the whole month!  This exercise was really good for me.  It forced me to go a little outside my comfort zone, and kind of reignited my passion for blogging.  And while I don't plan on posting every day in December, I do plan to keep the momentum going and post at least 3-5 days per week.  I kind of loved doing the weekend posts.  Putting together themed menus and party ideas is so much fun, and I also liked giving you a snapshot into our life… and I'll be honest, I always love sharing pictures of my cute kids :)

So now we move on to the holidays.  A time for family, celebration, decadence, and extravagance.  And this quiche kind of embodies all of those things.  This recipe makes a big deep dish quiche, which is big enough to serve several people.  It's decadent, rich, and definitely worthy of a celebration!  The grits crust is the stuff dreams are made of.  I mean, really.  And the quiche filling is custardy, rich, creamy, and absolutely delicious.  

this is definitely not a light and healthy dish.  It's the opposite, actually.  There's bacon, tons of cheese, heavy cream, half-and-half… yeah.  But it's a great dish for a celebration, and a great dish to share.  I actually think it would be pretty perfect for Christmas morning.  It can be prepped and assembled the night before, then just pop it in the oven to bake while you open presents in the morning.

I hope you're ready for some holiday cheer around here… because I have a lot to share with you in the next few weeks.  Get ready!

Bacon-Cheddar Quiche with a Grits Crust 

Bacon-Cheddar Quiche with a Grits Crust
adapted from Southern Living, December 2014
serves 10
  • 6 thick-cut bacon slices, chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup uncooked stone-ground grits
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon.  

Transfer 1 tablespoon of the drippings to a medium saucepan.  Add the milk and butter and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Slowly whisk in the grits, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook, whisking constantly, for about 15 minutes (or until the grits are very thick).  Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of the cheese and 1 egg.  Spread the grits in an even layer in the prepared springform pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the grits, spreading it to the edges.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes.*

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the half-and-half, remaining eggs, cream, scallions, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and the red pepper flakes.  

Pour the mixture over the grits and sprinkle the bacon over the top.  

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the quiche is lightly browned and just set (barely jiggles when lightly agitated).  Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the edges of the quiche, remove the sides of the pan, and serve.

*At this point the grits crust and the egg mixture can be stored separately overnight in the refrigerator.  To serve, assemble and bake as directed.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Favorites from Friends and Family

friends and family faves

I consider it to be the highest form of praise when my friends and family make recipes from my blog and give me the thumbs up.  I have to confess, anytime someone tells me that they're going to make one of my recipes I get a little nervous… like first date nervous.  What if they think it's gross or bland?  Or decide that I'm a terrible cook and blogger?  These are the ridiculous thoughts that go through my head.

But there are certain recipes that my friends and family just love.  Since I love my friends and family, and consider them to be the best of critics, I thought I'd do a quick round-up of some of their favorites.  Kind of an unofficial "Greatest Hits of Pink Parsley" sort of thing.

I did a bit of an informal survey, and thought about the recipes that I know my people love, and there are some definite common themes here.  These are all tried and true by my toughest critics:  the people I love most ;)

BBQ collage

Everyone loves BBQ.  Apparently if I post a recipe featuring bbq sauce, it's going to be a hit.  My friends love bbq… which is why they are my friends :)

BBQ Chicken Meatballs over Cheddar-Corn Quinoa
BBQ  Chicken Burgers
BBQ Pork (or chicken) Taquitos

mexican food

We also all love Mexican food!  From the authentic to the … not so authentic, my friends and family will always and forever be fans of these recipes.

Chicken Enchiladas
Tex-Mex Skillet Pasta
Foil-Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn
Chicken Enchilada Quinoa Bake
Chicken Tortilla Casserole
Chicken Taquitos 
Watermelon Margaritas

pizza and pasta

Pizza and Pasta are also popular within my network.  Especially if it's a spin on a favorite or a one-pot pasta.  Quick and easy always wins.

One Pot Creamy Lemon Pasta
Skillet Lasagna
Lasagna-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Pizza alla Vodka
Wild Mushroom & Fontina Pizza

Cheesy Collage 

Really, any and all comfort food is always a hit.  These are some of my very favorite recipes, and I'm tickled to death that my loved ones love them as much as we do.  Um, did you notice that they are all centered around cheese?  We are pretty cheesy (sorry, I can't help it).

Four Ingredient White Bean Chicken Chili
Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread
Classic Macaroni and Cheese
Pimento Cheese
Baked Tex Mex Pimento Cheese
Cheesy Zucchini Rice
Baked Fontina
Loaded Baked Potato Soup (Crockpot)

healthy collage 

 But I do have to say that my friends and family like to eat healthy as well.  These light and healthy recipes have been hits in many of their houses!

Grilled Summer Vegetable Chopped Salad (my very favorite salad on this planet)
Fall Harvest Pear Salad
Mushroom-Crusted Turkey Burgers
Tomato-Basil Quinoa

I hope you've enjoyed this round-up.  I always like seeing what my friends and family are cooking, and selfishly, I love when they use Pink Parsley recipes!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Menu: Trim the Tree & Deck the Halls!


Goodbye Thanksgiving, hello Christmas!  This weekend marks the official start of the Christmas season, and I'm so excited!  We plan to go buy our Christmas tree this weekend, and then the decorating and Christmas extravaganza will begin!  This is quite the ordeal - loading everyone in the car, spending a ridiculous amount of time picking out the *perfect* tree, pulling out all the decorations, sorting the decorations, and then of course doing the decorating.  Therefore, snacks and refreshments are a necessity.  Here's a fun and easy menu to keep you nourishing during the tree trimming!  If you need a full meal, include the stew and biscuits.  But if you just want to snack, then the drinks, toasts, and fudge would be perfect for tiding you over until dinner.  Especially if you add some fresh fruit or credit!

 It's become our tradition to sip on Peppermint White Russians as we deck our halls, and this year will be no different.  A pitcher of these will definitely put you in the Christmas spirit!

Bacon and Cheddar Toasts
Chicken and Sausage Stew with White Beans and Spinach
Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Beth's Famous Fudge
Peppermint White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Holidays, everyone!  I'm looking forward to sharing tons of fun baking ideas and festive recipes this month!  If you have any special requests or ideas, please leave them in the comments.

Thursday, November 27, 2014



I joined the track team in the seventh grade, and ever since, I've identified myself as a runner.  I ran cross country and track all through high school, recreationally in college and as a young adult, then kind of fell off the running wagon when I got pregnant with Caroline.  In between pregnancies, I half-heartedly trained for a few races, sporadically run from time to time, and to be honest, kind of lost the love.

But this year, I slowly began picking it back up.  A few miles here, a run at the gym there.  I completed the Couch to 10K program, and then ran a 10K in March with some friends. Strangely enough, I began to find myself yearning for the pavement again.  Joey and I ambitiously signed up for The Triple Peach, a series of races in Atlanta this summer and fall.  We ran the Peachtree Road Race in July, a 10K, The Atlanta 10-miler in October, and today we capped off the trifecta with the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon.

These races have pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of.  Over the past few years, I've stopped telling people that I'm a runner.  When talking about running or races, I'd say "I used to run."  I came up with so many excuses and justifications for not running.  I have too many kids.  It's too hard to schedule runs.  I don't have time.  I've gained too much weight.  I felt sad, because I felt like a small part of my identity was gone.

But as selfish as it may sound, running is one of the only things in my life that's mine and mine alone.  It's my alone time; my quiet time.  I love running because you get out what you put in.  Today I smiled through half of my race because I was so ecstatic just be out there.

I ended up beating my best half marathon time by seven minutes!  I crossed the finish line and almost burst into tears because I was so happy.  I really and truley never thought I'd find the joy in running again.  But after today, I'm already excited about my next race.

My heart is full of gratitude today.  For the ability to run, for the time to run, and for my husband and mother-in-law for helping out with the kids so I could fit in my training runs.  I hope that you all had a wonderful, healthy and happy Thanksgiving.