Thursday, November 29, 2012

Weekend in New England

I feel like a broken record when I say this, but one of my favorite things about food blogging is the friendships I've made over the years.  I have become especially close to a few fabulous food bloggers:  Elly of Elly Says Opa, Courtney of Cook Like a Champion, Tara of Smells Like Home, and Annie from Annie's Eats.  These girls really have become some of my closest friends.  Without getting too sappy, I'll just say that over the past few years we've seen each other through some of the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

Tara ever so graciously invited us all to spend a long weekend at her house in Connecticut, and what better time to visit New England than in the fall!  I'll admit, I was a little worried about the weather - this southern girl doesn't do well with cold weather.  But luckily, we ended up with an absolutely perfect weekend.  Beautiful skies and gorgeous foliage and landscapes abound, every time we went anywhere I felt like we were driving through a postcard!

Annie has become my travel buddy, so we hooked up in Atlanta and flew to Connecticut together.  After a few delayed flights from all parties, we all finally made it to Connecticut!  Tara picked us up from the airport, and after a quick stop for hamburgers and french fries, we arrived at her gorgeous house late that night.  But we were so excited to be hanging out that although we were all super tired, we stayed up way too late talking and laughing.

The next morning, after lounging in our pajamas, we headed out to a casual brunch at Leo's in Middlebury.  After poring over the menu for what felt like hours, I settled on a potato pancake topped with ham, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce.  And since I can never decide between sweet and savory for breakfast, Elly and I ordered an extra waffle topped with pumpkin cannoli filling (yes, seriously) for the table to share.

The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out at Tara's - chatting, laughing, etc.  And that evening, we headed out for a fun Halloween-themed outing.  We first had a fabulous dinner at Taste. 

 We started with some fresh bread, a killer cheese platter, and a flatbread pizza topped with prosciutto and arugula.  The cheese plate was gone is approximately 5 seconds, and the blueberry honey that accompanied the cheese was beyond delicious.  For my entree, I had the crab cake with parmesan truffle fries (I'll be sharing a recipe for these very soon!).  The atmosphere of the restaurant was perfect for our girls' night out - quiet enough to hear each other talk, but not so quiet that we caused a ruckus or anything.  We opted to wait on dessert, and headed to our next stop:  The Pumpkin Blaze!

When Tara mentioned going to this as an option for the weekend, I really had no idea what to expect.  But here's the gist:   in honor of Halloween and the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow, a bunch of local artists carve a crap-ton of pumpkins into amazing jack-o-lanterns.  I can't even really do it justice by trying to describe it, but it was so amazing to see these works of art.  Thousands upon thousands of incredible jack-o-lanterns.  If you are ever in the Hudson Valley area during October, I highly recommend going.

On our way home, we just so happened to drive past this sign, and we made Tara pull over so we could take pictures.  Not that we're touristy or anything.  And then we stopped for crepes, since we had foregone dessert earlier in the evening.  S'mores crepe.  Enough said.

The next day, we were up early to head to New Haven.  It just so happened that were were in Connecticut the same weekend as Cupcake Camp New Haven!  Of course we had to take advantage of the opportunity to stuff our faces with dozens of cupcakes.  I'll call it an R&D mission for the blog ;-).  There were tons and tons of people there, but we managed to come away with quite the haul.  We grabbed a table at BAR, and dug in.  We tasted several awesome cupcakes, some decent ones, and sadly, some not-so-awesome ones.  After eating more than I thought possible, we ordered two pizzas for the table:  garlic mashed potato with bacon and cheese, and Italian sausage with roasted red peppers and basil.  You know, to keep it nice and light.  Yum all-around.  And then we ate more cupcakes.

Following our gluttonous morning, Tara gave us a tour of the Yale campus.  Hello, gorgeous.  While I think Georgia Tech's campus is very pretty in an urban kind of way, Yale's campus looks like it was straight of out a movie.  Which it is.  Because she also drove us past the Skull House.  Love that movie!

That afternoon, we sat outside on Tara's perfect front porch, poring over cookbooks, blogs, and our Pinterest boards for dinner inspiration.  We couldn't possibly all get together and NOT cook.  So we planned our menu and headed to the grocery store.  

We started with guacamole and caramelized onion and chorizo dip.  Umm, perfection.  

And Annie gave us a demonstration on making homemade tortillas.  Never going back to store-bought again.

I basically sat at the bar and chatted and took a few pictures while everyone else did all the work :).


Our main dish was roasted shrimp enchiladas with jalapeño cream sauce.  Yes, pretty awesome.

And for dessert, we finished off the rest of the cupcakes from earlier.  Maternity pants were a beautiful thing that weekend.

As much fun as we had at the Pumpkin Blaze and Cupcake Camp, that night was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  I laughed so hard that I thought I was going to go into early labor, and I'm not even exaggerating when I say that my abs were sore the next day.  And since we so rarely get to all hang out, it was so much fun to spend so much quality time together.  

The next morning we headed back to the airport, and after sad farewells, we all went our separate ways.  Since I had a few hours to kill before my flight, I did a little shopping and had some lunch.  I couldn't possibly leave New England without having any clam chowder, so I enjoyed a nice comforting bowl before flying home.  

Even though this is about the longest post in the history of blogging, I still feel like I can't convey how awesome our weekend was.  The weekend was such a whirlwind, and at the end I definitely wished we could have extended it a few more days.  Thank you again, Tara, for opening up your house to us for the weekend.  And tell Kyle and Wilma we're sorry for being so loud!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eggnog Muffins

I have been incredibly lazy in the kitchen as of late.  It used to be that my "me-time" was spent baking and cooking.  But these days, when I get that elusive quiet time, I have zero energy to be on my feet for an extended amount of time.  These days I spend my me-time laid up on the couch - either watching random tv shows or reading.  I'm 30 weeks pregnant with twins and spend my days chasing around two active toddlers while carrying around 8 pounds of baby - I take the rest when I can get it.

However, over the weekend, I somehow got a big burst of energy and ran a bunch of errands, did some cleaning and organizing, and got the itch to bake something festive for breakfast.  I had picked up a carton of eggnog a few days prior, so I knew I wanted to bake an eggnog treat.  These muffins totally fit the bill.  They are mixed up an in the oven in less than 10 minutes.  Major score for these tired feet.  And they are tender and moist, with just the right amount of sweetness, a subtle eggnog flavor, and a majorly droll-worthy crumbly streusel topping.  I'm totally a sucker for a crumb topping.

These are most definitely a great breakfast warm from the oven with a cup of coffee, or if you're an eggnog freak, go ahead and wash down your eggnog muffin with some eggnog. :)  They are also great a few days post-baking - just briefly warm in the microwave for that fresh-baked taste.  You can enjoy a Christmas-y breakfast any day of the week with these muffins!

Easy Eggnog Muffins
barely adapted from King Arthur Flour
makes 12-15 muffins

  • 4 Tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 1/4 cups eggnog 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • splash of eggnog
  • 3 Tbs butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with liners and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.

Add the baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla extract to the bowl and mix until just combined.  Beginning and ending with the flour, alternate adding the flour and eggnog to the bowl, mixing at low speed, just until each ingredient is incorporated.

Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups.

To make the topping, use a fork to combine all of the ingredients just until the mixture is crumbly.  If you mix too much, it will form into a cohesive ball, not a crumbly topping.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until the topping is turning golden-brown and the muffins are cooked through.  Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool before serving.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

Panera is one of my very favorite places to go for lunch.  So many options and choices, and everything is pretty delicious.  Bonus points if I go with Caroline and she wants their macaroni and cheese. :)  I almost always go with the "You Pick Two," and while one of my choices varies based on the day, season, and my mood, my second pick is always the broccoli and cheddar soup.  Yes, I know it is approximately 4,000 calories and a mega sodium-bomb.  I just love it so much, and I try and balance it out by going with a salad or one of the lighter sandwich options.

Yet, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I've never tried making it myself before now.  Sure, it's still not exactly light and healthy, but it is nice to know exactly what's in it, and I can control the decadence myself by altering the milk:cream ratio.  You could also keep the portions small and serve it with a light salad.

It is creamy, cheesy, and totally comforting.  This was a major hit with everyone in my family, and I enjoyed it for several days for my lunch.  Since we moved, the closest Panera isn't very convenient, which I suppose is a blessing and a curse.  However, now that I can make my own version of their soup, it's not such a bad thing.

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
adapted from Annie's Eats

I like my soup to be mostly smooth with a bit of texture, so I used my immersion blender to puree most of it, while keeping the rest chunky.

  • 6 Tbs butter, divided
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 4-5 cups small broccoli florets
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 Tbs flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half or cream
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes.   Stir in the broccoli, chicken broth, onion salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

As the broccoli simmers, melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the flour and cook 1-2 minutes until golden brown, whisking constantly.  Whisk in the milk and cream and cook until the mixture thickens and bubbles, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the cheese until melted, and season with salt and pepper.

Use an immersion blender to puree most of the broccoli mixture (if desired).  Stir the cheese and milk mixture into the broccoli, and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Southern-Style Cornbread Dressing

So do you call the ubiquitous Thanksgiving side stuffing or dressing?  If you call it stuffing, and you don't cook it inside your turkey... well, you're wrong.  Dressing is served alongside your turkey - which is how most of us eat it these days, what with the risks and worries about salmonella and all.  Anyway, it seems like most people from the south call it dressing, and northerners call it stuffing - why the discrepancy, I don't know... but whatever you call it, here's my very favorite version.

A few years ago, I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner.  As usual, I had a hard time keeping with tradition, and I thought my family might revolt against me.  I served pumpkin soup.  And topped my sweet potatoes with sautéed apples.  And served roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash.  And in what was perhaps my biggest error, I made dressing out of sourdough bread.  With bacon and apples.  I'll admit it - I liked it.  The dressing was really good.  But it wasn't traditional dressing that my family was used to.  Here in the south, we make dressing with cornbread and biscuits.  Making dressing out of sourdough bread, with fruit in it?  It was practically blasphemous.

Last year when my mom asked me if I wanted to make the dressing for Thanksgiving, I was admittedly a little scared.  So I decided to try and K.I.S.S. (Office, anyone?) and go with a traditional southern version.  But since I can't resist testing the boundaries a little bit, I chose this recipe.  It's traditional in that it's cornbread, onions, celery, and herbs, but it mixes things up a bit by also using brioche bread in combination with the cornbread.  The result is absolutely heavenly.  The traditional taste is there thanks to the cornbread, but you also have these perfect little pillows of bread from the brioche.  With just enough chicken stock to hold it together - but not so much that it's mushy and soggy.  The celery and onions provide just the right amount of sweetness and texture, the herbs give it tons and tons of flavor, and the butter... well that just makes it perfect.  This dressing really is just about as good as it gets.

Southern-Style Cornbread Dressing
adapted from Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen

  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 celery stalks, chopped, with 1/4 cup leaves chopped and reserved
  • 1 loaf of challah, brioche, or other soft eggy bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
  • about 8 cups cubed cornbread (preferably day-old cornbread)
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh sage
  • 3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden (about 5-6 minutes).

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes (both brioche and cornbread) with the cooked celery and onion, reserved celery leaves, sage, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Pour the chicken broth and eggs over the mixture and mix well to combine and moisten the bread.  If the mixture seems really dry, add more broth as needed.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the dressing is heated throughout.  If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil and continue to bake.  Serve warm.

Note:  The dressing can be assembled and refrigerated overnight before baking.  Just add a little extra chicken broth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fun Thanksgiving Ideas

Thanksgiving is and has always been one of my favorite holidays - how could it not be, the main focus is food and family?!  I'm hosting my dad's side of the family this year, and while I'm tempted to go all out and get crazy, I know most of the family wants the traditional, normal fare.  Plus, I'll be 30+ weeks pregnant with twins, and I'm not exactly up to spending the entire week in the kitchen these days.  There are nurseries to decorate and tiny baby clothes to buy (and couches to sit on and sitcoms to watch).  Anywho, we'll still have a very nice dinner, and it will be a group effort, with everyone contributing a dish or two.  For that, I am thankful!

But if you DO like mixing things up, here are some ideas for appetizers, sides, and desserts that are a little different and nontraditional.

P.S. If you are looking for something traditional, I'll be posting my very favorite recipe for dressing on Friday (or stuffing - but we'll address that then).  It's a keeper!

Appetizers, Salads, Drinks, and Sides (from top left)
Blue Cheese Cheesecake with Pear-Onion Jam
Harvest Pear Salad
Pomegranate Sangria
Roasted Beet Salad with Goat cheese and Spicy Maple-Glazed Pecans
Curried Butternut Squash Soup (would love to serve this in little shot glasses with the appetizers!)
Herbed Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Dipping Sauce
Green Bean Bundles
Sparkling Pear Sangria
Sweet Potato and Pepita Salad with Avocado and Pomegranate Seeds

Desserts (Clockwise from Top Left)
Sweet Potato Bars with Marshmallow Topping
Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Swirl Icing
Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
Pralined Pumpkin Cheesecake
Triple Chocolate Cheesecake (a must-have at every holiday for my family)
Southern Comfort Caramel Apple Pie
Pear-Maple Cobblers
Glazed Cranberry Bundt Cake

And if you are stuck with tons of leftovers, here are two of my favorite ways to use up that turkey!
Turkey Cranchiladas
Turkey Sandwiches with Cranberry-BBQ Sauce

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pork Chops with Cranberry-Maple Pan Sauce

I'm generally not a huge fan of pork chops.  With the exception of the smoked pork chop at one of my favorite Atlanta restaurants, I feel like they are often dried out, overcooked, and kind of bland.  But so many people seem to love them, so I figured I'd give them another shot.  I was so smitten with the idea of this cranberry-maple pan sauce, so I started by going to Whole Foods and buying the biggest, thickest, bone-in chops ever.  I then enlisted the help of my friend Elly, who gave me some chop-cooking tips.

The result?  Awesome!  By using a thicker-cut, bone-in pork chop, you lower the risk of the meat cooking too quickly and drying out.  And pan-searing the chops followed by a brief stint in the oven ensures that it cooks evenly throughout.  Pan sauces are one of my favorite ways to spice up a simple pan-roasted protein, and this one was really great.  A little tart from the cranberries and vinegar, with sweetness from the maple syrup.  And by making the sauce in the same pan as the pork chops, you get all those super flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan.

If you're a pork chop novice like me, this recipe is a great jumping off point.  Because even if you happen to overcook your meat, the pan sauce will help mask that.  If you are a pork chop hater, then I think this method and sauce would also work really well with chicken or pork tenderloin.

I served this with mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts, but I think sweet potatoes would be really great as well - a pork chop Thanksgiving dinner, if you will!

Pork Chops with Cranberry-Maple Pan Sauce
sauce adapted from Fine Cooking

  • 4 (1- 1 1/2- inch thick) bone-in pork chops
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pat the pork dry and season well on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the pork chops 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown - you may need to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of each pork chop.  Transfer to the oven and cook until the center reaches 135 degrees (using an instant-read thermometer), about 7-10 minutes.

Transfer the chops to a plate and cover loosely with foil.  Return the skillet to the stovetop.  Add the cranberries, chicken broth, maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, red pepper flakes, and thyme and cook over medium heat until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes.  Use a whisk to incorporate the mustard into the sauce and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Return the chops to the pan and turn a few times to coat well with the sauce.  Divide among plates and serve immediately, spooning the sauce over the chops.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gooey Cinnamon Squares

I know that for most, chocolate chip cookies are the epitome of nostalgia, but for me it's snickerdoodles.  My mom had a Mrs. Fields cookie cookbook, and snickerdoodles were most definitely the favorite cookie in the book.  I remember carefully rolling each ball of dough in cinnamon sugar, then watching them spread and bake in the oven.  The smell of snickerdoodles can't be beaten, and the cookies themselves are pretty fantastic as well.  I love the crunchy outside that gives way to the soft and chewy interior.  It really is just pure comfort food for me.

As I was flipping through The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (!!), I literally gasped when I came upon these bars.  They are a combination of snicker doodle, creme brûlée, and St. Louis gooey butter cake.  I mean, come on.

If you're unfamiliar with gooey cake, it is basically a yellow cake base, with a gooey, buttery topping.  It's pretty much one of the best things ever.  This version has a cakey-cookie base, topped with that decadent gooey topping as well.  However, it goes over the top when it's sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, which creates kind of a creme brûlée effect - crunchy, sugary, but with that wonderful warmth from the cinnamon.

These are pretty much completely irresistible, and I foresee them being on the dessert table on Thanksgiving.  And Christmas.  And New Year's.  And MLK Day.  I think you get the idea.

Gooey Cinnamon Squares
barely adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
makes a 9x13 inch pan of bars - cut them as small or large as you like

Soft Cookie Base

  • 8 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
Gooey Layer
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  • 12 Tbs (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch cake pan with foil or parchment paper, then spray liberally with cooking spray (or grease with butter).  Set aside.

To prepare the cookie base, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and milk and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl and then beating for another 10 seconds.  Beat in the dry ingredients at low speed until just combined.  

Dollop the cookie base over the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula.  Set aside.

To prepare the gooey layer, whisk together the corn syrup, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and salt  until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat another 10 seconds.  Add 1/3 of the flour and mix, followed by half the vanilla mixture, mixing well to combine.  Repeat again, twice, until all of the flour has been added and mixed until just combined.  Dollop over the cookie base and spread carefully with an offset spatula.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the gooey layer.  

Bake 25 to 30 minutes until the cookies have bronzed on top.  The gooey layer will rise and fall in the oven, but wills till be a little liquidy under the cinnamon crust (Definitely ere on the side of under baked rather than over baked in order to maximize the gooeyness!).

Allow to cool completely on a rack, then cut into squares to serve.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

(Crockpot) Chicken & Sausage Stew

Sometimes you make a dinner and you immediately know it will be going into heavy rotation for years to come.  That was definitely the case with this chicken stew.  It seems so humble - chicken thighs, Italian sausage, white beans, and spinach.  But something magical happened in my crock pot that day.  The chicken was so tender and flavorful.  The sausage was rich and just slightly spicy.  The white beans made the stew so creamy and hearty.  And the spinach gave it a nice freshness.  Topped with some shredded Parmesan cheese, and served with a thick slice of bread, this was pretty much the epitome of the perfect fall dinner.  Something about the combination of all the ingredients just seemed so right.

I'm not one to turn my nose up at leftovers as a general rule, though it's not too often that I look forward to them with great enthusiasm.  However, I ate the stew for lunch every single day the week I made it, and I never grew tired of it.  I had actually intended to freeze half of it (time to stock my freezer for the babies!), but I wasn't willing to part with it quite yet.  The bright side is that since it comes together rather quickly and then cooks all day, it will definitely be making another appearance around the same time as these baby boys!

Chicken Stew with Sausage, White Beans, and Spinach
adapted from America's Test Kitchen, Slow Cooker Revolution
serves 6-8

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage links (mild or spicy)
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 (15-oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (white beans)
  • 8 oz baby spinach (about 8 cups)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Season the chicken well with salt and pepper, and transfer to the slow cooker.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and brown the sausage about 1-2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, then slice into 1/2-1 inch slices (It probably won't be cooked though - don't worry, it will finish cooking in the slow cooker!).  Add to the slow cooker with the chicken.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet, and add the onions.  Cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic tomato paste, thyme, and red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.

Slowly whisk in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the pan.  Whisk in 1 cup of the broth, whisking to smooth out any lumps.  Transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining 2 cups of broth, the bay leaves, and the cannellini beans.  Cover and cook until the chicken and sausage are cooked through, 6-8 hours on low (or 3-4 hours on high).

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and use 2 forks to shred into bite-sized pieces.  Fish out the bay leaves.  If there appears to be a lot of fat on the surface, use a large spoon to skim it off.

Return the chicken to the crockpot and stir in the spinach.  Cover and cook on high until heated through and the spinach is wilted, about 5-10 more minutes.  If the stew is too thick, stir in additional (warmed) broth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top each serving with grated parmesan before serving.