Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

Okay, so I missed that LAST Friday was actually the first Friday of the month. SO SUE ME.

I mentioned last month that I had a fall recipe queued up and ready to go, and this is it. If I were going to a chili cookoff, this is the recipe I would bring. It’s totally chili, and yet it’s totally not chili. Totally unique, and totally wonderful.


The Journey:

Like any good chili, this is mostly just throwing everything in a pot and letting it sit. However, in this case, everything means, like, EVERYTHING.


So, you know, you save on the cooking part, and you pay on the cleaning-up-the-disaster part.

The Verdict:

I think you just have to try this to understand it. I’m not sure words can really capture the strange, yet strangely working combinations of flavor here.

And as a side note, we doubled the recipe to have enough for a 2nd night. Just saying…


The Recipe:

Recipe from The Kitchn.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound dried black beans, rinsed well
  • 1 chipotle chile from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes (2-3 small), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • sour cream, to top (optional)
  • green onions, chopped, to top (optional)
  • fresh cilantro, chopped, to top (optional)
  1. Soak black beans in hot water for several hours (or overnight)
  2. Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and coriander and stir. Cook together for 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, beans, chipotle pepper, and oregano. Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until beans are flavorful and tender, anywhere from 2 – 4 hours (depending on the age of your beans). Even with pre-soaking, we cooked the beans for about 3 hours.
  4. After ~3 hours of cooking, add the sweet potatoes, quinoa, and salt. Place the pot’s lid back on slightly ajar and allow to simmer on low heat until the beans are soft and the sweet potatoes and quinoa are cooked through (about another hour). Add more water if the chili becomes too thick. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, and green onion.

Grilled Lemon-Thyme Chicken

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

I can’t believe that we’re already into August. Summer just started, and yet here we are, in the dog days. How can this have happened??

I have a nice fall recipe all lined up for next month, but I refuse to let summer go without a fight, so here is the most summer-iest, summer recipe I have.

The Journey:

The original recipe called for oregano, and I don’t really remember how we ended up using thyme instead, but it is absolutely the way to go. I will grant you that it is a real pain in the rear to try to get all those tiny leaves off the stems and chopped up, but it is absolutely worth it.


The way these things smell on the grill… It is summer personified. It smells like one of those late-summer, outdoor festivals, where you’ve been baking in the sun, surrounded by family, and there’s some kind of food tent where they’ve got one of those enormous, six foot long grills sizzling away. And you’re just kind of standing around with a cold drink in your hand, maybe listening to a band play or playing bags.

This is the smell that that grill is making, and thyme is the secret ingredient.


The Verdict:

This is one of those recipes that we have been making since forever, and I always go, “How has that never been on the blog before?” Seems inconceivable.

Make this one before the summer is over, and thank me later.


The Recipe:

Recipe slightly modified from Bon Appetit.

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme (or oregano, as per the original recipe)
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • ~8 pieces of chicken
  1. Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes or in refrigerator up to 2 days, turning occasionally.
  3. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place chicken, with some marinade still clinging, on grill rack; grill chicken until cooked through and golden brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 30 minutes.
  4. Transfer to plates and serve.

Caramelized Banana Dutch Babies

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

As I said the last time I talked about Dutch Babies, sometimes you want a delicious, warm pastry for breakfast, but just don’t have time to go full-on pancake.

Well I would further add to that, sometimes you don’t have time to slice up a bunch of peaches or apples, or peaches are not in season. Enter, banana dutch babies:


The Journey:

One of the coolest things about dutch babies is the way they puff up in the pan, then deflate when you take them out of the oven (or, at least, *I* think it’s cool, but none of the kids seem to be as excited about it as I am…with this and a lot of other things)


Pictured: mid-puff dutch babies! (And look! It even fits in the oven with sheet pan bacon!)

The Verdict:

We have actually been making these for years, so about time I got around to putting this one up. It is easy and delicious. The only problem I have is that two are no longer enough for our family!


Oh wait, I do have one other problem with it.

We only have one cast iron pan, which means my 2nd dutch baby is in a pan that is oven safe, but I don’t normally put in the oven. That means that I can NEVER, EVER remember that the handle will be scorching hot, and constantly grab it for all it’s worth.

Learn from my constant, repeated stupidity. BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT GRABBING HOT PANS WITH YOUR BARE HANDS!

The Recipe:

Recipe adapted slightly from Chef Druck.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 4 bananas
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Get two ovenproof skillets out (cast iron of you have them!)
  3. Combine the vanilla, eggs, milk, granulated sugar, salt and flour in the blender. Pulse until mixed.
  4. Heat both pans on medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to each pan along with half of the brown sugar. As soon as the sugar is melted, slice two bananas into each pan and turn a few times to coat well on both sides. Let them brown slightly. Pour in half the batter to each pan and put both pans in the oven immediately.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes, until the Dutch Babies are golden and puffed up. Optionally, douse with a big cloud of powdered sugar (we usually skip this) and serve immediately

Sheet Pan Hash Browns and Oven Baked Bacon

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

Obviously this is a pancake sort of blog, but *eeeevery once in awhile* I might eat something else for breakfast (shocking, I know). And when I do, there are no better accoutrements than hashbrowns and bacon.

(This is, however, a bacon sort of blog. No exceptions)

(Except maybe sometimes sausage)

The Journey:

Regular hashbrowns are pretty amazing. I mean, I wouldn’t have thought you could improve on hashbrowns. But you CAN and now you MUST.


Usually I make hash browns in a pan, but then I get entirely too impatient to eat them, so I don’t let them fry long enough to actually get crispy. Instead they end up as kind of warm, mush potatoes, that are still delicious. Intellectually I understand that they would be better if I could wait for a few more minutes, but…

However, imagine you could make ENTIRELY CRISPY hash browns, with no effort?!? And since they’re in the oven you don’t even have to sit there and look at them, waiting for them to crisp up but growing increasingly more impatient.


As for the bacon, I have cooked a slice or two in my day. Usually the grease is flying everywhere, burning your hands like liquid magma as you try (unsuccessfully) to flip the piece over with a fork. Then it starts curling up, so you try to hold it down, but it doesn’t work so you end up with one side that’s crispy and the other side that’s just like raw fat.

No more. This is going to change your life my friend.

It is so unbelievably simple, you end up with perfectly cooked, flat pieces, and you don’t even have to stand there and shepherd it the whole time. Set it and forget it. The strips are actually less greasy too, since most of it stays in the pan. AND! AND! It’s easier to clean up: just wait until the grease congeals a little bit, crumple the parchment paper, and throw it away.

Sometimes you really can have your cake and eat it too. And the best part is that you can cook it in the oven AT THE SAME TIME as the hash browns!


The Verdict:

The one slight knock I would say is that I am a crispy bacon kind of guy, and you can’t *quite* get the bacon to that perfect level of crispiness. However Sara, who claims I always overcook the bacon, is quite satisfied (and honestly this is probably somewhere in the middle between us as far as our preferred texture).

Still, that is a very minor complaint, especially when weighed against the obvious advantages.

I have no knocks against the hash browns whatsoever.


And naturally, it is Alex approved, so what more could you ask for?

2017_04_24_3060The Recipe:

Recipe from Macheesmo.

  • 1 bag of frozen hash browns (1 lb 4 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, combine butter, oil, and spices. Microwave on high for 30 seconds to melt butter.
  3. Stir spice mixture into potatoes.
  4. Stir in grated Parmesan cheese.
  5. Spread potatoes out on sheet pan in a single, even layer. Some overlap is inevitable, but try to make it as even as possible.
  6. Place sheet in a preheated oven on the bottom rack for 15-20 minutes. When edges of hash browns are browning nicely, move sheet pan to the very top rack. Bake for another 10-15 minutes so top can crisp up. Don’t stir the potatoes!

Recipe (is this really a recipe?) from The Pioneer Woman.

  • Bacon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Cook for 15 – 22 minutes (depending on thickness of bacon)

Aunt Helen’s Apple Pie Cake

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

You’ve probably heard of people joining a CSA: you buy a “share” and then every two weeks you pick up a load of whatever fresh vegetables happen to be in season.

We have recently joined an apple CSA, which means every two weeks we get another 10 lbs of apples, straight from the orchard.

You call it an apple CSA, I call it PURE BLISS.


The Journey:

I love apple anything.

I love apples like a lazy house painter loves the rain. I love apples like Trader Joe loves pumpkin flavored food. I love apples like Evelyn loves solid color leggings with mostly matching solid color shirts.

I love apples.


If you really want to look like a genius, instead of using 2 eggs, you can use 1 egg + 3 egg whites, and parlay those 3 egg yolks into a batch of Charred Brussels Sprouts Carbonara.

The Verdict:

Nothing pairs better with cool, dim, slightly-rainy days and the crinkle of leaves under your feet than the taste of apples and cinnamon. Nothing tastes more sweaters and knitting and holding your loved ones close before the eternal Chicago winter steals your breath and settles in your bones.

So soft and moist, so fall-like. I definitely recommend a dollop of homemade whipped cream on top. Maybe a steaming mug of tea on the side.


The Recipe:

Recipe adapted from the 1999 Marne United Methodist Church cookbook, or previous to that, from Sara’s mom’s Aunt Helen.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts
  • 5 cups chopped apples (about 4 large apples)
  • 4 Tbsp. hot water (forgot this, but it turned out fine, so?)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Cream butter with mixer; beat in sugar and eggs
  3. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking soda, and flour
  4. Add nuts, apples, water, and vanilla and fold together (with spoon, not mixer)
  5. Bake in 9×13 pan for 40 to 45 minutes.
  6. Serve warm or cooled with whipped cream or ice cream

Quinoa Salad with Peaches and Pickled Onions

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

Ya’ll, I have been sitting on this recipe for an entire year.

We made this a ton last summer, but by the time I thought to put it up on the blog, it was kind of past tomato / peach season, and I didn’t want to post it over the winter and have you forget about it by the time the correct season was upon us.



The Journey:

You know how sometimes you’re eating a delicious, juicy, ripe peach and you just think to yourself, “What is this missing? Ah, I know, quick pickled onions.”


Well after eating this, you WILL think that when eating a delicious, juicy peach, because the combination somehow goes together like Laurel and Hardy. Like chocolate and marshmallow and graham crackers. Like peanut butter and cheese.


The Verdict:

This salad tastes like summer. It’s unique, fresh, and delicious. I strongly encourage you to give this one a try. I sat with a pending post for a WHOLE YEAR so you could give it a try.


(Pairs well with smoothes, and photobombs.)

The Recipe:

Recipe from Bon Appetit.

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa rinsed well
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced ¼” thick
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 large ripe firm peaches, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1/2 bunch arugula, leaves torn (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups small cherry tomatoes (about 1 pint), halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup ½” pieces chives, divided
  • 4 tsp. kosher salt plus more
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring quinoa and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Season with salt. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until quinoa is tender, 8–10 minutes.
  2. Drain, return quinoa to pan, and cover. Remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet; let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, place onion in a small bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar, and 4 tsp. salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour over onion and let stand 20 minutes. Drain, reserving pickling liquid.
  4. Toss pickled onion, peaches, arugula, tomatoes, oil, ¼ cup chives, and 3 Tbsp. reserved pickling liquid in a large bowl; season with salt, pepper, and more pickling liquid, if desired. Fold in quinoa.
  5. Serve salad topped with remaining ¼ cup chives.
  6. Do Ahead: Quinoa salad can be made 6 hours ahead (do not add arugula and chives). Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature and toss in arugula and chives just before serving.

Cheesy Hashbrown Bake with Homemade Sausage

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

You might not know this, but when Sara and I were dating, she worked at the Cracker Barrel. You might say I didn’t so much date her as use her as a supplier of delicious cheesy hashbrown casserole.

(Now, before you get all up in arms, I didn’t *ONLY* date her to gain access to cheesy hashbrown casserole: they also had biscuits.)

I don’t remember how we came to make our own sausage, but you should know by now that if there is an easy way to do things and a hard way to do things, I generally choose the hard way.

The Journey:

You guys! You can make your own sausage? Did you know that was a thing you can do? It turns out sausage patties do NOT descend fully formed from Mount Olympus, but are in fact a simple mixture of pork and spices! Who knew?


Anybody who says links are better than patties can just get the hell off my blog right now.


Okay, so now you have the sausage…now what? Eat it, you say? NOT SO FAST.

(Okay, well eat a little bit of it, I mean, seriously)

Now we shall transform that into something EVEN MORE DELICIOUS.

How could anything be even more delicious than homemade sausage? Well, it involves a whole lot of cheese, that’s how. And hashbrowns. CHEESE AND HASHBROWNS.


…and then you bake it and it gets even more magical.


The Verdict:

Well, we do like our breakfast food around here.

I daresay this is even better than the Cracker Barrel cheesy hashbrown casserole. I suppose you *could* use your homemade sausage just for eating, and you *could* make this with non-homemade sausage, but…


The Recipe:

Breakfast Sausage

Recipe adapted from from Bon Appetit:

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/3 teaspoon onion powder (if you have it)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  1. Mix sage, thyme, brown sugar, salt, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika and onion powder in a medium bowl. Add pork and work spice mixture into meat with your hands until it’s very well blended.
  2. Scoop out ¼-cupfuls of mixture and flatten into about ¼”-thick patties (they will plump slightly when cooled).
  3. Griddle sausage over medium-high heat until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook 2 minutes more.
  4. Do Ahead: Patties can be made 2 days ahead. Stack between parchment paper; cover and chill, or freeze up to 1 month.

Cheesy Hashbrown Bake

Recipe adapted from All Recipes:

  • 1 pound 4 oz package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1/2 – 2/3 pounds pork sausage
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 7 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 8-12oz sharp cheddar, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 quart baking dish. Place the hash brown potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook and stir the sausage and onion until the sausage is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink; drain. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and pour over the potatoes. Layer with half the Cheddar cheese, the sausage mixture, and the remaining Cheddar cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove cover; return casserole to the oven and bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.