Slow Cooker Balsamic Short Ribs

by Hilary Gauntt on February 13, 2017

Something about having a half cord of firewood newly stacked outside the back door puts you in the mood to try something hearty in the slow cooker, especially on a cold Friday night in February. After scrolling through many short ribs recipes, I settled on this one due to the appealing ingredients and ease of preparation.

Just rub the spice mix over the ribs, brown briefly in a pan and then add them into the slow cooker along with the sauce ingredients and forget about it for 4 to 6 hours. Except you won’t be able to forget about it as the wafting odors will remind you that something really wonderful is for dinner! I tossed in some baby carrots at the 3 hour mark to make dinner even simpler, and served the shredded meat and amazing sauce over noodles. We just had the leftovers (wished there were more!) for Sunday lunch and if anything it was even better.

I may try this with a large chuck roast next time as I’d love to serve more people with this recipe. Short ribs are so good with long cooking, but with the large bones and gristle needing to be tossed, the amount of actual meat is reduced. Credit for this great recipe goes to LeighAnne Wilkes from her website

2-3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs

1 Tbs. olive oil

15 ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

6 cloves of garlic, minced

Spice Rub:

2 Tbs. kosher salt

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried rubbed sage

1/2 Tbs. garlic powder

1/2 Tbsp. onion powder

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a bowl, mix together the spice rub. Rub the mixture into all sides of the short ribs.

Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Braise the ribs for 2-3 minutes each side or until lightly browned. Put the ribs in a slow cooker and add balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce, sugar, and garlic.

Cook for 4-6 hours on low or until meat is tender. Serves 4.

short ribs


Chicken Breast Valdostana

by Hilary Gauntt on February 5, 2017

When a restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy ignored repeated requests from the Union-Tribune for the recipe for their Pollo Valdostana, the paper gave up and published one from a cookbook by famous restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. No one really has a lock on the recipe, as it is a popular dish in the Val D”Aosta region of Northern Italy and showcases three local ingredients : white wine, prosciutto and Fontina cheese. I made it ahead and transferred it from the pan to a casserole dish, ready to pop into the oven for the final baking right before dinner. Which made for a luscious, stress-free dinner!

6 medium (about 7 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

6 thin slices imported Italian prosciutto

All-purpose flour

4 Tbs. unsalted butter (divided use)

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio

1/2 cup chicken stock, or canned reduced sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup seeded and crushed canned tomatoes (preferably San Marzano brand)


Freshly ground pepper

6 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, sliced thin

2 Tbs. tomato sauce, or additional seeded and crushed tomatoes

2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim any excess fat, skin and cartilage from the chicken pieces. Place a piece of prosciutto over each chicken breast, trimming and layering each so it covers the chicken breasts as neatly as possible. Using the back of a large knife, gently pound the prosciutto into the chicken so that it adheres. Dredge the breasts in flour to coat them lightly and tap off any excess flour.

Heat 2 Tbs. butter and the olive oil in a 12 to 14 inch skillet with an oven-proof handle until the butter is foaming. Place in skillet as many chicken pieces, prosciutto side down, as will fit without touching. Cook just until they begin to brown, about 2 minutes. (Overcooking will toughen the prosciutto.) Turn chicken and cook until second side is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Repeat if necessary, with remaining chicken breasts, removing the browned chicken to make room. Adjust the heat as you work so the chicken doesn’t burn or stick in places.

Pour wine into the skillet and shake gently to dislodge any brown bits that stick to the pan. Boil until reduced by half. Pour chicken stock into the skillet and distribute crushed tomatoes and remaining two tablespoons butter in between pieces of chicken. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat so sauce is simmering, tilting skillet to mix sauce.

Drape sliced Fontina over chicken pieces to cover them completely. Dot center of each chicken piece with a small circle of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, the sauce is bubbling, and the cheese is lightly browned around the edges, about 10 minutes. Very carefully remove the pan to the stove top and let stand a minute or two before serving. Serves 6.

chicken valdostana


Barbara Lynch’s Spicy Tomato Soup

by Hilary Gauntt on January 29, 2017

This soup can be whipped up quickly from mostly pantry staples and is perfect for this rainy weather! Barbara Lynch is the chef owner of 7 restaurants in the Boston area, and this is from her cookbook called “Stir”. If you have an immersion blender I suggest pureeing the hot soup right in the pan and skipping the straining step which makes it even easier and quicker. I loved the thicker consistency I had pureeing the solids into the soup. I also tossed a couple of minced garlic cloves in towards the end of sauteing the onions, and used chicken broth instead of water for richer flavor.

In her cookbook she serves this with grilled cheese sandwiches, sliced very thin and baked in the oven pressed between two sheet pans. Looks amazing!

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices

1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste, I found 1/2 tsp. plenty spicy)

2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes (I cut them into chunks)

1 1/2 cups water (or chicken broth)

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Creme fraiche, for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. (If you are in a hurry, you can skip the simmer time, just add a bit less water) Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from heat, and let cool about 5 minutes.

Set a fine mesh strainer over a large heat-proof bowl. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the bender lid and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam from the hot soup to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off.)

Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula or ladle; discard the solids. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat on medium low until hot. If you choose, top with a tablespoon of creme fraiche. Serves 6

tomato soup

I shared this soup with neighbor Forrest, who returned my bowl with this note:

Forrests note


Pork Chile Verde

by Hilary Gauntt on January 18, 2017

Usually I wouldn’t dare make a double batch of a recipe I have never tried before and serve it to 9 guests. But I so trust my friend Terri’s judgement in the food department that when she sent me this recipe by both e-mail and text message, I went with it! Padma Lakshmi is a judge on Top Chef, and made this recipe on The Today Show as the perfect thing to serve for the football playoffs. I love that it’s better the next day, since I’m so much more relaxed when the major cooking is done ahead of time. Served with cornbread, green salad and coffee-flavored flan for desert. Leftovers great!

1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and quartered

2 avocados, peeled and pitted

4 jalapenos

1 cup fresh cilantro

4 Tbs. lime juice


3 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided

2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic

2 Tbs. sesame seeds, divided

2 medium onions, diced

1 Tbs. dried Mexican oregano

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

1 shot Anejo tequila

1 pound cooked cannellini beans (Note: if using canned, rinse off canning liquid)

2 cups water or chicken stock

1 lime, juiced (optional)

In a blender or Cuisinart, combine the tomatillos, avocados, jalapenos, two cloves of garlic, cilantro, lime juice, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Puree until smooth. (Side note: this makes a great salsa verde sauce on its own; you may want to buy double the ingredients and use the extra as a dipping sauce for other savory treats.)

In a heavy soup pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Slice remaining two cloves of garlic in half, and cook for one minute. Ad the onions, oregano, cumin, remaining sesame seeds and red pepper flakes, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the ground pork and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add in the shot of tequila.

Add the tomatillo sauce, beans, and water or stock to the pork mixture. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.Stir in the lime juice just before serving. Serves 4-6.

Note: You might want to chop the onions in the blender or Cuisinart before beginning the make the sauce. Seeding the jalapenos will keep the heat down. I served it with grated cheese, sour cream,salsa and a lime squeeze. And whoops! As I am proof reading the recipe I realize that one pound of cooked cannellini beans means one 15 ounce can, not two! So I doubled the amount of beans, but honestly it seemed fine. Adding chicken broth when reheating it may be necessary to thin it; you can make it soupier if you wish.

last chili


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January 12, 2017

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This cheesy pasta pie is fairly easy to make and looks spectacular when you bring it to the table! Like a mac and cheese dish poured into a bundt pan and baked until the cheese melts and the edges get brown and crispy. This was created by Food and Wine magazine’s Justin Chapple. I would […]

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Rich Layered Cheese and Pesto Appetizer With Sun Dried Tomatoes

December 23, 2016

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Skillet Cornbread with Chives

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Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk

November 28, 2016

There aren’t many vegetarian entrees that I find satisfying enough to make a complete dinner (my bad) but this one certainly is an exception! It’s fragrant and filling and would make a lovely, healthy meal during the chilly shopping season ahead. It comes together in 30 minutes and is served over rice with a topping […]

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