February 2013

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I really, really love soup. I may even hoard it a little wee bit in our extra freezer. My favorite soups are usually the ones that are packed with vegetables. I like to get in a few servings in one comforting bowl.

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I had never tasted minestrone soup until a few years ago when we were out to dinner. It was the soup of the day at a restaurant. I ordered it only because I was so cold. It was love at first taste. I realized very quickly that this soup is just a vegetable soup with Italian-style seasonings. I like to use marina sauce in the base to give it a rich flavor. The most important part of this recipe however, is the cheese that I stir in to the broth at the end of cooking. It gives the broth a rich, salty complexity.

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This soup can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock. It can be gluten free if you just leave out the pasta (I like it better that way). This soup freezes well and makes an excellent work lunch.

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Minestrone Soup

by Jessica

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Ingredients (8-12 servings)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 carrots diced
  • orange pepper, diced
  • yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 Idaho potato, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, chopped
  • 16 oz marinara sauce
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicen stock
  • 12 ounces green beans
  • 1/2 bag veggies for soup
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • parmesan cheese rind
  • 2 handfuls parmesan cheese


In a medium stockpot, cook onion over medium until tender in olive oil. Add carrot and cook until tender. Add peppers and mushrooms, cooking until softened.

Add potatoes, green beans, marinara, paprika, chili flakes, and stock. Cook until heated then add veggies for soup.

Allow to simmer with the parmesan rind until all veggies are cooked through.

Add parmesan stirring constantly when combining and beans and cook an additional 10- 20 minutes.

Stir in pre cooked pasta like ditalini before serving.

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Last weekend, we went to the Johnston Tea House in Mars, Pa for a girls lunch of tea. It was a fun afternoon or finger sandwiches and small tastes of delicious desserts. My favorite thing there is the scones. So, I decided that I had to make scones for breakfast to replicate my favorite thing at tea. Since I am currently obsessed with coconut, I made coconut flavored scones.

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Scones are traditionally served with clotted cream. However, I think at the Johnston Tea House, they serve whipped cream. I used this recipe. I also served them with raspberry jam.

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Scones are really not good as leftovers. They have to be eaten the day they are baked. So, this recipe that makes 2 large or 4 small scones is perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

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Coconut Scones for Two

by Jessica

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12-16 minutes

Keywords: bake dessert breakfast

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cold butter or substitute like Earth Balance
  • 4 teaspoons coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons flax soaked in 1 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or coconut extract
  • coconut milk for brushing
  • sugar for dusting


Soak flax in the water for 5 minutes in a medium sized bowl.

Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter until the ingredients have a sand-like texture.

Pour the flour mixture into the flax and water. Add coconut milk and vanilla or coconut extract.

Pour onto a flour dusted counter. Knead 3-5 times until the dough comes together. Form into two scones.

Brush the tops with coconut milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400 for 12-16 minutes. Serve with whipped cream and jam or as strawberry shortcake.

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Each week, I make a valiant effort to eat enough vegetables. I fill our grocery cart with fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, whole grains, and beans. We always have tons of ingredients with very little prepared food after a trip to the grocery store. As we stand in line, I look longingly at the carts filled with the delicious foods that I never buy. I don’t buy them because I know what is in those foods, but still, snacks are yummy.

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In order to have pre made food at our house, I often find a way to have lots of those vegetables ready to eat. That means roasting. I fill two large baking sheets with vegetables and bake at 450 for about 20 minutes until they sizzle and are tender. Then, I coat them in salt and perhaps some herbs or seasonings and store in a big container for use during the week. Roasted vegetables make a quick meal or snack and are much healthier than all those things I ogle in other carts.

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The other thing that I like to do is cook some brown rice in the rice cooker. For Christmas, we got this rice cooker. It is probably the most used appliance right now. I like to flavor my rice. For this recipe, I add coconut milk and red curry to the rice in lieu of some of the water. At the end, I add chopped cilantro, red chili oil, a tiny bit of soy sauce, and some coconut extract to amp up the coconut flavor.

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Then, I pile roasted shrimp, roasted vegetables, chopped cilantro, peanuts, and avocado for the most delicious, healthy meal. It is a great weeknight meal, especially if you have some roasted veggies and shrimp in the fridge.

Red Curry Coconut Rice with Roasted Shrimp and Vegetables

by Jessica

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Keywords: roast

Ingredients (2-4 servings)

    For the Rice

    • 2 Servings Rice
    • 1/2 can coconut milk
    • 1/4 cup red curry paste
    • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    • 1/2 teaspoon red chili oil
    • drop coconut extract

    For the Shrimp

    • 1/2 pound raw shrimp
    • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • pinch salt

    For the Roasted Veggies

    • peppers, sliced
    • onion, sliced
    • mushrooms, sliced
    • carrots, sliced
    • green beans

    For the Bowl

    • Shrimp
    • Rice
    • Veggies
    • pineapple
    • chopped cilantro
    • peanuts
    • avocado, sliced


    For the Rice

    Add rice, coconut milk, and red curry to the rice cooker. Add remaining amount of water for the rice you are cooking (according to cooker directions).

    When cooked, add oil, coconut extract, soy sauce, and cilantro. Stir t combine.

    For the Shrimp

    Coat shrimp in oil and salt. Bake at 450 for 3-6 minutes until pink.

    For the Roasted Vegetables

    Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Coat with oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 for 20-30 minutes or until they reach desired tenderness. Salt to taste.

    For the Bowl

    Place all ingredients in a bowl with your favorite toppings and amounts.

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    Did you know that I am obsessed with carnitas? I really am. We eat it all the time. Like twice a month. Plus, I freeze the extras and take it for lunch. A lot. I tend to be completely obsessed with things and then never want it again. In order to avoid my my overdose on carnitas, we try not to make it as often as I want it, which is every day. I decided that we should find a recipe that uses the basics of carnitas but tastes total different. Then I remember Posole.

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    Posole is a dish that is fit for special occasions. It is hearty, and fresh, with so much flavor. The meat is very tender, the peppers give it a slight spiciness (if you prefer less spice, add mild peppers). While the dish is excellent on its own, the toppings really make it.

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    You can add any toppings you like.

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    In the picture above, I forgot to add the cabbage. The cabbage really adds a crunchy freshness to the dish. At first we were a little reluctant to add it, but it makes a huge difference in texture. The other topping we were a little leery of was the radish. Again, it compliments all of the flavors in the dish.


    by Jessica

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook Time: 3-5 hours

    Keywords: bake soup/stew

    Ingredients (6-8 servings)

    • olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
    • 3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 light-colored beer (Yuengling,Dos Equis, Corona, etc.)
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon chipotle
    • 1 teaspoon adobo
    • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • water
    • 29 ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
    • 29 ounce can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
    • 3 poblano peppers
    • 4 Anaheim peppers
    • 3 jalapeño peppers
    • 2 cups pork stock
    • 1 onion, diced
    • cabbage, thinly sliced
    • avocado, diced
    • sour cream or greek yogurt
    • chopped cilantro
    • radishes, sliced
    • jalapeño, thinly sliced
    • onion, diced
    • Monterey Jack cheese, shredded


    Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Heat a 6 quart Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the pork. Add oil to the pan and sear the pork on all sides. You may have to do this in 2-3 batches. Set the pork aside.

    Deglaze the pan with the beer. Make sure to use a spoon to scrape all the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add garlic, bay leaves, cumin, chipotle, adobo, and smoked paprika. Add the pork to the pan and fill the pan 3/4 up the pork. Place in the oven, uncovered, until most of the liquid has disappeared (about 2-3 hours).

    Char the peppers on all sides on the grill or under the broiler. Place in a plastic bag or container for 20-30 minutes. Peel the translucent skin from the outside and dice the peppers.

    Remove the pork from the oven. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Add the hominy, tomatoes, peppers, pork stock, and onion. Place a lid on the pan and return to the oven. Cook for an additional hour or longer if desired.

    Remove from the oven. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cabbage, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, jalapeño, onion, and cheese on top.

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    Happy Friday! I thought, since it’s Friday, I would share a delicious beverage with all of you. It is refreshing and fresh tasting.

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    I think I might talk about brunch too much. Last time we went to Eleven, we ordered the Eleven Mules. It was the most refreshing cocktail that I ever tasted. So, when we were talking about making a cocktail, we decided to recreate the delicious brunch cocktail.

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    The Moscow mule was invented in 1940 and was a very popular drink in the 1950’s. The drink is comprised of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. This drink is also infused with cucumber which adds freshness to the drink. Our tiny local grocery store does not carry ginger beer, so I decided that the best solution was to make a ginger and cucumber infused simple syrup. Then, we could adjust the amounts in our drinks to our own preferences.

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    Once you make the simple syrup, strain it and store it in the refrigerator. It can be made a few days in advance. This drink is delicious with or without the alcohol. The freshness makes it a great brunch cocktail.


    by Jessica

    Prep Time: 15 minutes

    Cook Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients (8-12 servings of syrup, 1 drin)

      For the Simple Syrup

      • 1 cup sugar
      • 1 cup water
      • 3 inch piece of ginger, chunked
      • 1/2 seedless cucumber, chunked

      For the Drink

      • Seltzer water
      • 1 1/2 tablespoon ginger, cucumber infused simple syrup
      • crushed ice
      • lime juice
      • cucumber slices


      For the Simple Syrup

      In a small sauce pan, simmer the water, sugar, ginger, and cucumber until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and allow the ginger and cucumber to steep in the syrup until cool.

      For the drink

      In a glass, add ice, simple syrup, a squirt of lime, vodka, and seltzer water. Stir to combine. Garnish with cucumber.

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      I am so excited to share this with all of you. This is one of theses recipes that while you are eating it, you can’t believe that you made it. It is that good. Over the weekend, we were talking about recipes that we cannot figure out how to recreate. I mentioned that my elusive recipe is the coconut cake with mango ice cream from Spice Island Tea House in Oakland. The cake there is the size of a brownie, but golden colored and very coconut. Then, they serve it warm with mango or coconut ice cream from Dave and Andy’s .

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      After developing my recipe for coconut cake, which is not the thickness or texture of regular coconut cake and does not need icing, I needed to develop the mango part of the dish. I really did not feel like making mango ice cream and the grocery store did not sell any. So, I decided to buy coconut ice cream and a fresh mango instead.

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      Instead of using mango ice cream, I made a mango sauce to make the dessert more like a brownie a la mode. Then, I toasted some coconut and made whipped cream, adding some coconut extract to the whipped cream.

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      This dessert is so good. It has a rich, creamy coconut flavor with an acidic mango sauce. It might be one of the best desserts that I have ever had. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

      Coconut Cake

      by Jessica

      Prep Time: 10 minutes

      Cook Time: 25-35 minutes

      Ingredients (9-12 servings)

      • 1 stick butter, melted
      • 75 grams coconut milk
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla
      • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
      • 3/4 cup sugar
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 2 whole eggs
      • 2 egg yolks
      • 1 cup flour
      • 1 cup unsweetened coconut


      Heat oven to 350 degrees.

      Line an 8×8 baker with foil and cooking spray.

      Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into the baking pan.

      Bake for 25-35 minutes.

      Serve slightly warm. Can be frozen.

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      Mango Ice Cream Topping

      by Jessica

      Prep Time: 5 minutes

      Cook Time: 10 minutes

      Keywords: saute dessert

      Ingredients (3 servings)

      • 1 whole mango, peeled and diced
      • 1/4 cup water
      • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
      • pinch salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch


      Toss the mango in cornstarch. Add mango, water, and brown sugar to a medium-sized skillet.

      Heat on medium until thickened and mango is soft. Add soft and serve over ice cream or coconut cake.

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      For the first time this month, I participated in the Surprise Recipe Swap. My secret partner was Susie from Earning My Cape. I spent a lot of time reading her blog and finally decided on her Cornmeal Pancakes.

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      I think Susie and I are kindred spirits. She has a cornmeal obsession. So do I. Up, hushuppies. Probably my favorite thing ever. Oh, and corn dogs, try to stop me. Cornbread, I can’t get enough (only the sweet kind though). Susie eats these with butter and a drizzle of honey. They really are delicious plain.

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      I changed her recipe slightly when I made it. I added about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Probably because I am obsessed with vanilla. Also, I added more milk. She said not to get nervous, but I did. I used about 1 cup of milk. The pancakes definitely spread out, so it might not be necessary. I did get a little nervous about the 1 tablespoon of baking powder, but it made the cakes light and fluffy. Also, I cooked mine in butter. I firmly believe that all pancakes should be cooked in butter so they have a buttery, crispy exterior.

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      These pancakes are so good. They have an amazing corn flavor. I might be obsessed with these now.

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      I made a raspberry maple syrup to go on top. I have tons of preserves left over from my adventures in canning. I mixed some preserves (very low in sugar) with some maple syrup, salt, and vanilla and heated it until warm and combined.

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      I recommend heading over to Susie’s site and checking out the Cornmeal Pancake recipe as well as all of the other creative projects she is working on. If you would like to participate in the Surprise Recipe Swap next month, sign up here.


      Raspberry Maple Syrup

      by Jessica

      Prep Time: 5 minutes

      Cook Time: 5 minutes

      Ingredients (3 servings)

      • 3/4 cup reduced sugar raspberry preserves
      • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
      • pinch salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


      In a small skillet, add preserves and syrup. Cook until warm. Add salt and vanilla. Serve over pancakes or waffles.

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      I like to have a few go to recipes for quick weeknight meals. While I love to cook, I don’t really like to do it on weeknights. I like to make labor intensive meals over the weekend and eat the leftovers for a couple of days. Then, the rest of the week is made up of meals that take less than 20 minutes from start to finish. Sometimes they require a little work the night before, but for the most part I can cook in 20-30 minutes each night.

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      Pan seared fish or chicken is one of this quick meals. I cook it using the same method almost every time. I start by heating my pan. Then, coat the protein in flour mixed with spices. I taste the flour mixture to make sure that there is enough seasoning. Then. I add oil to the pan and sear it on one side. I always cook the first side the longest. Then I fill it and add butter, garlic and herbs. While the other side cooks, I baste the meat in the butter and herb mixture until cooked through. I serve it with some veggies (often roasted) and some kind of starch.

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      This tilapia recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight meal, especially during lent. Tilapia can be purchased for less than $3 per pound during lent. Plus, it is a delicious, restaurant quality meal in less than a half hour.

      Lemon Pepper Tilapia

      by Jessica

      Prep Time: 5 minutes

      Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

      Keywords: saute entree

      Ingredients (2 filets)

      • 2 tilapia filets
      • 1/4 cup flour
      • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
      • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon butter
      • 1 clove garlic, smashed
      • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
      • lemon
      • salt to taste


      Heat a skillet over medium heat.

      In a small dish, combine the flour and lemon pepper. Coat the fish in the four mixture.

      Add the oil to the hot pan. Add the fish filets to the pan and cook until the first side is brown (about 5 minutes). Flip over and cook and additional 1-2 minutes. Add the butter and garlic. Baste the fish with the butter. Cooking until the other side is brown. Add the cilantro and a squirt of lemon juice. Salt to taste.

      Serve with a wedge of lemon on the side.

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      Macaroni and cheese is my family’s favorite holiday menu item. We used to eat Stouffer’s when I was a kid. That is what my brother liked, so my grandma made it almost every time we ate dinner together. I never really thought about making macaroni and cheese from scratch until a few years ago. I started making every year for Christmas and Thanksgiving as part of our holiday menu.

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      This macaroni and cheese is gooey and creamy. It can be made in advance and baked just before serving. It makes fantastic leftovers. The cheeses are interchangeable. I typically use up whatever melty cheese that I have in my refrigerator. I like to always include some kind of orange cheddar (for the color) and fontina for the melting quality. Other than that, I use up the bits and pieces that melt well. Sometimes I have 6-8 cheeses in the macaroni and cheese.

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      The béchamel sauce is what makes the difference. Do not leave out the nutmeg, every good white sauce needs nutmeg. I like to grate it into the sauce so it has a vibrant nutmeg flavor. From the basic recipe below, you can adapt it any way you like. You could add some lobster just before baking or use bacon grease as the fat and sprinkle bacon on it.

      Macaroni and Cheese

      by Jessica

      Prep Time: 20 minutes

      Cook Time: 45-60 minutes

      Keywords: bake simmer entree side cheese pasta Thanksgiving Christmas fall winter

      Ingredients (8-12 servings)

      • 16 ounces whole wheat elbows or pasta of your choice
      • 2 tablespoons butter
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1/4 cup flour
      • 4 cups milk
      • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper)
      • pinch nutmeg
      • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
      • 1 1/2 pounds shredded cheese (1/2 pound gruyere, 1/2 pound sharp cheddar, 1/2 pound fontina, handful parmesan)
      • 1/3 pound sliced provolone
      • panko breadcrumbs


      Cook and drain the macaroni. Cook 2 minutes less than the package directions.

      In a large saucepan (I use 8 quart), heat butter and oil until melted on medium. Add flour to make a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes on medium to cook our the flour flavor.

      Whisk in milk. Add nutmeg, white pepper, and smoked paprika to taste. Cook on medium until the sauce thickens. When it starts to bubble, add cheese a handful at a time, whisking to incorporate. Reserve the provolone and some grated cheese for the top.

      When the cheese is melted, stir in macaroni. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish. Top with slices of provolone and remaining cheese. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.

      Bake at 400 for 35 to 50 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.

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      So, chili is one of my favorite meals. It always has been. I love how hearty it is. I like the different flavors of peppers. I also like to experiment with different kinds of chili. Last weekend, when I decided to make Chicken Mole,I knew that it was the perfect base for chili. I decided to only eat that delicious meal for one night so that we could enjoy the leftovers in chili.

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      Reinventing leftovers makes them seem like an entirely new meal with minimal work. In fact, most of the work in this recipe is cooking the peppers and onion. Once you have made the Chicken mole, most of the work is done.

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      Then, you are left with a rich, smokey, deep-flavored chili perfect for any cool night.

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      Chicken Mole Chili

      by Jessica

      Prep Time: 20 minutes

      Cook Time: 1 hour

      Keywords: simmer soup/stew

      Ingredients (8-10 bowls of soup)

      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 1 onion, diced
      • 2-3 peppers, assorted colors, diced
      • 4-6 poblano peppers, charred, deseeded, and diced
      • 1 habanero, deseeded and finely diced
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 29 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
      • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
      • 1 15 ounce can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
      • 1 15 ounce can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
      • leftover Chicken Mole
      • salt to taste
      • cotija cheese
      • cilantro
      • sour cream


      In an 8 quart pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and cook until tender. Add peppers and garlic, cooking until tender. Add tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, and links(Chicken Mole, http://www.simplecleanandhomemade.com/recipes/?recipe_id=6042084). SImmer for 30-60 minutes. Salt to taste.

      Garnish with cotija cheese, cilantro, and sour cream.

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