Main Dishes

Slow Cooker Short Ribs

Slow Cooker Short Ribs  |  Lemon & Mocha

This is a decadent, belly-warming, curl-up-on-the-couch-afterwards dinner. Isn’t that the epitome of a fall and winter meal?

Slow Cooker Short Ribs  |  Lemon & Mocha

These Slow Cooker Short Ribs are full of rich flavor and tender meat. It literally falls off the bone and there’s no knives required for eating this dish. I feel like I don’t use my slow cooker nearly enough, but it is perfect for these short ribs.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Short ribs are unapologetically rich so I fully embraced it and added crispy pork belly as well. If you’ve never had pork belly, it’s basically bacon before it has been cured and smoked. Like bacon, it gives off grease while it cooks, which we will be using to sauté the mushrooms, onions, carrots and garlic. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, we won’t be apologizing for it because it’s so delicious. The other reason I used pork belly is because it is a very inexpensive cut of meat; opposite of short ribs, which are definitely pricey. I used the pork belly and the mushrooms to help us stretch our meal out.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs  |  Lemon & Mocha

If the thought of using pork belly makes you nervous you could substitute in some slab bacon or even pancetta, although I’ve never tried it with pancetta so I’m not sure how much that would change the flavor profile. Short ribs are a pricier cut of meat so I usually make it for special occasions, such as Christmas dinner, but it is also one of Matt’s favorite dishes so a couple times a winter I’ll make it to treat ourselves.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since it’s a heavier entree I like to serve it with cauliflower mashed potatoes to help balance the meal. Find that recipe here!

Slow Cooker Short Ribs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Slow Cooker Short Ribs
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2½ pounds bone-in short ribs or 1½ pounds boneless short ribs (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ pound pork belly slices, cut into small pieces
  • 5 ounces whole cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • ½ onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 4 medium carrots, ends removed, scrubbed and cut into 1” pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2½ tablespoons water
Directions
  1. Season the short ribs all over with the salt and pepper, pressing into the meat as needed.
  2. In a large high-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Brown the short ribs on all sides then place in the bottom of a slow cooker. Carefully wipe any excess oil from the skillet.
  3. Heat the skillet to medium-high and add the pieces of pork belly. Cook until browned, stirring occasionally, being cautious about any popping grease. Add the mushrooms, onion, carrots and garlic. Cook until lightly browned then add the contents of the skillet to the slow cooker. Add the beef broth, tomato paste, parsley and bay leaf to the slow cooker. Stir then slow cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. When the meat is tender, discard the bones and bay leaf. Then move the meat and veggies to a serving bowl leaving just the juices in the slow cooker. Keep the contents of the serving bowl warm. If there’s a lot of excess fat on the meat, place the fatty piece of beef on a cutting board and use a knife or fork to shred the meat away from the fat. Discard the fat and return the meat to the serving bowl.
  5. Skim the fat off the juices in the slow cooker. Transfer the juices to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water. Add to the boiling juices and let cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve the sauce with the short ribs and vegetables.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash  |  Lemon & Mocha

As I’m writing this post it is cold, rainy and seriously gloomy outside, making it the perfect time to write all about cozy comfort food. This is an easy veggie-packed turkey chili that gets scooped into creamy roasted butternut squash halves. I’m feeling warmer just looking at these photos! I’m kidding, I’m still chilly, but now I’m also hungry.

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash  |  Lemon & Mocha

Of course because I’m me, aka food-obsessed, I still remember the first time I made this dish. I made it for Matt and I in a teeny kitchen; I have no idea how I sliced the butternut squashes in half since our knife was horrible and probably missing the tip. Side note: for best and safest results, make sure you use a good, really sharp, big knife for halving the squashes. It probably took a lot of muscle, cursing, almost cut fingers and help from Matt, but when you’re determined to eat some chili in butternut squash bowls you can make anything happen!

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash  |  Lemon & Mocha

When we sat down to eat it on our tv trays – there was no kitchen table – we were both in love. Then I didn’t make it again until now because my never-ending waiting list of recipes got in the way. Thankfully when I was looking back through my Rachael Ray’s Look + Cook cookbook I stumbled across it and knew I needed to make it again immediately.

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash  |  Lemon & Mocha

My version is a bit different from the original for quite a few reasons, but one in particular is because I’ve added ground turkey instead of keeping the recipe vegetarian. If you do want to eat the meal meatless, skip the ground turkey and instead add in a can of black beans per Rachael’s recipe.

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since there’s a gooey layer of cheese over the top it’s a little difficult to see all the different vegetables packed in there. We have mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini, corn and onions – and don’t forget the butternut squash! Although I actually just Googled butternut squash and it’s a fruit because of its seeds, but it “is used as a vegetable,” whatever that means. I’ll take that to mean we’re “using it as a vegetable” in this dish so you’re being super healthy and can splurge on dessert, okay? Enjoy!

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash  |  Lemon & Mocha

Autumn Harvest Chili Stuffed Butternut Squash
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces ground turkey
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into ½” dice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Chili powder, see note
  • 1 can diced hatch chiles
  • 10 ounces frozen corn, or 3 ears of corn on the cob shucked
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1 cup shredded yellow cheddar cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Arrange the butternut squash, flesh side facing up, on a large baking sheet. Drizzle the squash halves with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash over so they’re flesh side down and roast for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, carefully turn the squash over and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the edges. If your squash are larger they will need more time to cook to become tender.
  3. While the squash is cooking, heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned, breaking up in the pan as needed. Remove the cooked turkey from the skillet and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the bell pepper and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add the vegetable stock, smoked paprika, dried oregano, chili powder, can of hatch chiles, corn, tomato paste and maple syrup or honey. Using an immersion blender or a food processor, puree a cup or two of the chili mixture. This helps thicken it. Add the pureed chili back in (if you used a food processor) and add the ground turkey back in. Let cook for 5 more minutes then reduce heat to low until the butternut squash is done.
  5. When the butternut squash halves are done roasting and the chili is ready, scoop the chili into the butternut squash. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the mounded chili. Broil the filled squashes for 3 minutes to melt the cheese then serve.
Notes
I don’t like spicy food so I only used about ¼ teaspoon of chili powder. The original recipe calls for 2-3 tablespoons of chili powder so use according to your preference.

Recipe adapted from Rachel Ray’s Look + Cook.
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Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Today is Lemon & Mocha’s five year anniversary! Can you believe it? Five years ago today I published the first ever Lemon & Mocha blog post and here we are with another first – the first ever mac and cheese recipe on the site! Can you believe that? I can’t decide which thing shocks me more. I think, and anyone who knows me well will agree, that this being the first mac and cheese recipe is the most surprising part of today by far. I am OBSESSED with macaroni and cheese. I have been since I was a kid and I’m equally surprised I haven’t just turned into a big mac and cheese noodle so far. Although not for a lack of trying – check out my Halloween costume from last year!

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

When I was in middle school I would come home from school every day and eat an entire box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I took my box mac and cheese very seriously, too. I remember one time being at my best friend’s house and telling her mom not to worry, that I would make the box of mac and cheese because I knew the secret way to make it taste best (more butter, less milk, is key!). Nowadays, I’m all about the Annie’s mac and cheese. But what I love most of all is a cheesy, gooey, flavor packed homemade macaroni and cheese.

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

The flavor packed part is really important because a quality mac and cheese needs to be more than just noodles and melted cheese sauce. It has to have depths to its flavors so each bite takes you on a flavor roller coaster. Not a huge upside down one, but like a medium curvy one so just when you think you’ve settled in another flavor curve hits your palate. I usually use multiple types of cheeses and a little dijon mustard in all my homemade mac and cheeses as a start for that extra depth of flavor.

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

This mushroom version is some next level mac and cheese though since it’s loaded with umami. If you aren’t familiar with the term, check out my Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms post! We’re sautéing both cremini and shiitake mushrooms in shallots and garlic before putting them in the dish so they’ve reached their peak deliciousness. We’re also using dried mushrooms, which get re-hydrated in some warm water before being sautéed. The reason we do this is so we create a rich mushroom liquid that we use right in the Mushroom Mac and Cheese. This lets rich mushroom flavor permeate every bite, even if you don’t get an actual piece of mushroom.

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’ve made this mac and cheese in the past, but this most recent time Matt and I couldn’t get enough of it. The minute I took my last photo I grabbed a fork and started eating it right from the serving bowl – smelling it while photographing had been tortuous! We didn’t want to eat it all over the weekend because it’s, you know, not the healthiest, so I froze a container of it. Needless to say, that container promptly got defrosted the next night!

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

I can’t believe this is the first macaroni and cheese recipe I’m posting on Lemon & Mocha, but I promise it won’t be my last. Also, how many times did I just type mac and cheese? It must be my favorite word combination. Thank you all so much for continuing to follow this journey with me! As much as I pour my heart into my cooking, I equally pour my heart into my writing each week and connecting with everyone in this tiny online space brings me so much joy. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Mushroom Mac and Cheese
 
Yield: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 pound dried medium shell pasta
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces whole cremini mushrooms, stems removed and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1½ cups shredded fontina cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded sharp or smoked cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Submerge the dried mushrooms in the hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. When they are done, remove them from the water, squeeze them out, then chop and place with the other chopped mushrooms. Make sure to reserve the mushroom stock.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9x13” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the box instructions. Drain.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped cremini and shiitake mushrooms. Add the dried oregano and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms have stopped releasing liquid and are browned. Set aside.
  5. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes, whisking constantly. The roux should be slightly darkened. Add the white wine, whisk to combine and let cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and whisk. Once the milk has warmed, add 2 cups shredded gruyere, 1 cup shredded fontina and 1 cup shredded cheddar, whisking after each addition. Once smooth, add 3 tablespoons of the mushroom stock (the water the dried mushrooms were in), the mustard and the cooked mushroom mixture. Stir to combine. Add the cooked pasta and stir to completely coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup shredded fontina cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

 

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Happy Friday, friends! It seems only right to celebrate the upcoming weekend with something ooey, gooey and cheesy. Since it’s already October we can’t forget the fall flavors either! This grilled cheese is loaded with tart granny smith apple slices, a sweet and spicy maple mustard and some maple smoked cheddar. I only have one other grilled cheese recipe on Lemon & Mocha and while the Hobo Egg Grilled Cheese is an epic sandwich, it’s about time I shared some more cheesy goodness.

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

This grilled cheese has been in motion ever since I bought some spicy maple mustard and some maple smoked cheddar cheese. Pemberton Farms is a local market and nursery Matt and I like to go to and mid-summer we went on a Saturday to buy a bunch of flowers and bushes. We never have an issue parking there, but there was a line to get in the parking lot. We circled the block before finally finding a street spot and headed in to see that they were having a customer appreciation day complete with dozens of local vendors giving away samples of food, beer, wine and spirits. There was even free barbecue in the parking lot and a live band in the outdoor nursery! Needless to say, it was a bad day to try and buy flowers, but a perfect day to eat some free food and chat with local vendors.

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

I tried this maple smoked cheddar from Grafton Village Cheese that was creamy with a little sweetness from the maple and had a nice smoky flavor. I commented that the cheese would be really good on a grilled cheese with apples and the woman at the vendor booth said she loves making them with April’s Maple spicy maple mustard. I knew she was onto something so we bought both the cheese and the mustard. I’ve been waiting a while to make this grilled cheese since I wanted to make it in the fall and it was definitely worth the wait. Although I most likely won’t be waiting weeks to have it again!

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since April’s Maple is really local I wrote in the recipe for you to make your own maple mustard with equal parts spicy mustard and pure maple syrup, but if you spot April’s Maple products near you I definitely recommend trying them out! If you can’t find the Grafton Village maple smoked cheddar (although I noticed online that Wegman’s seems to carry it, even in some non-local towns), you can substitute with any smoked cheddar, smoked gouda or a sharp cheddar.

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Other than the outrageous fall flavors inside, the key to a perfect grilled cheese is how you cook the outside. My two biggest tips are 1) cook it low and slow so the cheese has plenty of time to melt and 2) spread mayonnaise on the outside of your bread. Yes, mayonnaise! I first learned this trick from Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, which is a Boston food truck. The mayo gets cooked off, but it creates a perfectly browned and crunchy outside to your grilled cheese. Every bit of that outside bread gets a very thin coat of the mayo making sure that the entire surface area of that bread will get browned in the pan. Definitely try this one!

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Maple Apple Grilled Cheese
 
Yield: 1 grilled cheese
Ingredients
  • 1½ teaspoons Dijon or spicy mustard
  • 1½ teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 3 ounces maple smoked cheddar, sliced
  • 6 thin slices of granny smith apple, about ¼ of a large apple
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, combine the mustard and maple syrup. Spread over the inside of one of the slices of sourdough bread.
  2. Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Spread 1 teaspoon of the mayonnaise on the other side of the bread you spread the maple mustard on. Place the bread in the frying pan, mayonnaise side down. Next evenly place the slices of cheese on top of the mustard then evenly place the slices of apple. Spread the other teaspoon of mayonnaise on the outside of the second slice of bread and place that slice of bread, mayonnaise side up, on top of the sandwich stack. Cover the grilled cheese with a pot lid big enough to cover it.
  3. Cook until the cheese melts then carefully flip. This will depend on how thin you sliced your cheese, but mine cooked on medium-low for 7 minutes. Once you flip the grilled cheese leave it uncovered. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook just until the bottom bread gets browned and crispy, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan, let cool for a minute or two, then cut and enjoy!
Notes
If you can’t find maple smoked cheddar, use smoked cheddar. If you can’t find smoked cheddar you can substitute with smoked gouda or sharp cheddar.

 

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos  |  Lemon & Mocha

Did you know that tomorrow is National Taco Day? I have zero idea who decided Thursday, October 4th should be National Taco Day instead of a Tuesday, but maybe they just wanted people to celebrate tacos twice this week instead of stacking the celebrations. It also seems a little odd to have National Taco Day in October instead of some spring or summer date when tacos seem to be more on people’s menus, but I am definitely not complaining. Just curious. I’m especially not complaining because it prompted me to create these outrageous Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos! Spiced chicken thighs are layered inside warm tortillas along with some cabbage, cucumber and carrots before being drizzled with an Asian peanut sauce. The tacos are then topped with chopped peanuts and pickled red onions.

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos  |  Lemon & Mocha

The initial inspiration for doing a Thai flavored taco smothered in peanut sauce came from my favorite burrito chain, Boloco. You might remember them from my New England Harvest Salad post, where I even mentioned their Bangkok Thai burrito. I knew if peanut sauce could work so well in a burrito that it would easily translate to tacos. Even though the easy microwave peanut sauce, similar to the sauce for the Sesame Peanut Noodles with Chicken, is delicious, the real star is the marinated chicken thighs. Lately I’ve been experimenting with spices I’m not as familiar with, such as turmeric and coriander, and Matt and I have surprised ourselves by being really into all the dishes I’ve tried so far. I also have been using chicken breasts for all my recipes for so long that I forgot how succulent and juicy chicken thighs can be.

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos  |  Lemon & Mocha

The chicken only needs to marinate for one hour or it can be left overnight if you want it ready when you come home from work. The spiced chicken thighs get baked in the oven for about 18 minutes and after sampling a bite it was really hard to save all the chicken for the tacos and not dive right in. The seasonings along with the lime juice and zest have such a good balance of citrus, nuttiness and warmth, without being spicy. Unless you want it spicy and then you can certainly kick up the chili powder.

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos  |  Lemon & Mocha

Another element in this recipe that I totally took from Boloco is the pickled red onions. Pickled red onions are sweet, vinegary, crunchy and have a very subtle onion flavor. They’re also bright pink and really amp up most burrito or taco combinations. The recipe here is for quick pickled red onions so all you need to do is heat apple cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt before pouring over the thinly sliced red onions to let them sit for one hour. That’s it! It’s so simple I’m shocked I don’t pile pickled red onions on every dish I make.

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos  |  Lemon & Mocha

All together this taco has a winning combination of savoriness, acidity and sweetness and I am declaring it definitely worthy of being enjoyed on National Taco Day – and all subsequent Taco Tuesdays!

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos  |  Lemon & Mocha

Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos
 
Yield: 4 servings, 8 mini tacos
Ingredients
for the peanut sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
for the pickled red onions
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
for the tacos
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon chili powder (depending on spice tolerance)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Zest from ½ lime
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 8 6-inch tortillas, warmed
  • ½ cup sliced red cabbage
  • ½ cup matchstick cut cucumber (see note)
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts
Directions
for the peanut sauce
  1. Combine the lime juice, peanut butter, soy sauce, water and sesame oil in a small bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds and stir until smooth.
for the pickled red onions
  1. Combine the water, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves then remove from the heat.
  2. Place the sliced red onions in a bowl then pour the vinegar mixture over top. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
for the tacos
  1. In a container or bowl large enough to hold the marinating chicken, combine the minced garlic, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger, chili powder, salt, black pepper and lime zest. Add the chicken thighs and toss until they’re fully coated. Marinate the chicken for at least one hour (it is safe to marinate for as long as overnight if you would prefer).
  2. You can grill or bake the chicken. See the recipe note for grilling instructions. To bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil then place the chicken in a single layer. Bake the chicken for 18-20 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Let the chicken rest for a couple minutes then slice.
  3. Top each warmed tortilla with the sliced chicken, red cabbage, cucumber, carrot, parsley and peanuts, dividing between the 8 tacos. Top each taco with some pickled red onions then drizzle each taco with the peanut sauce.
Notes
To cut the cucumber into matchsticks, first cut off the ends of your cucumber. Then, cut your cucumber in half or thirds if it’s really long so you have two (or three) pieces of cucumber. Then cut each piece into ¼” thick slabs. Stack the slabs and cut them into ¼” thick matchsticks.
To grill the chicken: Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. If you want to make sure you don’t overcook your chicken, you could grill them until they reach just over 160 degrees F and then allow for some carryover cooking. This is when the chicken continues to cook after it’s been removed from the grill. Temp it after a few minutes and make sure it has risen to 165 degrees F.