Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sausage, Kale, and Barley Stew

I made a few changes to the recipe card that was in my veg box, which included a large bunch of cavolo nero, and this is what we ended up with.  A delicious and heartily filling stew that everyone loved.

oil for frying
6-8 sausages (I used a mild Italian, but an apple variety or a traditional English banger would be nice)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup barley
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (start with four and use more as needed as the barley cooks)
salt and pepper to taste
large bunch cavolo nero or other kale, leaves stripped from the stalks and roughly chopped

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large pan.  Add the sausages and fry, turning now and then, until nicely browned all over.  Remove and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan and let it heat up.  Add onion and carrots and fry on medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until softened.  Add the barley, stir for a minute, then add the rosemary and stock.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, partially covered.  Return the sausages to the pan and simmer for another 20 minutes, partially covered.  Add chopped kale and simmer until wilted, 5-10 minutes, uncovered.  Add more stock a little bit at a time if the pan is getting too dry.  Check seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed, and serve hot with a crusty loaf.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Curried Carrot, Lentil and Coriander Soup

Making soup for my family is hit and miss.  Even if I place an enticingly warm baguette on the table, I never know how my little gingersnaps will respond.  Thankfully, this nutritious and tasty soup went over great and was a big hit!  The recipe came in our veg box, along with bright orange carrots and potent onions that went straight to the pot!  Personally, I prefer a bit of texture in my soup instead of blitzing the entire batch in my Vitamix before serving.  But it seemed to work with this one so I'll just go with it next time.  Make sure you use a good quality stock and season well.

2 Tbsp oil
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp ground ginger 
1 Tbsp curry powder
4-5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
15oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
handful fresh coriander (or cilantro), chopped
plain yogurt to serve, optional

Heat the oil in a pan, then add the onion and gently fry for 7-8 minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and carrots and fry for 2 minutes.  Add the lentils, stock, tomatoes and bay leaf.  Season.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are tender.  Add the coriander then blitz in a blender.  Check the seasoning and serve with a dollop of greek yogurt.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Overnight Egg Sandwiches

I'm all about make-ahead breakfast recipes.  I saw this in a Penzeys magazine and knew it would be a hit.  Similar to a breakfast casserole or soufflé, you can cater the "filling" to your family's taste.  This recipe makes a full 9x13 pan, but the leftovers were good again the second day with a little help from the toaster oven.  

10-12 slices sandwich bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups shredded cheese - your choice
10 large eggs
2 1/2 - 3 cups milk (the amount of milk should be roughly equal to the volume of eggs)
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp seasoning of your choice (I used Italian)

Optional Ingredients - pick and choose to suit those at your table:
1/2 lb. cooked, cumbled bacon
1/2 lb. cooked, crumbled sausage
1 small onion, minced
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup diced cooked vegetables like bell pepper, broccoli, leek, corn

Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Butter one side of the bread slices.  Cover the bottom of the dish with the bread butter-side-up.  Put the cheese and other fillings on top of the bread.  Add another layer of buttered bread.  Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and seasonings together thoroughly.  Pour over the bread, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Take the baking dish out of the fridge and place in a COLD oven.  Set the temperature for 350F and bake uncovered of ragout 1 hour.  It'll get golden brown and puffy, kind of like a soufflé.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Dip

I had a photo to go with this, but who knows when I'll get around to actually downloading and getting it on here.  And I'd hate for you to have to wait any longer to try out this festive dip.  Yum!

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
dash of cloves
caramel sauce to drizzle on top (optional)
graham crackers of gingersnap cookies for dipping

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer on low speed, blend together cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined, then increase mixer to medium and beat for 1 minute until smooth and fluffy.  Add in pumpkin, sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and mix until well blended and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.  Drizzle with caramel sauce, if using, and serve with crackers or cookies.  Store in refrigerator in an airtight container (if there's any left!).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Potato Pie

 I'd only heard of sweet potato pie a few months ago (true story).  It intrigued me.  Then, a few weeks ago, one of my gingersnaps found a book at the library titled Sweet Potato Pie.  We brought the book home, read the delightful story with colorful illustrations, and came to the end of the book to find none other than a recipe for sweet potato pie.  "Let's make it!!"  Ok!

Making it was as easy as . . . ahem . . . pie.  And I'm pretty sure this pie is my new obsession.  I don't know what it is, but I like it so much I've decided I'm making this on Thursday instead of a pumpkin pie (and if you know me, you know how much I love pumpkin).  The texture is similar to pumpkin pie, but the flavor is subtly different, a little less sweet, and so delicious!  So if you're looking for a change on your Thanksgiving table and sweet potato pie is a new concept to you like it was to me not long ago, I suggest this yummy dessert (topped with whipped cream, of course!).

1 pie crust
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (approximately 3 large)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp butter at room temperature
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunks.  Boil or steam until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain off water and put hot potatoes into large bowl.  Mash well.

Add all remaining ingredients except cinnamon and beat sweet potato mixture until smooth.  Pour warm filling into pie crust and sprinkle top with cinnamon.

Bake for about 1 hour, until filling is firm and crust is golden brown.  Let cool then serve slightly warm with whipped cream!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagna

My husband and I really liked this vegetarian version on one of our favorite dishes.  It was delicious with a light hint of cheese and herbs.  And once all the ingredients are prepped (which many can be done ahead of time), the lasagna isn't that hard to put together.  I used one butternut squash and one acorn squash, doubling the recipe to put a pan in the freezer for later.  

2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or purchased
9 lasagna noodles, cooked
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh pepper
2 cups roasted winter squash 
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

Preheat the oven to 350F.
In the bottom of an 8×10 (I used 8x8) casserole, spread 1/2 cup of marinara sauce and top with three lasagna
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, salt and pepper together until foamy. Add the roasted squash and beat it into the egg until combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps.
Sprinkle the thyme and the Parmesan into the squash mixture and mix well. Spread the mixture over the lasagna noodles in the pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Layer another 3 noodles in the casserole and top with 1 cup of marinara sauce. Place the remaining 3 noodles in the dish and spread the last 1/2 cup of sauce over the top of them.
Finish the lasagna with 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Top with 5-7 roasted tomatoes, if you wish.
Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the cheese is golden and the sides of the lasagna are bubbling.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Waffles

My youngest gingersnap was too bothered by the mud from the pumpkin patch and couldn't make it out on her own.  But despite the mud, we are big fans of pumpkins around here - both picking them and eating them!  You can usually find a random amount of pumpkin puree in my fridge these days, just waiting to be used.  And I'm so glad I used some to try out these waffles!  I made them twice in one week and wised up the second time, doubling the batch to freeze some for a quick breakfast in the near future.  The hints of spice are just right and the cornmeal gives the waffles a good texture (less so if you grind the cornmeal very fine).  I like a dollop of yogurt and warm maple syrup on top, but my gingersnaps gobbled them up plain as snacks!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal, finely ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp brown sugar (packed)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (make your own using lemon juice)
1/2 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée
4 Tbsp butter, melted (plus a little more for brushing the waffle iron)

Preheat your waffle iron.
In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until there are no more brown sugar clumps. Add the buttermilk, pumpkin purée, melted butter and whisk until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Brush a little melted butter over the wells of the hot waffle maker (to make it easier to remove the waffles.) When your waffle maker is hot, working in batches, ladle the batter onto the center of the waffle iron wells, not all the way to the edge, and slowly lower the top lid of the waffle iron. Cook until your waffle iron indicates that the waffles are ready, or until steam stops coming out of the sides of the waffle iron, about 4 to 5 minutes. Open the waffle iron and carefully lift the edge of a waffle with a fork to remove the waffles from the waffle iron.
Serve with warmed maple syrup and a side of apple sauce or apple butter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pasta Shells with Mushrooms and Asparagus in Boursin Cheese Sauce

This recipe wasn't on my menu from Jessie last week, but it does come for her site and it is delicious! My husband and I made it together for an at-home date night.  If you haven't tasted the goodness of Boursin cheese, it's worth your attention!

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (5.2 ounce) package pepper Boursin cheese
3/4 pound uncooked pasta shells
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and heat the olive oil. Cut the mushroom caps in half, and slice 1/4 inch thick. Cook mushrooms in the skillet 8 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned. Season with salt. Stir in the chicken broth and Boursin cheese. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until well blended.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add shell pasta and cook for 5 minutes. Place the asparagus into the pot, and continue cooking 5 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the asparagus is tender; drain. Toss with the mushroom sauce to serve.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Toffee Fruit Dip

Mmmmmm . . . this dip was so yummy!  I may have used a spoon to take a few more bites after the fruit was gone.

1 8oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp. vanilla
Toffee pieces (crushed up Heath candy bar works well)

Blend cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla together.  Stir in toffee pieces.  Voila!  Top with a sprinkling of more toffee bits and serve with fruit slices (apples and pears worked well!).  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pork Verkenshaas

It was a difficult decision, but this ended up being my favorite meal from Jessie's menu.  The pork is tender and juicy, something I rarely manage unless I use the crock pot.  And the sauce was deliciously rich.  It was simple to put together, but tasted special, especially served next to a heaping mound of garlic mashed potatoes.  

2 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 pounds total), trimmed (I only used one tenderloin that was a little over a pound and didn't trim it)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1/4 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves (1/2 tsp. dried)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (didn't use at all)

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet heat oil and 4 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown pork on all sides. Reduce heat to moderate and cook pork, covered, turning occasionally, 10 minutes. Transfer pork to a shallow baking dish and roast in oven until a meat thermometer registers 155° F. for barely pink meat, 10 to 15 minutes.

While pork is roasting, add remaining tablespoon butter and shallot to skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened. Add wine, broth, and mustard and simmer, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by about half. Add cream and basil and simmer until thickened. Stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
Cut pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Pour sauce over pork and serve with mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Italian Tacos

My middle gingersnap said this was her favorite meal from Jessie's menu.  I admit I raised one eyebrow at the thought of an Italian-style taco, but they were so simple and good!  I liked the beef/sausage combo. 

1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 pound ground beef (I just used 1/2 pound)
1 (16 ounce) jar tomato pasta sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
8 taco shells, heated
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning

Combine the ground beef and Italian sausage in a large heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease, and season meat with Italian seasoning.

Heat the pasta sauce in a saucepan over medium heat until heated through. When the sauce is warm, stir in the sugar.

Fill taco shells with the meat mixture, spoon pasta sauce over, and top with mozzarella cheese.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Revel Bars

I asked Jessie how it was that we've been friends as long as we have and I had never had these?!   They are amazing!  Truly.  Make a batch right now.  The gals from my Bible study kept me from eating the entire pan myself and couldn't stop saying how good they were!  I thought the bars were best having cooled just a little from the oven while the top was still a little crunchy.

3 cups quick cooking oats
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat together 1 cup butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla. In another bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt; stir into butter mixture. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
Pat 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over the top, and dot with remaining oat mixture.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in preheated oven. Let cool on a wire rack, then cut into bars.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Carne Adovada

Jessie's photo
Thank you, Jessie, for introducing my family to this deliciousness!   My oldest gingersnap walked in from school and exclaimed, "It smells like another country in here!"  Talk about tasty, moist, versatile meat.  I could easily have just eaten a spoonful of the meat (and did!), but it was also delicious served with rice and beans, and wrapped up in a tortilla with other burrito-type fixings.  You have to marinate the meat overnight and then have your oven on for at least four hours, so it's a great meal to make as the weather is getting cooler.

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons New Mexico red chile powder
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/3 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt (I would cut this in half next time)
3 pounds cubed pork stew meat (I used a 2-pound pork belly slab, trimmed the fat, and cut into large chunks)

In a skillet or frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in flour and brown until light golden brown. Blend in chile powder. Slowly add water, stirring until lumps are removed. Add garlic, oregano, cumin and salt. Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place pork in a large baking or casserole pan. When chile mixture has cooled, add it to pork and mix until pork is covered with chile. Cover and marinate pork for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Bake pork, uncovered, in preheated oven for at least 4 1/2 hours, or until meat is well cooked, tender and falls apart.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Southwestern Egg Rolls with Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Last menu swap, Jessie had me frying shrimp (which I just realized I never shared the recipe - will do soon!).  This time I fried southwestern egg rolls that were fantastic!  I'm not one to crave fried food, but I'll not admit to how many of these egg rolls I ended up eating!  They were only made better by the cilantro sauce - it's like the sauce was made for these egg rolls.  A must-eat pair!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half
2 tablespoons minced green onion
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons diced jalapeno peppers
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
5 (6 inch) flour tortillas
1 quart oil for deep frying

Rub 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over chicken breast. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook chicken approximately 5 minutes per side, until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in green onion and red pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until tender.
Dice chicken and mix into the pan with onion and red pepper. Mix in corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until well blended and tender. Remove from heat and stir in Monterey Jack cheese so that it melts.
Wrap tortillas with a clean, lightly moist cloth. Microwave on high approximately 1 minute, or until hot and pliable.

Spoon even amounts of the mixture into each tortilla. Fold ends of tortillas, then roll tightly around mixture. Secure with toothpicks. Arrange in a medium dish, cover with plastic, and place in the freezer. Freeze at least 4 hours.

In a large, deep skillet, heat oil for deep frying to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Deep fry frozen, stuffed tortillas 10 minutes each, or until dark golden brown. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Cilantro Dipping Sauce

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 (7 ounce) can tomatillo salsa
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt (I used regular salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (about one cup)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine everything in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Place in a serving bowl.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chicken, Cheddar, Apple Salad with Spiced Pecans

Last week my friend, Jessie, and I did another menu swap!  I almost always cook at least two new recipes in a week of meals, but throwing five new recipes into one week is so much fun!  So each post this week will be one of the recipes Jessie gave me.

This salad was fantastic!  I cheated and went with store-bought spiced pecans, but we all still ate it up.  The dressing was more than enough, which means I'll probably be making the salad again next week!  The directions look long, but it's really a very simple salad to throw together.  

  • The Salad:
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3-4 medium)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (about 8-10 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped or sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup spiced pecans, store-bought or following the simple recipe below

  • Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup cranberry juice or water
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup red wine or raspberry vinegar
  • 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Quick Spiced Pecans: (or you can find them pre-made on a shelf with the croutons)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • For the chicken and salad, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season both sides with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the oil is shimmering and hot. Add the chicken and cook until it is nicely browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken over, add the water, and cover the skillet. Cook the chicken, letting it poach, until it is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it cool slightly before carving.

  • Toss the lettuce, cheese, apple, pecans, onion and dried cranberries together. Divide the salad among the serving plates. Slice the chicken on a diagonal and arrange over the salad. Serve with the vinaigrette. I prefer to let everyone douse their own salad with dressing, but you could toss the salad with 1/2 cup or so of the vinaigrette before assembling it on the plates and serve the extra dressing on the side.

  • For the pecans, melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the spices and then the pecans. Toast the nuts, stirring often, until the color deepens slightly and they are lightly toasted, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a bowl and toss with the sugar. Let them cool completely before tossing with the salad.

  • For the dressing, combine the cranberry juice (or water) and cranberries in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for one minute until hot. Process the hot cranberry mixture, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, mustard, salt and pepper in a blender until the shallot and garlic are finely chopped. With the blender running, add the oil and continue to blend until the dressing is smooth and well-combined. Thin the dressing, if needed, with additional cranberry juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Butter

As we had into Fall, I wanted to share something I made last year but never got around to posting.  There are lots of different recipes for pumpkin butter floating around, but this is the one I used and was pleased with how it turned out.  The flavor was nicely spiced and smooth.  I made several batches to give away in decorated jars.  The teachers seemed especially grateful!  

1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree, approx. 3 1/2 cups or fresh
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2-1.5 teaspoons ground ginger (optional, sometimes I omit)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil, covered with lid ajar (I prop it with a wooden spoon). Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer, covered with lid ajar, for 35-45 minutes, stirring frequently. Be careful as the mixture bubbles and pops!
Remove from heat and let it sit for a few minutes before removing lid. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice. Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Makes enough to fill one large mason jar or about 3.5 cups.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Greek Panzanella

We are big fans of Greek-inspired food.  This salad was delicious!  If you're needing something to accompany the salad, go for some chicken strips laced on skewers and marinated in this delicious dressing before grilling.  It'd be a total winner dinner in my book!

6 cups bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (day old is best)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced (my kids don't love raw onion, so I left this out, but would have preferred it for myself)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
8 ounces feta, cubed
2-3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F

Spread the bread cubes onto a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Toss, then toast for about 10 minutes or until browned.

In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Serve slightly warm and the bread will still be very crisp  or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend and the bread cubes will be a little softer.  Any longer the bread starts to get soggy.  (You can always prepare and even combine everything except the bread ahead of time and just add that when you're ready to serve.)

adapted from recipe found here

Monday, October 7, 2013

Caramel Apple Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Frosting

Welcome Fall!  We are happy to see you, especially if it means we get to eat desserts like this!  I would highly recommend working in this delicious treat to your Fall menu this month.  The cake is moist and yummy by itself, but add the cinnamon whipped cream cheese and top with caramel sauce - it melts in your mouth!  I put the assembled cake in the fridge without the sauce until we were ready to eat.  The slightly warm caramel drizzled all over put the finishing touch on this decadent dessert that is definitely worth sharing with friends.  

  • Apple Cake:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2+ tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • 3 cups fresh chopped apples

  • Caramel topping:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk

  • Cinnamon Whipped Frosting:
  • 6oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 12oz whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • Apple Cake:
  • Prep two 8" round cake pans with non-stick spray 
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla.
  • Add in the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and mix until combined
  • Fold in chopped apples.
  • Divide batter evenly between two pans and bake at 300F for 55-60 minutes. 
  • When the cakes are finished baking, allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

  • Cinnamon Whipped Frosting:
  • Stir together the softened cream cheese, cinnamon and powdered sugar until well combined.
  • Beat the whipping cream and vanilla until medium peaks form.
  • Scoop one-third of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mix and gently fold together until well combined.
  • Add the the rest of the whipped cream to the cinnamon whipped cream cheese mix and gently fold until well combined.
  • Caramel Topping:
  • In a small pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
  • Add both sugars and stir until dissolved.
  • Add in the evaporated milk.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  • Let it cool slightly before drizzling over cake.
  • To assemble:
  • Layer the apple cakes with the cinnamon whipped frosting. Pour the cooled caramel topping over the top.
Adapted from this recipe

    Wednesday, October 2, 2013

    Potato, Chicken, and Green Bean Bake

    If you've seen this meal idea floating around Pinterest, I'm here to say it's as good and as easy as advertised.  The options for spice flavoring are endless and you can't beat having just one pan to wash up after dinner, especially since my family basically licks the pan clean making my job even easier!  I've made this twice now, both times to requests for more and each time making a couple adjustments.  So I'm posting here what I'll do in the future.  

    2-3 cups fresh or frozen green beans
    4-6 medium potatoes, washed well (peeled if you want) and cut into large chunks
    2 pounds chicken, cut into large portions (I used a combination of breasts and thighs, cutting the breasts into halves and the thigh into thirds)
    1/3 cup butter
    3 Tbsp seasoning mix (see below for some suggestions)

    Preheat oven to 350.

    Using a 9x13 baking dish, place vegetables and chicken in rows with the chicken in the middle (see photo above).  Cut butter into chunks, distributing over the pan evenly.  Sprinkle seasoning evenly on top of everything.  Cover with foil.  Bake 60 minutes.  Done!  (If you want more crispy/textured potatoes, bake un-covered.  But stir the potatoes once half-way through to help them cook more evenly).

    Seasoning suggestions:
    Ranch Dressing mix packet (this was our favorite)
    simple salt and pepper
    Lemon Pepper

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Strawberry Banana Bread

    I scored some strawberries marked way down in price because they needed to be eaten right away.  No problem for us!  My family was happy to eat this moist loaf of strawberry banana bread for breakfast with some yogurt on the side.

    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup sugar
    3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
    1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana, about 3 large bananas
    2 eggs
    1/4 cup greek yogurt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a standard bread pan and set aside.

    In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. 

    In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients and mix well.

    Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the banana mixture. Stir until just combined. Gently fold in sliced strawberries.

    Bake for 55 mins or until golden brown and cooked through. Cool on wire rack before serving.

    adapted from this recipe

    Thursday, September 26, 2013

    Zucchini Bacon Quiche

    Jessie's quiche was a total winner for everyone in my family.  I kicked myself for not making two to freeze  one or share the yumminess with friends.  The cream cheese on the bottom of the crust gave the quiche a special creamy texture that was delicious.  

    1 frozen 9-inch deep dish pie shell 
    4 ounces cream cheese

    6 strips of bacon, diced
    1-2 cups of roughly chopped zucchini
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 clove of garlic, chopped
    2 eggs beaten
    1/4 tsp of dried basil
    1/4 tsp of dried oregano
    1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
    1/2 tsp of pepper
    generous pinch of salt

    Preheat oven to 425
    Pre-Bake crust for 10 minutes.
    Cool completely.
    Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove and drain on paper towel.
    Using two tablespoons of the bacon drippings, saute the prepped zucchini, onion, and garlic until tender.
    In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, seasonings, bacon and zucchini mixture.
    Cover the bottom of the pie crust with the cream cheese, cut into small pieces.
    Pour the zucchini mixture into baked, cooled crust.
    Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover the edges of the pastry with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.  Mine was in for almost 30 minutes.

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