Friday, December 21, 2012

Radicchio, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I love salads!  I could eat salad every day and probably not get tired of it ever!  I don't think I'd even miss eating meat (since we rarely do anyway).  Although dried cranberries and walnuts or pecans are the norm in salads this time of year, pears are a new addition for me.

I had no idea I was going to like this salad so much. I think what made it for me was the goat cheese and the dressing. Mmmm!

Radicchio, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
for the salad:
10 oz bag baby spinach
1/2 small head radicchio, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 pears, sliced or chopped
2-4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

for the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp. dijon mustard
pinch of salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil

Put spinach and chopped radicchio in a large salad bowl and toss with remaining salad ingredients.  In a half-pint mason jar add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and shake vigorously. Serve over salad.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Caprese Lasagna

Mmm, I was so excited to make this.  I haven't  made lasagna in FOREVER!!  This is just one of those comfort foods that you can't live without and have to make just once in a while.  I don't do a whole lot with dairy because of my hubby and kids and we just try not to eat much dairy in general.  But, I had whole milk (which I rarely buy) in the fridge needing to be used, so I made ricotta, and I had a whole 4 oz. package of fresh basil that had to be used as well and 4 little tomatoes sitting on my counter begging to be thrown in the mix. 

I made this super simple because, ya know, you just have those nights where you  need something quick and easy that doesn't taste like cardboard.  You can make both the ricotta and tomato sauce ahead of time, even a day or two before.  In fact, I just used my bottled Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce, which I made at the end of summer.  Can't get any easier than popping off a lid and pouring it out.  And it's still homemade!

I LOVED the flavors of this lasagna.  It's light and fresh and tastes like it just came out of the garden. No heavy meat sauce needed here, you will be completely satisfied and I guarantee you'll be begging for more.

Easy Caprese Lasagna
8 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Barilla brand)
1 cup Homemade Ricotta Cheese
10 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg
4 tomatoes, sliced (roma or vine-ripened)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
2 cups Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce
2 oz. mozzarella chees

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta,  2 cups of mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and egg. 

In an 8 1/2 x 11-inch baking pan ( just smaller than a cake pan) spread about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom.  Layer with 2 1/2 sheets of lasagna noodles, half of the ricotta mixture and about 9 slices of tomato.  Top with about another half cup of tomato sauce and a few ribbons of basil. Repeat with another layer.  Top with 2 1/2 sheets of noodles, another 1/2 cup of sauce and about 1/2 cup mozzarella.

Bake, covered with foil, until bubbly; about 50 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Garnish with ribbons of fresh basil.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Soft Gingersnaps with Egg Nog Glaze

Are you in the holiday spirit yet?  For me, getting in the holiday spirit means fun with family and friends and, of course, lots of baking (mostly goodies).  Every year we have to make our favorites, but I also like to try a few new things as well.  These were one of those few new things. 
I love the warm spices of fall, so anything with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves will call my name.  Gingersnaps are one of my favorite holiday cookies, but I don't always love how crunchy they are. That's why these cookies are so perfect.  They have the warm, delicious flavor of gingersnaps but all in a soft, chewy cookie.

Soft Gingersnaps with Egg Nog Glaze
2 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp.ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup molassas

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add egg and vanilla and mix to combine.  Add molassas and mix.

With a small scoop, drop dough onto cookie sheet.  Bake about 10-12 minutes (a minute or two less for non-stick pans).  Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet abouty 2 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Drizzle with egg nog glaze.

Egg Nog Glaze
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp. egg nog
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

In a medium mixinb bowl, mix glaze ingredients until texture is smooth.  Adjust consistency as desired.  With a spoon, drizzle over completly cooled cookies.  Allow glaze to set.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Friday, December 14, 2012

Roasted Poblano Chicken Quesadillas

So, aren't quesadillas just about anybody's go-to meal when there's nothing else to eat or nothing sounds good? It's also one of those foods that just about any kid will eat?  I remember back in my college days when I lived with my younger sister for a couple of semesters.  One of our favorite late night snacks was chicken quesadillas (or a piece of bread slathered with peanut butter and honey or jam).  I don't know what it was about them, the ooey-gooey cheese  melting out of the middle or the crispy tortilla, but they were delicious!

This is more than a late night snack and oh so delicious!  I love caramelizing onions until they turn soft and sweet and poblano peppers are just the right kind of pepper for me; not too spicy but still have a bite to them. Make sure you taste test your poblanos before adding them all in your mixture.  Some can be more spicy than others.

Roasted Poblano and Chicken Quesadillas
4 poblano peppers
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 cup corn kernels (frozen, canned or fresh)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (optional)
salt, to taste
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
16 oz. monterey jack cheese, grated
8 8-inch flour tortillas
for serving:
sour cream
pico de gallo

To roast your poblanos, place them on a cookie sheet and put them under the broiler.  Bake until they start to pop and char (black spots) on most of that side; maybe 7-10 minutes.  Flip peppers and bake under the broiler until they resemble the previous side.  When they are done cooking, immediately place them in a ziploc bag and seal.  Leave them until they are cooled. Once cooled, peel the thin, paper-like skin off, remove stem and seeds and finely dice. Set aside.

Add  a drizzle of oilve oil to a hot skillet along with the onions. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and beginning to brown and caramelize, about 10-15 minutes.

 Add the corn, chicken, cumin and chipotle powder.  Stir to combine.  Allow the corn to cook for a couple of minutes until heated through. Add reserved peppers and stir to combine. Add salt to taste.

Heat a skillet, large enough to fit your tortillas, over medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet and top with a sprinkle of cheese. Add about 1/4 cup of the poblano mixture and spread evenly over the cheese.  Sprinkle another little bit of cheese over the mixture and place a second tortilla on top.

Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese has begun to melt and the bottom tortilla is getting browned. Flip the quesadilla and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes or until all of the cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo

SOURCE:  Adapted from Buns in My Oven

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cranberry-Turkey Enchiladas

I've probably said it before, but I love holiday leftovers!!!  That's one good thing about making a huge meal, you can eat off it for days!! Many times we just eat them as is, but once in a while I get a hankering to make the leftovers into something else, hence this meal. 

I was so excited to come home from my parent's house at Thanksgiving with a big bag of turkey.  Even though it was just 5 adults and my 3 girls, who don't eat much, my dad insisted on getting a 20 pound turkey!  I'm glad he did.  I had been eyeing these enchiladas even before Thanksgiving, so I was glad to whip them up a few days later.

You will love this rendition of  the traditional Chicken Enchiladas.  With the orangey-tangy-ness from cranberry sauce, a little spice from the chipotle tabasco  and, of course the turkey.  Next time you cook up a turkey, save some leftovers for these!

Cranberry-Turkey Enchiladas
2-2 1/2 cups shredded turkey or chicken
2 cups Fresh OrangeCranberry Sauce (or 1 16-oz can)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or pepper jack for more kick)
1/2 cup sour cream
3-4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup lightly-packed chopped cilantro
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
10-12 (6-inch) fresh corn tortillas
1-2 tsp. bottled chipotle hot sauce (tabasco)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, 1 cup of the cranberry sauce, the beans, sour cream, 3/4 cup cheese, 1/2 cup of the salsa, green onions, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Wrap 6 tortillas at a time in a light kitchen towel and microwave abotu 60 seconds. Pulling one tortilla out at a time, keeping the remaining warm tortillas wrapped up, spoon about 1/4 cup filling into each tortilla, and roll tightly. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining cranberry sauce, 1 cup of salsa, and the hot sauce. Stir to combine and Pour over the enchiladas. Cover the dish with foild, and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil, and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Continue to bake, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with additional cilantro and scallions, and serve.
SOURCE: Pink Parsley

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apple Cider Caramels

Remember the apple cider I talked about here and here?  The stuff I got from Trader Joe's.  Well, I'm still finding uses for it. I really loved the apple cider pancakes, but these caramels are so unique and wonderfully delicious. 

I'm a sucker for holiday treats, mostly caramels and fudge (ok, throw cookies in there too). I grew up eating these caramels my mother made every Christmas.  She would keep a tupperware container on the dining room table of  fudge, caramel and sugar cookies to make neighbor plates with.  Every time I walked by I couldn't help but snitch a piece or two.  So, you see, I have a soft spot for caramels.

Make sure when making these caramels that you get real apple cider, like the kind you can find at a local orchard, farm or produce stand.  Occasionally you can find decent apple cider at the store, but you have to search for it.  Although it's a little more expensive than regular apple juice, it's worth every penny!  Don't skip the sea salt either.  It's an unexpected little crunch in every bite that's a little explosion of salty to go with your sweet.

Apple Cider Caramels
4 cups apple cider
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. flaky sea salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

Boil the apple cider in a 3 or 4-quart saucepan over high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume; somewhere around 30-40 minutes or so. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, prep the rest.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.  Set aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.

Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, only about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it.
(Don’t have a candy or deep- fry thermometer? Have a bowl of very cold water ready, and cook the caramel until a tiny spoonful dropped into the water becomes firm, chewy, and able to be plied into a ball. I actually use this method in addition to my candy thermometer, just to make sure it's the right firmness.  Altitude will affect thermometers, so it's good to know your thermometer, have a back up and even calibrate your thermometer to where you live.)

Immediately remove caramel from heat and stir down the bubbles a bit. Add the cinnamon and salt mixture, and stir to combine. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge. Once caramel is firm, use your parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well- oiled knife, oiling it after each cut (trust me!), to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares.  Individually wrap, if desired. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature, and chewy/firm from the fridge.

SOURCE: Smitten Kitchen

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December Menu 2012 (Week 2)

Woohoo, it's the holiday season and I am loving it!  I don't think my waistline is loving it so much though.  So many sweets!!  Last year I had an excuse to eat and eat since I had just had a baby.  This year, sadly, I don't.  But how can you go through the holiday season without indulging even just a little bit?  Some of my favorite holiday treats are my mom's caramels and fudge. But, I also like to stray from the norm as well and make new desserts as well, like this Egg Nog Gingerbreaed Trifle (a huge favorite!!).

I'm trying to balance out all the sweets (from parties, friends and neighbors) with lots of salad and veggies and wholesome main dishes.  My kids are being quite picky eaters as of late, so they have been having hot cereal for dinner quite often.  But, my husband and I still get to enjoy the yumminess.

December Menu 2012 (Week 2)

Pesto Pizza with Butternut Squash
oven-roasted brussels sprouts

Parmesan Ranch Chicken Fingers
steamed broccoli
steak fries

Ham beans (wow, this post needs a makeover!)

Ham and Swiss Sliders
spinach salad

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

Saturday (Date night dinner)
Portabella Ravioli with Grogonzola Cream Sauce
green salad

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

What else...
Coconut Brown Rice Pudding
Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones
Baked Eggs in Hashbrown Cups

Friday, December 7, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Feta

This has become one of my new favorite fall salads.  I don't think I actually even ate a brussel sprout until last  year, but I really enjoy them.  They are a nice hearty green, perfect for winter time and they are loaded with lots of good nutrients, especially vitamins c and k.

This is a super simple salad.  I'd say if it wasn't for all the chopping of the brussels sprouts, you'd have this made in about 2 minutes flat.  I love the combination of ingredients; the sweet and chewy dried cranberries, the soft and salty of the feta and the crunchy, nutty walnuts.  All perfectly compliment the taste and texture of the brussels sprouts.  The dressing is no-fuss as well, using ingredients you already have on hand.

Chopped Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Feta
for the salad:
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

for the dressing:
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cinder vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Rinse brussels sprouts and remove any damaged or dirty outer leaves. Place on a cutting board and slice off the hard root end. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the brussels sprouts and put them in a large salad bowl.   Add walnuts, cranberries and feta and toss to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.  Pour over salad and toss.  Serve immediately.

SOURCE: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fresh Tomato Soup

This soup is a staple at our house during the fall and winter months. At the end of summer when tomatoes are at their ripest, I buy boxes and boxes of them (when I don't have a garden) to preserve. A lot of the tomatoes I turn into salsa and spaghetti sauce. The rest I just peel and puree, then freeze in about 2 quart quantities. It makes preparing this soup a cinch, since most of the work is already done!! Even in the middle of winter, we can have this soup and it still tastes like it just came out of the garden. Simple, fresh ingredients are key to making this soup taste "soup"er.

Fresh Tomato-Basil Soup
8 cups (2 quarts) fresh tomato puree (about 10-12 vine-ripened tomatoes)
chicken soup base 
1 cup heavy cream (can substitute full-fat coconut milk for non-dairy)
Coarse salt and black pepper
20 leaves fresh basil, cut into chiffonade, for garnish

To blanch and peel tomatoes, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Fill a sink full of ice water. Working in batches, score the bottom of the tomatoes. Place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Remove immediately and place in ice bath. Repeat with remaining tomatoes.

Once tomatoes are cooled, drain water from sink. Core tomatoes and slip skins off. Puree tomatoes either with a food processor or working in batches in a blender. Don't worry If you have a little more or less than 8 cups.

Add tomato puree to a large stock pot. Add enough chicken soup base for 2 cups and bring to a boil. Once chicken base is completely dissolved, taste for seasoning and add more, to taste.

Gently simmer for about 5 minutes, add cream and simmer another 2-3 minutes. Taste again for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Remove from heat and add most of the basil, leaving some for garnish.

Serve warm.

*If you don't have access to fresh tomatoes, you can use 2 28-oz can of good quality crushed tomatoes (Cento, San Marzano).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Menu 2012 (Week 1)

Ahhhh!  It's already December.  Where did the time go? I love this time of year but it's such a whirlwind for our family.  We have a birthday and Thanksgiving in November, a birthday and Christmas in December and then New Years and a birthday just days after in January!!!  We do a whole lot of celebrating during these months, but it's lots of fun and we get to see family more than we  usually do.

Trader Joe's opened up their first location here in Utah last weekend and my friend and I took a girls day and headed up there to check it out.  I was so excited to go.  I had to go down every aisle, I didn't want to miss a thing!  One of my favorite things I bought was a black bean and quinoa corn chip.  They were delicious and pretty healthy; not a lot of ingredients or additives.  I think I may try making them on my own.  Homemade crackers/chips, why not? I also grabbed some tomato-basil hummus to go with it--YUM! Two other favorite things I picked up were some portabello ravioli and some gorgonzola....mmmm gonna try and recreate a fancy dinner with the hubs from our pre-kid era.  Of course, I picked up some more apple cider for more of these pancakes, as well as some brussels sprouts, still on the stalk!!  How cool is that?  Well, maybe not for you but you don't see that much around here.  I can't wait to share with you all that I'll be making from this weeks spoils!  Stay tuned...

December Menu 2012 (Week 1)
Italian Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
fresh steamed green beans

Caprese Lasagna Rolls
leftover salad
fresh veggies

Veggie Stir-fry

Butternut Squash, Bacon and Gryuere Pasta
Radicchio, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Balsamic Vinaigrette

Orzo with roasted veggies
Brussels sprouts with dried cranberries, walnuts and feta

(birthday dinner for my 4 year old)
Cafe Rio pork salad/burrito
Spanish Rice
green salad w/ tomatillo dressing
Nutella Cheesecake


Other stuff:
Orange-cranberry Granola (getting and updated recipe and picture this week!)
Peanut butter-choco-nana Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie
Cake Batter Pancakes
Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Squash Soup with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

I have finally found THE squash soup! I have been searching high and low for a squash soup that I really enjoy.  I have made several over the years that just were bland and boring and I did not care to ever make them again.  I think I love this soup so much because It's not just the typical squash and broth.  The carrots, sweet potato and apple really add to the flavor and it's just lovely.  Although pepitas are delicious and my favorite garnish, you could also garnish with a little pureed chipotle in adobo, creme fraiche, smoked cheese or even some fresh parsley or cilantro.

Squash Soup with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds hard winter squash/pumpkin, peeled and chopped (I used 2 sugar pumpkins)*
1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 crisp apple, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
4 cups chicken/veggie stock
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. lemon or orange juice
In a large stock pot, drizzle a good amount of olive oil (2-3 Tbsp.) and heat over medium-high heat.  Add onion, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add apple, garlic and ginger, as well as the cumin, paprika, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Cook for about a minute or so.  Add chicken or veggie stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until very tender. 

Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. You can also puree in batches in a blender or food processor.  Check for seasonings and add salt/pepper and honey to your liking.  Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon or orange juice in the soup right at the very end.

Serve warm and garnish as desired:
1-2 tsp. chipotle in adobo (pureed)
creme fraiche
pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)**
smoked cheddar or other smoked cheese
chopped cilantro or parsley

*Sometimes it is difficult to peel hard winter squash.  Alternately, you can split the squash/pumpkin in half, remove seeds and bake on cookie sheet, cut side down, until tender.  Allow to cool slightly and scrape out flesh from skin.  Add to soup near the end when ready to puree.

**To toast pumpkin seeds, make sure you have the green ones to begin with.  Add a tiny bit of olive oil to a small skillet, a handful of seeds and a pinch of salt.  Toast over medium heat, gently moving them around to prevent burning, until they start popping and turning golden.

SOURCE: Lightly adapted from Rachael Ray

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Apple Cider Pancakes with Cider Glaze

So, I went to Vegas a few weeks ago and, of course, the first thing I do is look for all the foodie things to do!  One of my favorite stops was at Trader Joe's.  Any time anyone I know is traveling where there's a Trader Joe's, I make sure to have them stop for me.  Their pound plus chocolate bars are to die for!!!  I know they're great for melting and baking, but heck, they're fab for just eating too.

Anyway, while we were at TJ's they were handing out samples of their apple cider so my girls and I decided to try it.  I don't like juice in general, I just stick to water mainly, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I really, really liked it!!  I only bought one jug of it, should have bought more, but it came home with us and this is what the last of it turned into. 

I couldn't stay away from pancakes if my life depended on it.  They are so yummy and so versitile!  These days I try to stick with mostly whole wheat flour, little to no sugar and VERY little syrup. Even with that, these were absolutely delicious! 

Our Trader Joe's is opening up here this weekend and you better believe I'll be there.  You know what's going to be on my list!

Apple Cider Pancakes with Cider Glaze
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup apple cider
2 eggs
4 Tbsp. oil or butter (I used coconut oil, melted)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 honey crips apples, peeled and shredded
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch cloves

In a mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, cider, eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and mix just to combine.  Fold in shredded apple.  Let batter sit while griddle heats up. 

Pour batter by 1/4 cup onto preheated griddle.  Cook until bubbles start to form and edges look dry; about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook on other side until light golden; about another 1-2 minutes.  Serve warm with cider glaze or topping of choice.

Cider Glaze
4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup powdered sugar

Whisk glaze ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Serve immediately. 

*You can also use browned butter in place of regular melted butter.  To brown butter, gradually melt butter on medium-high heat.  Continue cooking until butter starts to get brown in color and smell nutty, swirling occasionally.  Allow to cool.

SOURCE: Adapted from Baking Serendipity

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fresh Orange Cranberry Sauce

I know Thanksgiving is already over, but it's still the season to eat all things fall and Thanksgiving-ish if you ask me.  Cranberry sauce is such a great accompaniment to many dishes and it's so incredibly simple to make.  It practically makes itself!

I actually made this sauce to go with some turkey enchiladas we were having.  Let me tell you, this is much better than the stuff in the can. I love the hint of orange you get with the zest and freshly squeezed juice.  If you're not a fan of cran-orange things though, you can just use all water and leave out the zest.

If you're making something sweet the sauce, it would be delicious dolled up with some warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.  On the other hand, if you're using it for a savor dish, try adding some jalapeno or chipotle to it!

Fresh Orange Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
juice and zest of 1 orange
4 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

Put everything in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sauce will thicken upon cooling.  Serve warm or chilled.

SOURCE: Two Peas and their Pod

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November Menu 2012 (Week 4)

Wow, I can't believe Thanksgiving has come and gone and it's already the last week in November.  Are you still eating leftovers? I've still got a few leftovers but that won't last much longer.  Mmm, that's my favorite part about the Thanksgiving meal. 

So, I recently picked up a box of FRESH Idaho potatoes and I NEED ideas.  We don't eat a whole lot of potatoes, but you can't beat fresh ones.  So, leave a comment if you have a favorite recipe. 

November Menu 2012 (Week 4)
Turkey Cranchiladas
Fajita Sweet Potatoes
Apple, Walnut and Feta Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Turkey Noodle Soup


Butternut Squash Risotto
Autumn Chopped Salad

Cheesey Chicken and Basil Stuffed Potatoes
Steamed Green Beans
leftover salad

Veggie Stir Fry

PW Breakfast Burritos
fresh fruit

Other things we'll be having:
Baked Apple Pie Egg Rolls
Orange Cranberry Sauce
Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Shake

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Easy Sesame Peanut Noodles

These noodles are fabulous! They are quick and easy and it's about the only time my kids ever get to eat ramen (minus the little msg packet).   Since my kids are peanut butter fiends, these noodles bode well with them.  They eat them without complaint!  I usually serve them with raw cucumber, carrots and sliced red pepper on the side for the kids, but you could also slice the veggies thin and mix them in as well. 

This is a MUST HAVE for those crazy busy weeknights when you just don't have time to cook anything else.  Minimal prep, yummy taste and better than Ramen!

Easy Sesame Peanut Noodles
for the sauce:
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup canned coconut milk*
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
1 clove garlic, finely grated over a microplane
1 tsp. fresh ginger, finely grated over a microplane
juice of 1 lime

4 Ramen packets, just noodles
garnish: sliced green onion

Add all sacue ingredients together in a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.  If it's still lumpy after whisking, put it in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds to soften the coconut milk and peanut butter.  If it's too thick add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency. 

Cook ramen noodles (do not use the seasoning packet!!!) and drain.  Return noodles to pan.  Pour sauce over warm noodles and stir.  Garnish with green onion, if desried. 

**Don't know what to do with the leftover can of coconut milk?  Here's some ideas.
-store in fridge in about 1-cup portions
-Thai Coconut Rice
-Fall Vegetable Curry
-Bean Curry
-Peaches and Cream Steel Cut Oats
-Crispy Coconut Chicken Fingers

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Week Menu Plan

So, for most people this is one week of the year that's a little off.  Many people are traveling, eating at other's homes, eating out,  kids are out of school, adults may get a few days off work, etc., etc. So, I will have a very loose menu this week.  I'll plan for the first half of the week, hope it happens, then plan the second half of the week after I see what leftovers we have after our big Thanksgiving meal.  We're not having a very large gathering, just my parents and sister, my hubby and I and our three girls, but it'll be fun nonetheless and we're still going to make a ton of food!  That's the best part if you ask me.  I'll lay out our "loose" menu plan then give you some ideas for what to cook this week if you still need some inspiration.  And best of all...what to do with those leftovers!!!

Thanksgiving Week Menu Plan
Chicken Enchiladas
leftover cabbage slaw
raw veggies

Fresh Tomato-Basil Soup
Sourdough Baguette

Butternut Squash Risotto
Autumn Chopped Salad

Thursday (the part I am in charge of)
Chopped Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Feta
Dinner Rolls
Pie (still haven't decided which one yet)

For the BIG day
Cider Roasted Chicken/Turkey w/ Cider Reduction
Mashed Sweet Potatoes w/ Orange Essence and Walnuts
Brown Butter Risotto with Lobster (I have to qualify this.  Hubby said we should have lobster because that's what they really ate at the first Thanksgiving. I'm game!)
Garlic Rosemary Roast Chicken/Turkey
Coconut Spiced Sweet Potatoes
Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Caramel Apple Butter Cheesecake
Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Sour Lemon Pie
Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Leftover Ideas
Chicken/Turkey Enchiladas
White Chicken/Turkey Chili
Risotto w/ Roasted Chicken and Caramelized Onion
Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie
Chicken/Turkey Noodle Soup
Chicken and Garlic-Herb Potato Shepherd's Pie
Wild Rice and Quinoa with Turkey, Cranberries and Winter Squash
Squash/pumpkin Ravioli
Cranberry Chicken
Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

Orange Cranberry Scones with White Chips
Ginger Sweet Potato Muffins
Pumpkin Scones
Cranberry Pumpkin Bread with Crystalized Ginger
Cranberry Sour Cream Crumble
Sweet Potato Pancakes with Pecan Butter
Pumpkin Pancakes with Pumpkin Maple Syrup

Enjoy and have a great holidy week!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lentil and Kale Pasta

It's so good to get back to healthy!  After spending the better part of a week in Las Vegas indulging and splurging, my body started craving warm, earthy and hearty flavors and food.  This totally fit the bill.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked the lentils.  They are a lot more flavorful than I remember them being.  It's been a while, but like I said,  I'm trying to clean out my pantry so I really wanted to use them up. 

The kale is amazing here too, adding not only color and texture but a ton of nutrition too.  I used my own sun-dried tomatoes that I dehydrated then reconstituted but you could also use oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes from the store.

Lentil and Kale Pasta
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta (I used shells)
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, reconstitued and chopped
4 cups kale, rinsed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
12-15 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and choped
1/2 cup crumbled feta
olive oil
juice of half a lemon (about 1-2 Tbsp.)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
garnish: finely grated parmesan cheese (to your liking)

Start cooking the lentils first or even ahead of time, they will take the longest; about 15-20 minutes.  Follow package directions.  Cook, drain and set aside.

In the meantime, cover sun-dried tomatoes in about 1-inch of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and chop.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water for about 10 seconds to cool it off a bit.  Put pasta and lentils and chopped tomatoes in a large salad bowl.

Using the same pot as you cooked the pasta in, drizzle a good amount of olive oil on the bottom. Drop the kale and sprinkle with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Saute 2-3 minutes, adding the garlic in the last 20 seconds or so, to avoid burning.  Add the kale to the salad bowl.  Wait for it to cool slightly before stirring it in. 

Add chopped artichokes, feta, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, basil and salt and pepper to the lentils and pasta, stirring to incorporate.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. 

Serve at room temperature, topped with finely grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Apples are one of my favorite things about fall. Almost every year for the past 5 or 6 years we find a local apple orchard and take our kids to pick apples. It's the whole experience of being together, picking delicious home grown fruit, then taking it home to eat and make into wonderful things!

This year must have been a bad year for apples because several of the orchards we tried to go to said they hardly had any and there were none left to pick-bummer! So, instead, I ordered a box of LOVELY honey crisps from our local CSA and have been thrilled to have them even though we didn't pick them.

Honey crisps are my absolute favorite apple. They are sweet and mild and nice and crisp and keep a long time under the right circumstances. They are the perfect apple for this dessert. They compliment the dense sweetness of the cake and the slight saltiness of the caramel sauce. I made this cake within hours of finding the recipe and it was gone in less than 24! And I've been craving it ever since! It's mouth-watering and delicious. It would be a beautiful addition to any family gathering or holiday party this season.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

For the caramel sauce:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. thawed apple juice concentrate
4 Tbsp. butter
pinch salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Mix the brown sugar, heavy cream, apple juice concentrate, butter, salt and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat, cool slightly.

For the cake:
2 medium cooking apples (I used Honey Crisp)
3/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil, melted)
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 Tbsp. thawed apple juice concentrate
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1 large apple, peeled and shredded (I used Honey Crisp)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan at least 2-inches deep.  Line the bottom with parchment, and grease the parchment.  Make sure you measure your pan.  If it's pretty close to 2 inches deep, make sure you put the pan on a cookie sheet in case of any spills.
Peel and slice the 2 medium apples into 1/4-inch thick wedges.  Overlap the apple wedges in a ring around the bottom of the pan.  Pour about 1/3-1/2 cup of the caramel sauce over the apples and set it aside.
To make the cake, beat the oil, brown sugar, apple juice concentrate, eggs, spices and salt together for 2 minutes on medium speed.  Add the flour and baking soda and mix to combine.  Fold in the shredded apple and nuts, if desired, until just incorporated.
Drop batter by scoops on top of the apples in the pan, gently spreading to even out and cover the bottom. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until cake tester inserted near center comes out clean.
Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Run a spatula around the edge to loosen it, then turn cake out onto a serving plate, bottom side up.  Pour reserved caramel sauce over the top of the cake and serve warm or room temperature.

SOURCE: Cake from King Arthur Flour and sauce adapted from Pioneer Woman

Monday, November 12, 2012

November Menu 2012 (Week 2)

Wow, what a whirlwind week we had last week! We spent the latter half in Las Vegas.  We went down for my husband to run the Ragnar Relay Race and decided to go a day ahead and stay a day later to make a little mini vacation out of it.  Other than the first night we were there it was pretty much an all girls weekend!  As in me and my three darling daughters under the age of 6.  I braved the Bellagio by myself with all three kids (hubs said he was impressed) but decided to stay away from the strip the rest of the time, unless hubby was with me.  We ventured out and did a few other fun things and tasted some delicious food! I was also happy to encounter not one but two Trader Joe's close by, love that store,  as well as Whole Foods.  I could have spent much more time perusing the aisles of both stores, but alas, with three kids in tow, it just wasn't possible. 

So, glad to be home and getting back to our normal crazy busy life. This week I still don't want to go shopping (still have a little sticker shock after the first meal we ate in Vegas) but I know I at least have to go get some fresh fruit and veggies to stock up on. So, I'll be pulling from my pantry again and a little from my freezer to get through the week.  Here's the simple menu I threw together last night after we got home. Hopefully we can stick to it, but it's totally subject to change.

November Menu 2012 (week 1)
Easy Thai Peanut Noodles
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
chopped fresh veggies

Crispy Coconut Chicken Fingers
Jasmine rice
Steamed broccoli

Kale and Lentil Pasta

Smoky Pumpkin Soup
Sourdough Baguettte



Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken
mashed potatoes
Sweet Peas
Autumn Chopped Salad

Other things we'll be having:
Cake Batter Pancakes
Ginger Sweet Potato Muffins
Mango-Strawberry Smoothie

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thai Chicken Slaw

Asian slaws are one of my most favorite salads of all time!  They are hearty, don't wilt and have tons of flavor and COLOR!  With colder temps upon us things can get kind of dreary and boring.  Who wouldn't welcome a pop of color and flavor?  This is a great salad to eat throughout the colder months because cabbage is readily available and even inexpensive.  In fact, the components of this salad are all inexpensive and pack a lot of nutritional punch!

I don't usually put chicken on my Asian salads but I couldn't resist slow cooking this chicken in the crock pot with some sweet chili sauce and coconut milk!  I love those flavors in Asian dishes. The result is an amazingly moist and delicious meat to shred over your salad.

Thai Chicken Slaw
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

For the marinade:
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup canned coconut milk (full-fat)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Whisk marinade ingredients together in a medium-sized saucepan. If sauce seems too thick feel free to add more lime juice or vinegar.   Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer about 3-4 minutes.  

Place chicken in a crock pot and pour about 1/3 cup of the marinade over it, reserving the rest for the dressing on the salad.  Cook on high heat 4-5 hours or until shreds easily.  Remove chicken from crock pot and shred the return it to crock pot to sit in the juices.

For the salad:
1/4 red cabbage, thinly shredded
1/4 green cabbage, thinly shredded
3 green onions, sliced
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced and chopped
1 cup frozen, thawed edamame (look for non-GMO on the packaging)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2-3 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

Place all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss.

To serve, top individual salad servings with shredded chicken and reserved dressing.

SOURCE: Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November Menu 2012 (Week 1)

My goal for this week's menu is to not have to go shopping!  Now, I know it is almost inevitable that I WILL go, but I want to go for as little as possible.  I still have a bunch of produce leftover from my CSA basket from last week and I have a lot of bulk items in my pantry that I seem to accmulate, like lentils, dry beans and split peas and pastas. I want to use them up before I stock up again soon.  We're also going to be away from home a couple nights this week and will be either eating out or having leftovers.  So, here's to a creative menu this week for using what I've got.

November Menu 2012 (Week 1)
Vegetable Stir-Fry
Jasmine Rice

Penne with Pumpkin and Sausage (this recipe will get a face lift!!)
Apple Walnut and Feta Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Cauliflower Soup


Eat out

Lentil Kale Pasta

Homemade Pizza

Other things we'll be having:
Chocolate Earth Balls
Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fall Vegetable Curry

Here is another quick and nutritious meal you can add to your fall repertoire of dinners. It's also meatless (if that's your thing)! If you're a fan of curry, you'll definitely like this one. 

This curry is similar to this other Bean Curry on the blog in that it uses Garam Masala spice and turmeric.  However, I've kicked up the spiciness with some jalapeno and topped it with a yummy cilantro-yogurt sauce and fresh tomatoes.

Fall Vegetable Curry
1-2 Tbsp. olive or coconut oil
1 cup
diced peeled sweet potato  (about 1 medium)
1 cup small cauliflower florets 
1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained 
1 sweet bell pepper (I used red), chopped
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated  
1 tsp. Garam Masala
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup  canned coconut milk (can sub vegetable broth as well or add to make it more saucy) 
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
1/2 cup plain yogurt

 Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato and saute about 3-4 minutes.  Add onion, cauliflower and cook another 2 minutes or so.  Add chick peas, pepper, jalapeno, garlic, ginger,Garam Masala, turmeric and salt and saute about 30 seconds. Add coconut milk, cover with lid, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, finely chop cilantro and stir it together with the yogurt and a pinch of salt.  Alternately you can blend it together in a small food processor. 

Once vegetables are tender, remove from heat and add the fresh tomatoes.  Garnish individual portions with cilantro-yogurt sauce.  Serve warm with Thai Coconut Rice, Naan bread or cous cous. 

SOURCE: Adapted from Cooking Light

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Apple Walnut and Feta Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

This is the perfect salad for fall and embraces many of those flavors I love! If I had to pick a component I love best I would definitely say the vinaigrette because I think the dressing totally makes the salad and this one is divine.  It's light and fresh and only slightly sweet, perfectly complimenting the salad. 

I do love everything about the salad though, it is a perfect combination from the sweet-tart and chewiness of the dried cranberries to the crispness of the apples and the soft and saltiness of the cheese.  All together it is one great salad.  I made extra vinaigrette so we can keep this salad on hand for a while.

Apple Walnut and Feta Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
For the salad:
1/2 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large apple, sliced and chopped (I used golden delicious)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (can also substitute another soft, salty cheese such as queso fresco)

Chop lettuce and place in a large salad bowl.  Layer the rest of the ingredients on top in the order given. Serve with raspberry vinaigrette.

For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or unsweetened thawed frozen)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

SOURCE: Vinaigrette from Giada De Laurentiis

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Menu Plan Monday October 2012

Well, this week we're playing catch-up.  On top of having a sinus infection, we had a flood a few weeks ago.  Worst day ever waking up to water dripping everywhere!  But, the repairs have finally been finished! No more laundry room taking over my baby's room, bathroom taking over my bedroom and construction crew coming in and out of my house all day. I'm happy to have my house put back together.

Although the house is back to normal I'm still trying to kick the sinus stuff.  It's being very stubborn and has left me exhausted. So, this week I'm trying to keep it simple.  Cook once, eat twice, have leftovers and quick and easy will be my go to words this week.

Simple Sesame Noodles and Veggies

Lemon Chicken and Orzo Soup

Dinner in a pumpkin

Spaghetti Squash with Sage, Roasted Garlic and Browned Butter
Roasted Cauliflower


Caprese Lasagna Roll-Ups
Italian Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Homemade Pizza
Leftover Italian Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Other things we'll be having:
Pepita Granola with Pumpkin Butter 
Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake
Fauxtisserie Chicken
Overnight Applesauce
Ginger Sweet Potato Muffins

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fresh Spaghetti Sauce

I've been home canning my own spaghetti sauce for years.  I love gathering the last of the tomatoes in the fall and filling up my jars that line my pantry throughout the winter until next year.  The first sauce I used to make was from a dry mix, and although I loved it, it wasn't my husband's favorite. So, the last few summers I've been trying different recipes, searching for "the one." 

The last couple years I made this Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce which I actually do love, but I also wanted a sauce that was more substantial, something that would stick to the noodles without running off.

 This, my friends, is "THE ONE," the very sauce I will can for the rest of my existence! Ok, well maybe not that long, but I think my search is over. This recipe uses fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, but also uses just a little canned tomato sauce and paste which allow the sauce to thicken without cooking it to death, thus preserving that fresh tomato taste (and not keeping you in the kitchen all day).

I love the sweet bell peppers in this sauce.  I chose to use only about half green pepper and the rest red.  I find the green ones have a more bitter taste, but any other colored ones (yellow, red or orange) work perfectly. I think next time I will replace all of the green pepper with a different color.

This recipe makes roughly 12 cups, 6 pints.  If you're not a canner, you can also freeze the sauce in 2-4 cup portions in zip-loc freezer bags or freezer safe plastic ware. You could also just half the recipe for short-term use.

Fresh Spaghetti Sauce
makes about 6 pints
8 cups vine-ripened tomatoes (best from the garden), peeled and chopped (about 10-12 large)*
2 cups onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups sweet bell pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. canning salt (if you don't have canning salt, just salt to taste)
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fennel seed
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
16 oz. tomato sauce
12 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Blanch and peel tomatoes.  Pulse in blender until desired "chunkiness" and set aside.  Drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large stock pot and add chopped onions and peppers.  Saute over medium high heat about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, garlic and the next 8 ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in fresh basil.

To can sauce you must use a boiling water bath canner.  Pour hot sauce into hot jars.  Wipe mouth of each jar clean and place a lid and ring on each jar, only screwing lid to finger tightness. Process pint jars 15 minutes.

*To blanch and peel tomatoes, bring a pot of water to a boil and fill the sink with cold water.  Using a knife, serrated works best for me, score the tomato by making an "x." Place as many tomatoes in the pot as will cover the bottom in ONE layer.  Boil for 60 seconds, then ladle them out and immediately put them in the sink filled with cold water. Continue with the rest of the tomatoes.  

You will notice the skins already starting to peel off where they have been scored.  Slip off the skins, they come off easily, and core them and place them in a blender or food processor to chop or puree, whichever you prefer.

Make sure you do enough tomatoes to equal 8 cups, chopped.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Winter Squash Sage and Pine Nut Pizza

One thing I love about our family pizza nights is that we always get to try new things!  Now granted my 4 and 6 year old daughters will eat nothing but cheese pizza, but hubby and I love experimenting.  Pizza is another great way to embrace the flavors of seasons, so that is exactly what I did.  Sage and winter squash are a perfect pairing and get used a lot around this time of year.

Pizza does not have to be boring!  We've had weekly pizza nights (give or take a week here and there) for quite a while now and I never tire of it because were always thinking of something new to put on top.  It's a fun tradition to do with my family that creates memories and a tradition I hope to carry on for a while.

Winter Squash Sage and Pine Nut Pizza
1 recipe Whole Wheat Crust
1 cup butternut squash puree (you can either roast your own squash and puree it or buy it already pureed)
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 tsp. fresh sage leaves, minced
10-12 fresh sage leaves, whole
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1-2 Tbsp. pine nuts
4 Tbsp. butter

Mix dough according to directions.  Allow to rise. 

While dough is rising, caramelize onions.  Drizzle 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a saute pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Add onions and allow to cook until translucent and browning; about 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the butter. Add whole sage leaves and cook until crisp and butter is browned and has a nutty fragrance.  Remove sage leaves and set aside.

Preheat pizza stone and oven to 450 degrees F.

Stir the squash puree, nutmeg, salt and pepper until mixed well.  Stretch pizza dough over pizza peel dusted with cornmeal or parchment paper.  Spread squash mixture over the top, leaving about 1/2-inch border.  Brush the edges with some of the browned butter.  Top with caramelized onions, minced sage, mozzarella cheese, pine nuts and Parmesan.

Slide pizza into the oven onto preheated pizza stone or an inverted cookie sheet, no need to remove parchment if using, just slide it right in there with the pizza. Bake 8-10 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly. 

Remove pizza from oven and drizzle with some of the remaining browned butter and crisped sage leaves.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Menu Plan Monday-October 2012 (Week 4)

I was all ready to put up a Halloween meal plan but realized it's still not until next week.  Do you have any Halloween meal traditions?  I've tried soup in a pumpkin before without much luck and haven't attempted much since.  Having young children, it's always fun to celebrate everything!  Keeps life exciting don't you think?

I've got lots of comfort food going on this week, I'm so excited!!! I wish I could make it all at once. I think I'm mostly excited about the soup.  We'll see if the kiddos go for it.  One thing I know they're going to love is spaghetti night.  I found a new sauce recipe this summer which I love.  Can't wait to share that!

If you are new this week, recipes that are linked have already been shared on the blog. Other menu items will be shared within a week or so. So if you spy something good, don't forget to come back and visit!

October Menu (Week 4)
Creamy Avocado Pasta
Asian Slaw


Thai Chicken Salad (this is going to happen this week or else!!!)


Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken
steamed broccoli
Sourdough Baguette (half)
Apple, walnut and feta Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette


Sourdough Baguette (half)
fresh steamed green beans
leftover Apple, Walnut and feta Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette


Vegetable Curry


Yellow Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup with Pepitas


Family Pizza night

Other Things We'll be having:

Bulgar Tabbouleh
Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding
Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Pancakes
Baked Oatmeal

Friday, October 19, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

'Tis the season to make anything apple. I'm always looking for a reason to make a yummy dessert and Sunday night family dinner is no better time. In the fall I crave anything with apple, from pancakes, to oatmeal.

This is a simple dessert with a taste that will blow the socks off of anyone! It may seem like a lot of steps but it really comes together quickly. I used the leftover caramel sauce from these pancakes but feel free to use store bought if you prefer.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

For the cheesecake filling:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the apple topping:
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped 
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg 
For the streusel topping:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 tsp. cinnamon 
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 knives) until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. 
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Beat to combine. Pour over warm crust. 
In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.

For the streusel topping,  combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Cut butter until mixture is crumbly and resembles a coarse meal.

Sprinkle streusel topping over apples. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set. Filling should look a little wiggly in the center but firm everywhere else.  Cheesecake will finish setting once cooled.
Once cooled but still warm, cut into squares, drizzle with caramel sauce and whipped topping, if desired.

SOURCE: Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Crispy Quinoa Sliders

At first glance atf these, I knew I wanted to make them, but was a little apprehensive.  I wasn't sure how my all-of-a-sudden picky eater oldest daughter would handle these and it didn't seem like they would be flavorful enough. 

With my oldest daughter I thought I would pull THIS trick and just serve it to her like it was a regular hamburger and not let her on about it.  Hmm, that didn't work so much.  She looked at it, then looked at me and asked why it was that color.  Needless to say, daughter #1 didn't eat it. Daughter #2 needed a little coaxing and distraction, plus some ketchup dipping action, and she ate hers right up.  Daughter #3 eats just about anything, so we're good there.

Hubby and I actually really loved these.  As it turns out they really are flavorful!  Never underestimate the power of simple ingredients.  It is really key in this recipe to get the patties nice and golden.  It not only helps them stick together, it really adds to the flavor.  I love that these patties are so healthful.  Lots of protein from the beans and quinoa and some good, healthy (and tasty) fats from the olive oil and avocado. I opted for just the avocado rather than the mayo to top my patties, in keeping with the whole foods idea, but top yours however you desire and enjoy!!

Crispy Quinoa Sliders
2 cups quinoa, cooked in chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup cooked white beans
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 whole wheat slider buns or dinner rolls
2 avocados, mashed
1/2-1 tsp. chipotle powder

Cook quinoa in chicken or vegetable stock, according to package directions.

Mash avocado and add chipotle powder according to your likeness.  Set aside. 

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and saute onions and carrots over medium high heat until soft and onions are translucent.  Add garlic the last 30 seconds of  cooking.  Mash beans and add them to the onion mixture.  Place mixture into a large bowl, along with the cooked quinoa and allow to cool slightly.

Once mixture is cool, add eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and olive oil. Either using hands or a wooden spoon, stir together until all ingredients are well-incorporated.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a couple drizzles of olive oil. Once good and hot, make the patties.  I found it easiest to use a large scoop, like a muffin scoop, to make the patties and just just scoop it out right into the pan, flattening it out a little bit with the tips of your fingers.  Add 5-6 quinoa patties, or however many fit in your pan, and cook until DEEPLY golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. If you cook it any less, patties will be too tender and will begin to crumble. Gently flip and cook 5 minutes more. Remove and continue with remaining olive oil and patties.

Serve warm on slider or dinner rolls topped with mashed avocado.  (Feel free to embellish here.  You can add mayo if you like, or my daughter even liked them dipped in ketchup!)
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