Monday, December 22, 2014

3-Ingredient Gingerbread Truffles

These little make-ahead truffles just taste like Christmas to me.  It's like eating gingerbread cookie dough, but better because this "dough" is dipped in white chocolate.  And they're bite-size so you don't have to make a whole big dessert out of them, although you could.  Instead, just pop one or two or four in your mouth and move on to the rest of the holiday goodies.

Bonus:  This couldn't be any easier.  Seriously, get the kids to make these, they'll love it!

16oz. pkg. frosted gingerbread cookies, finely crushed
8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1c white melting chocolate (Ghirardelli wafers are my new favorite) 

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the crushed cookies and cream cheese until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight.

2.  Roll into 1" balls and place on parchment paper.

3.  Melt chocolate according to package instructions.

4.  Using a toothpick, dip each ball one at a time into the chocolate, turning to coat completely.  Allow excess chocolate to drip off and place truffle on the paper.

5.  Refrigerate and allow chocolate to harden prior to serving.  Store any extras in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

English Muffin Bread

Some days are just made for staying home and baking bread.  Today has been one of those days for me.

It's been cold, dark, and rainy outside ever since I was awakened by a screaming toddler before the crack of dawn.  As it turns out, the cold that seems to be going around lately has officially arrived at our house.  My littlest girl is fighting a fever but, thankfully, is able to rest.  Add to that the older boy is not having a much better day.  He left a bag with clothes and Christmas presents on the Metro and will likely not see it again, had to walk through pouring rain... on and on... you get the idea; he's having an anything-that-can-go-wrong-will kind of day.

So, with nothing I could do but comfort these two, I decided to make English muffin bread.  There's probably some deep psychological root meaning behind it like the memory of my stepmom baking homemade bread and that yeasty aroma in the air.  Maybe it comforted me in some way?  I'm sure it did; it must have....maybe I'm overanalyzing.

But, about this bread... it's perfect for toast. That's it!  When there is freezing rain coming down outside and I am homebound with sick and miserable children, I just want to sit and eat toast.  That's what I did, too, and it was everything I hoped it could be.  

2 3/4c warm water
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
1 TBSP salt
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. white sugar
5 3/4c all-purpose or bread flour
1 TBSP butter, melted (optional)

1.  In a large mixing bowl, proof the yeast by pouring in 1 cup of the warm water and the yeast.  Allow to stand for a few minutes while the yeast gets bubbly and foamy looking.

2.  Stir in the remaining water, salt, and sugar.  

3.  Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition.

4.  Cover bowl and place in a cool, dark place.  Allow dough to double in size.  I let mine sit for about an hour.

5.  Punch down the dough and divide equally into two prepared 8x4 loaf pans.  Cover again and allow to rise again, doubling in size.  I allowed another hour for this.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°

6.  Uncover and place in preheated oven.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.  If desired, brush tops with melted butter 5 minutes prior to finish.

7.  Remove from oven and turn loaves out onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies with Pomegranate and Sea Salt

I was recently gifted two fantastic ingredients - black onyx cocoa powder and vanilla bean paste.  Both of which I had never tried before so had no idea what I was missing out on.  The first thing you should know is, I will never buy plain old vanilla extract again.  The vanilla bean paste has spoiled me forever on that.  Secondly, people are not joking when they say black onyx cocoa absolutely needs to be blended into regular cocoa.  It's that rich.

The pomegranate seeds not only add a nice pop of color but also a lighter contrast in flavors to the intensity of the dark chocolate.  And just a little sprinkling of sea salt at the end brings it all together.

1/2c butter, melted
1 1/4c white sugar
1/2c cocoa powder
1/4c + 2 TBSP black onyx cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 eggs
1/3c all-purpose flour
1 pomegranate, seeded

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, both cocoa powders, salt, and vanilla paste.

3.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each.

4.  Gradually stir in the flour just until blended.

5.  Pour batter into a prepared 8x8 baking dish (batter will be thick!) and top with 1/2c of the pomegranate seeds.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with additional salt and pomegranate seeds.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wild Rice and Garbanzo Bean Soup

It's been wonderfully dreary and rainy here lately.  Normally, this alone is enough to get me craving a hot bowl of soup but, add in the fact that I'm fighting a stubborn cold that just won't go away, and it's pretty much guaranteed there's going to be some sort of comfort food happening here and this was exactly what I needed.

Cooking this soup, I was tempted to add a little heavy cream, mostly out of habit, but after tasting it I realized it was completely unnecessary.  The turmeric really gives a nice Indian flavor and if you're inclined to add some some sort of carb to the meal, I would suggest a garlicky naan bread.

2c herbed wild rice blend, cooked
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
1/4c yellow onion, chopped
1c carrots, diced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/8 tsp. dried turmeric
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6c vegetable broth
2 - 15oz. cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1.  In a medium size pot, heat olive oil and butter over Medium High heat.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Cook and stir 4-5 minutes, until softened.

2.  Stir in the garlic, thyme, turmeric, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir an additional 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the vegetable broth and garbanzo beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low, cover, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes.

4.  Remove cover and stir in the cooked rice.  Allow to simmer another 5-10 minutes, or until rice is heated through.  Serve warm.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our New Favorite Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin pies have definitely evolved over the years.... I followed the recipe on the Libby's can for awhile and that was okay.  Then came a few years of folding in meringue and topping with pecans, which we all agreed was superior to the pies from the back-of-the-can days.  But then, this happened.  

I took a chance and tried out a new version of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day and the verdict was unanimous... this is THE pumpkin pie we will be having every year for the foreseeable future.

I was feeling fancy and decided to roast a sugar pumpkin rather than using canned but really, canned would work just as well here.

2c cooked pumpkin, pureed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2c heavy cream
1/2c sour cream
1c raw brown sugar
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 - unbaked, deep-dish pie crust

1.  Preheat oven to 425°  Place pie crust on a baking sheet.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, add all filling ingredients.

3.  Mix on medium speed until well blended and smooth.

4.  Pour filing into the pie crust.

5.  Bake approximately 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

6.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight; long enough for it to chill throughout.  Serve cool or room temperature.

Aren't these cutouts adorable?!
Since I used a store bought crust, I just rolled out the extra crust in the package, stamped them out with my little cutter, and placed them right over the other crust.  ;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce so much I could almost just sit and eat it all by itself.  The only time I make it though is Thanksgiving.  Maybe that's what makes it so special.  I like to prepare the sauce two days ahead of the big feast because 1) one less thing to do on Thanksgiving morning and 2) I'm convinced something magical happens with the flavors overnight.

If you're one of those people who buys the cranberry sauce in a can, stop that right now!  Once you've made the sauce with fresh cranberries, you'll never want to go back.  This is how I've made our Thanksgiving cranberry sauce for the last several years.

12oz. fresh cranberries
1c white sugar
3/4c orange juice
1/4c orange-based liqueur (I like Grand Marnier)

Note:  If you prefer to skip the liqueur, increase orange juice to 1c.

1.  In a medium size saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar, orange juice, and liqueur    Stir until sugar is dissolved.

2.  Add the cranberries.  Cook and stir until the cranberries begin to pop open.  (Mine took about 10 min.)  

3.  Remove from heat and allow to cool down a bit.

4.  Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and refrigerate at least overnight. (I like to make it 2 days in advance.)  Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Monday, November 24, 2014

As Thanksgiving Week Begins...

It's here!  Thanksgiving Week - the official buildup to the Super Bowl of all foodie holidays is upon us!  Are you excited or panicked?  Honestly, I'm a little bit of both at the moment.  Just yesterday, after wrestling the toddler down for nap, I finally got about 30 minutes of down time during which I was able to sketch out a rough plan for the big feast.

Have you seen all the recent posts about people doing "practice" Thanksgiving dinners?  Is this really a thing now?  Please tell me it's not because if it is, well, it's still not happening at my house.  Seriously, who has time for that?!

And all the planning guides that tell you to begin two weeks in advance?  Also not happening here.  Nope; everything will officially begin today (or tomorrow) with the big grocery shopping trip and we'll go from there.

But here's what I really want to know... Are you trying any new dishes this Thanksgiving?  I'll be keeping some things the same, like the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, but everything else from the sweet potatoes to the green beans, even the appetizers will be all new this year.

What can I say?  I'm feeling adventurous.  I'll let you know how it goes.  :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Red Beans and Quinoa

Southern-style comfort food that just happens to also be high in protein, gluten-free and vegan!  Served alongside Beer Braised Collard Greens, here, and a slice of cornbread, you've got a hearty, delicious meal:

1 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP yellow onion, chopped
1/3c green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2c vegetable broth
1c quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over Medium heat.

2.  Add the onion, green pepper, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until vegetables have softened a bit.  Add the garlic and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the thyme, kidney beans, and vegetable broth.  Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low, cover, and allow to simmer 10 minutes.

4.  Stir in the quinoa and season to taste.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Apple and Blue Cheese Crostini

I've been kicking around the idea of serving these for Thanksgiving and decided to do a test run last night.  What I love is the simplicity of the flavors and also the way you could put everything together in advance or just spread out the ingredients and let everyone build their own. Saves you a step and, really, people like build-your-own food - it's fun!

I've always loved apple and Blue cheese together but what was new to me was the addition of honey. This is what totally puts this appetizer over the top.  It's just that little kiss of sweetness against the the tanginess of the cheese.  So, what I'm saying is, if you skip the honey, it's still good but not as good as what the rest of us are eating.

If you want to get fancy, your can make your own bread (recipe here) or you can do like I did this time and grab a fresh baguette from the bakery.

1 - sweet red apple (I used a honey crisp), sliced thin
4 oz. medium-soft Blue cheese, room temperature
1 TBSP fresh rosemary

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  Slice baguette into 1" slices and arrange on a baking sheet.  Toast in the oven 1-2 minutes.

3.  Layer each baguette slice with a "schmear" of cheese, a sprinkle of rosemary, and a light drizzle of honey.

Serve with a crisp white wine - perfect!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Because I had three full bags of baby spinach in the fridge that I needed to use or lose, spinach was the theme of last night's dinner.  We had a delicious spinach and tortellini soup, more on that another day, and these little mushroom bites.  They were such an easy and elegant addition to the meal and, since they're made with cottage cheese, not super heavy in calories like the cream cheese-based stuffed mushrooms I usually go for.

1 TBSP olive oil
12 baby bella mushrooms
12 mushroom stems, chopped
2 TBSP yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2c baby spinach leaves
1/2c cottage cheese
1 egg
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
1 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
2 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil.

3.  Add onion and mushroom stems.  Saute 1-2 minutes.

4.  Add spinach and allow it to cook down; 1-2 minutes.

5.  Add garlic and continue sautéing another minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.

6.  To a food processor or blender, add the cottage cheese, egg, nutmeg, black pepper, and cayenne.  Pulse a few times to combine mixture but still retain some texture.

7.  Add spinach mixture and basil.  Pulse another 3-4 times; just enough to blend.

8.  Spoon everything into the mushroom caps.  Bake 25-30 minutes.

9.  During the last 5 minutes of baking, top each mushroom with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Make the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds

Have you carved your pumpkins yet?  If not, get to it; it's Halloween week!   If you're ahead of the game, I hope you didn't throw out the built-in snack.

This is the one and only time of year we eat pumpkin seeds so it's important to roast them with the perfect blend of sweet and salty.  Confession: I have never gotten this quite right, until now.  I'm convinced the secret ingredient is the brown sugar.

Mr. agreed these are the best yet and seriously addictive!
2c pumpkin seeds
3 TBSP vegan butter, melted
3 TBSP brown sugar
3/4 tsp. sea salt + a little extra 
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin

1.  Clean the seeds by swishing them around with water in a large bowl.  Set aside to dry.

2.  Once seeds are dry, preheat oven to 250°

3.  Add seeds back to the bowl and add melted butter, brown sugar, sea salt, chili powder, and cumin; toss to coat.

4.  Pour seeds evenly into a prepared 11x13 baking dish.  Bake 90 minutes, stirring every 30 minutes.

5.  Remove from oven and season with additional salt, to taste.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oven~Baked Refried Bean Dip

It's snack time!  Grab a bag of chips and dig in!

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2c plain yogurt
1 (16oz.) can refried beans
3 TBSP taco seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper sauce
2 TBSP green onions, chopped + a little extra for garnish
1c Cheddar cheese, shredded and divided

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  In a medium size bowl, stir all ingredients together, reserving 1/2c cheese and the extra green onions.

3.  Add to prepared baking dish.  I used two smaller dishes but the recipe works just as well if you put it all in an 8x8.

4.  Top with the remaining cheese.

5.  Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Vegan Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Fall is here!  Time for sweaters & boots, hot apple cider, and comfort food at it's best.  I've been making this family favorite every fall for several years now and it is always a big hit.  The recipe has evolved quite a bit from the first time I made this soup and I think it's better than ever now.

Hope you enjoy these classic flavors as much as we do!

1 pkg. Beyond Meat chicken strips
1 TBSP olive oil
salt, pepper, & garlic powder, to taste

6c vegetarian chicken broth
1 - 4oz. pkg. wild rice mix, with seasoning packet
3/4c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2c vegan butter
1/4c yellow onion, diced
1/2c carrots, diced
1/2c celery, chopped
1/2c white wine, optional
2c soy creamer

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chicken strips and cook until heated through, seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste.  Remove to a cutting board and shred.

In a large pot over medium high heat, bring the broth to a boil.  Add rice and seasoning packet included.  Cover and remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, sautéing until slightly tender.  Stir in garlic and cook another minute, until fragrant.

Add white wine, if desired, and reduce heat to low.  

Gradually whisk in the flour mixture.

Pour in the creamer, a little at a time, whisking to maintain a smooth consistency.  Allow to simmer approximately 5 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Stir creamy mixture into the large pot with broth and rice.  Bring heat to medium and allow soup to heat through; 15-20 min.

 Served with biscuits for dipping - yum!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cinnamon Spice Applesauce (Slow Cooked and Sugar-Free)

Are you ready for the easiest applesauce you've ever made?  Break out the crock pot and let's get to it!

Let me just first say, even if you've been making applesauce with white or brown sugar forever, I promise, you absolutely will not miss it in this applesauce.  The apples have so much natural sweetness anyway.  I used Galas but don't see why any variety of apple wouldn't work here.

So, just use whatever you've got on hand and adjust spices to your personal preference.  Serve it hot; serve it cold - doesn't matter.  This recipe is super flexible!  Bonus: Your entire house will smell amazing!

Recipe can be scaled for whatever amount of apples you want to use without changing the cooking time.  I went with a small 1 lb. batch and it yielded approximately 1 1/2c.

1 lb, apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1/3 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1.  Layer apple slices in the slow cooker.

2.  Sprinkle with spices.

3.  Set temperature on High and leave it alone for about 4 hours, checking progress periodically.

4.  Stir everything together and mash to desired consistency.  I like a chunkier applesauce so all it took was just a few times around in the pot with a spoon and it was ready.

Monday, October 6, 2014

White Wine Alfredo Sauce

My husband could probably eat fettuccine Alfredo every day of his life and I've experimented with various combinations over the years.  Most were tasty, some were so-so, but this one has emerged as the clear favorite:

4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP all-purpose flour
1c. heavy cream
1c. chicken flavored broth (Better Than Boullion makes a great veg version)
1c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2c. Parmesan and Romano cheese, shredded
3 TBSP Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4c. white wine 
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In a medium-size sauce pan, melt butter over low heat.

2.  Add flour.  Cook and stir with a whisk until well blended. (2-3 min.)

3.  Add cream and broth.  Stir to blend.

4.  Add remaining ingredients and continue stirring over low heat until cheeses are melted and sauce is a smooth consistency.

*If the sauce starts to get too thick, just thin it back out with a splash of wine or broth.

5.  Toss with pasta and serve warm.

Some people swear by Chardonnay for Alfredo sauces but I used a Sauvignon Blanc for this one 
and thought it was fabulous - Cheers!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Green Chile and Pepper Jack Egg Bake

This is officially my new favorite egg dish!

I had big plans to make it last weekend but... I don't know, something happened and it just didn't work out.  You know how these things go.  Days went by and I finally remembered I had bought the cheeses specifically for this so I should probably get on with making it.

And that is how we came to have "breakfast for dinner".  In order to make the meal not so breakfast-y  though I did throw together a side of black beans (butter, onion, garlic, cilantro - easy) and that rounded out the meal nicely.

Here's the super simple and oh, so yummy recipe:

6 eggs, beaten
1/2c pepper Jack cheese, shredded
1c cottage cheese
1/4c all-purpose flour
1/4c green chiles, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, pepper Jack cheese, cottage cheese, and flour.

3.  Fold in the green chiles.

4.  Pour everything into a prepared 8x8 baking dish.

5.  Bake 1 hour, or until eggs are set.  Serve warm.

P.S.  The leftovers were great the next day.  
I spooned some into flour tortillas and devoured them for lunch!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cheesy Broccoli Twice Baked Potatoes

I love a big baked potato for dinner!   Aside from the classic-style buttered potato, BBQ vegetarian chicken had been my go-to favorite, until now.

Served these up with sides of Clean Out the Fridge Soup, here, for an easy and tasty dinner!

5 Russet potatoes
1c broccoli florets, chopped
3-4 TBSP butter
2 TBSP green onions, chopped
1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
1c sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 385* and bake potatoes approximately 1 hour, or until tender.  Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, sauté broccoli in 2-3 TBSP water until cooked through.  Drain and set aside.

2.  Slice length-wise across each potato and remove tops.  Scoop out insides, leaving enough potato that the skin holds its shape.

3.  In a medium mixing bowl, mash the scooped out potato with butter until it reaches your desired consistency.

4.  Stir in the green onions, parsley, Cheddar cheese, salt, and black pepper.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Spoon mixture back into the potato skins.

5.  Bake 15 minutes.  Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and serve warm.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Late Summer Garden Minestrone

We're on the very edge of fall here and I've already been craving heartier soups and stews lately.  Farmers' markets are overflowing with okra, tomatoes, carrots.... add to that, my little backyard garden is bursting with herbs.

This soup creation is exactly what I was in the mood for on a recent cool and rainy day.  It is a minestrone in the classic sense that it's a vegetable soup with a little pasta thrown in for fun.  The ingredients are what's in-season here right now and I think could be easily adjusted to whatever you've got on hand.

2 TBSP olive oil
1/4c yellow onion, diced
3/4c okra, sliced 1/2"
1/4c celery, sliced
1/2c carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4c vegetable broth
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
3 large roma tomatoes, diced
3 TBSP fresh parsley
1 TBSP fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme
3c fresh baby spinach, rough chopped 
1/2c ditalini pasta

1.  In a large pot, heat olive oil over Medium heat.

2.  Add onion, okra, celery, and carrots.  Saute 3-5 minutes.

3.  Add garlic and continue cooking another 1 minute.

4.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low.

5.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes.  Adjust seasoning to taste and serve warm.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goat Cheese Quinoa with Spinach and Pine Nuts

It was one of those days when very little went according to plan and I was *this* close to letting the pizza man handle dinner...

but then I remembered the gorgeous okra and corn on the cob just bought two days ago at the farmers market.  I needed a dinner that incorporated both these purchases.

Oh, and there's that partial bag of spinach I need to use or lose... and that goat cheese I bought with no real plan for its use (I love the stuff and can't help myself sometimes) ... this meal was clearly meant to come together.

Paired with oven-roasted okra and corn on the cob with Old Bay seasoned butter, this was an easy, and delicious, dinner:

1c quinoa, cooked according to pkg. directions
1 TBSP olive oil
3 TBSP pine nuts, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2c spinach leaves, rough chopped
2 TBSP goat cheese, crumbled

1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

2.  Add pine nuts and garlic, cooking 1 - 2 minutes, until lightly toasted.

3.  Add cooked quinoa and spinach, cooking and stirring occasionally until quinoa is heated through and spinach is wilted.

4.  Remove from heat and fold in cheese.

5.  Garnish with additional 1 TBSP pine nuts and serve warm.

Yields 2 generous portions.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Julia Child's Cream of Spinach Soup

The first female celebrity chef would have been 102 today so it's fitting to showcase this simple but decadent soup.

My husband has been fighting a cold bug for the last few days and I thought a nice, hot soup would soothe his sore throat.  Why spinach?  Honestly, I had a bag of spinach I needed to use fairly soon or lose forever.

I opened Mastering the Art of French Cooking to page 43 where I found a recipe for Potage Creme d'Epinards (Cream of Spinach Soup) described in the book as, "...a lovely soup, and perfect for an important dinner."  Sounded good to me so I decided to give it a try and the resulting soup was a definite winner!

Side note: I love the way this recipe is written..."enrichment butter," "off heat" etc. - so charming.

Here's Mrs. Child's exact recipe, in case you don't have the book:

1/3 cup minced green onions, or yellow onions
3 Tbsp butter
3-4 packed cups of fresh spinach cut into chiffonade (thin slices)
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp flour (I used 5 Tbsp total for a thicker soup, your preference)
5 1/2 cups boiling white stock or chicken broth
2 eggs yolks
1/2 cup whipping cream
1-2 Tbsp butter

1. Cook the onions slowly in the butter in a covered saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and translucent but not browned.

2. Stir in spinach and salt, cover, and cook slowly for about 5 minutes or until the leaves are tender and wilted.

3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.

4. Off heat, beat in the boiling stock. Simmer for 5 minutes. *If not to be served immediately, set aside uncovered. Reheat to simmer before proceeding.

5. Blend the yolks and cream in the mixing bowl. Beat a cupful of hot soup into them by driblets. Gradually beat in the rest of the soup in a thin stream. Return soup to saucepan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to peach the egg yolks, but do not bring the soup to a simmer. Off heat, stir in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time.

I made the usual vegetarian and vegan substitutes for all but the egg yolks:

This recipe is not complicated but I still had lots of help.  My littlest chef-in-training takes her job very seriously.  :)


Serve hot with garlic bread.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spicy and Savory Thousand Island Dressing

Trust me, once you make this for yourself, you won't ever want to go back to that sugary sweet stuff in a bottle!  It's super easy to throw together and absolutely perfect for Reuben sandwiches.

1/2c mayonnaise (I use Vegenaise)
1/4c ketchup
1 TBSP dill pickle relish
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. mustard seed
1/2 tsp chili powder

1.  Stir everything together in a small mixing bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Good stuff!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meatless Muffuletta

I love muffulettas!  There is just something about the briny olives and cheesy combo that I find dangerously addicting.

The original plan with this recipe was to try adding a little fresh oregano but when I went to the garden, I discovered someone had eaten every bit of what used to be a rather large plant - all the way down to the ground!  Herbs are disappearing like crazy this year and we haven't caught the culprit yet.  So, no oregano, but still delicious.

1c kalamata olives
1c green olives
3 cloves garlic
1/2c fresh basil
1/4c olive oil
4 slices provolone
4 slices mozzarella
medium size Italian bread round

1.  In a food processor, add kalamata olives, green olives, garlic cloves, fresh basil, and olive oil.  Chop to a chunky texture.  Refrigerate for an hour or two, or until ready to use (within 24 hours).

2.  Slice Italian round lengthwise and layer alternating olive salad and cheeses.

3.  Place in a 350° oven for a few minutes; just enough to soften the cheese.  Cut into quarters and serve.


The olive salad is also yummy for snacking with crackers!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Make the Perfect Shirley Temple

I don't think there's a girl out there who doesn't love Shirley Temples.  This classic kids' cocktail has been my older daughter's favorite restaurant treat for years.  Just a few nights ago, we wanted to go out for dinner and gave her the honor of choosing the restaurant.  She immediately chose a place nearby that we all know and love and while waiting for our table, I asked her why she chose this place.  Her response - "They make the best Shirley Temples!"

What?!  Really?!  Okay, they make a darn good margarita, too, but that's beside the point.  Such a thing has never been my basis for choosing where I want to eat my evening meal.  Right then and there I decided it was time to show this girl how simple it is to recreate her favorite restaurant drink at home.

She was amazed how easy it was and I was happy when she declared my Shirley Temple concoction, "way better than the ones at the restaurant!"  Psst... It's all about the cherry juice/Sprite ratio which will vary by glass size.  So easy:

1 bottle Sprite
1 jar maraschino cherries, with juice

1.  Fill glass with ice (we like the slushiness of crushed).

2.  Pour in the Sprite and 1-2 TBSP cherry juice.

3.  Top with cherries and serve.

Sit back and let the little ones praise your talent.  
They'll think you're a master mixologist!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Classic Coleslaw

To me, coleslaw is a perfect addition to any summertime cookout and was delicious paired with our BBQ Baked Beans last week.  What I like about this one is that the cabbage retains just the right amount of crunch and flavor because it's not drenched in dressing.   I can't stand a soggy coleslaw!

I usually opt for coleslaw mix in a bag because I like the blend of colors.  It's important for my food to be pretty.  :)  Sometimes I also stir in chilled apple chunks for a little something extra just before serving - yum!

3/4c mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
14oz. pkg. coleslaw mix

1.  In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except coleslaw mix.  Stir until well blended.

2.  Add coleslaw mix and toss to coat.

3.  Refrigerate until chilled.

Friday, July 25, 2014

BBQ Baked Beans

I have used this recipe for baked beans every summer for the last several years.  Okay, not this *exact* recipe; the previous one included meat.  We've now had this vegetarian version twice and, as always, it's delicious!

2 (15 oz.) cans baked beans
1/2c brown sugar, packed
1/4c yellow onion, chopped
1/2c ketchup
1 TBSP yellow mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  In a medium bowl, stir all ingredients until well blended.  Pour into an 8x8 baking dish.

3.  Bake 1 hr, uncovered, until sauce is thickened.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July Flag Toast and Watermelon Stars

4th of July food has historically been all about lunch around here, with leftovers available for grazing throughout the remainder of the day.  This year, we switched things up a bit by going out for lunch and saving the big All-American feast for dinner.  But first, my daughter and I threw together this super cute and easy breakfast:

sliced bread
cream cheese

1.  Toast the bread and allow to cool a minute or two.

2.  Spread with cream cheese.

3.  Add blueberries and strawberries to represent stars and stripes.


For the Watermelon Stars, a cookie cutter makes preparation quick and easy.  I use this one twice a year - Christmas and 4th of July!



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Easy Bleu Cheese Dressing

Last night's dinner was served with a salad of mixed greens, pepper jack cheese, red grapes, and Bleu cheese dressing.  The salad may sound like an odd combination but it was delicious and really paired well with our steak seasoned couscous wraps.

1/8c milk
1c mayonnaise
6oz. cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2c Bleu cheese, crumbled

1.  Put everything in a medium size bowl and stir until well blended.  Chill until ready to use.  Easy!
Use the extra dressing as a dip with fresh vegetables!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Garlic and Herb Mushroom Tacos

Serve these with some garlic rice.... YUM!!

1/4c mayonnaise
1 TBSP garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper sauce, or to taste
1 bag arugula or spring salad mix

2c wild mushrooms (I used cremini and shiitake)
1 shallot
1 1/2 TBSP butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2c herbed goat cheese, crumbled
2 tsp. fresh thyme
6 spinach tortillas

  1. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic powder, and pepper sauce.  Toss lightly with the salad mix and set aside.  
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and cook until light golden brown.
  3. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme.
  4. Top warm tortillas with salad mix, mushrooms, and goat cheese.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fabulous French Bread

Though I usually go the easier route and just pick up baguettes in the bakery, occasionally I do enjoy baking the bread from scratch.  If you've never made your own French bread, I recommend giving it a shot.  It's really very simple!

All it takes is a few basic ingredients, a couple hours for rising and baking, and a good stand mixer with a dough hook.  You could skip the mixer and knead the dough by hand but that's more traditional than I care to get these days.  I've done it in the past; it's not fun.  What you will absolutely love though -- the amazing aroma that will fill your house as these loaves are baking!  Mmmm...pass the butter.

Yields 2 large loaves:

5 tsp. active dry yeast
2c warm water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 1/4c all-purpose flour
1 egg white + 1 TBSP water

1.  Start with the active dry yeast in your mixer bowl; pour in the warm water and allow to stand a few minutes, until slightly bubbly.

2.  Add salt and 2c of flour.  Mix together, using a dough hook or paddle attachment on a Stir/Low setting.  Gradually add the remaining flour.

3.  Let the mixer run another 5 minutes or so, until the dough reaches a smooth, elastic consistency.

4.  Place in lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with a damp cloth and set aside until the dough has risen to double its original size.  (Mine took about 1 1/2hrs.)

5.  Punch dough down and divide into two equal portions.  Remove to a floured surface, cover again, and allow to rest 10 minutes.

6.  On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a rectangle shape.  Then, from a long side, roll into a baguette shape, sealing the edges with a small amount of water on your fingertips and tapering the ends.

7.  Sprinkle a prepared baking sheet with corn meal and place the baguettes seam side down.  

8.  Whisk egg white and water together and brush lightly over the dough.  Again, cover with the damp cloth and set aside for about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375*

9.  Remove cloth and bake 20 minutes.  Brush again with egg wash and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until done.  Cover with foil during the last 10 minutes or so to prevent over-browning.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mashed Potato Tacos

I am so happy with the way these turned out last night!  This is one of those recipes that I worked on one day, changed the next, and then practically rewrote in the kitchen as I was cooking.  Most of my recipes tend to work out that way, actually.  

Either way, my taste testers (husband and kids) and I all thought these tacos were delicious.  And not as filling as you might think; or maybe we were just really hungry.  :)

Hand-held comfort food, here you go:

1 1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, skin-on and diced
5 TBSP butter
1/8 - 1/4c half & half
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8c green onions, sliced thin
1 TBSP vegetable oil 
8 flour tortillas
shredded iceberg lettuce
sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

  1. Place diced potatoes in a medium pot and fill with water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, approximately 20 minutes; Drain, return to pot, and mash to a chunky consistency. 
  2. Stir in butter, half & half (start with 1/8c and add more to suit your taste), salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.  Fold in green onions.
  3. Fill each tortilla with 2 heaping TBSP of the potato mixture.
  4. Add vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add tacos 1-2 at a time, turning to cook to golden brown on each side.  Place cooked tacos on a baking sheet and set in oven on the warm setting.
  5. Top with lettuce and cheese; serve warm.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Caprese Pasta

I don't know what it is lately, but I have been craving the simple and delicious flavor combination like crazy!  Sandwiches, salads, pizza... it was only a matter of time before pasta went into the mix.  Good thing I love caprese-anything because I now have quite a bit of fresh mozzarella in the fridge, thanks to a recent Buy 1 Get 1 sale at Whole Foods.

This was a super easy dinner that I threw together in no time last night.

1/2lb. farfalle pasta, cooked and drained
3TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2c vegetable stock
1c cherry tomatoes, quartered
1c fresh mozzarella, cubed
1c fresh spinach, rough chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
basil for garnish

1.  In a medium pot, cook pasta according to package directions; drain in a colander and set aside.

2.  In in same pot, over medium high, heat olive oil and add diced onions.  Cook approximately 1 minute before adding the garlic and thyme.  Cook and stir another 1-2 minutes, until mixture is softened and fragrant.

3.  Pour in the vegetable stock and continue cooking until liquid is reduced almost half.

4.  Add the pasta to the pot.  Then, gently stir in the spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella; allow to heat through approximately 1-2 minutes.

5.  Season to taste, garnish with basil, and serve hot.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Garlicky Cauliflower Gratin

I've been experimenting with cauliflower quite a bit lately with this gratin dish being the latest creation.  As always, I used non-dairy butter.  Served over Basmati rice, with a side of sautéed asparagus, this was a delicious meal!

8 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP butter, melted 
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/3c Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper, to taste
1 TBSP fresh Italian parsley
1/c Panko breadcrumbs

1.  Preheat oven to 400* and butter an 8x8 baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the butter, olive oil, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

3.  Cover and bake 25 min.

4.  Uncover and top with Panko breadcrumbs.

5.  Switch oven setting to Broil and allow another 3-5 min. cook time to allow for a nice golden brown top.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Toddler-Approved Pasta Dinner

Do you buy canned raviolis and o's for your little one?  If so, stop it right now!  It's way too easy (and cheap) to make your own!  My two-year old loved this today and even the 20-year old gave it a thumbs up.


* As usual, I subbed non-dairy products for the milk and butter
* I use white sugar but think this would be just as tasty with Splenda or maybe agave (haven't tried them yet).
* Pasta I used was the dried mini raviolis from Trader Joe's.  Next time, I'll use fresh though.

15oz. can tomato sauce
2 TBSP milk
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 TBSP butter
3 TBSP nutritional yeast
2 TBSP sugar
2c small-medium size pasta

1.  Cook the pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

2.  In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, melt the butter.

3.  Add remaining ingredients and heat through, stirring frequently.

4.  Top pasta with sauce and serve.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Roasted Garlic and Leek Soup

The annual spring cold that has been going around lately finally made an appearance at our house.  I had a little touch of it but my husband is absolutely miserable!  So, in addition to a homemade juice involving lots of ginger, garlic, kale, and other cold-fighting foods, we enjoyed this soup along with a simple baguette and butter for dinner last night.  The house smelled amazing from all the garlic in the air  and the soup was a big hit with everyone.  Our two-year old even went back for seconds!


* Used Earth Balance for the butter and Better Than Bouillon's No-Chicken for the broth

4 bulbs garlic, large
olive oil
6 TBSP butter
4 leeks, chopped
1/2c yellow onion, chopped
6 TBSP all-purpose flour
4c chicken broth
1/3c dry sherry
1/4 tsp. white pepper
fresh chives, for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 350*  Cut off tops of garlic heads, exposing the cloves.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven approximately 1 hour.  Allow to cool and squeeze to remove the cloves.

2.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add garlic, leeks, and onion.  Break up the garlic with your spoon and stir frequently until leeks and onion are soft.

3.  Add the flour and stir quickly to thicken.  Pour in the broth, sherry, and white pepper.

4.  Reduce heat to low and allow soup to simmer approximately 20 min.  Adjust the seasoning, to taste, top with chives, and serve hot.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vegan Teriyaki Chicken

Last night's dinner of my vegan version of teriyaki chicken, served over rice, and with a side of sautéed green beans was devoured by everyone, even our super picky 2-year old.  

Note:  For the "chicken", I used Beyond Meat which is easily the best chicken substitute available right now, in my opinion.   

1 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP water
1/2c white sugar
1/2c soy sauce
1/4c apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 pkg. chicken substitute, chopped into bite-size pieces

1.  Preheat oven to 425*

2.  In a small saucepan over low heat, combine all ingredients except the chicken.  Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened.

3.  Add chicken to a prepared 8x8 baking dish and baste generously with the sauce.

4.  Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 min., turning and basting with extra sauce every 10 min.

Hint of Coconut Cookies

Even my non-coconut eaters raved about these cookies!  It may seem like a lot of coconut but for some reason, the flavor is pleasantly mild and not at all.  And the texture
is just the right amount of chewy goodness!

Here's the recipe:

1 1/4c.  all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1/2c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. flaked coconut
1.  Preheat oven to 350*
2.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3.  In a stand mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar on medium speed until smooth.

4.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

5.  Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut.

6.  Roll into 1" balls and place on a cookie sheet a few inches apart.  

7.  Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for about 30 min.

8.  Remove from the refrigerator straight to the oven.  Bake for approximately 12 min. or until lightly toasted.

9.  Cool on wire racks.

My most adamant coconut hater kept trying to sneak cookies while I was making dinner.  :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Beer Braised Collard Greens

Today is March 17th, which means today is all about all things green.  People are clad in green, wearing shamrocks, and drinking green beer so it seems only right that today's recipe is one for, you guessed it - greens!

2 TBSP olive oil
1/2c yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fresh collard greens, cut into 2” pieces and stems removed
1 (12oz.) light beer
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
Ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes or until onion is softened and garlic is light golden brown.

2.  Add collard greens, beer, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

3.  Allow to simmer 30-45 minutes or until collard greens are wilted and beer is reduced slightly.

4.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


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