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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I liked this meal because I didn't have to lift a finger to make it. I fully intended to, but was so exhausted from work the other night and was not in the mood to get busy in the kitchen. Thankfully, my wonderful hubby took control and prepared these stuffed squash for us. Don't worry, I did the dishes ;)

We've liked a few of the other dishes we've stuffed, and this acorn squash was no exception. Both of us agreed that we prefer acorn squash just baked with a little bit of butter and brown sugar, but this was a fun change.

Because Ryan was in charge of this meal, I don't know the exact measurements. However, this is one of those recipes that doesn't really need a recipe, it can easily be modified and adjusted according to your taste!

-1 acorn squash
-2 servings brown rice
-Dried cranberries
-Finely chopped celery
-Finely chopped green apple
-Chopped pecans
-Finely chopped onion
-brown sugar & cinnamon, to taste

1. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Bake acorn squash at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until softened.
2. Cook rice according to package directions and set aside in a bowl.
3. When squash is finished, scrape the insides out with a fork and add to the rice.

4. Add cranberries, celery, apple, pecans, and onion to rice mixture. Stir until combined. Mix in cinnamon and brown sugar.

5. Fill each half of the acorn squash with the filling. Bake at 375 for an additional 20 minutes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings

I don't think I've ever seen a dessert go over as well as this one! I served this at our Wednesday night community group and people went crazy over it! I had this once before--my best friend Kacey made it after we went apple-picking a few weeks ago--and had really liked it, but I was not expecting everyone to love it as much as they did. Ryan even told me that he might like it better or as much as apple pie (not better than your apple pie though Grandma!!), and that's his favorite dessert!

The mountain dew seems like such a strange addition, and to be honest I have no idea what it adds to the dish. However, I wouldn't dare leave it out because I'm confident it has something to do with the yum-factor! I actually used half of the amount of butter and sugar that the recipe on allrecipes.com and it was still sweet and had plenty of "sauce". If you're looking for an easy, fall-flavored dessert that people will love, you must try this!

-2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls
-2 large Granny Smith apples-peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each
-1/2 cup butter, melted
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
-12 oz. Mountain Dew

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Unroll the crescent roll dough and separate into 16 pieces.

3. Roll each apple wedge into a triangle of dough, beginning at the point of the triangle and rolling towards the long edge.

4. Place each wrapped apple into a 9 x 13 pan.

5. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in sugars until melted and slightly thickened. Add cinnamon. Spoon the mixture over each of the dumplings.

6. Pour the entire can/bottle of mountain dew over the pan contents.

7. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
8. Serve with vanilla ice cream (definitely key!!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spinach and Artichoke Calzones

Our plates were definitely licked clean after this meal! The calzones were a nice change from making standard pizza and they were so simple to prepare. I actually made the filling a night ahead of time and just covered and refrigerated it. I thawed out one of the dough balls that I had stored in the freezer and all we had to do the next day was roll out the doll, add the filling & cheese, bake, and heat up the tomato sauce. LOVE easy meals (this one was particularly easy thanks to Ryan actually putting it all together :)).

One note of caution--our calzones really stuck to our cookie sheet, which was unusual because nothing's ever stuck before. Next time, we'll definitely spray the cookie sheet or use our pizza stone to bake these.

Ingredients (for 2 large calzones):
-1 dough ball from the homemade whole wheat pizza dough batch (could also use store bought dough)
-1/2 package frozen spinach
-1/2 can chopped artichoke hearts
-1/2 cup ricotta cheese
-garlic salt & pepper (to taste)
-mozzarella cheese (to taste)
-pizza or tomato sauce

1. Mix the spinach, artichokes, and ricotta cheese in a small bowl until well combined. Season with garlic salt and pepper.
2. Roll out the pizza dough and cut into two rectangles.
3. Spread half of the filling onto half of each rectangle. Sprinkle desired amount of mozzarella on top.

4. Fold each rectangle in half and shape into crescents, pinching the edges to seal.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

6. If preferred, season tomato sauce with oregano, basil, and garlic salt. Heat in a microwave or over the stove.
7. Serve calzones with heated sauce.

If you're a spinach & artichoke fan, you will love these! It was like eating a healthier version of the infamous dip. Plus, anything in calzone form in fun to eat...I can't wait to make some other fillings for these!

Spinach Apple Salad

I was looking for a quick salad to accompany our Sweet Potato and Kale Soup, so I turned to my favorite recipe generator, allrecipes.com. I love plugging ingredients into its search and seeing what recipe options it comes up with! This spinach salad wasn't anything special, but it was easy to throw together and I had all of the ingredients on hand. Next time, I think I'd like to try a different dressing. I also think some blue cheese would go great in this!

**Ha and while typing this up, I realized I misread the directions and didn't properly coat the apple, etc. in the dressing. It probably would've been better this way!

Ingredients (to serve 4):
-2 cups torn spinach
-2 cups torn romaine (I used all spinach)
-1 granny smith apple, chopped (not peeled)
-1/4 cup raisins
-1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped (would've preferred red onion)
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Mix well.
2. Add apple, onion, and raisins. Toss lightly to coat. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Just before serving, add apples, onion, and raisins to the spinach/romaine and toss.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Bran Date Bread

I wanted to use up more of the bran cereal and was looking for something different. While we love the bran breads and bran muffins I've made in the past, Ryan was ready for something a little different. I've been stocking up on pumpkin every time I go to the grocery store (have to take advantage while I can!), so I decided to incorporate that. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pumpkin bran bread recipe. Instead, I decided to come up with my own, by looking at other bread/muffin recipes and adjusting accordingly. Luckily, this method worked and the result was a deliciously moist and perfectly spiced bread. This is a relatively healthy bread, without any butter and not a ton of sugar. It doesn't taste like a decadent dessert (like my banana bread!), but it's a perfect breakfast or snack treat.

-15 oz can of pumpkin
-1 cup bran cereal
-1/2 cup applesauce (mine was sweetened)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 eggs
-3/4 cup milk
-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon ginger
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
-1 cup chopped, dried dates (could substitute raisins or eliminate if preferred)

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, bran, applesauce, and sugar. Mix in the eggs and milk.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flours, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.
4. Stir in dried dates.
5. Pour 3/4 of batter into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan. Use remaining batter to fill greased regular or mini-muffin tin (I got 16 mini muffins).
6. Bake bread for approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (unfortunately the time is a guess as I didn't set the timer and just checked it while I made dinner. the muffins probably took about 15 minutes)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

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This soup is another winner, right up there with the pumpkin soup. This soup took a little longer to put together than the pumpkin soup, mostly due to the peeling and chopping of the potatoes. Again, the blending of the soup was a little annoying (I definitely understand the appeal of an immersion blender!). However, the ingredients were simple and the taste was excellent! I loved the addition of yogurt which made it so thick and creamy. A perfect fall soup! We ate this with a spinach salad, which I'll post in the next couple of days.

Creamy Sweat Potato and Kale Soup
slightly adapted from In Good Taste
-3 large sweet potatoes
-drizzle of olive oil
-1 sweet onion, sliced
-2 teaspoons cumin
-1 quart chicken broth
-1 3/4 cup plain, fat free yogurt
-1 bunch of kale, chopped

1. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Set aside.
2. Add olive oil, onion, and cumin to a large pot. Saute for a few minutes, until onions are translucent.
3. Add broth and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are soft (20-25 minutes).
4. Remove soup from heat and stir in yogurt.
5. In batches, blend the soup until creamy (or use an immersion blender).
6. Add kale to the soup and heat for another 20-25 minutes.

**This probably makes 5-6 servings, depending on their size.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts & Butternut Squash

Wow! Go make these asap. These were soooo good. So good, in fact, that when cleaning up dinner I found myself picking the little bits of leftover squash and brussels off of the foil. Yum! I can't wait to eat the leftovers and I can't wait to make this again soon--what a perfect side dish!

-1 butternut squash (ours was about 2 lbs)
-brussel sprouts (we used a little over a lb)
-olive oil
-maple syrup
-sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Chop brussel sprouts in halves or fourths, depending on desired size.
2. Cut butternut squash in half. Scoop out seeds and membrane. Cut squash into chunks, cutting off the outer peel.
3. Toss the vegetables (we did them separately) in a large bowl with a little bit of maple syrup and olive oil (you don't need much at all, just enough to lightly coat the veggies!)
4. Line cookie sheets with foil and spread the vegetables out on them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Roast for 25-35 minutes in the oven, until the squash is soft (ours was good after about 25 minutes).
**This probably makes enough for 4 side-dish servings. As you can see, we had a lot more squash than brussels.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crockpot Pork Chops

This was a good and easy pork chop recipe that went great with roasted squash and brussel sprouts (the real star of the meal, to be posted shortly!). I found the recipe on allrecipes.com, but modified the amounts of everything to make a 2-serving portion. Because of this, our pork chops were done in about 3 hours on low power. I'm posting the original recipe (6 servings) below.

-6 boneless pork chops
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/2 cup soy sauce
-1/4 cup ketchup
-2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used minced garlic)
-salt and pepper, to taste (oops, I eliminated completely!)

1. Place pork chops in crockpot.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over pork chops.
3. Cook on low setting for 6 hours.

This literally took minutes to throw together and the chops had great flavor!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apple Puff Pancake

Well, I'm finally back from Seattle! I had a fabulous work trip that included lots of good food. Our last night there, after the conference had concluded, two of my co-workers and I went to Salty's on Alki. It's located right on the the water, across from downtown Seattle, so that when you're eating you are looking directly at the Seattle skyline. That, coupled with delicious food (jumbo sea scallops, lemony asparagus, and pumpkin bread pudding), made for a very fun meal!

Despite enjoying the luxury of not having to cook or clean up after myself, I was eager to get back in the kitchen. Ryan and I went out Saturday night for our anniversary, but decided to try something new for breakfast on Sunday morning. This apple puff pancake was new to both of us and a fun change for breakfast. It didn't take long to make--we prepared it, caught up on last week's Glee episode, and then it was time to eat :)

Apple Puff Pancake
adapted from Kaboose.com

-2 tbsp butter
-4 eggs (we only had 3 left)
-1 cup milk
-1 tsp vanilla
-2/3 cup flour
-2 tbsp sugar
-1/4 tsp cinnamon (I used 1/2)
-2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced (we didn't peel them as the original recipe suggested)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place the butter in a 10-inch deep dish pie plate or a 9-in square dish (we used a springform pan which worked fine, although at first some of the egg mixture started to leak and we had to place a cookie sheet under it in the oven!).
3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Beat until foamy.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.

Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix until just combined and smooth.
5. Put the baking dish, with the butter in it, in the preheated oven for a minute or two until the butter melts. Remove the dish with oven mitts and swirl the butter until it evenly coats the pan.
6. Place the apples evenly on the bottom of the dish.

Pour the egg mixture over the apples.

7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until puffed and lightly brown.

*We ate ours with maple syrup. You could also dust with powdered sugar!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

First Wedding Anniversary!

Well, this is going to be my first non-food post...but for a good reason! Exactly one year ago tomorrow, October 25th 2008, I married my best friend and had the best day of my life. I know everyone is supposed to say that their wedding was the best, but ours truly was. I still remember every detail of that day...I started to list them but there are truly too many to recount. It was an incredible day and one I will always be thankful for!

And now here we are a year later already! I am so many things now, after 364 days of marriage, that I didn't think I'd be: more in love with Ryan, more confident in our relationship, more proud of who we are together, and so much MORE. We've had a crazy year of change and growth and learning, but it has been a joy to be in it together every step of the way. I'm so excited to see what we look like as a couple one year from now, and then five years from now, and so on. While I look back to our past and where we've been (and continue to relive our amazing wedding day), I look forward to the future and all that it holds, while still enjoying our present and where we are in the here and now.

Because I'm flying back from Seattle today and we'll be celebrating our anniversary, I won't be cooking obviously. Instead I'll leave you with a few (or more) of my favorite pictures from last October. Enjoy! I'll be back in the kitchen with more recipes soon ;)

And of course we can't forget a few pictures of the desserts, my favorite ;)

AMAZING wedding cake (devil's food cake with hazelnut filling)


Pretty centerpiece, just for fun (not edible ;))

Hope you enjoyed...we have so many amazing pictures, it was so hard choosing only a couple to post in here!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tropical Bran Bread

I'm still out for one more day. Today the conference I've helped plan over the last several months officially ends and we'll get to (hopefully) enjoy our afternoon & evening in Seattle before flying home tomorrow! The post below is actually one I wrote several weeks ago and never got around to publishing. Unfortunately I never took a picture for it, but click the link at the bottom if you want to see what it looks like!

Remember that apricot bran bread I made recently? Well, we pulled the second loaf out in the freezer and finished it off in record time. It thawed easily and tasted just as fresh as the first loaf. I couldn't help but make another two loaves for the freezer...they're great for Ryan to snack on at work and a small slice is so filling!

I changed the recipe slightly this time, using less sugar and more whole wheat flour, but still followed the same method.

-2 cups bran flakes
-2 cups milk (used 2% this time, it's all we had)
-1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
-2 tablespoons honey
-1 package Tropical Fruit mix (found at Walgreens)
-1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1. Combine the bran flakes, milk, brown sugar, honey, and tropical fruit mix in a large mixing bowl. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, add the flour and mix well.
3. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.
4. Bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees.

**No picture this time, I made this early in the morning again and we were running late for work. However, it looked the same as it did last time (short and fat :))

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cereal Dessert Bars

If you haven't realized, I have a bit of a baking obsession. As a result, I constantly finding myself impulsively purchasing baking ingredients every time I'm in the grocery store. Currently, I have a major stash of various types of chips (chocolate, toffee, peanut butter, white chocolate...you get the picture), plenty of other candies, dried fruits, etc. I really need to start using up some of this stuff before I keep buying more! The dessert I made for this week's community group sprung from this need.

I found this recipe for Cereal Dessert Bars (called Peanut Butter Cheerio bars on Stephanie Cooks) and decided it'd be a great way to use up my box of Kashi Heart-to-Heart cereal (that I'd used to make breakfast cookies). I was busy Tuesday night preparing for my trip to Seattle, so this recipe was perfect as it took all of 15 minutes to throw together. I modified Stephanie's recipe slightly, reducing the sugar as she suggested and adding chocolate chips and peanuts. Unfortunately I didn't get to try one of the bars before leaving town, but my licks from the bowl suggested these are quite tasty! I'll have to wait for Ryan and the rest of community group to confirm...

Cereal Dessert Bars
adapted from Stephanie Cooks

-6 cups Kashi Heart-to-Heart cereal (could also use cheerios)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 cup honey
-1 cup peanut butter (I used 1/2 cup chunky, 1/2 cup creamy)
-1 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

1. Melt sugar and honey in a small pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
2. Add peanut butter and stir until melted.
3. Pour honey mixture over the cereal in a large bowl.

4. Mix well until cereal is completely coated.
5. Stir in chocolate chips and peanuts (chocolate chips will probably melt some from the heat of the honey mixture).

6. Pour coated cereal into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve (bars are VERY soft!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Black Bean Burgers

I'm actually in Seattle when you're reading this and will be there until Saturday, but I have a few posts scheduled to go up the next few days while I'm gone so keep checking the blog! I thought this would be an appropriate post for today because I have a feeling Ryan will be pulling one of these out of the freezer for dinner :)

I made these on a whim once when I had a can of black beans lying around and found that Ryan absolutely loved them. The best part about these is that you make them ahead of time and freeze them, so they're a great dinner to pull out when we don't feel like cooking. I've actually never made the patties and immediately cooked them, so I don't know if they'd turn out any differently that way.

This was the first time I made these and used a food processor to do all of my chopping and mashing of the beans. It made the process much easier, but these can certainly be made by mashing the beans with a fork (or your hands, as I used to do). The patties I made this time were a little smoother and more "burger-like" thanks to the food processor.

The recipe below made 10 burgers, but this can easily be halved. However, like I said, it's great to freeze a bunch and eat later! We like to eat these on buns with salsa. We've also crumbled them up and added them to a southwestern-type salad.

-1 green pepper, chopped
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-2 cans black beans, drained
-5 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
-1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
-approximately 3 squirts of hot sauce
-1 cup bread crumbs

1. Mix green pepper, onion, garlic, spices, hot sauce and bread crumbs in a large bowl.
2. Using a food processor or your hands, mush and mash the black beans until paste-like.
3. Add black beans to the bowl with everything else and mix well.
4. Using your hands, form patties about the size of your palm.
5. If cooking immediately, place patties on a skillet over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes a side, until heated through.
6. If freezing, wrap each patty individually in wax paper and place all patties inside of a freezer bag or tupperware. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and unwrap. Place patties on a plate and defrost in microwave. Cook on a skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until heated through.

bean mixture...mmm?!
"burger" patty
individually wrapped for the freezer