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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Soup

I have a confession to make, and I feel stupid telling you this. I served this soup a few weeks ago when we had my brother-in-law, his girlfriend, and some other friends over for dinner. Though I'd never made the recipe before, I figured I had nothing to worry about. How can you go wrong with squash, sweet potatoes, and pomegranates, right?

I know what you're thinking, I'm about to tell you this recipe was a flop. Not the case. I actually quite liked it. However, as the six of us were eating, we all commented on what a kick this recipe had. I was positively baffled and recited the ingredients to everyone: "It's only squash, potatoes, broth, pomegranate juice, wine, onion, salt & pepper." We could not for the life of us figure out what would have made it so spicy so we slurped on. 

Though I hopefully tamed the fire in their mouths with a little caramel apple cheesecake pie, I spent the next twelve hours questioning why in the world the soup turned out so spicy. It wasn't until I started typing the recipe up in this blog post that the culprit was realize: green chilies. Cue me slapping my forehead in stupidity. Whoops! 

Well, mystery solved. If you want to tone down the kick, I recommend decreasing or omitting the chilies. I had doubled the below recipe, meaning an entire little can of chilies went into the soup. Why I couldn't remember this when we all questioned the flavor, I don't know! Even so, this soup was quite good. It's rather liquidy, so decrease the amount of broth if you prefer a thicker soup. Be sure to top with pumpkin or sunflower seeds, it makes for a satisfying crunch!

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Soup
adapted from POM Wonderful 

-1 cup pomegranate juice
-1/2 cup pomegranate arils
-1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
-1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
-1/3 cup onion, chopped
-2 tbsp green chiles, chopped
-3 cups chicken broth
-1 tsp salt
-2 tsp white pepper (note--this contributes to the spicy kick of the soup--decrease to 1/2 tsp for a milder flavor...add additional pepper to taste)
-1/2 cup white wine
-toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds
-1/2 cup sour cream

1. Add squash, sweet potato, onion, green chiles, chicken broth, and pomegranate juice to a large stockpot. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 30 minutes or until squash is soft. Add salt, pepper, and white wine.
3. Remove from heat & use an immersion blender to blend until smooth (or use a regular blender and transfer in batches).
4. Reheat soup before serving. Top bowls with pomegranate arils, pepitas, and sour cream.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Scones

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If you're of the belief that scones are nothing more than dry and lifeless blobs, then these scones are for you. One bite into these and you will take back every bad thought you ever had about scones. These are everything scones should be: tender and moist with pockets of sweetness from the golden raisins.

I was a little concerned when these first came out of the oven. The edges were crisp and the raisins that were on the outer edges looked a little charred. I hesitantly took a bite and all fears were subsided. The crispy edges were in perfect contrast to the tender insides. I made these for a group of guys who came one morning to help Ryan insulate our attic. Ryan, my most honest critic, ate three. I always take that as a good sign! So whether you're a scones lover or a scones hater, I'm convinced you'll love these. Try them and let me know what you think. You could easily add other dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, or blueberries would all be good!) or omit altogether.

In case you still have leftover turkey:
Turkey, Cranberry, & Goat Cheese Paninis
Pomegranate Spinach Salad with Persimmon & Turkey
Loaded Turkey, Vegetable, and Wild Rice Soup

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Scones
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

-1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
-1/2 cup half & half
-1 large egg
-3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/3 cup sugar
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon
-10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces and chilled
-1 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 450F. While oven is preheating, spread oats on a baking sheet and add to oven for 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove oats from oven and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg with half & half. Remove 1 tbsp and set aside for glazing.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (approximately 4 pulses) until well-combined. Place the butter chunks on top of the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal (12-14 pulses).
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the oats and raisins. Fold in the liquid mixture until everything is well combined.
5. Drop 8 equal-sized chunks of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sea Salt and Poppy Seed Crackers

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Last week I came home from work to find a large, heavy package awaiting me. Ryan and I tore open the box to find a Home for the Holidays Gift Basket from Hickory Farms, courtesy of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program. Complete with sausage, several kinds of cheese, crackers, mustards, and some candies, it was chock full of goodies for snacking on.

What are two to do when faced with a giant box of snack foods? Share with friends! Mike and Maggie came over for wine and appetizers and we put a serious dent in some of the Hickory Farms goods. Of course, I couldn't have them over and only serve purchased (or in this case, gifted!) foods! We also feasted on  kale chips, sweet potato chips, cranberry bruschetta (also pictured below), mushroom crostini (to be posted next week!), and finally, some homemade crackers to eat with the Hickory Farms meats and cheeses. 

Since my last foray into homemade crackers, I've decided that I like them infinitely more than most of what you can buy in the store. The same goes for these. I made these a day ahead of time, thinking they'd crisp up overnight, but I actually liked them best fresh out of the oven. They were good both ways, just better the first day! As with all homemade crackers, roll them as thinly as you can to give them that signature cracker texture. 

Sea Salt and Poppy Seed Crackers
from Joy the Baker

-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tbsp butter, cold and cut into 6 small chunks
-1 tbsp poppy seeds
-6 tbsp half and half
-sea salt and half and half, for topping

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a small bowl.
2. Using your hands, add the chunks of butter and rub into the flour until it is in tiny bits, evenly dispersed. Stir in the poppy seeds.
3. Add the half and half, mixing until a stiff dough forms. Lay dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a thin rectangle, approximately 8x10 inches. Using a pizza cutter, cut into squares.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Place crackers on the baking sheet. Brush sparingly with half and half. Sprinkle with sea salt.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, until crisp but pale. Cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

*In full disclosure I want to report that I was given the gift basket courtesy of Foodbuzz and Hickory Farmers at no cost to me. All opinions regarding the products are my own. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Loaded Turkey, Vegetable, and Wild Rice Soup

This soup is loaded, but not in the way you typically think. Health and fitness magazines often warn against ordering restaurant menu items or eating things called "loaded". Loaded baked potato? You'll find a baked potato with butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon, and who knows what else sitting in front of you. Dreyer's Loaded Ice Cream? You don't even want to know what's all in there!

Of course, there's a time and a place for gluttonous loading. I'm the first to preach moderation! But after what has probably been a few days of heavy eating, your waistband is likely expanding at the mere thought of anything loaded. Have no fear! This soup is loaded, but loaded but good stuff! Heavy on vegetables, this is just the type of soup to help you lighten your load (heh heh).

You can easily adapt this soup to whatever ingredients you have on hand. Substitute brown rice for wild rice, zucchini for celery, omit the kale, you get the picture. I loved the combination listed below, but in reality this was merely the result of throwing all the vegetables in my fridge into my stockpot! Really, you can't go wrong here. Just fill it up with lots of veggies and a little bit of turkey and rice, and you'll understand new meaning of the word loaded!

Loaded Turkey, Vegetable, and Wild Rice Soup
*makes 4 large servings

-1 tbsp olive oil
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-3/4 cup carrots, chopped
-3 stalks celery, chopped
-8 oz. (1 small package) button mushrooms, sliced
-2 cups fresh spinach
-2 cups fresh kale
-2 cups wild rice, cooked according to package directions
-4 cups chicken broth
-1 cup turkey, cooked and shredded
-1 dried bay leaf
-seasonings to taste (I used dried thyme, garlic powder, dried basil, and pepper)

1. In a large stockpot, saute onions, carrots, and celery in 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. After 5 minutes, or when onions are translucent, add chopped mushrooms and continue to saute until soft.
2. Add chicken broth, bay leaf, and seasonings and heat for 5-10 minutes.
3. Stir in rice, turkey, and greens. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until heated through. Season with additional pepper, to taste.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pomegranate Spinach Salad with Persimmon and Turkey

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What are you doing today? Shopping? Relaxing? Still stuck on the couch after yesterday's feast? Regardless of what your plans today are, you're going to need to eat at some point and this salad is a nice, light way to use up some turkey without needing to reheat all the leftovers and put on your stretchy pants.

This is actually one of my new favorite salads, mostly due to the inclusion of the persimmon. I was recently introduced to this fruit when we went to the in-laws for dinner one night. My father-in-law graciously sent Ryan and I home with a few of our own and I managed to snag one for this recipe. This recipe, mind you, that I saw online and asked Ryan to recreate for us for lunch one day. An all-star, that husband of mine is!

This salad would be good with another protein, like chicken, or sans meat and served as a side dish. It's pretty basic and easy to throw together but it's anything but boring. If you've never tried a persimmon I encourage you to hunt one down! I saw them at our farmer's market and Whole Foods.

Pomegranate Spinach Salad with Persimmon and Turkey
adapted from The Cilantropist
*makes 2 main-dish servings

-3-4 cups baby spinach
-1 large persimmon, thinly sliced
-1/4 cup pomegranate arils
-leftover chopped or shredded white turkey meat
-2 tbsp pomegranate juice
-1 tbsp red wine vinegar
-3 tsp olive oil
-splash of lemon juice
-3 tsp honey
-salt & pepper

1. To make the dressing, whisk pomegranate juice, vinegar, oil, lemon juice, and honey in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. In a large bowl, toss spinach, persimmon, turkey, and pomegranate arils with dressing. Divide among plates and serve immediately.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving and Leftover Turkey Sandwiches

First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you're reading this early in the morning before the festivities have begun, or late in the day with your elastic pants on, I hope your day was wonderful! Both Thanksgiving and Christmas are important to me because I equate them with family time. Thanksgiving is especially poignant because I am reminded to give thanks for the fullness of my life. Yes, my stomach finds itself quite full today, but it is the fullness and abundance of my life and the blessings within it that truly fill me up today. And in case you wondered, YOU are a part of my full life as well. This blog has been a blessing for the past fourteen months, keeping me creative, expanding my knowledge in the kitchen, and interacting with other bloggers, readers, and food-lovers who make this whole experience so much more fun! Thank you!

Here's to more blessings, more thankfulness, more fullness of life!

And, in case you're already starting to think about how to use up all that leftover turkey, here's an idea: leftover cranberry sauce (mine was from my cranberry bruschetta), a thick layer of goat cheese, and leftover turkey, piled high on high-quality bakery bread (I used kalamata olive bread from Companion Bakery in St. Louis), pressed in a panini press until all melty and warm!

What kind of turkey sandwiches are you making with your leftovers?

And, in case you missed it, last year's Thanksgiving post...a memory of my engagement!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Apple Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust

Are you the type of person who cringes when taking a bite of dessert because you find it to be too sugary sweet? If so, this pie is for you. As for me, "too sweet" is not a phrase found in my vocabulary...and yet I immensely enjoyed this pie as well. The filling is a bit tart, thanks to the cranberries, and exudes almost a sophisticated flavor profile given all of the spices coating the apples. Paired with a buttery oatmeal crust, this pie gives you the best of both worlds.

Best served warm, I recommend baking just before eating or reheating individual pieces. We topped ours with freshly whipped cream, but vanilla ice cream would also be an excellent pairing. Don't be overwhelmed by the massive tower of a pie; it will look gorgeous on your dessert table and guests won't mind if the pieces crumble a bit on their plate, I promise!

Tomorrow's the big day. Take a free hour (ha, is there such a thing?) today and whip up this pie! In case you missed my other Thanksgiving dessert ideas, check out the Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie and the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies!

One Year Ago: No-Bake Marshmallow Bars

Apple Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust
from recipegirl

for the crust-
-3 cups old-fashioned oats
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup butter, melted

for the filling-
-7 cups peeled & sliced Granny Smith apples
-1 cup cranberries (can use fresh or frozen)
-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
-1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp cloves
-1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
-1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
-3 tbsp all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup packed brown sugar
-1/2 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 375F. To prepare the crust, combine all crust ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside one cup of mixture for the topping. Evenly press the remaining mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 (or 10)-inch pie pan to form a thick crust.
2. In a separate bowl, mix sliced apples and cranberries. Top with lemon juice and spices, tossing to coat well. Mix in lemon rind. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp flour, mixing to combine. Gradually add brown sugar and sour cream while mixing.
3. Pour filling into the unbaked crust. Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture on top of the filling. Bake for 45-50 minutes until apples are soft and crust is nicely browned. (Check pie after 30 minutes. If crust is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil.) Can serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Figgy Wild Rice, Mushroom, & Sourdough Dressing

While in San Francisco at the Foodbuzz Festival, I had the opportunity to present my cranberry bruschetta alongside two other lovely ladies who also created winning recipes. I typically pass on stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner, it's just never been one of my favorites. Still, I was intrigued by the sound of Kath's stuffing recipe (I call it all stuffing, even though she refers to it as dressing since it doesn't actually go in the bird) and sampled it after her recipe demo.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this stuffing was not like the icky stuff I remember from my childhood. (No offense Mom, I think it was just my tastebuds at the time!) The combination of sweet and savory in this stuffing mixed with fresh herbs and the variety of textures wowed me.

There are tons of versions of stuffing, each with their own fan club. For Ryan's family, Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving if there isn't oyster stuffing on the table. For others, stuffing must include sausage, or apples, or cranberries. From here on out, I think this stuffing will need to make an appearance at my table each Fall! Try it, you might find a new family favorite!

Figgy Wild Rice, Mushroom, & Sourdough Dressing
from Kath Eats

-1/2 cup uncooked wild rice (1 cup cooked)
-1 loaf day-old sourdough bread, cut into cubes (6 cups total) (my bakery was out, I just used a country white loaf)
-2 tbsp olive oil
-2 tbsp butter
-2 stalks celery chopped (1 cup)
-3 cups fresh crimini mushrooms, chopped (the farmer's market didn't have but the mushroom vendor told me I could substitute white button mushrooms)
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 spring fresh rosemary, chopped (1 tbsp)
-1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-2 cups broth (I used chicken)
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
-1/2 cup chopped dried figs

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cook wild rice according to package instructions.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine figs, bread, and walnuts.
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and oil. Add celery and cook, approximately 3 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and mushrooms, and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes, until mushrooms are tender.
4. Add rice, tossing to combine. Add rice mixture to the bread mixture and toss until evenly mixed.
5. Pour stuffing into a large casserole dish (I used a 9 x 13 pan). Add broth. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid or foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

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All I can think of when I hear the word "whoopie" is this scene from The Little Rascals (if you can't see this via email or google reader, click through to watch the video)

Adorable, right? Well, here's another adorable whoopie association: whoopie pies! I'd never eaten whoopie pies before, despite seeing them all over Maine last September when we visited. Paige made them for this month's girls dinner and I kicked myself for never having tried them sooner. Less than a week later, I was busy in my own kitchen, making another batch. More cake-like than anything else, these are perfect little discs of pumpkin goodness, with a burst of cream cheese frosting sandwiched between them.

This would be another great dessert for your Thanksgiving table. While they are a little time-consuming to make, with the separate components and then the sandwich-making, you can make them a day or two before serving and store in the refrigerator. Note: I halved the below recipe and made 16 sandwiches (32 individual cookies). Even with halving, I had leftover cream cheese frosting, so feel free to adjust accordingly or be prepared to find other ways to use it up!

One Year Ago: Mom's Famous Sugar Cookies (these would be great if you had some fun Thanksgiving cookie cutters!) 

In case you missed the Thanksgiving recipes from the past few days:
Pumpkin Knots
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
as seen on Tracey's Culinary Adventures (originally from Baked)

for the cookies-
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-2 tbsp cinnamon
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp ground ginger
-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup packed light brown sugar
-1 cup canola oil
-3 cups canned pumpkin
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract

for the filling-
-3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
-8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
-1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix sugars and oil. Add in pumpkin puree, mixing to combine well. Mix in eggs and vanilla, whisking until combined.
4. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, stirring to combine completely.
5. Using a small cookie scoop or a large spoon, drop rounds of dough (approximately 1.5 tbsp) onto baking sheets. Place dough rounds about one inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
6. To make the frosting, beat butter in a bowl with a mixer until smooth. Beat in cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
7. Using a knife, spread cream cheese frosting on the flat side of one cookie. Press another cookie (flat-side down) on top of frosting to form a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Note: do not place cookies on top of one another in a storage container unless there is a layer of wax paper between them; they will stick otherwise!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

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This isn't the easiest or fastest dessert to make, but I think Thanksgiving calls for something a little bit more elaborate, don't you? The nice thing is you can make this a day ahead of time and top it with the whipped cream just before serving. I'll be honest, the recipe itself is a bit of an undertaking. My lovely sous chef Ryan was willing to help me out and it took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to do everything through step 5. Of course, I could have simplified the process and used store-bought caramel sauce, but ambition got the best of me!

Let me emphasize this, though: this dessert is worth every minute of preparation. Your guests will love you for placing a piece of this in front of them, and I guarantee you'll be directing them to this site for the recipe. How can you go wrong with a graham cracker crust topped with caramel and pecans, followed by sauteed apples, a cheesecake layer, and finally finished with freshly whipped cream and more pecans? It's a surefire win! Make yours prettier by topping with leftover caramel sauce. I had every intention of beautifying it, but then I exploded the leftover caramel in the microwave. I also tracked freshly whipped cream ALL over my kitchen and am now sending my coat to the dry cleaners...but that's another story.

Add this to your dessert buffet for Turkey day; you won't be sorry! Need a more traditional pie to serve as well? Stay tuned, that recipe's coming! Have some guests craving pumpkin? Make a batch of pumpkin bars or pumpkin cake.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ball

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
from Annie's Eats

for the crust-
-1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
-3 tbsp sugar
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-5 1/3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
-1/2-3/4 cup caramel (see below for recipe)
-1 cup chopped pecans

for the apple filling-
-5 tbsp unsalted butter
-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon
-5-6 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

for the cheesecake-
-8 oz. cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 egg
-1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the topping-
-3/4 cup heavy cream
-3-4 tbsp confectioners' sugar
-1/4-1/2 cup caramel
-chopped pecans

for the caramel-
-1 stick unsalted butter
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 cup packed light brown sugar

To Make the Caramel:
1. Combine butter, cream, and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to medium and continue to stir until it thickens (approximately 8 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool.

1. To make the crust, preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper (I skipped this step and just greased my pan well. The first piece was tough to get out, but the rest came out fine!). In a medium-sized bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Toss until evenly mixed and moist. Press into the bottom of the springform pan, pressing mixture halfway up the sides.
2. Bake for 6-8 minutes (until light brown). Remove from oven and allow to cool. Pour a layer of caramel over the crust and sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. To make the apples, melt butter in a saucepan and add brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon, cooking for 1 minute, until bubbling. Add apples, tossing to coat. Cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced (15-20 minutes). Allow apples to cool before placing in crust.
4. Reduce oven heat to 350F. To make the cheesecake layer, use an electric mixer to mix sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla, egg, and lemon juice, beating until well-combined. Spread the cheesecake filling over the apples.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
6. To serve, remove cheesecake from springform pan. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat heavy cream and confectioners' sugar on medium until stiff peaks form (don't overbeat!). Carefully spread over cheesecake layer.
7. Top with caramel sauce and pecans. Slice into pieces before serving.

This is linked to Eat at Home.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

Happy Saturday! Today's recipe is yet another one that would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table. I made this side dish for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner that my sister Julia, my friend Katie, Ryan, and I had the other night. It was quite the spread, including a 16 pound turkey, some amazing pear and cherry stuffing, these brussels, and homemade pumpkin ravioli (I'm still in awe at Julia's pasta-making skills!). Come back tomorrow to see what we indulged on for dessert!

If you're looking for a "lighter" side dish amongst the gratins and casseroles, this is a strong contender.  I'd never had brussels sprouts shredded before as we typically roast them. Ryan was very skeptical about this method of cooking them and wasn't shy about telling me so. I ended up having to fight him for the leftovers, so I think we have a new fan on our hands ;) Other opinions? Katie said it reminder her of the broccoli salad with bacon and mayo (but better!), and Julia said the best part was the bacon. A win all-around!

One Year Ago: Rosemary Bread (Ryan still talks about this bread and claims its his favorite ever!)

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

-2 tbsp cider vinegar
-1 tbsp brown sugar
-1 tbsp olive oil
-4 slices bacon
-1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded
-1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
-salt & pepper, to taste

1. In a small bowl, mix vinegar, brown sugar, and oil. Set aside. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp, removing slices from the pan and crumbling into small pieces.
2. Remove drippings from the pan, reserving 2 tbsp and keeping in the pan. Heat drippings over medium high and add brussels sprouts, cooking and stirring for 3-5 minutes, until tender.
3. Remove pan from heat and stir in walnuts, bacon, and dressing. Season with salt & pepper. Serve warm.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pumpkin Knots

Pumpkin strikes again! This time, however, in a more savory dish. As I've worked my way through many cans of pumpkin this fall, the majority of them have been used in desserts or baked goods (with the exception of these awesome enchiladas!). It was fun to incorporate pumpkin into bread that wasn't your typical pumpkin quick bread...or pumpkin nutella quick bread!

These knots are easy to make and have a very subtle pumpkin flavor to them. I rolled my finished rolls in olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper, but I tried them plain as well and they were just as good. I also like that you can divide the dough in half; each half makes about a dozen small knots. (Shaping dough into knots not your thing? Ashley also uses this recipe for pizza dough!)These would be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dinner; you can even make them a day ahead of time! Speaking of Thanksgiving, get excited...The Sweets Life will be featuring Thanksgiving-worthy recipes starting today and through next Wednesday. Don't firm up your menu just yet...wait until you see the fig & mushroom stuffing, the brussels sprouts dish, and the caramel apple cheesecake headed your way!

One Year Ago: Very Veggie Soup

Pumpkin Knots 
from (never)homemaker

-1 cup warm water
-1 envelope active dry yeast
-2 tbsp agave nectar (can substitute honey)
-1/2 cup canned pumpkin
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
-3 1/2 cups bread flour

1. In a small bowl, whisk yeast into water and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2. Add pumpkin, agave nectar, and olive oil, whisking until smooth.
3. In a separate, large bowl mix flour and salt. Make a "well" in the center of the flour and add the liquid mixture. Mix with a spatula until combined, then use your hands to knead (could also use your kitchen-aid mixer; this is what I used and it worked fine!). Knead, adding flour if needed, until dough is smooth and elastic.
4. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 2 hours. Once risen, pre-heat oven to 425F with a pizza stone (or other pan) pre-heating inside of it. Divide dough into two pieces. If not making all at once, place half of dough in a ziploc bag overnight (or freezer for up to 3 weeks. I divided the dough in two and froze both. To make from the freezer, place dough in the fridge overnight until thawed).
5. Rip off chunks of dough from the large dough ball (approximately 2 tbsp big) and roll like a snake. Knot each piece and set aside. When all dough is knotted, place on pre-heated stone and bake for 10-15 minutes, until light brown.
6. Optional--in a small bowl place 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 cloves minced garlic, and other desired herbs and salt/pepper. Roll cooked knots in oiled mixture, tossing to coat (or brush on).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Twelve in Ten Challenge: Making a Torched Dessert (Bananas Foster)

This was the Twelve in Ten challenge I was most looking forward to. Ryan and I are both fire-lovers, him even moreso than me. He has a whole arsenal of stories from his teenage years during which he conducted many fire experiments involving large cartons of coffee creamer and flames reaching second story heights. Me? I just lit sticks on fire and occasionally found a hollow one that I would use to pretend I was smoking. Real mature. Thankfully that was the closest I ever got to being a smoker...I think a few puffs of my makeshift cigarette was all it took to keep me far, far away! I digress...

While this challenge began as a goal to make a flaming dessert, we really went the extra mile and instead had an entire meal of flaming foods. Our friends Mike and Maggie offered to host, fire extinguisher close by, and Maggie and I planned a menu that incorporated as much fire as possible: flaming shots & cocktails, Greek flaming cheese, Steak Diane, and for dessert, bananas foster.

Ten of us enjoyed a fun evening of flames. Dubbed "Torched" by Maggie, this was one of my favorite dinner parties yet! Not only is it incredibly exciting to set your food and drink on fire before consuming, but all that fire brought some serious heat. For someone who is never, ever warm, this was a dream come true!

The bananas foster had more than just a flashy presentation going for it. Though incredibly simple, it was a definite crowd pleaser. I ended up making a second batch because the guests weren't satisfied with just one serving of dessert! This is a great dessert for dinner parties. You can't make it ahead of time, but the whole process takes only a few minutes and you'll impress your fire-loving guests :)

Scroll down to below the recipe for more pictures from our Torched dinner!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Flaming Bananas Foster with Vanilla Ice Cream
adapted from Food Network

-4 tbsp unsalted butter
-1/4 cup packed brown sugar
-1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
-6 firm bananas, sliced diagonally
-4 tbsp dark rum
-ice cream, for serving

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir until the sugar melts (approximately 3 minutes). Add sliced bananas, sauteing until a caramel-like sauce forms and the bananas begin to soften (3-5 minutes).
2.  Pour rum over the bananas mixture and carefully ignite with a torch or match. Allow the fire to ignite and shake the pan until the flames subside.
3. Serve bananas with scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Safety first! ;)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Red Velvet Pancakes

Red velvet is never something I would have associated with breakfast. Cupcakes? Yes. Whoopie pies? Definitely. But never pancakes. Long-time readers of this blog know of my pancake obsession, so it's probably no surprise that I couldn't wait to try these. These were probably the most decadent pancakes I've ever made, perfect for a leisurely post-church brunch while we watched a few episodes of Mad Men. Well, napped through, if you're me. We'll blame it on the pancakes.

These weren't my favorite pancakes, not so much because of the taste, but because of my difficulty making them. First I forget the sugar (those first few pancakes were BLECH! These need sugar!), and then I had the hardest time flipping these. I often proclaim my preference for super thin pancakes, but these were so thin that they squashed when I went at them with a spatula.

Despite my problems, these were a fun variation on pancakes. I actually don't think I've ever had red velvet anything before, so I don't have anything to compare them to. Now, I'm excited to make red velvet cupcakes sometime soon--I've heard cream cheese frosting is involved...

One Year Ago: Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

Red Velvet Pancakes
adapted by How Sweet It Is

-1 1/2 cups minus 1 1/2 tbsp milk
-1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-2 tbsp cocoa powder
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-2 tbsp red food coloring
-2-3 tbsps mini chocolate chips

1. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and vinegar. Set aside to curdle.
2. In a separate bowl, mix flours, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda. Using a spoon, make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the milk and the food coloring. Gently mix, just until combined.
3. On a skillet or griddle, over medium heat, pour 1/4 cup of batter at a time and cook, flipping when it begins to bubble. (*can add chocolate chips to the pancakes while cooking, or top cooked pancakes with chocolate chips)
4. Serve immediately with desired toppings (syrup for us, though Greek yogurt would also be a fun topper. Jessica served hers with cream cheese frosting!)

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Snickers Cups

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November 1st I found myself on a mission. I was headed to the grocery store with one item in mind: bacon. Bacon for cookies, naturally. I walked into the store, prepared to grab my bacon and return home, when I found myself stopped dead in my tracks. The sign teased me, "Halloween Candy 50% Off!!!!".

If there are two things I can't resist, it's a sale...and candy. Combine them and it's a lost cause. I spent the next 15 minutes inspecting the various forms of candy, imagining late night munchies and all of the desserts I could make. Before I knew it, my hands were full. I forced myself to walk away, grabbed some bacon, and made my way to the check-out, where I tried not to make eye contact with the attendant who probably questioned my groceries of choice.

My freezer is now full of candy, so get ready for some sugary desserts in the future! That is, if Ryan and I can manage to not eat it all first! These cookies were inspired by Sugar Plum, who made "Build me up Butterfinger" cups. I substituted Snickers, which proved to be a very good choice.
One Year Ago: Upside Down Apple Pie (so hideous looking, but good enough to win a pie contest! It'd be great at your Thanksgiving dinner!)

Snickers Cups
adapted from Sugar Plum

-6 tbsp unsalted butter
-3/4 cup packed brown sugar
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-2 eggs, room temperature
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-12 fun-sized Snickers, halved
-melted chocolate chips, for drizzling (optional)

1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, whisking until butter foams and begins to brown (2-3 minutes).
2. Remove pan from heat and pour butter into a large mixing bowl. Beat in brown sugar and extract until well-combined. Beat in eggs until dough is creamy.
3. With the mixer on low, beat in baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour.
4. Freeze batter in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F.
5. Coat a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray. Press small balls of dough into the bottom of each cup, spreading to cover the bottom of the cup. Press a Snickers piece into the dough in each cup. Top candy with remaining dough to cover.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until puffed and light brown. Cook for 5 minutes before removing from tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Melt chocolate and drizzle on top of each cup, if desired.
*Note: dough is tough to work with as it gets warm. Return to freezer if needed or work fast!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins with Peaches & Pecans

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I had an urge to bake and some buttermilk in my fridge. I've made buttermilk pancakes and buttermilk cookies, so I decided to try something different and make some muffins. After finding a base recipe for oatmeal buttermilk muffins, I made it unique with my own add-ins. Frog Hollow Farm dried peaches (from my swag bag at Foodbuzz) and chopped pecans were my mixers of choice, but you could easily throw in whatever dried fruit or nuts you have on hand.

Normally I like to make muffins with whole wheat flour, but I was out. Instead, I healthified these by substituting a mashed ripe banana for the oil. Sometimes low-fat muffins turn out weird, almost a gummy texture. That wasn't the case with these, thankfully. In fact, I shared some with my friend Paige who declared them to be the perfect density! They were a little tough to remove from the muffin liners, so don't be alarmed if the same happens to you.

With oats, fruit, and nuts, these are healthier than your average bakery muffin but still make for a tasty breakfast!

Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
adapted from allrecipes.com
*makes 12 muffins

-1 cup quick-cooking oats
-1 cup low-fat buttermilk
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-1 ripe banana, mashed
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/3 cup dried peaches, chopped (next time I'd increase!)
-1/3 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Soak oats in a bowl in buttermilk for 15 minutes.
2. Stir in sugar, egg, and banana. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir into oat mixture, just until moistened.
3. Carefully stir in chopped fruit and nuts.
4. Grease or line a muffin tin with paper-lined cups. Fill each cup 3/4s of the way full. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shrimp Fajitas

I've recently discovered that I love corn tortillas. For years, I stayed loyal to flour tortillas and turned my nose up at anything then came in a corn tortilla. Them, when in San Diego, I had some amazing fish tacos on corn tortillas and I was an immediate convert. Now I'm making tostados, and using corn tortillas  for my enchiladas. This time, I decided to break them out for some shrimp fajitas. The corn tortilla love continues!

While these are a far cry from some of the stuff we had in San Diego, they didn't leave me sickly stuffed for eight hours...and that's a good thing! These fajitas were relatively fast for a weeknight dinner and jazzed up with a lime juice marinade. The shrimp we had was teeny-tiny, absurdly so, and we weren't a big fan of them. However, if you make these with regular-sized shrimp I guarantee they'll be fabulous!

One Year Ago: Candy Sushi

Shrimp Fajitas
inspired by Annie's Eats

-2 freshly squeezed limes
-1 tbsp vegetable oil
-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
-1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-3/4 tsp brown sugar
-1/2 jalapeno, seeded, ribbed, and diced
-1 1/2-2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp pepper
-1 lb frozen, already cooked shrimp
-1/2 large red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
-2 large bell peppers, stemmed, quartered, and seeded
-corn tortillas

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, 2 tbsp of oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Place the thawed shrimp in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add peppers and onions and saute about 5-7 minutes. Remove shrimp from fridge and add to skillet. Cook additional 5 minutes.
3. In a separate lightly greased skillet, heat corn tortillas one at a time until lightly browned, flipping to warm both sides.
4. Remove vegetables and shrimp from heat. Toss with remaining marinade. Top tortillas with vegetables, shrimp, and desired topping (sour cream, cheese, avocado, etc.).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Recipe Rewind: Pumpkin Cookies, Wild Rice Soup, & Apple Dumplings

This little blog has come a long ways in the last 13 months or so. In fact, for the first several months of its existence, I think few people besides Ryan, my mom, and my grandma were reading. Hopefully if you're a regular reader now you've taken some time to check out the archives and see what's all out there (I still plan to get a recipe index page created one of these days!). Today I want to highlight three recipes that I've recently remade and that absolutely need to be shared again. I rarely remake a recipe, no matter how much I like it because I'm so excited to try new things...so the fact that these are being made again and reappearing on the blog guarantees their excellence! Unfortunately, none of the foods are all that pretty to photograph, so you'll just have to trust me that they are better than their pictures suggest!

First up are my all-time favorite pumpkin cookies. While the new pumpkin cookies I tried this Fall were great, they still can't compare to these! One batch makes a TON, which you won't complain about. Their taste and texture are absolutely perfect. This time, I made them with dark chocolate chips, which was a fabulous substitution for the semi-sweet.
(all wrapped up and ready to be a part of the Foodie Gift Exchange at the Foodbuzz Festival!)

Next up is creamy wild rice soup. The picture below was the soup on its second day, when it looked more like a thick stew than a soup. First day, second day, third day (IF it even lasts that long!), this soup is a household favorite of ours. Don't skimp on the almonds; their crunch is essential!
(soup is just ugly, boo!)

Finally, we've got the infamous Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings. I say infamous because I first served them a year ago at our community group and people have not stopped talking about them since! It's a little embarrassing that one of my most talked about desserts includes cans of crescent rolls and Mountain Dew. I can't argue with the audience though, these babies are gooooooood! This time around I made 1 1/2 batches to avoid having people fight over the leftovers like last year ;)
(already ate the ice cream out of there, hence the melted spots in the bottom of the bowl!)

So there you have it, three recipes so good they were worthy of repeat. Enjoying these again has inspired me to recreate a few more of my favorites, so you may see some more recipe rewinds to come...especially if it's a great recipe with a terrible picture!

One Year Ago: Asian Meatballs

Friday, November 12, 2010

Apple Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago, I went to book club where that month's host made this salad and served it alongside two different kinds of quiche. We all raved about the meal and she promised to send us the recipes. A few days later the recipes appeared in my inbox and I set out to make this salad on Halloween as part of a yummy soup & salad dinner with our friends Mike & Maggie and my sister Julia.

With the apples and the cranberry vinaigrette, this is the quintessential Fall salad. I followed the recipe exactly this time, but next time I think I'll add some feta cheese. While delicious as is, a little bit of feta would've made this even better! The cranberry vinaigrette is perfect--well worth the effort for homemade dressing. Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Tuna Chickpea Salad with Pesto

Apple Walnut Salad
from Julie

-1/4 cup red wine vinegar
-1/4 cup fresh cranberries
-2 tbsp honey
-1 tbsp sugar
-1 tbsp chopped red onion
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-3/4 cup vegetable oil
-2 packages (10 oz. total) spring mix salad greens
-2-3 medium Red Delicious apples, thinly sliced
-1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1. To make vinaigrette, combine the first seven ingredients (red wine vinegar through pepper) in a blender and process until blended. Add vegetable oil in small increments while blending. Process until smooth.
2. Toss dressing with spring mix, apples, and walnuts. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kale & Bean Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce

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I'm down to three cans of pumpkin in my pantry, but I'm not sick of pumpkin yet! I haven't even made my favorite pumpkin soup this season! I'll be restocking soon and continuing to test out new pumpkin recipes and repeat some of my favorites. These enchiladas were a new recipe that quickly turned a favorite. Unlike most enchiladas, these are stuffed with healthy ingredients and light on the cheese. While they're anything but traditional, they were awesome! The sauce and filling have a little bit of heat from the jalapeno, so be sure to use less than the recipe calls for if you're sensitive to spice. Don't like kidney beans? You could easily substitute your favorite: pinto, black, even white!

Another reason I loved this recipe was because I could prepare it ahead of time. If you don't have time to make it all at once, make the filling and sauce a day ahead of time, refrigerate overnight, and then assemble just before baking. I also split the below recipe into two baking pans; we ate one for dinner and the other is in the freezer, waiting to be pulled out on a night I don't feel like cooking.

If you're intimidated by the sound of this meal, don't be. It sounds a little crazy (not to mention, not exactly photogenic), and it's definitely not your standard Mexican food, but it got two thumbs up from both Ryan and me!

One Year Ago: Crockpot Salsa Chicken

Kale & Bean Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce
adapted from Veggie by Season

for the enchiladas-
-2 cloves garlic
-1 small yellow onion, chopped
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1/2 jalapeno, finely diced
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 zucchini, grated
-salt & pepper
-1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
-1 can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
-1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced

for the sauce-
-1 can pumpkin
-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
-3 garlic cloves, peeled
-1 jalapeno pepper, quartered (ribs & seeds removed)
-1 tsp chili powder
-2 tbsp tomato paste

to assemble-
-corn tortillas (I made 14 enchiladas)
-approximately 1 cup Mexican shredded cheese

1. In a skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil, garlic, onions, jalapeno, zucchini, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook for approximately 5 minutes.
2. Add kale and stir, cooking until soft (approximately 5 additional minutes).
3. To make the pumpkin sauce, add all sauce ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.
4. Add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the kale mixture along with a few shakes of black pepper, the beans, and the cilantro.
5. To assemble and cook:  Preheat oven to 400F. Pour 1-1 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish (I split mine up into two dishes--an 8x8 dish and another small casserole dish, with 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of each). Spoon kale mixture into tortillas. Roll tortillas and place, seam-side down, in the baking pan. Repeat until pan is full & the filling is gone.
6. Top tortillas with sauce and shredded cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.