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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Kale, Red Onion, and Cranberries

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I look at a LOT of recipes each week. I flip through magazines and cookbooks, check out recipes saved in email folders, scour Pinterest for inspiration, and of course read a lot of other food blogs. Most of the time, I see recipes that sound good, have a running list of ideas in my head, and then have to actually sit down and decide what I want for the upcoming week when I do my grocery list writing and meal planning.

Maria made it easy for me though. I saw this quinoa salad recipe on her blog and knew it sounded right up my alley. As I read through the ingredient list, I realized I already had every single ingredient on hand. There was no need to toss around five different recipes before finally settling on one, the decision had been made for me! I did add some butternut squash instead of using all sweet potato and I just had regular quinoa (Maria used black).

This is one of those meals I could eat again and again. It's easy to whip up a big batch of it and enjoy it for lunches over a few days. I ate it both warm and cold and liked it both ways...I also think it'd be good topped with some goat cheese or feta. Don't have the ingredients on hand? Go out and get them on your next grocery trip--this is a must make!
What's your main source of recipe inspiration?

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Soup

Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Kale, Red Onion, and Cranberries
slightly adapted from Two Peas and Pod

-1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
-1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
-1/2 medium red onion, sliced
-1 tbsp olive oil
-salt and pepper, to taste
-3 cups kale
-5 tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided
-1 cup uncooked quinoa
-2 cups water
-pinch of salt
-1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Place sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and red onion slices in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables before spreading on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until squash and potatoes are tender. Stir occasionally while baking.
2. Drizzle kale with 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a separate baking sheet and after the squash has been in the oven for 15 minutes, add the pan with the kale. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until kale is wilted and a little bit crispy.
3. While vegetables are roasting, rinse the quinoa. Place rinsed quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes before lowering heat and simmering for 15 minutes until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set quinoa aside to cool to room temperature.
4. Allow roasted vegetables to cool to room temperature. Chop red onion slices and kale into small pieces. Toss quinoa, potatoes, squash, red onion, and kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with remaining 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and stir in the cranberries. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pasta with Bacon and Cauliflower

I didn't actually expect anything to come up when I googled "Cauliflower Pasta". I've never had cauliflower in pasta before nor have I ever even seen cauliflower pasta, but I was grasping for straws trying to come up with something to eat based on the ingredients we had on hand. Real Simple magazine came to the rescue with this pasta recipe that came together in a flash. With only a handful of ingredients, I managed to have them all in my rather empty refrigerator and pantry. I was a little concerned it would be too boring of a dish, but Ryan and I both liked it. The best part was definitely the cheese, and I'm pretty sure I added more than the 3/4 cup it called for...I recommend you don't skimp either!

Note--You might notice something yellow in the pictures...I added some yellow squash I had on hand. I just sauteed it before adding the cauliflower. Feel free to bulk this up with your own veggie additions!

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Scones

Pasta with Bacon and Cauliflower
from Real Simple March 2010

-12 oz. spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
-6 slices bacon
-1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
-1 small head cauliflower (1 1/2 lbs), cut into small florets
-kosher salt and black pepper
-3/4 cup grated parmesan

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 3/4 cup cooking water and drain. Return pasta to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, 6-8 minutes. Move bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel and crumble.
3. Add the sage to the bacon skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring once, until crisp (1-2 minutes). Remove from skillet and place with the bacon.
4. Add the cauliflower to the skillet with 1/4 cup water and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes.
5. Uncover and cook, tossing frequently, until golden and tender (5 more minutes).
6. Add the reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup parmesan to the pasta, tossing until creamy. Add the cauliflower, sage, and bacon, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Oreo Tarts

Forgive me. Today you're stuck putting up with a slightly blurry, unappetizing photo. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, blog photography is much more difficult with our limited daylight and my absence from the home 6:30 am to 4:30 or 5 pm, five days a week. I've started taking as many pictures as I can on the weekends or in the few minutes before I rush out the door for work. If my neighbors didn't already think my food photography habits were strange, they definitely do now!

On the particular morning I took this picture, it was dreary and still rather dark. I did my best to capture these adorable little tarts, but you're going to have to take my word on this one: these babies are much better looking than what you see above! I later sprinkled the tops with Oreo crumbs, which proved much more fun than a single cookie piece. 

Looks aside, these pumpkin cream oreo tarts made for an impressive little dessert. It's always fun when you have your own personal-sized dessert rather than a measly piece on a plate (though I'm sure you could easily double the recipe and make this in a 9-inch tart pan!). Chocolatey crust, creamy pumpkin cheesecake filling, all topped with homemade whipped cream...YES PLEASE! I'm about a month late on this, as the coloring would have made them perfect for Halloween. Go on, save this recipe on your "Halloween" Pinterest board ;) ...though I firmly believe they're good year round!

Looking for another mini tart recipe? You must make these No Bake Orange Creamsicle Cheesecakes!

Pumpkin Cream Oreo Tarts
from Lauren's Latest

for the crust-
-16 Oreo cookies
-4 tbsp butter, melted

for the filling-
-8 oz (1/3 less fat) cream cheese, softened
-3/4 cup pumpkin puree
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

for the topping-
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-3 tbsp sugar
-1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Blend Oreo cookies to crumbs in the bowl of a food processor. Add melted butter and pulse to mix. Spoon mixture into 4 individual tart pans and press mixture into the bottom of each pan. Set in the fridge.
2. In a mixing bowl, whip cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, sugar, vanilla, and spices. Beat on high until smooth. Divide mixture evenly among tarts (there may be a little left over) and smooth the tops. Return tarts to the fridge while you make the whipped cream.
3. Beat cream with sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Divide evenly among the four tarts and spread over the pumpkin mixture. Garnish with additional cookie crumbs, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Foodbuzz 24 X 24: A Very MARRY Pizza Party

Two days ago was a VERY exciting day. No, I did not step on the scale to find that the multiple servings of Thanksgiving pie had mysteriously decided NOT to land on my hips. No, I did not score the Black Friday deal of the century. Better.
My sister Julia accepted her boyfriend’s proposal. After keeping this proposal secret for more than a month, I am positively THRILLED that we can now shout the news from the rooftops. My parents, my husband Ryan, and I have been busting at the seams for weeks, feverishly working behind the scenes with Nate, our future brother-in-law, to craft an engagement that would completely surprise Julia.
(re-enactement...Ryan did not actually creep on them like this :))
Now that the secret is out, the question has been popped, and the newly engaged couple is soaking up all of the congratulations, it’s time to CELEBRATE! Thanks to Foodbuzz, we did just that last night! I was selected to participate in this month’s 24 x 24 (remember my Cheesecake Extravaganza?! Same idea, but a different proposal. 24 bloggers are selected to execute their ideas all within a 24-hour time period). This time, there wasn’t a cheesecake in sight. Instead, we had a “very MARRY pizza party”, all in the name of Julia and Nate.
Friends from near and far joined us, where we celebrated the happy couple over one of their favorite meals: pizza. Since they’ve been together, they spend a lot of time cooking for and with one another. There are a few foods that are off-limits (potatoes for her, fruit for him…yes, we’re working on them!), but one that they can always agree on: pizza! Thus, it made perfect sense to serve up a variety of pizzas for this celebration.
With the help of Trader Joe's pizza dough and a few very talented group of sous chefs (shout out to Colleen!), we ended up with quite the spread:
-Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread (as big of a hit as the last time I made it!)
-Mushrooms, caramelized onions, squash, and fire-roasted red peppers with goat cheese
-Hawaiian (pineapple and Canadian bacon)
-Fig jam with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and pears (the crowd favorite)
-Meat Lovers: chicken sausage, ground beef, and pepperoni
To round out the pizzas, I pulled two of my favorite salads from the archives: Curried Cashew, Apple, and Grape Salad and the Autumn Chopped Salad.
The festivities continued with dessert--a congratulatory cookie pizza (based on this recipe), scotcheroos, and a carrot cake brought by a friend. 
Nate and Julia retold their engagement story time after time (thankfully they're not sick of telling it yet...and I'm definitely not sick of hearing it!) and kicked off this new season of their lives. I could not be happier for them; there is no greater joy than participating in the joy of those you love most!
Thank you Foodbuzz for making last night possible--a night none of us will soon forget!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Salmon and White Bean Salad

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Tuna in the can doesn’t bother me in the least bit. I frequently pick up cans of it when I’m grocery shopping because I know I can turn it into an easy meal (like red onion and kalamata olive tuna sandwiches or waldorf tuna salad).

Canned salmon, on the other hand, kind of freaks me out. !). I’ve used canned salmon in the past, for these Asian-inspired salmon burgers that we loved, so I knew I could suck it up and do it again. The scent is stronger than tuna and I always want to close my scream a little when I open a can of salmon and see some of the skin on there. I did some research and it turns out you can buy skinless salmon in the can, so maybe I’ll go that route next time…

The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook has a number of recipes featuring salmon, both canned and fresh. I opted for canned because I was in need of a quick recipe that could be made ahead of time (which appears to be the theme lately). In about 5 minutes, I had a meal thrown together—that could be eaten on top of salad greens, on a bun or sandwich bread, or by itself. I didn’t have tarragon vinegar and didn’t want to buy it just for this, so I instead used white wine vinegar, which worked fine. Next time I’d maybe add some pecans or walnuts for an additional crunch!

According to The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook, salmon is included on the list because:
-It is considered the healthiest seafood choice, with an abundance of omega-3 essential fatty acids
-A portion size is just 3 oz, maybe it easy to fill up on a small amount
-Canned salmon is rich in calcium (when it comes with the bones)—the book recommends just crushing up the small bones and eating; they aren’t noticeable and the nutrition benefits are worth it!

And with that, I wrap up the book portion of the Best of 2011 challenge. We’ll visit one last restaurant in December to wrap up the other portion of the challenge and I’ll do a final wrap-up post outlining my thoughts on the challenge!

One Year Ago: Pomegranate Spinach Salad with Persimmon and Turkey

Salmon and White Bean Salad
from The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook

-1 can salmon, drained
-1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
-1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
-1 tbsp tarragon vinegar
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1. Combine the salmon, beans, onion, vinegar, and salt. Toss with a fork to combine. Season with pepper.
2. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add parsley just before serving.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Best of 2011: BBQ Collard Greens with Edamame

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Of all the recipes we've tried from The Twelve Best Foods cookbook for our Best of 2011 Challenge, I think this one stands in first place. Okay, wait. I just remembered sweet potato butter, warm avocado salad, and last month's chocolate chile nuts. Overall the book has been a raging success...but this recipe for BBQ Collard Greens with Edamame definitely belongs near the top!

To be honest, I was a little surprised that soy made the list. There are a lot of other foods I'd probably place before soy, but I'm not the author and so I went with it anyway. Though I like tofu and actually order it out in Asian restaurants quite frequently, it's not something I've yet attempted in my own kitchen. Though the book had a few tofu recipes, I took a different direction with the soy and selected a recipe with shelled edamame.

We love edamame, having discovered it at a sushi restaurant years ago. We also love collard greens, occasionally picking up a batch to make with eggs on weekend mornings. The combination?! With bacon, onion, and BBQ sauce?! Delightful! You almost forget you're eating something so healthy! Adding edamame to my greens might be the new standard...both Ryan and I absolutely loved this side dish. Pair it with eggs or, as the book suggested, mix it up with some beans and rice for a complete meal.
According to The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook, soy is one of the lucky twelve! A few facts about soy...
  • Comes in a variety of sources (soybeans, tofu, edamame, miso, tempeh, etc.)
  • Source of folate and choline
  • Highest quality cholesterol from a meatless protein (studies show it reduces high cholesterol if you eat more than 25 grams a day along with a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat)
  • Isoflavones help protect and maintain bone strength
Two Years Ago: A glimpse into Ryan's Thanksgiving proposal!

BBQ Collard Greens with Edamame
From The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook

-1 bunch collard greens
-1 cup frozen shelled edamame
-1 onion, finely chopped
-1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (I omitted)
-3 tbsp smoke-flavored BBQ sauce
-2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

1. Place the collard greens in a medium saucepan. Add 1/3 cup water, cover, and cook for 6 minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Add edamame, onion, and green pepper. Cover and cook for an additional 8 minutes.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in BBQ sauce and top with bacon. Serve immediately. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankfulness, Apple Pie, and Using Up Those Turkey Leftovers!

Ryan and I switch which family we spend Thanksgiving with each year and though the setting and the people change, one thing is sure: we are always surrounded by good food and family! This year we're cooking, laughing, and playing games (and watching our favorite Green Bay Packers!) in Chicago with my family.

I have much to be thankful for, which I've been reflecting on the past few weeks. It's very easy to get caught up in the day to day complaints, stressors, and frustrations...but when I take a step back and look at the big picture, there's no doubt that I am infinitely blessed.

I have a job that not only pays the bills, but that I genuinely enjoy. I go to work every day and find myself challenged and engaged.

I have a beautiful home in a neighborhood that I love, minutes away from some of my best friends, including my sister.

I have a hobby (this blog) that gets me excited in the kitchen and has led to fun opportunities and meeting some great people (virtually and not!).

I have a church family where I've not only found true community, but that also holds me accountable to the beliefs and values I proclaim.

I have a family full of people, both younger and older than me, that I truly cherish, love, and am daily inspired by.

I have a husband who brightens my life daily, encouraging me, flattering me, and cleaning up the kitchen after me!

....just a small snapshot of the many blessings filling my life! Another thing I'm thankful for? Apple pie.

I'll be eating apple pie, freshly made by my grandma, after dinner tonight. Recently, my grandma came to visit and, on a special request from my sister Julia and I, brought all of the supplies to give the two of us a lesson in her famous pie.

Though it's not a recipe I'll be sharing on the blog (family secrets!), it was a memory I will forever cherish. I am thankful for grandmas, shortening, and the way food brings people together!

I hope you, too, get the chance to stop today and reflect on the many blessings in your life...apple pie included!

For those of you wondering what to do with your extra turkey...I've got some uses for your leftover bird:
Check out my Chicken Recipes--many can sub turkey instead!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sausage and Egg Casserole with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Mozzarella

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I'm sure you have your Thanksgiving meal plans figured out by now, but have you figured out what you're going to serve tomorrow morning for breakfast? Or, if not tomorrow, Friday morning? If you're anything like our family, the eating on Thanksgiving isn't just about the one big meal. The next day is filled with more food--typically breakfast in, leftovers for lunch, and a nice dinner out.

Whether or not you're in need of a breakfast recipe for this weekend, this egg dish is certainly one to keep in mind the next time you're serving a group for breakfast. Made in a 9 x 13 dish, this easily serves 8 people and doesn't require more than 15 minutes of prep work. Even better, you can prep it the night before you plan to serve it. Set it on the counter as your oven heats up and then bake as directed.

The dish seems simple, but the combination of flavors--namely sun-dried tomatoes and Italian sausage--jazz up the creamy eggs. I like that this egg dish doesn't include bread because it means you can carb up on other brunch dishes, like Cinnamon Apple Cake, Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal, or Cinnamon Rolls!

Did you enter my CHEESE giveaway? The winners from the comments on the post are Lynn and Marie. The winners from my Facebook page are Lisa Revard, Jodie Fontenot, and Marilyn Wagner. Congrats winners! Send me an email at natalie.mclaury@gmail.com so that Ile de France can send you your cheese! 

Sausage and Egg Casserole with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Mozzarella
recipe from my mom

-1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
-1/2 cup green onion
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 cup chopped, drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
-4 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley 
-5 large eggs
-3 large egg yolks
-1 cup half and half
-1 cup whipping cream
-2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
-1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. Saute sausage in a large pan until cooked through, breaking into small pieces.
2. Add green onion and garlic, saute for 3 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes and 2 tbsp parsley. Stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and spread sausage mixture into prepared dish.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, half and half, whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and salt. Pour egg mixture over sausage in dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese and 2 tbsp parsley over the mixture. 
4. Bake uncovered until casserole is golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean (30-40 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cranberry Sauce with Crystallized Ginger

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I'm having a hard time formulating the words to tell you about this cranberry sauce. It's not that this classic side dish isn't worthy of description....it's just that I'm currently sitting on my couch in a Mexican food coma. Every bit of extra energy is being used to digest the shrimp, chorizo, and beef fajitas currently weighing me down. What do they put in their rice and beans that keeps you shoveling food in your mouth until suddenly the plate is empty and you're rolling out of the restaurant?!

You readers, however, don't care about my Mexican food baby. You're maybe perusing the web in search of the finishing touches for your Thanksgiving meal. Look no further--your cranberry sauce needs have been met. This takes only a few minutes to put together and then the dish basically cooks itself on the stove.

This cranberry sauce falls on the sweeter side of the spectrum, but still gets a different kick of flavor from the orange juice and crystallized ginger. I'm a ginger fiend so I particularly liked this...in fact, next time I'll stir a bit extra in at the end! Thanksgiving is still two days away but this can be made three days ahead of time so make this now and cross it off of our to-do list!
Today's the last day to enter my giveaway....enter before 8 pm Central tonight for a chance to be one of the five winners to end up with a basket full of CHEESE!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Two Years Ago: Mom's Famous Sugar Cookies (the recipe I used to make 300+ for wedding favors, which I talked about here!)

Cranberry Sauce with Crystallized Ginger
from Bon Appetit, December 1990

-2 (12 oz) bags cranberries
-1 1/2 cups sugar
-1 cup orange juice
-1 cup water
-1 tbsp grated orange peel (I zested 1 orange)
-1 tsp ground ginger
-1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger (about 2 oz.)

1. In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice, water, orange peel, and ginger. Heat to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
2. Once boiling, continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop (5-10 minutes).
3. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in crystallized ginger. Cover and refrigerate (can be made 3 days ahead of time).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Caramel Pecan Pie

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I've eaten my fair share of pies in my twenty-five years and yet I don't think I've ever had more than a bite or two of pecan pie. It's not that I don't like pecan pie, it's just that my grandma is the pie master and her specialty is apple pie, so that's what I grew up on (more on that in a few days!). Recently we celebrated my sister-in-law's birthday and she requested pecan pie for dessert. In searching for a recipe, I came across this caramel pecan pie recipe from Southern Living Magazine. Given my recent obsession with all things caramel, I knew I had to stray a bit from standard pecan pie.
Caramel came through for me once again! This pie was a hit with Ryan's family--the filling uses melted caramels instead of corn syrup which makes for a sweet and gooey filling that isn't quite as overwhelming as the traditional pecan pie.  I used a crust recipe that comes together easily in a food processor, making this pie rather easy to put together. Have you figured out your dessert menu for Thursday? There's still time to whip this up!
One Year Ago: Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie (I also highly recommend adding this to your dessert selection for Thanksgiving this year!!)
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ball

Hey did you enter my giveaway for FREE CHEESE? Check it out here--you have two ways to enter--I'll pick FIVE winners Tuesday night!

Caramel Pecan Pie
crust seen on Apple a Day from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, pie from Southern Living
*serves 8-10

for the pie
-1 pie crust (recipe below, or use packaged refrigerated crust)
-28 caramels, unwrapped
-1/4 cup butter
-1/4 cup water
-3/4 cup sugar
-2 large eggs
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

for the crust (makes a double crust so halve the recipe or freeze the other for another pie!)
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
-1 tsp kosher salt
-1 tsp granulated sugar
-2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
-1 tbsp chilled vodka
-1/4-1/2 cup ice water, less 1 tbsp

To make the pie crust:
1. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process just to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse sand (about 10 seconds). Add the vodka, followed by the water in a steady stream through the food processor feed tube with the machine running. Process just until the dough holds together (not more than 30 seconds).
2. Place the dough on a floured surface and divide into two equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour before using. (If you freeze one crust just thaw in the fridge when ready to use).
For the Pie:
1. Roll out pie crust and fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Prick bottom and sides of crust with a fork. Bake at 400F for 6-8 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine caramels, butter, and water. Cook, stirring constantly, until caramels and butter are melted (5-7 minutes). Remove from heat.
3. Stir sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt into caramel mixture until completely mixed. Stir in pecans and pour mixture into prepared crust.
4. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and bake for 20 more minutes. Shield the edges of the crust with foil to prevent browning. Remove pie to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Butternut Squash and Kale Torte

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It's as if the recipe creators at Women's Day magazine decide to create this recipe exclusively for The Sweets Life, knowing it would entice me by including several of my favorite ingredients in one dish. In truth, it missed a few of my favorites, but I made a few simple changes that made it a near perfect recipe in my book!

For one, I swapped out the yukon gold potato for a sweet potato. If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I have quite an obsession with the orange starch! Additionally, I used goat cheese instead of provolone...because goat cheese makes everything better.
Thanks to Ile de France cheese, I had a log of goat cheese in my refrigerator begging to be used in a new recipe. Including it in this torte turned out to be a wonderful solution for some of the cheese--I loved how the creamy cheese paired with the bite of the kale and the chew of the squash and potatoes. I made this torte when Ryan was away on business and secretly enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to share it with anyone...you know a meal is good when you wake up looking forward to your leftovers for dinner!

Guess what? Ile de France wants to offer five of you the chance to win your own cheese prize pack, as pictured below. I was most impressed with their goat cheese--which is included in the prize pack along with a few other cheeses, like their brie (which I've also heard good things about!). I'm not going to lie--I'm pretty jealous of the five of you that'll win!

For a chance to win, you can do one (or both) of the following:
1. Leave a comment on this post telling me which type of Ile de France cheese you'd most like to sample.
2. Head on over to my Facebook page and leave a comment on my wall with your favorite way to eat/use goat cheese!

Got that? Each person has the option of entering two times. The giveaway is open until Tuesday, November 22nd at 8 pm central. I'll select 2 winners from the comments on this post and 3 winners from my Facebook page, to be announced in the post on the 23rd! Thanks Ile de France for spreading the cheese love! GIVEAWAY CLOSED! 

Whether or not you win, I suggest you give this recipe a try! The original also called for a tomato in the layers which I bought but didn't use because my pan got too full! The layers sunk a bit when baking so I probably could have added it but it was delicious as is. Serve with crusty bread, as Women's Day recommended, for a main meal or as a vegetable side dish with a protein like some roasted chicken.

One Year Ago: Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts
Two Years Ago: Rosemary Bread

Butternut Squash and Kale Torte
adapted from Women's Day November 2011

-1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for the pan
-1/2 small butternut squash (about 1 lb), thinly siced
-1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
-1 small bunch of kale, thick stems discarded and leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
-kosher salt and pepper
-1 medium sweet potato, thinly sliced
-2-4 oz. goat cheese
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1. Heat oven to 425F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Arrange half of the butternut squash in the bottom of the pan, covering as completely as possible.
2. Top with half of the onion, separating the rings. Add half of the kale, drizzling with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and season with 1/4 tsp salt. Top with the sweet potato slices and the goat cheese.
3. Top cheese with remaining kale and drizzle with 1/2 tbsp olive oil plus 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Top with remaining onion followed by the squash. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
4. Cover with foil, place on a baking sheet, and bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, until vegetables are tender and the top begins to brown.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin Ice Cream

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Last weekend, I set out on a run. I was excited because temperatures were warm and the sun was out--when you're usually running at 5 am, it's a real treat to run in daylight. My excitement quickly turned to frustration. The source of my frustration? The 20-30 mph winds I found myself fighting for over an hour. I struggled each step of my run, internally cursing the weather conditions. When I finally returned back to my house, I walked through the front door and yelled at the top of my lungs, "I HATE THE WIND!". Call me dramatic, call me an over-reactor (my husband did!), but it made me feel a little better to proclaim my frustration.

You know what else is frustrating? Forgetting to temper your eggs when you make ice cream. Surprisingly, I didn't scream "I HATE ICE CREAM" at the top of my lungs. That would be hypocrisy! But I did get a little sad that I had destroyed my inaugural batch of pumpkin ice cream as I picked chunks of cooked eggs out of my mixture.

Thankfully, I pressed on with making the ice cream and after straining the mixture, I ended up with perfect ice cream--it is essentially pumpkin pie filling in ice cream form. This is a new fall favorite, and I can't wait to make it a few more times this season. Next time I think I'll mix in some gingersnaps, nuts, or chocolate and try some different variations.

All in all, I suppose it's good I fought the wind and finished the run...made the calories in the ice cream that much better ;)

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Knots
Two Years Ago: Very Veggie Soup

Pumpkin Ice Cream
from David Lebovitz

-1 1/2 cups whole milk (I used 2%)
-1 cup heavy cream
-1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
-1 tsp ginger
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 cinnamon stick (I subbed an additional 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp kosher salt
-5 large egg yolks
-1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1. Fill a large bowl with water and ice and nest a smaller metal bowl inside of it to create an ice bath. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
2. In a medium saucepan combine the milk, cream, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Warm until the mixture is hot and the edges begin to bubble.
3. In a small separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Once the milk mixture is hot, gradually whisk in about half of the warmed milk mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture starts to thicken and coat the back of the spatula (160-170F if using a thermometer).
4. Remove the mixture from heat and immediately pour it through the strainer into the bowl sitting in the ice bath. Mix in the brown sugar, stirring until cooled. Cover and chill overnight.
5. The next day, remove from the fridge and whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin until smooth. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's manufacturers instructions.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds

Need just one more dish to round out your Thanksgiving meal next Thursday? I recommend this Brussels sprouts recipe. Because the Brussels sprouts are shredded and tossed with vinegar, it almost reminded me of a warm coleslaw. I loved the tangy bite of vinegar and slight crunch from the poppy seeds. Despite being incredibly simple in both preparation and number of ingredients, the dish tasted more complex than I anticipated.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I first even tried Brussels sprouts and now I can't seem to get enough of them. Shredded, roasted, steamed...I love them all! This veggie tends to get a bad rap but I'm convinced you'll convert a few haters when they're prepared like this!

One Year Ago: Bananas Foster
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds
from Real Simple, November 2011

-1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed
-3 tbsp olive oil
-1 large shallot, finely chopped
-kosher salt and black pepper
-2 tbsp white wine vinegar
-1 tbsp poppy seeds

1. Use a food processor and its slicing disk to slice the brussels sprouts (you could probably also do this by hand--it would just take a lot longer!).
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, frequently stirring, until soft (2-3 minutes).
3. Add the Brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring often, until Brussels sprouts are tender (4-6 minutes). Remove from heat and immediately stir in the vinegar and poppy seeds. Serve warm.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette

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I realize that my love for vegetables is not particularly normal. I rarely come across a vegetable I dislike and I don't remember ever being forced to stay at the table to finish my broccoli. Most people don't share my kale obsession, which probably explains why I never have trouble finding it at the grocery store. More often, I think people tolerate vegetables because of their health benefits and their prominent place on the food pyramid.

Do you fall into that category? If so, I'm here to change your mind about vegetables. I find them really hard to dislike in a dish like this, when you toss them with fresh herbs, dried fruit, and crunchy toasted walnuts. I'm willing to bet the combination of flavors and textures will distract you long enough to finish off at least one serving before you even realize you've eaten vegetables.

Are you a vegetable lover? Hater? Tolerator? Any favorite vegetable side dishes to convert the veggie haters of the world? Check out my list of side dishes for other vegetable options!
One Year Ago: Red Velvet Pancakes
Two Years Ago: Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette
adapted from Bon Appetit November 2010
*makes 8 servings

-1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1/3 cup minced shallots
-3 tbsp plus 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar (original called for Sherry wine vinegar)
-2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
-1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
-1 tsp sugar
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1/3 cup dried cranberries (original called for dried tart cherries)
-1 1/2 pounds trimmed green beans
-1/2 cup walnuts, toasted & chopped

1. Whisk the olive oil, shallots, vinegar, mint, salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl. Stir in dried cranberries and set aside. (Note--can be made 1 day ahead of time. Cover, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before serving.)
2. Fill a bowl with water and ice. Set aside. Cook green beans in a pot of salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain beans and transfer to ice water to cool. Drain. (Note--can be made 1 day ahead of time. Wrap in paper towels and place in a sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
3. Toss green beans with dressing and toasted walnuts. Serve at room temperature (Note--can be made 2 hours ahead of time).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crockpot BBQ Beer Chicken

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Obey your parents. Isn't that one of the first lessons a parent tries to teach his or her child? I've certainly been hearing it for long as I can remember. Some days, obedience was mostly about avoiding a spanking. At age twenty-five, spankings are no longer a threat. I'm outside of my parents' house, old enough to be a parent myself (though I'm not, yet!), but still obeying my parents, mostly out of love and respect for them. Mom knows best, as she's proven again and again. When she told me to make Jessica's crockpot bbq beer chicken, I listened. You may remember my mom's obsession with How Sweet It Is, and it once again proves to be an obsession that is quite delicious!

My house smelled heavenly as this chicken cooked all day long on a recent Sunday. At five o'clock I couldn't handle it anymore and I shredded the chicken to dig in to a rather early dinner. Jessica says this might be the best chicken she's ever made and I can't disagree that this is one of the better chicken meals to come from my crockpot. If you don't need 3 pounds of shredded chicken, freeze some. I froze a portion of mine with some of the juices from the crockpot and it was just as good a few weeks later. The recipe also halves well.

I'll say it again: Obey your parents.

One Year Ago: Snickers Cups
Two Years Ago: Upside Down Apple Pie
Looking for other shredded meat crockpot sandwiches? Check out Shredded Beef Sandwiches (a longtime family favorite) or Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches!

Crockpot BBQ Beer Chicken
from How Sweet It Is

-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1 tbsp onion powder
-1 tbsp smoked paprika
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-8 oz. beer (I just used one full bottle)
-32 oz. bbq sauce (Jessica recommends a thinner sauce; I combined a few different ones from my fridge)

1. Season chicken with onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add to crockpot.
2. Add beer and 24 oz. bbq sauce to crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours, stirring a few times if desired.
3. After 8 hours, shred chicken and add remaining bbq sauce. Serve on sandwich buns.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

50 Recipes To Consider for Thanksgiving

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For my American readers, how much cooking are you doing for this year's Thanksgiving? With the holiday a week and a half away, it's time to start thinking about what's going to grace your table this year (or, alternately, what you'd like to request mom or grandma to make!). Whatever your role in the upcoming feast, here are 50 recipes from my archives that you might want to consider.

Although you won't find a turkey recipe on here (by next year you will, promise!), I've got the other bases covered, from salads to side dishes to desserts...heavy on the desserts of course! Looking for breakfast or appetizer options? You can find those in my recipe index!

Hopefully one of these recipes catches your eye. Tell me, what are you planning to make this Thanksgiving? Share links in the comments so readers have even more Thanksgiving options!
Apple Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette 
Autumn Chopped Salad
Autumn Salad
Curried Cashew, Apple, and Grape Salad
Green Salad with Spiced Walnuts
Mixed Citrus Green Salad
Pear and Arugula Salad
Pomegranate Salad with Honey Cider Vinaigrette
Spinach and Apple Salad with Crispy Almonds
Winter Fruit Salad
Side Dishes
Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin
Figgy Wild Rice Mushroom & Sourdough Dressing
Gorgonzola Smashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apples
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers, Walnuts, and Anchovies
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Toasted Pecans and Dried Cranberries
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts
Sweet Potato Apple Casserole
Honey Wheat Sandwich Buns
Pretzel Rolls
Pumpkin Knots
Pumpkin Popovers
Whole Wheat Baguettes
Whole Wheat Rosemary Bread
Apple Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust
Apple Raisin Bars
Blushing POM Holiday Cheesecake
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
Caramel Apple Nut Bars
Chocolate Liqueur Brownies
Cranberry Bliss Bars
Cranberry Pistachio and Ginger Blondie Cake
Gingerbread Truffles
No-Bake Nutella Pie with Peanut Butter Crust
Paul's Pumpkin Bars
Pumpkin Blondies
Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies
Pumpkin Cake
Pumpkin Cheesecake Spice Bars
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Cranberries
Pumpkin Roll
Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Raspberry Truffle Tarts
Salted Caramel Pie
Sour Cream Cranberry Bars
Upside Down Apple Pie

Don't forget to check out my recipe index for appetizer and breakfast recipes too!

Looking for even more Thanksgiving ideas? Check out these amazing mosaics compiled of hundreds of Thanksgiving recipes from around the web--some of my recipes listed above are featured there and you'll find everything from sides to desserts to pumpkin only to gluten-free options!

One Year Ago: Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins with Peaches and Pecans