Monday, November 30, 2015

Broccoli & Cauliflower Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Gratin

This Broccoli and Cauliflower Jalapeno Cheddar Gratin was my contribution to the family Thanksgiving. Don't be afraid of the jalapeno, if you don't like spicy foods, just leave out the cayenne. I used both ingredients and no one found it to be overwhelmingly spicy.

-1 medium head of broccoli (cut into florets)
-1 medium head of cauliflower (cut into florets)
-4 tbsp. butter
-4 tbsp. flour
-2 tsp. spicy brown mustard
-2 cups of milk
-1½ cups of jalapeno cheddar cheese, shredded*
-salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper

*If you can't find jalapeno cheddar cheese, we couldn't, use 1 1/2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese and 1 large jalapeno.

Once the broccoli and cauliflower has been cut into florets parboil the veggies for 5 minutes. Drain and put into an 8x8 pan.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Add flour and saute for about one minute. Add milk in a steady stream while stirring to create a smooth sauce and bring to a gentle simmer.

Once the sauce has started to thicken, add mustard and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Add in the jalapeno and then the cheese. You'll want to add the cheese a handful at a time to allow it to melt fully into the sauce. Once all of the cheese has been added pour over the broccoli and cauliflower in the 8x8 pan. Sprinkle with a little additional cheese if desired and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. 

This was hit at Thanksgiving. It was an easy casserole to prepare and it would be a nice side dish for a holiday or a regular dinner night. The cheese sauce was slightly spicy, but not overwhelming. This was particularly good for Thanksgiving, because the sauce as also great with stuffing or rolls.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hard Apple Cider Mule

Moscow Mules are one of my favorite favorite cocktails to order at restaurants. When I found these copper mugs at Target, I knew that the options for the blog would be endless. This version doesn't involve the usual vodka, but rather hard cider in order to invoke a fall-like feel.

Recipe from Averie Cooks.

-ice cubes, as needed
-1/4 cup hard apple cider (such as Strongbow)
-1/2 cup non-alcoholic ginger beer
-1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
-1 apple, seeded, and sliced into thin rounds

First chill your copper mugs in the freezer. Once the mugs have chilled for a few hours, fill them with ice and add the hard apple cider and nonalcoholic ginger beer. Stir to distribute the ingredients and then garnish with the apple slices and cinnamon sticks.

This isn't a very alcoholic drink, the hard cider is a lot lighter than vodka, but overall it was nice and refreshing. I even made a non-alcoholic version for my youngest brother using apple cider instead of hard apple cider. The combination of the apple and ginger beer is nice and crisp, like a fresh picked apple. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

French Fry Salad

Traditionally it's a steak and fry salad, but I decided that french fries would probably be pretty darn good on a salad even if the steak wasn't there. This salad is pretty versatile, you could add cheese if you wanted to, or avocado would be pretty awesome paired with these ingredients too.

Adapted from Whatever Pieces.

For the fries:
-2 medium baking potatoes or about 6 new potatoes
-1 large clove garlic, peeled and sliced in quarters
-2 tsp olive oil
-1/2 tsp paprika
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-Rosemary, oregano or thyme, to taste
-Salt and pepper
For the salads:
-4 cups salad greens
-1/2 cup carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler
-1/2 cup sugar snap peas
-1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
-2 servings steak fries
-Light ranch dressing

Preheat the oven to 425F. Slice the potatoes into thin wedges and slice the garlic. Place on a large baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Add the spices and toss.

Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast 30-45 minutes, flipping the potatoes after about 20 minutes, and cook until most are golden brown and crisp.

Meanwhile, prepare the salads. Divide the salad greens between two plates. Top each with half of the carrot, snap peas, and tomatoes. Set aside until the potatoes are done.

Once the fries are better, divde them between the two plates, top with ranch and serve immediately.

This was great. The fries were seasoned just right and the warm fries over top of the cold salad ingredients paired nicely. I think this is best served with ranch, but you could probably use some sort of tomato vinaigrette if you wanted to or a blue cheese dressing. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Creamy Parmesan Baked Acorn Squash

I was intrigued by this acorn squash recipe, because rather than stuffing the squash with something, a sauce is heating in the squash and melting into the sides. It was also ridiculously easy to make which is always a win for me.

Recipe from Let's Dish.

-1 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and bottoms trimmed to lie flat
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-4 sprigs fresh thyme
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash cut side up on a large, rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Divide cream and thyme evenly among squash halves.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the squash is tender and easily pierced with a knife or fork.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden.

This was a hit for dinner along with a side of some rice and vegetables. The heaving cream soaked into the squash a little while baking giving the squash a nice rich flavor that it doesn't normally have. The cheese and thyme helped to tie everything together and overall we enjoyed trying acorn squash in a new preparation. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars

Happy Thanksgiving! This recipe rounds out the 2015 Thanksgiving recipe set. These apple pie bars are easier than putting together an entire pie and can be made a day or so ahead of your  celebration.

-1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
-1/4 cup granulated sugarsa
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 cup all-purpose flour (measured correctly)

-2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced (1/4 inch thick)
-2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
-1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on all sides. Set aside.
To make the crust: Stir the melted butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking prepare the filling and steusel.
To make the apple filling: Combine the sliced apples, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
Make the streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
Remove the crust from the oven, and turn the oven up to 350°F.

Layer the apples on top of the warm crust in an even layer. Sprinkle the apple layer with streusel and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Once chilled lift the foil or parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. Once sliced, drizzle with salted caramel or caramel sauce and enjoy.

I thought this was a fun recipe to make, it seemed easier to make than an apple pie and I like that it's easy to cut the dessert into small pieces. The salted caramel adds a nice touch, but you could use a regular caramel sauce if you wanted to just purchase one instead of making something. Happy Thanksgiving again, have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cranberry Sauce, Bacon and Gorgonzola Pizza

It's the last Pizza Wednesday! I had a lot of fun during this series and will likely continue it next fall, usually I try to tie in the last recipe of the series with the next series, but pizza + soup is a little difficult to make that transition with. Enjoy this Thanksgiving pizza as the last pizza of the series.

Recipe from Baker by Nature.

Pair with Pumpkin Soup Shooters with Mini Grilled Cheeses; Maple Old Fashioned; and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey, Sriracha, and Lime.

-1 sheets of frozen puffed pastry
-1/2 tablespoon olive oil
-1 cup cranberry sauce
-2 slices vegan bacon, cooked through but not too crispy
-4 ounces gorgonzola cheese
-Red onion, thinly sliced
-Rosemary, chopped

Make sure to thaw the puffed pastry at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Cook the vegan bacon in a small skillet until almost crisp, set aside.
Lightly brush the olive oil over the top of each pastry piece. Spread the cranberry sauce over the top (leaving a little room on the edges for a "crust"). Top the cranberry sauce with the vegan bacon, cheese and red onion.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Once the pizzas are finished cooking, remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little rosemary. 

This pizza was awesome. Using the cranberry sauce for the base was a wonderful idea and it was just sweet enough to combat the strong flavors of the gorgonzola and red onion. The vegan bacon added a nice little crunch and the rosemary helped to tie everything together.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey, Sriracha, and Lime

Brussels sprouts. It seems everyone loves to hate them. They're best when roasted, like in this recipe, until the outer leaves become crispy and caramelized. The caramelization really helps to bring out the best flavor in the brussels sprouts which will be nicely complemented by the sweet and spicy sauce drizzled over top.

Recipe from Shared Appetite

-1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-Kosher salt
-1 tablespoon sriracha
-3 tablespoons honey
-1 lime, juiced

Prep the brussels sprouts by cutting off the stem end, removing a few outer leaves and cutting the brussels sprouts in half.

Drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Season with salt.

While the brussels sprouts roast, combine the sriracha, honey and lime in a bowl. Once the brussles sprouts have finished cooking, drizzle them with the sauce and toss lightly to ensure that they're all coated.

This was a nice side dish for all of the other Thanksgiving recipes in this series. The pumpkin soup was mainly sweet, and this recipe has enough spice to keep the sweetness from becoming too repetitive throughout the meal. Check back tomorrow to see the main course!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Maple Old Fashioned

A year ago at Olive or Twist in Pittsburgh, Dave ordered a delightful maple old fashioned which was crafted with maple whiskey. I'm not usually a whiskey fan, but both of us enjoyed that drink so much, I thought it would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving menu. Although there is a hint of maple, this drink is not overly sweet, which makes is a nice pairing to the Thanksgiving menu which usually includes several sweet food items.

Recipe slightly adapted from Jelly Toast.

Ingredients:-2 ounces maple whiskey (I used Crown Royal Maple)
-1 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
-1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
-1-2 dashes of angostura bitters
-orange peel + maraschino cherry for garnish

Add ingredients to an ice filled cocktail shaker and shake until chilled. Strain into ice filled glass. Garnish with orange peel and cherry. This is best serve chilled, enjoy! 

This wasn't quite as sweet at the maple old fashioned we enjoyed in Pittsburgh last year. Dave was a fan and said he would have drank multiple glasses of this if he had been given the chance. He said it's a nice fall, maple cocktail. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pumpkin Soup Shooters with Mini Grilled Cheeses

Happy Thanksgiving week!! I have a really exciting menu planned for Thanksgiving this year all of them pair well together or would make an interesting vegetarian addition to the menu you're already starting to plan for Thursday. Starting off the meal is this easy to make appetizer which can be made in the slow cooker the day of Thanksgiving or prepped a few days before the big meal and then reheated for serving.

A little preview of the upcoming week.
Recipe from Cafe Johnsonia.


-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1 large onion, diced
-2 carrots, diced
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-4 cups vegetable stock
-1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
-1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk 
-1 tablespoon ground cumin
-1 teaspoon allspice
-1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne 
-1 tablespoon maple syrup 
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-Pumpkin seeds, optional garnish

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet, add the onion and carrot to the skillet. Cook for about ten minutes or until they've started to soften. Add the garlic and saute for about thirty seconds. Add all of the spices and stir for about thirty seconds.

Transfer all of the ingredients to a slow cooker. Add the stock, pumpkin puree, and coconut milk. Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours, or HIGH for 3-4 hours.

Before serving the soup, use the immersion blender to make it silky smooth so that it will be easy to serve in the shooter glasses. Once the soup is blended, add the maple syrup and season with salt and pepper.

Pour into tall shooter glasses, garnish with a little bit of pumpkin seeds. Make your favorite grilled cheese sandwich -- havarti or white cheddar would pair nicely with this soup. If you want to get fancy you can add some minced chives to the inside as well. Serve on top of the shooter glasses of pumpkin soup. 

I'm not the biggest fan of pumpkin, but I really enjoyed this soup. It was smooth enough to serve in the shooter glasses and a nice pretty rusty orange color. Cooking it in the slow cooker the day of Thanksgiving or a few days before will help cut down on some of the kitchen craziness that occurs on holidays. You don't need to pair this with mini grilled cheeses, but I think it adds a nice whimsical touch to the appetizer. Holidays are a good day to push culinary boundaries. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tofu Thai Curry over Ramen

Curry recipes are some of our favorite recipes to make for dinner. They use simple ingredients, but an incredible depth of flavor can be coaxed out of the ingredients. It's also a nice way to use leftover ingredients, feel free to add any fresh veggies that you have in the fridge.

Recipe slightly adapted from the Pickled Plum.

-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
-1 small carrot, chopped bite size
-1 1/2 cup broccoli, roughly chopped
-12 oz firm tofu, pressed to remove excess water
-½ cup coconut milk
-1 cup water
-2 teaspoon curry powder
-1 1/2 tablespoon red curry paste
-1/4 cup soy sauce 
-Ramen noodles, cooked for one minute
-2 soft boiled eggs 
-Diced chives

In a medium size pot over medium/high heat, add oil, garlic and tofu. Cook for 5 minutes, or until tofu is a little golden.Add broccoli and carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add curry paste, curry powder and water. Stir until the curry paste has dissolved and then add the soy sauce and coconut milk, stir and cook on low (simmer) for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Ladle the curry over the ramen and top with the chives and soft boiled eggs.

Dave really liked this recipe, I don't love adding curry powder to food, so overall I thought it was just okay. The ingredients paired nicely together and you could serve this alone, with ramen, or over rice. Adding a soft boiled egg helps to add some richness from the yolk. I chose not to add salt, because the soy sauce is pretty salty, you can adjust the seasoning as needed. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

Every once in a while I like to switch things up and serve some small appetizers with dinner. Traditional jalapeno poppers are delicious, but heavy, this baked version lightens up the recipe without losing flavor.

Inspired by Oh My Veggies.

-6 jalapeno peppers
-1/4 cup corn
-2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, grated
-1 ounce blue cheese
-1/8 cup panko breadcrumbs
-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Wearing rubber gloves (save  yourself later! especially if you wear soft contact lenses), cut the jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes. Place them, cut side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a small bowl toss the corn, cheddar cheese, blue cheese and panko. Stuff the filling into the empty cavity of each pepper (a little overflow is okay).

Top with the paprika and then bake for 20-25 minutes at 350. Serve immediately.


Dave and I enjoyed this recipe, it's nice to take a classic recipe and lighten it up a little. The panko bread crumbs adds a little crunch to the jalapeno poppers and they're nice and cheesy. Because the poppers are so small, the cheese is pretty well divided between the peppers keeping the calorie count low.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crock Pot Quinoa Chili

This crock pot recipe is jam packed with vegetables and is so satisfying that you won't miss the meat. 

Recipe from Joyful Healthy Eats.

-2 cups of frozen corn
-2 cups of carrots, diced
-1 large onion, diced
-1 large red pepper, diced
-1 chipotle pepper, minced {from a can of chipotle in adobe sauce}
-1 teaspoon of chipotle adobe sauce
-2 teaspoons of cumin
-1 teaspoon of dry oregano
-½ teaspoon of chili powder
-28 oz. can of Muir Glen Crushed Tomatoes
-15 oz. can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
-juice of 1 lime
-4 cups of vegetable stock
-1 cup of quinoa
-15 oz. can of low sodium black beans, drained & rinsed
-15 oz. can of low sodium cannelini beans, drained & rinsed
-15 oz. can of low sodium pinto beans, drained & rinsed

Add carrots, onions, corn red pepper, chipotle pepper, chipotle adobe sauce, cumin,  oregano, chili powder, crushed tomatoes, diced fire roasted tomatoes, lime juice, vegetable stock, and quinoa to crock pot. Stir and cook on HIGH for 4 hours.
Then add black beans, cannellini beans, and pinto beans to crock pot. Stir and cook for an addition hour on LOW.

We decided to keep our chili simple, but this would also be good with some cheese or sour cream on top. Although there is chipotle in this, it only add a little heat, so don't be afraid of it becoming an overwhelming flavor. This made quite a few servings, I found it to be pretty filling with the quinoa. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fried Pizza Rolls

Reminiscent of frozen pizza treats, these crispy wonton-wrapper snacks are a perfect bite, and just enough to satisfy a pizza craving.

Recipe from Tasty Kitchen.

Other Pizza Wednesday recipes: Beet Green Pesto Pizza with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese; Roasted Vegetable Wrap Pizza; Eggplant Parmesan Pizza with Crispy Capers; Lemon Dandelion Green Pizza; Mushroom & Asparagus Pizza; Veggie Cheese Stromboli; Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza; Jalapeno Popper Pizza; Cauliflower Pizza Crust; BBQ Brussels Sprouts Pizza; and Chipotle Pineapple Pizza.

-4 ounces mozzarella cheese
-8 teaspoons spicy tomato sauce
-8 wonton wrappers

Divide the cheese and sauce equally into eight portions, and apply to the center of each wonton wrapper. Moisten the edge of the wonton wrappers and press to seal. Fry in a pan of hot, shallow oil, flipping once to brown both sides. Allow to rest and drain on a paper towel.

Pizza rolls are a great tasting and easy to prepare snack, and all the more impressive that they're homemade rather than from the freezer. It may be worth trying these baked, as well, as frying worked fine but a few of mine tended to want to stick to the pan. Serve with additional tomato sauce and a dash of Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

BLT Fried Egg and Cheese Sandwich

This combination recipe brings together key components and flavors to make an inspired take on sandwich classics. The visually impressive food brings huge taste in each bite and is a great dinner or weekend lunch.

Recipe from Food & Wine.

-2 sandwich rolls
-2 slices Monterey Jack cheese
-3 strips vegetarian bacon
-1 tomato, slices
-3-4 leaves lettuce
-2 eggs
Lightly toast the rolls, then put a slice of cheese on one half and mayonnaise on the other. Crisp up the vegetarian bacon in a skillet and divide some for each sandwich. With a little bit of cooking spray, fry the eggs in a frying pan over medium heat, cooking to the desired firmness. Add the eggs to the sandwich along with tomato slices, lettuce, salt and pepper.

A good sandwich will look and taste so appetizing that it draws you back for bite after bite. Bringing in elements of classic sandwiches, this recipe delivers with freshness, flavor and bite, and was a very well received meal. This sandwich could also be easily tailored to fit the many different preferences of those eating it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Beet, Orange and Spinach Salad

This salad tastes fresh with multiple notes from sweet to tart and a little nutty. It makes a perfect side and a colorful presentation.

Recipe from Canadian Living. Coming across the border for this lightly dressed, tossed salad.

-2 1/2 ounces baby spinach, rinsed and chopped
-8 ounces chopped pickled beets
-1 orange
-1/8 cup sliced almonds
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 tablepoon white wine vinegar
-1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-salt and pepper

Prepare the spinach and add the pickled beets. I used homemade pickled beets in this recipe because of an abundant beet crop. The pickled beets I made are sweet and a little tangy; for this reason, I cut added sugar out of the dressing. Feel free to purchase pickled beets at the store, or whole beets - roasting the beets would be another great way to bring rich flavors into the salad.

Halve the orange, then slice the flesh from each segment of one half. Add the orange slivers and the almonds to the salad bowl.

Mix the dressing by combining the juice from the other orange half, oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss gently to coat.

This made two to three servings, great for a side or for lunch.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall flavors and I love incorporating it into different recipes. I think it's always nice to sneak veggies into recipes. Although you can taste a hint of butternut squash in this macaroni and cheese, you can't actually see it -- a nice trick for picky eaters.

Adapted from Lauren's Latest.


-1 pound cooked pasta, some small shape
-1 tablespoon butter
-1/2 large onion, finely diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 cups roasted and pureed butternut squash 
-1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
-1/2 pound grated cheddar cheese
-1/4 pound grated mozzarella cheese
-salt & pepper, to taste
-2 pinches nutmeg
-1 cup milk

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan and then saute the onions and garlic over medium heat. Cook until tender and lightly browned, stirring as you go, about 6 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and reduce liquid by half. Add in the pureed butternut squash and stir to help the squash and vegetable stock combine.

Pour in cooked pasta and then the cheeses little by little, stirring as you go. Add splashes of milk to thin out melted cheese to create sauce. After all the cheese is melted into the pot, continue stirring and adding in milk until you've use one cup. This sauce will be very cheesy, so don't lose hope if it seems like a big mess of cheese -- it will melt. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

We drizzled a little sriracha over ours. 

I really liked how this recipe turned out. The pureed butternut squash blended nicely into the cheese creating a nice velvety texture. The taste of the squash is subtle, a reminder that this isn't just macaroni and cheese. Adding sriracha over the top before serving added a nice element of heat, hot sauce would work nicely as well if you'd like to spice this up.