Monday, July 13, 2020

Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins

There's nothing better than fresh muffins on a Saturday morning. Or any morning. Well, maybe except cinnamon rolls. I guess those are better. But muffins are still pretty good. Especially when they're laced with rhubarb and topped with cinnamon sugar.

Rhubarb is such a funny fruit - or vegetable, let's call it a vegetable. On its own, it's really nothing to shake a stick at, but in baked goods, it really shines.

I love that you can dice it up and store it in the freezer, so it's readily available for great recipes like this. And if you have more rhubarb than you can handle, check out these great options: Rhubarb Sorbet, Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream,
Blackberry Rhubarb Bread, Gingered Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, Blueberry Rhubarb Bars, Rhubarb Blueberry Muffins, Rhubarb Dream Bars, Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Cake, Sweet Tart Rhubarb and Ginger Sorbet.

But for now, you should just make these muffins. And make your mornings a little sweeter.

Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups diced rhubarb

3 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and whisk to blend.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Lightly stir the sour cream mixture into the dry ingredients with a spatula until the batter just comes together; do not overmix. Gently stir in the diced rhubarb. The batter will be thick.

Divide the batter among paper-lined muffin cups.

Make the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Sprinkle a generous 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over each muffin.

Bake at 400 for 18-22 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown, and spring back most of the way when gently pressed. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans. These muffins are great served warm, or at room temperature. They also freeze well. Makes 14-16 muffins.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Ricotta Berry Tart

Some desserts are just so good they deserve a repeat performance. That's how it is with this tart. I made it two weekends in a row for two different parties because it's just that good. It's very impressive looking, and it's not too difficult to make. But you can pretend it is.

It's also a great way to take advantage of all the delicious summer berries that are abundant right now.

The ricotta filling is what really sets this tart apart. It's not cheesecakey, not super creamy, not really cakey either. It's unique. And since this tart will serve 10 to 12 people, you have enough for a crowd. I've also frozen a couple pieces that were leftover, and that worked really well. I love when you have a few pieces of dessert just waiting in the freezer for the right occasion, like a Tuesday!

The only "tricky" thing about this tart is getting it from the counter into the oven. It will be filled to the brim!

Here it is before it gets baked topped with the beautiful berries.

And here it is after it has cooled and the side of the tart pan has been removed.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! (do...)

Find more great recipes at Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Hearth and Soul, Fabulous, Tasty Tuesdays.

Ricotta Berry Tart

1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. milk
1 1/2 cups flour

12 oz ricotta cheese (I use whole milk)
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. almond extract (or vanilla)
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 pinch salt
1 1/4 cups berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)

For the crust, using an electric mixer, combine the egg and sugar until blended. Beat in the butter, salt and vanilla. Add the flour and milk and mix until combined. Pat the crust into the bottom and up the sides of a greased and floured 9" or 10" tart pan. You may want to grease your hands first - this will make it easier to work with the dough. (I spray my hands with nonstick spray, which works great!) Prick the dough with a fork a few times.

Wipe out the mixing bowl and add ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, almond or vanilla extract, corn starch and salt. Beat until smooth and creamy. Carefully pour into the prepared crust. Top with the berries. Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes or until the top is set and edges start to become golden.

Let cool on a wire rack in the pan before removing the sides of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I like to have the tart sit at room temperature for about 1/2 hour before serving. Immediately before serving, dust with powdered sugar, if you like. Serves 10-12.

Recipe Source: Cooking with Manuela

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Creamy Hummus

Summer is the perfect time to eat more vegetables. And what better way to do that than with a delicious dip? This is probably the best hummus I've ever made, and I've made quite a few. But when I saw this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, I knew it must be special.

This version of hummus does require a little more work - you boil the canned chickpeas in an effort to get them to release their skins. It's not hard work, it just requires time basically, but the time is well spent. You will end up with super creamy hummus. Super is not an overstatement. This is really creamy and SO delicious.

Hummus and veggies (and pita chips! don't forget the pita chips!) make a great appetizer or cocktail hour snack. And the leftovers at our house were eaten for days plain old carrots. Plain old carrots feel decadent with a dip like this.

So get out in the sunshine, have some friends over, make some wine slushies and this hummus, and you'll have a perfect little get together.

And if you're just making this to get the kiddos to eat more veggies, that's ok, too. (But still make the wine slushies for yourself! ha!)

Find more great ideas at Fabulous, Inspire Me, Tasty Tuesday, Hearth and Soul, Full Plate.

Creamy Hummus

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 cloves garlic, finely grated on a rasp
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra (2 lemons)
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup tahini, stirred well
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Combine the chickpeas, baking powder and 6 cups water in a large saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, lower the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small measuring cup, combine the garlic and 1/3 cup lemon juice and then set aside.

Drain the water and the chickpea skins that float to the top, leaving the chickpeas in the pan. Add cold water, stir vigorously to loosen more skins, and drain off the water and skins that float to the top, again leaving the chickpeas in the saucepan. Do this 5 or 6 times, until most of the skins are drained off. Drain the chickpeas, setting aside 2 tablespoons for the garnish and place the rest in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the garlic/lemon mixture, Tabasco, paprika, 1/4 cup warm water, salt and pepper and process until very smooth. Add the tahini and olive oil and puree for one full minute, until creamy. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra lemon juice (to taste), an additional 1 teaspoon salt, and enough warm water (1 tablespoon at a time) to make the hummus the consistency of thick yogurt.

Using a rubber spatula, spread the hummus on a large, flat, round serving plate, leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle the reserved chickpeas and drizzle with extra olive oil, sprinkle lightly with extra paprika, and serve with toasted pita triangles and crudite.

Recipe Source: Barefoot Contessa

Monday, June 1, 2020

Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake

Raspberries just scream "summer" to me. So when they were on sale recently, I bought some, determined to do something "fancy" with them. I made a danish from scratch (coming soon) and wanted to improve my skills at making a layer cake, so I thought this would be the perfect recipe.

It was. Not only is it chock full of raspberries, but the cake and the frosting both have lemon, another "summer" ingredient. This cake is SO delicious. It's not too heavy, but it's very impressive. It's the perfect late spring or summer dessert.

This cake received rave reviews from both family and friends, and I'm sure you'll have the same experience. The days are more reliably summer-like, so it's the perfect time to make a fantastic fruity cake.

Find more great ideas at Fabulous, Inspire Me, Tasty Tuesday, Hearth and Soul.

Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake

1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 cups sugar
2 cups + 2 Tbsp. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese, softened (low fat is ok)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon zest

additional raspberries
lemon slices

In a small bowl, carefully toss raspberries with 2 Tbsp. of flour to coat them. This helps to keep the raspberries from sinking to the bottom.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, eggs, buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Cream for 2 minutes. In a separate large bowl, combine sugar, 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into egg mixture and fold.

Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Divide batter into baking pans. Bake at 325 for 35-45 minutes. Cake is done when a tester comes out with few crumbs attached. Cool in pans on a wire rack.

For frosting, in a large bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl often. Add powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest and cream together. Chill.

To assemble cake:
Carefully remove cakes from pan. Spread frosting on top of one cooled cake layer. Place other cooled cake layer on top and spread frosting on top and around the sides to cover. Garnish with fresh raspberries and lemon slices. Chill for 20-30 minutes to let the frosting set up.

Recipe Source: Modern Honey

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Triple Coconut Donuts

There is not much better than homemade donuts. And baked donuts are really a great addition to breakfast, brunch or breakfast for dinner. I have lots of varieties already on this blog - cinnamon roll, chocolate, strawberry, pumpkin, caramel apple - but when I had some leftover coconut milk I knew I wanted to try a coconut version.

Because there is also not much better than toasted coconut - am I right? I ate quite a bit of it right off the sheet pan (true confessions).

These donuts have coconut milk and extract in both the dough and the icing, and then are topped with that amazing toasted coconut.

The dipping in icing and topping with coconut can get a little messy, so I put a paper towel (or a baking sheet) under the wire rack to catch all the drips. Bonus: you can then pick off the coconut laden icing treats and eat them. Ha!

Make your donut dreams come true with this amazing recipe.

Find more inspiration at Full Plate, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me.

Triple Coconut Donuts

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 large egg

Icing and topping:
2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup canned coconut milk

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, and nutmeg.

Using an electric mixer, beat together sugar, butter, coconut extract, vanilla extract, coconut milk, and egg until well-incorporated. Gently add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer and mix until a soft & sticky dough forms.

Carefully spoon the dough into donut pans sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Carefully remove the donuts to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread the shredded coconut on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 400 for 4-6 minutes. The coconut will not start to brown til several minutes in, but then it will brown quickly and could burn. After the first 3 minutes, shake the pan, and then check it every minute. Once it starts to brown, remove it from the oven.

In a medium bowl, big enough for you to dip the donuts in, whisk together the salt, extracts, coconut milk, and powdered sugar until smooth.

Dip the cooled donuts in the glaze, then let the excess drip off. Dip in the toasted coconut and return to a wire rack to dry. Repeat until all donuts have been topped. Makes 12-15 donuts.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Bacon, Broccoli and Hashbrowns Breakfast Bake

Since we've been spending so much more time at home, I've been trying to be creative about weekend breakfasts. During the week, everyone is on their own for breakfast, and actually our teens usually go right to lunch since they sleep in! But on the weekend I like to have breakfast (or let's be honest, lunch, but I call it brunch to be more fancy) together.

Waffles, french toast and pancakes are the usual standbys, but I made this casserole last weekend and it was a huge hit. I simply adjusted my recipe for Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole, and voila, another great version!

It also is so hearty that we had half leftover, so it became supper later in the week. Score!

It's easy peasy, too - just layer hash browns with bacon, broccoli and cheese and pour a seasoned egg mixture over the top. While it bakes, you can make a fruit salad or whatever else you would like to serve. I had a danish in the freezer from Easter (recipe coming soon) and made donuts when I served this for supper. However you serve it, I hope it's a new favorite in your house like it was in ours.

Find more great ideas at Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul.

Bacon, Broccoli and Hashbrowns Breakfast Bake

8 - 10 ounces bacon
10 ounce package frozen broccoli florets, thawed but not steamed or cooked
1 (30-32oz) bag frozen shredded hashbrowns
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
8 eggs
2 cups milk

Cut bacon into small bite sized pieces. (I do this with a kitchen shears holding the bacon over the skillet and just snipping away.) In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until nearly crisp. Remove with a slotted spatula and then drain all but 1 Tbsp. fat. Return skillet to the heat and add hash browns to skillet. Cook until lightly browned.

Place hash browns in bottom of lightly greased 9x13 inch pan. Top with bacon and broccoli (if there are large pieces of frozen broccoli, cut them up smaller first!) and then cover with the cheese.

Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over hash brown mixture.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 8-10.

(If you want to make this ahead of time, after adding the egg mixture, cover and refrigerate. Add ten minutes to the baking time.)

Monday, April 27, 2020

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies {Gluten Free, Dairy Free}

These cookies. They are SO good. And so addicting. It's hard to eat just one; but why should you? Especially if you make them small enough, you won't feel badly about eating several! I used my small cookie scoop and the cookies are just adorable - 3 bites and they're gone!

And they're SO easy. They come together in a snap.

These cookies are naturally gluten and dairy free, but even if you don't have those dietary restrictions, you will really enjoy these cookies. Whip them up tonight and you will have a happy family on your hands. Just be sure you have tall glasses of milk to serve with these. I think I'm off to make more cookies!

Find more good things at Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Tasty Tuesday, Full Plate.

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter (not natural)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat peanut butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Mix for about a minute. Shape into balls, and if desired roll in additional sugar (about 1/4 cup will work). Flatten with a criss cross pattern with a fork, or simply flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes, don’t over-bake, and let them sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Recipe Source: Our Best Bites

Monday, April 13, 2020

Creamy Chicken Stuffed Peppers

This is a delightfully different dinner idea. And it was a huge hit at my house. Bonus: significant vegetable eating. When I serve these, my teenagers eat a whole bell pepper in one sitting.

The cream cheese makes these stuffed peppers delightfully creamy (as you would expect based on the title!) and the jalapeno, cumin and salsa contribute amazing flavors. These are so easy to make, and especially easy if you have cut up chicken on hand.

Change up your dinner rotation with these great stuffed peppers. You will be glad you did!

Creamy Chicken Stuffed Peppers

4 bell peppers
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 - 8 ounce package light cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Colby jack cheese
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely diced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup salsa
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

Slice each pepper in half and remove the seeds. Set each pepper half in a greased 9x13 baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together chicken, cream cheese, Colby jack cheese, jalapeno, cumin, salt, and salsa. Scoop mix into each pepper.

Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil and broil the peppers for 3-4 minutes to crisp up the tops, if you like.

Garnish with cilantro and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls

While I'm at home all the hours of the day now I want to learn new things. Most of my learn new things goals center around cooking and baking. I have never made cinnamon rolls, so on my birthday yesterday, I decided that was a good new thing to learn.

However, I also wanted rather immediate gratification since I decided this at 8 am. So I found this recipe for one-hour cinnamon rolls and they turned out wonderfully. There are a lot of other cinnamon roll versions out there that proof for a long time or require overnight resting and rising. Maybe one day I'll try those too. But if you want cinnamon rolls quickly, this is the recipe for you.

Homemade cinnamon rolls are really much easier than you might think. This is yet another example of thinking something is hard, and then being surprised when it's not! This recipe doesn't even require a mixer. I didn't use one, but you certainly could, especially if you want your mixer to do the kneading. After your dough has been kneaded, roll it out and then cover it with butter and cinnamon sugar.

Roll it up, slice it, and place in a pan. (Doesn't this make you want to sing "Patty cake, Patty cake, Baker's men!" ???)


and glaze,

and when your teenagers stumble out of their rooms after noon, they will be ecstatic to find this treat. (Note: for said teenagers, the rolls warm up nicely in the microwave -- about 20 seconds.)

What are your cooking and baking goals in this strange season?

Find more great ideas at Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Tasty Tuesdays.

One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls

1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 cup warm water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
5 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. butter, melted, divided use
1 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup warmed milk
2-3 cups powdered sugar

For the dough, in a large bowl, mix sugar, yeast, and oil with warm water until dissolved. Cover and let stand in warm place for 15 minutes. (Heat your oven to 170, turn it off, then put the bowl inside.)

Whisk eggs into the yeast mixture. Add salt to flour, then gradually add to yeast mixture to make a very soft dough. (You may not need all the flour; I had about 1/4 cup leftover which I used to flour my kneading surface.)

Knead dough for 5 minutes on lightly floured surface, or use the dough hook on your mixer. Roll dough into rectangular shape, about 1/4 inch thick.

Brush dough with melted butter, reserving 1 Tbsp. for the glaze. Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over dough.

Roll up dough the long way and slice into 12. I first slice it in half, then half again, then in thirds to get 12 pieces. Place in a greased 9x13 pan. Let rest 10 minutes.

Bake at 425˚ for 12-17 minutes or until nice and brown on top--it's easy to under bake this recipe, so if you're unsure, bake for another minute or two.

Let the rolls cool for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, for the glaze, combine the warm milk with the reserved melted butter (it's ok that it's slightly solid now!) with a whisk. Add the powdered sugar gradually, whisking as you go. Add more powdered sugar as necessary to get the consistency that you like. Drizzle over the warm rolls and serve.

Recipe Source: Adapted from The Food Charlatan

Monday, March 9, 2020

Pork and Green Bean Stir Fry

I have many favorite things, but one of my very favorites is a simple meal with extraordinary flavor. That's what this stir fry is. This dish needs only a few ingredients to pack a flavor wallop. Besides flavor, it has a couple different textures (always a plus in my book) and lots of color from the gorgeous green beans. The "secret" to this dish is charring the green beans. Do you see the beautiful char? It adds so much flavor.

Unless you have the most gigantic pan ever, you will likely have to do this in batches, but don't worry, it is still extremely fast. Put some rice on to cook before you start the stir fry, or you may end up waiting! The secret to the char is to be patient - let the green beans sit in the hot pan without stirring it. That pretty much goes against the title of this recipe - STIR fry - but it will be worth it. As with all quick dishes, be sure you have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go before you start.

This was a huge hit with my family and we fought over the leftovers. I won. That's what happens when you can pull the "cook card."

Find more great stuff at Inspire Me, Inspire Me2, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul.

Pork and Green Bean Stir Fry

2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Chinese cooking wine
2 tsp. sugar
2-3 tsp. chili garlic sauce
1 pound fresh green beans
2 1/2 Tbsp. sesame or peanut oil
4-6 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 pound ground pork (not sausage)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combing the soy sauce, wine, sugar and chili garlic sauce. Whisk well and set aside.

Trim the green beans, then chop into 1" pieces. Heat 1/2 Tbsp. oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until the oil smokes. Add a layer of green beans so they are covering the bottom of the skillet but are not overlapping. Leave for 1 minute. Stir, then let sit another 30 seconds. Repeat one or two more times until beans are charred but tender crisp (not withered and floppy). Remove to a bowl. Repeat this process until all the beans are charred (it took me three times with a pound of beans and a large skillet.)

Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pan, then add onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute until edges of onion are golden. Add mushrooms and cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Add pork and cook, breaking it up as you go. Cook for 2 minutes until the pork is cooked through, then whisk the sauce again and add it to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, then add beans and stir for another 30 seconds.

Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Creamy Shrimp Pasta with Asparagus and Mushrooms

First the good news: This is a restaurant-worthy dish that you can easily make at home. And now, more good news: It's super fast. Even more: Only dirties two pans. And finally: Super delicious.

Start the pasta water boiling, and you'll have plenty of time to whip up the creamy shrimp and mushroom mixture. The asparagus cooks right with the pasta, so you get two things done at once. Get someone in your family to whip up a salad, and you will have a fantastic dinner in no time.

I typically used cooked shrimp for the convenience factor, but if you use raw shrimp, simply peel and devein, then add to the sauce before the pasta so it can cook in the sauce for a couple minutes.

If your family loves shrimp, they'll love this fantastic pasta dish. I love that it uses ingredients that I usually have on hand. Winner all around!

There are more excellent ideas at Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me, Full Plate, Tasty Tuesday.

Creamy Shrimp Pasta with Asparagus and Mushrooms

12 ounces small pasta shapes
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 ounces cooked shrimp
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese shredded

Cook pasta according to package instructions, adding cut up asparagus in the last minute. Drain pasta and asparagus, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and garlic. Add mushrooms, basil, paprika and red pepper flakes and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes, occasionally stirring, until mushrooms become soft and release juices. Sprinkle with salt part way through cooking.

Immediately add 1 cup half-and-half. Bring to a simmering boil.

Add half the cheese. Bring to boil, and immediately reduce to medium-simmer. Cook, constantly stirring, until the cheese melts.

Gradually start adding the remaining cheese, stirring constantly until all cheese is melted.

Add pasta and asparagus to the skillet and stir in the shrimp. Stir well to coat all the pasta.

If the cream sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta water in small amounts to the cream sauce (while the sauce is simmering on low-medium heat) until you reach desired consistency.

Season with more salt and add more crushed red pepper flakes and basil, if desired.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Winter Squash Soup {Instant Pot}

It's only mid February, which means we have plenty of cold weather still ahead here in Minnesota. So there's plenty of time to enjoy a wonderful soup like this. This soup is pretty close to the soup of its namesake at Panera, which I adore. So I'm glad to be able to make a big batch at home - and it's SOOO easy using the Instant Pot! Throw everything in the pot, let it do its magic, and then blend it up at the end. Easy peasy!

The hardest part about this, as with all butternut squash recipes, is cutting up the squash. Buying it precut or frozen is an option if you just can't hack it. Sorry for the pun. Sorry, not sorry.

This Winter Squash Soup is great for your Meatless Monday. It can also easily be made vegan by using vegetable broth, maple syrup and coconut milk. Or use honey, chicken broth and half and half, or whatever combination of these you have on hand, if your diet is not restricted.

Winter won't seem nearly as long with delicious soup to eat!

Find more great stuff at Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Hearth and Soul, Fabulous, Full Plate.

Winter Squash Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small sweet onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed, about a 3 lb squash
15 oz pumpkin puree
2 cups apple cider
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk or half and half

Turn instant pot on and set to "saute" function. Once hot, add oil and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Press "cancel" to stop cooking process.

Add remaining ingredients (except coconut milk or half and half) and gently stir to ensure that all ingredients are submerged in liquid. Secure lid and set valve to the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes.

Once the soup is done cooking, do a quick release. Add coconut milk or half and half. Use an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a high-speed blender, to puree until smooth and creamy. Garnish with pumpkin seeds, if desired, and serve warm.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Tuscan Chicken Pasta {Instant Pot}

It's well documented here that risotto is my favorite thing to cook in the Instant Pot. But I think pasta dishes would have to be a close second. And I was such a skeptic at first! How on earth does it work to put raw pasta in and it cooks to perfection alongside the other ingredients? This is never going to work, I thought. Sure enough, I was wrong. It works wonderfully!

And in this recipe, it's not only the pasta that gets fully cooked, but RAW CHICKEN. This Instant Pot is da bomb. If you don't have one yet, what are you waiting for??? Yes, this dish could easily be made on the stovetop. (Note: you would have to adjust the amount of broth so don't go trying it as written!) However, I love the convenience of throwing everything in the IP and having a few minutes to set the table, make a salad, etc. Or just to sit. Sometimes a person just needs to sit for a minute.

In any case, this is a delicious dinner that my family happily ate, and asked for the leftovers. I increased the spinach pretty significantly because my kids happily eat spinach in pasta, and the more the better, in my opinion. It wilts down so much that it won't seem overwhelming, I promise. After the main ingredients cook in the IP, you stir in softened cream cheese to get that nice, creamy pasta texture, all the spinach and then parmesan cheese. This dish has complex flavor due to the sundried tomatoes, and it's so easy it can become a weeknight staple. Plus, all the spinach.


Find more great ideas at Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul.

Tuscan Chicken Pasta

4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 oz uncooked campanelle pasta or your favorite shape (rotini, etc)
8 oz fresh baby spinach
1 (8 oz) pkg. light cream cheese, softened, cubed
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In an instant pot insert stir together broth, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and garlic.

Add in chicken and pasta, pushing the pasta pieces down into the broth.

Secure the lid in place, and set the valve to sealing position. Select the "manual" setting or high pressure and set to 5 minutes.

Do a quick release, then stir well. Add in cream cheese and stir until combined, then add in spinach, a handful of a time, until it's all wilted. Finally, stir in the parmesan.

Let rest for about 5 minutes to thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with fresh or dried basil and additional tomatoes.

Recipe source: Adapted from Betty Crocker

Monday, February 3, 2020

Black Bottom Coconut Bars

If you need a special treat for Valentine's Day, or for any day that ends in "y," look no further than these delicious bars. I've made these several times now, and just recently realized I had never posted them. So many apologies that you didn't have this recipe sooner.

If you're a fan of Mounds Bars, or of coconut and/or brownies, you will love these. A rich, fudgy base is topped with a chewy coconut layer; these are decadent, and worth every calorie.

Show your love this Valentine's Day (or any day) with these fantastic coconut topped brownies. Everyone will be singing your praises!

Find more great ideas at Inspire Me Monday, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Full Plate.

Black Bottom Coconut Bars

Brownie layer:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Egg
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour

Coconut Topping:
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1-7 oz. package sweetened shredded coconut

For brownie layer:

Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; microwave at 50% power for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes until melted. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in a 9" pan that has been lined with nonstick foil. (Alternatively you can grease the foil.)

Bake at 375 just until sides begin to pull away from edges of the pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

For coconut topping:

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Reserve 1/2 cup coconut. Gently mix in flour and remaining coconut.

Drop mounds of mixture over the chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup coconut. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Curried Lentil Soup with Chicken Sausage and Toasted Almonds

Wow. Two dinners featuring curry two weeks in a row. Many years ago, I didn't think I was a fan of curry. Think of how many good meal opportunities I wasted. Now I have to make up for that time. So, more curry it is.

This delicious soup is like "nothing you would ever expect," according to my family. "It's so different, and SO good," exclaimed one. And I'm glad they loved it, because it's full of healthy goodness like carrots, celery, lentils and chicken sausage. It also has white beans, but since my family is not a fan, I tricked them (!) and pureed them first to add body to the soup. You can leave them in whole, just as easily.

Whatever you do, don't skip the almonds. I know, it seems really weird to eat almonds on soup. But it works! So don't skip it thinking it would be better without the almonds. It won't be. Just believe me.

This is a great soup for these long winter days and chilly nights. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine did!

Find more ideas at Inspire Me, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul.

Curried Lentil Soup with Chicken Sausage and Toasted Almonds

1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1-2 large carrots, peeled and small diced
1-2 stalks celery, small diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 can white beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound precooked chicken sausage, diced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a large pot or Dutch Oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper. Saute for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften, stirring often.

Add the broth and lentils. Bring to a low simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.

Stir in the sausage and beans (either whole or pureed) and heat through. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm with slivered almonds and cilantro.

Recipe Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe
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