Monday, November 29, 2021

Winter Fruit Macaroons


Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent so that means it's time to start Christmas baking! We haven't yet decorated at our house, or purchased a Christmas tree (we still get a live one every year!), but you can bet I have already made the list of what I'll be baking this year. 

I loved making (and let's be real -- eating!) these cookies. They are easy, but so so delicious. And they are really different from anything I've made before or what I typically see on a Christmas cookie tray. I adapted the recipe using some different winter fruits and nuts, based on personal preference. I include all the options in the recipe below, so you can pick what you like! (I used figs and pecans instead of dates and walnuts.)



Plus, as noted in the title, these cookies have FRUIT!  So even if you eat too many, you can console yourself with that. 

These cookies are also gluten free, which is helpful if you have friends or family members that can't/don't eat flour. I always like to include a cookie or two that can be enjoyed by everyone. 

Finally, these cookies freeze really well, which means you can bake them this week and then save them for Christmas week. I love it when I can make some varieties ahead and they stay fresh and nice in the freezer.

So, whip up some of these beauties, and let's get the baking season started!


Winter Fruit Macaroons

1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 1/4 cups coarsely chopped dates OR dried figs
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts OR pecans
3/4 cups dried cherries 
3/4 cups dried cranberries
3/4 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, coconut, dates or figs, nuts, cherries, cranberries and vanilla.
Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or until light brown. Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Store in an airtight container. 

Cookies can be frozen. Layer in a container with parchment or wax paper in between each layer of cookies. Thaw completely before serving. 

Makes about 6 dozen. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Blue Cheese



Do you need a last minute Thanksgiving side dish? Look no further. 


This one is SO delicious and so easy, and can be finished while someone else is carving the turkey. Or even after the potatoes are mashed. It's a super last minute green vegetable creation. And it only has three ingredients! THREE!


It's the perfect mixture of salty and tangy, and cabbage-y. And it's quite beautiful, too with those specks of blue cheese. 


This is no green bean casserole. (There's a place for that, too - I'm just saying some people might enjoy a fresh take on a green vegetable, ahem.)


And if your Thanksgiving menu is already full, just try this another time! It's great with pork tenderloin (my fave!), steak, baked chicken, or just by itself. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Blue Cheese
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed
4 slices bacon, center cut preferred
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Fit a food processor with the slicing blade, and run all the brussels through it to create super thin slices. If you don't have a food processor, slice the brussels as thinly as you can. You can do this step ahead of time, and refrigerate until you're ready to cook.

Cut the bacon into thin strips with a kitchen shears, then saute in a large skillet over medium heat until nearly crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Drain off all the bacon fat, except about 1 Tbsp. Heat the bacon grease until it's hot, then add the sliced brussels, and saute, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly wilted. Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon. 

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the blue cheese.  
Serves 6.


 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Lentil, Chicken Sausage and Spinach Soup {Crock Pot or Instant Pot}

 

Am I the only one who thinks Sunday lunch can be tricky? Everyone is STARVING by the time you get home from church (me especially!), so lengthy preparations will not be tolerated (again, especially by me, ha!) 




Cue this lentil soup. You can throw this in the crock pot before you leave, and when you get home, a delicious lunch awaits.  And if the crock pot timing doesn't work out for you, you can do this in the Instant Pot instead, and have dinner ready in 30 minutes or so. 




Lentils make this soup especially hearty - great for these days that are starting to turn colder. Lentils are rich in fiber, folate and potassium making them a great choice for the heart and for managing blood pressure and cholesterol.  And they're delicious. 




Combined with Italian chicken sausage, and spinach, this soup will make your body, mind and heart happy! And your tastebuds. And your growly stomach.


Lentil, Chicken Sausage and Spinach Soup

1 pound dried lentils, picked over

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups chicken broth

5 cups water

2 - 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, pureed

1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste

4 links Italian chicken sausage, sliced thinly

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. oregano

5 cups fresh spinach


Crock pot instructions:

Place all ingredients in the crock pot, except spinach. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or until lentils are tender. Stir in spinach until it wilts. Serve immediately. 


Instant Pot instructions:

Place all ingredients in the Instant Pot, except spinach. Set to manual, pressure cook for 20 minutes. Release steam. Stir in spinach until it wilts. Serve immediately. 


Serves 6-8.



Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Salmon with Horseradish Dijon


We really love salmon at our house (ahem, well the ADULTS love salmon...) so I love to find new ways to prepare it. This variety is SUPER easy, and super tasty, AND super fast. That's my weekday dinner trifecta! 



I love the strong flavor of the horseradish and mustard against the salmon, and the green onions give it a nice little crunch. 



We loved this with a baked potato and stir fried cabbage, but rice and any green vegetable would also be a good accompaniment. 


If you need a break from chicken or beef in your dinner rotation, give this tasty fish a try.


Salmon with Horseradish Dijon

4 - 6 oz. salmon filets
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. finely sliced green onions
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Place salmon filets on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Salt and pepper the filets to your taste. 

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, green onions, mustard, and horseradish. Use 1/4th of the mixture on each filet, covering each top. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until salmon is flaky.  Serves 4.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Greek Meatballs



I recently found myself with too much feta cheese, so decided to use some of it to try a new meatball recipe. These meatballs have amazing Greek flavors, and we really enjoyed them with a cucumber tzatziki salad and sauteed green beans.




These Greek meatballs are so easy to make, and so quick! You can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes, perfect for a busy night. 


The feta with the herbs and spices really makes these unique.


If you want to up your meatball game, try these beauties!





Greek Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup panko
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 egg
1 tsp.  parsley
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
2 oz. feta crumbles

Line a large baking sheet with foil. 

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the beef, and mix well. Add in the ground beef and use your hands to incorporate all the ingredients.

Roll the mixture into 1" meatballs and place on the tray. Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes, depending on if your meatballs are on the smaller or larger size...

Serve with cucumber salad and roasted or sauteed vegetables.  Serves 4.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Cinnamon Roll Scones


 

Oh, scones. How I wish I could eat thee every day. Every. single. day. I love the texture, the different flavors, everything about them, WHEN they are made well. Not all dry and gross, making you long for anything to drink...  These scones are not like that. These are delicious, and SO easy! 


So easy, in fact, that I made them one morning BEFORE work, to take in for a colleague's birthday. BEFORE work!! 


They come together really quickly, especially if you have a food processor. The food processor is my favorite way to make things that need the butter cut in - it's no-mess, and makes quick work of that job.


With lots of yummy cinnamon, and crunchy pecans, and healthy oats, these scones are a faster, easier, and dare I say, even more delicious version of the cinnamon roll.  I hope your family (or friends or colleagues) loved them as much as everyone in my office did!  (And I ate several all by myself, so I can vouch for how fantastic they are...)




Cinnamon Roll Scones

1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup sugar
1Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Icing:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3-4 tsp. milk

In a small bowl, combine the pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Pulse once or twice to combine. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  (If you don't have a food processor, combine the ingredients in a large bowl, and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers.) 

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the milk, egg, and vanilla.  Stir just until the dough is moistened.  Sprinkle the cinnamon/pecan mixture over the dough, and fold gently so that the cinnamon gets swirled into the dough. 

Drop the dough in about 1/4 cup portions (my large scoop was perfect for this) onto greased or parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 425 for 11-13 minutes, or until golden.

Cool on a wire rack. Meantime, make the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar with the milk, adding more sugar or milk to get your desired consistency.

Drizzle the icing over the warm scones. 


Recipe Source: Bake or Break


Monday, August 30, 2021

Summer Salad with Peaches and Blue Cheese



 


It is pretty rare that I make a green salad that doesn't include some sort of fruit. In the fall, I love including apples and dried cranberries, or pears and figs. In the summer, the choices seem to be endless: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches! 





I especially like the combination of peaches and blue cheese and decided to make a salad featuring those ingredients. I threw in some red onion and cucumber for both crunch and flavor contrast. But how to make a truly winning salad? Add the amazing sweet and spicy almonds.




I brought this to a family dinner and a certain young male teen even took seconds!  It's really good.  



Take advantage of the beautiful summer produce still available, and make yourself a green salad with lots of fruit.


Summer Salad with Peaches and Blue Cheese

6-8 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette, or more or less to taste
2 thin slices red onion, halved into half moon rings
1/3 large cucumber, sliced into half moons
1 large peach, or 2 small peaches, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less)

In a small skillet over medium heat, toss the almonds in the sugar and cayenne. Stir frequently, or constantly, until the almonds are toasted and coated but not burnt. Watch carefully and stir!  Remove the almonds to a plate to cool.

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens and onions with the dressing until completely coated. Layer the greens on a large plate, and top with the cucumbers. Arrange the peach slices around the perimeter of the platter. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles. Break up the almonds into bite sized pieces and sprinkle on top of the salad.  Serves 6-8.


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