Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

Another butternut squash soup to add to your cooking repertoire! Roasting the vegetables before pureeing gives this soup the most delicious, smokey flavor! The spiced almonds gave it a little kick, too! It was the perfect soup to serve on a snowy night in October! Yes, I said SNOW in October! Try this soup on a good and chilly evening - it’ll warm you right up!

6 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
4 to 6 c. butternut squash, peeled and cubed (I buy this pre-cut & cubed at the grocery store- saves me a world of time!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. brown sugar
6 c. vegetable broth
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 c. to 1 c. milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3 Tbl heavy cream (optional but yummy!)

Spiced Almonds:
1 Tbl butter, melted
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 c. sliced or slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375F

Line a roasting pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place carrots, onions, garlic cloves and butternut squash on the pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Sprinkle carrots & butternut squash with brown sugar.

Roast vegetables for 45 minutes or until squash flesh is soft. Remove vegetables from oven and place in a large soup pot. Add broth, thyme and cinnamon, if using. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let soup cool for 20 minutes.

Remove center piece from the top of the blender lid (to let heat escape) and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Blend soup in batches until completely smooth. Return all soup to the pot. Add milk and cream, if using. Stir well and heat to desired temperature. Divide soup between bowls. Sprinkle with Spiced Almonds. Serve with a side salad and crusty bread. Enjoy!

Spiced Almonds:

Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl combine 1 Tbl melted butter, salt and cayenne pepper. Add almonds. Toss to combine. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until toasted. Watch closely so they do not burn. Cool completely.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Caramel Popcorn

My boys and I love to do crafts and bake together while my daughter takes her afternoon nap. Today we decided to make peanut butter caramel popcorn balls! Popcorn balls are a fun treat any time of the year, but, for some reason I always associate them with Halloween! We doubled the recipe so we could share with our friends! The boys helped me put all the ingredients into the pan and I did all the cooking and "hot" stuff! After I poured the peanut butter caramel onto the popcorn, it was cool enough for the boys to help form some balls themselves! Try making these with your kids! We had a great time and the caramel corn is delicious!!

Cooking spray
1/2 c. unpopped popcorn kernels
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. light-colored corn syrup
2 1/2 Tbl butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250F

Line a large lipped cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper; coat foil or paper with cooking spray.

I pop all my popcorn in an air popper. The corn tastes delicious, is fast to make and is much healthier than microwave popcorn! If you do not have an air-popper, you can cook the kernels in a large soup pot with two tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook kernels for approximately four minutes, shaking the pan all the while. When popping slows, remove pan from heat. Let stand until popping stops.

Combine sugar, syrup, butter and salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and vanilla; stir until smooth. Drizzle over popcorn (make sure the popcorn is in a very large pot); toss well. At this point you can either spread the popcorn mixture out onto prepared pan OR you can CAREFULLY (it’ll still be hot) form popcorn mixture into small balls. Bake the caramel corn or balls at 250F for 1 hour, stirring mixture or turning balls over, every 20 minutes. Cool completely before eating. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes

This is a Paula Deen recipe (hence all the butter) that a friend gave to me. The end result tastes just like pumpkin pie! A great Thanksgiving alternative or just a yummy bar cake to serve anytime! Paula says to bake for 40 - 50 minutes...I baked mine for 45 minutes and they turned out perfect!

1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 Tbl butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream, if desired.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Accordion Potatoes

If you are looking for a highly decadent, throw-calories-to-the-wind, absolutely scrumptious take on a baked potato meets scalloped potatoes au gratin, then boy do I have something for you! I found this recipe on the blog, Look Who’s Cookin’ Now. It was simple to make, yet oh so fancy to serve! And the taste? it cannot be described! This recipe is for two potatoes. I didn’t measure any of the ingredients...just eyeball it- it’s impossible to mess these up!

2 large baking potatoes
cold butter, cut into thin slices
block of Parmesan, cut into thin slices
salt & pepper
olive oil
heavy cream
shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 400F

Clean potatoes. Slice each potato many many times down the width of the potato. Be careful to NOT slice all the way through the potato.

Slide a slice of butter in between a potato slice; then slide a slice of Parmesan- keep alternating butter and cheese until you have filled each slice on the potato making it resemble an accordion (I did not use the whole stick of butter- but if you want to, go for it!). Carefully place potatoes on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the potatoes with a bit of olive oil (maybe 1 Tbl per potato). Salt & pepper them. Place potatoes in the oven for 1 hour.

When you take the potatoes out of the oven you will want to gobble them right up right away...but, be patient, there is more! Drizzle each potato with heavy cream (about 1 Tbl per potato). And top each potato with a good helping of shredded cheddar cheese! Return to the oven for another 15 minutes until cheese is nice and bubbly. Remove potatoes from oven - now you will really want to gobble them up! Not yet! Top each spud with a nice wallop of sour cream- why not?! To make yourself feel better, serve with a veggie heavy spinach salad! Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Easy Raviolis with Green Beans & Almonds

I whipped this up last night with ingredients I found in the fridge. It was simple, tasted great and took me less than 20 minutes to make! Husband approved, too!

8 oz green beans, trimmed
12 oz package of fresh or frozen cheese raviolis
4 slices of bacon
1/4 c. onions, finely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbl sliced almonds

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook green beans until just tender, 4-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to take the beans out of the boiling water, slice in half and set aside. Add raviolis to the cooking water and cook according to package directions. Drain. Return pasta to empty pot and add 2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil. Stir. Set aside.

While the green beans are boiling, cook bacon in a medium sized skillet. After bacon is cooked crisp, set aside and chop when cooled. Drain all but one teaspoon of grease from the skillet. Return skillet to stove top. Add onions & tomatoes to skillet. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Scrape onions & tomatoes into the pot with the pasta. Add 1 Tbl lemon juice, green beans, bacon and salt. Stir to combine. Divide raviolis between two plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1 Tbl sliced almonds. Season with freshly ground pepper. Serve with a crusty bread and salad. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Curried Red Potato & Edamame Soup

This is a delicious potato soup with an unexpected flavor- curry! It is easy to make and is perfect for a cold Autumn night! Garam masala is an Indian spice...if you can't find it in your regular grocery store, try Whole Foods or a specialty market. Enjoy!

2 Tbl butter
4 medium sized red potatoes (about 2 cups), diced
1 small yellow onion, cut into bite sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl + 1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbl + 1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 c. vegetable broth
1 c. milk
1 Tbl sugar
1 c. frozen edamame, shelled
1 Tbl lime juice
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt for garnish

In a large soup pot, sweat potatoes, onion and garlic in butter over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour, curry powder, garam masala and salt. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the broth, milk and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in frozen edamame and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice.

Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

S'mores On A Stick

So my baking-genius-of-a-friend, Melissa (Harper Street Treats), made over 800 of these S'mores Pops two weekends ago for a huge family event in Houston to promote her business. She sent me pictures and had me drooling! Melissa told me how to make them and I couldn't believe how simple it, I decided to whip some up on a much smaller scale. Now mine did not turn out as beautiful as hers, but, I imagine they tasted just as yummy! It literally took me 5 minutes to make 10 of should have seen my boys' faces when I gave them these after-school treats!

I bet serving these at a Halloween party would be a huge hit! Or any party really! Give them a shot!!

To make 10 S'mores pops:

10 large marshmallows
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 c. crushed graham crackers (you can buy them pre-crushed!)
10 wooden sticks

Place chocolate chips and canola oil in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for one minute and stir. If needed, return chocolate to the microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring after each time. Once chocolate is melted and smooth, it is ready.

Put graham cracker crumbs in another small bowl.

Skewer one marshmallow on the end of a stick. Roll in melted chocolate to coat. Roll in graham cracker crumbs. Repeat with remaining marshmallows.

How simply is that?!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spinach Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

This salad is so big and hearty that it’s all my husband and I eat for dinner. We don’t have bowls big enough to handle the serving size, so, we have to go in for seconds! If you don’t intend on devouring this entire salad yourselves, it makes a great side salad for a dinner party. The maple vinaigrette paired with the savory bacon and sweet crunchiness of the apple is a combination you don’t want to miss!

3 Tbl REAL maple syrup
2 Tbl shallots, finely chopped
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped

1 10 oz pkg of fresh baby spinach
1 c. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 apple, thinly sliced (I like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Jazz or Braeburn)
1/3 c. red onion, very thinly sliced (optional)
1/3 c. pecans, chopped
4 to 6 slices of bacon, cooked & chopped
4 Tbl. crumbled blue cheese

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a Tupperware container with a tight fitting lid. Shake, shake, shake to incorporate all the ingredients. Set aside.

Add spinach, mushrooms, apple, red onion and pecans to a large salad bowl. Drizzle salad with dressing (you will not need all the dressing you make). Toss salad and plate. Equally divide bacon and blue cheese between salads; sprinkle each ingredient on top. Serve with a nice crusty bread!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Bread with Cranberries

Autumn has always been my favorite season! And now that we have moved from Texas to Pennsylvania I feel like I am actually going to get a proper fall! The leaves have already started to change colors here; the weather is bright and crisp. The smell of burning wood is in the’s all just too much for me! I want to bake, bake, bake! This pumpkin bread is the perfect way to welcome in fall! It is so aromatic! Just the smell of it alone, baking away in the oven, is worth the time it takes to make it (which really isn’t much time at all)! This bread makes a great snack or desert. But my children especially love it reheated in the morning with a pat of butter! A delicious way to start the day! Enjoy!

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 c. sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin (or canned sweet potatoes)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. real maple syrup
2 Tbl canola oil
1 egg
3/4 c. sweetened dried Craisins, chopped

Preheat oven to 375

In a medium mixing bowl add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk together to combine.

In another mixing bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, buttermilk, syrup, oil and egg. Mix well. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Fold in chopped Craisins.
Scrape batter into a greased 9X5 loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 52-54 minutes. Remove loaf from oven. Let sit 25 minutes before removing from pan. Slice with a bread knife and enjoy!

*I use a lot of wheat germ when I bake sweet quick breads like this pumpkin spice loaf. I think it gives my breads a nutty, hearty taste- and it adds health, too. I know most people don’t keep wheat germ in bulk on hand like I do, so, to keep this recipe simple, I called for 1 1/2 c. of all-purpose flour. The way I make it, however, is 3/4 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour and 1/4 c. wheat germ.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

ABC Sandwich

A-B-C sandwich? Why apple, bacon and cheddar, of course! Try this fun sandwich with a Honeycrisp apple (they are in season now!), apple smoked bacon and a high quality sliced cheddar. Serve with a salad and chips- an easy dinner!

10 slices of bacon, cooked to your liking
1 crunchy apple, cored and thinly sliced
4 slices of good quality cheddar from the deli counter
2 tsp Dijon & 1 Tbl mayo per sandwich
4 slices of wheat bread, lightly toasted
Pepper to taste

Assemble sandwich. 'Nough said!