Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Greens and Grains Salad with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

With Easter just around the corner and the official day of spring on the horizon, my mind has been on all things fresh, green and vibrant. And, since I am hosting our family dinner this Easter, I've been contemplating the menu. We pretty much always serve a baked ham with traditional side dishes - sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, etc. But, coming up with unique vegetable side dishes seems like a challenge most years. With all of the heavier, carb-laden dishes being served, I always like to offer a dish or two that's a little lighter and has some fresh elements. This salad totally fits the bill and will look stunning on the holiday table.

What I love most about this salad is the contrast between the roasted asparagus and the fresh, crisp raw vegetables. I, also, super love the texture and chewiness of the cooked grains scattered throughout the salad. And, the simple vinaigrette is such a great compliment to all of the elements in the salad.


Use whatever grains you desire. {I utilized a small bag of a barley, rice, wholegrain oats, wheat berries and spelt blend.} Quinoa would work great. Barley or all wheat berries would be good.
I used baby spinach as the base of the salad, but any style of lettuce or mixed greens can be used.
Frozen peas {that have been thawed} can be substituted in place of the sugar snap peas if desired. And, any other green vegetable{s} of your choice can be incorporated into the salad as desired.

Monday, February 05, 2018

The Ultimate French Onion Dip

I shared a couple of photos of this dip back in December on my Instagram Stories {are you following me there?} when I had made it for a holiday party. Several of my followers requested the recipe. Then, when I made it for our Super Bowl party, I shared a quick pic again and got more inquiries about how I make my version. So, I figured it was time to post it here on the blog. Back in my early adulthood, French Onion Dip always meant buying it in the tub or, at best, whipping it up using a store-bought dip seasoning packet. But, once I discovered just how easy it was to make it from scratch, this became my preferred way to serve it. In my opinion, there's just no comparison.

Starting with fresh onions that get chopped and slowly cooked down in a little olive oil is the key to how amazing this dip is. Once cooled, the sautéed onions are combined with mayonnaise {be sure to use a good quality brand}, sour cream and a few seasoning components.

I highly recommend that you make this the day before you plan to serve it. I'd, at least, give the dip six hours to rest in the fridge before serving. It needs the allotment of time for the flavors to really marry up and meld. You'll definitely be thoroughly rewarded for letting it reach its full potential as the best French Onion Dip you've possibly ever made {and eaten}.

Serves 10 - 12.
{Recipe can be easily cut in half or doubled as needed.}

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili

Chili is a staple for so many during this time of the year. When the snow and wind are whirling around outdoors, curling up with a big bowl of chili just screams COMFORT and really warms us up from our heads to our toes. Adding football season to the mix can really drive home everyone's yearning for chili. Whether you're hosting a big game day party at home on Super Bowl Sunday or tailgating at your favorite team's big game, serving up chili with "all the fixings" will definitely score you some major points with your guests.

Incorporating sweet potatoes and foregoing any type of meat in this recipes means that it is vegetarian-friendly. {The chili actually is completely vegan. But, due to my garnishment suggestions that include dairy, I opted to label it as "vegetarian."} I have major meat-lovers in my house ... they love this chili. All of the flavors of traditional chili are present. It's hearty and satisfying, but you can feel good about eating a lighter, healthier version when digging in to this cold-weather staple. The sweet potato addition lends bulk to the chili and, also, brings a hint of sweetness that perfectly balances out the little bit of spice present.

So, grab a pot and seize the moment. This really is a no-fuss recipe that takes just minutes to get going and only a short amount of cooking time.

NOTE:  This is an easy recipe to double {or triple} as needed, so it's perfect for feeding a crowd. Once prepared, it holds well on the WARM setting in a slow cooker, if desired.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Easy Weeknight String Cheese-Stuffed Manicotti

This is the quickest, easiest baked pasta dish that you'll probably ever make. {And, it only uses five ingredients.} With only about ten minutes of hands-on prep time {no need to even pre-boil the pasta}, you can toss this in the oven while you whip up a quick side salad and maybe get some garlic bread made up. It's perfect for busy weeknights and is an extremely kid-friendly dinner option.

This no-frills and no-fuss baked manicotti recipe really couldn't be easier. After a quick soak in hot water, the pasta shells get stuffed with string cheese before being baked off in a sea of good-quality, store-bought marinara sauce. A sprinkling of shredded mozzarella atop it all ensures an end result of bubbly, gooey, cheesy goodness amidst all that sauce - everything that a good pasta bake should be.

NOTE: Preparation of the pasta following my recipe directions yields al dente manicotti {still slightly firm}. If your family prefers very soft, almost mushy pasta, you may desire to boil noodles according to manicotti package instructions - ending the cooking a couple of minutes shy of the recommended time on package - prior to assembly of the dish.

Yields 4 - 5 servings.


1 package manicotti (ten manicotti tubes are needed}
Non-stick spray
1 jar {20 - 22 ounces} good-quality marinara sauce
10 sticks mozzarella string cheese, unwrapped
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a 9 x 13" cake pan {or similar style pan} with very hot tap water about halfway.

Lay manicotti in water. Soak five minutes. Turn pasta over. Soak additional five minutes. {See NOTE above.}

Meanwhile, coat a 9 x 13" or similar baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread half of the sauce into the bottom of pan.

Stuff one string cheese into each manicotti. Arrange in a single layer in baking dish.

Top manicotti with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is thoroughly melted. Remove from oven, top with chopped basil and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Coconut Curry Soup with Roasted Chickpeas

When your husband of two decades declares that your first go-round of making Coconut Curry Soup produced "the best soup you've ever made" and you alone eat two large bowls in one sitting, there's a good chance that you've got a killer new soup recipe on your hands. {We won't even discuss the close-to-legit fight the two of us had over the remainder of soup in the bottom of the pot.} Seriously. We are in love. With soup. Smitten. {#soupfling}

Sooooo, in celebration of the new year, I bring you this healthful, vibrant, ethereal soup as my first post of 2018. It is - all at once - rich, delicate, hearty, dainty, subtly-spiced, broth-y, creamy and light. And, it's adorned with the most-glorious of toppings to kinda meld soup and salad into one dish. Perfection.

It's flavor profile and ingredient list is just enough off the beaten path - in terms of traditional soup for many of us - to be adventurous. But, it's simple enough to make and familiar enough to eat - especially for those already accustom to curry.

The soup takes just around thirty minutes to make from beginning to end. Be sure not to skip the roasted chickpeas, by the way. They shine nestled atop the soup among the other finishing touches.

I mentioned the soup's heavenly deliciousness. Luckily for all of us, it is, also, incredibly healthy. I consider it quite qualified to propel many of us through our January resolutions of healthier eating ... a lunch or dinner option that fits in nicely with our commitments to incorporate more fresh, wholesome dishes into our lives.

Now go make soup. And, may you all begin a love affair with this particular recipe as I have done.

Serves 4. {Easily doubled and does reheat quite well.}

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holly Jolly Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

With just a handful of days to go until Christmas, many of us are shuffling to get everything done that needs done during this crazy time of the year. The shopping. The gift-wrapping. The decorating. The party-planning. The baking. {And, the list goes on.} So, it's helpful to have a few quick shortcuts in our arsenal. Perhaps the kids need something for a holiday class party. Or, you need some simple goodies to hand out to co-workers, neighbors, etc. ... these festive sweet and salty snacks just may be the perfect solution.

They utilize minimal ingredients and come together rather easily. No baking is required. They require that very little - if any - dishes be dirtied up. I, literally, did not dirty one dish while making these. {I used wax paper to lay the chocolate-dipped pretzels on. I used a plastic spoon to help coat the pretzels. And, the chocolate came packaged with a melting tray that popped right into the microwave as-is.} So, it's a pretty easy project. And, it's one, too, to get the kids or grandkids involved with.

{Just be ready to grab the broom to sweep up all those sprinkles that'll inevitably end up on the floor by the end of the task, however.}

Yields 30 pretzel rods.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cranberry Chocolate Bread Pudding with Citrus Butter Sauce

I always delight in taking an old-school recipe and giving it a twist. Bread pudding is no exception. I have several different versions here on the blog like, my Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Apple Cider Butter Sauce, my Blueberry Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding and my Apple Pie Croissant Pudding with Caramel Butter Foam Drizzle. In this version, fresh cranberries, chunks of chocolate and fresh oranges come together to make the ultimate holiday bread pudding that can be served for breakfast, brunch or even as a dessert.

What I love most about bread pudding is that the options are pretty endless with regards to the type or types of bread used. I've made it with leftover raisin bread, a day-old French loaf, croissants and sandwich bread. I actually prefer a combination of something hearty and something soft. So, in this recipe, I used mostly day-old French bread cubes with a few slices of soft sandwich bread cubes.

To prepare this recipe, the bread cubes get placed in a greased baking dish. Then, you'll be making a quick custard in a mixing bowl. After sprinkling on fresh cranberries and chocolate chunks, you'll pour the custard over it all. Next, you'll want it to soak for twenty minutes, at least, but you can store this in the fridge at this point - covered - until you're ready to bake it. {I have kept it overnight in the refrigerator at this point for an easy pop-in-the-oven breakfast option.} After baking, the bread pudding will need to rest slightly while you whisk up a quick, buttery, orange-infused powdered sugar sauce. This will get poured over the bread pudding at the time of service.

The result is a perfectly-spiced, custard-y center with a slightly crisp top. The cranberries impart a slightly tart component while the chocolate lends just the right amount of sweetness - it's a beautiful flavor balance between the two. And, the citrus-y sauce packs a magical punch of brightness and sweetness to finish everything off.

Yields 6 - 8 servings.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Cranberry and Double Chocolate Biscotti

I am a biscotti junkie. And, even though I have found some in cafes and stores that I do enjoy, I've come to really love making them at home. Besides turning out amazing every time, I love that I can play around with the add-ins when making my own batches.

I put off attempting to make biscotti from scratch at home for many years because I thought it would be a complicated process. Not so at all. The recipe is almost the same as making like, chocolate chip cookies. {Actually, I find making biscotti a little simpler, but that's probably because I get impatient while shuttling cookie sheets in and out of the oven when making cookies.} The dough will turn out a little thicker than regular cookie dough. But, the recipe, basically, calls for the same ingredients and mixing process. From there, the dough gets formed into "logs," baked a bit, removed from the oven, sliced and baked again. That's it.

Biscotti - by the way - are sweet Italian biscuits or cookies that get double-baked and are often served up with the intention of being dunked into beverages. They are typically oblong. Due to the double-baking, the end result is a crunchy, dry baked good that keeps well for a longer period of time than traditional soft-baked cookies.

I've chosen to bring together dried cranberries and mini chocolate chips in this version. Then, I've drizzled the cooled biscotti with melted chocolate. But, you can experiment with other mix-ins if you'd like ... chopped nuts, different varieties of chocolate, various dried fruits, etc. Also, I have used almond extract in place of vanilla extract in the past ... that is, also, really good.

Yields 28 - 32 biscotti {depending upon thickness of your dough and cookies}

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Edible {Eggless} Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Making a big batch of chocolate chip cookies can be fun and rewarding. But, nibbling on the dough as you make your way through the cookie-making {and baking} process is sometimes the best part. {Am I right?}

For those who relish the occasional finger lunge {or spoon plunge} into the raw cookie dough mixing bowl, you can get your fix whenever the craving hits with this super easy, quick recipe.

With just a handful of basic pantry ingredients, you can whip up raw chocolate chip cookie dough that is just enough for one {or two - if you are up for sharing} servings. And, it is safe to eat because no eggs are used. All that's needed is toasted flour, a few other pantry staples, a little butter and a sprinkling of chocolate chips. And, just like magic - the perfect portion of cookie dough is ready just for you.

NOTE:  Toasting the flour prior to making the dough not only helps alleviate the possibility of e.coli, but it, also, contributes to a better-tasting end product. Furthermore, blending the raw dough together while the flour is just warm out of the oven helps with the overall texture of the dough. With no eggs present, the dough benefits from the warm flour as it helps slightly "cream" the butter together better with the sugars.

Yields 1 - 2 individual servings of edible, raw cookie dough for snacking.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Apple and Pear Crisp

If you're looking for a quick-to-assemble dessert that celebrates simple, seasonal ingredients, making an Apple and Pear Crisp just might be right up your alley. With some basic pantry ingredients {and some fruit, of course} and a tiny bit of prep time {mostly spent peeling and cutting the fruit}, you'll have this in the oven in a jiffy. All that'll be left to do is to sit back and enjoy the most tantalizing of aromas filling your kitchen. Like, seriously ... intoxicating. The end result is a slightly toothsome, buttery oat topping that bakes and bubbles up nestled among the nooks and crannies of tender slices of caramel-y, perfectly-spiced fruit. C'mon now. This is pretty much one of the most-comforting, old-school desserts on the planet.

Of course, any top-notch crisp must have a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream on top before digging in. {That's a given in my book.} The crisp can be served hot, warm or cold - whatever you prefer. And, I even give permission to enjoy any leftovers the next morning for breakfast. It's fruit and oats - breakfast staples, right?

Yields 6 servings.