Side Dishes, Soups

Recipe—Chili (The Classic Kind)

It’s finally cooling off here in California and that means I am cooking up lots of soups and one of my favorite winter comfort foods, chili, the classic kind. This is the good stuff, heavy on meat and beans, light on veggies. That’s how I like my chili. What better way to warm up at the end of a cold day then a big bowl of chili? This recipe really is perfect, it’s not too spicy, not too mild, it’s just right. Something Goldilocks would love, probably Momma, Daddy, and baby bear too. This recipe does take a couple of hours to cook but that’s what makes it so good. All those flavors get cooked into the meat giving you a really hearty and flavorful chili you are sure to enjoy.

Note: If you are someone that likes chili with a little more kick, just add in a couple dashes of cayenne pepper.

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs ground beef
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 c chili powder
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15 oz) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz can tomato sauce
1–2 c beef broth

GARNISHES
shredded cheddar
sour cream
green onions, chopped
fritos
diced avocadoes

STEPS

  • In a large pot cook the beef, onions, and garlic over medium-high heat until no longer pink.
  • Drain off most of the fat leaving about 2 tbsp in the bottom.
  • Stir into the pot the chili powder, flour, oregano, cumin, sugar, and salt.
  • Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, beans, sauce, and 1 cup of the broth to the pot.
  • Cook for an additional 45–60 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Add more broth if you want a soupier chili.
  • Ladle the chili into a bowl and have fun garnishing it with your favorite toppings.
Beverages

Recipe—Homemade Spiked Eggnog

What’s Christmas without a glass or three of spiked eggnog? It is a must have item in our family. I am not a huge eggnog fan but I will drink the occasional glass here and there. However, my sister really loves the stuff so I wanted to be sure and have some on hand for her while we celebrated the holidays early this year. Unfortunately, this eggnog comes with a sad story.

This year I thought I would be adventurous and make my own eggnog. It turned out incredible and was actually really easy to make! This was by far the best eggnog I have ever had. I was so excited to share this fabulous concoction with my sister because I knew she would feel the same way. After slaving over the oven all day (okay I’m exaggerating, more like 20 minutes, this recipe is actually really quick to make) I had the eggnog done and poured it into my brand new glass pitcher. It was a gorgeous site! My mom, sister, husband, son, and I went and walked through a Christmas light display at our local zoo. The perfect end to the evening would be a homemade glass of eggnog. I poured the first glass and then went to pour the second when crack! The handle on my new pitcher literally fell off and the entire batch of eggnog shattered on my counter and went everywhere! I was on the verge of tears. However, the one lonely glass you see above survived. Thank goodness! So we all shared this one lonely glass of eggnog and it was the best glass of eggnog ever!

If you have never had homemade eggnog I highly recommend you give it a try. One thing that I absolutely love about this recipe is that the eggs are par cooked in the hot milk rather than raw, giving this a less eggy flavor. It is the perfect holiday beverage and takes on a superior quality being homemade.

Note: If you want virgin eggnog just omit the rum for a family friendly version. 

INGREDIENTS
3 1/2 c milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of ground cloves
6 egg yolks
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 c rum
1 c heavy cream
1/4 tsp nutmeg

STEPS

  • In a large saucepan heat the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, cinnamon stick, and cloves over medium heat.
  • Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat.
  • Allow the milk to set for about 2 minutes while the cinnamon stick seeps.
  • While the milk is cooling, beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl until it’s pale yellow and fluffy.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick from your milk and slowly pour into the egg mixture.
  • Beat on low until well incorporated.
  • Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat on medium/medium-low heat for 5 minutes until thick and creamy. DO NOT LET IT BOIL OR THE EGGS WILL CURDLE!
  • Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the rum, heavy cream, and nutmeg.
  • Allow the eggnog to cool on the counter for at least an hour.
  • Transfer the eggnog to a pitcher or serving dish and refrigerate for 8–10 hours.
Sweet Treats

Recipe—Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Talk about a match made in heaven! Two classic American desserts coming together to make one heck of a fabulous and indulgent dish. This delicious recipe is perfect for all the holiday social events this time of year. I recently made it for my office party and it was a hit. I cut the squares pretty small so that they were easy to handle and could be eaten as a finger food. This reminds me a lot of Dutch apple pie á la mode. You have the crisp topping drizzled with syrupy caramel, the soft spiced apples, and the creamy sweet cheesecake layer all over a buttery crust. This is a great recipe to keep in mind come Christmas since you can prepare it a day or two in advance giving you some extra time with your guests on Christmas day. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

CRUST INGREDIENTS
2 c flour
½ c brown sugar
1 c butter, softened
½ tsp cinnamon

CHEESECAKE FILLING INGREDIENTS
3-8 oz packages cream cheese
3/4 c sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

APPLE LAYER INGREDIENTS
3 apples peeled, cored, and finely chopped
3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

STREUSEL TOPPING INGREDIENTS
1 c brown sugar
1 c flour
½ c oats
½ c butter, softened
1 c caramel topping

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon and mix with your hands until crumbly.
  • Line a 9” x 13” baking dish with foil making sure to go up the sides. (The helps you to easily remove the final cheesecake from the dish making it a breeze for cutting into bars.)
  • Press the crumbly mixture into the bottom of the lined pan making sure it is an even thickness.
  • Bake crust for 15 minutes.
  • In a large mixing bowl use an electric mixer to beat together the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  • Pour the cream cheese mixture over the warm crust and using a rubber spatula carefully spread it so that it is an even layer.
  • In a small bowl stir together all the apple layer ingredients.
  • Sprinkle the apples over the cream cheese layer.
  • In a small bowl combine the streusel ingredients and using your hands mix until crumbly.
  • Sprinkle the streusel over the apple layer.
  • Bake for 40–45 minutes.
  • Allow the cheesecake to cool and then drizzle with the caramel sauce.
  • Once cheesecake is room temperature store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • To serve, carefully lift the finished cheesecake from the pan by holding the edges of the foil.
  • Transfer to a large cutting board and cut into bars.
  • Serve cold.
Brunch, Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Creamy Persimmon Pomegranate Salad

During the fall and winter months it can be difficult to find quality ripe fruit for a fruit salad. And when you do find some, you pay an arm and a leg. This is a fabulously simple salad you can whip up in minutes using some seasonal fall fruits. This sweet and creamy salad is great for breakfast or even as an addition to your Thanksgiving meal. I think the walnuts and pomegranate seeds give it a nice little crunch and best of all, it is really healthy!

Note: You may or may not find seeds in your persimmons. I have found them both ways. When you chop them be sure to keep a watch for them and discard any you find.

INGREDIENTS
6 fuyu or amagaki persimmons, chopped
3/4 c pomegranate seeds
1/2 c candied walnuts, chopped
1 c plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp honey

STEPS

  • Combine the persimmons, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts in a medium bowl.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the honey and yogurt.
  • Pour the yogurt over the fruit and gently stir to combine.
Dinners, Side Dishes

Recipe—Baked Acorn Squash

I have a confession to make, I know this will make me sound like a total blonde but I want to be sure you all know I’m human and that I don’t know everything about cooking. I am still learning every day. So here I go… until I got my first acorn squash in my organic produce box a few weeks back I thought they were a decorative item. Seriously. Okay, go ahead and laugh now.  I remember seeing them in the grocery stores with all the gourds and pumpkins every fall but I was oblivious to the fact that people actually ate them. I am so glad I discovered that these were in fact edible because they are delicious and I now love cooking with them. I am sharing a recipe for a classic oven baked acorn squash. This is a really sweet treat and a fun way to enjoy the veggie. These squash remind me of my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecans. Yum! Depending on how many people I have over for turkey day this year I may just even make these instead. Why not mix it up and break out of tradition?

INGREDIENTS
1 acorn squash
1 tbsp butter, softened
salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp maple syrup

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Carefully cut acorn squash in half and using a spoon clean out the seeds and stringy pulp.
  • Coat the inside of each squash half with the softened butter and sprinkle with salt.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar to the cavity of each half.
  • Drizzle a teaspoon of maple sugar over each half.
  • Put a 1/4” of water in a baking dish (This keeps the squash from drying out.)
  • Place the prepared acorn squash in the water cut side up.
  • Bake squash for 1 hour or until they are soft and easily pierced with a fork.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Soups

Recipe—Best Ever Butternut Squash Soup

I know the title of the recipe carries a big name, but it’s true, this is the BEST EVER butternut squash soup. Most butternut squash soups taste like squash puree and not much else, but this soup has so many flavors and a lot of depth. I absolutely love this stuff. It actually worked out that this recipe was my best use yet of my delivered organic produce. I ended up having the first five ingredients in last weeks box. Score! It was a sign that this soup was meant to be. One thing that I really love about this soup is that it is thick because of all the veggies in there, not because of any flour or cornstarch like most soups. If you are looking for a fabulous fall soup, look no further. This will fit the bill.

Notes: Most of your time making this recipe will be spent chopping veggies. To save some time, you can buy packages of pre-chopped butternut squash at the store. It will cost a little more but will shave off quite a bit of prep time.

This soup can be made vegetarian but cutting out the bacon and replacing the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

You can use a hand mixer or blender to process the mixture. The hand mixer will give you a slightly chunkier soup and the blender will give you a really smooth one. If you use a hand mixer be sure you don’t use a non-stick pot, as the hand mixer will destroy it. If using a blender you will need to do it in batches. I recommend placing a towel over the top of your blender and holding the lid firmly in place as the heat will make the lid blow off and it makes a huge hot mess and can burn you if not secured.

INGREDIENTS
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 green apple, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
32 oz chicken broth
2 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp honey
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 c heavy whipping cream
crème fraîche or sour cream (for garnish)

STEPS

  • In a large soup pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat.
  • Remove bacon and drain off grease leaving 2 tbsp in the bottom of the pot.
  • Sauté onions and carrots in the bacon drippings for about 5 minutes.
  • Add in the celery, apples, and garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.
  • Add in the squash and broth.
  • Bring pot to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes or until all produce is fork tender.
  • Remove pot from heat.
  • Using a hand mixer or blender process the mixture until smooth. (See above note) If you use a blender return the soup to the pot.
  • Stir in the lime juice, honey, salt, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and whipping cream.
  • Simmer soup for 10–15 minutes or until thickened.
  • Using a ladle serve the soup into a bowl and top with crumbled bacon and a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living.

Dinners

Recipe—Mummy Dogs

I love it when I find a fun themed meal for the different holidays. I got the recipe for these mummy dogs from my friend Christa’s blog, which you should totally check out! (www.creativelychrista.wordpress.com) Christa always has lots of great kid friendly recipes as well as awesome craft projects and more.

I thought these were perfect for my little goblin this Halloween not only because they are festive but also because they are incredibly quick and easy to make! Christa’s version is much healthier than mine since she used turkey dogs and whole-wheat pizza dough. On days I work our evenings are already chaotic but when you add in getting dressed up in costumes, setting up the spooky décor, and trick or treating to the mix and it’s just a mad house! What’s not to love about a $5 dinner you can get done in less than 20 minutes and that the kids will love! I have a feeling we will be making this ghoulish recipe every Halloween. Thanks for the recipe Christa!

INGREDIENTS
1 can refrigerated pizza dough (I like Pillsbury)
1 package hotdogs
mustard and ketchup

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • On a large cutting board lay out your pizza dough and cut into 1/2” strips.
  • Cut those strips in half.
  • Use the strips to wrap the hotdogs up like mummies making sure to leave an exposed area at one end for the face.
  • Place the wrapped hot dogs on a greased cookie sheet as you finish them.
  • Bake for 12–15 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden brown.
  • Once removed from the oven, allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
  • Use the mustard to dot some crazy eyes on these bad “dogs.”

Have a happy Halloweenie everyone!

Sweet Treats

Recipe—Pear and Pecan Crisp

I have these fabulous friends who always have loads of fresh fruits and veggies on hand and I am lucky enough to have them share with me. The other day when I was visiting they had palettes of beautiful golden pears and I was fortunate enough to score some. Saweeet! I waited until the pears were perfectly ripe and then I created this delicious pear crisp for an office party. (My coworkers are so lucky to have me!) It was really a hit and super easy to make. Most people expect apple crisp when they see something like this so the pears are a pleasant surprise. They really were so sweet and packed with juice. Rather than an oat topping like many of my crisps, I made this with a streusel topping. This is a perfect fall dessert. I think I may be serving it up come Thanksgiving!

FILLING INGREDIENTS
5 large pears, cored and diced
2/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt

STREUSEL TOPPING INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c pecans, finely chopped
1/2 c butter (1 stick), melted

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine all the filling ingredients, pears, sugar, and salt. Set aside
  • In a separate bowl stir together the following topping ingredients flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans.
  • Drizzle the melted butter over the dry ingredients stirring while you go until it is evenly combined. The mix should be nice and crumbly.
  • Pour the pears into a large greased baking dish (7″ x 11″ worked great for me) and top with streusel crumbs.
  • Bake for 30–35 minutes or until the topping just begins to turn a golden brown.
  • Serve warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Appetizers, Dinners, Side Dishes, Snacks

Recipe—Butternut Squash Crisps

Over the past couple of weeks I have been getting squash on a regular basis from my produce delivery. I’ve been having fun trying to come up with creative ways to prepare them. These butternut squash crisps are a cross between potato chips and potato wedges, but with squash. They’re a fun way to enjoy this popular fall veggie. My son loves sauce so if you or your kids are the same way serve it with a little side of ranch. Happy dipping!

Note: For a crispier squash cut the slices thin otherwise they may come out soggy.

INGREDIENTS
1 butternut squash
2 tsp olive oil
1/3 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c parsley, chopped
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Peel the squash using a vegetable peeler.
  • Cut the ends off and slice in half lengthwise.
  • Scoop out all the seeds and stringy pulp.
  • Cut into 1/4” slices or smaller. The thinner they are the crispier they will be.
  • Put the slices of squash in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Spread the squash out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet making sure they don’t overlap. You may need to use two sheets.
  • In a blender pulse together breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle the topping over the squash slices.
  • Bake squash for 25–30 minutes until the tops of the “crisps” are golden brown.
Brunch, Sweet Treats

Recipe—Spiced Carrot Bread

With my produce now being delivered weekly, rather than bi-weekly, I am finding myself with leftover items when the weekend rolls around. This equates to some creative cooking. I still had some giant carrots from the previous week and decided to make some spiced carrot bread with them. This bread is quick and easy to make, the challenge is waiting for it to bake and cool because it smells so incredibly good while in the oven. You just want to eat it right away! My entire house had the aroma of sweet spices wafting around for days, perfect for fall. While this would be fabulous with a cream cheese based frosting, I wanted something that didn’t require refrigeration. It gives the bread just the perfect amount of sweetness. Enjoy it as is for breakfast or topped with whipped cream for dessert, either way you will be indulging your sweet tooth while getting in a healthy serving of veggies.

Note: This recipe makes two loaves of spiced carrot bread. Enjoy one now and freeze one for later! 

BREAD INGREDIENTS
1 c oil
4 eggs
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tbsp vanilla
2 1/2 c sugar
2 c shredded carrots (2–3 large carrots)
4 c flour
1/2  tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2  tsp baking soda
1/2  tsp nutmeg
1/2  tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

FROSTING INGREDIENTS
1/4 c butter, melted
1 tbsp water
1 c powdered sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

BREAD STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Spray two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl whisk together oil, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and sugar.
  • Stir in the shredded carrots.
  • In a second large mixing bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
  • Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until well combined.
  • Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans.
  • Bake for 60–70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost clean when inserted in the middle.
  • Allow loaves to sit in the pans for 5 minutes and then carefully remove and place on a cutting board or cooling rack.
  • Allow loaves to cool completely before frosting.

FROSTING STEPS

  • Once the loaves have cooled completely stir together the melted butter and water.
  • Add in half of the powdered sugar and beat using the fork until smooth.
  • Add in the remaining powdered sugar and continue beating until the frosting is nice and smooth.
  • Stir in the cinnamon.
  • Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag. (If using a Ziploc bag cut off a small corner of the bag.)
  • Drizzle both loaves with the frosting and allow to set for 15 minutes before slicing.