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Cranberry, Apple, Squash Bake

22 Nov

I can hardly contain myself this week. Do you know what happens this week?

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My favorite time of year happens this week. The time when all of my favorite things happens in one day. Food and wine are consumed while sitting around a table with my favorite people as we give thanks.

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Thanksgiving happens this week.

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We are splitting up our time on Thursday to get some QT with both families which leaves me with no cooking to do. Since I have no cooking to do, I have been getting my Thanksgiving cooking fix out of the way these past couple weeks by making this apple pie, these beans, experimenting with a new pumpkin pie recipe, and making this cranberry, apple, squash bake over and over and over. It’s so easy, so healthy, and such a crowd pleaser.

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Just as life has seasons, what I focus on in the kitchen has seasons. Currently, I have been focusing on making things with no added sugar or the least amount of added sugar possible. I’m not a believer in cutting something totally out of my diet but I am a firm believer that it is important to use the least amount of an ingredient possible to get the maximum flavor…especially when it comes to sugar.

In thinking about famous Thanksgiving sides, sugar is usually a main ingredient in most of them, including cranberry sauce. This bake balances the tartness of the cranberries with natural sweetness of apples while the squash adds an earthiness to the dish. No sugar needed.

Cranberry, Apple, Squash Bake

Serves 10

Note: I usually bake this at 400 degrees. I have baked it at 350 and 375 degrees because of other things I was using the oven for at the same time and just left it in for a little longer. It’s a pretty forgiving dish. 

1 medium butternut squash (approximately 3 lbs), peeled, deseeded, and cut into 2 inch pieces

2 large honey crisp apples, cored and cut into 2 inch pieces

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (see note).

2. Combine squash, apples, and cranberries in a 9×13 casserole dish.

3. Toss the squash mixture with cinnamon and salt.

4. Dollop the coconut oil over the top in 5-6 different areas.

5. Bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash and apples are tender.

 

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Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

31 Oct

This past weekend I had big plans for my “recipes to experiment with” list. I hadn’t had a weekend at home with nothing to do in a while and I was itching to create some deliciousness. As I created each new recipe, I started to question if I truly have the “right” interests/hobbies in life. Each one was a fail, one after the other; under seasoned pumpkin curry soup, date caramel apples that didn’t set up right, and running out of ingredients I swore I had on hand. My ultimate moment of questioning came when I excitedly offered my hubby some cheese-less beer cheese soup (I know, I know…cheese is in the name…I get it) and asked for his input. I knew it needed some tweaking but thought I was on the path to an amazing discovery. Trying to be helpful and offer input, he suggested, “trying to use a different kind of cheese”.

I was ready to throw in the towel. I had waited all week for this day. I brought extra cash to the farmer’s market to get some seasonal goods, stocked up on staples at the grocery store, and woke up extra early to spend some extra time in the kitchen; to not have one good outcome from it all was not ok with me. I decided to give it one last effort and came out with these:

Dreamy,

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heavenly,

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wholesome pumpkin bars with cream cheese-less cream cheese frosting.

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I got the amazing frosting recipe from Love and Lemons.  I clearly have a lot to learn from her. She was able to make the frosting taste like the real thing without actually including the main ingredient. Genius!

These bars have a lot to offer. Believe it or not they are packed with nutrition: oats, pumpkin puree, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, a touch of natural sweetener; what more could a girl want? Although the frosting makes them a-m-a-z-i-n-g, I have enjoyed them sans frosting as a quick, on-the-go snack. They freeze well, too, and only use one bowl to make! Oh, and depending on your dietary restrictions, they are vegan (so dairy and egg free by default) and gluten-free, if you use gluten free oats! Honestly, I don’t know why you guys are still reading. You should be preheating your oven and getting out your mixing bowl and measuring cups…

Pumpkin Bars

Makes 9 bars (8×8 inch pan)

2 cups rolled oats

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 cup maple syrup (add an additional 2 tablespoons if you like things sweeter)

1/2 cup cashew cream (1/2 cup cashews processed with 2 1/2 tablespoons almond milk; you might be able to use a nut butter but I did not test it)

1/4 cup uncrystallized candied ginger, cut into quarter inch pieces (I found mine at Trader Joe’s; other dried fruit would work as well)

Frosting (from Love and Lemons)

1/2 cup macadamia nuts (soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed)

1/2 cup cashews (soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed)

1/4 cup almond milk

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, flaxseed, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin seeds.

3. Add pumpkin puree, canola oil, maple syrup, and cashew cream. Mix well to combine.

4. Fold in uncrystallized candied ginger.

5. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned.

6. To make the frosting, combine all frosting ingredients in a high speed blender. Start blender on low and gradually increase to high.  Blend until smooth.

7 . Cool the bars on a cooling rack. Wait until bars are completely cooled to add frosting.

Summer Chutney

16 Sep

Who else out there is squeezing out the last delicious bits  of summer?

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Fall officially came last week…in the form of a massive storm and power outage. Leave it to Michigan for the weather to be 95 degrees with 95% humidity and within a matter of minutes it drops to 60 degrees with minimal humidity and stays that way.

One of my favorite dishes that screams summer is a smashed salmon salad. I was set to make it a couple weeks ago. I was 100% positive I had half a jar of mango chutney left in the fridge to use for the salmon…100% sure.

I started my prep for dinner, reached for the chutney, and my heart sunk. No mango chutney. I had my mind set on smashed salmon salads. I had giant beautiful heirloom tomatoes, fresh organic spinach, bright orange carrots, my favorite potatoes from my favorite farmer’s market vendor, beautiful pieces of salmon but no chutney.

The hubs was fine with plain salmon but I had my heart set on the sweet chutney mixing with the savory potatoes in every bite.

Deep breath in, deep breath out.

I looked around my kitchen and spotted my succulent juicy peaches and way more tomatoes than I knew what to do with. I was on a mission.

And I made this amazing chutney.

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And you should too…

Summer Chutney

Makes about 2 cups

Note: This chutney worked great for the smashed salmon salads. It is also great served over a soft cheese with crackers as an appetizer. I was all set to combine it with black beans and rice before our power went out and I had to empty out my fridge. Bottom line: you can do a lot with this chutney. 

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/2 bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon garam masala

1 1/2 cup peaches (about 2 medium), peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 small tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine apple cider vinegar and agave nectar. Bring to a boil.

2. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, salt, red pepper flakes, and garam masala. Simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add peaches and tomatoes and simmer until chutney thickens and reduces, 20 to 30 minutes.

 

 

Now I know why French women don’t get fat!

4 Mar

As you know, I’ve dedicated these next two weeks on my blog to my favorite things. First was Julia Child. Up next:

Almond croissants.

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When we lived in Miami, FL, there was this small French bakery in the shopping center next to where I worked. Coworkers kept telling me that I MUST try the almond croissants from the French bakery. Before these croissants, I could take or leave almond flavored desserts. The overly powerful imitation almond flavoring and no actual almond pieces in them were nothing to waste my time on. After a couple months, I finally wandered over to the French bakery and got an almond croissant. And let me tell you, I waited a couple of months too long! It was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. I literally sat at my desk is awe for 10 minutes after finishing it thinking about how good it was. I needed more. I made it my monthly treat to walk over to the French bakery for an almond croissant and a cappuccino (I could write a whole other post about the cappuccinos at that place!). Monthly treat turned into bimonthly treat turned into weekly treat. Once my husband got the news that we were leaving Miami for a job opportunity, I went to the French bakery every day until we moved. They were that good.

Since I’m posting about my favorite things, I embarked on the adventure of croissant making this weekend. It’s safe to say I didn’t know what I was getting into. Croissant-making involves a lot of rolling, chilling and repeating. And a lot of butter.

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The thought that continuously crossed my mind each time I almost broke a sweat while forcing all my body weight into the rolling pin was, “no wonder French women don’t get fat!” They are surrounded by these wonderful pastries, but the process, alone, of making them burns enough calories to enjoy a treat, guilt-free. On top of that, the amount of time that goes into making the delicious flaky, layered pastries would make anyone want to savor every single bite.

I think we can all learn a life lesson from French pastries. These tasty buttery treats are ok to eat…in moderation! Indulge in one if you like, just make sure you limit it to one, and savor it. Try to sneak in some exercise. Earn bonus points by making them from scratch!

My first attempt at making these was average to slightly above average. Going through the process of making them, I kept thinking, “no matter how good or bad these are, I am never making them again. I will fly down to Miami for my indulgence instead!” Once they came out of the oven and I saw the amazing paper thin layers that I had created through all of rolling, chilling, and repeating, I got inspired to give it another whirl the next free weekend I have.

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Check out the layers!

I combined recipes and methods from “Baking with Julia” and “Baking Illustrated”. I would love any feedback you all have from your adventures with croissant making.

 

A few of my favorite things…Julia Child edition

1 Mar

If you live anywhere other than South Florida, I’m sure we are thinking the same thing, “Is this winter ever going to end?!”. Rather than joining the rest of the country in complaining about it (which I’ve been guilty of for the past few weeks), I’ve decided to face it head on and say, “bring it on!”.

Instead of focusing on the dreary cold weather outside, I have decided to focus on my favorite things. For the next two weeks, you will hear no complaining here, just posts and recipes of my favorite things. Make sure to like me on Facebook and follow my blog so you don’t miss out on any.

I will start with one of my obvious favorite things…Julia Child!

You can often find me before dinner most nights saying, “Bon Appetit” in an high pitched creaky voice trying to mimic one of my favorite people. It usually makes my husband and family cringe a bit but it makes me smile and laugh and enjoy my meal that much more.

I may have spent close to 3 hours in the Julia Child’s kitchen when it was at the National History Museum in Washington D.C.

My parents happened to find the perfect birthday card for me this year:

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Here are reasons I love Julia (or “Jules” as I imagine she would want me to call her because we would totally be besties if she was still alive):

– She embraced life regardless of the situation she was given

– She didn’t discover her passion in the kitchen until later in life and was still able to impact the entire world

– Her voice makes me smile

– Her writing makes me laugh

– She believed all foods are ok to eat IN MODERATION

– She makes cooking a delicious meal possible for just about anyone

– Her husband and she have the cutest love story

– She loved kitchen gadgets

– One of her mottos is “never apologize for anything that happens in the kitchen”

– She makes everything about being in the kitchen fun

I am thinking my weekend has some baking from “Baking with Julia” in store…stay tuned (and stay warm!) 🙂

Chocolate Chip “Larabar”

27 Feb

I decided to experiment with some combinations to make my own Larabars. Using the brilliant idea from Paleo Paisan, I used the nutrition facts and the short ingredient list to come up with the ratio of ingredients to use.

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I think Larabars are such a great go-to snack. They are delicious and filling without a laundry list of ingredients attached. They are a snack you can feel good about eating. They are also a cinch to make on your own at home!

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I always seem to have a 2:30pm snack attack that usually involves chocolate. I have realized that preparation is the key to any good eating plan. With these chocolate chip “Larabars”, I can feel reassured knowing that I am satisfying my snack attack with a nutritious snack.

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Chocolate Chip “Larabars”

Makes 6 bars

30 dates, pitted

30 almonds

18 walnut halves

24 chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips)

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1. In a food processor, pulse together dates, almonds, and walnuts until a fine consistency is achieved and the dough starts to form a ball, about 2 minutes

2. Add chocolate chips and pulse to combine, about 10 pulses. Add cocoa powder and sea salt and pulse to combine, about 30 seconds.

3. Press dough into a bread pan lined with parchment paper. Make sure dough is pressed evenly and into the corners. Place pan in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. Remove from freezer, cut dough into 6 equal pieces. Enjoy immediately or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5-7 days.

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs

5 Feb

I am always looking for an excuse to try a new recipe. Someone’s birthday? I gladly offer to whip up a cake. Work potluck? I’m the first one signed up for a new dip or salad recipe. Traveling? I make it part of my pre-trip packing to make a homemade Lara bar or another healthy treat.

Super Bowl “party” with my sick hubby and me? Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs it is! (along with game day guacamole, black bean and corn salsa, wings, and creamy broccoli dip).

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I think I have had sweet and sour meatballs once in my life. And it was a very long time ago. Why I decided I needed to find a recipe for them? I have no idea. But I’m glad I did.

While searching for a recipe, I turned to the trusty America’s Test Kitchen. Their recipe called for the slow cooker.  My slow cooker was occupied with sticky chicken wings and I definitely don’t have the counter space for a second slow cooker. ATK’s recipe also called for ground beef. I wanted something a bit healthier so I made my own turkey meatballs. With a  few modifications, these sweet and sour meatballs were a healthy hit for our wild “party”.

We had these meatballs as a meal. You could easily make the meatballs smaller and serve with toothpicks as a finger food. Adjust the cooking time due to the smaller meatball size.

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs

Makes 22-24 meatballs

Sauce adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution

For the meatballs:

1.25 pounds lean ground turkey

1/2 cup minced onion

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (omit if you do not like spicy food)

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup onion, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (omit if you do not like spicy food)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

6 ounces (1/2 cup) apricot jam or preserves

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 scallions, sliced thin

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup onion, bread crumbs, garlic, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add the ground turkey. Using your hands mix the turkey until all ingredients are well incorporated. Roll turkey into 2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.

2. While the meatballs are in the oven, microwave the other 1/2 cup of onion, oil, red pepper flakes and garlic clove, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Stir tomato sauce, apricot jam, broth, Worcestershire, and mustard into sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring ocassionally.  Reduce to a simmer over medium low heat and simmer for 20 minutes while meatballs cook. Stir in scallions before serving.

4. When the meatballs are finished, add to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

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