Simple Sausage and Peppers

Are you ready to get your Italian on?

20140318-081627.jpgI’ve had this food blog for almost a year and I really haven’t shared many Italian recipes. For SHAME. But today I am fixing this with a simple, savory, meaty and veggie dish: My Simple Sausage and Peppers

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I like this recipe because it is easy, quick and delicious! And look how colorful it is! This was definitely one of my favorite dishes to photograph! Such a beauty!

20140313-223046.jpgBecause I usually cook for myself and a 6’4″ man with a super fast metabolism (Love you, taller half!), I usually make this sausage and peppers with pasta. But if you aren’t cooking to feed a small village you could use this as a pizza topping or just eat it alone with some fresh bread (or not-so-fresh bread) to sop up all the juices. Mmmm

20140313-223056.jpgThe main ingredients you need:

  1. Onion
  2. Garlic
  3. Sausage (pork, chicken or turkey)
  4. Bell Peppers
  5. Diced tomatoes
  6. Dried spices (oregano, parsley, basil)

You can use any sausage you like, but this dish ALWAYS tastes better with the non-precooked sausage.  I recommend Shady Brook Farms Hot Italian Turkey Sausage or any other sausage that is not precooked. The dish will have more flavor if you start with uncooked sausage.

20140313-223121.jpgStart by slicing the peppers while the sausage cooks in the skillet.

20140313-223138.jpgAfter the sausage is cooked, add the peppers.

20140313-223148.jpgThen add the diced tomatoes and the spices. Stir to combine and then cover and cook on low-medium heat until the peppers are the desired softness (I cook for about 5-8 minutes)

Toss with some cooked pasta or enjoy with some fresh bread.

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Mangia!

Recipe: Simple Sausage and Peppers

Yield: 4-6 servings (when made with pasta)

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4-6 hot Italian sausages (1lb), casing removed and chopped (Shady Brook Farms Hot Italian turkey sausage is my favorite – but you can use your favorite)**
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced (I used 1 green and 1 red)
  • 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes with the juice (not drained)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet add the onion, garlic and oil.  Cook on medium heat until the onions start to soften 5 minutes.  Then add the chopped sausage to the pan (if you are using very lean chicken sausage you may need to add a little more oil).  Cook on medium heat until onions are translucent and sausage is fully cooked.
  2. Add the sliced bell peppers and diced tomatoes with the juice to the pan.  Add all the spices and stir to combine everything.  Cover the skillet and cook on low-medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until the peppers are a little tender (or a lot tender – depending how you like it)
  3. If you are pouring over pasta – Add the entire pan of sausage and peppers to the pot of drained pasta -stir to coat the pasta. (I make 3/4 -1lb of pasta)
  4. Serve with shredded Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Mangia!

** If you use precooked chicken sausage (or any sausage with a very low fat content), you will need to add some extra oil to the pan to cook the sausages. For full pork sausage, you may need to drain some of the fat that cooks off.  I usually use uncooked turkey sausage (Shady Brook Farms Hot Italian) and I do not drain any fat that cooks off – because there is very little.

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Maple Pecan Quinoa Granola

I never really got aboard the “WOOO QUINOA!!” train.

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I’m Italian. I eat pasta and bread like there’s an imminent flour shortage. And I don’t mean whole wheat or omega-3 fanciness. Nope. Plain ‘ol standard pasta. I know brown rice and whole wheat flour are probably a teensy bit better for me, but I enjoy the good stuff. Still, I attempted to replace a pasta/cous cous side dish with some quinoa. Eh. I’m just not that excited to eat it. And if you know me, I like to get excited to eat! So, I wanted to try to use quinoa in a different way. BAM – lets mix it with some oats and sugar and bake it! YES! now I can get excited to eat quinoa!

If you have seen my other granola recipe, you know how much I get excited about granola.

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Quinoa gives the granola some extra crunch and adds a little nuttiness. Who doesn’t want a little more nuttiness in their day? 🙂

Quinoa also adds extra protein to the granola. Quinoa is a complete protein; it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make and we must get from food. So, eat up!

***Also, if you don’t want/have quinoa – you can still make this granola! Replace it with an equal amount of your favorite granola add-in: another nut, seed (sunflower, pumpkin etc..) or shredded coconut! (just replace it with something that can be baked (ie – not chocolate)

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Mixed Quinoa! You can use any kind of quinoa in this recipe. Fun Fact: Quinoa is a seed of the Goosefoot plant.

The other star of this granola? Pure maple syrup.

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No, that’s not Crown Royal. It is a Crown Royal bottle FILLED WITH MAPLE SYRUP!

I’m a really lucky girl. My Taller half’s Uncle gives these as Christmas gifts every year. Amazing, right?! Look at all that pure, rich, made with love maple syrup! I added the pecans there for a relative size comparison. So much delicious MAPLE SYRUP.

I understand that not everyone has a vat of maple syrup, so you can replace this with honey or agave. The taste will be slightly different, but equally delicious!

So now that I am sufficiently excited to eat – let’s make some granola.

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Making homemade granola is easy!

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If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed – give it a quick rinse in some cold water. Don’t worry about drying it off – the quinoa can be wet.

Combine all your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then in a small saucepan melt the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, oil, water and stir until well combined. Then add in the vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and mix until all the dry ingredients are well coated.

Spread out on a large baking sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Bake at 320F for 25 minutes – stirring once at about 15 minutes. And DONE!

20140223-152328.jpgDon’t even get me started on how much more cost effective AND nutritious it is to make your own granola instead of buying it.

20140223-152233.jpgPlus, it tastes WAY better when it is homemade. Seriously.

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BONUS: Baking this will also make your house smell delicious. Start snacking!

20140228-192800.jpgRecipe: Maple Pecan Quinoa Granola

Yield: 4 cups

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats (use gluten-free oats to make gluten-free)
  • 1 cup of pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed (don’t worry about drying it, it can be wet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tablespoons butter (or replace with equal amounts of oil to make vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or canola, or coconut)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of real maple syrup* (you can replace with honey or agave)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees F and place oven rack so it is in the top third of the oven. Line baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Rinse quinoa in cold water
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to make sure all ingredients are mixed well
  4. Add Wet ingredients except vanilla to medium saucepan and melt on low heat while stirring. *To easily measure maple syrup, spray measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray (such as Pam), before measuring. After wet ingredients are melted and well combined, remove from heat and add vanilla
  5. Pour the warm mixture over the dry ingredients and stir together using a rubber spatula – until all the dry ingredients are coated by the sugar/oil/butter mixture
  6. Spread granola out into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 320 F for 15 minutes. Remove and stir granola
  7. Bake at 320 F for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Enjoy!

Adapted from my Maple almond cinnamon granola

Granola can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to two weeks (good luck getting it to last that long!)

**If you don’t want/have quinoa – you can still make this granola! Replace it with an equal amount of your favorite granola add-in – such as another nut, seed (sunflower, pumpkin etc..) or shredded coconut! (just replace it with something that can be baked (ie – not chocolate or dried fruit)

Easy S’mores Cookie Bars

Happy Valentine’s Day! Time to mix it up with a sweet treat!

20140213-073459.jpgI LOVE s’mores. They’re gooey and chocolatey.  The flavor combination of marshmallow, chocolate and graham is one my favorites.  I’ll eat anything s’mores – s’mores ice cream, s’mores cake, s’mores candy, s’mores cereal (remember Smorz?!)… you get the idea.  There is just something about toasty marshmallows, melty chocolate and graham cracker that just make the perfect dessert for me. MMMmmm! My mouth is watering just thinking about these cookie bars!

20140210-194227.jpgThese bars are made with Biscoff spread, aka cookie butter.  If you have never tried Biscoff, it is a creamy spread made from Belgian Biscoff cookies – which are shortbread cookies that have a hint of graham taste mixed with a little cinnamon.  I know this sounds weird, a creamy spread made from cookies, but it’s not.  It’s the most delicious thing that comes in a jar, which is why I had to make some treats with it.  1. To make a DELICIOUS dessert 2. To use it up so I wouldn’t keep eating it straight out the jar with a spoon.  ACK!  I usually have pretty good self control, but this is my kryptonite.  Seriously.

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And if you’re wondering, yes, I ate this whole spoonful after I took the photo.

These bars are so great not only because they’re SO moist, chewy, toasty marshmallow-y and chocolatey, but because they’re super simple to put together! No mixer is needed!  AND, unlike standard S’mores, no individual serving assembly required – No fighting over the fire to roast your marshmallows and no sticky fingers.  You’re welcome.

Definitely Delicious in a DASH!

20140210-194300.jpg1. Combine all the wet ingredients and then stir in the Biscoff spread (Cookie Butter) 2. Add in the dry ingredients and 3. Fold in until well combined 4. Add in the chocolate chips and marshmallows 5. Toss it all in a baking dish lined with parchment paper 6. Smoosh it down and throw a few more marshmallows on top.  Then pop it in the oven – and you are 25 minutes away from Heaven.

Make this for your sweety for Valentines Day. Or better yet, Treat Yo Self!

20140213-071432.jpgMy taller half loves cheesecake – so I made him some special cheesecake bars for Valentine’s Day (stay tuned for the recipe!), but I’ll be making THESE for myself. Who says you can’t have a whole 8×8 pan of cookie bars for yourself?

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Stretchy, toasty marshmallow, and melty chocolate with a chewy, moist graham center.  Yep. make these for yourself.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, YOU. Wonderful, Beautiful YOU.

Recipe: Easy S’mores Cookie Bars20140213-073459.jpg

Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread (or Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of mini marshmallows + an extra handful for the top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients –  flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside
  3. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined and then add the eggs and the vanilla. Stir in the Biscoff spread. Stir until mixture is well combined
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not over mix – I usually fold with a rubber spatula to ensure that I don’t overmix.  The batter will be very thick.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows and “dump” the batter into a prepared baking dish.  Then press down the batter so that it is even throughout the baking dish and top with reserved marshmallows.  Gently press down the marshmallows.
  6. Bake for about 25-35 minutes. The bars will appear very soft and look under done but they will firm up as they cool. Allow the bars to cool completely- about 3 hours – before cutting into squares. *I know this is TORTUROUS but if you don’t wait, they will be too mushy and fall apart and you’ll need a spoon.  Totally feel free to eat them with a spoon 🙂

Cookie bars stay fresh for a week when stored in a sealed container at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Spinach and Broccoli Artichoke Dip

What are you eating on Super Bowl Sunday?  My answer is (usually) a lot.

20140131-194900.jpgLet’s get a little more specific. How about something warm, cheesy and spicy and still have some healthy stuff in it?  Then you will LOVE this Spinach and Broccoli Artichoke dip!

20140131-194828.jpgI’m not the biggest football fan, but I do LOVE an excuse to eat snacks and hang out with friends! Bring on the football!

20140131-194847.jpgThis recipe is a spinoff of your typical spinach artichoke dip, but it has a few extras in it that really make it special.  Lets go over the major players in our game:

  1. Spinach
  2. Broccoli
  3. Canned artichoke hearts
  4. Cream cheese (sounds unusual, but totally delicious)
  5. Greek yogurt (adds that extra creaminess!)
  6. Mozzarella
  7. Parmesan
  8. Garlic (because everything is better with it)

It is easy to assemble (all in one bowl), pop it in the oven and you have your warm and creamy dip in 25 minutes!  I know cream cheese sounds a little unusual but you won’t taste any cream cheese flavor (I promise!); it will just add creaminess.

20140131-231211.jpgThis dip will fit nicely in an 8×8 or 9×9 but I got a really awesome Le Creuset stoneware dish (1.75 qt) for Christmas that I really really really wanted to bake something in. It’s a really pretty blue color so it looks nice (it really does!) and it is heavy so it keeps food hot longer.   It’s amazing and I love it! – thanks Ro and Nancy! 

20140131-194934.jpgSprinkling some extra cheese on top – Mmmmm melty cheese!

20140131-194945.jpgDid I mention I snuck extra veggies in this dip? You get spinach, artichoke AND broccoli!

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What a beaut, right? Most of my kitchen stuff is hand-me-down or picked up at garage sales – so I really wanted to flaunt my fancy new baking dish! 🙂

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But most importantly is the warm, cheesy, creamy and veggie-filled dip that was made in the pretty dish!  Just another delicious way to get more vegetables in your diet!

Happy Snacking!

Recipe: Spinach and Broccoli Artichoke Dip

Yield: About 3 and 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 8oz of cream cheese, softened*
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 package (10oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup of broccoli, chopped small
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan- reserve a handful to melt on top
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided –  ¼ cup reserved to sprinkle and melt on top
  • salt, to taste
  • sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl stir the softened cream cheese and Greek yogurt together until smooth.  Then add in the remaining ingredients and mix together. Spoon into 8×8 or 9 inch pie plate or oven safe dish. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.
  3. Remove and sprinkle the reserved cheese on top and bake for another 2-3 minutes just until cheese is melted.

Serve warm with pita chips, pretzels, crackers or veggies.

*If you want to soften the cream cheese quickly, place the fully unwrapped cream cheese in a microwave safe dish and microwave it for ~15 seconds.

Half Meat Half Veggie Chili

Looking for a delicious, easy and good-for-your recipe that will feed 20 gazillion people at your Super Bowl party? Look no further my hungry friends.

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Make some chili. Specifically THIS chili. I call this my half-and-half chili. Half meat, half veggies! This is the perfect winter meal. It is hearty AND healthy. It will warm AND fill you up without filling you out. 🙂 And it will feed a hoard of people.

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Along with ground beef this chili has an assortment of vegetables including hearty mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, meaty potatoes, zucchini, carrots and tasty corn. This recipe makes a TON. So you will have many meals and can even freeze some. You can use the same veggies or use your a mixture of favorites!

20140112-184935.jpgMy Taller Half LOVES this chili so much he is always happy to help chop all the vegetables. Even if you’re not that into veggies, try this, I think your relationship with them will change.

20140112-185000.jpgNow, I realize the amount of ingredients in this recipe totally goes against my mantra of “around 5-ish” ingredients. But it is done in 5 easy steps. And this is a “cook once, eat for a whole week” meal.

The chili should simmer for a few hours to let the flavors fully develop (although you can dig into it after only 30 minutes). I usually make it the night before and think about dinner ALL day.

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How could you not think about this all day???

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and then I eat it for leftovers for a week.

OR be a good person a share: Have a Super Bowl party for 20 people and serve this!

Plus, with all these veggies, you can top this with extra cheese and eat some extra chips and not feel guilty. You earned it by eating your vegetables.

20140112-185116.jpgYUM! Look at that close up! Meat, veggies and CHEESE!?! I’m in heaven.

20140112-185240.jpgRecipe: Half Meat Half Veggie Chili

Yield: A ton. (~32 cups)

Ingredients:

Step 1 – sauté the aromatics

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped

Step 2 – add the meat

  • ~1 lb ground beef (use any meat you like- turkey, pork, buffalo)

Step 3 – add the veggies

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 potato (sweet or russet), scrubbed clean and chopped (I usually leave the russet unpeeled – but I will always peel the sweet potato)
  • 8oz of mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bella)
  • 1 zucchini, chopped

Step 4 – add the canned/frozen stuff

  • 1 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 15 oz cans of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (you can mix it up with black beans if you like)
  • 1 cup of frozen corn

Step 5 – add the spices

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Cheddar cheese, sour cream and chips for serving

Instructions:

  1. In a very large pot (~8-12 quarts) add step 1 ingredients and sauté on medium heat until onions are soft – about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef (step 2) and cook until no longer pink
  3. Add all the veggies (step 3) and canned/frozen (step 4). Then add the spices (step 5) and stir to mix everything well. Simmer the chili for at least 30 minutes, but 1-2 hours lets the flavors develop. Tip: I usually make this the day before and simmer for 1-2 hours and then let the large pot cool before I place it in the fridge. The next day I take it right out of the fridge and let the pot come to room temp and then simmer to warm it up and then serve. This is a great make ahead meal.

Top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and enjoy with chips or corn bread!

Chili can be stored in airtight container the refrigerator for 1 week or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Adapted from How Sweet It Is Easy 5 Step Chili

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Easy Thai Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Happy New Year! Time to celebrate with some fancy soup!

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Although this may look super fancy, this is hands down the most flavorful and easiest soup I have ever made. And by the end of this post, I am going to convince you of that.  It is creamy, spicy and slightly sweet and you even get to top it with a little toasted coconut.  Fancy.  If you love Thai flavors, you will LOVE this soup.  Coconut milk makes the soup creamy, butternut squash makes it healthy to eat all that coconut milk AND red Thai curry paste makes it spicy! Add a little apple for some sweetness and you have THE BEST SOUP.  I even made it as a Christmas present for my Aunts upon request!

20131223-092437.jpgI know there are tons of butternut squash soup recipes out there. So, you’re probably wondering: “what makes this soup so damn special?”   Well, my recipe calls for ingredients that most people usually have.  It only requires 1 fancy-ish ingredient – Red Thai Curry paste – and this can be kept in your fridge for a long time. So you buy it once and can use it throughout the year.  The only additional fresh ingredients (besides the squash) you need you probably already have in your kitchen: onion, garlic and apple.  Everything else keeps, so you can make this soup whenever you buy a butternut squash!

What is the secret to the super flavor in this easy soup?  Freshly roasted butternut squash!

Before I started making this soup last year, I was TERRIFIED of roasting my own squash.  Those big, hunky vegetables look so intimidating in the grocery store, don’t they?  FEAR NOT my friend.  I am here to tell you – YOU CAN DO IT!

And I’m showing you exactly how.

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Steps for roasting your butternut squash. 1. Slice open. 2. scoop out seeds 3.Brush oil and place cut side down on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup). The 4th photo is what the squash looks like when it is done roasting!

Slice the butternut squash in half, lengthwise on a cutting board (carefully!).  I usually start to cut at the fat end, since it is easier to cut through the part where the seeds are. Once halved, scoop out the seeds and save them for later!  (You can roast the seeds and salt them -they are delicious!) After your squash is cleaned out, brush a tablespoon of oil (canola, olive, or vegetable – whatever) on the flesh of each half and place flesh side down on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet (for easy cleanup!). Bake at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  There.  Done.  That’s roasting your own squash.  Easy, right? You can do this days in advance and then making the soup will only take 20 minutes!

If you are roasting the squash and making the soup the same day, then while the squash is roasting, get started on the rest of the soup.  Add some oil, garlic, onion and peeled and chopped apple to the pot. Saute for a few minutes then add the ginger and the red curry paste. Saute for a few minutes  Then add the liquids and the roasted squash – simmer for at least 10 minutes, puree with an immersion blender or blend in batches and done!

20131223-092408.jpgYUM! Sweet, Savory, Coconut-y goodness!

20131223-092420.jpgWarms you and fills you up!

20131223-092430.jpgGo make some right now!!!

20131223-092514.jpgRecipe: Easy Thai Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Makes about 10 cups (Ten 8oz servings)

Squash roasting time: 45 minutes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Soup cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons of oil, divided (olive, vegetable, or canola)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small apple, peeled and chopped (I used Macintosh but any soft, sweet apple will do.  Don’t use granny smith – too tart)
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger (or 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of Thai red curry paste (more or less depending on your spice preference)
  • 32oz chicken broth (or vegetable broth – to make it vegan/vegetarian)
  • 1 can (14-ounce) coconut milk (I usually use light coconut milk)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Toasted sweetened shredded coconut, for serving – optional (but highly recommended!)

Instructions:

  • Roast the Butternut Squash (This can be done days in advance)                            Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Halve squash lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds and stringy stuff (Save seeds for roasting later).  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, brush the cut flesh with about 1 tablespoon of oil, and place flesh side down on foil. Roast squash until it is very soft – depending on the size about 45 minutes to an hour.  Allow Squash to cool for about 10 minutes and then scoop flesh out of the peel into a bowl.  Use immediately in soup, or place into a sealed container and refrigerate for about a week or freeze up to 2 months.
  • Make the Soup. (While the squash is roasting-if doing this in one day)                    In a large pot, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, garlic and peeled apple and sauté on medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until onions are soft.  Add Thai red curry paste and ginger and stir briskly for about 30 seconds.  Next add the broth, coconut milk and the roasted squash and simmer for at least 10 minutes.  If I have the time I like to simmer for 30 minutes and even more if I get busy and forget about it. 

Purée soup with an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender or food processor) – and serve!

For serving: Optional (but highly recommended) — Top soup with toasted sweetened shredded coconut (toast shredded coconut on a baking sheet in oven at 400F for 2 minutes (be sure to watch so it doesn’t burn!) Or toast the shredded coconut it in your microwave!

This soup makes great leftovers!  It tastes even better the next day.  Keep leftover soup in a sealed container in the fridge for a week(ish).

Seriously, go make some right now!!

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Curried Apple Tuna Salad

How about an apple and some tuna for lunch?

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How about we put them together.  On a sandwich. With some spice. Yum!

I’m constantly on the look out for new lunch recipes.  I ALWAYS bring my lunch to work because I hate buying lunch. It’s expensive, usually less healthy and I’m super indecisive, so it takes me forever to decide where to buy lunch.  But mostly, I am cheap and buying lunch is not.   In the past year, I have bought lunch at work 3 times.  THREE times.   Yeah, I’m wicked frugal.  So this is a great salad/sandwich to add to your lunch rotation!

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What else is so great about this Curried apple tuna salad?  It is delicious and healthy and perfect for using up some of those apples you still have.  Also, it is so full of flavor, you won’t realize it is healthy.  Really. And this is no wussy salad – it is FULL of protein. Tuna and Greek yogurt pack a pretty good protein punch that will make sure your tummy stays full at least until your 3pm chocolate break.  Wait, you don’t have a 3pm chocolate break?  What?!  Well, you should. Bonus: it is SUPER easy to whip up!  1 step.  There is only 1 step to make this salad.

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What is in this salad?

1. Tuna (I use chunk light, packed in water)

2. Plain Greek yogurt

3. Apple

4. Dijon mustard

5. Curry powder

6. Crunchy veggie of your choice

This is another recipe for you MAYO HATERS>>> There is NO mayo in this tuna salad!

20131028-205908.jpgThe warm curry flavor pairs perfectly with the crunchy, sweet apple.

20131028-205916.jpgAnd it all goes so well to make a creamy, crunchy, warmly spicy and slightly sweet tuna salad

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Mmmm.  Delicious in a Dash.  Seriously fast and scrumptious!

Recipe: Curried Apple Tuna Salad 20131028-205936.jpg

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 5oz canned tuna, drained (I like chunk-light tuna packed in water)
  • 1/2 of a medium sized apple, chopped (I like crunchy, slightly tart apples)
  • 3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 3/4 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder (depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 cup of your veggie of choice, chopped (I really like celery because it adds a nice crunch.  I used cucumber because that is what I had in the house – but I recommend celery)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, add all ingredients and stir until combined.

Serve on your favorite bread, lined with spinach leaves or lettuce or just eat it right from the bowl!

Enjoy!

Maple Walnut Apple Crisp

I hope you’re ready for some apple recipes!

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If you make one apple dessert this fall – make this maple walnut apple crisp! Apple crisp has ALWAYS been my favorite apple dessert. Why? Because I love the crunchy, sweet topping. AND because it is easier than pie (haha) – no crust needed!

My Taller Half and I recently went to Smolak Farms to pick apples. The orchard is picturesque and has dozens of apple varieties! I LOVE apple picking. Ever since I was a little piglet, I always looked forward to biting into a crisp, juicy apple just picked from the tree, and then would do this over and over again for until my belly was waaaay too full. This year, I held back a bit and didn’t make myself sick. It was a perfect fall day and we picked TONS of apples. I just couldn’t wait to get home and bake with the freshly picked fruit.

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A beautiful day at Smolak Farms!

Now, let’s talk about this crisp! It has such a thick, crunchy, cinnamon-y topping. Hands down my favorite apple dessert. It also went really fast!

20130925-213732.jpgThe filling of this crisp has tart apples (I used a mixture of Gravenstein, Cortland and Granny Smith), mixed with meaty walnuts, cinnamon and sweet maple syrup! And then there is the topping. OOOh the topping. It is so crispy, so thick, and crunchy (and of course cinnamon-y) and perfectly balances the tender, soft apples. You NEED to make this crisp. Bonus – It takes 5 minutes to put the topping together and only 5 minutes to make the filling. So what are you waiting for?!! Let’s make some maple walnut apple crisp!

20131016-235032.jpgSprinkle cut, peeled apples and chopped walnuts with cinnamon and a few squirts of lemon juice

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Pour the melted sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and butter “sauce” on top

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Prep the topping by mixing flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and cut with chilled butter -just smash it up with your hands until it is crumbly, like so:

Crisp topping

Then add the walnuts to the topping and spread the topping over the apples

( look how thick that topping is!!)

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Place in the oven and wait 45 minutes for sweet, cinnamon-y, apple-y, maple-y, oat-y goodness.

OH. MY. GOODNESS.

20130925-213824.jpgOne more thing- If you don’t have walnuts, or don’t like walnuts you can substitute any other nut – almonds, pecans,  peanuts, hazelnuts etc… or just leave the nuts out. They add some texture and taste but are not essential to your new favorite apple dessert.

Recipe: Maple Walnut Apple CrispMaple Walnut Apple Crisp

Servings: 6-10 (or 2 if you are me)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

Filling

  • 5-6 apples, peeled, cored, chopped chunky (I used Gravenstein, Cortland and Granny Smith – but any firm, baking apple will do – you may have to adjust the sugar if the apples you use are less tart and more sweet)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (substitute almonds, pecans, peanuts etc… or omit)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Few squirts of lemon juice (About 1/2 -1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping (adapted from Ambitious Kitchen)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (substitute almonds, pecans, peanuts etc… or omit)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and spray an 8×8 pan with non-stick cooking spray
  2. Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss apples and walnuts with cinnamon and lemon juice and pour into a 8×8 baking pan.
  3. In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the butter, sugar and maple syrup***  while stirring.  Do this slowly, you don’t want your sugar to burn! When combined, remove from heat and add vanilla extract.  Pour sauce over apples in baking pan and stir to coat apples.
  4. Make the topping: In a large bowl, add all the topping ingredients EXCEPT the butter and walnuts.  Stir until well combined.
  5. Add the butter and use your hands to incorporate the butter and the dry topping.  This involves squeezing the butter and the flour/oat mixture together in your hands – until the mixture becomes crumbly – you don’t need to overwork this – you want the mixture to be lumpy.  Just smash it between your fingers with the oat/flour mixture – it will be uneven and will look like wet sand.  If you don’t like the “hand” technique, you can also use 2 forks, 2 knives, or a pastry cutter (oh so fancy!).
  6. Stir in walnuts and sprinkle the crumbly topping over the apples
  7. Place on top of a baking sheet, to prevent a sticky mess (just in case the apples/sugar bubble over) and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes. As always, baking time may vary based on your oventop should be brown and you should see bubbles on the sides of the baking dish. The apples should be tender.
  8. Allow crisp to cool for about 10 minutes before serving – just so you don’t burn your tongue on SUPER hot, bubbly sugar/apple goodness.

Serve warm, with vanilla Ice cream if you please. I didn’t have any.  Shameful.

ENJOY!

*** For easy maple syrup measurement, spray tablespoon with non-stick cooking spray prior to measuring and maple syrup will slide right out.

Happy Fall!

Pulled Chicken Tacos with Homemade Honey BBQ Sauce

Check out this tasty sauce….

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I never liked BBQ sauce.  That’s right.  I was a BBQ sauce hater.  HATED it.  That is, until I tasted homemade BBQ sauce.  Wow.  Sweet and Spicy. MMMmm  So finger licking good. So good, that I licked the bowl. Seriously. I did. I’m not embarrassed to admit it – I hope this stuff makes you do the same!

I first came across homemade BBQ sauce on the blog Simply Scratch.  This blog is AMAZING.  It has delicious recipes as well as step-by-step photo instructions.  Go check it out. Seriously. Go.  Then come back here. 🙂

20130628-091036.jpgLet me tell you why you NEED to make this BBQ sauce. It’s sweet and delicious and SO MUCH BETTER than bottled sauce.  It is super EASY to make and uses mostly ingredients you probably have in your kitchen.  Oh, and did I mention it goes on EVERYTHING. yes. EVE-RY-THIN-G. Chicken, Pork, Burgers, Fries, Veggies, Chickpeas. Spoons. MMmm.

So lets talk about what we’re doing with this sweet and spicy BBQ sauce today. I made some oven BBQ pulled chicken and all I had in the house were corn tortillas, so they became BBQ pulled chicken tacos!  🙂  I’m so clever.

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This recipe is PERFECT for Fall Sundays.  This being a blog that focuses on fast and easy recipes – I understand that this takes time, but I LOVE these types of recipes for fall and winter: recipes that do all the work while I do other things. Cleaning, working (watching football) and your delicious dinner is slowly baking away in your oven (or crock-pot).  Since I don’t have a crock-pot, I just baked the chicken in my oven.  I’ve made this recipe with both boneless, skinless chicken breasts and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. These pictures are of pulled breast meat, but the dark meat looked and tasted sooo much better.  So much so, that there weren’t any leftovers for me to take pictures of the next morning.

When it comes to chicken or turkey, I go to to the dark side. I’m a dark meat loving lady. There is a misconception that dark meat is bad for you, but the difference in both calories and fat are minimal.  Per ounce, boneless, skinless white meat has 46 calories and 1 gram of fat and dark meat has 50 calories and about 2 grams of fat. Yes, dark meat has more saturated fat, but it also has more iron, zinc, riboflavin, vitamins B6 and B12 than white meat. *(I’m not a registered dietician, just rambling off some nutrition facts)  So don’t shy away from the dark side!

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Steps for how to make pulled chicken-before it goes in the oven 1. BBQ sauce 2. Saute onions and garlic 3. Add chicken, salt and pepper. 4. Cover with BBQ Sauce.

Recipe: Pulled Chicken Tacos with Homemade Honey BBQ Sauce

Servings: 8

Ingredients for Honey BBQ Sauce (slightly adapted from Simply Scratch)

  • 1 cup of Honey
  • 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 and 1/4 cup of ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water (use less if you want a thicker sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 and1/2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Oven Pulled Chicken

  • 2 lbs of Boneless, skinless chicken (Breast, thigh or mixture of both – I prefer thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or canola or vegetable)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of BBQ Sauce (or enough to cover all your chicken)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra BBQ sauce for serving

Instructions:

  1. First, make the BBQ sauce. Add all ingredients into a large bowl and stir until well combined.  Use immediately or store covered in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  3. In an heavy, oven safe pot* with a lid add olive oil, onions and garlic.  Cook on medium heat until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and a pinch of salt and pepper to each piece of chicken as you put them in the pot.
  4. Cover chicken fully with BBQ Sauce
  5. Cover the pot – either with a lid or aluminum foil.  Bake in the oven at 325F for about 90 min. or until chicken shreds easily with 2 forks.
  6. Shred chicken using two forks to pull apart.  Serve on corn tortillas with extra BBQ sauce some avocado and pickles – or your favorite toppings!

*If you don’t have an oven safe pot, you can do step 3 in a pan and then transfer everything to a baking dish before covering in BBQ sauce.  Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil before placing in oven.

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Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies

This is a chocolate lovers dream.

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Do you wish you could have chocolate after every meal? Or maybe, INSTEAD of every meal?  Do you dream about chocolate while awake? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then THESE are your NEW favorite cookies. Chewy triple chocolate cookies.

Let’s review over the 3 major chocolatey players that make these cookies over-the-top chocolate:

  1. Unsweetened cocoa
  2. White chocolate chips
  3. Dark chocolate chips (or semi-sweet, if you prefer)

Triple Chocolate CookiesThese cookies, and the fact that there are 3 chocolates together reminds me of my two  best friends from grad school, C and K. They both live in different states now. 😦

When we all lived in the same state, we enjoyed these really delicious “break and bake” triple chocolate cookies. They were really good, and you could break off just a few and bake them up. The downside of the “break and bake” cookies: they were really expensive. So, back in April, when I was going to meet up with the girls, I went on a mission to try and replicate the cookies.

HERE. THEY. ARE.

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I tested them out on C on our way down to DC to meet K to run the Nike All Woman half marathon in April.

Here we are after the race!

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Ok. ok. back to the cookies… C ate them on the plane at 7am (I’m a huge supporter of sweets for breakfast!) 🙂  SHE LOVED THEM.   They got a little banged up in the plastic bag, so she proceeded to tip the bag so that the crumbs would fall out and she could enjoy every last bite. Cookie replication success!

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The secret to these cookies being so chewy is honey! It keeps them soft and chewy for days after you bake them.  Honey adds moisture to the cookie, even after it is baked – it pulls moisture from the air (to get all science-y on you, honey is hygroscopic), so these cookies are guaranteed to stay soft! This is based off my Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies – which also have honey to keep them soft and chewy. The other thing about these cookies is that they are very, very and I mean VERY chocolatey.  They are not too sweet, which is why I added white chocolate chips to them.  White chocolate is much sweeter and balances out the cookie.

Triple Chocolate Cookie stitchA few important points when making these cookies –

1. Just as in my Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, cream the butter/sugar, then add the wet ingredients.  I always mix the dry ingredients separately and THEN mix the wet and dry together.  I really like doing this because it ensures that everything is mixed prior to combining, that way you don’t over mix your cookie dough.

You NEVER want to over mix your cookie dough.

2.  This dough MUST be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before baking. The dough must be cold.  Two hours might be overkill, but I want to make sure the dough is cold.  The chilled dough is sticky, but I promise you, the messy hands you get as a result of measuring out dough onto a baking sheet is WELL WORTH it.  Non-chilled dough is impossible to handle (WAAAY too sticky), and the cookies will just bake out flat.  blah.

flat cookies = sad Liz.

I know, I know, this waiting a whole 2 hours totally goes against my “dash” mantra, but you can make the dough ahead and keep it in the fridge a day or 2 or 3 or freeze them until you’re ready to bake them up.

20130911-070939.jpgLook at that soft, chewy chocolatey center and the dark chocolate chips are all melty…  Mmmm my mouth is watering just thinking about these gooey, chocolatey cookies.   Not too sweet, and all the chocolate you have ever wanted. Fat. Chewy. Delicious. Super Chocolate cookies

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20130911-070939.jpgRecipe: Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies

Makes ~20-24 cookies

Wet Ingredients – step 1:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar

Wet Ingredients- step 2:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of honey*
  • 1 tablespoon water

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (or semi-sweet chocolate chips, if you prefer)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients, except chocolate chips, and set aside
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients from step 1. Cream the ingredients until smooth
  4. To that same mixing bowl, add step 2 wet ingredients *To measure out the honey, use a non-stick cooking spray (like Pam) to spray the tablespoon. The honey will slide right off the tablespoon and you won’t loose any honey.
  5. Mix all the wet ingredients (step1 and 2) until well incorporated
  6. Add the mixed dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir the wet and dry until just combined
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips
  8. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours  (or wrap in double layers of plastic wrap and freeze)
  9. After dough has chilled, roll about a tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on a baking sheet. You can smoosh the cookies with your hands if you like.  The dough will be sticky.
  10. Bake for 9-11 min. 10 minutes is perfect for my oven and the size I bake, but it may vary based on oven and cookie size.  Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet – then go ahead and DEVOUR them.  Cookies may look a bit underdone – but that’s ok!  They will continue to bake a few minutes after being removed from the oven. If you over-bake them, the cookies will get crumbly.

Recipe Source: deliciousinadash.wordpress.com

Want MORE soft and chewy cookies made with honey??!!  Check out my Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ever (or to see representative step-by-step pictures of creaming butter and sugar)

The Best Peanut Butter Chocoalte Chip Cookies, Ever