Monday, November 25, 2013

Cran-Apple Crisp & Cran-Orange Relish

This crisp will be gracing our Thanksgiving dessert table this year.  Oh wow.  It's perfect for any gathering, or plain old day, this Harvest season!  I have played around with the combinations of the crisp -- using only apples is the best way to go, followed by a mix of pears and apples (lessen sugar to 1/3 cup if you use pears!), and all pears coming in last.  Still good, but not fabulous like the apple versions.

We enjoy this  a la mode, but feel free to drop a scoop of pure vanilla ice cream on top!

Cran-Apple Harvest Crisp
Serves 8

What you'll need:
  • 6 cup peeled and chopped Granny Smith apples (sometimes I sub a cup or two of honeycrisp or pears)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ c white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 TBLS cinnamon
Crumble Crust
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 TBLS chilled butter OR coconut oil

What you'll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly spray a 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray
  • Place the apple chunks, craisins, sugars, and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir until the apples are well coated.  Pour into the baking dish.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine the flour and oats.  With a pastry cutter or fork, cut in chilled butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  
  • Pour the crumble crust mixture on top of the apples, spreading evenly.
  • Bake uncovered for 1 hour.
  • Let stand for 5-10 minutes

And now for one of my all-time favorite additions to any holiday table. This cranberry orange relish is simple and delicious and comes together in a snap with the help of a food processor!

Cranberry Orange Relish
(makes 3 cups)

What you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves (opt)
  • 12 oz bag of whole cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 orange OR 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
What you'll do:
  • If using the pecans, place those in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Empty into a medium-sized serving bowl.
  • Dump the cranberries into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped (be sure to leave some texture - the goal is not to puree).  Empty into the serving bowl.
  • If using orange juice, pour it into the serving bowl now & skip the next two steps.
  • Use a fine grater on the orange peel until you have 1/2 tsp of zest (the goal is to scrape off just the orange part as you grate--the white pith has a bitter flavor).  Empty zest into the serving bowl.
  • Discard remainder of orange peel & any seeds, then place segments of fruit in food processor and puree.  Empty the puree into the serving bowl.
  • Pour sugar in serving bowl and stir until dissolved.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Note:  Cranberries freeze exceptionally well, so I buy an extra bag while they are in season and freeze for later use.

Time Tip:
  • Make this a whole day ahead

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mashed Potatoes Two Ways

With Thanksgiving just a week away, our thoughts wander to the festive table we'll sit down to.  And the mashed potatoes we'll likely pile on our plate.  Personally, I was never one for mashed spuds -- I'm more of a stuffing girl -- but that all changed when I started using different types of potatoes (and adding in squash) to make the mashed potatoes a little more interesting.  I'm still a stuffing girl, but these piles of mashed goodness give stuffing a run for its money!

First up, mashed potatoes meets butternut squash!

This twist on simple mashed potatoes gives the side dish more nutritional heartiness.  It's also a no-think recipe with the use of the crock-pot!  We love the added hint of garlic and could easily eat these once a week!  For budget reasons - please wait until you find a good deal on the butternut squash if you can, and if you can't find one small enough, just cook and freeze the rest for another recipe! (You can also find already peeled and cubed butternut squash in the freezer section of most supermarkets.)

Butternut Mashed Potatoes
Serves 8-10 (5 cups total)
Active time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hrs
Total time: 3 hrs 20 minutes
Serving Suggestions:  Along side lentil loaf with a green salad or roasted asparagus.

What you'll need:
  • 4 cups diced (1 in) red or new potatoes, washed, skin on
  • 4 cups diced (1 in) butternut squash, peeled
  • 5 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 TBLS olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp crushed dried rosemary

What you'll do:

  • Place everything in a crockpot, cover, and cook on high for 3 hours. Stir occasionally.
  • Mash until almost everything is creamy.

Next up, sweet potatoes fit for your Thanksgiving table, or a Wednesday night supper!

Usually people think mashed sweet potatoes go hand-in-hand with the holidays.  These, though, are so subtly spiced you can serve these any time of the year (but especially during the holidays)!  Feel free to half the recipe to accommodate for a simple supper.

Simply Spiced Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Serves 12
Active time: 15 minutes
Cook Time:  15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Serving Suggestions: Eat this lovely side dish with a dinner like lentil-loaf along with some green beans.

What you'll need:
  • 8 cups peeled and chopped sweet potatoes OR unpeeled for a more rustic and nutritious texture
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

What you'll do:

  • Cook your sweet potatoes either in the microwave, in the oven, or in a pot of boiling water, until they are soft and tender.
  • Transfer potatoes to a mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  • Mash until smooth and ingredients are all incorporated.
  • Add a little water if they are too dry.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Slightly Glazed Carrots & Seasoned Red Potatoes

Thanksgiving is 10 days from today, people!  Do you know what you're having?  Here are two suggestions if you're looking for easy and healthy sides to fill the table out.

So incredibly simple and oil free!  A lot of times, glazed carrots and gooey and sticky, and I just don't like that.  These babies and just ever so slightly glazed.  The glaze gives them just a little oomph for a special dinner if needed, or, if you have kids (or a husband) who isn't fond of carrots, maybe this will be the turning point without compromising on health.

I got the idea over here, but tweaked it pretty well.

Slightly Cider Glazed Carrots
serves 4-6 sides

  • 1 lb baby carrots (3-4 cups)
  • 2 TBLS packed brown sugar
  • 1 TBLS apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
-- Cook or roast carrots.  Drain if needed.
-- Mix remaining ingredients together until sugar dissolves.  Simply pour over carrots and stir to coat well.  You can also heat it all together in a small sauce pan (preferred if there is time). 


These red potatoes are such that you could eat them in the summer next to a burger, or next week alongside your turkey (or stuffed acorn squash).  My boys love these, and since I buy white potatoes so rarely, this is my preferred way to eat them when I do buy them for another recipe (read: soup) and have leftovers. Like most dishes involving balsamic vinegar, they're even better after a few days.  I've even eaten these cold, and they're fabulous!

Seasoned Red Potatoes
Serves: 6 (1 cup portions)
Active time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total time: 13 minutes
Serving Suggestions:  With pretty much any main dish that you would serve potatoes with.  Grilled chicken, green beans, and/or a small bowl of soup.  

What you'll need:
  • 6 cups small cubed red potatoes
  • 1 TBLS olive oil
  • 3 TBLS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp crushed spices: thyme, basil, and oregano are our favorite OR Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

What you'll do:
  • Boil, roast, or microwave potatoes until “fork tender”.  
  • Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Once potatoes are done, drain if necessary, and place in serving bowl.  Pour "sauce" over the potatoes and stir to coat.

Alternative: Add 3 cups chopped and cooked green beans (12 oz frozen bag).  Increase Balsamic Vinegar to ¼ cup and herbs to 1 TBLS.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday Surprise: Lentil, Barley & Mushroom Soup

Happy Saturday to everyone!  Here's a wonderful Sunday soup recipe in case you need it!

I love great base recipes.  Like this classic and simple lentil soup.

I like variations.  Like this twist on the original which includes my favorite: sweet potatoes.

And I like inspiration for variation, like this recipe.

This soup is hearty and full of flavor.  It's just as easy as the other two similar recipes and I think it may be my favorite of the three.  Scot's favorite is still the sweet potato -- and really, there's nothing like the comfort of the original.  You're safe with any of the three, really.  The plus of this particular recipe -- the whole grain is in the soup to compliment the lentils and make it a complete protein. Score!

Lentil, Barley & Mushroom Soup
serves 4-6
  • 1 TBLS olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 8oz pkg sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can Italian diced tomatoes, with juice (or regular diced + 1 TBLS Italian seasoning)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1/2 cup barley, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 TBLS Worcerchire sause (opt)
  • salt and pepper to taste
-- Saute onion, carrots and mushrooms until tender.  About 8-10 minutes.
-- Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer 30-45 minutes until lentils and barley are fully cooked.
-- Taste and season as desired

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Green Beans with Mushrooms

The next few posts are all going to be good solid sides in preparation for Thanksgiving!  I figure everyone is either going to be eating Turkey or Stuffed Acorn Squash or delicious Lentil Loaf and just need some sides to fill in the gaps between the rolls and dessert!

These green beans are very simple and easy to put together, but for whatever reason, the addition of mushroom and thinly sliced sauteed onions all sauteed with some very dry sherry or white wine just makes them seem so much more elegant.   If I want them to be extra fancy, I will use the fancy "thinner" green beans (not French!).  Everyone loves these and I love their simplicity. And really, they are so much better for you than the creamy green bean casserole!

Green Beans with Mushrooms
serves 6-8
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut in half and sliced thin
  • 1 lb fancy green beans -- either frozen or fresh
  • 8 pk sliced mushrooms, either white or baby bellas
  • 1/4 cup very dry sherry or white wine

-- Start by satuing the onion for 3-4 minutes.
-- Add in the remaining ingredients and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until green beans are cooked through and mushrooms are soft and onions starting to turn brown, about 15 minutes 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin Cookies & Pumpkin Dip

These two great pumpkin recipes come strait from Brittany!  Enjoy them this fall as pumpkin recipes are floating all around.  And thank you, Brittany, for these!

First up, a batch of perfect-for-Autumn cookies. That are healthy.

These cakey cookies are so healthy that they simply should not be limited to dessert!  They freeze beautifully, and are great for a quick breakfast or lunchbox treat.  Several substitutions and optional ingredients are listed--feel free to use the base recipe, or have fun adding optional ingredients to suit your taste preference!  

Please note that this recipe uses a partial can of pumpkin, so label & freeze the rest for later use!

Hearty Pumpkin Cookies
Yield:  2 1/2- 3 dozen cookies (yield is increased w/ the addition of optional ingredients)
Prep time: 20 min
Bake time: 12 min./batch
Total time: 45 min.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with soup, a sandwich, or a banana and a tall glass of low fat milk

What you'll need:
  • 2 eggs OR 2 TBLS milled flaxseed + 6 TBLS warm water for vegan
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce OR mashed avocado
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree OR mashed sweet potato
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats, old fashioned or quick
  • 3/4 cups raisins OR semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • 3/4 cups seeds or chopped nuts of choice* (optional)
*I've used toasted pumpkin seeds & walnuts, and think almonds or sunflower seeds would also be good.

  What you'll do:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • If using flaxseed as an egg replacement, mix w/ warm water (straight from faucet is fine) & allow to soak for 5 min.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs (or flaxseed mixture), oil, applesauce, sugar, eggs, and pumpkin.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
  • Add dry mixture to wet, mix with a large spoon or an electric mixer, just until blended.
  • Stir in oats and any of the optional ingredients you choose to use.
  • On a lightly greased cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoonful 2 inches apart.
  • Bake each batch for 12 minutes and allow to cool on baking sheet or transfer to a wire rack.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for later.

Next up, a sweet little dip that always gets rave reviews at all the holiday parties it's taken to!

This sweet, creamy dip makes a great afternoon snack, light dessert, or festive addition to a holiday spread.  We like it best with Granny Smith apples (for the sweet/tart combination), but it also goes well with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or ginger snaps.   

Pumpkin Dip
Serves 30 (Makes about 3 ¾ cups - recipe halves well)
Active time: 15 min
Cook Time: N/A
Total time: 15 min
Serving Suggestions: granny smith or other tart apples, sliced; graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or ginger snaps, and a hot cup of coffee

What you'll need:
  • 8oz package neufchâtel
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

What you'll do:

  • Put neufchâtel (still it in its foil wrap) in a small ziplock bag and place in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes to soften.
  • Open neufchâtel and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Cream on high speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  
  • Add powdered sugar and blend until smooth.     
  • Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and continue to mix until uniform.
  • Chill until ready to serve.