Fall Cheese & Fruit Platter

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It’s no secret that I am a fan of a great cheese platter.  For this tray I used red grapes, a bartlett pear, an Empire apple, a pomegranate cut in half, chestnuts, carmelized pecans, salami, prosciutto, sharp cheddar, buttery brie and paradiso cheese.  Once the shopping & chopping is done, this takes just a few minutes to pull together for a beautiful and appetizing presentation everyone is sure to love.

Enjoy!

Roasted Delicata Squash

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Meet my new favorite squash, Delicata squash.  I am a fan of Butternut squash, but like most I don’t exactly love the prep work involved in preparing Butternut squash.  The beauty of Delicata is that you don’t have to peel the skin, it cooks up nice & tender when roasted and I love the flavor.  I just used a little butter & brown sugar for this batch, but I’m sure this is a squash I’ll be experimenting with in different recipes moving forward.

Yield: 4-6 side servings

You will need:
2 Delicata squash
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 tsp. brown sugar

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Rinse the squash and cut the ends.  Then cut in half length wise and remove the seeds & pulp.  Cut into slices about 1/2″ thick.
3. Melt butter.  Put the cut squash pieces into a bowl or zip bag and coat with the melted butter and brown sugar.  You can mix in a bowl, but I find putting them in a zip bag and shaking the bag is easier, gives the squash an even coating and makes for easier clean-up.
4. Spread the squash evenly on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes turning half way through.
5. After cooking for 25-30 minutes, remove from oven and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

Autumn Fruit Salad

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There is a part of me that feels like I should title this “Halloween Detox Salad”.  I may have overindulged in the Halloween treats over this past week just a bit and today my body is craving healthy clean foods.  For lunch today I’m having this salad filled with plenty of autumn fruits and flavors.  If you’ve been watching my posts for a while you know I tend not to be too specific when it comes to measurements for cold salads with a green base, but I do like to provide a general guide.  Feel free to adapt & add or change on your own based on whatever you have on hand and your personal tastes.

Yield: 4 servings

You will need:

6 oz. field greens for the base
1 Empire apple chopped
1 Bartlett pear chopped
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/3 cup plain walnuts
1/3 cup red grapes halved
1/3 cup blackberries
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
6 small dried figs

Directions:

Wash and rinse the greens & fruit.  Layer the bowl or platter with the spring mix/field greens and then top with the cheese, walnuts, apples, pear, grapes, blackberries, figs and pomegranate seeds.  Serve with the dressing of your choice.  I recommend a light balsamic, lemon or raspberry vinaigrette, or poppy seed dressing.

Enjoy!

Mulled Apple Cider

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For those who have been following my blog from the start, you know that one of my favorite parts about this season is fresh warm apple cider.  I crave it at this time of year! One of the best ways to make it is not only to warm it up, but mull it by adding spices and a little citrus (and a little rum or bourbon if you are so inclined).  Not only is a mug of warm cider such a nice treat on a chilly fall day, but an added bonus is the aroma that will linger through your house for hours afterwards.  Sometimes this is worth making just for the aroma alone!

You can use your own spices, or pick up a mulling pouch.  Mulling pouches are available in many specialty food & kitchen shops, and most apple & pumpkin farms this time of year.

Yield: Eight 8 oz. Servings

You will need:
Half Gallon Apple Cider
1 whole orange
1 oz. mulling spices
3 cinnamon sticks

Directions:

1.Pour entire half gallon of cider into large sauce pan.
2. Slice the orange into 4 or 5 slices and add to the cider.
3. Add the mulling spices & cinnamon sticks to the cider and stir.
4. Bring the cider to a boil and after boiling for one minute, pull the heat back to low and let the cider simmer for 25-30 minutes.
5. When done simmering, remove the orange slices and using a cooking skimmer, skim the top of the cider to remove the spices.
6. Serve warm in a coffee mug and if so inclined, add just a touch of rum or bourbon to the mug.

Enjoy!

 

Just like Panera’s Mac & Cheese

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I could actually write an entire post on the reasons why I love Panera Bread. No, I am not being compensated to write this post, just a really big fan!  It is easily my favorite on-the-go stop for a quick meal and while there are many reasons for that, their creamy Mac & Cheese is definitely toward the top of the list.  Mac & Cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods in my book and I have yet to find one I like better, so you can imagine how long it took me to try it out when I found the recipe from another blogger (Annies-Eats.com, via Panera Bread and Smells-Like-Home.com).  The slightly modified recipe below doesn’t take long to make and is so flavorful.

Yield: 4-8 servings (4 servings as a meal, 8 servings as a side)

You will need:
1 lb. shaped pasta (I use Barilla’s Medium Shells)
8 oz. shredded white cheddar cheese (I use a sharp white cheddar)
4 oz. white American cheese chopped into small pieces
2 3/4 cups milk or half-n-half
5 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp hot sauce
dash of ground pepper

Directions:

1.Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil.  Cook the pasta until al dente (about 8-12 minutes).  Drain the pasta, return pasta to the pot and keep off the heat.
2. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour until completely blended and golden brown in color.
3. Slowly add in the milk or half-n-half and continue to whisk together until creamy and free of any lumps.
4. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, hot sauce and continue to stir until fully blended.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened (about 4-6 minutes).
5. Once the sauce is thickened, add in half of the American cheese, stir with the whisk until fully melted and then repeat with the second half.  After all of the American cheese is blended in, add half of the cheddar cheese, stir with the whisk until fully melted and then repeat with the second half.
6. When all of the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is creamy, turn the heat off and pour over the cooked pasta.  Stir until all of the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce and serve.

Enjoy!

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

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This is a re-post of a fall classic I posted back in 2013, toasted pumpkin seeds!  On Saturday I carved my first pumpkin of the 2016 season, which of course means there were plenty of pumpkin seeds to either toss or toast.  I decided to toast them.  If you’re willing to do the work to clean the pumpkin seeds from a freshly cut or carved pumpkin, they can make a great snack on the go.

To prepare your pumpkin seeds:

As you pull the seeds and pulp/guts from your pumpkin, throw them in a bowl full of cold water.

As you separate the seeds from the pulp of the pumpkin, place them in another bowl of cold water.  The second bowl should have nothing but water & seeds when you’re done.

Strain the clean seeds.

Place the seeds evenly over the baking sheet and cover with a couple paper towels or clean dry dish towel.

Let the seeds dry out for a day or two.  It may be tempting to try and toast them right away, but they will come out much better if you let them sit at least overnight to draw out some of the moisture.  Cooking them too early may cause them to be chewy instead of crispy.

When you are ready to toast the seeds:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Once the seeds are completely dry, put them in a plastic storage bag.  Coat with a little bit of olive oil or melted butter.  Since the qty. of pumpkins you will get vary from pumpkin to pumpkin there really isn’t an exact science or recipe.  I recommend coating them just so that there is enough for any seasoning to stick to each of the seeds.

Add in your seasoning and toss them in the bag until evenly coated.  You can use any seasoning you like.  Salt is a classic, but you can also use sugars, cinnamon, dip mixes, etc.  I like to use a mild grilling seasoned salt.  A little goes a long way, maybe 1-2 tsp per bag depending on qty. of seeds and desired taste.

Place the seeds back on the baking sheet and evenly spread them out.

Place in middle oven rack and turn every 10-15 minutes.

Seeds will be toasted in 45-50 minutes.  When they start to turn a golden brown color, they are done.  If you like them darker/crispier, leave in oven for another 5-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Once cooled, store in an air tight container.

Enjoy!

Sparkling Cinnamon Plum Sangria

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Sangria season doesn’t stop at the end of the summer around here!  This sparkling cinnamon plum sangria puts a fall twist on the classic summer beverage.  Plums are typically still in season through early-mid October and this past weekend I put them to good use with this adult beverage treat.

Yield: 4 servings/glasses

You will need:
3-4 ripe plums
1 bottle white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 12 oz. can plain seltzer water
4-6 cinnamon sticks

Directions:
1. Slice plums and put in large glass pitcher.
2. Add full bottle of white wine.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight to absorb the flavor of the fruit.
4. Before serving, add the 12 oz. can of seltzer water and cinnamon sticks.  I like to add one cinnamon stick to each glass when serving.

Enjoy!

 

Italian Sausage & Veggie Soup

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Soup season has officially arrived!  This Italian Sausage & Veggie Soup was inspired by a recipe my sister-in-law made from Real Simple last year.  As soon as I tried it I had to have the recipe and since then I’ve made some changes & additions to make it my own.  The blended flavors come together well and this makes for such a quick and easy meal!

Yield: 6 servings

You will need:
6 links (or 1 lb) Italian sausage (I buy the links & remove the casings)
32 oz. chicken broth (add more if you like a heavier broth base)
6 cups raw kale leaves (minus the stems, just the leaves)
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can whole corn kernels
1 cup matchstix carrots
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt & pepper to taste

To make:

1. In a soup/stock pot heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat.  Add the Italian sausage, switch heat to high and crumble while cooking until cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).  When fully cooked through drain the fat from the sausage over a plate lined with paper towel and return the cooked meat to the pot.

2. Add the 32 oz. chicken broth to the sausage.

3. Add in the garlic, beans, corn, carrots and diced tomatoes.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  As soon as the soup starts to boil, pull heat back to medium and add the kale leaves.  Add a little ground salt & pepper to taste.  Stir and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

Note: If you like to add pasta to your soups, I recommend a smaller cut pasta like Orzo for this recipe and increasing the broth to 64 oz. as the pasta will absorb some of the broth.

This soup is delicious topped with a little parmesan cheese and a big loaf of fresh bread with a little butter.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bites

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These little pumpkin bites are so easy to make and store easily for a quick bite or two on the go, or just a little nibble of something when your sweet tooth comes calling.

Yield: 22-24 pcs.

You will need:
2 1/2 cups plain oats
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup chocolate chips

To make:
1. Line a medium cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper.
2. Put all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly until blended well.
3. Mix into 1″ balls (or another size if you prefer).  I use a medium cookie dough scoop to make each of the balls even.
4. Place the pumpkin balls on to the lined cookie sheet and store in the freezer for one hour, or refrigerator for two hours.
5. Remove the cookie sheet from the freezer or refrigerator and put the bites in an air tight container or freezer bag and return to freezer or refrigerator until ready to serve.

Eat chilled (frozen or refrigerated, whichever you prefer).  These will start to lose their shape if sitting at room temperature too long so I do recommend serving & eating these cold.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Butter

Fruit and Pumpkin Butter

This is the time of year when we start to see all the pumpkin spice flavored food products come out in the stores.  As much as I do love and buy some of these products, there is still nothing quite like homemade when it comes to certain things.  For me, pumpkin butter is one of those things.  This homemade pumpkin butter is so easy to make, takes less than 15 minutes to put together and is so much better than any store bought brand I’ve tried.

Prep Time: 15 min
Yield: Three 1-pint jars

You will need:
2 15 oz. cans solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter (cut into smaller pieces)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves

To make:
1. Set your slow cooker on low.
2. Spoon pumpkin from cans into the slow cooker.
3. Add sugars, spices, salt, lemon juice and stir together.
4. Add the butter to the mixture, cook on low and when butter starts to melt, stir all items together until butter is fully melted & blended.
5. Once you have a well blended mixture, continue to cook on low for 3 hours.  I like to stir it every half hour to avoid it browning/scorching on the bottom & sides of the slow cooker.
6. If toward the end of the 3 hours the pumpkin butter is not as thick as you’d like it, you can continue to cook for more time without the slow cooker lid to thicken it up further.  It will also thicken more once refrigerated.

When butter is ready store in an air tight covered container.  I like to use three small 1-pint glass jars, put some ribbon on it and give as a gift.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.

Note: If you are tempted to make a large batch and can the pumpkin butter, please note that the USDA & National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning pumpkin butter.