Easy One-Pan Lemon Salmon Dinner

In the midst of moving and packing and renovating while trying to keep life as close to normal a possible, I caved and tried out sheet-pan dinners. And I am IN LOVE! Read More


Home Sweet Home

I’ve been a little lacking in keeping up with this blog since we found out we were moving back home last year. It’s been a whirlwind—hubby’s new job offer  came while we were in Disney last September, and three and a half weeks later we were packed and moved. Easy-peasy, right?

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Sweet Treats: Healthy Fruit and Ricotta Dessert

For years, Hubby and I have tried to eat a primarily from-scratch diet with lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Over the last year or so, we have tried to cut back on sugar a bit too.

It’s not that we never have an all out sugary dessert–we do, though we have tried to cut back on portions. But, we have also looked for other, healthier options to satisfy my sweet tooth.img_1668

I have never been a ricotta cheese fan, but a few of my favorite traditional desserts (mmm, cannoli) are ricotta based, so when I heard about this one, I decided to give it a go.

This is super-simple, and can be made with any fresh or frozen fruit. I like to use whole milk ricotta, but part skim works, too. (With the full-fat ricotta and frozen cherries, this is approximately 170 calories, with 24 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 7 g fat (5 g saturated), and  6 g protein.)

Cinnamon Ricotta Cherries

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Frozen Cherries
  • 1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Honey
  • Dash Cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Slightly defrost the cherries, either by placing in the microwave for 30 seconds or allowing to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix cherries with a dash of cinnamon.
  3. Top with Ricotta.
  4. Drizzle with honey. If desired, sprinkle with more cinnamon.
  5. Enjoy!

 

With mixed berries (and ricotta on the bottom)

With mixed berries (and ricotta on the bottom)

I use a 2 Tbsp. cookie scoop to serve the ricotta–2 scoops equal 1/4 cup. This is also great with fresh strawberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen blueberries, or (hubby’s favorite), fresh pineapple. A little treat without a ton of added sugar. 🙂

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Do you have a favorite quick sweet treat that is a little on the healthier side? A go-to shortcut dessert? Let us know in the comments.

 

 



Fall Apple Desserts

I am a magazine junkie–Southern Living, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Food Network… You get the idea. In the last week or two, all the September magazines are rolling in, and I am drooling over a lot of the fall recipes–but none more than the desserts.

Apples and pumpkin galore! Yum!

I will never make it through them all, but I thought I would share a few of the most tempting apple deserts, in case anyone wants to give them a try.


Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake (From Southern Living)

Southern Living says: This delicious apple bundt cake features a sweet cream cheese filling and homemade praline frosting.  Garnish the frosting with extra toasted pecans.

Seriously, doesn’t that look amazing? I actually liked that half of the cover better than the other side–and the other side was Brad Paisley!


Love this coffee cake! <3

Love this coffee cake! ❤

One of my go-to apple deserts is this Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown Sugar Glaze recipe from Food Network. It comes from Emeril Live!–goodness I miss that show! Hubby asks for this cake all year round!

(Just a note, I usually leave off the glaze–while it is good, I don’t think it is necessary.)

Cooking Light says: Sweet, crunchy apples make for a delicious plate of party “nachos.” Just slice some apples, arrange on a plate, and get creative. While I chose to make a slightly sweet peanut butter glaze, you could easily drizzle with honey or melted chocolate, or sprinkle cinnamon, nuts of your choice, or anything—the options really are endless. Slice some apples and have fun!

Source: Forget Keeping the Doctor Away: Slice Up the Ultimate Apple Nachos


Need more? Country Living has 40 apple deserts in this article!


Lazy-day Caramel Apples

Lazy-day Caramel Apples

Or, you could go the easy route and try one of my favorites –a chopped apple, a drizzle of caramel sundae sauce, and maybe some chopped walnuts or pecans. Healthy and easy! 😉


Whatever your choice, enjoy!   ❤

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What’s your favorite apple recipe? Favorite fall fruit? Anything I missed? Feel free to share!   🙂 


Roasted Butternut Squash (and a Yummy Risotto)

We walked in the grocery store on Saturday to a huge display of butternut squash from a local farm. Hubby and I looked at each other and both said, “risotto.”

I found this recipe from The Pioneer Woman a few years ago, and it is so good, I barely make any changes to it, other than how I make the butternut squash. To save a little time, I roast it in a yummy spice rub while I make the risotto. (I wasn’t planning on posting this until I got a few requests for the recipe, so I don’t have a lot of pictures.)IMG_9263

The spice rub is easy–2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon each sage, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. I know it sounds weird, but it works–trust me.

Dice the butternut squash (I should add that I use a whole butternut squash, not just a half, since we like this for a meatless entrée), then spread it on a baking sheet. Drizzle it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Add the spice mix, and toss together until evenly coated.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Pop the baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until tender and golden brown.

While that roasts up, add a but of butter to the pan, sauté some onion, add the arborio rice. Make the risotto per the original recipe (found here). At the right time, add in the roasted butternut squash, then finish off the recipe. Yum!

For the record, I have tried the recipe without the cream (I actually use half and half). It is still good, but the cream definitely adds a texture and flavor that makes the extra calories so worth it. 🙂

Roasted Butternut Squash

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

1 Medium Butternut Squash
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Brown Sugar

 

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Peel, remove seeds, and dice a whole butternut squash. Spread on a baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and toss together.
  4.  in a small bowl, mix chili powder, cinnamon, sage, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Sprinkle entire mixture over the butternut squash. Use your hands to coat completely.
  5. Roast in the oven about 20 minutes until tender and golden brown.
  6. Add to your favorite recipe (such as this risotto) and enjoy!

Look how creamy! So good!

Look how creamy! So good!

This roasted squash is also great on its own as a simple side dish, or tossed with some store-bough ravioli, a little cream, and some parmesan cheese for a quick meatless meal.

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Do you have a favorite butternut squash recipe? Any go-to ingredients when putting together a meatless meal? And are you as excited as I am to be seeing all of this lovely fall produce in the stores? #yum

 


Coffee Break – Chocolate Chip Pecan Biscotti

I found myself with a touch of a sweet tooth after work last week, and editing my culinary cozy mystery was not helping the issue. When my main character whipped up a batch of biscotti,  it seemed like the perfect time to try a new recipe.

IMG_8910I love the cinnamon and almond extract with the rich chocolate in these cookies. I think that the higher-quality chocolate makes a big impact as well.

I love this multi-tiered cooling rack for a small space!

I love this multi-tiered cooling rack for a small space!

This makes a lot of biscotti, but they freeze up very nicely. Just take them out for a half hour or so before you want to eat them. Home-baked treat whenever you want them. 🙂

Chocolate Chip Pecan Biscotti

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Ingredients

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
4 Tbsp. Cold Butter, cut in chunks
3 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup Good-quality Dark Chocolate Chips or Coarsely Chopped Dark Chocolate
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
Course Sugar (Optional)

 

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl,  mix the Flour, Sugar, Cinnamon, Baking Powder, and Salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or 2 butter knives until incorporated and crumbly.
  1. Add eggs, and stir until incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients, then knead in bowl until fully combined.
  2. Place dough on a floured surface. Knead a few more times, then divide in half. Shape each half into a log about 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall.
  3. Place on baking sheet, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice each log into 1/2 inch slices, cut on a diagonal. Lay each slice on its side on the baking sheet. They can be close, but not touching the other cookies. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm.
  5. Cool completely on cooling racks. The biscotti will continue to harden as they cool.
  6. Enjoy! 🙂

IMG_8917There is nothing like a crispy cookie to dip in a mug of piping-hot coffee!

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Off to work–with a tasty treat in my lunch bag. Hope you have a wonderful day! ❤️

Blog Signature Do you have a favorite little treat to go with your coffee or tea? Do you prefer cookies, cakes, or pies?  Or are you more of a salty-snack fan? Please share in the comments! 🙂


Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Hubby and I have felt a little under the weather lately, thanks to a brutal allergy season.  Nothing serious–just the usually stuffy head, sore throat, watery-eyed fun that comes with walking out the front door in the morning. 😉

IMG_8826The other day, we just wanted comfort food for dinner, and what is more comforting when you aren’t feeling well than a piping-hot bowl of soup?

Yummy roasted vegetables--my favorite!

Yummy roasted vegetables–my favorite!

I started out thinking I would make a standard hearty chicken noodle soup, but until I got all the veggies and chicken in, there was no room for noodles!

After the wine

After the wine

This was super-easy to throw together–I just roasted a bunch of vegetables, browned the chicken, added the roasted veggies and a bit of wine, cooked a few minutes, and added the stock. Just before serving, I added a splash of cream and a bit of fresh-grated parmesan cheese. Easy-peasy!

IMG_8822

Before the cream–probably would have been great just like this!

Easy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

1 lb Creamer Potatoes, cleaned and quartered
3 Cups Mushrooms, Cleaned and sliced
2 Leeks, halved and thinly sliced
1 Onion, Diced
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1.5 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 bag Frozen Mixed Vegetables (12-16 oz)
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 box Chicken Stock (4 cups)
1/4 Cup Half and Half
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Prepare Potatoes, Mushrooms, Leeks, and Onion and add to a baking sheet. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Mix with your hands and spread the vegetables on the baking tray evenly. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, season the chicken with the Montreal Steak Seasoning (or other seasoning blend of your choice). Let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining Olive Oil to a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the frozen vegetables and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the roasted vegetables to the Dutch Oven. Add the wine and stir. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes, stirring.
  5. Add the chicken stock. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pot and cook 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the Parmesan and Half and Half. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Yum! Tasty and (mostly) healthy!

Yum! Tasty, hearty, and (mostly) healthy!

I used salted chicken stock (I prefer Kitchen Basics brand), and the Montreal Steak Seasoning has a lot of salt, so I went light on the salt on the veggies and didn’t add any more salt to the chicken or mixed vegetables. I did add extra pepper. Hubby thought it was perfect, though I did salt it a bit at the table.

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Do you ever get a soup craving in summer? Have a go-to dish when you are feeling blah? Please share! 🙂

 


A Summer Treat: Lemon Blueberry Scones

I have worked hard to be a little healthier lately–more workouts, more veggies, more fruit, less junk food. I started this little experiment because I was told it could help me out with the pain I have dealt with from arthritis–and it worked! As an added bonus, I have dropped 20 pounds in the last three months–not a bad side effect! 😉

IMG_8641One of the things I love about the way Hubby and I are approaching this is that we didn’t cut any food out completely; we are simply more cognizant about how we make them. Nothing processed–we make it from scratch (though we did that most of the time before). If we want a sweet treat, we have it–but we have 2 small cookies, not 6. 😉

That being said, I have a bag of whole-wheat flour here, and I was determined to make something fun with it. I researched a bunch of scone recipes, made a couple attempts at my own, and this is what I came up with.IMG_8608

These Blueberry Lemon Scones are super-tasty, with a crumbly crust on the outside and a soft, moist center. Perfect for a midmorning snack with a piping-hot cup of coffee or tea!

Lemon Blueberry Scones

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

2 Cups Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour*
 2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
 1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 Stick Butter (8 Tablespoons)
2 Eggs (Fork Beaten)
1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/4 Cup Honey
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1-2 tsp. Cane Sugar (optional)

*Please Note: Using Whole Wheat Flour will change the texture of the final product.

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with Parchment Paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine Flour, Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda, and Salt.
  3. Cut the stick of Butter into 8-10 pieces, and add to the flour mixture. Use a pastry blender to mix the butter into the flour, mixing only until the butter is slightly smaller than pea-sized.
  4. Add the Eggs, Cream, Lemon Juice and Zest. Stir until it just comes together.
  5. Add the Blueberries and gently combine by hand, trying to keep as many blueberries whole as possible.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and roll into a large circle, about 3/4 – 1  inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 wedges. (Alternatively, break into 12 pieces and shape each piece into a triangle shape. This will prevent blueberries from being cut in half).
  7. Put 12 triangle pieces on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with Cane Sugar (I used 1 pack of Sugar in the Raw for the entire batch).
  8. Bake for 15-18 minutes until brown.
  9. Serve with a little butter and your favorite beverage. Enjoy!

IMG_8646This is a really easy recipe, and the end product is great. Buttery dough with juicy berries and just a hint of lemon.

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Do you have any favorite treats that are healthier than they taste? Favorite fruit or veggie recipes? Feel free to share! 🙂 


Cozy Comforts – Easy Tomato Bisque

The temperatures are cooling off here in NC as we head into fall. Our ten-day forecast doesn’t have a single day over eighty degrees–a big change from the sweltering heat of summer.

The refreshing change in weather and the lovely apples and fall vegetables at the Farmers’ Market have me thinking of one of my favorite meals for a chilly day (or even a hot summer day): a rich, creamy Tomato Bisque. 🙂IMG_4332

I used to use a lot of fresh ingredients in this, but I have tweaked it over the years so I can make it almost completely out of my pantry.  I keep a storage baggie of Mirepoix in my freezer, and add any extra chopped onion, celery, or carrots from other recipes.  This way,  I always have some mirepoix in the freezer (though the ratio of carrots to onions to celery is sometimes off) and I don’t have to chop anything for a quick meal like this.

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Just a note: I have subbed in pureed tomatoes or a can of tomato sauce for the crushed tomatoes, and it still turns out great!

Sauté the Veggies

Sauté the Veggies

Add the tomatoes

Add the tomatoes

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Easy Tomato Bisque

  • Servings: 2-4
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Ingredients

1/2 Cup Mirepoix (Fresh or Frozen)
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Dried Basil
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Diced Tomatoes
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup Cream or Half & Half
1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

 

Optional (for Tomato Orzo Soup)

1 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Uncooked Orzo or White Rice

Instructions

  1.  Sauté Mirepoix (chopped Carrots, Onions, and Celery) in Olive Oil over Medium Heat until vegetables start to tenderize (about five minutes).
  2. Stir in Basil and cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring.
  3. Add tomatoes and stock. (If using Pasta or Rice, add all of the stock.) Bump temperature to medium-high, and bring to a slow boil.
  4. Add Pasta or Rice (if using).
  5. Drop the temp and simmer for 10-15 minutes (if using pasta or rice, simmer until it is cooked through).
  6. Remove from the heat. Add cheese and cream, and stir until combined.
  7. Enjoy!

This soup is great topped with an extra drizzle of cream or with some croutons.

Tomato Orzo Bisque

Tomato Orzo Bisque

I tend to add the rice or pasta for dinner, but leave them out for lunch. I almost always double the recipe, then freeze half in individual portions for a quick weekday lunch. Perfect with some crusty bread or a fresh salad! 🙂

An old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! <3

A really old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! ❤

What is your favorite soup? Do you have any cooking shortcuts to help cut tome on your favorite recipes? Any pantry-only recipe favorites? Please share! ❤