Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Welcome to 2015! The holidays have come and gone, and if you're anything like me, you're craving some lighter, healthier fare to get this year off to a fresh start. Grilled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli get boring fast, and sometimes it's hard to stomach leafy salads in the winter-time. (At least for me, just being honest!) IMG_8905 I've always had a bad attitude when it comes to quinoa. I've made a few recipes in the last couple years that were NOT good, and I quickly decided that quinoa was a food I just "didn't like". Well, I was watching the Food Network a few weeks ago, and Giada made this delicious looking grain-based salad using none other than - quinoa. I groaned, but decided maybe, just maybe, I would give it one more chance. It's a nutritional powerhouse - it's high in protein and fiber, and also gluten-free. I'm so glad I did, because I love quinoa in this Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad! Cooked quinoa is combined with roasted squash, crisp apples, dried cherries, and toasted pecans with a slightly smoky cumin vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is key here... it's where all the flavor and moisture is! I think my experiences with quinoa in the past were lacking in the flavor and moisture department. Nothing like dry quinoa to turn you away. Start by roasting your squash - roast cubed butternut squash tossed with olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper at 400*F for about 30 minutes until tender. IMG_8901 While the squash is roasting, prepare your quinoa. Cook 11/4 cups quinoa in 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock about 15 minutes until water is absorbed; then let it sit 5-10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Using stock instead of watergives it a little extra kick of flavor. IMG_8902 While the squash is roasting and quinoa is simmering, prepare your vinaigrette. Combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar, cumin, and a few other spices in a container with a lid, and shake vigorously to combine. IMG_8900 Once all these elements are done, simply combine everything in a big bowl! Squash, quinoa, baby spinach, dried cherries, and toasted pecans. Let it sit 5 minutes to wilt the spinach; then pour the vinaigrette over all. Toss to combine and serve! It can be served warm, room temperature, or cold, but I liked it warm the best. It would be even better topped with a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese! IMG_8903 IMG_8904    

Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Servings/Yield: 6 servings

  • For the vinaigrette:
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ½-1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • ¼-½ teaspoon chili powder
    • dash ground cinnamon
    • dash ground allspice
    • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • For the salad:
    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • cups whole-grain quinoa
    • 4-5 cups peeled & cubed butternut squash
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ½ teaspoon cumin
    • 1 large Honeycrisp apple, diced
    • ½ cup dried cherries
    • ¾ cup toasted chopped pecans
    • 6-8 cups baby spinach


1. For the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a jar or container with lid. Shake until well-combined. Set aside.

2. For the salad, roast the butternut squash. Preheat oven to 400*F. Place squash cubes in a 9x13-inch pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and cumin. Roast 30-40 minutes until tender, stirring every few minutes. Set aside.

3. While squash is roasting, prepare the quinoa. Bring vegetable or chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; add quinoa. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and let quinoa stand, covered, 5-10 minutes; then fluff with a fork.

4. To make salad, place baby spinach in bottom of large bowl. Pour warm quinoa and squash over spinach; add diced apple, dried cherries, and walnut pieces. Let sit 5 minutes to wilt the spinach. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine.

Source: adapted from Giada De Laurentiis





Cranberry Cider Punch

How is New Year's Eve just around the corner already?! We had a fabulous time celebrating Christmas with our families over in Illinois, and made the big drive back to Ohio today. Let me say, traveling with a 6-week-old takes a little bit more time (and patience) than I expected. :) We don't have big plans for New Year's Eve (life with a newborn) but are planning on staying in for some homemade pizza along with a movie marathon. We will still toast at midnight, of course! If you're planning a big party or just keeping it low-key, I've got a great holiday punch perfect for any occasion. Cranberry Cider Punch combines several classic holiday flavors - cranberry, apple, orange, cinnamon - into a zippy punch that can be spiked with hard cider to make it a little more fun for adults. It's cool and refreshing while still being festive for the holidays. (Without weighing you down.) IMG_8616 To start, make the spiced simple syrup. This can be made a few days in advance if you are a planner. Combine brown sugar, water, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and a few orange peel slices in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves; then, set aside to cool and refrigerate until chilled. IMG_8612 When you're ready to serve the punch, combine the spiced simple syrup with apple cider, cranberry juice, and club soda. It's great like that, but if you're feeling especially spunky, mix a glass with half punch and half hard (alcoholic) cider. It's even better. ;) IMG_8613 Cheers to a wonderful 2015!

Cranberry Cider Punch

Servings/Yield: 12-16 servings

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 4 cups club soda
  • 4 cups cranberry juice
  • 4-6 cups hard cider (alcoholic)
  • For the spiced simple syrup
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
    • 3 cinnamon sticks
    • 3-4 slices orange rind


1. To make the spiced simple syrup, combine brown sugar, water, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and orange slices in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until cool.

2. Once cool, combine simple syrup with apple cider, club soda, and cranberry juice in large pitcher or punch bowl. Add hard cider along with punch to individual serving glasses.

Source: adapted from How Sweet It Is

Bagel & Cream Cheese Baked French Toast

Christmas is just 3 days away... do you have everything on your list completed? I'll admit, I've been running around like a crazy person these last couple days to finish all my to-do's for the big holiday. I didn't even start wrapping gifts until yesterday! (Usually, I have them all finished at least a week before Christmas.) To say the least, I am a bit frazzled this year!

If you're feeling the same way, I've got a simple breakfast casserole that is sure to please any group. Bagel & Cream Cheese Baked French Toast takes all your favorite flavors of an everything bagel toasted with cream cheese, and turns it into a warm, comforting French toast casserole that is super easy to prepare. Assemble the casserole the evening before, and all you have to do is pop it in the oven in the morning. You'll have a winner of a breakfast (or brunch) that is sure to please everyone.

Start with a package of everything bagels. Rip them into pieces and place in a 9x13-inch pan.



Cut a package of cream cheese into cubes, and nestle it in between the bagel pieces. Top the whole thing with grated cheddar cheese.


Mix up the egg custard - eggs, milk, cream, and some fresh chives. Pour that over the bagels & cheeses in the baking dish. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.


In the morning, bake about 45 minutes covered with foil, then remove the foil and bake 15 minutes more until cheese is golden brown. Serve it up with a big fruit salad and some bacon!

Somehow, I missed getting a picture of the end product... just picture toasty bagels with gooey cream cheese and a fluffy egg custard. So good! The creamy pockets of cream cheese were my favorite part. I am dreaming up a sweet blueberry version as well. The options are endless!

Bagel & Cream Cheese Baked French Toast

Yield: One 9x13-inch pan

  • 6 everything bagels
  • 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt


1. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Tear bagels into bite-size pieces; place into pan. Cut cream cheese into chunks, and distribute them all throughout the bagels. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, chives, ground mustard, cayenne, and salt. Pour over bagel mixture, pressing bagels down to ensure all are coated with egg mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

3. When you’re ready to bake the casserole, bake, covered, for 45 minutes at 350*F. Uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the top is golden brown. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

Holiday parties... aren't they the best? Great conversation with friends, along with lots of tasty bites and nibbles and drinks. I have to admit, I LOVE eating appetizers for dinner. My husband and I joke around and call it a 'snack supper.' Sometimes, I'll just prepare 3-4 appetizers for us to enjoy for a meal.

Today's appetizer recipe is just perfect for the holiday season - Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites. Sugared cranberries are layered with mellow Brie cheese on top of a crispy cracker. Not only are they festive, but this appetizer is super simple & quick to put together. The hardest part is making the sugared cranberries!


To make the sugared cranberries, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir and cook until the sugar dissolves. This is called a simple syrup. Place your cranberries in the syrup; let them soak just a few minutes.


Then, remove your cranberries to a plate and let them sit a few hours. (This allows the simple syrup to dry, and the cranberries become sticky.)


Once the cranberries are sticky and not wet, coat them with granulated sugar on all sides.


Now it's time for the appetizers! You can find Brie cheese in the deli section of your local Chief. If you're not a fan of Brie, you could definitely sub another mild cheese. For each appetizer, place a thin slice of cheese on top of a cracker; then, top with a few sugared cranberries.



So festive and fun! (And tasty, too!)

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

Yield: 32 appetizers

  • cups cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • ½ cup water
  • 32 wheat crackers
  • 4-oz brie cheese


1. To make the sugared cranberries, combine 1/2 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat to make a simple syrup. Cook a few minutes until sugar is dissolved; let cool slightly. Add cranberries to simple syrup and stir to coat. Lay out on a plate in a single layer. Let cool 30-60 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and coat on all sides.

2. To assemble appetizers, thinly slice brie. Top each cracker with a slice of brie, and 2-3 sugared cranberries. Serve.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats 

Chicken Cacciatore

Last week, my parents were in town for 5 days for Thanksgiving, and to get their fair share of baby James cuddles. While they were here, we were most definitely spoiled with some extra help around the house. Laundry, dishes, painting, you name it! My mom even treated us to dinner, and prepared one of her mom's most loved recipes... Chicken Cacciatore. Chicken pieces are breaded and fried, then simmered low & slow in a flavorful tomato sauce with green peppers, onion, and mushrooms. The meat is so tender, it falls right off the bone. We always enjoy it served with hot cooked rice and extra bread to soak up the sauce. It's not a dish that we get to enjoy very often, because it's a little bit time involved, taking about 1.5 hours from start to finish. It also requires frying chicken pieces, which is an extra step that usually seems "too much work". We would often enjoy this meal for special occasions and holidays when I was growing up. (It would be great for Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner!) Since I moved out out of the house 8 years ago, I think I have only had it once! It was such a treat to enjoy it last weekend. IMG_8460 I didn't get a lot of pictures of the preparation, since I was actually in the other room tending to the baby, but I did happen to pop in a few times to see what was going on. I am hoping that I will now be capable of re-creating it on my own! Here's the basic gist of the recipe (which is posted below in its entirety):
  1. Saute the veggies; set aside.
  2. Dredge chicken pieces in egg and flour; then pan-fry until all sides are browned.
  3. Combine veggies with spaghetti sauce, red wine, and diced tomatoes; add sauce mixture to skillet along with chicken.
  4. Let simmer 30-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Serve with hot cooked rice or noodles.
It doesn't seem so bad when you look at it like that! All I can say is, this took me right back to my childhood. I cannot wait to make this again! I hope to make it a tradition with my little family in the years to come. Another bonus to having my parents in town? We were able to get all our Christmas decorations up! IMG_8459

Chicken Cacciatore

Servings: 6-8 servings

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8-oz package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • ¼-⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1-2 cups all-purpose flour
  • salt & fresh ground pepper pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce, (your favorite variety)
  • 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • ½-1 cup dry red wine
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
  • fresh hot cooked rice or pasta, for serving


1. In a large electric skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and cook until some of the juices have been released, about 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper and onion; sauté another 5 minutes until partially cooked. Remove from skillet.

2. Add additional oil to coat the skillet; increase heat to medium. In a small shallow bowl, combine flour with salt & pepper. In another small shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Dip chicken pieces in egg; then dredge in flour.

3. Add chicken pieces to skillet, beginning with the largest pieces. Turn pieces to evenly brown on all sides, adding more olive oil as needed. Add smaller pieces, turning to brown evenly.

4. While chicken is browning, combine spaghetti sauces with drained tomatoes, wine, and cooked mushroom/pepper/onion mixture. Season to taste with Italian seasoning. Once chicken is browned, reduce heat to simmer. Add sauce mixture to skillet, nestling chicken into the sauce. (The sauce should be at the bottom of the pan.) Simmer until chicken juices run clear or temperature reaches 165*F, about 30-40 minutes. Serve with hot cooked rice or pasta noodles.

Source: family favorite

Sugar Cookie Party Mix

It's December 1... time to get in the holiday baking spirit! I love to bake, especially at Christmas-time. Each year, I like to gift my friends and family with homemade treats. Usually, I do a big spread of cookies and divide them up into tins, but this year I might keep it more simple. (In the past 12 days with a newborn, I have learned that simple is key. Haha.)

This Sugar Cookie Party Mix would make a great easy gift for anyone on your Christmas list. Crunchy Chex cereal is flavored with the classic flavors of sugar cookies - vanilla extract, almond extract, and of course, you can't forget the red & green sprinkles! It's also got a layer of white chocolate to add an extra pop of sweetness.


A few bonuses about this recipe - it's gluten-free and can be made in the microwave! Start by measuring your Chex cereal into a bowl. I used a mixture of Corn and Rice Chex to keep it gluten-free. (If you use Wheat Chex, just be aware that it won't be gluten-free.)


In a microwaveable bowl, combine some butter, sugar, and corn syrup; microwave at 30-second intervals until bubbly and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla extract and almond extract; then toss with the cereals to coat. Microwave the big bowl of coated cereal for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through; then toss with a bit of powdered sugar, and spread out onto a large baking sheet.


Now it's time for the white chocolate. Ghirardelli is my favorite, but you can also use white almond bark. Melt it in a pastry bag or ziploc bag on medium power at 30-second intervals until melted. Then, drizzle all over the cereal mixture on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with red & green sprinkles, and give them a little bit of a toss to coat. IMG_8153



Let the cereal sit for 20-30 minutes for the white chocolate to harden; then break up into little chunks and snack away!


Tastes just like a sugar cookie... so good!


Sugar Cookie Party Mix

Yield: 12 cups

  • 6 cups Chex cereal (Rice or Corn)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • cups white melting chips
  • ¼ cup holiday sprinkles


1. Add cereal to a large microwaveable bowl. Prepare a large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or foil.

2. Place the butter in a 2-cup microwaveable measuring cup. Heat in microwave until melted. Add sugar and corn syrup; microwave uncovered at 30 second intervals until slightly bubbly and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Pour over cereal in large bowl; mix to coat evenly.

3. Microwave cereal mixture for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through to mix. Sprinkle with powdered sugar; mix well. Spread onto prepared baking sheet to cool.

4. Melt white melting chips on medium power in microwave at 30 second intervals until smooth. Drizzle over cereal mixture; top with holiday sprinkles. Stir cereal mixture around on pan to evenly coat the white chocolate on all the cereal pieces. Let set to harden. Store in airtight container.

Source: adapted from Chex

Turkey Tetrazzini

Lots of excitement in the Anderson household this week... our sweet baby boy was born on Tuesday morning! Let me introduce you to James Benjamin Anderson. He has captured our hearts and we are completely smitten!


Needless to say, I haven't really been concerned with cooking much this week... I'm spending all my time cuddling my little guy. Thankfully, I stored up this Turkey Tetrazzini in the freezer a few weeks ago. It's a great way to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey, and a tasty all-in-one meal.

A creamy mushroom sauce (similar to cream of mushroom soup, but better because it's homemade) is combined with shredded turkey, peas, spaghetti noodles, and lots of cheese. The whole casserole is then baked with a crispy panko topping.

Start with the sauce - saute mushrooms in some butter until tender; then add some wine, and simmer a bit to reduce the wine. Whisk in some flour to thicken the sauce; then gradually whisk in some chicken stock. Stir in some cream cheese, and stir until smooth.

Stir in leftover shredded turkey (rotisserie chicken works well, too!), peas, bacon, monterey jack, and Parmesan cheese.


Add in your cooked spaghetti noodles, and stir everything to combine, adding additional chicken stock as needed. (I think I used about 1-2 cups. It should be the consistency of cream of mushroom soup.)


Spread it into a 9x13-inch baking dish, and top with panko bread crumbs. Bake at 350*F for 20 minutes until warmed through, and panko crumbs are golden.


I somehow missed snapping a pic of the finished product, but it was delicious! A great hearty meal on a too cold day.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Yield: One 9x13-inch pan

  • 1-lb thin spaghetti noodles, broken in half
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-lb sliced mushrooms
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 3 cups leftover cooked turkey, shredded
  • cups frozen peas
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • additional chicken stock, for thinning the sauce
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs


1. Cook pasta until al dente. (Not quite all the way because it will continue cooking in the oven.) Drain, rinse, and set aside.

2. In a large pot or saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add mushrooms and salt; cook about 5 minutes until golden brown. Add wine and simmer until wine reduces by half.

3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until the mixture turns golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and stir until the sauce thickens, another few minutes.

4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add cream cheese to the pot and stir to melt. (It might take a little bit, no worries!) Add the turkey, peas, bacon, and cheeses; stir to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the cooked spaghetti noodles and stir to combine, adding additional chicken broth as needed. (The sauce should be the consistency of canned cream soup.)

5. Transfer the mixture to a greased 9x13-inch pan or large casserole dish. Sprinkle with panko crumbs. Bake at 350*F for 20 minutes until the casserole is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown.

Source: adapted from the Pioneer Woman

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

How is it that Thanksgiving is just next week?! Although, it is definitely feeling more like Christmas when I gaze out the window... and see that white stuff falling from the sky.

I've been spending the last couple days planning out my Thanksgiving dinner menu. For the very first time, my husband and I won't be returning home to Illinois to visit our families for the holiday. (What?!) Might have to do with the fact that our little baby is due to arrive any day now! (In fact, he was due to arrive on Saturday, and has yet to make an appearance. Womp. womp. Hopefully soon!)


However, I am excited at the chance for us to create some new Thanksgiving memories here in Lima. My parents will be coming for the holiday, so it will be pretty low-key, just the 4, well 5, of us. (Though I don't think the little guy will eat all that much turkey...) We ordered a smoked turkey from Boots BBQ (inside Chief Northland), so the hard work is taken care of! We just get to have fun with the sides and desserts.

I had some fun testing out this Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie as an alternative to the typical pumpkin or apple pie at the Thanksgiving table. It's got everything you could want in a dessert - crisp graham cracker crust, with a layer of caramel and toasted pecans, tender cinnamon apples, and then a gorgeous cheesecake topping. It's all topped with fluffy whipped cream, and man-oh-man it was delicious! The perfect combination of sweet & tart flavors, with a great contrast of textures with the creamy cheesecake and crunchy pecans and crust. If you dare to go outside the Thanksgiving dessert comfort zone, I highly recommend this recipe!

Start with a simple graham crust - graham cracker crumbs, a little sugar, some melted butter. Press it into a springform pan and bake at 350*F about 10 minutes until toasted. Once it cools, add a layer of caramel and toasted pecans in the bottom.


Now for the apple filling. You could definitely use a canned variety, but the homemade is so much better! Cook sliced apples in a saucepan with some butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until tender. Spread over the caramel-pecan layer in the crust.


And then the cheesecake layer. Simple beat together a brick of cream cheese with some sugar, an egg, and a little vanilla extract. Spread that over the apple layer.


Pop the cheesecake pie into a 350*F oven for about 30 minutes, and then chill at least 4 hours before serving. Then, whip up some cream into stiff peaks and spread over the pie. (You could also use Cool Whip... I won't tell!)


Drizzle the whole thing with caramel and sprinkle with more toasted pecans. What a gorgeous presentation! You can definitely make this 2-3 days ahead of the holiday, too. Or, if you are really a planner, prepare the cheesecake pie except for the whipped cream, and double wrap it with foil and store in the freezer. The day of Thanksgiving, all you'd have to do is thaw, spread on the whipped cream, and serve!


Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

Yield: One 9-inch pie

  • For the crust
    • cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • For the apple filling
    • ½ cup caramel sauce
    • ¾ cup chopped pecans, toasted
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • ½ cup packed brown sugar
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 6 tart apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • For the cheesecake layer
    • 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • For the whipped topping and garnish
    • ¾ cup heavy cream
    • cup powdered sugar
    • additional caramel sauce
    • additional chopped toasted pecans


1. For the crust, preheat the oven to 375*F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Toss together until evenly coated. Press into the bottom and about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 10 minutes, until golden and toasted. Set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, make the apple filling. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon and cook until bubbly, about 1 minute. Add in apple slices and toss well to coat. Cook over medium heat about 20-25 minutes, until apples are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool slightly.

3. Spread caramel sauce into bottom of prepared crust. Sprinkle with chopped, toasted pecans. (To toast pecans, bake at 350*F for about 7-9 minutes until fragrant.) Spread cooked apple mixture over the top of caramel-pecan layer.

4. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F. To make the cheesecake layer, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add vanilla, egg, and lemon juice; beat until smooth. Spread cheesecake mixture over apples.

5. Bake at 350*F for 30 minutes until cheesecake layer is set. (A knife inserted in the center of the cheesecake portion should come out clean.) Let cool completely and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

6. To serve, remove cheesecake from springform pan. (Slide a knife around the edge before removing the outer ring.) Beat heavy cream using hand mixer or stand mixer until soft peaks form; add powdered sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over top of cheesecake. Drizzle with additional caramel sauce and toasted pecans.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats 

Smoked Sausage & Cheddar Gnocchi

I dread this time every year, when the temperature starts to drop. I've been struggling a little this week with the 40*F temps... I don't have a heavy coat or jacket that fits over my huge baby belly! (And I'm absolutely not buying one for 1-2 weeks of use... I'm just a little stubborn.) At least I can warm up with a hearty dish of Smoked Sausage & Cheddar Gnocchi!

I first made this back in March, and knew I wanted to share it on the blog. However, it didn't really seem to fit with fresh spring and summer recipes, so I've had to wait for it to become chilly again. Soft pillowy gnocchi are simmered with sauteed smoked sausage and onions in a creamy sauce. Peas add a pop of flavor, and the whole thing is topped with cheddar cheese and broiled until golden brown. Hard to resist, and it's ready in less than 30 minutes!


Start by sauteeing a diced onion in a little butter in a cast iron skillet. Once the onion has browned, add your sliced smoked sausage. I used beef sausage from Chief Smokehouse, and it had such great flavor.


Once the sausage has browned, add some water and the gnocchi to the pan. Cover and let it simmer about 5 minutes until the gnocchi are tender. (My pan doesn't have a lid, so I just covered it with foil. Gotta make do!)


Once the gnocchi are tender, stir in a bit of heavy cream, peas, and salt & pepper to taste.


Top with a bunch of grated cheddar cheese, and broil 2-3 minutes until golden brown.


Make sure to let it cool a few minutes before serving... it'll be steaming hot! I hate to admit this... but my hubby and I devoured almost this whole pan. Hey, I am eating for two! ;)

Smoked Sausage & Cheddar Gnocchi

Yield: 3-4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 package smoked beef sausage, sliced
  • cups water
  • 16-oz package potato gnocchi
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-1½ cups freshly grated cheddar cheese


1. Melt the butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook until softened and golden brown. Add sliced smoked sausage and cook until lightly browned.

2. Add the water; bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the gnocchi, stir well to cover the gnocchi with the water. Cover pan and cook about 5 minutes until the gnocchi is tender.

3. Add the peas, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese over the top, and broil until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from Kevin and Amanda

Mini Beef Wellingtons

I don't know about you, but it seems like as soon as November arrives, the holiday season is in full-swing! Christmas music playing, commercials for all the new gadgets and toys, and this year, we were even privileged enough to wake up to an inch of snow on November 1! :-P IMG_8126 With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve approaching soon, we're all in need of a great party bite recipe. Who doesn't love appetizers? Mini Beef Wellingtons are a grown-up version of the typical pigs-in-a-blanket. Swap hot dogs for beef tenderloin, and crescent rolls for puff pastry, and you've got quite the elegant little snack! Topped with a tangy horseradish cream sauce, these will surely be a hit at your holiday gathering. They do require a bit of prep, but can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer until party time. Start by browning small chunks of beef tenderloin in a bit of olive oil. Set those aside, and in the same skillet, add some finely diced mushrooms and shallots. After they are browned, add some minced garlic; this is where the flavor's at! Then, add a bit of beef broth, cream, salt, pepper, and parsley and let it simmer until thickened. Add the beef chunks back into the mixture. IMG_8117 IMG_8118 IMG_8119 To prepare the appetizers take a thawed package of frozen puff pastry and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch square. (Each package comes with two sheets; do this with both.) Cut each square into 16 little squares. (You should have 32 total.) On half of the little squares, place a spoonful of the beef mixture. Cover the beef-topped squares with the remaining squares; and crimp the edges to seal. IMG_8121 IMG_8122 Place on a baking sheet, and pop into a 400*F oven for 14-16 minutes until browned. (At this point, they can be frozen and stored in freezer bags. Simply bake straight from the freezer for 16-18 minutes when ready to serve.) IMG_8125 While they are baking, prepare the horseradish cream sauce by combining some sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish, parsley, salt, and pepper. Serve the sauce on top of or alongside the beef wellingtons, and you've got one showstopper party dish! IMG_8128

Mini Beef Wellingtons

Yield: 16 appetizers

For the Beef Wellingtons
  • 1-lb beef tenderloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 2 diced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • cup beef broth
  • cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, (17.3-oz)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
For the Horseradish Cream Sauce
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoons horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Brown beef on all sides in oil; remove to a plate and set aside.

2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to same skillet. Saute mushrooms and shallots until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add minced garlic; cook 1 minute more. Add beef broth, stirring to loosen the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in cream, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in beef chunks and parsley.

3. Preheat oven to 400*F. Unfold puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Roll each sheet into a 12-inch square. Cut each into 16 squares. (You should have 32 squares total.)

4. Place a large spoonful of the beef mixture into the center of half the squares. Top with remaining squares; press edges with a fork to seal. Place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets.

5. Combine egg yolk with water in a small bowl; brush mixture over beef pockets. Cut a few slits in each with a knife. Bake at 400*F for 14-16 minutes until golden brown.

6. While wellingtons are baking, prepare the horseradish sauce. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish, parsley, and pepper. Serve on top of warm beef wellingtons.

Source: adapted from Taste of Home