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Margherita Grilled Cheese

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We had warm enough temperatures this past weekend that it no longer felt like winter. I wanted to make something for dinner that would make me feel like I needed to be warmed up from a winter chill (despite the 70 degree weather). I knew I wanted tomato soup, but decided to get adventurous with the pairing. That’s when I found this recipe for Margherita grilled cheeses – it’s like eating a pizza in a sandwich. If you like either pizza or grilled cheeses, I suggest you try this tonight. Its amazing.

Ingredients

french bread

pizza/tomato sauce

fresh basil

1-2 pinches garlic powder

2-3 slices mozzarella per sandwich

olive oil

Recipe

Cover each piece of bread with pizza sauce. Sprinkle fresh basil and a pinch of garlic powder on top. Cover with cheese, and close sandwich.

Cover both outsides of the sandwich with olive oil. Coat a grill pan with olive oil, and place over medium heat. Toast both sides of sandwich until golden brown. Enjoy with a bowl of tomato soup.

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Cranberry + Lemon Dutch Babies

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I have a true addiction to breakfast foods – especially the sweet ones. If I could eat pancakes, french toast, or waffles for every meal, I may just be okay with it. Today is the first day of my mini-vacation, and I started my day off by making these adorable dutch babies. I added some cranberries to make them a bit more festive (as I also decorated for Christmas this morning). They taste as good as they look – it’s a gigantic, thick and fluffy pancake, and takes much less work and time. Here’s my variation of the recipe I used (original found here).

Ingredients

2/3 c sifted flour

2/3 c whole milk

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 stick butter, sliced

Handful of fresh cranberries

Powdered sugar and lemon zest for seasoning

Recipe

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place 10″ cast iron pan in oven.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Remove cast iron pan from oven, and place sliced butter in it. Swirl it around to ensure the entire pan is coated. Pour in batter, sprinkle cranberries gently on top, and place immediately back in oven.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar and lemon zest, and serve immediately.

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Thanksgiving #3: Eclectic Eats

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Pumpkin Creme Brûlée :: Butternut Squash Risotto with Bacon :: Roasted Stuffed Onions :: Creamy Farro Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms :: Caramel-Pecan Hand Pies :: Roasted Pears + Red Onions :: Sweet Potato Cake with Molasses Buttercream :: Roasted Pork Loin with Rosemary ::  Bacon Wrapped Green Beans 

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve put together different selections of Thanksgiving menus, and this week I’m wrapping things up with something totally different. For this menu, it’s not what you would expect. Thanksgiving is so traditionally turkey, gravy, and stuffing, but if you’re looking to break out of the mold – this menu is for you. It chooses to swap out the traditional turkey for pork loin, and serve squash with bacon and pilaf with mushrooms. It’s full of savory flavor – and is definitely something that will catch your guests off guard – in the best way.

Homemade Cinnamon Sugar Poptarts

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Growing up, I feel like I ate pop tarts all the time. While this is probably far from the truth, I  still remember it as one of my favorite snacks/breakfasts. I never ate any of the super fancy kinds though – we always stuck to cinnamon sugar. There were times in college that I would have random cravings for them at 2am – and it’s safe to say that my love for pop tarts hasn’t died off yet. Instead of eating them from a foil wrapper out of a box, I decided it was time to be a bit more sophisticated, and learn how to make them completely from scratch. This recipe is simple as long as you have a couple hours to spare, and will make you start craving pop tarts all the time too.

Ingredients

For Crust:

2 cups + 4 tbsp flour

1 tsp salt

2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, but into 16 pieces

6+ tbsp ice water

For Filling:

1/2 cup  light brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 large egg

2 tsp milk

For Icing:

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tbsp milk, plus more as needed

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Recipe

Mix together flour and salt. Cut in butter until clumps are slightly larger than pea size. Add water one tablespoon at a time, and knead dough until well combined. Place in freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove from freezer, divide dough in half. Roll out each half into a 9×12 inch rectangle. Cut into 3×4 inch squares. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, place squares on cookie sheet, and refrigerate for one hour. Repeat with other half of dough.

While dough is cooling, prepare filling by mixing together brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. In a separate bowl, combine the egg and milk.

Remove dough from fridge, brush one pan with the egg/milk mixture. Place 1 tsp full of the filling onto of brushed side, and spread out so just 1/4″ is left around the edges. Coat the other cookie sheet of squares with the egg mixture, and place it brushed side down onto of the filled squares. Press edges together with a fork, and poke about 9 holes in the top of each poptart with a toothpick. Place in fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use remaining egg/milk mixture to coat the tops of the poptarts. Bake for 22-28 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile mix together all ingredients for icing. Once pop tarts have cooled, apply icing. It should be completely hardened and ready to eat within an hour.

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Pumpkin French Toast

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of sugary breakfasts. I’m a sucker for pancakes, waffles, or even just a good old bowl of sugary cereal. Growing up, my dad used to make us french toast all the time, but it was never something I took on making on my own. I found this recipe the other day, and decided it was worth giving a try. I used challah bread so it was nice and fluffy, and would absorb a maximum amount of the pumpkin egg mixture. The results were amazing – and definitely a perfect, easy option to serve on Thanksgiving morning.

Ingredients

9 slices bread

4 eggs

 1/2 c pumpkin puree

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

butter for griddle

Recipe

Preheat griddle or pan to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, milk, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Pour into a shallow dish.

Butter the griddle. Dip each side of the bread slices into the egg mixture, allowing it to absorb for just a few moments (press down slightly on bread to make sure it soaks through the middle). Place onto griddle, and allow to cook on one side until it has turned golden brown. Flip each piece, and allow opposite side to brown.

Serve with powdered sugar and maple syrup.

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Build Your Own Chili Bar

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One of my favorite things to eat in the fall is a homemade bowl of chili. Ryan introduced me to it last year, and I’ve been waiting for it to cool down enough to make it this year ever since. It’s super simple to whip up a batch (just throw everything in a crockpot, and voila!), so naturally, it’s perfect for entertaining. I’ve been really into ‘make your own’ bars lately, and decided to make my own ‘build your own chili bowl’ bar. All it takes is getting together some fun toppings, setting it out, and serving up a few bowls of chili. Here’s how you can build your own chili bar for a get together of your own!

Ingredients (for chili, serves 6-8)

2 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (16 oz) chili beans in sauce, undrained

1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Recipe

 Cook ground beef of medium-high heat until browned. Drain. Combine all ingredients together in crockpot, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

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Maple-Walnut Biscotti

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I made pumpkin spice biscotti last year around this same time after a long day, and I remembered it being one of the most relaxing nights I’d had to myself in a while. After a long day at work the other day, I decided there was no better time to come home and duplicate my relaxing evening. This year, I opted for maple-walnut biscotti (you can find the original recipe here), and turned on Breakfast at Tiffany’s to watch while it was in the oven. Once they cooled, I cozied up on my couch, had some coffee and a biscotti, and was ready to call it a night.

Ingredients (makes about one dozen large biscotti)

2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped, toasted

2 large eggs

1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 c pure maple syrup

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon maple flavor, optional

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 1/2 c all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast walnuts for about 10 minutes, until they have turned golden brown.

Beat together eggs, sugars, maple syrup, and maple flavor. Add melted butter, combine until smooth. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt. Add the nuts last, and combine well.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape the dough into a rectangle (about 5″ wide, 12″ long, and 1″ thick). Using wet fingers, smooth the sides and top of the rectangle.

Bake the biscotti for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes (this will make cutting it easier). Cut them into 1″ thick slices, and place them back on the baking sheet (try to place them close together, balanced upright). Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until sides have just started to turn a light golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool. Drizzle with royal icing if desired.

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