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Autumn Salad with Maple & Spiced Pear Vinaigrette

 

I know, I know… Two maple recipes in one week? Yes, I do like maple in the fall! This salad is a great side dish for Thanksgiving or as a quick lunch option. The vinaigrette can be stored in the fridge to quickly use when assembling salad for just one meal at a time. The blue cheese can be swapped for feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, aged cheddar, or whatever sounds good to you (or whatever is about to get moldy in the fridge, let’s be honest!) Regular balsamic vinegar would be a good swap for the spiced pear version, though I’d highly recommend a flavored vinegar for the extra pizzaz.

 

Autumn Salad with Maple & Spiced Pear Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup spiced pear flavored balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp stone ground mustard
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Salad ingredients:

  • About 6-8 cups of mixed lettuce
  • 2 pears, chopped and peeled, if you prefer
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/3 dried cranberries
  • 3 oz blue cheese, crumbled

Instruction:

  1. Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a bowl and whisk together, or add to a dressing mixer and shake to combine.
  2. Put salad into a bowl and top with pears, pecans, cranberries, and blue cheese. Do not mix or all the toppings will fall to the bottom.
  3. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Maple Cheesecake Pumpkin Bars

 

Oh boy are these fall treats tasty! The maple syrup adds a great rich touch to the cheesecake layer while the pumpkin is spiced to perfection. The bars would be the perfect snack for a crisp fall day or served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. We didn’t top these with pecans, but that certainly would be a nice finishing touch. The pumpkin base is like moist cake and rises pretty high, so plan to eat with a fork.

 

Maple Cheesecake Pumpkin Bars

Cheesecake topping ingredients:

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Pumpkin cake ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Instruction:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Mix together cheesecake topping ingredients until completely smooth and no clumps remain. Set aside.
  2. Stir pumpkin cake dry ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together all wet pumpkin cake ingredients until smooth.
  4. Pour wet pumpkin cake ingredients into the dry ingredient mixture. Stir until just combined.
  5. Pour pumpkin cake mixture into a 9×9 baking pan. I used a coated USA Pan so I didn’t need to grease the pan. If your pan does not have a non-stick coating, spray with oil or coat with butter.
  6. Spoon cheesecake mixture into pan, on top of the pumpkin cake mixture. Take a knife/spreader (plastic or wood is best to avoid scratching your pan) and swirl through the layers to create a marbled effect.
  7. Bake at 350º for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick entered in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving, so the cheesecake layer can firm up.

Italian Chicken Tortellini Soup

The weather is starting to change as we get in the full-swing of fall. While we may not like the lower temps, we can all agree that it’s great for soups! This was our first soup of the season, and boy was it a good one. The color was gorgeous and it made the whole house smell like a cozy cottage. We served it alongside cheese melted onto buttered Cottleston Italian bread and topped with a bit of garlic powder, perfect for dipping. You could easily swap in fresh spinach or chicken shredded from a store-bought rotisserie.

Italian Chicken Tortellini Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups broth/water with bouillon
  • 2 raw chicken breasts
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste/concentrate
  • 5 oz spinach (half frozen brick)
  • 20 oz fresh refrigerated tortellini
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Instruction:

  1. Warm olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion until soft. Add garlic and sauté for a few more minutes, until fragrant.
  2. Add broth/water with bouillon to deglaze and get brown bits off the bottom of pan. Add whole raw chicken breasts and seasonings. Bring to simmer.
  3. Cover. Simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken to a plate and shred with two forks. Return to pot.
  5. Add diced tomatoes, paste/concentrate, and spinach. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add tortellini and cook till done, according to package.
  7. Add heavy cream. Serve once heated through.

Heavenly Hot Fudge Sauce

 

This is hands down the best hot fudge sauce that has ever existed. No contest. It will set the bar so high that every store bought fudge sauce from here out will taste sour and artificial. So be careful when you make the recipe for the first time; it will change your entire outlook on desserts for the rest of your life. This is my mom’s recipe, best made with her amazing vintage copper and ceramic double boiler. For those of us without that cool equipment, a metal or glass bowl over a pot of boiling water will work just fine.

Heavenly Hot Fudge Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 oz of unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tall can of evaporated milk (1 2/3 cups)

Instruction:

  1. Melt butter in the bowl of a double boiler. 
  2. Drop in chocolate and allow to melt. 
  3. Add sugar gradually, a few spoonfuls at a time. Be sure sugar is completely mixed before adding more. The mixture will become thick, dry, and hard to stir. Slowly sprinkle in the salt. 
  4. Stir in the evaporated milk, a little at a time. 
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, until desired thickness. Check thickness by how the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Sauce will continue to thicken slightly as it cools. 
  6. When desired consistency, serve hot or cold. When reheating, keep an eye on the sauce as it will boil over quickly in the microwave.

Zucchini and Sweet Corn Casserole

Corn casserole is a holiday dinner tradition in our family. My mom has been making it for years, originally from the Tripp, SD community cookbook. It’s easy to throw together, is deliciously cheesy, but has a bit of sweetness from the corn. This recipe is an adaptation from the original to include fresh zucchini and sweet corn, a late summer garden staple in our community. There seems to be a sweet corn farm stand on every corner, as well as an abundance of neighbors begging you to take some squash off their hands! The original recipe is at the bottom of the page, in case you are baking this side dish when sweet corn and zucchini are not easily available. I used a USA Pan that did not require greasing due to it’s unique silicone coating, but I would recommend rubbing your pan with butter if using one without non-stick properties.

 

Zucchini and Sweet Corn Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 2 cups of sweet corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 8 oz package of Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese

Instruction:

  1. Preheat oven to 400º. If not using a non-stick pan, grease a 9×9 inch baking pan.
  2. Place shredded zucchini in a floursack towel or folded cheesecloth. Twist the cloth closed and squeeze as much water out of the zucchini as possible. You should end up with about 2 cups.
  3. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, except cheese.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

 

Original Corn Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 2 cans whole kernel corn, partially drained
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 8 oz package of Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese

Instruction:

  1. Preheat oven to 400º. If not using a non-stick pan, grease a 9×9 inch baking pan.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, except cheese.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Chocolate Chip & Peanut Skillet Cookie

I will admit that I typically make a skillet cookie as an alternative to a normal meal on the days when I’d just rather eat a bunch of sugar than an actual dinner. Yes, I know… That’s certainly not healthy nor does it cover any legit food groups. It only happens once or twice a year so don’t get too worried. I have found that using a mini cast iron or stainless steel fry pan is best for a skillet cookie. Anything larger doesn’t bake completely in the middle and usually leaves you with way too much cookie for one sitting (especially since it will get too soggy to save if served with ice cream on top). The peanuts in this recipe give a nice soft crunch and offer a different salty flavor than the more popular walnut/pecan addition.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted salted peanuts

Instruction:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Rub butter into a 6-7″ cast iron or stainless steel skillet.
  2. In a bowl, beat butter with both sugars until fully incorporated. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and peanuts.
  3. Transfer to the prepared skillet and smooth out the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tooth pick inserted at center comes out clean. Serve while still warm with a generous scoop of ice cream.

Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Nothing beats a meal showcasing fresh summer vegetables and lots of cheese! Try this eggplant parmesan bake for an interesting meat-free meal. I like to serve the bake with a side salad and spaghetti tossed in oil and balsamic vinegar. You can easily use canned sauce, homemade sauce, or a mix between the two, like this recipe does.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp seasoned bread crumbs (or regular crumbs with a tsp of Italian seasoning added)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 1 16 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp olive oil (more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup Italian cheese mix
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella (1/2 log)

Instruction:

  1. Peel and slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and layer into a colander, covering directly on top with plastic wrap. Place a heavy bowl or cans on top of plastic wrap. Let sit in sink for 45 minutes to pull out bitter liquid. Uncover and rinse with cold water.
  2. Preheat oven to 400º. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup bread crumbs with 1 tbsp parmesan cheese. In a separate bowl, crack egg and lightly whisk. One by one, dunk eggplant slices into egg, coat in bread crumb mixture, and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, flip slices, and bake for another 5 minutes. Let cool.
  3. While eggplant is baking, add chopped tomatoes, minced onion, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, chopped basil, chopped oregano, minced garlic, and cayenne pepper to a small sauce pan. Cook on medium-low until heated through, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a little water or stock.
  4. When eggplant and sauce are ready, reduce oven heat to 350º. Pour olive oil into a small casserole dish and swish around until surface is covered. Put about a 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the dish. Top with a single layer of eggplant slices. Cover with a sprinkle of each cheese (Italian cheese mix, fresh mozzarella, and remaining parmesan). Continue sauce-eggplant-cheese layering until it’s all used up. Sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Marinated Berries with Shortcake and Whipped Cream

 

This dessert is perfect for using up berries that are a little past their prime. The balsamic vinegar hides any berry imperfections while providing a tangy sauce to contrast the sweet whipped cream. We used sliced strawberries and whole raspberries, but this recipe can easily work for blueberries and blackberries too. Mint adds depth and color for the perfect summer treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Cannon River Traditional Shortcake Mix
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1/4 cup Coteau des Prairies 18 Year Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint, minced (about 1 teaspoon when minced)
  • 2 cups berries of your choice, sliced (fresh or thawed from frozen)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Instruction:

  1. Make shortcakes according to package instructions by combining mix with 1 stick melted butter and 1/2 cup water. Place nine spoonfuls on baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 375º for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, then move shortcakes to a rack to cool completely.
  2. While shortcakes are baking, prepare the marinated berries. In a medium bowl, mix together balsamic vinegar, granulated sugar, vanilla, and minced fresh mint. Stir until combined. Add berries and stir to completely coat. Place in fridge for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  3. To prepare whipped cream, beat heavy whipping cream with an electric mixer on medium high speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar at the very end, beating until just combined.
  4. To assemble, cut shortcakes in half. Add a dollop of whipped cream and a scoop of berries. Drizzle with balsamic mixture if more sauce is desired. Top with other shortcake half. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

Crockpot Taco Dip

Crockpot Taco Dip

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
  • 1/2 lb Velveeta, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 lb shredded chicken breast (or 2 cans of chunk chicken, drained)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons southwest/taco seasoning of your choice (We used 1 tablespoon each of spicy chili lime and chipotle parmesan corn on the cob seasoning from Urban Accents.)
  • 1 can black beans, drained

Add all ingredients to the crockpot besides the beans. Cook on high until heated through (about 1 hour), stirring every 20 minutes or so. Stir in beans and let cook for about 20 more minutes. Turn to low/warm before serving. Best served with tortilla chips and Day of the Dead Salsa.

Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding:

  • 1 Cottleston Italian Loaf
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • .5 tsp cardamom
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Pull the loaf of bread into small chunks and place in a greased 4+ qt dutch oven or a greased 8.5×11 glass baking dish. Pour meted butter over the bread pieces and gently mix.
  3. Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and vanilla. Pour over bread mixture and gently mix until most of the bread is moist.
  4. Cover cooking vessel with lid or foil and bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove when top is toasted and pudding no longer jiggles when shook. Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  1. Add all ingredients to a 2+ quart sauce pan on medium low heat. Whisk together. Stir occasionally until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
  2. When butter is melted, increase heat to medium and whisk until the sauce thickens.
  3. Serve warm or refrigerate till cold. Sauce will thicken a bit as it sits.

Caramel Sauce recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman’s “Easy Caramel Sauce.”