All posts by Katherine Dinger

Spicy Avocado Pizza

   

Sometimes when you’re running low on ingredients, you’re forced to improvise. To make unusual decisions resulting in things you might not ordinarily try if you had say… some tomato sauce or mozzarella cheese around. The results of this culinary ad-libbing has a name… and that name is spicy avocado pizza.  

Spicy Avocado Pizza

Don’t let the spicy part frighten you. While this pizza definitely packs some warmth, the avocado is surprisingly effective at mellowing the heat out once it hits your tongue. The first time I made this pizza I made it with a whole avocado, pepper jack cheese, and no jalapeños. After revisions the pepper jack cheese was upgraded to habanero jack cheese (oh yes), the avocado was cut in half, and sliced jalapeños were scattered across the top.  Cranking up the pepper dial to 11 and halving the avocado resulted in just the balance I was looking for.  So if you have a pizza crust lying around but only have ingredients on hand for guacamole – fear not! This pizza will save you.

Spicy Avocado Pizza

Spicy Avocado Pizza
Serves 3
A perfect balance of peppery kick and cool, creamy avocado - on a pizza!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 prepared pizza crust (I like thin crust)
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1/2 avocado
  4. Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  5. Salt, to taste
  6. 3 ounces habanero jack cheese (pepper jack will work as well)
  7. 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  8. 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
  9. 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven according to package instructions for your prepared pizza crust.
  2. Blend avocado with the olive oil, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Spread evenly over the crust.
  3. Sprinkle half of the cilantro atop the avocado, then top with shredded cheese.
  4. Scattered sliced jalapeño and quartered tomato over the pizza. Transfer to oven and bake according to package instructions.
  5. Remove pizza from oven and top with remaining fresh cilantro. Slice and serve.
Calories
  1. 301
Note
  1. Calorie information is based on using the prepared pizza crusts by Pizza Romana.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Spicy Avocado Pizza

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

   

I’m going to blunt when I start off this post today – I love this soup. It contains caramelized roasted cauliflower, potato, sharp white cheddar, sour cream, and fresh parsley. If you know anyone that is on the fence about cauliflower, throw a bowl of this soup at them and knock them down. Onto the cauliflower loving side of course.

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

You can break the steps of this recipe into two parts if you prefer. The cauliflower can definitely be roasted ahead of time so you only need to worry about the soup itself when dinner rolls around. I find that the entire process overlaps pretty well though, and that if I get the cauliflower in the oven first everything else is ready by the time it’s done cooking. I believe it would also be pretty simple to cut the calories in the recipe by using skim milk, a reduced fat cheese, and reduced fat sour cream.  I personally find this soup is hearty enough to eat as a meal with a chunk of good bread, and at less than 350 calories per bowl I don’t feel too bad about going full fat for really good cheesy flavor. I don’t call myself the Gouda Monster for nothing!

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup
Serves 6
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  2. 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
  7. 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  8. 5 cups stock
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  11. 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  12. 1 cup milk
  13. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  14. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  15. 4 ounces sour cream (creme fraiche works well too)
  16. 5 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Toss cauliflower florets with the 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower starts to brown on the edges.
  2. Heat the other teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan and lightly cook your onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, before adding in the diced potato. Cook the potato for 2-3 minutes, pour in the stock, add the bay leaf, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and allow to cook until the potatoes are fork tender. This happens more quickly if your potatoes are finely diced.
  3. When the cauliflower is roasted, add it to the soup pot with the potatoes. I recommend reserving a few pieces for garnish because they are just so tasty on their own. Keep soup covered while you make your roux.
  4. In a small sauce pan melt your butter down. Once hot sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk until smooth. Cook for about a minute and then add your milk. Season with black pepper and nutmeg. Continue whisking the mixture until it thickens slightly - about 5-8 minutes.
  5. Remove soup from heat. Using an immersion blender puree your soup to desired consistency (I like to leave it a little bit chunky). If you don't have an immersion blender you could transfer the soup to a regular blender to puree in batches.
  6. Stir in the thickened milk sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese and fresh parsley. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
Calories
  1. 339
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

This giveaway has ended – Thanks to everyone that participated!

And now of course for the contest information! I’m really excited to finally be able to have my first giveaway on Gouda Monster. For Christmas I got two immersion blenders – what a lucky break for my readers, right? My hand blender is probably one of my most coveted kitchen gadgets. After mine broke I felt lost without it – there is definitely no easier way to quickly puree a soup or whip up small batches of sauces, dressing, or salsas. I also use mine to create smoothies in the morning because I find cleanup to be far simpler than a full sized blender. The particular model up for grabs is the Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender in Brushed Chrome, which holds a glowing 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon.  There are several ways to enter and entries will be open for two weeks, however due to shipping costs I will only be able to ship to people that live within the United States & Canada. The winner will be announced by the end of the month – good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Immersion Blender Giveaway

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

   

So it’s been almost 3 weeks since I made my last post, but not without good reason! Of course the holidays have a way of absorbing up all of your free time, but that’s not the real excuse. I’m sure that by looking around this page a bit (at least if you’re familiar with my blog from before) you can notice that I have a new awesome site design! For Christmas my boyfriend began this project as one of his gifts to me and when I saw the preview of what was in store by the time it was done, I nearly exploded with excitement. He put a ton of his free time into seeing it through and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

Once I realized the new design was incoming I really wanted to wait to make a new post. I have a few more recipes lined up as a result of the mini hiatus (including roasted cauliflower soup and limoncello), but I knew that my first post of 2014 had  to be something healthy. This is, after all, the one time of the year that the human race unanimously decides to improve their well being (at least for a couple of weeks until someone caves and shows up at the office with donuts).

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad 

A while back someone commented on how much they enjoyed looking through my blog. She pointed out that she particularly loved the Mediterranean influence she often sees in my recipes. I thought, “Wow… I guess I do have a tendency to cook with lemon, chickpeas, parsley, etc…” And who wouldn’t? The fresh flavors so commonly associated with Mediterranean food are incredible. This salad brings some of those influences together into one filling dish for under 350 calories. There is protein. There is fiber. There is nutrient dense broccoli. It’s definitely a recipe to ring in the new year and kick start your healthier eating habits.

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad
Serves 4
A quick, healthy lunch inspired by the fresh flavors in Mediterranean cooking.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of pre-cooked whole grain blend (I used the red quinoa and brown rice blend by Village Harvest, which is found in the freezer section)
  2. 3 cups raw broccoli, chopped
  3. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  6. 1/2 tablespoon water
  7. 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  12. 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Prepare grain according to package instructions. In my case I just popped it in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
  2. Place broccoli in a bowl and microwave a couple of minutes until no longer raw, but still crunchy and green. I combined my broccoli with the grain to save time while heating.
  3. Whisk together olive oil, lemon, water, and spices to form the dressing.
  4. Combine all ingredients with the dressing in a large bowl and toss well to combine.
  5. Eat slightly warm as is or transfer to the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes first (my preference).
Calories
  1. 341
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

   

Next in line for my series of Christmas cookie posts is the ever adored snickerdoodle. For the longest time I had no idea what a snickerdoodle was, and when I learned they were cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar I was a bit confused. Where were the peanuts and nougat and caramel? This ain’t no Snickers! Then the realization slowly settled in that snickerdoodle cookies had absolutely nothing to do with Snickers candy bars. I’m pretty sure I can’t be the first person to make that mistake, so I don’t feel too bad about it. What I DO feel bad about is the fact that it took so long for them to find their way into my life.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

A funny thing about this particular batch of cookies (as well as the ones in my next post) is that I baked them up to barter with. Yes, my youngest niece’s Christmas gift was paid for in cookies. I’m finding it very difficult not to talk about what it was that I received in exchange for these sweet treats, but I’m opting to keep my lips sealed until after Christmas as I prefer to keep the gifts to the girls a secret from my brother and his girlfriend as well.  [Post Christmas edit: I wanted to pimp out Leanne’s beautiful work, as the gift I cookie swapped for was a pair of her lovely fairy wings. J’adore! You can visit her Etsy page here: Fairy Spirit Studios]

For this recipe I’ve given it a few small tweaks to enhance an already good thing. I brown half of the butter and I use just a touch of ground ginger in the cinnamon sugar mixture. The final thing that contributes to making this cookie a little different from your standard snickerdoodle recipe is the use of bread flour for its higher protein content. The end result is a soft, chewy snickerdoodle with the rich underlying flavor of brown butter that plays nicely with the sugar spice blend.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles
Serves 36
Soft, chewy snickerdoodles with brown butter and a hint of ginger.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
11 min
Total Time
26 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
11 min
Total Time
26 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 cup white sugar
  3. 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 tablespoon Ener-g egg replacer mixed in 1/4 cup of water or 2 large eggs
  6. 2 cups all purpose flour
  7. 1/2 cup bread flour
  8. 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  9. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  10. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  11. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  12. 2 tablespoons white sugar
  13. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  14. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam and eventually subside. Whisk regularly until the butter turns a rich amber color and releases a nutty aroma. Transfer to another container and allow to cool.
  3. In a stand mixer combine cooled brown butter, softened butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add vanilla and egg replacer (or eggs) and mix until well incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl whisk together both flours, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  6. Working in batches, add 1/3 of the flour mixture at a time to the wet ingredients. Mix until just incorporated before adding the next third. Repeat with remaining flour. The dough should hold together if you squeeze it between your fingers. If it seems too crumbly, add another 1-2 tablespoons of water.
  7. In a small bowl mix the 2 tablespoons of white sugar with the ground cinnamon and ginger. Using a small scoop or a heaping tablespoon, scoop out a ball of dough. Roll it together in your hands to round it out, then coat it in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Transfer to parchment lined sheet allowing about 2 inches between each cookies.
  8. Bake for 11 minutes. The cookies might seem just slightly underdone but they will continue to cook as they sit on the counter. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
 

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Chocolate Chip Cookies

   

I have had my blog running long enough now that it’s finally time to do this. Yessiree – it is time for the good ol’ classic chocolate chip cookie recipe. The characteristics of the ideal CCC vary from person to person, so there is no real way to determine the best recipe in the cookiverse. What I can tell you is that this is MY favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve done the New York Times’ version and although they were fantastic, the 24 hour wait time is too much for my impatient taste buds. Once I smell butter and sugar creaming together in the bowl I gotta have the cookies in my belly yesterday. This enhanced version of the original CCC recipe from Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House cookbook was dreamed up by Laura aka The Cooking Photographer. Almost 4 years ago I left a comment on her blog revering her as the ultimate CCC goddess, and I stand by that statement. I. LOVE. THESE. COOKIES.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A couple of things set this recipe apart. A few extra steps that take just a little more effort but have a huge payoff in the end. First off there is the browned butter, which as any sane person will tell you makes just about anything 10x better. Laura also uses ground up oatmeal in place of some of the flour, which makes these cookies extra chewy and flavorful. The tiniest amount of vinegar helps keep them tender, and you’ll never know it was in there if someone didn’t tell you. She uses walnuts in her recipe but I’m partial to pecans, so that’s what I’ve used in mine. All of these things work together to create an absolutely heavenly chocolate chip cookie, and I’m excited to finally share it here.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Serves 36
My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, made with brown butter and toasted pecans.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
  2. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  3. 3/4 cup fresh light brown sugar, packed
  4. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  8. 1 tablespoon Ener-g egg replacer mixed in 1/4 cup of water or 2 large eggs
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  10. 2 cups all purpose flour
  11. 1 cup pecans
  12. 3/4 of a 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 stick of the butter over medium heat until foamy and lightly golden brown. Pour into a bowl and wipe out the skillet. Place butter in the refrigerator and cool to about room temperature.
  3. In the skillet over medium heat, toast the oatmeal stirring often until fragrant and some of the oatmeal is light golden in color. About 3 minutes. Transfer the oatmeal to a food processer and grind until fine and powdery. Set aside.
  4. Toast the pecans in the same skillet that you toasted the oatmeal in. Let cool slightly and chop to desired size.
  5. Mix in a stand mixer the softened butter, browned butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and vinegar and beat on slow to combine, and then on high speed until fluffy and lighter in color.
  6. Add the egg replacer (or eggs) and mix until combined. Add the oatmeal and baking soda and beat for another minute. Next, add the flour half at a time and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
  7. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and toasted pecans.
  8. With a size 50 cookie scoop or a generous tablespoon, drop the dough onto parchment paper 3 inches apart.
  9. Bake for 11 minutes or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let set on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
Notes
  1. If omitting nuts, add 1/3 cup more flour to the batter and the whole bag of chocolate chips. These cookies freeze extremely well after they’re baked. You can take a few out at a time and microwave them. Or just let them thaw on the counter.
Adapted from The Cooking Photographer
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

   

Many people are susceptible to impulse purchasing – myself included. If I walk past a sassy pair of high heels I will make a mental note of their appeal and move on. If I’m in the electronics department and I see an immersion blender that I’ve been needing since mine broke, I will pass by and wait to do some review comparisons and price checking online. If a game on my Steam wishlist goes on sale then I… ok well I might buy that. The one thing I can’t resist though? Well, apparently it’s a bundle of beautiful, vibrant, purple  baby carrots (and all of the additional veggies to accompany them into the oven).

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

I just don’t know if there is a better way to prepare vegetables than roasting them. The caramelization of those natural sugars and the ease of preparation? It’s hard not to love it. For this meal I used baby purple carrots, parsnips, yellow and purple baby potatoes, parsley root, garlic, onion, and fresh rosemary. You can use whatever root veggies you can get your hands on, whether it’s layer of simple russet potatoes or a spectrum of multicolored carrots arranged in a heart on your roasting pan. I can’t resist going the colorful route myself. I swear that pretty food tastes better.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 4
An easy, rustic side dish that works for a weeknight dinner or holiday table.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
34 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
34 min
Ingredients
  1. 9-10 young purple carrots
  2. 12-15 fingerling potatoes (I used yellow and purple)
  3. 2 parsley root
  4. 1 parsnip
  5. 1 red onion
  6. 3 cloves of garlic
  7. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare your veggies for roasting by chopping them all at a roughly uniform size. It’s important to have them similar in size so that they finish cooking through around the same time. I left my carrots and most of my fingerling potatoes whole. The larger potatoes I split in half. I quartered the parsley root lengthwise and sliced the parsnip into thick disks so that they could be differentiated from one another on the plate. The onion I simply cut into large chunks and split apart the segments with my fingers. The garlic cloves were cut into quarters. I also cut my rosemary sprigs in half.
  3. Toss everything in the olive oil, salt, and pepper. I find that using my hands works best for this and I also do it right on the pan on a sheet of parchment paper.
  4. Layer the veggies evenly on the parchment lining baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes and then test for doneness with a fork. If they need a little more time, just pop them in for another 10 minutes or so. The smaller your veggies are chopped, the less total time they will take to roast.
Calories
  1. 159
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Roasted Root Vegetables

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

   

While I generally prefer cows’ milk cheese to those made with goats’ or sheep’s milk, feta has always been one of my favorite cheeses. Whole Foods even makes a really nice (and lower priced) cows’ milk feta that I love. One of the things that’s so great about feta is that its pungent flavor means you only need a small amount to perk up a wrap or salad. Of course feta is also crumbly… a little bit messy even. Did you ever want to take that salty, tangy deliciousness and turn it into something more manageable? Something you can spread on toast or eat in a tortilla without it falling out of the ends? Well then – I have just the thing for you!

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

When I first tasted a dollop of this right out of the food processor, a grin immediately spread across my face and I exclaimed, “YUM! This is GOOD!” It’s got all of the flavor that you love from feta cheese, but in a smooth, creamy consistency that is perfect for dipping and spreading. The drizzle of herb oil over the top adds a dimension of freshness that slightly counters the saltiness of the cheese. In my opinion it’s even better if you add something slightly sweet on top of it, like fresh diced tomatoes (my favorite), sun-dried tomatoes, a balsamic reduction, honey, or whatever else your creative mind can think of. I also absolutely loved the addition of toasted pine nuts for a little bit of texture.

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

With this being the season for parties – and limited time to prepare for said parties – this appetizer is a quick and elegant option for guests. And hey, if you’re not the party going type (raises hand) then this is still awesome to spread on toast at breakfast, on a Mediterranean wrap at lunch, or to toss with a bit of cooked pasta and steamed veggies at dinner. As far as flavor is concerned, a little goes a long way.

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil
Serves 16
The wonderful flavor of feta and fresh herbs in a simple, elegant spread.
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup fresh basil
  2. 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  3. 1 clove garlic
  4. 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  5. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  9. 8oz feta cheese
  10. 4oz mascarpone cheese
  11. 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  12. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. In a food processor combine fresh herbs, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Blend well and transfer to another container – I used a liquid measuring cup so it would be easier to pour out over the cheese later.
  2. If you want your cheese spread to remain white, wipe out the residual oil and herbs from the food processor basin.
  3. Add both cheeses to the food processor and blend until smooth. Once smooth add the heavy whipping cream and black pepper. Pulse until mixture is creamy and light.
  4. In a serving bowl alternate adding the cheese and a drizzle of herb oil, ending with the herb oil on top. If desired top with toasted nuts (the addition of nuts isn’t factored into the calorie count below).
  5. Serve with crackers, crostini, chips, fresh veggies, or whatever else you like.
Calories
  1. 139
Notes
  1. This robust spread pairs well with something sweet. Having fresh tomato slices, sun-dried tomato, balsamic, or honey available to drizzle over the top is awesome.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
 

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

   

Inspiration struck me as I was pondering the sort of dessert I’d wanted to bring to my parents’ place for Thanksgiving. Given the simplicity of the recipe I was thinking I would make my semifreddo. Then I thought it might be fun to do a twist on a pumpkin pie and change the vanilla ice cream to pumpkin, then pour it into a pastry crust instead of the chocolate. The idea rolled around in my head for a few days when I finally decided I wanted to simplify it further. An easy no-churn pumpkin spice ice cream dotted with sugary praline frosted pecans. Heck yeah.

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

Now that I’ve been introduced to the world of no churn ice cream, I find myself eager to experiment. The whole thing comes together in about ten minutes and is just a matter of whisking together a few wet ingredients and spices, then folding them into whipped cream. It doesn’t get much easier than this to make ice cream.

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

I added a tablespoon of rum to the mix, because it imparts a small amount of flavor – but also because the alcohol helps keep the ice cream a little bit soft. You’re welcome to omit it, or to substitute another liquor of your choosing. I also managed to get my hands on some really tasty praline frosted pecans that were folded into the final mixture. You can use whatever candied nuts available to you, regular toasted nuts, or of course no nuts at all.

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

If you can’t tell by now, this recipe is so simple that I don’t even have much I can say about it! What I can tell you is that if you want a twist on the comforting, autumnal flavors of pumpkin pie with very little hassle – this recipe is a lot of fun. I served scoops of ice cream with crumbled up shortbread cookies to mimic pie crust and to further play up the pumpkin pie feel. I think it would also pair nicely with a slice of warm pecan pie. Or try a scoop of it in a shot of espresso for a pumpkin spice affogato. Many pumpkin possibilities to be had – so enjoy!

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

No Churn Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream
Serves 12
This no churn pumpkin pecan ice cream is a fun dessert that’s quick to assemble.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  2. 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (wondering what to do with the rest of the can? how about pumpkin scones!)
  3. 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  4. 1 tablespoon spiced rum
  5. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  9. 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  10. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  11. 1 cup praline frosted pecans (regular pecans are fine if you don’t have them)
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl whisk together all ingredients except for the whipping cream and pecans.
  2. In a food processor or stand mixer, whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form.
  3. Fold the pumpkin mixture into the whipped cream and then fold in the pecans.
  4. Transfer to a loaf pan and put in the freezer. Carefully cover the top of the pan with a sheet of plastic wrap, making sure to push it right up against the mixture to get out excess air. This helps prevent the formation of ice crystals. I find this step can look neater if you do it after the pan has been in the freezer for 15-20 minutes and the top has solidified slightly.
  5. Freeze at least 6-8 hours, but preferably overnight.
Calories
  1. 337
Variations
  1. Bake a traditional graham cracker crust into the bottom of a spring form pan and allow to cool before pouring the ice cream mixture over the top. Freeze as usual, release the ice cream from the spring form pan, and slice into wedges. Serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

 

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

Savory Vegan Gravy

   

Gravy is one of my favorite types of sauces; I smother just about everything on my plate with the stuff when I can get away with it. Even my favorite breakfast is fresh buttermilk biscuits under a blanket of piping hot cream gravy. That’s why it’s so confusing that I so rarely cook my own gravy on Thanksgiving day. I guess it’s just because I already have so much on my to-do list that I figure I will save myself a little bit of time by picking up a tub of vegetarian gravy from the grocery store. You know what though? It almost always disappoints. The quality of the other food at the table tends to outshine the hint of bitterness I feel for not having made the gravy from scratch… but not this year!

Savory Vegan Gravy

Whenever I was writing up this recipe I had some serious internal conflict as to whether or not I wanted to put “vegan” in the title. On one hand I’m excited to let vegans know that they can have gravy so good they’ll want to pour a bowl of it and eat it like soup. On the other hand… well, I want the non-vegans to know that they will want to do the same thing. The word vegan can be a little intimidating to some folks, especially when dealing with traditional meat centric recipes – but it shouldn’t be! This gravy is good. It’s damn good – and I think that anyone at your table (vegetarian or not) will absolutely love it.

Savory Vegan Gravy

First can I just tell you that this gravy is made with two heads of garlic? You heard right. Not two cloves… two heads of garlic. That alone should assure you that this recipe is not messing around when it comes to flavor. I know that plenty of people don’t want to put their pan drippings to waste, so if you aren’t a vegetarian you can certainly substitute them in place of the oil while making your roux. Vegetarians could also use butter instead of oil if that’s what they like. In either case I wouldn’t recommend removing the nutritional yeast from the recipe. It’s an unfamiliar ingredient to some, but don’t let the off-putting name deter you from giving it a try. It’s generally fortified with B12, is a good source of protein, is naturally fat and sodium free – but none of that stuff would really matter if it didn’t taste good, would it? Don’t worry – it does! Most people liken the flavor to that of a mild, nutty parmesan cheese. It has a lot of uses, but in this recipe it slightly thickens the sauce while enhancing its savory flavors. If you decide to go without, I would probably double the roux and allow your gravy to reduce for longer. I’ve never done this myself though, so if you try it be sure to let me know how it goes!

Savory Vegan Gravy

Savory Vegan Gravy
Serves 8
An intensely flavorful garlic-based gravy that vegans and non-vegans alike will love.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups good quality vegetable stock
  2. 2 garlic heads, whole and unpeeled
  3. 1/2 yellow onion, cut into chunks
  4. 1 carrot, quartered
  5. 1 celery stalk, quartered
  6. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  7. 1 tablespoon fresh sage
  8. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  11. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  12. 2 tablespoons flour
  13. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan add vegetable stock, whole garlic heads, onion, carrot, celery, pepper, sage, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes.
  2. Strain the stock, reserving only the garlic heads. Set the garlic aside to cool and place the stock back on the stove to stay warm.
  3. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves out into the warm stock. I like to mash them with my fingers as I do this so they are broken up in the gravy. Whisk in the nutritional yeast and additional fresh thyme.
  4. In a high sided skillet heat olive oil. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the paste is lightly browned.
  5. Slowly pour the stock into your flour paste, whisking until well combined. Allow to simmer over medium low heat for 12-15 minutes or until gravy reaches the desired thickness (I would usually make mine a little thicker than shown in the photos, but I was too excited to eat and I couldn’t wait!) Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Makes about 2 cups.
Calories
  1. 70
Adapted from Passionate Vegetarian
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Savory Vegan Gravy

 

Dad’s Cornbread Dressing

   

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I didn’t like dressing as a kid. I’m not sure why it took me so long to evolve into a rational human being with properly functioning taste buds, but fortunately I wasn’t crazy forever and now I’m an honest to goodness dressing fiend. Like most families, our Thanksgiving table is steeped in familiarity and tradition. The spread rarely changes – roasted turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, token green veggie casserole of some sort, dinner rolls, and of course good ol’ cornbread dressing. Dressing – or stuffing if that’s what you prefer to call it – seems to be a very personal thing and the idea of what makes it good varies from family to family. But if someone were to ask me about the dressing I crave (I’m going to pretend you just did), then I would tell them it would definitely be this adaptation of the recipe my dad makes every year.

 

Dad's Cornbread Dressing

My changes from the original are probably a little bit obvious if you are aware of the fact I ate meat until I was 18 – so naturally the main adjustment was making it vegetarian friendly. Dad also prepares his with chopped up hard-boiled eggs, something that’s never been my cup of tea but a lot of people really enjoy eggs in their dressing. If you’re a vegan and looking to adapt this to your lifestyle, substitute the butter with olive oil or margarine and omit the parmesan cheese. Adding a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast would be awesome in its place. You’ll also want to make sure that the breakfast sausage you use is vegan friendly. On the other hand, if you’re a meat-eater you can use regular sausage – but make sure it is cooked before adding it to the recipe.

cornbreadstuffing2

One of the great things about recipes like these is that they are so easy to change to suit your personal tastes. Someone that likes a more dry and crumbly dressing (no doubt for its optimal gravy absorption qualities) can use less stock, whereas the people that want their dressing thick enough to slice can use more. I would say that anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 cups is the range you want to stay in. The force with which you pack it into the casserole dish before baking will also have an effect on the end texture. Personally I like a bit of balance between the two extremes and I’ve written up the recipe to reflect that preference. You can substitute other nuts for the pecans, toss some sauteed button mushrooms into the mix, use a different combination of fresh herbs, bake individual servings in muffin tins, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Hell, try using jalapeno cornbread and chorizo for a southwestern twist. Once you’re acquainted with the basic ingredients, it’s pretty simple to take this recipe and make it your own. Ahh, the beauty of cooking…

Dad's Cornbread Dressing

Dad's Cornbread Dressing
Serves 12
A vegetarian friendly cornbread dressing with fresh herbs, sausage, and pecans.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 8″ skillet (or 8×8″ pan) of cornbread
  2. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  4. 2 stalks celery, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced (this was about 12 medium sized sage leaves for me)
  7. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  8. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 4 vegetarian breakfast sausage patties, cooked and chopped (this ends up being about 1 cup of sausage)
  11. 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  12. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  13. 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  14. 2 cups prepared stock (give or take depending on how crumbly or moist your prefer your dressing to be)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter your casserole dish (I used an 8″x11″ oval dish) and set aside.
  2. In a nonstick skillet heat butter, sage, and rosemary on medium heat until the butter just starts to bubble.
  3. Add onion, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper then cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove rosemary sprig and transfer the contents of the skillet to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Wipe the skillet clean and toss in your chopped pecans. Toast over medium heat until fragrant and then add them to the mixing bowl.
  5. Crumble the cornbread into the bowl with the sausage, parsley, and cheese. Toss everything until well combined. Taste and add a little more salt if needed (I find the individual ingredients usually have enough sodium on their own that it doesn’t need it).
  6. Transfer the cornbread mixture to your prepared baking dish and lightly pack it down. Pour stock evenly over the top.
  7. Place dish in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. If you prefer the top to be a little more crisp, pop it under the broiler for a minute or two.
Calories
  1. 255
Notes
  1. You can easily get this recipe under 200 calories by using half of the pecans and cutting the butter back to 1 tablespoon. Add a touch more stock to compensate for the reduced amount of butter.
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Dad's Cornbread Dressing

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

   

It’s been a little over a week since I made a new post, because I had some fun things going on. We went to Blizzcon again this year, making it our 5th trip to Anaheim for the big event. What set this year apart from the others was the fact that a total of 10 people from my WoW raiding group were able to go. The day before we left for the airport I started preparations for goodie bags to give to everyone. In each bag I included jalapeno cheddar crackers, garlic rosemary crackers, chocolate chip cookies, and the recipe I am sharing here today – lemon cream cheese cookies. Everyone that tried them and reported back to me really enjoyed them. I enjoyed how easy they were to make!

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

I love it whenever I experiment with baking and get awesome results like these. I had originally intended to create a pecan pie fudge to pack in the treat bags, but I realized I didn’t want to fiddle around with candy making so close to a trip. There were a couple of small lemons on my counter and I decided to do something with them instead. On a whim I asked Jah to stop on the way home to buy me a tub of cream cheese, even though I had no idea how adding cream cheese to a cookie dough would affect it. The resulting texture is a tender and cake-like with a delicate lemony sweetness. The lemon flavor is enhanced with an easy-to-prepare lemon zest glaze that each cookie gets dipped into.

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

These cookies went halfway across the US by plane and arrived in good shape. The glaze on top also kept them soft and fresh tasting for several days. If packaged carefully I think they will be perfect for mailing out at Christmas time. I know this is the time of year for pie, warm spices, and pumpkin everything – but these cookies are a refreshing change from the winter norms. I think we can all appreciate tasting a little bit of sunshine in the middle of November :)

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies
Serves 36
Soft, cake-like lemon cookies with a lemon zest glaze.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
16 min
Total Time
26 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
16 min
Total Time
26 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 cup white sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon lemon zest (this is about the amount I got from a small lemon)
  4. 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons egg replacer powder mixed with 2 tablespoons of water (or 1 egg)
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  8. 8oz plain cream cheese
  9. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

  10. For the glaze:

  11. 1 cup powdered sugar
  12. 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  13. 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  14. 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  15. 1 tablespoon whipping cream or milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Beat softened butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. I did everything in my food processor, which made it quick and easy.
  3. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, egg replacement, vanilla, and baking powder. Pulse until combined.
  4. Add cream cheese and mix until smooth.
  5. Gradually add in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, combining well after each addition.
  6. Using a melon baller, cookie scoop, or heaping tablespoon, place balls of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. I fit about a dozen per sheet.
  7. Bake for about 16 minutes or until the edges are just barely golden.
  8. Allow cookies to rest on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
  9. In a small bowl whisk together powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and whipping cream until smooth. If you prefer the glaze a little thinner you can add more whipping cream, or more lemon juice if you prefer a tarter glaze.
  10. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze, shake off the excess, and place back onto the cooling rack. I recommend laying a sheet of wax paper under the rack to catch any glaze that drips through. It makes cleanup much easier.
  11. Allow the glaze to harden (about 30 minutes) before packing the cookies away.
Calories
  1. 96
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Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

Autumn Minestrone

   

Few dishes are more comforting than a piping hot bowl of soup during the chilly months. I love making soups and stews; not only are they almost completely foolproof, they are also easily customizable. Whatever leftover veggies are in the fridge can be tossed into a pot and transformed into a hearty meal – it’s awesome.

Autumn Minestrone

For this minestrone I used Pomi brand boxed tomatoes because I love the flavor as well as the fact that they are not cooked with salt. One box of Pomi tomatoes is about the same as two 14oz cans, and you can substitute accordingly. Keep in mind that you may want to tweak the salt in the recipe if your canned tomatoes contain sodium. Also feel free to use more pasta. I choose to go fairly light to focus on the vegetables and keep the calorie count low.

Autumn Minestrone

Autumn Minestrone
Serves 6
A warm, comforting soup that is full of vegetables and low in calories.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 2 stalks celery, diced
  4. 1 cup carrots, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 4 cups stock
  7. 1 28oz carton chopped tomatoes (or 2 14oz cans)
  8. 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust depending on the sodium content of your stock and tomatoes)
  10. 1 sprig of rosemary, stem removed and leaves minced
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  13. 1/2 cup small, dry pasta (I used cavatelli)
  14. 2 cups kale, chopped (or other green of choice)
  15. 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a deep soup pan heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions are slightly translucent – about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add stock, tomatoes, and all of your seasonings. Bring soup just to boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add pasta and kale, cooking for another 10-12 minutes (or however long your pasta needs to cook based on package instructions).
  4. Just before serving stir in fresh parsley.
Calories
  1. 148
Optional olive bread crouton topping
  1. Cut olive bread into 1 inch pieces and toss with a small amount of olive oil to coat. Spread onto a nonstick baking sheet and put into a 400F oven for about 15 minutes or until the croutons are dry and crunchy.
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Autumn Minestrone