23 December 2013

Are you ready for Christmas?  I hope so, because it's coming up fast!  I have one last recipe for you before the big day.  I get totally obsessed with chocolate peppermint things this time of year.  It's just the perfect combo.  I've made a couple different recipes for peppermint brownies over the years, but this year I perfected them.  I started with this recipe from Julie's Eats and Treats and changed it up slightly.  Here's the recipe for the "perfect" peppermint brownie.

Peppermint Crunch Brownies

1 box brownie mix
Eggs, oil, and water called for on brownie mix box
1 tsp peppermint extract
½ cup butter, melted
⅓ cup buttermilk
½ cup cocoa
3½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions, stirring in the peppermint extract along with the eggs, oil, and water.  Bake according to package directions in a 9x13” pan.

When brownies are almost done, combine butter, buttermilk, and cocoa in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar. 

When brownies are done, remove them from the oven and spread the frosting over them while warm.  Let cool.  Sprinkle on the peppermint bits and press down very lightly to set them in place.  Cut into bars and serve.

Makes 20 brownies.

I don't usually frost brownies, but it really takes these brownies up a notch and makes them more special.  Perfect for Christmas.  You can't really taste the buttermilk in the frosting, but it just gives it a tangy depth of flavor.  

This is what I used for the topping.  Yummy little peppermint bits.  You want to put them on at just the right time.  If you put them on when the brownies and the frosting are still hot, they could melt into it.  The first time I made them, I did that and then put the lid on my dish to take it somewhere.  They were all melty by the time we got there.  But you don't want the frosting to completely cool and set up either.  Then the peppermint bits won't stick and will fall off when you eat them.  

This will most likely be my last post in 2013. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  

19 December 2013

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.

This month's assigned ingredients were white chocolate and lime.   Mmm.  Definitely dessert ingredients, which is perfect for this time of year.  I had a few ideas rolling around in my head, but then something reminded me of a dessert cheeseball.  Have you ever had a dessert cheeseball?  My husband and I used to host a St. Nicholas Day open house every year when we lived in Michigan, and every year I went to Hallmark where they sell these little mixes for dessert cheeseballs.  You mix the contents of the package with cream cheese and butter and then roll it in some sort of coating.  Then a few years ago I tried making one of my own, a Peanut Butter Cheeseball.  That was awesome!  So I decided it was time to make another dessert cheeseball.  I googled "white chocolate lime cheeseball" and didn't come up with anything with those specific flavors, so I took a recipe for a White Chocolate and Hazelnut Cheeseball and adapted it. I added lime zest and juice to the cheeseball and used almonds instead of hazelnuts on the outside.  Here's how I did it.

White Chocolate and Lime Cheeseball

⅓ cup white chocolate chips
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1½ tsp lime zest, finely grated
1 tsp lime juice
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup sliced almonds, very finely chopped

Put the white chocolate chips and corn syrup in a small glass bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds or until the white chocolate has completely melted.  Stir well.  In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and the white chocolate mixture until completely smooth.  Stir in the lime zest and lime juice.  Dump in the powdered sugar and stir to combine.  Form into a ball shape in the bowl and refrigerate mixture for a couple of hours to set up.

When the cheese ball has firmed up, remove it from the bowl, shape into a ball, and then roll in chopped almonds.  Place on a serving platter or large plate and serve it with graham crackers, pretzels, or anything else you like.

Makes lots of servings.

This was a great success.  I love the little flecks of bright green inside there.  The lime flavor is very subtle; it's definitely not overpowering.  Just sweet with a hint of lime.

I served this with graham crackers, but pretzels would be really good too.  Especially if you like that whole sweet and salty thing.  Another option would be apple slices if you wanted to make it a little healthier.  Any way you serve it, this would be a great addition to your next holiday gathering.

Be sure to check out all of the great white chocolate and lime recipes below and come back next month to see what fun thing I make with cheese and crackers!

14 December 2013

It's time again for The Salad Bar, hosted by Wendy of The Weekend Gourmet.  

This month's theme was pomegranate.  I considered sitting out this month because I'm not a huge fan of pomegranate.  I don't care for pomegranate juice, but I realized that I had never actually bought a pomegranate and used the arils.  I ran across this recipe from Lauren's Latest, and decided to give it a try.  She throws the word "holiday" into the title of this salad, and I think that's because the beautiful red arils on the green lettuce are reminiscent of a festively decorated Christmas tree.  Perfect for this time of year.

Pomegranate Hazelnut Salad

4 cups mixed greens
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
1 pomegranate, arils removed
Your favorite salad dressing

Place greens in a bowl or on a plate.  Sprinkle with bacon, hazelnuts, and about half of the pomegranate arils.  Drizzle with your favorite salad dressing and toss.

Makes about 2 servings.

I liked this salad a lot more than I was expecting.  Since I don't like pomegranate juice, I didn't think I would like the arils either, but I was wrong!  They're so neat!  What else in the world is both crunchy and juicy at the same time?  My five-year-old, Lena, loved them too and requested them on her salad.

Lauren's recipe also came with a dressing.  Maple Bacon Dressing.  Sounded amazing, so I made it to go with the salad.  It was NOT amazing.  I hate to say it, but it was actually really gross!   I don't know if it's because my bacon was from a butcher and not a grocery store variety, but it just tasted like straight-up fat.  No flavor.  Blech!  So I scrapped using the dressing and used a little bit of my favorite honey mustard on it.  

I love this salad because it's such a great combination of flavors and textures.  Crunchy, juicy, nutty, sweet, tangy, and salty.  The best of all worlds!  And it's so pretty.

You have my word that next month's salad will not include bacon, as our theme is light and healthy salads!

08 December 2013

It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

This month I was assigned the blog Food Ramblings, written by Elizabeth.  I love her blog!  She has so many great recipes that I want to try.  A couple of savory dinners that caught my eye were her Beef and Tomato Risotto and her French Onion Casserole.  But with the holidays coming up, I was kind more in the mood for dessert.  The first dessert of hers I pinned was her Chocolate Buttermilk Pie.  I make a regular buttermilk pie and was very interested in how a chocolate version would taste.  But then I saw her recipe for Gingerbread Oreo Blondies, and I am all about everything "gingerbread" right now, so that's what I went with.  

Gingerbread Oreos are very hard to find.  I googled it and found out that last year Walmart was the only store to carry them.  My Walmart didn't have them this year.  Shoot!  But I already had my mind set on making these blondies, so I did something I have never done before: I bought food on Amazon.com.  They were selling them as an "add-on" item, so I ordered my daughters some Christmas presents and added on these cookies.  It wasn't until after I received them and went to print out Elizabeth's recipe, that I saw her solution to the availability problem.  She couldn't find them either, but found a similar cookie at Target.  Oops.  I had read that the first time I saw that post, but had (inconveniently) forgotten that part.  Oh well!  

Gingerbread Oreo Blondies

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup white chocolate chips
20 Gingerbread Oreos or Target Brand

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 9x13 pan with baking spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and brown sugar.  Stir in eggs and vanilla.  Dump in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until combined.  Stir in the white chocolate chips.

Pour half of the blondie dough into the pan and spread evenly. Press the Oreos on top of the blondie dough, evenly spacing them out.  Using two spoons, place a blob of remaining dough on top of each cookie.  Spray a silicone scraper with Pam and use it to flatten out the dough blobs a little bit.  Don’t worry about the spaces between the cookies; they will fill in with dough as it bakes.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. Allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 20 blondies.

Here are a few pics of the process.

 The dough is very thick, so you have to be very careful in spreading it out in the pan.  

 The cookie layer.  I forgot to take a pic of the next step, where I blobbed the dough on top of the cookies and flattened it out.  Sorry!  It's really neat how the cookies just kind of meld into the dough as it bakes.  After it cools on the counter for a while, you can kind of see the lumps where the cookies are, which is really nice because it makes it very easy to cut even portions (something I am always bad at).

They aren't the prettiest things in the world, but after one bite, no one will care what they look like.

Oh my goodness, these were so good it was totally worth the Amazon splurge.  I just love blondies.  I certainly don't have anything against brownies, but there is just something about blondies.  They are so buttery and decadent. And the gingerbread flavor in these is just perfect.  The only thing I changed about Elizabeth's recipe was to increase the ginger in the dough.  She called for 1/8th of a teaspoon, but I love ginger, and since "ginger" is in the title of the recipe, I decided to bump it up a bit.  The cookies are really good on their own too.  I had to try one by itself, of course!  I'm surprised that Oreo doesn't distribute these more, because they are delicious.  If you happen across a package, get one!  (Or two.)  I am definitely going to look for the Target brand too.

These made the perfect dessert for when we had friends over.  They were a hit with the adults and kids alike.  These blondies definitely satisfied my craving for gingerbread-something and they are the perfect dessert for this time of year.  Thanks for a great recipe, Elizabeth!

The Secret Recipe Club is taking a little holiday break, so Group A is taking January off.  We'll be back with another great reveal the first Monday of February.  Merry Christmas to all of my fellow SRC members!

05 December 2013

Happy December!  Now that we are done with Thanksgiving, I am in full Christmas-y mode.  Perfect timing as today we are all posting Christmas-themed cookies for this month's Fill the Cookie Jar.

This is actually a cookie that I made last year, that I never got around to posting before Christmas.  I got the idea from Caffeine and A Prayer.  I made them for my daughter's preschool class last year and she reported back that they were a big hit with the kids.  Not only are these cookies bound to be loved by kids, but they are great cookies to be made by kids.  They are easy for kids to help with and a lot less messy than decorating sugar cookies!  I did my cookies just slightly different from the original; here's how I did them.

Reindeer Cookies

Frosting (canned is fine)
Brown food coloring
Nutter Butter cookies
Tiny twist pretzels
Red and brown M&Ms

Stir brown food coloring into frosting until it is the approximate shade of the Nutter Butters.  Spread a small glob of frosting on the top of each Nutter Butter and attach two pretzels to make the antlers.  Place two small dollops of frosting and stick on brown M&Ms for the eyes.  Do another small dollop of frosting near the bottom and attach a red M&M for the nose.

Let sit for an hour or so to allow the frosting to harden.  Serve or store in an airtight container for serving the next day.

Makes as many as you like!

If you click through to the original recipe, you will notice two main differences.  She didn't color her frosting for the "glue".  You don't have to do this, but I think it looks better this way.  You don't want that part to stick out so much.  It would be tempting to use peanut butter for this purpose, but it won't harden as much as the frosting, and your antlers, eyes, and noses might not stay on very well.

The other thing I changed was to use two pretzels for the antlers instead of just one.  I think they look more "antler-y" this way.

Aren't they adorable?

Check out all the other great holiday cookies below and happy baking!

26 November 2013

I've got one more recipe for your before the big turkey day.  This one also uses up some of those Thanksgiving leftovers.  Not only turkey, but also sweet potatoes, if you haven't mashed them all, that is.  This one uses cubed sweet potatoes.  I created this recipe last winter.

Turkey Sweet Potato Hash

1 tbsp olive oil
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored, and diced
½ large onion, chopped
2 tbsp flour
1½ cups turkey or chicken stock
2 cups cooked turkey, cubed or shredded
1 lb. sweet potatoes, cut into 1” cubes and cooked
½ tsp poultry seasoning 
½ tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté apple and onion until soft.  Add flour and stir until incorporated into the oil.  Slowly whisk in turkey stock.  Add turkey, sweet potatoes, poultry seasoning, and salt.  Cover skillet and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until gravy is thickened.

Serve over warm biscuits.

This is really yummy.  I love how the sweet and savory flavors meld together so well.  The sweet potatoes and apples bring a little sweet, but the onion, turkey, and buttery biscuits make it decidedly savory.  

If you don't have leftover cooked sweet potatoes, it's really easy to make some.  Cube up 1 lb. of sweet potatoes (1" cubes) and you can either steam or boil them on the stove top.  I actually use my Pampered Chef Microcooker, which is used in the microwave.  Super easy.  Any way you do it, make sure to leave the potatoes a little bit al dente, since they will continue to cook after you add them to the skillet.

I'm listing this as one of my "mock Thanksgiving" recipes because it is reminiscent of Thanksgiving flavors if you make it at other times of the year.  Put some cranberry sauce and green beans on the side and you're good to go!

I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings!

25 November 2013

Last week I shared with you five great Thanksgiving recipes, covering a main dish, three sides, and a great dessert.  This week I thought I would post two recipes using leftover turkey.  This one is really great because it is completely removed from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner flavors.  It's a delicious jumble of quinoa, bacon, spinach, and turkey.  It's adapted from Mom Foodie.

Turkey Spinach Bacon Quinoa

½ tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup of quinoa
¼ or ½ tsp dried thyme
3 cups turkey stock
1½ cups roasted turkey, diced
½ cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Heat oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add onion and cook until it begins to soften.  Add bacon, garlic, bacon, and quinoa. Fry until bacon has crisped, onions are soft, and quinoa is well toasted. Toss in the thyme and stir to release flavors.  Pour in the stock. Reduce heat to low-med, and cover to simmer.
After 10 minutes, add turkey and spinach, then simmer until liquid is absorbed.

Makes 4 servings.

This is such a great one-pot meal.  And eating quinoa and spinach will make you feel a little better about all of that holiday indulging you did a couple days earlier (if you are really concerned about that, you can leave out the bacon).  

I adjusted some of the quantities, but the biggest change I made to this recipe was that the liquid was supposed to be part turkey (or chicken) stock and part buttermilk.  I made it that way the first time, but one of my daughters is allergic to dairy, and I am lactose-intolerant, so I was really curious to see if it would turn out okay with all turkey stock and no buttermilk.  I made it that way the second time, and it was just fine.  I really couldn't tell that much of a difference.  So I have made it this way ever since.

I make this dish whenever I have diced turkey to use up in the freezer.  I buy a couple of extra turkeys at Thanksgiving time because they are so incredibly cheap, and cook them throughout the year.  This is always the first thing I make with the leftovers.  It goes over really well with my family, who have embraced quinoa wholeheartedly.

 This dish is a cinch to put together and is great for busy weeknights.  It would also work well with chicken, in case you love it so much you want to make it again even after all of your Thanksgiving leftovers are gone. :)

LeAndra from Love and Flour chose this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in December 2013.  Click on the button below to see her version.

Secret Recipe Club

And Aimee from See Aimee Cook also chose this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in April 2014.  Click on the button below to see her chicken version.

Secret Recipe Club

22 November 2013

It's Day Five of Thanksgiving Week!  It only seemed natural to end the week on a sweet note.  This is a recipe I found at Skinnytaste and tweaked a little.  It's great for Thanksgiving as an alternative to traditional pumpkin pie.  Perfect for those who don't want a heavy dessert after such a filling meal.  This is pumpkin pie's lighter, airier, and fluffier cousin!

No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup brown sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
9” graham cracker crust

In a large bowl, whip cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla, pie spice, and brown sugar until fluffy using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or stick blender.  Gently fold in Cool Whip.  Pour into the graham cracker crust and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Changes I made: I increased the cream cheese from 7 oz. to 8 oz, because it seemed really pointless to leave 1 oz. of cream cheese leftover.  Just easier to use the whole brick.  The biggest change I made was to use more pumpkin.  It originally called for half a cup, but I gave it a taste and could hardly taste the pumpkin at all.  So I added more and threw in some more pie spice for good measure.

I am lazy and always buy the store-bought graham cracker crusts.  Which means the pie is always served in the ugly foil pan it comes in, but oh well!  You can certainly make your own graham cracker crust and put it in your prettiest pie plate instead.

Creamy, pumpkin-y goodness!

Thanksgiving Week

I hope you have enjoyed the Thanksgiving recipes I have shared with you this week and that I have inspired you to try something new this year.  Next week I will share two great recipes using turkey leftovers.

21 November 2013

Today is Day Three of my Thanksgiving Week and it also coincides with this month's Improv Challenge.

The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month's ingredients were cardamom and orange.  Awesome ingredients, especially this time of year.  I love cardamom, and feel it is very underused by most cooks.  While it is great in cookies and other sweet baked goods, it's also amazing in savory applications.  Last fall I posted a recipe for Maple Roasted Turnips with Warm Spices.  The cardamom (and its friend coriander) was the star of that dish.  I thought that cardamom would be really good on pork too.  I couldn't find a good recipe for cardamom-crusted pork loin, so I kind of made one up myself.  Then I made a tasty orange sauce to go with it.  

Cardamom Crusted Pork Loin with Orange Sauce

2½ lbs. pork loin, trimmed
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tbsp cardamom 
3 lbs. parsnips, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
⅔ cup orange juice
2 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp powdered ginger
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cold water

To prepare roast, combine salt, white pepper, and cardamom in a small bowl.  Rub mixture over surface of roast; place in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray.  Place parsnips around roast and drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Give them a good stir to make sure they are evenly coated.

Bake at 400° for 1 hour to an hour and a half or until meat thermometer registers 160°, stirring parsnips frequently.  Remove from oven; place roast on a carving board, and place parsnips in a bowl using a slotted spoon.

For the sauce: in a small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Serve with pork and parsnips.

Makes 6-8 servings.

The pork and parsnips getting all cozy before hitting the oven.  This was only about 1 lbs. of parsnips and it really wasn't enough for the amount of pork, so I increased that in the recipe above.

Isn't it gorgeous?  The cardamom, salt, and white pepper are the perfect seasoning for it.  And the orange compliments it so well.  This pork would be so great for Thanksgiving if you don't feel like messing with the hassle of a turkey, or your family doesn't really like turkey, or you want a second main dish in addition to the turkey.  

I served this with a wild rice blend.  The whole meal had a great fall feel to it.  But it would be great with a wide variety of side dishes.

Check out all the other great cardamom and orange recipes below.  Next month's ingredients are white chocolate and lime.
Tomorrow I will end my Thanksgiving Week on a sweet note with a super simple pumpkin dessert.

20 November 2013

It's Day Three of Thanksgiving Week.  Today I have one more side dish for you.  On Monday I shared my Roasted Apple and Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes and yesterday my Savory Butternut Squash Puree.  How about a green veggie?  I have never served (or eaten, for that matter) Brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving, but as soon as I was introduced to this awesome dish, I knew it would be Thanksgiving-worthy.  I can't take the credit for finding this little gem; that honor goes to my awesome husband.  Last year on National Men Make Dinner Day, he planned a great menu for us and it included these awesome Brussels sprouts that he found at Allrecipes.  I was a little skeptical at first, because I had never cooked with sherry before, and honestly didn't know what it tasted like.  I also wasn't a big fan of adding bacon to vegetables and covering them up with decadent sauces.  I usually like to let the veggies stand on their own.  But after just one bite, I was hooked!  They are amazing and I have made them a few times myself since then.  

Brussels Sprouts in Sherry Cream Sauce

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup sherry
½ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450°.  Place Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Toss to coat evenly.  Roast in hot oven about 15 minutes, or until Brussels sprouts are golden brown.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the bacon in a large skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown at the edges, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; stir in the shallot and mushrooms, then cook until the shallots turn translucent, about 5 more minutes. Stir in the sherry and cream until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, and stir until reduced by half. The thickened sauce should coat the back of a spoon.

Transfer the browned Brussels sprouts to the sauce and toss to coat.  Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

I have decided that these Brussels sprouts will be a part of my Thanksgiving menu from now on.  They are amazing.  Roasting Brussels sprouts is the absolute best (if not only) way to make them, but then tossing them with bacon and sauteed mushrooms and shallots?  Yum.  And then the kicker is that it's all coated in a fantastic sherry cream sauce.  The sherry is just perfect in here.  It's just enough to cut the heaviness of the cream.

Please, please, please, if you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, try them this way!  Or if you cook for someone who doesn't like them.  This recipe will make a convert out of anybody!

These are definitely "special occasion" Brussels sprouts and they are just perfect for Thanksgiving.  Please try them and let me know what you think.

Here's my other favorite Thanksgiving veggie dish. Similar to the old familiar green been casserole, but with bacon, fresh mushrooms, and a cheddar cheese sauce instead of the canned soup.

Tomorrow's post will be doing double duty.  It is a main dish that would be a perfect alternative if you aren't a big fan of turkey, or if you are one of those families who makes a turkey and then another meat main dish.  It's also my recipe for this month's Improv Challenge.  So your hint is that it contains orange and cardamom.  Check it out tomorrow!

19 November 2013

It's Day Two of my annual Thanksgiving Week.  I have another great side dish for you today.  A savory butternut squash puree.  This is a recipe I created one day last month.  I had some cooked butternut squash leftover from making a curried butternut squash risotto, and it was such a beautiful color that I was inspired to make something amazing with it.  I dug around in the fridge and found some Laughing Cow cheese and basically just pureed the two together, throwing in a little smoked paprika for good measure.  The result was fabulous and I couldn't help thinking it would be just perfect for Thanksgiving.  After I made it, I did some googling to check out some other savory butternut squash puree recipes and found next to nothing.  I'm surprised because it was so delicious.

Savory Butternut Squash Puree

2 cups cooked butternut squash
4 wedges Laughing Cow cheese (I used Light Garlic & Herb)
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ - ½ tsp salt

Combine squash, cheese, and paprika and puree using a stick blender or a regular blender.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.  Pour into serving bowl and garnish with additional smoked paprika if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

So simple, yet very sophisticated.  The cheese makes it slightly creamy and brings down the sweetness enough to make it a savory dish.  And the smoked paprika gives it a little depth of flavor and enhances the natural beautiful color.

Isn't this just the prettiest dish?  It just screams "fall" and "harvest".  It's the perfect way to enhance your Thanksgiving table.  It would be a nice alternative for those who don't care for sweet potatoes.

My husband absolutely loved this puree.  He told me he thought it would be good in a taco. ?? Haven't tried that yet!

Come back tomorrow when I will be sharing my most favorite green veggie dish ever.  Teaser: it includes bacon. ;)

18 November 2013

It's Day One of my annual Thanksgiving Week!  A whole week of awesome Thanksgiving recipes.  Do you have your menu all planned out?  If not, I've got some great ideas for you.  

Today I am sharing a twist on the standard mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes are probably my favorite Thanksgiving side dish.  It's hard to go wrong with mashed potatoes, and I love the traditional version, but sometimes it's fun to make things a little more interesting.  I found this recipe on Baked Bree and couldn't wait to try it.  Basically, you roast some apples until they are completely soft, mix some crumbled bleu cheese into cream cheese, and then mix it all together with some mashed yellow potatoes.  It sounds a little strange; mashed potatoes with roasted apples?  And bleu cheese?  I agree that it does sound strange, but these are the most fantastic mashed potatoes I've ever put in my mouth.  

Roasted Apple and Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes

3 small Golden Delicious apples, peeled and diced
2 tsp olive oil
Kosher salt 
4 lbs. yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
Fresh chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place the apples in a large piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.  Wrap up the apples in the foil. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until completely soft.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot of salted cold water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  When the water boils, remove the lid and continue to boil until the potatoes are fall-apart tender.  Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.  When the apples are done, dump the contents of the foil packet (liquid and all) in with the potatoes.  Mash with a potato masher, ricer, mixer, or however you prefer. 

Place the cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and cook at 50% power for 1-2 minutes or until it is completely soft.  Stir in the bleu cheese.  (You can do this while the potatoes are boiling.)  Add this mixture to the potato/apple mixture and stir to fully incorporate.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if desired.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

Stir in chopped chives, or if you prefer, just garnish the top with them.

Makes about 12 servings.

Oh. My. Goodness.  These are the best mashed potatoes ever.  The sweetness of the apples and the tangy-ness of the bleu cheese kind of cancel each other out a little bit, so it's not like you get a bite of sweet, then a bite of tangy cheese.  It all melds together perfectly.  The cream cheese does a perfect job of tying it all together and making it extra creamy and decadent.

I first tried these in August when we had friends over for dinner and love them so much that I have made them about three times now.  They are just so good!  You know what else I love about them?  They don't require gravy.  Please don't put gravy on these!  That's great for me because gravy is the one component of the Thanksgiving meal I have yet to master.  I always end up cheating and using a mix.  So I love that I don't even have to worry about it with these potatoes (although you might still need gravy for the turkey).

If bleu cheese has you a little skeptical, let me tell you that I served these to friends who are not big fans of bleu cheese and they loved them.  Raved about them.  They honestly didn't even know what was in these potatoes; they just knew that they loved them.  I don't get too picky about my mashing; these are great with some little chunks left in there.  In fact, you can see some in the pictures above.  But no one even knew that those chunks were apples.

These mashed potatoes will be a staple on my Thanksgiving table from now on.  Please give them a try if you are looking to take your potatoes to the next level.  Your guests will be so impressed!

Come back tomorrow and I will share another great Thanksgiving side dish.  It involves that great fall vegetable: the butternut squash.  Mmm!

Here are some other great mashed potato dishes that you might be interested in: