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:

16 November 2013

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

This month's theme was sweet potatoes.  I knew that I didn't want to do a "potato salad" kind of salad, a picnic-y type salad with mayo.  I was thinking more of a tossed sweet potato salad with some kind of vinaigrette.  Something with a fall flair to it.  I found the perfect one at The Daily Meal.  I changed it up to make it a little more savory.  Here's my version.

Autumn Sweet Potato Salad with Maple Orange Vinaigrette

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½” cubes 
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar 
2 tbsp orange juice 
2 tbsp maple syrup 
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
¾ tsp salt 
½ tsp cardamom
2 tbsp canola oil 
2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted 
1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Place the sweet potatoes in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover. Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook at a low boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Spread them out on a clean dish towel to dry.

Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, orange juice, maple syrup, mustard, salt, and cardamom in a bowl. Slowly whisk in canola oil until well blended. Set aside.

Add the bacon, pecans, and goat cheese to the sweet potatoes. Toss gently with the dressing. Serve warm or chilled.

Makes 1 main dish serving.

I just love the flavors in this salad!  The sweet potatoes provide sweetness, of course, and beautiful color.  The bacon gives it a lovely salty savory-ness.  The pecans give it great crunch, which is always important in a salad, and the goat cheese gives it contrast of color and a lovely tangy creaminess.  And the vinaigrette is perfect for tying it all together.  The original recipe called for cinnamon, but the cardamom is so perfect in it.  Orange and cardamom is a great combo (in fact, those are the assigned ingredients for this month's Improv Challenge, so come back on Thursday to see another great recipe featuring orange and cardamom!).  You can't really see the dressing in the photo because it is thin and mostly sat at the bottom of the bowl, but if you look closely you can see some little brown flecks on the sweet potatoes; that's the cardamom in the dressing.

The original recipe called for raw apples and dried cranberries.  I thought that would just be too much sweet flavors all together.  It's much better balanced out by some savory flavors.

I ate this salad for lunch the other day.  It was the perfect amount.  It would probably serve two as a side dish.

Be sure to check out all the other great sweet potato salad recipes below and don't forget that I am posting a great Thanksgiving dish every day next week starting on Monday!

11 November 2013

I just love Thanksgiving food.  Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce. Mmm.  I love it so much that I don't save it for only one day a year; I make Thanksgiving-type food all year round.  I call these meals "mock Thanksgiving" meals.  They contain the best flavors of Thanksgiving without the hassle of cooking a whole turkey and making all the sides.  

This is a Better Homes and Gardens recipe I discovered on Recipe.com and tried last month.  It's a winner!  Throw some chicken drumsticks in the slow cooker with cranberry sauce and when it's done, serve it with some StoveTop stuffing.  

Slow Cooker Cranberry Chicken

8 chicken drumsticks, skinned
1 (16 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tbsp dry onion soup mix
2 tbsp quick-cooking (instant) tapioca

Place chicken in slow cooker.  In a small bowl, stir together the cranberry sauce, onion soup mix, and tapioca.  Pour over the chicken and turn the chicken pieces so they are evenly coated.

Cook on low for 6 hours.  Rearrange pieces halfway through cooking if you are able.

Serve chicken drumsticks with sauce.  Stuffing goes really well with this chicken.

Makes 4 servings.

Here's something shocking: I didn't change anything about this recipe!  That is pretty rare.  It's just perfect the way it is.  The onion soup mix gives the cranberry sauce just the perfect amount of savory-ness and cuts down on the sweetness.  The instant tapioca thickens the sauce beautifully so you can coat the tender chicken with it.  Have you ever used it before?  It's pretty great for slow cooker dishes.  Cornstarch doesn't work in the slow cooker because it has to come to a boil and slow cookers don't usually get that hot.  But the tapioca softens and thickens at a lower temperature so it's perfect.

Of course, you could serve this chicken with rice, but I think it's so great with the stuffing.  And using the boxed stuffing (I always get the reduced-sodium chicken variety), makes this meal perfect for busy weeknights.  My favorite veggie to go with this is green beans.

While I like to make this meal whenever I am craving Thanksgiving food outside of Thanksgiving season, it would also be great for those who aren't doing the whole big Thanksgiving celebration but still want something to make the day feel like Thanksgiving.  It would be perfect for a couple or a small family who is staying home that day and doesn't feel like going all out with the turkey and everything.

Here are some other "mock Thanksgiving" meals I have shared with you in the past:

Speaking of Thanksgiving, next week will be this year's installment of my annual Thanksgiving Week here on my blog.  I have five great recipes that will liven up your Thanksgiving table.  Are you tired of the same old, same old?  I have three awesome side dishes, one turkey-alternative main dish (good if you are hosting guests who don't like turkey that much), and a super easy pumpkin dessert.  So be sure to check all of that out next week.

07 November 2013

It's time for another installment of my newest monthly challenge, Fill the Cookie Jar.

This month's theme was Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving cookies, hmm.  Nothing jumped out at me.  I did some searching online and found the perfect recipe.  I procrastinated, and made that recipe yesterday afternoon.  They were kind of a pain in the butt to make, but I was sure they were worth the effort.  Then I opened the oven.  Total flop!  They did not turn out right at all.  I'm not sure why; I only did one little thing differently.  It didn't seem like it would make that big of a difference, but then again, I am not a baker so who knows.  It was about 3:00 and I didn't think I had time to make something different.  What other Thanksgiving themed cookie could I make without going to the store?  Then I remembered that I had a bag of fresh cranberries stashed in the freezer from last winter.  Cranberries are very Thanksgiving-y!  Most cranberry cookie recipes call for dried cranberries, but I did some digging and found one at Food.com that uses fresh cranberries.  It was a mad dash to get them made and photographed before it got dark, but I made it just in time!  Here's the recipe.

Fresh Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup fresh (or frozen and thawed) cranberries
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp orange extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
1½ cups oats

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a food processor or blender pulse cranberries until chopped. Set aside.

Cream butter and brown sugar together.  Add egg and orange extract and mix well.  Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and oats and mix well.  Gently stir in cranberries.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.

Bake at 375° for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Remove from cookie sheet onto parchment paper to cool.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

So these cookies turned out great.  It only took me like 10 minutes from the time I found the recipe until I threw them in the oven.  Not bad!  I did have to use white sugar instead of brown because I was out, but they were still fine.  I would definitely use brown next time though.  And next time will probably be tomorrow since I have the rest of the bag of cranberries to use up.

I love the oats in these cookies.  They give them great body and chewiness.  My favorite kind of cookie.  And the fresh cranberries are so hugely different than the dried.  Not chewy at all, and they have this bright, fresh taste that is just unbelievable.  They're not sour, but they have a great tang to them.  And don't you just love the beautiful red color?

Here are some fun Thanksgiving cookies I have posted in years past:

These cranberry cookies would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving buffet.  Check out all the other great Thanksgiving cookies below and come back next month to see what kind of Christmas cookie I come up with.

03 November 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 Cheap Ethnic Eatz.  It's written by Evelyne, a foodie from Montreal.  Evelyne describes her blog as "A journey into the many ethnic cuisines my city and the world has to offer."  She started it as a supper club and it grew into a blog, first more about her experiences dining out, but now morphing more into being more about her experiences in the kitchen.  Recipes of hers that made my short list were: Navajo Tacos, Pumpkin Pudding, and her East Meets West Arancini.  But I ended up going with one of her blended coffee drinks.  As soon as I saw her Maple Walnut Coffee, I knew that's what I wanted to make.

My family doesn't like walnuts that much, so I always substitute pecans instead.  So it turned into a Maple Pecan coffee smoothie.  Those of you who are paying attention might notice that this is now the third "maple pecan" recipe I have posted in a row.  (See Maple Pecan Salmon and Maple Pecan Scotch Eggs.)  I assure you that this was not intentional, and yes, I may be slightly obsessed with the combination of maple and pecan!

Maple Pecan Frappuccino

¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup oats (old-fashioned or quick-cooking)
1½ cups vanilla soymilk 
1 packet Via instant coffee
2 tbsp real maple syrup
Couple handfuls of ice cubes

Put the pecans and oats into a blender and pulse until they form a powder.  Add all remaining ingredients except the ice into the blender and process until smooth.  Add the ice and pulse until pulverized.  Transfer to two serving glasses; serve immediately.

Makes 2 (10 oz.) smoothies.

I'm calling these frappuccinos because that's what they reminded me of.  Only you won't find a maple pecan flavor at Starbucks!  They are cool and creamy with the perfect amount of coffee flavor, which is greatly enhanced by the maple and pecan.  I never would have thought to combine coffee, pecans, oats, and maple in a smoothie, but it totally works!

I used real maple syrup instead of maple extract because that's what I had on hand.  It added the perfect amount of sweetness.  I used vanilla Silk because that's what my kids drink (and I'm lactose-intolerant so it worked for me too), but you can use regular milk if you like.  You might need to adjust the sweetness since the vanilla soy is sweetened.

I didn't intend to drink too much of this smoothie because all I had on hand was regular Via.  (The store was out of decaf, which I usually get.)  I am very sensitive to caffeine, and already had some that day, so I was just going to take a few sips to try it out before giving the rest to my husband.  I guess I didn't realize how much I liked it until I looked down at my cup and realized it was almost empty.  Oops!  

Thanks for a great recipe, Evelyne!