The holiday season is upon us, which means we cram a chaotic mix of food, fun, family, friends, parties, shopping, obligations, and responsibilities into just a few short weeks. Amidst this flurry of activities, a moment of sanity, a moment of comfort, a moment of self-care is needed. And that moment can take the form of a muffin, a tried-and-true old friend of a muffin — the banana kind. With chocolate chips. With a hint of coconut from coconut milk and coconut oil. A portable, edible oasis of comfort.
Thanksgiving is almost here! I love this time of year because it’s when families all over the country can come together at the dinner table to enjoy a nice meal and give thanks. Each member of my family has a signature dish that they are responsible for making each year. My signature dish is a brussels sprout salad with fresh cranberries. This is a great alternative to your usual heavy Thanksgiving sides.
The dish is so quick and easy that you will have time to rest before your guests arrive! Shaved brussels sprouts, freshly sliced cranberries, toasted pecans, sliced red onions, pancetta, and shredded parmesan tossed with a garlic dijon vinaigrette make for a nice salad addition to your Thanksgiving meal.
Brussels Sprouts Salad With Cranberries
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon maple syrup
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pepper, to taste
10 ounces shaved brussels sprouts
1/2 cup of fresh cranberries, sliced
1/4 cup pancetta, diced
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 small red onion, sliced
- In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt, and pepper until emulsified.
- In a large bowl, mix together brussels sprouts, cranberries, pancetta, pecans, red onion, and parmesan cheese. Now toss in your salad dressing, and continue to mix together.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the salad to chill for up to an hour before serving.
Everyone knows the stars of holiday meals are the side dishes! It seems everyone in the family has their own special side dish that they bring to the table each year, so I am bringing you just a couple from the Real Food Real Kitchens kitchen: cranberry-pineapple sauce and garlic mashed sweet potatoes.
The story behind the first recipe starts here: as each holiday passed, I got so tired of eating even the smallest amount of that cranberry sauce that was so right out of the can that it was still in the Jell-O-shaped mold of the can from which it came. So through some trial, error, and constant tasting, I came up with a delicious cranberry sauce made with fresh cranberries, brown sugar, and crushed pineapple — an amazingly tart/sweet sauce that tastes great on all the other sides and on the turkey, too.
Garlic mashed sweet potatoes with heavy cream and butter was another delicious side I perfected on my own, and this year, I decided to add some sweetness to it by using sweet potatoes instead of regular old baking potatoes. Wow, what a delectable difference it made.
For the recipes, keep reading.
Over the Summer, a friend of ours schooled us on whiskey and bourbon. I don't often drink hard alcohol, and if I do, it is usually in the form of a margarita. I have never been a fan of whiskey. My theory being: why have Jack and Coke when I can have Captain and Coke?
But our whiskey and bourbon education was incredibly interesting to me. As a food blogger, I often see whiskey and bourbon popping up in all kinds of recipes.
Later in the Summer on a trip to Montana, we were excited to find out a nearby town had a distillery (Willie's Distillery in Ennis). Of course we stopped in, partook in a whiskey tasting, and left with a nice bottle for home. The first drink we made at the suggestion of the distillery was a whiskey and ginger beer. It was tasty, and the ginger flavor was a nice complement to the strong whiskey taste. It was also the inspiration for this drink, the whiskey-ginger-pom.
I wanted to use a seasonal fruit and thought pomegranate would be perfect. The tartness and beautiful color makes this more of a ladies' whiskey drink, but my husband loved it too.
For the recipe, keep reading.
The first Thanksgiving after I my changed diet (to a plant-based one) was sorta awful. I thought I'd wing it. I'd just show up to my in-laws hungry, and there would for sure be something I could eat there. I wasn't going to be picky about what my host was serving, and I certainly didn't want to be the pain in the butt with the "dietary restrictions." And so I sat there. Holding back the tears. Trying to act like I was totally cool with my plate of cranberry sauce and a few pieces of lettuce.
Four Thanksgivings later, it's quite a different story. I don't ever just wing it anymore. I plan ahead. I've gone from feeling like I'm the pain-in-the-butt guest to the one that is going to bring an interesting dish to the table (literally). I offer to make the mashed potatoes now, help with the some other sides, and I'll always make a dessert (like this apple crumble). Not only do I take the pressure off the host of making something plant-tastic, but I can help her out with some of the kitchen duties too.
To me, it's not about making "healthy food"; it's about making food that everyone can enjoy together. And isn't that what Thanksgiving was supposed to all about in the first place?
Warm and fragrant, hot mulled cider boasts classic apple cider that is infused with the bright flavors of citrus and ginger, complemented with bold, fragrant spices like cinnamon, clove, and star anise. The flavors meld together to give your taste buds one perfectly balanced, slightly sweet and spicy, sip after another. Beyond its obvious scrumptious factor, I champion this drink as one of my Fall favorites, because it comes together with virtually no effort. It's also child- and entertaining-friendly.
One of my favorite times to indulge is when I’m entertaining. I like to put a big pot on my stove's back burner and keep it on a constant simmer, always easily in reach for guests to help themselves and keep the warm and cozy effect in high gear. (This also carries the side benefit of the most amazing aroma wafting throughout your kitchen.) And because I’m a fan of versatility, I love that it’s special enough to serve in your favorite china and equally casual enough to pour into a favorite mug. It’s a whenever, whatever kind of drink, so whether you're hosting a party or watching football, hot mulled cider will suit the occasion. If you're ready to make the days of Autumn just a tad bit sweeter, spicier, warmer and cozier, then your next drink has to be hot mulled cider.
Living in the South, the humidity hangs heavy in the air until late in the year. Heck, we even had a pool day last weekend. While some other parts of the country are spotting their first snowflakes, here in Florida we're welcoming our first days of daytime temperatures under 75 degrees. While we are definitely not ready to break out the Winter coats, the trees have finally begun to shed their leaves, and cooler temperatures will be here before we know it. I welcome Fall and love everything about it: the crisp sweatshirt-and-jeans weather, the pumpkin spiced lattes returning to the coffee shops, the anticipation of the first bonfire of the year, and all the stick-to-your-ribs comfort food and steamy drinks that warm you up on a chilly night. One of the hot drinks that I like to make when Autumn finally arrives is this peanut butter hot chocolate. It's simple to prepare, sweet and creamy, and the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of my favorite time of year!
The chocolate cravings come heavy during the holiday season, and this simple recipe will give you a quick fix. When you add in the spice of the ginger beer and a hint of cranberry flavor, you've got a sweet holiday beverage that stands apart from your typical mulled cider. You can even warm this one up a bit with a splash of dark rum.
For the recipe, keep reading.
This simple guacamole with a veggie one-eyed monster face is so easy to make, it's scary! It's perfect for a kids' Halloween party or a casual Halloween get-together with friends. At a time when people are overloaded with sugar, it's nice to have a healthier savory snack like this one, especially when it's just as spooky and fun as the sweet Halloween treats.
Just when I thought chicken salad couldn't get any better.
It's so versatile. I've wrapped it up, put it on simple white bread as a sandwich, added it as a topping to salads, etc. Now I changed things up a bit.
I made it a dip.
AND I added chopped, hot, and spicy pecans as a topping.And cheese.
Hot Chicken Salad Dip
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled, baked, or grilled and shredded
1 egg, boiled and chopped
1 1/2 cups mayo
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup pickles, diced
1 jalapeño, washed and diced
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon seasoned salt (or more to taste)
3/4 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine the shredded chicken through jalapeño pepper thoroughly, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Toss the pecans with the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Spray a 9-by-9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray, add the chicken salad, and top with cheese.
- Top with pecan mixture, cover with foil, and bake for 25 minutes.
- Uncover, and bake an additional five minutes, or until pecans are starting to brown.
- Serve with crackers, chips, or fresh veggie sticks.
Note: the first time I made this, I used Amelia's Spicing Pecans, which are fantastic, but I wanted to try to re-create them, and this combination was great.