I made this Roasted Butternut Squash Panzanella Salad for a very special holiday meal last week. You see amazing things happen when a group of strong, passionate women get together over delicious meals. I have a group wonderful food friends that not only enjoy each other company, we apprecaite going out together on a monthly basis to try new restaurants around town. For the last two years, this group decided to give back and get involved with a unique Girl Scout Troop ~ Troop 1500. This group of girls are in a situation that many can’t understand, let alone a child. The Troops mothers have all been incarcerated at some point during their child-raising years thus, leaving these girls to learn leadership and life skills on their own. One of the troop leaders (and teachers) is Joanna Champaigne, and after meeting her you can help but to feel her passion and love for these girls. Most holidays for the girls are spent apart from their mothers and many are left with nothing to open on Christmas Day –– the thought of this just gets me right in the heart. I think about my own children and just how lucky they are with all of the “stuff” that they have gotten over the holidays. I also think about the look of pure joy that comes over them when the open even the most elementary gifts –– every kid should get that at least once a year.
So, we got together and decided to do something about it with fabulous Arielle Clementine leading us through a slew of emails. Arielle and Joanna had the girls each make a wish list for themselves with notes about their brothers and sisters. You would think they would ask for amazing or some what extravagant gifts but most of them just wanted simple things –– like tooth brushes, socks, sweat pants, and even world peace (ok, this one not so simple be sweet). This was heart-warming to hear and I knew we were helping a truly an amazing group of girls. The ladies gathered for a potluck lunch and got to work. We stuffed 23 stockings and wrapped presents for all 23 girl scouts and their siblings and then contributed something to eat for the girl’s own holiday potluck party. After this event and seeing the photos of the joyful girls, I felt that my holidays were complete.
Want to learn more about this amazing national organization or get involved with a troop near you ? Click HERE!
Whatever you do this season, I hope you find a sprinkle of time to help a special group of your choice and enjoy your holidays (and this salad) my friends.
Peel, seed, and roast the squash with the onions and sage.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place butternut squash, onions, and sage onto a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and using a spoon or hands mix together until everything is coated with the oil. Place into the oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once at the half way point. Once roasted remove from the oven and set aside.
Place a heavy duty pan over medium high heat, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and the minced garlic. Gently stir together and then add in the cubed bread to the pan while continuing to stir. Let bread cook for 2-4 minutes or until lightly toasted while stirring occasionally. Once toasted remove from the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together honey, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the butternut squash to the bread pan then pour the honey mixture over the top. Stir until well combined. Be sure to get all the way to the bottom of the pan to get any remaining olive oil into the mix. Once well combined, add in the fresh mozzarella cubes and give a final stir. Finally, spoon mixture out into a serving dish and serve.
This holiday season I made Citrus Sugar Cookies and you may have been wondering why I haven’t done a post on any holiday cookies yet this year. Over the last two years, I have gotten together with some food bloggers and done a “12 Days of Holiday Cookies” Part 1 and Part 2 but this year I decided to do something a bit different and charitable. I am working with the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap started by the lovely and talented ladies –– Lindsay of Love & Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen –– just 4 short years ago. It’s a national champaign where food bloggers enter to participate, bake cookies, swap, and post about them. The BEST part besides all of the delicious cookies showing up on my doorstep and meeting more fellow food bloggers? All proceeds go to the Cookies for Kids Cancer benefit –– a non-profit committed to fund new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the U.S. than any other disease –– so it’s a win, win in my book! When choosing what cookie to make, I had to go with something that was crowd-pleasing and one that would (hopefully) travel well across the miles. With the citrus in season and cookies to bake, I went with a traditional sugar cookie laced with a hint of citrus thus, iced Citrus Sugar Cookies. Along with each dozen of cookies that I mailed out, I included the current issue of Edible Austin for my recipients to peruse while snacking on their cookies.
To make these cookies simply roll out the chilled dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper to about 1/2″ then use cookie cutters to cut out your shapes to bake.
Make the royal icing and whip until large peeks form like this.
Add any food colorings if desired.
You can use a pastry bag, plastic bag, or knife to spread icing out onto each cookie.
Embellish with sprinkles and candies of your choice.
From Texas with Love ~ be sure to leave a plate out Citrus Sugar Cookies for Santa.
It’s a great feeling to get something homemade in the mail and these cookies didn’t disappoint:
Then finally, after a short adventure of this box showing up at the wrong address, these tasty Dark Chocolate Chip & Peppermint Bark Snickerdoodle Bars came my way from Julie Goes Healthy ~ worth the wait!
Thank you ladies ~ xo
Whatever cookies you bake, I hope you keep your holiday sweet!
In a large bowl combine: flour, baking powder, salt –– mix together well and set aside.
In another large bowl add butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, grapefruit zest and orange until well combined.
Next slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until well combined. Once dough is formed divide dough into 3 even ball shapes and place covered into the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes. Working with one ball of dough at a time (leaving the others in the refrigerator to stay cool) place between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper to roll out into about 1/2" piece. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using the cookie cutter shapes of your choice cut dough and place cut out cookie shapes onto a parchment lined or silpat lined cookie sheet. Continue the process until all of the shapes can be cut out of that roll, then gather the scraps of dough, re-work into a ball and re-roll the scrap dough into a 1/2" thick piece. Cut out shapes and place onto prepared cookie sheets.
Continue the process -- getting more dough out of the refrigerator if necessary -- until two cookie sheets are filled but cookies are spaced apart slightly. Place cookie sheets into the oven for 7-10 minutes, until slightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes on the pan before moving them onto a cooling rack. Continue the cookie process until all of the dough is used. Place on the cooling rack until completely cool before adding any decorations or icing.
for the icing
Place the Confectioners sugar and meringue into a large mixing bowl and stir together well. Next add in 6 Tablespoons of grapefruit juice and continue to mix on high speed until icing is formed –– light and fluffy with large peaks. Divide icing up into sections if you want to add any food coloring. Using a spoon, knife, or pastry bag coat each cookie with the icing of your choice and decorate with any sprinkles or embellishments of your choice. Allow to dry for 20-30 minutes and enjoy.
This easy Broccoli Beef recipe was a lifesaver the other night. During this crazy holiday season there never seems to be enough time to do all of the things that you need to do –– even when you are “trying to take it easy” this year. Yes, I’ve said it, I had the best intentions of not taking on too much this year but here we are … B-U-S-Y. Holiday events, charity functions, kids parties … I’m tired just thinking about it. In addition to all of it, my kiddos have had a heighten sense of … well … let’s just call it the craaaaaaaaaazzzzies. I have been trying my hardest to get these monkeys to bed before 7:30 every night which means by the time we get home from school pick-up and wrap up homework, I need to start making dinner almost immediately. Broccoli Beef to the rescue. It comes together quickly in one pan and couldn’t we all could use a little easy weeknight dinner this month?! Fresh “trees” of broccoli swirling around tender cuts of beef can be served over rice or just straight up as my wild ones prefer. Hang on my friends, 2015 is almost here.
In a small bowl add soy sauce, orange juice, corn starch, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper –– whisk together well and set aside.
Place a large heavy duty pan over medium high heat. Add in olive oil and beef and cook for 2 minutes (unless you want your meat more on the well done side cook for 3-4) while stirring occasionally. Next add in broccoli and continue to stir for another 2 minutes. After 2 minutes reduce temperature to low and slow add in the soy sauce mixture. Stir until well combined and let cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and serve.
This week I am all about Texas citrus. One, to hopefully keep everyone healthy this holiday season –– believe me, we’ve had those holidays where we all try to avoid that one sick kiddo coughing up a storm in the house (or worse!) and it’s no fun. AND two, because … well, I just love fresh citrus of any kind –– before coffee came along I was a big glass of o.j. in the morning kinda girl. Along with the sweet tang of the season, I also become attracted to white chocolate. It’s not my go-to chocolate of choice, in fact I love the complete opposite –– dark chocolate –– but for some reason in the month of December it becomes a favorite. One of the many things that I adore about this time of the year is giving food as gifts. There’s no greater way to share the love with your people than with a delicious treat, am I right? I made this sweet delight and while the smells warmed up the house, the little hands came around looking for a morsel to try –– just imagine this photo shoot. This Orange Cranberry Bread with White Chocolate Pecan Glaze is one such gift-worthy goody during these festive times. Cranberries popping alongside sweet tangy orange bread then smothered in nutty, white chocolate pecan glaze might even be good enough to leave out for St. Nick, that is, if you don’t eat it all first.
Moist and delicious…yum!
see … those cute little hands.
Wrap it up and start gifting!
Orange Cranberry Bread with White Chocolate Pecan Glaze
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 - 2 1/2 cup loaf pans well and set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and set aside.
In another large bowl, gently whisk together eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, almost all of the zest from both oranges (reserving 1 teaspoon for the glaze) and the juice from one orange -- 1/4 cup. Once combined, slowly hand mix in half of the flour mixture. Next, add in the cranberries followed by the remaining flour mixture -- the batter will be slightly thick. Once combined, pour batter evenly out into prepared loaf pans. Place into the oven for 55-65 minutes or until slightly golden in color and a toothpick comes out clean. Once finished remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans from 10-15 minutes before removing onto a cooling rack. Top with glaze and serve.
for the glaze
Place a small pan over medium high heat and add in white chocolate chips, orange juice, orange zest and half of the pecans. Stir until well combined and the white chocolate is completely melted. If needed add in a tablespoon or two of water to lighten consistency of the glaze. Once finished drizzle over the bread loaves evenly and sprinkle each one with the remaining pecans evenly before serving.
We have a pecan tree in our yard. It was planted sometime before we bought our house and it now produces a fair amount of pecans. It seems that every year I end up thinking about these golden nuggets well after all of the neighborhood squirrels have attacked the tree and eaten or hidden all of these nutty gems. One of these years … I WILL out smart the squirrels and cluster-up the majority of the pecans available but until then I “gather” mine up at the farmers markets. Last week, I picked up a big bag –– some shelled and some not –– with all the intentions of making a pecan pie. Best laid plans, right? After all of the Thanksgiving cooking and cookie baking (more on that later), I was looking to feed the family an easier dish, yet a slightly sweet treat. Some how we ended up with an extra loaf of challah bread –– shocking, I know –– but I think my eyes were bigger than my stomach when I was planning what side dishes to take to our Thanksgiving Day dinner with friends. After making a double batch of this Apple Challah Stuffing, there it was … the “extra” loaf. If you don’t have any Challah handy, don’t worry you could do this Apple Pecan Bread Pudding with Brioche or any other type of slightly sweet bread that you prefer. The thing I love most about bread puddings is that they are not only easy to make but they could also be served for breakfast or dessert. Top this bad boy with some creamy vanilla ice cream — oh my! Or serve it alongside some bacon and eggs and heavenly breakfast is in the house and this was long gone before a pecan pie would ever be.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 8"-9" cast iron skillet, spread cubed bread into the pan evenly and set aside.
In a large bowl, add pecans, apples, eggs, cream, 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and mix together well. Pour mixture over the bread cubes and use a spoon to gently push some of the cubes down to soak. Sprinkle the top with the remaining brown sugar and place into the oven for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through and the top is slightly golden. Serve.
I told you about my on again, off again, love affair with swiss chard. Do you remember my holiday mushrooms? This season it’s so on and the rainbow of colors just makes me happy especially on some of these gloomy, wintery days as of late. This week, I layered it into a dish much like you would use a noodle for layering to create this Three Cheese + Swiss Chard Skillet Lasagna. Fresh Swiss Chard smothered in ricotta cheese blended in with feta and mozzarella, oozing with a flavorful tomato sauce all in a cast iron skillet made for fairly quick, easy, and healthy meal. The boys of the house gobbled this one up without any questions –– silence really is golden –– and talk about comfort food –– this was a perfect way to warm-up our chilly selves and leave the house with smells of cozy goodness.
Swiss Chard layered into the dish much like a noodle.
For the tomato sauce, place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and mix until well combined, then set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese and half of the feta cheese and set aside.
In a large cast iron skillet place 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce. Top with one layer of noodles -- breaking them around to fit as necessary. Top the noodles with a small sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, followed by a layer of swiss chard placed on top -- ripping or tearing them to fit the skillet in an even layer. Top the swiss chard with a thin layer of the ricotta cheese mix -- using the back of a spoon makes this easier to apply. Top the ricotta with a 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Repeat the process one more time to produce your lasagna layers. Finish the layer with the remaining tomato sauce then top with the remaining mozzarella and feta cheese. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until slightly golden on top. Once golden, remove from the oven and let sit for another 5-10 minutes, top with green onions and serve.
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