Autumn {skillet} Dinner

Well, I’m older.

{<-Flowers, dinner, presents, drinks}

But, I guess 26 isn’t so bad…

Each year, my special day seems to kick off the fall season in my mind. Instead of dreaming of lazy summer evenings, ice cream, and days at the pool, I think of going for a run in the crisp sunshine, hearty comfort food…and presents. (And, who am I kidding, I think about ice cream every season.) :)

My awesome Husband and my fun family made my day great. The Husband and I had a date night complete with sushi, my favorite local pecan tart with vanilla gelato, tickets to see the Zac Brown Band and a weekend getaway. And then, we caught up with my parents and siblings for lunch at Local Roots and…. drum-roll.Jeni’s SPLENDID Ice cream!

{Sunday lunch with the Family!}

This restaurant was perfect – patio, zucchini fries, black bean burgers, calzones… everything was delicious, and we had a blast laughing, telling stories and just being together. Of course, the anticipation of the best ice cream on the planet also made things a little more exciting…

Jeni’s trio with salted caramel, brown butter almond brittle and black coffee… euphoria.

{All the best things: Jeni’s, little sisters, husbands, sunshine…}

Well, after this delightful waltz into the season, I was ready for some authentic fall flavors at home… and after that ice cream (and multiple other birthday-related treats that will remain unnamed), I was also ready for some vegetables. Lots of them. Plus, who doesn’t love dinner that can be made in one pan?

Win-win-win.

Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, and great for leftovers, this salty-sweet dish will make you want to jump in crunchy leaves, wear a scarf, drink a pumpkin spice latte and sit by a campfire all at the same time.

Autumn {skillet} Dinner

Serves 4, Based on this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 4 tsp olive oil (I used 1/2 garlic-infused olive oil, if you don’t have that on hand, just add a clove while cooking the chicken)
  • 1-2 Chicken or Turkey sausages, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 med sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, oregano, sage (and/or whatever else you have in your garden!)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 c reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c real maple syrup

Directions:

1. SEASON chicken lightly with salt. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in large nonstick frying pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate.

2. RETURN pan to heat and add remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Toss in sausage, and cook until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in apples, garlic, fresh herbs, and cinnamon. Cook 3 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth, bring to a boil, and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add reserved chicken and remaining 1/2 cup broth. Drizzle with maple syrup, add dried cranberries, and season with the salt and black pepper as needed. Cook until hot, about 2 minutes.

Enjoy!

{The fresh herbs, colorful ingredients and super-simple steps make this dinner a winner}

I can’t forget a Happy Birthday shout-out to my Father-in-law! We reallly enjoyed that classic DQ ice cream cake… mmmm. Happy 60th!

And, lest I neglect to mention it, FreshlyMinted has turned 1!

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Harvest Salad with {Apple Cider} Vinaigrette

Yes, there is squash involved. Avert your eyes now if you can’t handle another bite. But really… you’d regret it.

You are sort of getting this recipe third-hand: This dish was inspired by Steph, who was inspired by this dish from The Daily Garnish. The genius that she is (that’s a math teacher for you!), Steph substituted apple cider for orange juice in the millet recipe. As I was licking my fork after sitting down to dinner with her and her husband a few weeks ago, It dawned on me that it would make a delicious salad dressing. Boy, was I right! (Thanks girls!)

P.S. Little known secret fact about Steph: She loves Honda mini-vans. Shhhhh.

This salad is packed with everything I love about this season: Salty-sweet roasted squash, tangy Gorgonzola cheese, crunchy toasted pecans, tart dried cranberries and melt-in-your-mouth pan-fried cinnamon apples. I declare these match(es) made in heaven.

A perfect accompaniment to any meal (Like Thanksgiving…), but this delightful concoction could be great as a main dish as well. Add chicken, toast a crunchy baguette, and you’re set. (Or, you could have it at 9:00p.m. with leftover quinoa loaf and BBQ sauce like we did. Super classy.)

Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Serves 4 (ish) as a side dish

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the Salad:

  • One squash, thickly sliced – I used a Sweet Dumpling, but Acorn or even butternut would work as well (you would just need to peel and cube the butternut)
  • One to two apples, sliced – Depends on size
  • 1/3 cup of pecans, toasted and chopped- Can use without toasting, but they are more flavorful after a just a little bit of time in a dry skillet!
  • 1/3 cup Gorgonzola crumbles – Any strong cheese will work, and even Feta in a pinch.
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • About 6 cups of spinach or mixed baby greens
  • 1 T Earth Balance, or olive oil (or butter) for sauteing
  • A few dashes of cinnamon

Directions:

  • Slice squash, and bake on a foil-covered baking sheet with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until it starts to get a little brown and caramelized. You will probably have leftovers… never a bad thing.
  • While squash is baking, combine the dressing ingredients, and whisk. You will have plenty for a crowd, or just to save in the fridge for another day.
  • Toss the sliced apples into a skillet with the Earth Balance or olive oil, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Let them cook until tender (they will smell soooo delicious!), about 15 20 minutes minutes on medium heat. Note: These apples are wonderful on freshly baked biscuits with honey (like my mama makes)…or almost anything for that matter.

  • Arrange cooked squash, apples and other toppings over a bed of greens, and serve! I like to have my dressing on the side, but feel free to toss a little in with the finished salad if you like.

When you eat this salad, it’s like the entirety of the month of November is having a party in your mouth. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?!

So, slip on your comfy PJ’s best party dress, grab some leftovers baguettes, and enjoy…