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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Fancy {pants} Frittata

Sometimes I just need something super easy to make for dinner. 

Yet, at the same time, I need it to make me feel good about myself.

And it has to be yummy.

And the Husband has to approve.

And it has to be made of things I have languishing in my fridge.

Arg – Impossible, right? Wrong.

Enter Fancy Pants (and ridiculously, awesomely, embarrassingly easy) Frittata:

Just the word “frittata” feels sophisticated as it roooooolllllsss off the tongue (especially when the Husband says it. He also tried to incorporate it into a Lady Gaga song… another story altogether).

Mmmmm…. cheesy.

But seriously, with that fancy name and cute little triangle shape, you wouldn’t dream that this ‘lady’s brunch dish’ is glorified scrambled eggs. Way easier than an omelet (no flipping required), healthier than quiche, and perfectly customizable (do half-and-half with different ingredients!) this MUST be on your next ‘breakfast for dinner’ list…

Or weekend breakfast list. Or brunch for the parents list. Or pack for lunch to take to the office the next day list.

Again, seriously.

Fancy {Pants} Frittata

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 6 Eggs or 3 eggs and 1 cup of egg whites
  • About 1 Cup of Spinach, chopped
  • About 1 Cup of Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Green Pepper, chopped
  • About 1/2- 1 cup shredded or crumbled cheese of your choice – I used goat cheese on one half, and part skim mozzarella on the other (His & Hers!)
  • Any other vegetables, meats or cheeses your little heart desires (Bacon? Parmesan? Broccoli? Go for it.)
  • About 1 T of Olive oil
Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350.
  • Break eggs into a medium-sized bowl, whisk.
  • Sauté veggies in olive oil in an oven-safe 10″ skillet on medium-high heat until softened (about 5 minutes), add spinach for last minute or so.
  • Pour egg mixture evenly over veggies. Do not stir. Turn burner to low.
  • Sprinkle cheese over eggs – be as generous as you like ;)
  • Let the mixture cook on low for five minutes so the bottom begins to set.
  • Put the entire pan into the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the eggs are set in the middle (no longer jiggly!).
  • Use a hot pad and pull pan from the over (remember not to grab that hot handle!) and let cool for a minute or so before cutting and serving.
  • Serve slices with fresh fruit, toast or yogurt or nutella or bacon…. you get the picture!
 

Enjoy!

Do you have an easy-but-seems-fancy dish that you love to whip up? Tell me about it!

P.S. I got a surprise visit from my college roomie, Chelsea last night! Thanks for the visit, C!

Yes, I am “R”… we also had an “A” and an “L”.

And yes, we were super hip ;) Not.

Asian Lettuce Wraps {for a Crowd}

Every once in a while, you stumble upon a truly great recipe. It’s simple. It’s healthy. It’s tastes great. Even boys like it…

In my experience, these rare and wonderful dishes usually come from a single source: A mom.

This surprising dish is no exception. Thanks to my good friend Steph’s lovely and talented mama, the Husband and I were introduced to her lettuce wraps at a Birthday party. It was Cole’s 25th Birthday, to be exact, and there was football, beer and lots and lots of boys there. And, they loved each and every healthful green-wrapped bit of the stuff.

Impossible, you say? Just try it.

Asian Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4 as written. Quadruple for a crowd!
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 lb. hot Italian turkey brats
  • 1 lg. yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 C Hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp. ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Asian chile pepper sauce, opt.
  • 1 – 8 oz. water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 1 green onion bunch, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Asian dark sesame oil
  • Head of  bib, romaine or iceberg lettuce
Directions
  • Rinse whole lettuce leaves & pat dry, set aside.
  •  In a med skillet over high heat, brown both kinds of turkey together, stirring often, drain.  Break turkey up into small pieces when cool to touch, set aside.
  •  Cook onion (til opaque) in skillet used to brown turkey, stirring frequently.  Add garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar & chile pepper to onions & stir.
  • Add turkey mixture to skillet, coating turkey with onion mixture.  Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions & sesame oil. Continue cooking until onions just begin to wilt, about 2 min.
  • If you plan to eat immediately, arrange lettuce leaves around serving platter & pile meat in the center. For a crowd, simply transfer the mixture into a crock pot and set on low until you’re ready to serve!
  • It’s magic. Tasty, “a-mom-must-have-made-this!”, magic.

You might not wean party-goers and guests off of artificial cheese dip and buffalo chicken flavored pretzels all in one foul swoop… but this is a start.

I made this dish as an appetizer for our recent family Christmas party, and it got rave reviews. I made the filling a few days ahead, and popped it in the freezer. The morning of the party I put it in a crock pot, and it stayed warm and had an amazing flavor (it had time to “marinate”). No fuss, no worry that my dish would get cold, and it looks totally impressive…

AND, I made that delightful looking little treat above to accompany them. Lettuce wraps and dark chocolate drizzled, candy cane sprinkled, homemade rice crispy treats on a stick = a match made in party heaven.

Thank God for Pinterest.

Enjoy!

The Husband’s {Annual} Dinner

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are gearing up for a fun New Year! We’ve been in three states and will have slept in five houses by the time we head home this weekend…. but boy, I love it :)

Now, back to where I left off: My husband and I have a great relationship, and one of the keys of our happy marriage is that I do the cooking. I love it. He doesn’t. I like trying crazy things. He eats them without complaint (and maybe just one supplemental packet of fruit snacks later in the evening).

Well last year, our friends started getting on him about his lack of cooking prowess. He asserted that he could cook if he wanted, he just didn’t LOVE it.

They said he was full of it.

So, he set out to prove everyone wrong…. and made me one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten (complete with handmade dark chocolate truffles and baked brie en croute.) Where did that come from?! He said it was his way of making up for lost time. And, his reason for making exactly one dinner per year for the foreseeable future. Quality, not quantity.

A year later, and with no dinners prepared in-between, he decided to make this a celebrated annual event. So, on to the computer, and off to the grocery store he went. (And yes, that means he has made dinner for us exactly twice since we were married June of 2009. No, not even mac n’ cheese).

I Christmas shopped, and he cooked (and called when he needed to know why Kosher salt was different from other salt, where the dill was kept, and if you put meat between the halves of the broiler pan or on top of it). Though he has some cooking vocab to master, dinner was totally delightful. And, it included eggplant, Greek yogurt and cauliflower.

Mind. Blown.

Try the recipes he used below (and maybe your man could even take a stab at it! At least once a year…).

You can find them all at FoodNetwork.com!

The Husband’s Second Annual Dinner

Encourage him to give it a try – You won’t be disappointed! Unless you have to clean up after him…

Spaghetti Squash {your new best friend}

I love great food, and I love eating a lot of it.

While I have developed a more delicate appreciation for new dishes and fancy preparation, at any time I could still eat an ice cream sundae as big as your head. And like it.

I have never been told I eat “like a bird”, and I’ve never been one of those people who just take one dessert at a potluck. I’m pretty convinced that I could eat the Husband under the table at every meal if I wanted to. But, that wouldn’t be very lady like, and eating massive quantities of ice cream isn’t good for my girlish figure…or my mood when I wake up on Monday and my pants don’t zip.

Been there, done that. Not pretty.

I am perfectly fine handling my portion control most of the time, but there are some days (maybe when it has been a little chilly in your office all day long, and puddles have eaten the bottom of your pants so you feel soggy, and when you had a lame-o lunch that you packed in a rush this morning) that you want to just feel all warm and fuzzy and full. Like, a loaf of bread and butter and a huge bowl of pasta full. BUT, you also know that you can’t do that every cold night October – March without dire consequences…

So, what’s a healthy hearty eater to do? Two words: Spaghetti. Squash.You might be a little familiar with this lovely veggie, but I think WAY too many people are in the dark regarding its delicious potential. I think it might just be one of the best kept secrets at the super market… You might be skeptical, but don’t hate until you try it. Trust me. It’s worth it.

Picture a HUGE bowl of spaghetti goodness with marinara, your favorite veggies, a little cheese sprinkled on top and a slice of toasty bread. All for a fraction of the calories and carbs of your usual go-to pasta! This dream can become a reality tonight.

Directions

Serves 2-3

{You can find spaghetti squash at most regular grocery stores – If the Kroger in my little Ohio town has it, I bet yours does also!}

  • Pre-heat oven to 400
  • Carefully cut squash in half length-wise (this is tough – take your time and watch those digits!)
  • Scoop out the seeds
  • Lay face-down on a baking sheet lined with foil (makes clean-up a breeze!)
  • Poke holes in the skin (like a baked potato)
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife slides easily through the skin (time varies depending on size and ripeness of the squash)
  • Use a fork to scoop and scrape out the insides of the squash – It will come out in strands just like spaghetti!

At this point, you can season with olive oil or butter and a little salt and pepper and call it a day (or a great side dish). BUT, if you want the true pasta effect, take a few more steps…

Chop your favorite vegetables, even toss in the meat of your choice, and add marinara for a well-rounded healthy meal (that you can each a bunch of with zero pasta-fuled-guilt-trips).

I used mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper, onion and spinach, and added about a 1/4 lb of browned ground turkey. This dish is also GREAT with these turkey meatballs (just keep a batch of them in the freezer and pop them in the oven whenever you want!).

So, grab a squash, a bowl, the nearest green things and a jar of sauce, and get ready for a healthy, hearty meal that will leave your belly full, and your skinny jeans in your repertoire ; )

Enjoy!