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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A {Happy} Harvest

Happy Harvest!

Our weekend involved music, friends, a race and far, far too much pumpkin fluff. In other words, it was great :)

We woke up on Saturday for a “Pumpkin Run” at a local park. Proceeds from the two-mile trail run went to benefit a Youth Leadership program. It was c-c-c-cold early in the morning, but our two miles through trees, puddles and over bike paths warmed us up in no time! We dressed up (keepin’ things festive) and had a fun time with a few friends that joined us. I placed second for women, and one of our friends took home the first place prize. It was for a good cause, but the race was also a great reason to go to a fun breakfast out :) We didn’t meet anyone famous this time, though…MMMMM… Oats!

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out, watching movies, and getting ready for one of our FAVORITE seasonal traditions. Danny & Halley’s Annual Pumpkin Carving Party! Danny works with the Husband, and his lovely wife Halley is the queen of all hostesses, She always makes every party delightful with her attention to detail and fun, crafty decor. I could have taken pictures all night!

I brought Pumpkin Fluff that I made using this amazing recipe (I just switched out the whipped topping for marshmallow fluff, and used a little less sugar. It was good on everything…. including pancakes the next day!) and an old favorite, Spinach Artichoke dip (from Cooking Light! Try it…it is easy and so, so yummy. Just use the whole box of spinach instead of half : )

We actually had to leave the party a bit early to make it to our next event, but Halley and Danny had a special announcement for their guests that they shared with us before we left:

Congrats on the ‘lil punkin’ (to arrive May of 2012)! And thanks to good friend Heather for the beautiful photo. We can’t wait to meet him or her!

After the party, we made a quick change, and went to a brand new venue for a special throwback concert – The Contours. Their big hit was, “Do you love me? (Now that I can dance)” recorded in 1962. I adore music from that era (I have a stash of my parents’ records and have seen Paul McCartney (Beatles), Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel), Bill Medley (Righteous Brothers), Don McLean (American Pie), Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) and Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees) in concert!) They sang a ton of great hits by other Motown artists, and Alexandria’s – a new tapas bar and event space downtown – was breathtaking.

Look at that lighting…and those sparkly suits! We danced the night away, enjoyed fun cocktails and got autographs… Loved every groovy minute of it.

Because we had to leave a little early from the pumpkin party, I didn’t get to finish my carving. But, I loved the design I had picked out so much (and my white pumpkin) that I rounded out my festive weekend by carving it on Sunday!

Loved the finished product! Super easy, too (yay for stencils!)

All of these activities put me into full-fledged harvest/crunchy leaves/thanksgiving/just-double-digits-until-christmas mode. So, for dinner I HAD to whip something up that matched my autumnal-hued mood…

I have something special for you coming soon!

Sorry -But this little post is a book already. Get the recipe next time!

{In the mean time, visit Halley’s blog – The Halley Daily!}

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!

Mrs. Eisenhower’s {Apple Pie}

Fall is full of so many wonderful things: The food, the holidays, the desserts, the weather, the food, the clothes….the food.

To celebrate the season, and the fact that we were actually at home for an entire weekend (unheard of!), the Husband and I took a trip a local orchard for their famous cider, and fabulous apples.

Geckle Orchard started as a hobby for owners Gene and Jane , and now is a local favorite for natural, small-batch pressed cider, and a wide variety of apples. They also sell their aged vinegar, and honey from the bees that pollinate their trees.

We got  a mix of Gala, HoneyCrisp (my fav!), Empire, Liberty, Ruby Jonathan, Cortland, Jonagold and McIntosh. Mmmmm…

Well, with all of these apples, what’s a girl to do?

Make a vintage apple pie, that’s what!

My great-grandmother gave me a stack of magazines from the 1950′ and 60’s several years ago. I LOVE looking at the photos, advertisements and reading the stories and editorials from the pages of  “LOOK”, “Modern Bride”, “Women’s Home Companion” and “Ladies Home Journal.”

Well, an issue of Family Circle from September of 1957 (their 25th Anniversary Year) has a wonderful spread on the First Family, “When the Eisenhowers Cook.” And in it, was the perfect, easy apple recipe…

Apparently, the President’s wife, Mamie, didn’t start out being very fabulous in the kitchen. In fact, it was Eisenhower himself that was known for being a “Walking recipe book” and who was “as vain about his dishes as any fussy chef”. As a General, he paid special attention to the Army’s food-service, and it was said that he often used cooking to help him unwind during his time in office.

But, the President passed on some of his skills to wife, and though as a young bride she said she said she could “only make fudge and mayonnaise”, her repertoire expanded with his help (though the fudge did help lure her young second lieutenant). She ended up being very influential in the White House kitchen, and loved to make her husband’s favorite foods.

The dish that caught my eye – nestled between the ads for Hydrox Cookies and Diet Delight Peaches – was Mamie’s Deep Dish Apple Pie. So, I tried it. Unaltered, unhealthified and unmodernized. I wanted to enjoy it just like the First Lady, and it. was. delicious.

Old-Fashioned, and the President’s long-time favorite with cheese, ice cream, or cream

Mamie’s Deep Dish Apple Pie

{Directly from the pages of the magazine}

Ingredients:

  • 10 to 12 tart cooking apples (about 8 cups, cut up – I used Ruby Jonathan)
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

Directions:

  1. Pare apples and cut into small pieces into a bowl; stir in sugar and lemon juice to coat fruit well; spoon into buttered 9-inch shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine flour and brown sugar in same bowl; cut in butter or margarine with pastry blender or 2 knives; sprinkle over apples; pat down.
  3. Bake in moderate oven (350) about 45 minutes, or until juice bubbles around edge and topping is golden-brown. Serve warm with cream, ice cream, or snappy cheese.

I was surprised to see this called a “pie”, when there is no crust involved, but I loved it. It was easy, fast and simple…and I haven’t perfected the whole “crust thing” yet anyway ; ) The only thing that might have made it better, would be a handful of chopped pecans added to the topping…

So, grab some apples and your favorite apron, and channel your inner “American royalty” as you take your first delicious bite…

…let me know if you liked the “snappy cheese”.

Enjoy!