Easy Roasted Ranch Carrots

 

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It’s almost Thanksgiving, which is full of recipes that are ridiculous to prepare.  They either have a bunch of steps that you’re trying to take in order while making 10 other recipes at the same time or they take up oven space for hours on end.  But this recipe is so easy that you can whip it up while the turkey rests after cooking.  Or, as long as you keep an eye on them, the carrots can be roasted at a slightly different temperature so that you can have them in the oven with another side.  Another option is to steam or boil the carrots, but I personally don’t like the taste and texture as much as roasting.  Whatever works for you works for me.  The flexibility is what’s so nice about this recipe.  Of course, with butter, brown sugar, and dry ranch mix, they’re not as healthy as plain roasted carrots, but they’re still vegetables.  And it’s a holiday, after all, so let’s all cut ourselves some slack.

In reality, after having Thanksgiving with my family last weekend (and the leftovers that all ended up at our house), I can’t imagine another round of the same food in less than two more days with my in-laws.  We didn’t have these carrots, so maybe I’ll make them for a slight change in scenery.  Plus, it’s more about the company than the food anyway, right?  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Easy Roasted Ranch Carrots

1 pound baby carrots
drizzle of olive oil
5 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 package dry ranch mix  (like Hidden Valley)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the carrots in an even layer on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast until the carrots are softened, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan and mix in the sugar and ranch mix until combined.  Add the carrots and stir until they are completely coated.  Serve warm.

Source: adapted from Hidden Valley

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Maple Glaze

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It’s been a busy fall, as they always are with back-to-school time, our anniversary, Lily’s birthday, Halloween, and getting ready for winter and the holidays.  On top of the usual, we went to the weddings of both my brother and Jake’s sister (not to each other) and planned a trip to Disney World (that’s still a secret from the guest of honor).  And poor Jake spends every weekend raking leaves, yet there are still more hanging on the trees waiting to fall.  And now it’s already started snowing in Pittsburgh.  How is winter starting already?!

In October, Lily had what she calls “the best birthday ever.”  She turned 4(!) and celebrated in style with a pool party at the local rec center.  We invited her whole class thinking that maybe 5 kids would be available, so weren’t we surprised when almost all of them RSVP’d with a yes.  And then they all actually showed up!  I’ve never been so thankful that we held the party somewhere other than our house.  The kids were adorably happy going down the slide and drifting around the lazy river, and Lily loved having them to play with, so it was a great day for everyone.

Now we are hunkering down and getting ready for two Thanksgivings.  One here in Pittsburgh (topped off with a trip to the Pitt v. Syracuse football game) and one in Syracuse with Jake’s side of the family.  For my own sake at the second Thanksgiving, I hope Pitt fares well at the first!  I’m not responsible for cooking the dinner for either celebration, but I’ve still been trying different recipes so that my oven doesn’t get too lonely.  I’ll try to get them all posted in the next couple of weeks!

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Maple Glaze

Cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pie filling)

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk (not nonfat), plus more as needed
2 tablespoons maple syrup

For the cookies:

Heat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Whisk the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and nutmeg; set aside.

Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Then scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the egg and vanilla, return to medium speed, and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides again.

With the mixer on low speed, add half of the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add half of the pumpkin and mix until just incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and pumpkin.

Drop eight 1/4 cup dough rounds on the baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between them. Place the remaining dough in the refrigerator.

Bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back and continue baking until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom and around the edges.  For me it was about 5-7 more minutes, but the original recipe said it can be up to 12.

Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a few minutes and then transfer them to the wire racks to cool completely. Let the baking sheet cool to room temperature and then repeat with the remaining dough (you can use the same parchment paper).

For the glaze:

Whisk all of the ingredients until evenly combined. Drizzle in more milk if it’s too thick.  Dip a fork into the glaze and drizzle it over the cookies. Let the cookies sit at room temperature until the glaze has set, about 20 minutes.

Source: Chow

Four-Cheese Zucchini Pizza Boats

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Two weekends in, I feel like I can declare this August downright leisurely.  Lily and Jake camped outside in the back yard this past Friday and they both survived the whole night without coming inside.  They didn’t, however, survive without the iPad.  At one with nature, huh?  I didn’t care; I was inside spread out over the entire bed watching old episodes of Suze Orman in peace.

Lily also had the chance to ride a horse (well, half horse, half pony) for the first time and solidified her love for everything equine.  Anything and everything in our house is now a pretend horse.   She was funny because she was SO excited and fidgety the whole way there and after she was done riding, but while she was with the horses she was calm and focused.  It was incredibly sweet.

 All summers should be so lovely.  

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I call these 4-cheese pizza boats because that title fits, but the filling and marinara make it taste like lasagna to me.  Granted, cheese and marinara are the basis for a million different Italian dishes, so I could have called them zucchini stuffed shells for all it matters.  But pizza boats are a fairly common term, so I went with it.

I really liked this recipe.  I mean, there’s four cheeses!  What’s not to like?  Jake said that he liked the cheese mixture, but didn’t like that you could taste the zucchini.  So, I should give a disclaimer: the zucchini isn’t intended to be hidden!  If you hate zucchini, this probably isn’t the dish for you.  But trust me, for normal people it’s delicious.

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Four-Cheese Pizza Zucchini Boats

3 fresh zucchini
1/4 cup marinara sauce
8 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil or parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the zucchini and slice it in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds.  Put about 1 heaping tablespoon of marinara onto each zucchini half and spread it out evenly.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, and garlic powder until combined.  Stir in the mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I don’t use much).  Spread evenly onto the 6 halves.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is warm and the zucchini is a little soft.  I then throw the broiler on for a minute to brown the top, but that’s optional.

Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve warm.

Source: Inspiration from Cooking Classy

French Onion Soup Tartines

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I’m BACK.  But no, I didn’t go anywhere (well, I went to D.C. this past weekend, but that doesn’t account for weeks of silence).  I just took a little 3-week vacation in my own mind and really didn’t get into the kitchen very much.  I couldn’t be bothered.  And I have the take-out bills to prove it, so I’m glad I got that out of my system!  I hope I’m not alone in this needed break.  Maybe it’s because it got hot so quickly.  Or just the idea of summer makes me want to laze about.  Or the thought of putting pen to paper and writing up a post just made me want to take a nap.  It could be a hundred things.  But I’m feeling more normal now, and after my weekend full of fancy D.C. meals (with desserts and everything!), I am ready to kick myself back into the kitchen.

I actually made this recipe about a month ago.  It’s a French onion soup reinvented for the spring.  The weather is getting too warm to leave a pot full of onions simmering on the stove for hours on end (though this is about an hour, so prepare yourself), but I love onion soup so much that I couldn’t part with it for the summer yet.  These tartines are a great combo: hearty, but still a fairly light entree.  And with several varieties of onions, the flavor has a good depth to it.  I definitely recommend giving it a try.

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French Onion Soup Tartines

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, quartered and sliced
1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced
3 small yellow onions, peeled and cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices
2 Tbsp. dry white wine
1.5 – 2 cups vegetable broth
½ tsp. honey
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 slices of French or Italian bread
4 sandwich-sized slices of Swiss or Gruyère cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sweet onion and red onion, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until onions begin to brown.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add yellow onion slices (keeping all of the rings in tact), and cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a paper towel to let it drain. Set aside the 8 prettiest yellow onion slices, and chop the remaining yellow onions.

Add the chopped yellow onions to the sweet and red onions. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until all onions are browned. Add wine, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until most liquid has evaporated. Stir in the broth, honey, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Partially cover and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until most liquid has evaporated.

Preheat the oven to broil.  Lightly toast the bread and then place the slices on baking sheet. Spread 1/4 cup of the cooked onion mixture on each slice. Lay two of the reserved sautéed onion slices on top of each tartine. Top with a slice of cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Source: Adapted very slightly from Vegetarian Times

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Aioli

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This asparagus with lemon aioli was our whole dinner the other night.  Even for Lily.  She had frozen yogurt and snacks with my dad before her music class, so she wasn’t too hungry.  In fact, once she saw the asparagus she decided that she wasn’t hungry AT ALL.  But I bribed her to try it and she actually liked it!  She didn’t eat a lot, but I still count it as a serving of vegetables.  Jake loved it and said that it was “restaurant quality” (haha – I guess that’s a good thing, depending on the restaurant he want comparing it to).  So, we polished off the plate and called it a night.

The nice thing about this aioli is that it would be good on a lot of vegetables.  I would eat it on green beans, broccoli, or even roasted carrots or cauliflower.  And it was a snap to throw together.  Plus, I cooked the asparagus at 350, but it can go up or down a little from there as long as you keep a close eye on it, so if you have other food you need to cook, you can throw them in together.

 

Lemon Aioli

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Roasted Asparagus

1-2 pounds of fresh asparagus
Drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350º.  Rinse the asparagus under water and snap the bottoms off (hold both ends and bend – it will naturally snap off).  Spread the spears out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.   Roll around so that the spears are fully coated and arrange them in a single layer on the pan.

Roast the asparagus, rolling around/flipping over about halfway through, for 10-15 minutes.  The thicker the asparagus, the longer it will need, so keep an eye on it.  You definitely don’t want to overcook it!

Drizzle on the lemon aioli and serve warm.

Source: Aioli adapted from Food Network