Friday, October 28, 2011

Blue Moon Inn Spread

I had never heard of the Blue Moon Inn in Montgomery, Alabama, but 'pinned' this recipe online. Apparently, this inn has since closed, but their recipes live on--they have a Junior League style cookbook. I've seen this dip/spread also called Famous Blue Moon Inn Pimento Cheese.

When we were in Knoxville a few weekends ago, my mother in law graciously let me play in the kitchen while she watched my daughter and I got to try some new recipes. Here are some pictures that remind me of how much I miss East matter how many things I have found to enjoy in West TN, there is quite nothing like the feel of God's country--and East TN is God's country (of course many would object and that's totally ok! haha). The fields, the farm stands with mums, the little churches, the farms, the mountains, the century old homes with wrap-around porches, the wild walnuts, the openness...

This dip was one of my trials in the kitchen and we really liked it. It was delicious with pita chips and I think it would be delicious to have as a grilled cheese filling too. We had it on sandwiches with soup one night after we got home. Really good basic dip/spread recipe.

Adapted from Southern Living

Yield: 8 Servings
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup bottled chili sauce*
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (10-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded

  • Sliced pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives
  • Assorted vegetables and crackers

    Preheat oven to 350°. 
    Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Cool 5 minutes; finely chop pecans. (I actually used chopped pecans and baked them a minute or two less)
    Stir together mayonnaise and next 3 ingredients until well blended. Stir in cheese and pecans. Garnish, if desired. 
    Serve with vegetables and crackers. (I think serving it with a sweet vegetable like red bell pepper strips would be super ideal!)
*We did not have chili sauce and used salsa instead--seemed wonderful with it too!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Quick Taste of Sweet Fall: Creamy Pumpkin Dip

We spent the evening carving pumpkins last night. Don't you just LOVE pumpkins??

Here is my group hard at work (with a power tool for 'stars'):

And our end results:

While working on carving these pumpkins, I remembered to post this creamy pumpkin dip recipe that had my Bible study girls intrigued earlier this week when I hosted. This dip may not look like much, but it is SUPER good! The recipe was requested by several girls, so thought I'd share. Someone said it tasted like a creamy pumpkin pie. I guess pumpkin pie must be a theme to my baking lately...hmmmm...a bit obsessed? Possibly. Yet, this little dip is worth trying--and no, I'm not calling it healthy, but doesn't Halloween count as the beginning of holiday eating?

I made this sweet dip with a basic pumpkin butter I had made last week in an attempt to make the perfect flat-crispy-chewy chocolate chip pumpkin cookie (BIG FAT FAILURE, by the way--ended up 'cake-like' anyway), but I've made it with canned pumpkin and it works equally well..I imagine this dip would also do well with the addition of chopped pecans...just a thought. And if anyone is wondering about how to make a pumpkin butter similar to Williams-Sonoma's, here's my post on spicy pecan pumpkin butter. Hope to make a new batch by the end of the week--I crave it as soon as the weather turns cooler.

The dip is very simple to make, requires only a handful of ingredients, comes together in a snap, and pleases the masses. Make this as a dessert to enjoy with friends or on girls' night in...your kids will love dipping their graham crackers into it too!


Makes enough to serve 8 people (at least)

  • 6 ounces reduced fat cream cheese (this is 3/4 of an 8 oz. block), thawed to about room temperature
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2-3/4 cup canned pumpkin or pumpkin butter
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1 (8 oz.) container reduced fat Cool Whip

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or any mixer), beat cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add the canned pumpkin or pumpkin butter and spices. Fold in the Cool Whip container.

Serve dip with gingersnaps and/or graham crackers. It's seriously delicious!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Smoky Coconut-Lime Black Bean & Brown Rice Soup

It was a gorgeous fall day here last Friday and my daughter and I enjoyed the sunshine, cool breezes, the sound of acorns falling from the sky, the feel of crunching leaves under our feet, and richer aromas in the kitchen. Below is the perfect picture of our leisurely afternoon--Theraflu (for me) and our shared acorn stash.

I saw this on Pinterest and in case anyone needs any more reasons to love fall--here you go!

(courtesy of 

And one of my favorite things about about fall is: It's SOUP weather! I tried making a new soup that I wanted to share. More than half the soups I make have some sort of tomato base and I wanted to try a black bean soup that was different and thought of coconut milk. It ended up being delicious and even my 2 year old ate it. My husband called it 'CLEAN-tasting.' But, I call it complex. It is smoky, sweet, salty, tangy, tart, creamy, and spicy all in one. You can taste the lime, the garlic, the coconut, the cilantro, and the chipotle. Layers of flavor! Hope you enjoy it!


Makes 4-6 servings
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce (I used 1 chili & added a bit of extra 'sauce' from the can)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or about 4 Trader Joe's frozen cilantro cubes)
  • 2 (15 1/2 oz) cans black beans, UN-drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can light (reduced-fat) coconut milk
  • 1 lime--for zest & juice
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (or white if you prefer)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste (smoked salt preferred if you have it)
  • Water
  • 1 SMALL squirt of agave nectar (OPTIONAL)*

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, chile, and cilantro. Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup of water and reduce heat to low. Continue to saute onions for about 10 more minutes or until softened.

Pour beans AND their liquid in with the onions. Add the coconut milk. Add about 1 1/2 -2 cups more of water. Bring up the heat to high until the soup boils. Once it boils, reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the lime zest and lime juice and mix.

Measure out about 1 cup of bean/soup mixture and puree until smooth. Return the bean puree to the soup (to thicken) and add the cooked rice. Stir the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve warm.

Ladle out the soup into bowls and serve with sour cream or plain, Greek yogurt, and more lime wedges. We even tried it with avocado slices and tortilla chips--it was awesome!

*(Mine tasted just the tiniest bit bitter--which I am guessing was from the chile --but who, knows? And so I added a little bit of agave nectar and the soup was elevated to WONDERFUL. I can't figure out why, but it really just MADE IT. I've done that before for soups when they taste slightly bitter or salty and it just works. You can skip this step if you want.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Cheesecake Bites

Sometime this spring, I froze some sweet potato puree I made. Over the weekend, I decided to clean out some of the freezer and made sweet potato popovers with some of the sweet potato puree (delicious!). Today I was wanting to make a dessert with the rest of the puree. Since it is fall, the time for flavorful and comforting desserts is upon us. And desserts that are slightly richer....but since I'm a fan of 'everything in moderation,' I decided to cut my desserts in smaller portions. Now, I just need someone to take them away so I don't eat more than I should 'because they're so small!' Guests can have as many 'bites' or as little as they want when these sweet potato bars are cut smaller. I really love how some restaurants (P.F. Chang's for instance) are allowing patrons to order smaller portions of their desserts. It makes it fun to try more things this way!

I ran across this recipe at East Village Kitchen blog and changed it up a bit to suit my liking. Also, I accidentally left out the baking powder from the original recipe (1/2 tsp.) in the base, but didn't miss it--actually preferred the creamier texture. And it still held up to being cut in smaller bites. My husband said it tasted like pumpkin pie--but I think it tastes better. No one can understand why I don't like pumpkin pie because I love pumpkin pie spices, but if I'm going to have my calories, I want it to be on something I love. Well, I really love these bites! Probably because they are creamy (I love pumpkin cheesecake!). You can skip the pumpkin pie spice for a purer flavor. And, I'm guessing you can substitute pumpkin for the sweet potato.

By the way, does anyone else find surprises in their kitchen? This is what I found when I began my baking. I was told that Minnie also wanted to cook. Apparently, Minnie also ate a few....that's the story I'm sticking with anyway...

These sweet potato cheesecake bites would be a fun dessert to serve during the holidays or even for cocktail-type parties where only appetizers and/or desserts are served. 


Should make about ~32 mini squares

For the base:
  • 8 Tbsp. butter (1 stick)--I used salted butter--a part 'light' butter and a part real butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree (canned or cooked & pureed by you)*
  • 3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar (raw sugar preferred)
  • 1 cup flour (I used all purpose, but plan on trying whole wheat pastry flour next time)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white (reserve yolk for topping)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (this may seem like a lot, but I think vanilla goes really well with the sweet potatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (optional)

For topping:
  • 1 (8 oz.) package reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 Tbsp. brown sugar (or raw)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 8 inch square pan with 2 inch high walls with butter. Trim two pieces of baker’s parchment so they can sit flat on the bottom the the pan and so they are long enough to hang over the sides by a few inches. Butter the paper. (Now, I skipped the buttering before applying the parchment but think it was an essential step—since I had rough edges and ended up eating them all. Or, I'm not sure what it would be like to skip the parchment paper step altogether....?)

Microwave your sweet potatoes. Then, microwave the butter to melt it completely (about 30-45 seconds), and whisk the butter into the mashed sweet potatoes until the mixture is smooth with very few bumps.
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, a hand mixer or a whisk, add sugar to the sweet potato mixture and beat until smooth. Add egg, egg white, and vanilla and beat until they are fully integrated. Add flour and salt and mix just until the liquids have absorbed them. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly.

In a separate bowl, using a whisk or hand mixer, combine cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth and uniform.

Place 6-8 large dollops of the mixture on top of the batter in the pan. Use a knife to swirl the cream cheese mixture into the batter. Rap the pan flat against the counter a few times to level, then place in the preheated oven, on the middle rack. 

Bake until the cheesecake swirls are starting to turn golden, and a toothpick inserted into the batter part comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Use the parchment to pull the cake from the pan and transfer it to a cutting board and cut into squares. (You can place them in mini-muffin liners like I did for an easy-to-eat way to serve. No utensils are needed if you are standing :))

Store sweet potato cheesecake bites in an airtight container in the fridge.

*If you are using leftover baked sweet potatoes, remove them from foil, cut them in half and microwave them for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on thickness. If you are starting with raw sweet potatoes, poke holes in the skin with a fork and microwave on high for 4 to six minutes, or until they are soft and easily mashed. Discard skins and mash and whisk with a fork until they are smooth. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cauliflower Poppers

This is a real winner from Weight Watchers! I can eat the whole head of cauliflower by myself (seriously). My brother in law is all kinds of wrong...he thinks that cauliflower is like the ugly stepsister of broccoli. He likes to remind me how lonely it looks on vegetable platters at the end of parties. But, I prefer its mild, nuttier flavor to that of broccoli. We also argue the merits of parsley. And reading. And all-inclusive vacations. It just feels so good to tell him he's wrong. Everyone else just laughs at us. But we have fun. One day, I'm going to slip some parsley and cauliflower in something he regularly eats and trick him into reading something other than politics. In Mexico. I may need help. And whatever kind you're thinking is probably right.

But give this a try for a different kind of side item to your meats and or if you're on a low-carb diet. It's one of those dishes that doesn't feel like diet food. And if by chance I'm wrong and it does, just throw some grated Parmesan cheese on top. YUM!

Adapted from Weight Watchers

Olive oil cooking spray
1 head(s) (medium) cauliflower
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces (there should be about 4 cups). Place cauliflower in a medium bowl and add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper; toss well to coat.

Spread cauliflower on prepared baking sheet and bake until cauliflower is tender, but not mushy, stirring halfway through, about 10 minutes.

Yields about 1/2 cup per serving--so according to WW, that would be about 8 servings. I say more like 4 servings. That's how much I like it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Sorry this is another hummus post--but, I just love hummus. I have expressed it before, but seriously, I REALLY really love hummus. My mom and I made roasted red peppers last time she visited me and we froze them. While going through my freezer, I decided to make a roasted red pepper hummus because those pita chips looked awfully lonely. It turned out excellent.

Moments after this picture was taken, my child tried to inch closer to the hummus and in trying to help her, I pushed the container over the edge and precious dip spilled all over the kitchen floor. My toddler burst into tears. 'What's wrong? Did that scare you?', I asked. 'All my hummus is gone!', she wailed. Well, luckily for her, this made a double batch--I'm freezing some (Yes, the recipe below makes a double batch of any of my other hummus recipes--but you can halve it. We just eat a lot.). 

It's just on the slight side of spicy, but you can use less crushed red pepper.


Serves a big crowd as an appetizer

  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained (reserve 1/2 cup of liquid)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (sea salt preferred)
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Strain the beans, reserving portion of liquid.

Using a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients and mix until smooth, stirring to ensure even mixing consistency if necessary.

Spoon into covered container and refrigerate overnight before serving, if possible. Store in refrigerator. Hummus will keep for about 2 weeks. 

Hummus can be served alone or with pita chips and/or veggies.

(Having trouble with blogger so if part of my font seems 'off'--sorry! I've been working on it, but can't seem to find a solution yet.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Orange Garlic Broccolini with Almonds

I wanted to share my new favorite vegetable--it's not exactly a NEW vegetable, just MY new favorite vegetable. I usually toss this with lemon juice, but on a whim, I tried orange juice and this vegetable was elevated from good to GREAT! I much prefer broccolini this to broccoli--more crunch, more mellowness.

 Broccolini is like broccoli's cousin. It's a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese kale. It's also been called 'baby broccoli' and all you need to know is that if it prepared right (basically, not overcooked), it is DELICIOUS. Unfortunately, it's slightly more expensive than broccoli for the same quantity. Most recipes call for broccolini to be blanched before sauteeing, but I don't know why. I skip that step and still seem to have success. If anyone knows why it is boiled or blanched first, please enlighten me.

When I told my mom about it (because any new creation gets blabbed to her or my aunt), she said, 'So it's like Chinese broccoli?'...well, not sure...but maybe if you added ginger? Try it and let me know. Or I might beat you to it...this was the first time my child actually request and ate anything related to broccoli in the last year so I will be making it again. And again. And again.


Serves ~4 as a side dish

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch broccolini, rinsed (stems trimmed)
  • 1 small orange, juiced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup (or slightly less) of sliced almonds

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, broccolini, and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes until the broccolini is bright green. When the broccolini becomes bright green, add the almonds and toss together with the vegetables. Continue to cook for a minute longer and turn off the heat. (We like ours a little crunchy so cook longer if you prefer softer vegetables.)

Serve warm. Goes great with rice or potatoes and chicken or fish.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maple Apple Pecan Bread

My friend (and neighbor), Lindsay, and I went apple picking for the first time this season. We took our girls and enjoyed seeing them take delight from picking fruit off the tree and putting the apples in their own baskets.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day!

Lindsay made apple pie with the apples and I made applesauce and Maple Apple Pecan Bread. It's my new favorite quickbread that I stumbled upon at This blog is so beautiful! (I have adapted the recipe a bit, but wanted to give credit to the Erica--she's an incredibly talented 21 year old!) I'm glad I made extra to share with our other neighbor, Chelsea. I can't wait to make this again. It's delicious in the morning with a cup of coffee or as a snack in the afternoon with a piece of cheese and a cup of tea.

Reasons why I absolutely LOVE this Maple Apple Pecan bread and think you will too:

  1. It is tender and moist.
  2. It has a crumbly-crunchy topping.
  3. It is made with whole grains and is sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar.
  4. It makes the whole house smell like fall.
  5. It has complex layers of flavor--the vanilla, the maple, the cinnamon, the nuttiness--simply delicious.

inspired by

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (I love King Arthur brand)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. old fashioned oats 
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (flaxmeal)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 (or less) tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk or fat-free plain Greek yogurt (or a combination of the two)
  • 5 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter (I did a combination of light and regular butters)
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped apples (relatively finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

  • Ground cinnamon & brown sugar (Turbindo or raw sugar preferred)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9X5X3 inch loaf pan. I use the spray below instead--makes it so much easier!

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, oats, flaxmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the apples and pecans. (I like to add them at this point so that they are covered with the dry ingredients first and think it makes a little bit of a difference so they don't sink as far into the bread when baking.)

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk/yogurt, melted butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Then, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with apples and pecans. Gently fold to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly.

Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan and top with cinnamon and sugar and the pecans reserved for topping. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes then invert onto a cooling rack to cool before wrapping & storing.  Serve slightly toasted with butter.

Makes one large loaf that welcomes fall! Enjoy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Parmesan Chicken Picatta

I LOVE chicken picatta! And I think you will too. I had never made it before, but since I wanted to make something special now that my husband was coming home after a few weeks away in training, I decided to play around with my friend Nancy's chicken picatta recipe and Rachel Ray's recipe and this is what I came up with below. I didn't have fresh parsley (which I think is truly the traditional way to make it--but will try that next time), so I used dried parsley in the breading and it was very good). Also, Rachel Ray's recipe uses a lot more Parmesan cheese--but I chose to cut it down significantly and still feel you could taste the cheese in the final outcome. We really enjoyed this dinner and will definitely be making it again sometime soon.

Our dinner comprised of this chicken, cumin & chili roasted cauliflower (recipe to follow), lima beans, and a Harvest Grains blend by Trader Joe's (Israeli couscous blend--see below--very delicious!). You would probably do well to serve it with a salad and potatoes also. This is an awesome weeknight dinner that is still special enough to serve to company. YUM!

 (photo courtesy of 'food for conversation')


Serves 4

  • 3/4 - 1 cup panko bread crumbs (you may not need the whole cup)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese (freshly grated if you can get it)
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 4 chicken cutlets (mine were THIN cut and just under 1 pound total weight for all 4)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3/4 - 1 cup all purpose flour (you may not need the whole cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. oil (I used a combination of olive oil and safflower oil)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (this means NOT a sweet white wine like Riesling)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2-3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 1 or 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • Fresh parsley (can omit the dried if you have fresh)

In a small-medium sized container, mix the Panko bread crumbs with the dried parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside. Put your flour in another small-medium sized container. And lastly, in another container or bowl (about same size as the other two), whisk your egg.

Rinse cutlets (no need to pat dry).

Your first step will be to dredge cutlets through the flour. The second step will be to dip the cutlets in the egg and then press them into the Panko breadcrumb mixture. Set them aside.

Heat oil in a large saute pan and saute the cutlets for about 3 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown and cooked through (turn them over gently so as to not remove the breading). The thicker the cutlets, the more time they will need to cook--probably another 3-4 minutes (or more). Keep your eye on them and take them out when they get golden brown and are thoroughly cooked.

Set the cooked chicken breasts aside. At this point, I removed any burned bits inside the pan with a paper towel--but if you are comfortable doing so, leave them in.

Deglaze pan by pouring in the wine and garlic. My garlic was finely minced and cooked super fast, but it might take a minute or two until most of the liquid is evaporated and the garlic has cooked through.

Pour in the chicken broth, lemon juice, capers, butter, and lemon slices. Stir. When the butter has melted, return the cutlets to the pan and let them cook for another minute or two (careful when flipping them to leave the breading on).

Serve a cutlet on each plate. Evenly distribute any leftover sauce from the pan over each cutlet before serving. Serve with freshly chopped parsley on top of chicken (if you have it).

Serve warm.

We found this chicken to be salty, tangy, tender, slightly crispy, and basically all around delicious. Hope everyone else will enjoy it too!