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Soups, Salads & Sides

Roasted Asparagus & Cranberry Salad

Roasted Asparagus & Cranberry Salad

I was invited to participate in a blogger recipe challenge by Cape Cod Select Premium Cranberries. The challenge was to create an original recipe (drink, appetizer, side, salsa or salad) using cranberries as a featured ingredient. Cape Code Select graciously provided two large bags of their premium frozen cranberries for the recipes, but all of the opinions in this post are my own.

For many Americans, cranberries evoke nostalgia for Thanksgiving. But I enjoy the tart flavor of cranberry nearly every day in my low-calorie cran-raspberry drink. I find most standard juices too sweet to drink, so I appreciate the balance of sweet and tart that cranberry can offer. The same is true in almost any dish when cranberries are used to provide a tart, sweet balance to the other ingredients.

I decided to create a warm salad recipe that you could serve any night of the week: Roasted Asparagus & Cranberry Salad. What I really like about this recipe is there are only a few ingredients and it takes less than 5 minutes to prep the food before you pop it into the oven. Don’t the colors sing!?! The green of the firm asparagus stalks. The bright red of the cranberries. And this is before you cook the dish!

Depending on your heat source, I recommend turning the asparagus and cranberries a midway through the cooking time to ensure even cooking. You could also adapt this recipe for the grill by using a grill-safe pan or aluminum foil to hold the ingredients.

When the dish is out of the oven, you can drizzle it with the reserved garlic oil and lemon juice. Then zest a lemon on top and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and chopped pistachios. And voila! You’ve got a vibrant side dish that everyone will love.

Even up close, the dish invites you in to explore all the layers of texture. The crunch of the pistachio and cranberry. The smoothness of the Parmesan.

Here’s the glamour shot. Are you ready to sink your teeth into a sizzling salad?

With the remaining cranberries, I’m going to try next a Cranberry-Apple Crisp. Apple and cranberry balance each other so well. I have to say I was very impressed with the product quality of the Cape Cod Select Premium Cranberries, which are non-GMO verified. And I was extremely pleased to discover that Cape Cod Select is a women-owned business run by the Rhodes family. The Rhodes family has been growing cranberries on their 800-acre farm in Massachusetts for more than 75 years with a focus on sustainability.

Here’s a locator to find where to buy Cape Code Select frozen cranberries near you. Or you can order frozen cranberries from Cape Cod Select online. For more cranberry recipe ideas that you can use now and throughout the fall, follow Cape Code Select on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

Roasted Asparagus & Cranberry Salad

Rating: 51

20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Roasted Asparagus & Cranberry Salad


3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cranberries
3/4 lb medium asparagus, trimmed
1 large lemon for zest and juice
2 T toasted pistachios, chopped
1 T shaved Parmesan cheese
fresh ground black pepper for seasoning


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and garlic. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture for later use.

Toss the asparagus and cranberries in the garlic oil mixture to coat. Place asparagus and cranberries on a roasting pan. Season lightly with black pepper.

Roast for 10 - 15 minutes, turning occasionally. When done, transfer to a platter. Drizzle with the reserve garlic oil and lemon juice.

Top with lemon zest, Parmesan and pistachios. Serve immediately.

Snacks & Candies

The Pistachio Principle

Have you heard of “The Pistachio Principle?” The Pistachio Principle is a simple, mindful eating concept that can help fool yourself full, without feelings of deprivation.

The premise of The Pistachio Principle is that consumption of in-shell pistachios may help to slow eating because the leftover shells offer a visual cue about the amount of pistachios you’ve consumed. And that can potentially reduce your calorie intake.

pistachio principle

Pistachios are by far my favorite nut. For years, I’ve created original recipes using pistachios, ranging from flat breads to decadent brownies. But my favorite way to eat pistachios is right from the shell. They’re perfect for snacking along with Sunday night’s TV lineup of “The Good Wife,” “Downton Abbey,” and “Revenge.”

And I can personally attest that eating in-shell pistachios can be a great workout for your fingers. Prying open those pistachio shells helps reinforce hand-eye coordination and strengthens nimble fingertips.

Celebrate The Year of the Skinny Nut™

Pistachios have been acknowledged as a top food trend for 2015. Considered to be “The Nut of the Year,” pistachios are known as the “Skinny Nut” because they’re one of the lowest calorie, lowest fat nuts, and among the highest in protein. Pistachios can make for a great, everyday healthy snacking choice for those who are looking to satisfy a salty snack craving in a smarter way. Incorporating in-shell pistachios into a snack routine can help to get you back on track in 2015 after an over-indulgent holiday season.

To kick off 2015 – The Year of the Skinny Nut – I wanted to share a few of my favorite snack pairings that include in-shell pistachios.

Pistachio Snack Pairing #1

pistachio skinny nut yogurt mango pairing pistachio principle

In-shell Pistachios + Fresh Mango Slices + Raspberry Yogurt + Low-Sugar Mango-Orange Juice

For a snack to satisfy, it needs to have flavor, texture and hit all the right sweet, savory notes on the palate. My first perfect snack pairing with in-shell pistachios includes fresh mango slices that refresh and provide a mild sweetness. A few spoonfuls of creamy, low-fat raspberry yogurt provides a nice balance to the mango, while also adding back good bacteria into your body’s immune system. Top it all off with a hydrating low-sugar mango-orange juice blend.

Pistachio Snack Pairing #2

pistachio skinny nut apple carrot pairing pistachio principle

In-shell Pistachios + Carrot Chips + Honeycrisp Apple Slices + Earl Grey Tea

For an afternoon snack that adds a mega-satisfying crunch, pair in-shell pistachios with chilled carrot chips, some Honeycrisp apple slices and a calming cup of Earl Grey tea. If you love crunch in your snack, every food component in this pairing really delivers.

You can learn more about the benefits of incorporating in-shell pistachios into your 2015 snacking plans when you enter “The Year of the Skinny Nut Sweepstakes” hosted on the Pistachio Health Institute Facebook page. The sweepstakes runs from January 7 – January 31, 2015, and you have a chance to win a year’s supply of pistachios. YUM!!!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Make Them Merry With This Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Holiday Cake

Does your family love the holidays? Make them merry with this decadently delicious (and oh-so-easy) dark chocolate-pumpkin holiday cake.

When the holiday season rolls around, I make sure my pantry is stocked up with all the staples needed for holiday baking: all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, butter, cocoa powder, and every kind of chocolate you can think of!

Pumpkin is a great seasonal ingredient to showcase in holiday baked goods, but I decided to add a twist to this dark chocolate-pumpkin holiday cake: chopped pistachios! Just the right crunch to make this rich holiday cake even merrier for the tongue. I think this is going to become a new family favorite for Christmas morning (if it lasts that long).

Bob's Red Mill Flour and ingredients for dark chocolate-pumpkin holiday cake

Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Holiday Cake Ingredients

Like every recipe, it’s always easier to bake or cook when you have all your ingredients ready to go (aka mise en place). I use the best ingredients I can find.

dark chocolate-pumpkin holiday cake

Like rich, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content.

dark chocolate-pumpkin holiday cake

Raw, shelled pistachios. Organic free-range eggs — and Bob’s Red Mill flour.

Bob’s Red Mill products have always stood for quality, so it’s one of my go-to ingredients when I get into high gear for my annual holiday baking bonanza. And while I do like to experiment in the kitchen with flavors and textures, I don’t want to experiment with key ingredients – like all-purpose flour – that are essential to baking success. I trust Bob’s Red Mill products and I really like that they have several options for a wide variety of flours, including organic and gluten free.

Every baker has to have all-purpose flour on hand; it’s a kitchen staple and can be used for virtually every baking need. I like that Bob’s Red Mill’s All-Purpose Flour is unbleached and organic. It’s freshly milled from organic hard red wheat – and both the bran and the germ are removed. That leaves the endosperm, which is then made into white flour.

And it’s not enriched with any additives. That means you can trust it to produce high, well-textured loaves of bread equally as well as it produces light, airy baked goods. (It’s the same high-protein flour used by professional bakers!) Click here to download a $1 off coupon for any Bob’s Red Mill product!

When you use quality ingredients in your baking and cooking, you can see it and taste it. I know I can depend on Bob’s Red Mill to deliver every time I open my oven door.

dark chocolate-pumpkin holiday cake

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Holiday Cake

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 12 servings


2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups dark chocolate chunks or chips
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped


Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached All-Purpose White Flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar. Add melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined. Fold in pumpkin.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk until there are no lumps. Fold in dark chocolate chunks and chopped pistachios. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Level with spatula.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until cake has risen, crackled and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Store in airtight container for a few days. Makes about 12 servings.


National Rum Day: Captain Morgan’s #CaptainRumDay Competition

To celebrate National Rum Day (August 16), I’m participating in the Captain Morgan® #CaptainRumDay challenge. I was asked to create an original cocktail recipe using Captain Morgan White Rum with at least two of eight unconventional ingredients that would arrive in a special delivery.

CaptainRumDay - ingredient challenge

When I opened the box, I found chocolate, bacon, sriracha, pistachios, BBQ sauce, red licorice, salsa, and potato chips. [If you don’t see the chocolate, your eyes aren’t failing you. The bar had melted in the heat, but luckily hadn’t leaked. So after it solidified at room temperature, I ate it.]

With so many flavor combination options, I didn’t know which direction I should take. I asked myself, “What would Pam like?” You see, my good friend Pam was celebrating her birthday this week, so I had been thinking about her.

Every August, she takes an extended family vacation with her daughter and grand kids at this cozy lakefront house in Michigan. Pam’s a vegetarian (mostly – except for bacon) and she really enjoys savory flavors. And while she likes dark chocolate, it’s salty and crunchy – with a little bit of spice – that is her absolute favorite.

CaptainRumDay - ingredient challenge selections

So I selected to work with three unconventional ingredients in this Captain Morgan #CaptainRumDay original cocktail challenge: bacon, potato chips and sriracha hot sauce.

I took a slice of a Michigan peach, marinated it in some sriracha. Then I combined Captain Morgan white rum with light cran-raspberry juice and a splash of light orange juice over ice in a shaker.

After pouring the cocktail in a martini glass, I dredged the peach slice in crushed potato chips and wrapped it in a slice of bacon. The perfect savory, salty and spicy garnish for a summery smooth drink.

And I’ve named it Pam’s Summer Escape in honor of my friend, Pam. Cheers!

CaptainRumDay - Baked Chicago - Pam's Summer Escape

Pam's Summer Escape

Rating: 51

Yield: 1 serving


1 slice Michigan peach
1 dash sriracha sauce
1 ounce Captain Morgan White Rum
3 ounces light cranberry-raspberry juice
1/4 ounce light orange juice
2 potato chips, finely crushed
1 slice thick-cut fully cooked bacon


Marinate peach slice in sriracha sauce. Set aside.

Mix Captain Morgan White Rum, cranberry-raspberry juice and orange juice in a shaker over ice. Pour into martini glass.

Dredge peach slice in crushed potato chips, then wrap with bacon. Skewer and serve on the rim of the glass. Cheers!

Disclosure: I was given a free sample of  Captain Morgan® White Rum and eight unconventional ingredients for use in this challenge. I get no additional benefits for talking about this product or company. All opinions about this product are 100% my own.