Sunday, November 28, 2021

Naughty and Nice Cinnamon Bourbon Hot Toddy {{It's Cocktail:30 #1}}


I've decided my goal is to make the naughty list for once. I'm burnt out on being nice. It's no fun! So, for the next 8 weeks (and maybe even after), I'm making NOTHING BUT COCKTAILS! 

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are sharing ingredients that we are thankful for this week and I AM THANKFUL FOR ALCOHOL! Woohoo! Yes, I said it. This year is worse than last year and I have been weighed down with stress and anxiety lately. A well-mixed cocktail is just the thing to help you relax and unwind at the end of a trying day.

I have always wanted to learn the art of bartending, so I'm going to be researching cocktails and experimenting for the next several weeks. At the same time, my son's sports schedule has us traveling every weekend so that there is zero time for cooking and blogging all day. So, welcome to Cocktail:30 for the next 8 weeks! 

What do I mean by Cocktail:30? I just mean it's time for a drink! What are we making for our first Cocktail:30 recipe? Well, a Hot Toddy, of course! Now, I DO NOT enjoy Christmas. I don't enjoy all the money, time, and stress. I think it has become completely out-of-hand! Also, I'm a total introvert so I don't enjoy all the parties, concerts, potlucks, or secret santas.


I'm being a touch sarcastic with that mug. I am already knee-deep in wrapping paper and bubble wrap, wrapping and packaging gifts that need to be mailed now so they arrive in time. I need something to help warm me up and relax a little.

Now, I've never made a Hot Toddy before and I've never had one either! I research Hot Toddy recipes and see that it's basically a quick tea made with water, cinnamon/spices, and some kind of honey/sugar, and citrus. Then you simply add the hot water to bourbon or whisky have a Hot Toddy!

I chose Tieghan Gerard's Naughty and Nice Cinnamon Hot Toddy from her Half-Baked Harvest blog. I boil the water, the cinnamon, the citrus, and the honey. I could literally drink that on its own without the bourbon, but I add an ounce and a half of the Maker's and was pretty stout! 

I had to add a touch more honey and squeeze some more citrus into it before it was palatable for me. I think everyone will take their Hot Toddy a different way. You definitely have to customize it to your tastes. I can't say it's my favorite drink, but I would definitely drink it if I was feeling under the weather because everyone says a Hot Toddy does wonders if you're sick. I can see how it would do just the trick if you were suffering with a cold or flu. It really does warm you from the inside out.

I'd give it a 3 out of 5 rating.


Naughty and Nice Cinnamon Bourbon Hot Toddy 

Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest

by Tieghan Gerard

Serves 1

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon honey

1 small cinnamon stick, plus more for serving

1 orange slice, plus more for serving

1-2 ounces bourbon, depending on your taste

2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a small saucepan, bring the water, honey, cinnamon, and orange slice(s) to a boil. Boil 2 minutes, remove from the heat, and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in the bourbon and lemon juice.

Pour the toddy into a glass. Garnish with an orange slice and cinnamon stick. Enjoy!

I Am Thankful For....@ IHCC

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Dreamy and Decadent Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions {Happy Thanksgiving}!


Do you ever have to give yourself pep talks? Frequently? 

That's me. I have to do that quite often. In the car before work. Every day at 12:30 before 5th grade Math. Before I wash the dishes. Before I put away the laundry. When I have to deal with certain people.

And....before I made this gorgeous BUT TIME CONSUMING recipe!

I had no idea when I chose this recipe that it was going to take AT LEAST 3 HOURS from start to finish, but once I had verbalized it to my family, I committed to it and it had to be done. My family has been asking me to make scalloped/au gratin potatoes from scratch for years so when I saw this recipe for Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions on the Half-Baked Harvest site earlier this week I KNEW I HAD TO MAKE IT. I just didn't realize it was going to take so much time.

Make the caramelized onions. Slice the potatoes. Make sure you have larger potatoes that have similarly-sized slices. Grate the cheese. Make a milk mixture. It all seems easy enough. Layer everything. Layer it again. Layer it again. Bake it for about 2 hours. Remove the foil, add the cheddar cheese, and bake another 20 or so until perfectly bubbly and golden brown. It's largely all baking time, but you know....this is not the type of recipe I typically go for.  

I'm gonna tell ya....this is a total indulgence, BUT IT IS SO SO GOOD! The caramelized onions really make this dish and add so much flavor! If you're looking for a last minute dish for your Thanksgiving table this is it! It would probably be the winning dish.

I found myself frustrated because it was rainy and gloomy outside and by the time the potatoes were done it was dark so the pictures didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. If you really want to see a good looking dish of scalloped potatoes head over to the Half-Baked Harvest site.


Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest Blog

by Tieghan Gerard

Serves 8-10

3 tablespoons butter

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced* 

salt and black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

1 clove garlic, chopped*

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 pinch cayenne

3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

6 russet or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/8" thick slices

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt together the butter and onions in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. At this point, you'll want to add the wine and continue to cook another 5 minutes until the onions are deeply caramelized.

Add the garlic and thyme, then season with salt and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Butter a 9x13 inch casserole dish. In a large glass measuring cup, combine the cream, milk, a pinch of cayenne, salt, and pepper. Then add the Gruyere cheese. Pour 1/3 of the milk mix into the bottom of the baking dish. Layer in 1/3 of the potatoes, and 1/2 of the onions. Add another 1/3 milk mix, then 1/3 of the potatoes, and then the remaining onions. Add the remaining potatoes, then pour over the last of the remaining milk mix. Try to get the potatoes in an even layer.

Cover and bake 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours. Remove the foil and top with cheddar cheese. Bake another 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden and melty. Serve the dish warm, topped with fresh thyme.

To make ahead: Prepare and bake through step 5, but stop cooking after 2 hours. Let chill, then cover, and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Before baking, bring the dish to room temperature, add the cheddar cheese, and bake another 20-30 minutes.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Creamy Tortellini Vegetable Soup


I usually have a tendency to chose indulgent and decadent recipes. For some reason, when I visit the Half-Baked Harvest site, I chose every single recipe designated as lighter and/or healthier. Maybe I've turned over a new leaf, but they are just the ones that look so dang good!

I've been wanting to make Tieghan's Healthier Creamy Tortellini Vegetable Soup for ages. A creamy soup with cheesy tortellini that is loaded with veggies and still somewhat healthy? Yes, please! It just ticks all the boxes for me!One thing I've noticed about Tieghan's recipes is that she goes total ham with the spices and flavorings. This is rather unlike every other cookbook out there because a lot of chefs go light on seasonings, causing me to doctor up recipes myself. I have not had to do this with any of Tieghan's recipes.

For example: Fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon of dried basil, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. I had about 1/4 cup of herbs and spices! This is what cooking should be. Add to that a cast of onions, carrots, celery, garlic, kale, tomato paste, broth, wine, a splash of cream, fresh herbs, tortellini, and Parmesan and you have one amazing soup! This is my FAVORITE Half-Baked Harvest recipe yet and will most likely be one of my favorite recipes of the year! If you're in need of comfort or warming up, you seriously need to make this! 

P.S. I have wanted a pumpkin casserole dish like the one in the picture for ages, but I didn't want to pay high dollar for one. I found this one at Aldi's for $14.99! If you want one, run and get one. It is very nice quality!

Creamy Tortellini Vegetable Soup

Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest

by Tieghan Gerard

Serves 4-6

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2-4 cloves garlic, minced or grated

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1-2 teaspoons fennel seeds, to your taste

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to your taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

6 carrots, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

4-6 cups roughly chopped kale

1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 pound fresh cheese tortellini

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook 5 minutes, until golden. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, basil, oregano, fennel, paprika, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook another 5 minutes, until very fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the wine, broth, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

About 10 minutes before serving, stir in the kale, cream, Parmesan, and the tortellini.

Serve the soup topped with additional Parmesan and fresh oregano, if desired.

*Instructions for cooking this soup in a slow cooker or instant pot are on the Half-Baked Harvest blog. 

*Sharing @IHCC for Warming Soups and Stews Week!

*Sharing @Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Lighter Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta {Your New Weeknight Obession}!

  I feel like a see a version of Creamy Cajun Pasta at nearly every single restaurant I go to and it's for good reason, right? We all tend to love that dish. Problem is, it's a cream-based dish that's usually rather unhealthy. 

What makes this version healthier? Well, most versions of Cajun Pasta are loaded with heavy cream and other fattening ingredients. In this dish, Tieghan uses a combination of milk and chicken broth with 2 ounces of cream cheese and a 1/2 cup of Parmesan to make a luxurious and rather decadent sauce. There is no butter and the chicken breast and veggies are sauteed in olive oil. Let me tell you right'd seriously NEVER know that this was a lighter version. It tastes every bit as rich as restaurant versions!

Warning: This dish is swoon-worthy and should come with a warning: be prepared for fights over the leftovers! This kind of dish is right up our alley here in my house and I will confess that my husband and I did literally fight over the leftovers.  

Tips: One thing I've noticed is that Tieghan of Half-Baked Harvest tends to go ham with the spices and flavorings. I am all for that, but if you're not, then you'll want to scale back the Cajun seasoning in this dish and taste as you go. You can always add more, but you can't take it out! Also, my husband loved the radiatore pasta. I used radiatore because it's what Tieghan uses in this recipe and I happened to have a bag on hand. However, I think this would be so much better with farfalle pasta, or maybe even shells or penne. 

One thing I want to say is that I can totally see a shrimp version of this, a kielbasa version of this (okay, not so healthy), and also a veggie version of this. Seriously, make this your own! The point is you have a full-flavor creamy pasta dish that is easy enough and healthy enough to become your new weeknight obsession!

Lighter Healthier Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest

by Tieghan Gerard

Serves 4-6

1 pound short-cut pasta

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces

1 tablespoon, plus 1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

salt and black pepper, to taste

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated

crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup milk

2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or other herbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain.

In the same pot set over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, chicken, and 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning. Cook until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Spoon the chicken onto a plate.

To the pot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the bell peppers, and garlic. Cook another 5 minutes until the peppers are soft. Stir in 1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning. Add a pinch each of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook another minute, until the spices are fragrant, then pour in the broth and milk. Add the cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and cook 5 minutes, until thickened slightly.

Stir in the parmesan. Then toss in the pasta and chicken and cook 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat an stir in the basil. Serve immediately topped with additional basil. Enjoy!