Fall Salad with Pecan Sorghum Granola

Granola on a salad sounds weird, but trust me it is delicious! The first granola-topped salad I ever tasted was amazingly delicious, made with pine nuts from the BlueFire Bar and Grill. With just one bite it fueled my curiosity to create my own nutty sweet salad topping. My version, Pecan Sorghum Granola, features seasonal pecans and whole grain oats that are lightly sweetened with sorghum, adding the perfect crunch to this fall salad with earthy, tender-roasted beets and mildly sweet acorn squash.

A simple vinaigrette is all you need for this flavorful salad bursting with color and nutrients. For some extra protein, top with grilled chicken or shrimp. Save cook time by using leftover roasted squash and beets from last night’s dinner and granola from breakfast for a salad you can throw together in about two minutes.

Salad Ingredients:
1 bunch beets, scrubbed
1 acorn squash or butternut squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 bunch or 6 ounce bag spinach
¾ cup Pecan Sorghum Granola
4 ounces goat cheese

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the skin on the beets and wrap each in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 35 to 55 minutes, depending on their size. Remove beets and set aside until cool enough to touch. With a small pairing knife, gently remove skin from the beets and chop into cubes.
  2. Meanwhile, peel squash and slice in half. Discard seeds and chop into cubes. Place on a baking sheet in an even layer and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. Combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a mason jar. Tightly secure the lid and shake until well combined.
  4. Create a bed of spinach on four plates and top with an equal amount of roasted beets and squash. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on each salad and sprinkle with my crunchy granola and a drizzle of vinaigrette.

Servings: 4

Twice-Baked Shrimp Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

These twice-baked potatoes are the perfect balance of sweet and savory. I created this recipe, using leftover baked sweet potatoes, for a fast weeknight dinner for one (just double to serve two). It’s also a great meal for work week entertaining. Simply triple or quadruple the recipe and bake the potatoes the night before. The evening your guests arrive you will only need about 10 minutes to prepare your meal before baking. You can leave the stress at work and welcome your company with a cocktail as your dinner bakes. I like to pair this dish with a simple green salad, topped with fruit and nuts.

Ingredients:
12 frozen medium peeled and cooked shrimp, defrosted
½ cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, baked
2 tablespoons feta cheese crumbles
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and chop the shrimp. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for about one minute, or until fragrant. Add shrimp and spinach and cook for another minute to allow flavors to meld.
  3. Slice baked sweet potatoes in half and carefully scoop out the inside of the potato with a large spoon, leaving a small rim of potato lining the skin to keep it intact.
  4. In a medium bowl, mash the sweet potato. Add shrimp and spinach mixture, feta cheese, salt and pepper. Stir to combine ingredients.
  5. With a large spoon, evenly fill the empty potato skins with the sweet potato, shrimp and spinach mixture. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Bake for 20 minutes.

Note: Leftovers make a great breakfast topped with a fried egg.

Servings: 1

Italian Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Cold winter nights call for warm bowls of soup and this one is packed with vegetables and lentils and a dash of crispy, salty pancetta. Cooked with a Parmesan rind, this soup captures the sharp and nutty flavors of the cheese in every bite. If you are planning the perfect cozy night at home, enjoy a bowl of this delicious soup with your family and end the night with a mug of hot cocoa and good book by the fire. Cheers to nutritious comfort food and warm evenings at home this winter.

Ingredients:
4 ounces pancetta
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
32 ounces low sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 cup lentils (any color)
1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Parmesan rind (cut from a wedge of cheese)
5 ounces baby spinach or 1 bunch spinach, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, cook pancetta until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove pancetta and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Drain all but about 2 teaspoons of pancetta drippings from the pot.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrots and celery to the stock pot. Sauté until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth to the mixture and sauté until tender and browned, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add lentils, tomatoes with their juices, the remaining vegetable broth, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese rind to the stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
  5. Add spinach and pancetta to the soup and cook for another minute or two, stirring until spinach is wilted. Serve in bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

Black Bean Hummus Vegetable Wrap

Beans and butternut squash are two of my favorite combinations, and they are bundled up in a whole wheat tortilla along with caramelized onions in my ultimate, comfort-food wrap. Enjoy for a hearty lunch or dinner. Creamy black bean hummus adds lean protein to this vegetarian wrap and also helps hold it all together. My Black Bean Hummus recipe, which you can whip up in less than five minutes, is perfect for this dish. If you want to give new life to your leftovers for a different meal the next day, serve the squash and onions on top of a salad and enjoy the hummus as a side dish with tortilla or pita chips.

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squashed, peeled, seeded and cubed
1½ tablespoon olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
4 whole wheat tortillas
Black Bean Hummus
2 cups tightly packed spinach leaves

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a half baking sheet, place butternut squash and drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat. Arrange squash in a single layer and roast for 30 to 35 minutes until tender and lightly brown, flipping with a spatula halfway through cooking.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add onion slices and sprinkle with sugar. Stirring occasionally, let the onions cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown.
Spread a fourth of the black bean hummus on each tortilla and top with a fourth of the butternut squash and caramelized onions. Add ½ cup spinach to each tortilla, wrap tightly to secure vegetables and serve.

Servings: 4

Spaghetti Squash Breakfast Hash

Vegetables are one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast, but I had never thought about combining spaghetti squash with eggs until I had a similar dish for brunch at Posana in Asheville, NC. Their garden vegetable hash was superb and I enjoyed it on their dog-friendly patio where they even have a menu for fur babies. Back at home in my kitchen with my four-legged-boy, Rocco, beside me, I crafted my version with a light and creamy Dijon sauce in place of their leek vinaigrette. Rocco approves of both dishes and really loves spaghetti squash for breakfast, even better than the bacon ice cream from Posana’s dog menu.

This recipe is also a great one to make when serving breakfast for dinner. Looking for a grab-and-go breakfast option? Serve the hash in small containers and add boiled egg slices on top in place of the poached or fried eggs. Hope you enjoy this unique take on spaghetti squash and comment below to let me know about your favorite breakfast veggies, or your pup’s prized treat.

Ingredients:
1 medium spaghetti squash
16 ounces small potatoes, such as new or fingerlings
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 leek
1 bunch or 6 ounce bag of spinach
salt and pepper
½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 cloves minced garlic
4 eggs, poached or fried

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the ends of the squash and slice in half. Remove the seeds and discard. Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the center of the oven until tender and squash flakes with a fork into noodles, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Roast until tender, for 20 to 25 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Remove vegetables from the oven and cover potatoes with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let spaghetti squash sit until cool enough to touch.
  4. Meanwhile, remove the dark green stalk from the leek, keeping the light green and white section. Wash the leek well to remove dirt in between the layers and thinly slice. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek to the skillet and sauté until tender and fragrant, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach and sauté until wilted, for a couple more minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside on low heat to keep warm.
  5. In a small bowl, add yogurt, mustard and garlic and stir to combine, creating creamy garlic sauce.
  6. Use a fork to remove the strands of spaghetti squash by lightly raking across the inside surface. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add ¼ of squash, spinach and potatoes to each plate and serve with an egg on top and a dollop of creamy garlic sauce.

Servings: 4

Sausage, Apple and Spinach Grilled Pizza

Fall is in the air and on my plate! Fresh picked apples bring the taste of the season to this grilled pizza. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the sausage and top with toasted pecans or walnuts for a crunchy protein after removing from the grill.

If there are pick-your-own apple orchards near your home, I recommend stopping by for fresh, local apples. Visiting orchards and farms are great ways to educate the children in your life about where our food comes from, and this recipe is a kid-friendly one that you could make together after harvesting your produce.

Ingredients:
½ pound ground sausage
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1 bunch spinach, trimmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 homemade or store bought pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned and no longer pink. Drain fat from skillet and return to the stove. Add onion and apple to the sausage and cook until tender and lightly browned. Add spinach and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Roll and stretch pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter.
  3. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel comes handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom.
  5. Remove crust from grill. Top cooked side of crust with sausage, apple and spinach mixture. Add shredded mozzarella evenly over pizza toppings.
  6. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

Note: When I make homemade pizza crust, I often double the recipe and freeze to have on hand for fast weeknight meals like this one.

Servings: 4 

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Manicotti

This recipe was developed for a quick weeknight meal, but it is adaptable for a homemade upgrade that is perfect for a stay-home, date night dish. For a busy weeknight, this recipe incorporates packaged noodles and jarred marinara. You can make it on the weekend for an even quicker version of a weeknight meal that just requires heating.

This meal was inspired by a dish at one of my favorite Italian restaurants, where the noodles are made from scratch daily and you can taste the love and attention that went into creating the pasta from this family-owned establishment. When time allows, I like to switch out the store-bought noodles and marinara for homemade. This meal pairs well with your favorite red wine, and I find that drinking wine while making homemade pasta is half the fun. Try adding some Italian music and making this meal together for a lovely date night.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound or 3 mild Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
1 (8 ounce) package manicotti noodles
2 cups frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 (15 ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 (24 ounce) jar marinara
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and spray an 8 by 10 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add Italian chicken sausage and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned.
3. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles and allow to cool enough to handle.
4. In a large bowl combine Italian chicken sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Stir until well combined. Place mixture in large zip top bag. Cut a small slit in the corner of the bag. Pipe mixture into manicotti noodles, filling evenly and then placing in the baking dish.
5. Cover stuffed manicotti with marinara and bake for 25 minutes, until edges are brown and sauce is bubbly. Remove and top with Parmesan cheese. Continue baking for about 2 minutes, until cheese has melted.

Note: You can freeze leftovers for a homemade microwaveable meal or lunch.

Servings: 7 ~ Serving size: 2 stuffed manicotti