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Pepperoni & Basil Tortellini Salad

Usually, I’d argue that this dish makes a perfect salad for Summer, whether it’s as a side dish or a meal itself. And it does. But when it’s unseasonably warm weather-wise on the home front and were less than two weeks away from Christmas, I’m not going to rant or rave. I mean I can’t actually do anything about it, so why not just go with it?

Tortellini & Pepperoni Pasta Salad 2

Just picture it, your favorite cheese tortellini with ripe grape tomatoes ready to burst with flavor, fresh basil, a generous helping of chopped pepperoni, and all mixed up with your favorite creamy Caesar salad dressing. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, or anybody on a diet, but if neither of those apply to you, it’s a dreamy combination.

Tortellini & Pepperoni Pasta Salad

Trust me you want in on this dish. In a month filled with warm, rich comfort foods and chaos and (if you’re a parent) kids home on break needing more lunch options than the typical brown bag variety, run headlong toward this ‘salad’. This is pasta salad, 2.0, and it’s just the change of pace we enjoy. With the roller coaster weather, us and our meals have to roll with the punches.

Pepperoni & Basil Tortellini Salad

Tortellini & Pepperoni Pasta Salad 3

1 (20 oz) pkg cheese tortellini, or about 3-4 cups frozen tortellini
1 cup pepperoni slices, chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup cubed, or shredded, mozzarella cheese
1 cup caesar dressing
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

Directions

  1. Cooked the tortellini according to package directions. Drain and transfer the tortellini to a large bowl.
    2. Stir together the dressing and the cooked tortellini. Add in the pepperoni, basil, cheese, and tomatoes and gently stir together, so that the tortellini don’t fall apart, until everything’s evenly combined.
    3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Eggnog Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread is one of the sons’ favorite things to eat, and it’s little wonder why. It’s sticky, it’s sweet, and it’s basically dessert that they have permission to eat for breakfast and they get to wash it all down with a tall glass of cold milk.

Think you don’t have time to make such a yummy dish from scratch? We’ve made this super simple to make, so simple you’d have to try hard to actually mess it up.

Eggnog Monkey Bread 2

Even better? This isn’t any ordinary monkey bread recipe, this one is dressed specifically for the holidays, with its typically sugary sweet, pull apart pastry and a liberal buttered eggnog cream poured overtop.

Eggnog Monkey Bread

Eggnog Monkey Bread

1 can (16.3 oz) regular refrigerated biscuits, no flaky layers or butter flavored

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp nutmeg

6 tbsp butter, melted

Directions

1. Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar and the nutmeg, stirring to combine.

2. Separate the biscuits and use a pair of kitchen shears to cut each one into 4-6 pieces and put the cut pieces in a large zip locking bag, or a large tupperware.

3. Add the sugar mixture to biscuits, seal, and shake well to evenly coat the biscuit pieces.

4. Transfer the sugared biscuits to a greased 6 cup bundt pan.

5. Mix melted butter and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and pour it all over the biscuits in pan.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes, or until golden brown.

7. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing. To remove, tip the bundt pan upside down onto a serving plate, give it a pat or two if needed to release the bread, and top it with the eggnog glaze.

Eggnog Drizzle

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 tsp rum extract

3 tbsp eggnog

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Directions

1. Stir together all the ingredients until evenly combined, add more eggnog if you’d prefer a thinner consistency. Drizzle the eggnog glaze over the monkey bread.

Crusty, Fool-Proof Baguettes In 30 Minutes Flat

Quick & crusty baguettes in 30 minutes flat. Say that five times fast. How many of you thought you’d ever be able to say that at all, let alone believe it? This recipe is like the best (not anymore!) kept secret on the planet. It’s so easy, it’s been called fool proof. It’s perfect for beginner bakers and as an easy introduction to from-scratch bread making. Plus, it only uses five (yes, 5) everyday ingredients you probably already have in stock.

Baguettes for Beginners 2

Soft and flaky on the inside, crisp and crusty on the outside. They’re perfect for tearing into and chewing alongside your favorite pasta, your favorite cheese, your favorite soup, or for something as simple as slapping on a slab of your favorite butter. These baguettes are perfect. And they can be made last minute. Goodbye pre-planning and hours of rise time. I won’t miss tip-toeing around the house or trying to time nap time so heavy foot steps and little running feet wouldn’t make my dough fall, that’s for sure!

Baguettes for Beginners 3

This recipe makes two loaves, and we love to enjoy one fresh out of the oven with our favorite spices in a little olive oil for a quick and easy appetizer to tide us over while our main meal cooks.

Crusty, Fool Proof Baguettes In Under 30 Minutes Flat

Baguettes for Beginners

2 cups very warm water
1 packet yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3-4 cups of flour

Directions

 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Set the bowl on top of your preheating oven for ten minutes. Stir in the salt and add the flour a half-cup at a time, until the dough becomes soft, but not sticky. Knead the dough until elastic.

2. Cut the dough into four even pieces. Roll each of them into four long, thin ropes. Twist together two of the ropes to form one loaf. Twist the other two ropes together to form a second loaf. Transfer both onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

3. You can now bake the loaf right away (if you’re in a hurry), or allow it to rise for an additional 15-30 minutes on top of your warm oven.

4. Fill a large bowl with 3-4 cups of ice. Open your hot oven and place the baking sheet with the baguettes inside, then toss the ice cubes on the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the door. Do NOT open your oven for 15 minutes (the steam for the ice is what creates the crunchy outer crust). Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.

5. Serve warm with butter or with a dipping sauce of your favorite seasoned olive oil.

3 Cheese Gnocchi Macaroni & Cheese

Easy. Peasy. And, yes, cheesy. (Sorry, had to go there. The rhyme was just too tempting.)

Gnocchi Mac And Cheese 2

Two of my favorite things, both equally indulgent, in one fantastic dish? Yes, please! Fluffy potato gnocchi basking in a rich, creamy cheese sauce worthy of gracing the plate of even the hautiest of Mac & Cheese snobs? Fill ‘er up, and I’m already calling dibs on seconds.

Gnocchi Mac And Cheese 3

It’s awe-inspiring. Has my kitchen ever churned out such a fine bowl of creamy comfort before? And The taste!

There’s just a small price to pay for a few decadent cheeses. And some calories. But the finished product absolutely pales in comparison.

Three Cheese Gnocchi Mac & Cheese

Gnocchi Mac And Cheese

2, 16 oz, pkgs potato gnocchi
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
3-4 tsp minced garlic
1 cup half and half, or milk (warmed)
1 1/4 cups shredded fontina cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
finely-chopped fresh parsley or basil, for topping

Directions

1. Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
2. While the gnocchi cooks, get started on the cheese sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and the broth until evenly combined and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the butter or olive oil. Add in the garlic and saute, stirring, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture, and whisk until combined. Add in the milk, and whisk until combined. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches a low boil. Then remove from heat, and stir in the cheeses until they too are melted and the cheese sauce is smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste, if desired.
4. Combine the cooked gnocchi and cheese sauce together in the pot you cooked the gnocchi in, and toss together until the gnocchi are evenly coated. Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of finely chopped, fresh basil and/or parsly and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan, if desired.

recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Healthy Pumpkin Pie Protein Overnight Oats

One night, my defenses had been systematically whittled down enough that, I let the youngest son have the dregs of my Mountain Dew Voltage. It was in a glass and he didn’t know exactly what it was other than some kind of soda, which he’s rarely allowed to have.
Handing me the empty glass to put in the sink: “Mom, that tasted like it gave me powers, super powers. I know it didn’t, but it tasted like super powers.”

Aaaaaaaaand, that is why you my son are not allowed to do The Dew. Like, ever.

Protein & oats however, make much sturdier fare (and a better breakfast option) for any real-life Super Heroes in-training. And pumpkin pie is such an obvious Fall flavor. Combining the two was a no-brainer.

And overnight oats? They’re quick and easy enough for Super Heroes of any age to whip up, or just to lend a helping hand. Throw everything in a mason jar (or pretty much any seal-able container your heart desires), give it a good stir, and let it sit overnight while you sleep. When you wake up? A protein packed, breakfast that tastes like dessert will be waiting to greet you.

Healthy Pumpkin Pie Protein Overnight Oats

 Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats

1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

  1.  Add all of the ingredients to a mason jar or other plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, and stir everything until evenly incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Serve cold.

*To fit in with dietary restrictions or requirements, you can use a sugar alternative such as Splenda or Truvia in place of the sugar, and you can also sub Gluten-free oats if necessary.

Chipotle Cheddar Turkey Wraps

Where are all my fellow football fans at?

<Fist Bump>

Now, I freely admit, while I love the game and can in fact follow along and all the rest, my favorite party about game day is the food. Hey, there’s no shame in my game 😉

And who doesn’t love a good excuse to make an entire meal out of appetizers, assorted snack foods, and chips and dip?

Chipotle Cheddar Turkey Wraps

I love serving wraps because they’re simple to assemble and easy to throw together a the last minute. Like under 5 minutes quick. Who wants to be stressed out on game day? Or make that any more stressed out if your team didn’t bring it that day.

This wrap though has, most definitely, brought it. It’s bursting at the seams with flavor. The creamy (& healthy–shh don’t tell the guys) avocado yogurt sauce pairs perfectly with the tang from the sharp cheddar. They’re rounded out with the addition of some of your favorite sliced turkey and tomatoes. Then we’ve sprinkled on some cilantro leaves and a pinch of Chipotle seasoning for the perfect amount of fresh color and kick.

Chipotle Cheddar Turkey Wraps

2 large flour tortillas, burrito size
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
8 thin slices of cheddar cheese, softened to room temp
1/2-1 tsp chipotle seasoning, or more (to taste) if you’re feeling adventurous
1/2 cup of your favorite chopped tomatoes; Rotel, diced Roma, or even sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, stems discarded, chopped

Directions

  1. Place the tortillas onto a clean, flat work surface, such as a cutting board or counter top.
    2. In a small bowl, combine the avocado, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, using a fork to mash everything together until evenly incorporated into a thick sauce.
    3. Spread the sauce out evenly, dividing it in half between both wraps, and remembering to leave a 1/4″ bare edge all the way around.
    4. Add the cheese slices (about 4 slices per wrap depending on the size) in an even, flat layer. It’s ok if you need to break the cheese in places to get it to properly cover the whole wrap.
    5. Evenly sprinkle each wrap with 1/2 the desired amount of chipotle seasoning.
    6. Evenly sprinkle each wrap with 1/4 cup of tomatoes.
    7. Evenly sprinkle each wrap with 1/4 cup of the fresh cilantro.
    8. Roll each wrap up tightly and position so that the seam side is facing down. Set the rolled wraps onto a plate and chill in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes.
  2. 9. Using a serrated knife, slice each wrap into 1-inch slices and serve them immediately to a hungry crowd.

Pan Fried Chicken with Apple Cider Gravy

Fall is in the air. And in the grocery store. Apples, apples everywhere!

Trust me though, that is by no means a complaint. And stocked right beside all the apples sourced from several local orchards are just about every local brand of cider you could hope to find. And if you’re like us, you look forward to that taste as an integral part of any ‘Fall’ experience. But did you know that cider can be so much more?

Pan Fried Chicken with Apple Cider Gravy 2

Betcha never thought about using it to make gravy, did ya?? Prepare to have your eyes opened wide to a wonderful new world of cider possibilities.

Apple Cider Gravy 2

This recipe allows you to easily cook up a chicken and gravy based dinner for your family, without any of the headaches or fears of making a more traditional gravy. It’s a thinner gravy, but it’s also low in fat. It’s sweet and savory and, thanks to the addition of the cider, full of Fall flavor. It’s a match made in Heaven, well I suppose I should say a match made in Autumn.

Pan Fried Chicken with Apple Cider Gravy

Pan Fried Chicken with Apple Cider Gravy

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup fresh apple cider
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1-2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp corn starch + 1 tbsp water, stirred together, to thicken
mashed potatoes or rice, for serving the gravy over

Directions

  1. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.
    2. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven.
    3. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan, and brown on each side for about 2-4 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the cooked chicken from the pant, and set aside.
    4. To the heated pan, add the broth, cider, parsley, and garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil, and use a spatula or spoon to deglaze the pan. Stir in the corn starch mixture, and reduce the heat to medium and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Season the gravy with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the chicken back to the skillet and remove the pan from heat. Serve the chicken with the a liberal serving of gravy poured over both the meat and over the mashed potatoes or rice.

Apple, Red Onion, & Cheddar Panini on Naan Bread

There’s nothing quite like the fresh air of the mountains, and living in Virginia we’re fortunate enough to be only a hop, skip, and a jump from the nearest range. A kind of peace comes over me and my heart is so full when I watch my boys be boys, especially the older they get. And our local (ish, it’s only 40 minutes away) orchard offers them every opportunity to embrace everything innately boyish about themselves.

apple picking 2015 7

Running up and down mountain sides? Check.

apple picking 2015 4

Climbing trees? Check. (bonus points for ones over looking or over hanging mountain sides)

apple picking 2015 3

Eating fruit fresh picked from the vine? Check.

apple picking 2015 6

Dad letting you carry and use a (very dull) pocket knife to cut your own fresh slices of fruit? Check.

apple picking 2015 5

(and obviously extra, extra bonus points for the use of sharp objects)

apple picking 2015

Every year we have a blast, and I love being able to look back on our memories forever captured in photos, but ever year we come home starving, and that’s despite the fresh cider and fresh cider donuts we gorge on while there.

This year, I dug right into one of our several bushels and had a piping hot batch of grilled naan-witches ready to serve in no time. Meltty, tangy sharp cheddar, the bite of red onion, crispy, sweet apple slices, and a bit of sass from our favorite honey mustard made this the perfect grilled cheese sandwich to celebrate one of our favorite Fall traditions.

Apple, Red Onion, Cheddar Panini on Naan Bread

Apple, Red Onion, & Cheddar Panini on Naan Bread

2 pieces of naan or other bread (use four pieces if the slices are small, I had 2 large naan pieces)
1 Apple, cored and sliced
sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
red onion, thinly sliced
your favorite honey mustard

Directions

  1. Place a layer of cheddar cheese slices on the bottom piece of naan. Layer on sliced apples, then the sliced red onion, and then top that with another layer of cheddar cheese.

2. Spread a layer of honey mustard on the inside of the top piece of naan and then place that on top of apple, onion and cheese, closing the sandwich.

3. Place the sandwich in the panini press until heated through, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwich in half (if you’re using larger slices of naan) and serve.

Black Pepper & Parmesan Beer Bread

Do you ever see something and you immediately know you’ve just gotta have it? And I’m not talking about that bracelet you saw in the Tiffany’s catalog, or even that friggin’ genius no-leak (seriously, we’ve tried everything testing it out, for your sake of course!) sippy cup combo pack on Amazon.

I’m talking about food, or rather a picture of food. Whether it’s one you spotted in a magazine, on the Google/Pinterst, or even a mental image your formed when skimming over a new recipe. An image of something you just have to have. Stat. Something you want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Nobody? Aww, come on ! Don’t be shy, you know it’s happened to you too. At least here you’re in good, non-judgey foodie company 😉

 Black Pepper Parmesan Beer Bread

That was pretty much me at my desk, ogling this bread on my computer screen. Pretty sure one of the sons had to help pick my jaw up off the floor for me. I mean, we’re no strangers to the wide world of beer bread, but this? It was evolutionary. And I could just picture the flavor  blending and melting into my mouth with each buttered bite.

Just a heads-up, this recipe yields one loaf. You may want to opt for a double batch, ya know, if you live with anyone who has even the slightest fondness for bread, and carbs. Wars were waged over this loaf. You’d have thought I’d baked a brick of gold or something.

Black Pepper Parmesan Beer Bread

Black Pepper Parmesan Beer Bread 2
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
14 oz of your favorite beer, you can opt for a nice flavorful one or stick with something more generic like a Coors Light (there are no right or wrongs here)
1/2 cup butter, divided and melted
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 1/2 -2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

1. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and use a fork to evenly stir together.
2. Create a small well in the center of the flour mixture and add in the beer (pour slowly), 1/4 cup of the melted butter, cheese, and black pepper. Stir them all until the dough just comes together. Do not over mix! (small flour pockets can be gently stirred away; one or two remaining flour pockets are okay).
3. Transfer the batter into a prepared (lightly greased) loaf pan. Pour the other quarter cup of melted butter over top the batter and bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf.
4. Remove the bread from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the loaf from the pan to a wire rack and allow it to cool until just warm to the touch (about 1 hour and 30 minutes), before slicing.
5. Slice and serve as is, or with generous pats of butter (just sayin!)

recipe adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

New to the wonderful (and easy) world of bread made with beer? Check out these other favorites:

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheesy Bacon Jalapeno Popper Beer Bread

Cheesy Bacon Jalapeño Popper Beer Bread

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

{One Pot Wonder} Balsamic Chicken & Veggies

Today we’re back with another one pot wonder. A dish that from start to finish, dirties only one pot. ONE. It’s one of the seven wonders of the weeknight kitchen world.

While we’ve got a lengthy list of other one pot recipes we love, this Balsamic Chicken accompanied by some of our favorite veggies, became an overnight star. For real

I tweaked the original recipe to what we had on hand and it was delicious! I mean, REALLY delicious.

As in I think I ate 3/4th of the entire dish. As in, it was great the first time around and great as leftovers for lunch the next day. As in, I think this is one of my new favorite go-to, all-in-one meal.

As in you need to try this right now. Like TONIGHT.

One Pot Balsamic Chicken & Veggies

This meal is new, it’s fun, it’s healthy, and it’s easy. How many other nights are you able to get a home cooked, form scratch meal on the table in under 20 minutes? And the flavor? With the word balsamic in the title you know it’s got to be good, right?!

Enjoy this meal as is, or fortify it with a few simple carbs in the form of a scoop of your favorite pasta or rice on the side.

One Pot Balsamic Chicken & Veggies

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Italian salad dressing (light versions tend to work better since they’ve a bit of a thicker consistency for coating, BUT any variety will still taste great)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 lbs chicken breast tenderloins
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
1 1/2 cup carrots, julienned
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the dressing, vinegar, honey and red pepper flakes until evenly combined, and set aside.
    2. In a large skillet, or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, before putting the tenderloins into the skillet. Cook the chicken about 6 – 7 minutes, rotating once halfway through cooking, until chicken has cooked through (meanwhile, prepare the veggies). Add half the dressing mixture to the skillet and turn the chicken to make sure it’s evenly coated. Transfer the cooked, coated chicken to a large plate or a serving platter while leaving the sauce in the skillet. Add in the green beans and carrots, season with salt and pepper (again, to taste) and cook, stirring frequently, until still crisp, but also tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the veggies to plate or platter with chicken.
    3. Add the remaining dressing mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cooked chicken, cooked green beans and carrots, and the tomatoes back to the pot. Toss everything to coat, and serve.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy

Like the sound of this recipe? Check out some our other One Pot Wonders …

4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Chicken Lo Mein

Chicken Lo Mein

4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Cheeseburger Casserole

Cheeseburger Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Pizza Pasta

Pizza Pasta

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