Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Roasted and Stuffed Acorn Squash

Happy Tuesday, friends!! It's been a minute since I last posted, sorry about that!! I've been waiting - no dying - to share this recipe with you guys. It's kinda Aca-Awesome, if ya know what I mean.

Please tell me you know what I mean...

Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash

I know everyone is in super-prep Thanksgiving mode since it's, ya know, in TWO days and all. We'll be heading to my Mama's house tomorrow evening to help her prep and prepare all the good eats. I get off work early tomorrow (wooot!) so I will cook my contributions then - butternut squash and cranberry pilaf, balsamic and honey roasted beets, pumpkin white chocolate chip cookies, and hopefully, pumpkin bread rolls.

I'm starting to (finally) get into the holiday spirit a little more. Not sure what has me so bah humbug this year, but I'm ready to shake it off and get into my usual holiday happy mode!! Ooh! I went to a Christmas shopping bazaar thingy with one of  my besties this weekend and got the cutest apron. I can not wait to wear it whilst baking all the cookies and treats over the next few weeks. Maybe that's all I needed to jump start the holiday cheer...a cute new apron. Who'd have thunk it??

Maybe that, and the fact that we finally had a real cold snap. Like, down to 30 degrees cold. J built fires over the weekend and it finally felt more like holiday season. Of course it'll be back up into the 70s starting today. 

Roasted & Stuffed Acorn Squash

Now I guess you want me to tell you about the delicious little squash bowls, eh? J and I had never had acorn squash before. I saw this recipe and it sounded good, and we like butternut squash, so it seemed worth a shot.

You guys. OMG. Acorn squash is amazing. It's even more amazing when you roast it, and stuff it with turkey, tomatoes, beans, and orange zest. The orange zest gave it the most amazing punch of citrusy flavor, but the squash was so buttery delicious, and the seasonings were perfectly autumn-esque. But that orange zest, y'all. That's no joke.

Oh, and just in time for turkey day...you could so easily substitute leftover turkey for the ground turkey...just stir the seasonings in with the rice and beans and then add some shredded turkey and call it the most amazing turkey leftovers eva. You're welcome.

Roasted and Stuffed Acorn Squash
As seen on The Cozy Apron

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ onion, finely diced
  • ¼ lb ground turkey
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ cup cooked brown rice
  • ½ cup black beans
  • ¼ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, divided use
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower seeds
  • zest of 1 orange 
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with cooking spray. 
  2. Cut the bottom point of each acorn squash off with a sharp knife, to create a flat bottom. YOu only need to take that small point off, so the bottom is flat but solid, you don't want to cut too far and cut into the center of the squash. Then cut your squash in half crosswise - so that you top and bottom of the squash are the halves. Scoop out the "guts" (seeds and stringy part of the squash) and discard. 
  3. Drizzle each of the 4 halves with olive oil (about a teaspoon each), season with salt and pepper, and place on the prepared baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast for about 35 minutes, or until the flesh is fork tender. Remove from the oven (leave the oven on), and allow the squash to cool enough to be handled. 
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the ground turkey and brown, stirring and breaking it up. 
  5. Add the garlic, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine.Cook for an additional minute, then remove from the heat. 
  6. If your skillet it large enough, stir in the remaining ingredients, except the cheese and stir to combine. If your skillet is not large enough, combine the turkey and remaining ingredients except the cheese in a large bowl and stir to combine. 
  7. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, turn them over so the cut side is facing up, and fill each half with the turkey mixture. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of cheese on top of each filled squash and place back in the oven, until the cheese is nice and melted. This will only take a couple of minutes. Serve immediately with a nice side salad!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Smoked Gruyere Butternut Squash Soup with Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Ohhhh, the weather outside is frightful...

Smoked Gruyere Butternut Soup with Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

And I really wish that Mother Nature would pick a season. What they say about Texas really is true, y'all. It can be 30 degrees one day, and 80 the next. Or even better...40 degrees in the morning and near-80 in the afternoon. Boo.

I'm ready for boots and sweaters, fire place fires at home, soup and hot cocoa and hot apple cider all.the.time. And for no more mosquitoes. Seriously. It's mid-November and I'm still getting eaten alive.  Over. It.

Thankfully we have had some cooler snaps, so I've been able to make some delicious soup and not sweat while I'm eating it. That's a plus, eh?

And this soup...omgoodness. I've had it pinned to make for...a long time. Like, since last year. And even put it on the menu a time or two. And finally - finally - it made it's way into existence in my kitchen. I was a little worried since it's a vegetarian soup and J usually wants meat with every meal. You know, protein and all that jazz. BUT...he loved it!!! He was especially fond of the crispy, spicy chickpeas.

The soup was smooth and creamy and full of all-flavors. Um...nutmeg y'all. Yep. Just a hint, but the perfect complimentary spice for the butternut squash. It screams fall. Now if Mother Nature would just get on board and scream it too. And this is coming from a summer baby who loves the heat, so you  know it's serious up in hurr.

Anywho...hopefully wherever you live has actual seasons and it's cooler than 78 degrees so you can fully enjoy the bliss that is this soup.

Smoked Gruyere Butternut Squash Soup with Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
As seen on How Sweet It Is


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6 oz smoked gruyere cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 Tbsp chopped green onions

For the spicy roasted chickpeas

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas (drained, rinsed and dried with a paper towel)
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, line a baking sheet with foil, and set aside. 
  2. Place the paper-towel dried chickpeas in a medium bowl, add the olive oil and seasonings, and toss to evenly coat.  Spread out onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and shake or stir the chickpeas around to prevent burning, then return to the oven and bake another 15-20 minutes, until nice and crispy. Set aside until soup is ready. 
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and red pepper flakes and stir to coat in the oil and butter. Saute about 5 minutes, until onions are slightly softened. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute. 
  4. Now, stir in the squash cubes, salt, pepper, paprika and nutmeg and stir to coat. 
  5. Cover the pot and cook until the squash has softened slightly, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock into the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the squash is completely tender, about 8-10 more minutes.
  6. Once tender, you have two options: 1) Use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup right there in the pot! or 2) pour the contents, in several batches, into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth, then return to the pot over medium-low heat. 
  7. Add the grated cheese, a handful at a time, and stir until melted. Then add the coconut milk and stir until warmed through. 
  8. Serve up the soup topped with a scoop of chickpeas, chopped green onions, and an extra drizzle of coconut milk. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Caprese Chicken & Orzo Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed zucchini is one of those dishes that is so versatile and easy to customize. You can stuff just about anything into it and call it dinner.

Caprese Chicken & Orzo Stuffed Zucchini 2

I mean, maybe not anything, but all sorts of combinations. I've made sausage-stuffed zucchini, taco stuffed zucchini, chicken enchilada stuffed zucchini , and now...caprese chicken and orzo stuffed zucchini boats. 

J really loves stuffed zucchini, but I wanted to make a different version than the ones I tend to make over and over (see above), so I started thinking of what else might be good in it. Chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella, and orzo...with balsamic glaze of course. Yep, that was it, I decided. Then I just had to make that little idea in my head come to life. And taste as good as it sounded in my head. 

Luckily for you all, it definitely did!! The basil pesto mixed with the chicken gave a great base flavor for the whole dish. Then you mix in tomatoes and mozzarella, along with the orzo and zucchini, stuff it all into zucchini boats and then top with fresh basil and a balsamic glaze - off the chain, yo!!

I think I wound up eating 4 of the 6 halves between dinner and lunch, which is an unusual ratio at our house. But they were delicious and J couldn't take leftovers for lunch that needed to be heated so...more for me!

These take a little more prep work than the typical dinners I make, but it's nothing too extensive, and well worth the little bit of extra work, for the amazing outcome.

Caprese Chicken and Orzo Stuffed Zucchini Boats
A Sweet Beginnings Original

  • 3 large zucchini
  • ½ cup uncooked orzo
  • ½ lb ground chicken
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 oz Mozzarella, chopped
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 basil leaves, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line a large baking sheet with foil (or spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray) and set aside. 
  2. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a medium cooking scoop or a spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh of the zucchini, leaving about ¼ of flesh all the way around. Lay the zucchini, cut-side down, on a paper towel while you prepare the filling. 
  3. Dice about ½ cup of the zucchini flesh and set aside for later use. Store the rest for use in another recipe, some other time. 
  4. Heat a 2 qt pot of water over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and add the orzo. Cook according to package instructions, drain, and set aside. 
  5. Meanwhile, combine the chicken, garlic, and pesto together in a bowl. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray or drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the chicken mixture and cook, stirring to break up the chicken, until cooked through. 
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the reserved diced zucchini, chopped tomatoes, and orzo. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped Mozzarella. 
  7. Place the zucchini halves onto your prepared baking sheet (or casserole dish) cut-side up. Spoon the chicken mixture into each zucchini half, and don't be stingy – fill 'em up! Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melty and the zucchini have softened slightly. 
  8. While the zucchini are baking, heat a small pot over medium heat and add the balsamic vinegar and honey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to thicken. Reduce heat to just keep warm until the zucchini are done. 
  9. Once the zucchini are done, drizzle with the balsamic glaze and chopped basil leaves. Serve immediately!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Healthier Green Bean Casserole

I want to start off by saying thank you to all of our veterans, past, present, and future. It's only because of what you do that we are able to live the lives we do and I am forever grateful for this life!

And it being Veteran's Day also means that we're just barely two weeks away from Thanksgiving already. Can you believe it? I sure can't Wasn't it just Labor Day??

And in the hustle and bustle of holiday prep, menu planning, and then the inevitable after-holiday crash dieting, I thought maybe I'd share a healthier version of a Thanksgiving favorite.

Healthy Green Bean Casserole 4

Now, don't go quoting me that this is the healthiest thing ever, ever. It's just healthier than traditional green bean casserole. And, if I'm honest, I liked it better than most that I've ever had. I usually don't put this on my Thanksgiving plate. Maybe because it usually has mushrooms? I don't know. 

But for a newsletter that my office puts out, they wanted to do a healthy recipes section, and they asked me if I would make and photograph a few things for it. Of course I said yes!! I let them pick the recipes, and then I got busy in the kitchen. This was the first thing I made. It was easy, didn't take me much time, and most importantly, it turned out to be super delicious. J loved it. 

I made a few minor adaptations to the recipe they gave me, because 1) we don't do mushrooms in our house. Blech. 2) I don't use margarine (real butter, please), and 3) my grocery store didn't have the French onion cheese wedges. I think the garlic and herb swiss cheese wedges were way better than French onion would have been anyway. Just sayin'. I also used almond milk because...that's what we have at our house. Shrug. 

Healthy Green Bean Casserole

All of that rambling to say that, in the midst of all the holiday food and temptations, you can make this favorite and gobble it down without the side of guilt that sometimes comes with all holiday food. Or, maybe you are one of the blessed who can eat all the foods without a worry. That's ok - you can still make this, because it's delicious and you'll never miss the old ways of making it.

And you have plenty of time to substitute this into your menu. 2 weeks early. See how nice I am to share?? You're welcome. So. very. welcome.

Healthier Green Bean Casserole

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms, diced (or not...I left these out)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp cold water
  • 4 Laughing Cow, Creamy Swiss Garlic & Herb cheese wedges
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk (or almond milk)
  • 2 -14.5 oz cans of cut green beans, drained (or 4 cups fresh cut green beans, blanched first)
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 1.5 quart baking dish with cooking spray (I used a 9-in pie dish and it worked fabulously!)
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened. Then add the butter and stir until melted. Add mushrooms, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 more minutes. 
  3. Pour chicken broth into pan and simmer for 1 minute. 
  4. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and water, then add to the pan and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add cheese wedges to pan and mix well, until mostly melted. Add milk to pan and stir to incorporate. Cook additional 2-3 minutes until thick.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in green beans. Pour green bean mixture into baking dish.
  7. In a small bowl mix together the Panko and melted butter. Sprinkle on top of the green bean mixture, and baked for 15-20 minutes, until casserole is bubbly and Panko is lightly browned. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Taco Tuesday: Cheddar Jalapeno Salmon Tacos with Creamy Green Sauce and Apple Cider Slaw

Last night was a first at our house. The first time we've had an overnight guest in the 2 years we've lived there. And I was stupid excited about it. Not because we had a house guest in general, but because it was one of my bestest besties! As I mentioned in yesterday's post, she's in town for a two-day work seminar, and staying with us. Which means...cooking good food together, and making girly cocktails. Girl's night for the win! The premise of these tacos was her idea, and we basically just made it up as we went along.

Salmon Tacos 

And isn't that the best? Just hanging out in the kitchen, having a grand ol' time, and throwing together a recipe with  a best friend or spouse?? And of course, if you throw yummy cocktails into the mix, that's even better!! Tonight she wants to make the Shrimp Cilantro Burgers with Chipotle-Lime Guac that I posted a few weeks ago. No argument here!!

But about these tacos. Uh...yum. Salmon mixed with jalapenos and cheddar on top of an apple cider slaw, then topped with a creamy green sauce. Yeah. Yumalicious it sure was. And I brought the leftovers to work and ate them over a southwest chopped salad. win/win/win for me!! And also for you if you get these on the menu!! It is Taco Tuesday, after all!!

Salmon Tacos Close

Cheddar Jalapeno Salmon Tacos with Creamy Green Sauce and Apple Cider Slaw
A Sweet Beginnings Original (with a little bestie inspiration!)

  • 4 6-oz salmon fillets
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 2 oz cheddar cheese, grated
  • 8 tortillas
  • cilantro for garnish
For the creamy green sauce
  • 1 poblano, seeds removed
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3 green onions
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
For the cider slaw
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup angel hair coleslaw
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Add the salmon fillets, skin-side down. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for 2- 3 minutes, then gently flip over with a spatula or pair of tongs. Use the tongs to gently peel the seared skin off the fillets, and cook for another couple of minutes. 
  2. Now use the tongs or a spatula to start breaking up the salmon, and continue to cook until opaque. Add the diced jalapeno, stir and cook for 1 additional minute. Remove from heat and sprinkle cheese on top. 
  3. Meanwhile, combine all the green sauce ingredients,except the Greek yogurt, together in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the yogurt and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. 
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the coleslaw, green onions, and cilantro, and toss to coat. 
  5. To assemble the tacos, warm your tortillas and top with a couple spoonfuls of the slaw, a generous helping of the salmon, and a good dollop of the green sauce. Garnish with additional cilantro leaves, if desired!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Soup with Orzo

Yesterday was sunny, cool, and crisp outside. It was actually nice, especially after the grey, gloomy weather we've had for a couple of weeks. Perfect fall weather. Perfect soup weather.

Buffalo Chicken Soup with Orzo

After church, we went home and were actually quite productive at home. Those are my favorite kind of Sundays. J worked in the yard, and I got busy cleaning inside. You see, there's nothing like having a house guest to make you really clean.

Sad? Maybe. True? Definitely. One of my besties will be coming into town tonight to stay for a couple of nights. Work seminar and such. But, I'm looking so forward to hanging out, cooking dinner together, and having girlie cocktails! I'm sure J is not quite as excited, but...that just gives him more free time to do his man stuff. 

I much prefer for Sundays to be spent at home, rather than out and about. I just feel like that's good family and housework time. You know - laundry, cleaning floors and bathrooms, yard work, and making delicious soup on a crisp fall (or winter) day. 

And this soup will most definitely warm you up. Inside and out! Because...buffalo sauce, y'all. Yum. 

Buffalo Chicken Orzo Soup

Just imagine your favorite, saucy buffalo wings but without the bones, frying, or skin. So...all the good stuff is still intact. Chicken breast, buffalo sauce, and even blue cheese crumbles. If you're into that kind of thing. J loves blue cheese. Me? Notsomuch. 

I do, however, love this soup. So, so much. The chicken, buffalo sauce, cheesy goodness, and orzo are all right up my alley. I've made it quite a few times and finally am getting to share it with you all!!

Oh, and have I mentioned yet how easy it is? Very little hands-on time. And, it reheats very well. Great for leftovers!! If there is any left in the pot, that is. 

Buffalo Chicken Orzo Soup

  • ½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ranch dressing seasoning mix 
  • 3 Tbsp cilantro, divided
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • ⅔ cup Buffalo Wing Sauce (Frank's or Louisiana hot sauce brands both have good ones)
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup green onions, chopped and divided
  • ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions , drain and set aside. 
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the chicken pieces and cook 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Add the garlic, half of the green onions, the ranch dressing mix, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Stir to combine and cook about 1 minute. 
  3. Add chicken broth, buffalo sauce and cheeses. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the orzo, return to a boil and cook a couple more minutes, until the orzo is warmed. 
  5. Serve with the remaining green onions, cilantro, and blue cheese crumbles. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sammich Saturday: Pastrami & Swiss Panini on Rye

Say hello to the best sammich eva, according to my husband. My husband who didn't think he would even like the dark rye bread.

Pastrami Swiss on Rye

Pastrami, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard, and pickle slices - all smushed together in a panini press to make this. This sammich that my husband wanted to eat for days. 

It's super simple, but so flavorful!! I used to get pastrami and swiss on rye at Schlotszky's back in the day, but I've never attempted it at home before. Or bought dark rye bread for that matter. Now, instead of sandwich thins for all-things-sammich, dark rye has become the new favorite. 

I wanted a thicker bread, because for panini it's just better. It might smush down and look thin, but it's perfect. A little crispy from the panini press, and filled with melty, cheesy, tangy, meaty, pickle-y deliciousness. 

What I dislike the most about making panini with certain ingredients, like pickles, is that if you aren't careful, you will get soggy bread. I can not handle soggy bread. {shudder}

But I really wanted pickles on the sammich so I found a way around it. More cheese! Yep. Cheese on the top and bottom. Keeps the pickles from coming into direct contact with the bread, ergo no sogginess!

Pastrami & Swiss on Rye

And I must admit, while I love sammiches - so, so many different ones - this pastrami and swiss on rye is most definitely at the top of the list of favorites. Try it and I bet it'll be on your top list, too!!

Pastrami & Swiss Panini on Rye
Makes 2 panini

  • 4 slices dark rye bread
  • 4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 10-12 thinly sliced pieces of Pastrami
  • 4 sandwich pickle slices

  1. Preheat a panini press or skillet*.
  2. Spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon onto each of the slices of bread. Place a piece of cheese on 2 of the bread slices, then top with 5 or 6 Pastrami slices, 2 pickle slices, another piece of cheese, and top with one of the remaining bread slices. 
  3. Place one, or both sammiches, in the panini press, close the lid and cook for a couple of minutes, until the cheese is melty and you have nice press marks on the bread. Remove and carefully slice each panini in half and serve! 
*If you don't have a panini press, place the sammiches in a skillet and top with a heavy pot. Cook for a minute to brown one side, then carefully flip and repeat, cooking until the cheese is melty and bread is browned. 

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