Banana Crêpes

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Some recipes are too good to be true…

And this is one of them.

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I’m about to tell you that you can take a banana and an egg and make some of the best crêpes (or pancakes!) ever!

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But seriously, it’s just a banana and an egg—THAT’S IT.

Okay, yes, there is some salt and vanilla, but those don’t technically count.

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You blend them, you pour the batter out, and voila!

You end up with light, moist crêpes that can be eaten any way you like.

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I like mine with Nutella and strawberries, because, well, that tastes amazing.

But in your kitchen, the crêpe-topping rules are up to you!

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So try them!

There is literally no chance you will be disappointed.

And in the highly improbable case that you are, send those leftovers my way!

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Banana Crêpes

servings: six 5-inch crêpes

Ingredients:

  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread, plus more for a garnish
  • 6 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • Powdered sugar, for a garnish

Directions:

  1. To the bowl of a blender, add the bananas, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Blend these ingredients until they are smooth, then set them aside.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the butter in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Then make the crêpes one at a time by adding about ⅓ cup of the banana batter to the skillet, cooking each until its bottom is a deep golden brown—about 3 to 4 minutes. Then flip the crêpe over and cook it until the other side is also a deep golden brown—1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat this process with the remaining batter, wiping out the skillet and adding 1 teaspoon of butter between each crêpe.
  3. To serve, spread about 1 tablespoon of the Nutella over each crêpe. Then place a line of sliced strawberries slightly off center in each crêpe and roll them up, starting from the side closest to the strawberries. Drizzle the finished crêpes with more Nutella, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

Is there really anything better than tomato soup?

Let me clarify--homemade tomato soup.

When I was younger, I was addicted to cans of the Progresso version.

I can picture myself at age 22, squeezing my way into my 2x2 foot kitchen, cracking open that blue can, and then waiting those 2 minutes for the microwave to deliver my spoils.

If only I had known how much better making my own tomato soup could be.

Like, SO much better, and requiring no skills or fancy ingredients.

And what I also couldn’t have imagined at the time was how adding tender rice to my soup would completely take it to the next level.

Or that topping it with a beautiful and refreshing three-ingredient basil yogurt drizzle would boost its amazing-factor sky-high.

But now that I know what I didn't know, let's take our tomato soup there.

We just need to sauté some garlic and onions...

Add some crushed and juiced tomatoes...

And while that all simmers, combine yogurt, basil and a little salt for a drizzle you could never find in a Progresso can.

Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

servings: 8 cups of soup, with about ½ cup drizzle; serves 4

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  • One 10.6-ounce package Veetee Microwavable Thai Jasmine Rice (makes 1½ cups)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • One 46-ounce can tomato juice
  • Two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Basil Yogurt Drizzle
  • Fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, for a garnish (optional)

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  1. Add the yogurt, basil, and salt to a blender along with ¼ cup water and blend this mixture until it is mostly smooth. If you prefer, you can skip the blender and instead finely chop the basil, then mix it by hand with the yogurt, water, and salt until all ingredients are well combined.

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  1. Microwave the rice for 2 minutes as per the package instructions, and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Then add the onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook until the vegetables are tender and fragrant—3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato juice, diced tomatoes, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and puree it until smooth, then return it to the pot and stir in the rice and cream.
  4. To serve, divide the soup into bowls, top with the Basil Yogurt Drizzle, and sprinkle with the basil leaves if desired.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Mushroom + Beef Sloppy Joes

Check out my OUTRAGEOUSLY good sloppy joes...

These Mushroom + Beef Sloppy Joes are from my book Meat On The Side.

If you're looking for amazing comfort food that's also good for you, you owe it to yourself to give them a shot.

The secret is that the sandwich filling is half meat, half veggies! No need to feel guilty--you can eat up and enjoy!

Mushroom + Beef Sloppy Joes

servings: 4 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 8 ounces ground sirloin
  • 1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems discarded, caps finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Finely chopped dill pickles, for serving
  • Sliced pickled banana peppers, for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sirloin, breaking up with a spoon or spatula, and cook until it has browned, about 5 minutes. Then, if the skillet is too dry for sautéing the mushrooms, add a bit more oil. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until they are brown and tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the bell peppers, onion, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper to the skillet and stir to combine. Cook until all the veggies are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, vinegar, sriracha, and the remaining1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
  3. Add the tomato paste and thyme to the mixture in the skillet and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes. Then stir in the tomato sauce mixture and cook until the sauce thickens and coats the veggies and meat and all the flavors come together, 5 to 7 minutes more.
  4. To serve, spoon the sloppy Joe mixture onto the bottom half of each hamburger bun, dividing it equally, and dot with some pickles and banana peppers before adding the bun tops.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cilantro Pesto Rice with Feta, Peppers, + Eggs

Cooking these days is all about finding time savers.

I'm always asking myself, What ingredients can I have on hand to make a flavorful meal quickly?

In answer to my own question, I've discovered that one food that seems to have taken up a permanent residence in my fridge--and for good reason!--is Cilantro Pesto.

Made with handfuls of cilantro, almonds, garlic, and Parmesan, this pesto can be used as a sauce or spread that instantly makes a meal special!

I’ve slathered it on pizza, spooned it over chicken, and drizzled it over shrimp. And now, I've discovered yet another dish that becomes amazing with the simple addition of Cilantro Pesto! This time, I toss it with rice, peppers, and a little tangy feta, then top the whole thing with a perfectly runny egg.

Just by having a little Cilantro Pesto in the fridge or freezer and some Veetee Rice on hand, I can make an incredible dinner in 5 minutes! No, seriously, just 5 minutes!

And of course I could cook my own rice, but this stuff is just as good!

Plus sometimes those precious 20 minutes post-Baby's-bedtime need to be spent watching the Bachelor instead of making rice.

Cilantro Pesto Rice with Feta, Peppers + Eggs

servings: 4 cups of rice + 1¼ cups of Cilantro Pesto; serves 2

Cilantro Pesto:

  • 2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup roasted almonds
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds + ribs removed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • ½ cup olive oil

Rice with Feta, Peppers, + Egg:

  • One 10.6-ounce package Veetee Microwavable Thai Jasmine Rice (makes 1½ cups)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon + a pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 roasted red peppers (an 8 ounces jar)
  • ⅔ cup crumbled feta (about 3 ounces)
  • ⅓ cup Cilantro Pesto
  • Cilantro leaves for a garnish (optional)

Cilantro Pesto:

  1. Add the cilantro, parmesan, almonds, jalapeno, lime juice, salt, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor; process until finely chopped. Stream in the olive oil while the food processor is on, and allow everything to mix until all ingredients are well combined.

Rice with Feta, Peppers, + Egg:

  1. Microwave the rice for 2 minutes as per the package instructions.
  2. While the rice cooks, prepare the eggs sunny-side up. Place a small nonstick pan over medium-low heat, spray it with cooking spray, and crack the eggs into it. Sprinkle each with a pinch of salt and pepper cook until the whites are set and the yolk is still runny, about 5 minutes, covering them for the last 1-2 minutes to ensure all of the whites are cooked through.
  3. When the rice has finished cooking, add it to a large bowl with the peppers, feta, Cilantro Pesto, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, and mix to combine all ingredients.
  4. Serve by splitting the rice between two plates. Top each serving with an egg and sprinkle with some of the reserved chopped cilantro if desired.

Notes:

  • Use leftover pesto as a spread on sandwiches, drizzled over pork, steak or shrimp or tossed with pasta or sautéed veggies.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Buffalo Cabbage Spring Rolls

Check out the recipe for my Buffalo Cabbage Spring Rolls from my book Meat On The Side...

Buffalo Cabbage Spring Rolls

servings: 6 Spring Rolls + 1 Cup Dipping Sauce

Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce:

  • ½ cup blue cheese crumbles (2 ounces)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions, (green parts only)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Buffalo Cabbage Spring Rolls:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half (6 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • ⅓ cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 2½ cups lightly packed cabbage slaw mix (from the supermarket)
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • ¼ cup finely chopped scallions
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6 flour egg roll wrappers
  • Canola oil, for frying

Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce:

  1. Put the blue cheese crumbles in a small bowl, breaking up the pieces if they are bigger larger than ¼ inch. Add the sour cream, buttermilk, scallions, and salt to the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Buffalo Cabbage Spring Rolls:

  1. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper evenly all over the chicken. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through—, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest for 2 to 3 minutes; then chop it into ½-inch pieces.
  2. To make the filling, placePut the cream cheese and hot sauce in a large microwave-safe bowl; and microwave on high until the cheese is has slightly softened slightly—, 15 to 20 seconds—. and then wWhisk the mixture them tountil well gethercombined. . It (This mixture does not have to be perfectly smooth; it’s okay to have some lumps.) Add the chicken, slaw mix, celery, scallions, cilantro, garlic powder, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the bowl and stir until well combined.
  3. Arrange the egg roll wrappers on a work surface, orienting each so one corner points toward you (making a diamond shape). Have ready a small bowl of water and a pastry brush. Make the rolls one at a time: Spoon about ½ cup of the filling onto the center and then brush a little water onto the margins. Fold up the bottom corner over the filling; then fold up each side corner. Then roll the filled wrapper over on itself toward the top corner.
  4. Pour oil into a small or medium heavy-bottomed saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches (but not more than halfway up the sides). Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the oil to 375°F; (use a candy thermometer to register the temperature). Working in small batches, fry the rolls until they are golden brown on all sides—. 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer each batch to a paper- towel– lined plate to drain.
  5. Serve the rolls hot with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce.

Notes:

  • don’t always have buttermilk on hand, and although it adds a little extra tang to the dipping sauce, it can easily be replaced with any milk or cream you keep have in your fridge.
  • 50/50 - With all the flavor going on in these spring rolls, you will not miss the meat if you prefer a vegetarian appetizer—there are many times I choose to serve them meatless. To make half the recipe meatless, use only 3 ounces chicken, but add an extra ½ cup slaw mix; (don’t add the chicken to the filling until after you’ve made 3 vegetarian rolls. Or to go totally meat-free, and simply replace all the chicken with an extra cup of the slaw mix.
  • FF - Kids aren’t big fans of blue cheese? Leave it out for a scallion– sour cream dressing. Also to tone down the spicy taste, cut the amount of hot sauce to 3 tablespoons and use 5 ounces of cream cheese instead for a milder version.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

In my book, Meat On The Side, I have a Cauliflower Wing recipe...

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I roast cauliflower and toss it with my famous (and famously simple!) Buffalo sauce.

Then I douse it with blue cheese and shaved celery, for a “salad” worthy of an Oscar (Or whatever type of award is appropriate for a salad. Probably not an Oscar, huh?).

It’s an easy and light way to get your Buffalo fix.

However, I've been playing with the whole cauliflower + Buffalo sauce thing for awhile now, and I've recently come up with a new version.

This one has just a few more calories and takes just a little more time, but in the end you are left with something that will really, truly satisfy your craving for wings.

The batter is simple--a combination of flour and milk...

You whisk it up, add some cauliflower, and suddenly start to see the magical way a piece of cauliflower can become a wing.

Once baked, you simply toss these "wings" with Buffalo sauce and, most importantly, prepare yourself to eat them all!

It’s a plate of wings that are baked--not fried! And it's cauliflower--not chicken!

Really, what more could you ask for?!

No need to send a thank you gift, just remember you owe me. ;)

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

servings: Makes 40-50 cauliflower “wings”

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken or cut into bite-size florets
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil. Spray the foil generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, 2 tablespoons of the hot sauce, 3 teaspoons of the Worcestershire sauce, the salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
  3. Toss the cauliflower in the batter, then spread it on the baking sheets. Bake the cauliflower until it is slightly browned in spots—about 20 minutes.
  4. While the cauliflower bakes, in a small pot, whisk together the remaining ¾ cup hot sauce, the butter, vinegar, brown sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Once the cauliflower is browned, remove it from the oven and toss it well in the Buffalo sauce. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Then return the cauliflower to the baking sheets and cook it under the broiler until it is crispy and browned in spots—2-3 minutes more. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and toss or brush it with the remaining sauce. Enjoy by serving with blue cheese.

Notes:

  • Freezing Instructions: To enjoy later, freeze the completed Buffalo Cauliflower Wings in a single layer (not touching) on a baking sheet lined with foil. Once they are frozen, remove the wings from the baking sheet, place them in a food storage bag, and put them back in the freezer until you are ready to eat them. To reheat, begin by preheating the oven to 375°F and lightly spraying a baking sheet with cooking spray. Cook the wings until they are warmed through, 10-15 minutes, depending on their size.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

As a kid--and still, as an adult--I was (am!) obsessed with mac and cheese.

But my kid-self wanted nothing to do with any kind of homemade mac and cheese sporting a bubbling crust.

Gross!

No, if it didn’t come out of a box, I wouldn’t go near it.

It’s been a couple of years, but there are still a lot of kids out there just like me (and maybe some adults, too).

So how do you get your kids to eat a homemade mac and cheese that’s also packed with veggies?

You make it look and taste as much like the original as possible!

The base of this sauce is pureed veggies.

There's no butter and no milk.

But there are so many hidden veggies inside, it will make your head spin.

It’s time to lose the box (...at least, sometimes)!

Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about ¾ cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ medium head cauliflower, cut into large chunks, (about 1 pound or 3 cups)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled + cut into 1-inch chunks (about ½ pound or 1¼ cups)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1¼ + ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces American cheese (6 slices)
  • 12 ounces macaroni pasta

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender—5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, sweet potato, vegetable stock, and the 1¼ teaspoon salt. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender—about 20 minutes. This should give you about ¼ cup liquid along with the veggies.
  2. Place the veggie mixture in a blender and process it until it is completely smooth. Add more stock or water if there is not enough liquid to blend easily.
  3. Then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Add the cheddar cheese, American cheese, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt; stir until the cheese melts (depending on the saltiness of your stock and cheese you may not need this extra ½ teaspoon of salt). Add more stock if your mixture is too thick or if it thickens over time.
  4. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions. When done, drain and transfer the macaroni to the saucepan with the veggie and cheese mixture. Toss to combine and serve.

Notes:

  • You can use any combination of cheese that you like—cheddar, parmesan, fontina or provolone— though I do like to include a little American or Velveeta in my mix, as it gives the cheese sauce the right consistency.
  • This version is on the simple side; for a flavor that makes a bigger impact, I suggest stirring in some salsa or adding sautéed peppers to the mix.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Coconut Bacon

 

 

On my show Junk Food Flip, Bobby Deen and I go around and transform comfort food into delicious dishes that you can actually eat every day.

 

 

 

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Caramel Apple Tarte Tatin

 

 

I’m a big fan of desserts with apples--if I’m at a restaurant and it has some sort of apple-licious dessert on the menu, you can put good money on the fact that it will soon be in my belly.

 

 

 

 

 

With winter in full swing, there have been a plethora of apple pie-inspired desserts at all my local spots and that means I have definitely been having my doctor-recommended apple-a-day.

 

 

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Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole

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I love a breakfast casserole on Christmas morning!

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When I’m at my sister’s house for Christmas, the present-opening part of the morning tends to go on...

and on...

and on!

Finally, my brother in-law, Josh, can’t stand it anymore.

He'll declare a break for us all to fuel up so that maybe we can finish all of presents sometime before dinner!

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We used to just make cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

But as much as we all love a good, old-fashioned, sugar-filled breakfast, we decided we wanted something a little more substantialnot to replace the sugary stuff, of course, just to go with it!

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And that brought us to breakfast casseroles!

What’s better than making a breakfast big enough to serve your whole family and barely lifting a finger because you made that breakfast the night before?

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Well, I guess there is one thing better...

Making your casserole with everything bagels!

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It’s like a bagel sandwich with eggs, bacon, and veggie cream cheesein casserole form!

And this year, it just might be the best present under your tree!

(Just to be clear, please don’t put this under your tree. Keep it refrigerated and bake at 375°. 😉)

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole

servings: 10 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 4 bacon strips (about 4 ounces)
  • 6 everything bagels (1 pound, 4 ounce-bag of bagels), chopped
  • 1 medium yellow squash, chopped (about 2 cups or 8 ounces)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 8-ounce block of cream cheese, cut into ½-inch slices

Directions:

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then coarsely chop and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the bagel, squash, red bell pepper, and scallions, then set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, Gruyere, salt, garlic powder, and ground black pepper.
  4. Prepare a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, then add half of the bagel mixture to the dish. Next sprinkle on half of the cream cheese and half of the bacon. Repeat this layering with the remaining bagel mixture, cream cheese, and bacon.
  5. Pour the egg mixture over the entire casserole, then cover the casserole and chill it in the refrigerator for at least one hour, but preferably overnight.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and bake it covered for 40 minutes, then uncovered until the eggs are set and the bagel pieces are toasted in spots—about 15 minutes more.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Christmas Green + Red Cheese Balls

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a partysmall or large, planned or last-minutewhere I haven’t served cheese.

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If I’m standing around, drinking wine and chatting, I want to be snacking on some sort of cheesy goodness.

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And when it comes to Christmas, I find that my family is always in need of appetizers.

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I love the part of holiday gatherings where everyone is just relaxing and munching...

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So to bring some cheese to the holidays and keep things super festive at the same time, may I present you with Christmas Cheese Balls!

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The ingredients are few and the time involved is minimal, but in the end you'll be walking in with a show-stopping appetizer!

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You can make just the cheese ball with the green inside and enjoy a pesto-inspired ball with a red outside of tart and crunchy pomegranates.

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Or you can choose the ball with the red inside made with sundried tomatoes and green-coated in pistachios and herbs.

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No matter what you do, you’ve got a cheese ball!

And with that, you’ve got a party!

Christmas Cheese Ball
(Red Outside + Green Inside)

servings: 1 cheese ball

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 4 ounces herbed goat cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped spinach
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, goat cheese, spinach, basil, and garlic powder in the bowl of a food processor, then process to combine until the mixture is nearly smooth and evenly green.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic, along with your hands, to form the mixture into a tight ball, then place it in the refrigerator to chill until it is firm—25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic and transfer it to a small plate. Press the pomegranate seeds around the outside of the ball to fully cover it, then reshape it as needed to form a sphere. If you are having any trouble shaping it, let it chill for longer and try shaping/decorating again.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

Christmas Cheese Ball
(Green Outside + Red Inside)

servings: 1 cheese ball

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios


Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese and sundried tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor, then process to combine until the mixture is nearly smooth and evenly red.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic, along with your hands, to form the mixture into a tight ball, then place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic wrap and transfer it to a small plate. Press the parsley around the outside of the ball to fully cover it, then repeat with the pistachios. Reshape the cheese ball as needed to form a sphere.
  4. Serve alongside the red cheese ball and your favorite crackers!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Balsamic Roasted Onions

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I love taking underrated vegetables, shining them up, and showing people just how much delicious-potential they have!

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Onions don’t generally get their own place on your holiday table, although they're found as supporting players in almost every other dish.

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The tick to getting them to take center stage is infusing them with flavorin this case, balsamic, Dijon, and rosemary.

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Then add some sweetness to the mix, and let them roast up to sticky perfection in the oven.

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When you treat them right, they become a show-stopping side dish that will be gone before the main meal!

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Okay, Mr. Onion, it’s your time to shine!

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Balsamic Roasted Onions

servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium Vidalia onions, cut into ½-inch slices (skins left on)
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey, more for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Place the onions in a large plastic food storage bag or shallow dish. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic, olive oil, honey, mustard, rosemary, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Pour this mixture over the onion slices and close the bag or cover the dish. Marinate the onions in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight; be sure to occasionally shake the onions around in the bag or stir them in the dish ensure that the marinade gets into all parts of the onions.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lay the onion slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake them until the onions are very tender and dark in color—about 55 to 60 minutes, removing them from the oven to lightly baste the tops with more of the vinegar mixture every 15 minutes.
  3. After removing them from the oven, drizzle each of the onions with about ¼ teaspoon of honey and sprinkle each with a pinch of salt.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Holiday Brie + Honey Crostini with Pistachio + Pink Peppercorns

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I love easy appetizers!

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And even better than just being easy, I love appetizers that are easy and ridiculously tasty.

You know the typethey're made with just a couple of ingredients but still get oohs and aahs from your guests.

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Well, look no further for your next appetizer that fits this bill!

This one's really just about assembly...

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Bread, brie, honey.

Bake!

Peppercorns, pistachios, more honey...

Then serve to your adoring audience!

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The pinch of sharpness from the pink peppercorns cut through the sweet honey and creamy brie—for a perfectly gooey bite.

A bite that also happens to look like a Christmas ornament decorated in red and green!

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Holiday Brie + Honey Crostini with Pistachios + Pink Peppercorns

servings: 8 crostini

Ingredients:

  • 8 baguette slices
  • 4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into eight ½-ounce slices
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pink peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pistachios

Directions:

  1. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Arrange the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each of the slices with 1 piece of the brie and 1 teaspoon of the honey.
  2. Broil until the cheese is melted and brown—2 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the crostini from the oven and top each with another teaspoon of the honey, and a heavy sprinkle of both the peppercorns and pistachios.
  4. Serve immediately with a knife and fork, or simply pick up and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam + Pecans

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Appetizers are an important part of the holiday season. 

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When you're sitting around drinking bubbles and singing Christmas carols or opening presents, it's just not the same without something warm and cheesy to nibble on.

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Brie is not the most loved cheese (there are people who find it slightly stinky)...

But when you bake it into an ooey-gooey mess, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist a taste (or two, or threeor eleven).

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And it only gets better when you top it with homemade blackberry and apple jam, candied pecans, and pomegranate seeds!

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Because although we can all agree that melty cheese is ridiculously good, when you combine it with slightly tart jam and crunchy pecans, you will NEED a second, thirdand eleventh!helping!

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And let’s be honest, it’s darn cute.

It’s a present in itself!

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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam

servings: 1 brie wheel with about 1¾ cups jam, serves 8 to 10

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  • 2 cups blackberries, halved
  • 2 medium green apples, peeled + chopped into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Baked Brie:

  • 1 brie cheese wheel (16 ounces), rind on
  • 1½ cups Blackberry Apple Jam
  • ½ cup whole blackberries
  • 1 medium green apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped candied pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  1. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the blackberries, apples, maple syrup, and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil, then a simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the fruit is purple and has broken down; the liquid should be absorbed and the mixture thick and jam-like—10 to 15 minutes.

Baked Brie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the top rind off the brie wheel and discard it. Place the brie wheel in a small, round, oven-proof dish, then place the dish on a baking sheet and cook until the cheese is melty—10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the baked brie from the oven and top it with the Blackberry Apple Jam, blackberries, apple slices, pecans, pomegranate seeds, and thyme leaves.

Notes:

  • As the brie is eaten, there will be less jam at the bottom. Feel free to add the remaining ¼ cup of jam (the amount remaining after putting the 1½ cups of jam on top of the baked brie) to the bottom bit of the brie to increase the jam-to-brie ratio.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Butternut Squash + Apple Stuffing

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What’s more satisfying than stuffing?!

Bread, veggies, stockYUM!

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So it's obvious there will be stuffing on the Thanksgiving table, but now the question is...

What veggies do you put in there?

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What will give you both sweet and savory flavors, along with different textures?

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Butternut squash immediately popped into my head, even though I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of squash in stuffing.

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After trying it out though, I know it's the right choice!

The squash is hearty and dense and sweetly contrasts the tartness of the apples and the strong, sharp onions.

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Good stuffing is nothing fancyit’s all about the right combination of ingredients to make a satisfying comfort food.

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And when you strike that perfect chord, it's definitely music to your ears…and stomach!

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Butternut Squash + Apple Stuffing

servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • One 8-ounce loaf crusty bread, cut into 1-inch dice (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed + chopped into ½-inch dice (about 5 cups or 1½ pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium green apples (such as gala apples), chopped into ½-inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, more for a garnish
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 3 cups turkey (or chicken or vegetable) stock
  • Crushed pink peppercorns for a garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast them until they are dried out—8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set aside, but leave the oven on.
  2. In a large skillet over high heat, add the butter and oil. Once the butter has melted, add the squash along with ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper, then cook without stirring until the bottoms of the squash pieces are very dark—12 to 15 minutes. Stir slightly to flip the squash pieces and cook 5 minutes more, then stir again to flip the squash and cook an additional 5 minutes; when you are finished with this process, all sides of the squash should be evenly very dark.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-high and to the squash mixture add the apples, onion, celery, thyme, sage, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Then add 1 cup of the stock and simmer until the onion and celery are soft—about 5 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread, cooked veggies, and the remaining 2 cups of stock. Once mixed, transfer to a two- to three-quart baking dish sprayed with cooking oil. Bake until the top of the stuffing is crisp and golden brown—20 to 25 minutes. Before serving, garnish with the thyme leaves and pink peppercorns.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Beet Cranberry Sauce

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Cranberries have a zingy tartness that brings all of the other foods on your Thanksgiving Day plate to life.

And although the canned stuff may be an old staple on your table, consider clearing some space for this simple--but spectacular!--homemade version.

I start with a traditional cranberry sauce and add some beets that have been put through the blender.

Then I strain out all of that vibrant juice.

The beets add a deeper, richer flavor to the sauce--while still allowing the cranberries to shine.

And if you are a hardcore beet lover, then consider the "Extra Beety" version (also below), a fun beet-forward take that uses chunks of beets instead of just the beet juice! 

Beet Cranberry Sauce

servings: 3 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red beet (about 6 ounces), diced
  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest + juice of 1 orange
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Place the beet and 1¼ cups water in a blender and blend until very smooth with only some pulp remaining. Strain the pulp from the beet juice and transfer only the juice to a medium pot.
  2. To the same medium pot, add the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and salt. Cover the pot to avoid splattering and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency—about 25 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

"Extra Beety" Cranberry Sauce

servings: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red beets (about 12 ounces total)
  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest + juice of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Wrap the beets (all together) in aluminum foil and bake them until you can easily insert a fork into the center of the flesh—45 to 60 minutes. The time can vary greatly depending on the size of your beets, but the good news is that overbaking won’t hurt them at all. Once they are finished cooking, immediately remove the skin from the beets by rubbing each with paper towels and chop the beets into ¼-inch pieces.
  2. Then, to a medium pot, add the beets, cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and salt. Cover the pot to avoid splattering and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency, but with some texture still remaining in the cranberries—about 25 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Acorn Squash Bread

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Banana bread.

Zucchini bread.

Pumpkin bread.

All delicious, easy-to-make, moist and flavorful breads, thanks to the fruits and veggies they incorporate.

So let’s keep the Veggie Bread Train in business!

It's time to talk about Acorn Squash Bread!

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Prepared similarly to pumpkin bread, acorn squash bread uses the delicacy and sweetness of squash--along with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg--to make for a savory, but slightly sugary bread.

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This bread is perfect for your Thanksgiving Day table or a cozy treat for the next morning when you're sitting around the kitchen with out-of-town relatives over cups of coffee.

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Just bake halves of acorns squash, scoop out the sweet flesh, mix with some pantry staples, and you’ve got an extremely addictive quick bread!

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And to take it one step further, I drizzle mine with a little cider vanilla glaze--yummm.

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Then sprinkle it with some granola for a sticky sweet and delightfully crunchy topping, and you've got a recipe your relatives won't stop asking you for!

Acorn Squash Bread

servings: 1 9 X 5-inch pan of bread (about 8 slices)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small acorn squash (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon cider
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ⅓ cup granola

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a soupspoon to scoop out the seeds and discard them. Arrange the squash cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet and rub its flesh with the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Bake the squash until the flesh is fork tender—about 45 minutes.
  2. Scoop out the flesh of the squash, add it to the bowl of a food processor, and puree until smooth (this should give you about 1 cup of puree). Then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and grease a 9 X 5-inch bread loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves. In a second large bowl, whisk together the squash puree, light brown sugar, canola oil, granulated sugar, ⅓ cup of the cider, eggs, vanilla, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt.
  4. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until just combined. Then pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake until the edges of the bread are brown and a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean—about 60-65 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and cool completely.
  5. Next, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of cider until a smooth glaze forms. Drizzle over the cooled bread, sprinkle with granola, and serve.

Notes:

  • To make muffins: Lower the oven temperature to 350 F after the squash is roasted. Make the batter and glaze as directed above. Divide the batter into 9 cups of a lined or greased muffin tin and bake until the edges are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove muffins from the pan to cool completely. Drizzle cooled muffins with glaze, sprinkle with granola, and serve.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Sriracha Honey Brussels Sprouts

I love that Brussels sprouts have made a powerful comeback in recent days.

People are excited to learn that a deeply browned, roasted Brussels sprout is much different--and tastier!--than a steamed one. 

And now that we've all figured out just how heavenly a sprout can be with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, I’d like to bring us to a whole new level--adding honey for sweetness, sriracha for heat, and pumpkin seeds for crunch!

The result is a Brussels sprout that is sure to make you sing in delight.

Because you sing when eating delicious food, right?

I’m not the only one, am I?!

Sriracha Honey Brussels Sprouts

servings: 1 pound of Brussels sprouts; serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, stemmed + halved (quartered if very large)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a baking sheet, toss the Brussels sprouts with the oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Place them in the oven and roast them until they are deep brown and crispy on the edges—about 35 minutes.
  2. While the Brussels sprouts cook, in a large bowl, mix together the sriracha, honey, vinegar, the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of pepper.
  3. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and toss them in the bowl with the sriracha honey mixture. To serve, top the Brussels sprouts with the toasted pumpkin seeds and parsley.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Mushroom Gravy

My “Meat On The Side” philosophy, at its simplest, is about eating less meat and more veggies.

But if you want to get a little more complex, it's also about infusing vegetables into your meals--not just to make those meals more nutritious, but to elevate those dishes--to make them better.

For this mushroom gravy, I’m creating a super-rich, bold mushroom stock that will heighten your traditional turkey pan gravy to a gravy that tastes like it was made by a master chef!

And if you'd like to make a vegan version--which will still taste better than almost any gravy you've ever tasted--you can thicken it up without adding the turkey drippings.

Oh, and yes, you heard me right…VEGAN!

Your vegan or vegetarian guests will love this seemingly magic gravy they can pour over everything!

And you can still make a separate version with your pan drippings for the rest of the group.

Just sauté up some Portobello mushrooms with browned onions, garlic, thyme and, rosemary.

Add some rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms…

...Strain…

...And thicken with an oil and flour roux (vegan version), or add some flour to your turkey pan to create a traditional turkey dripping roux.

Then the only thing left to do is to prepare yourself (and your guests!) to lick this gravy straight off the plate!

Mushroom Gravy

servings: 2 1/2 cups gravy

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dried wild porcini mushrooms (0.7 ounce package)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 8-ounce package sliced Portobello mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable, turkey or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them with 2 cups of boiling water. Set them aside and allow them to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook until the onion browns (you want some color on them)—about 6 minutes. Then add the Portobello mushrooms and continue cooking the veggies until the mushrooms are very brown—about 6 minutes. Next, add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Pour in the sherry and then scrape the bottom of the skillet vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen any brown bits so that they are incorporated into the mixture in the skillet. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated—about 2 minutes.
  4. Next, add the vegetable stock along with the mushrooms and liquid from Step 1, being careful not to pour all the mushroom broth liquid into the skillet as there will be sediment at the very bottom of the bowl that you will not want to use. Cook until slightly reduced—about 4 minutes.
  5. Strain everything and then set the vegetables to the side (save them for another use or simply serve them as a side dish). Be sure to push on the mushrooms as you are straining in order to remove as much liquid from them as possible.
  6. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the flour to a large pan over medium heat and whisk to combine, then allow to cook for 1 minute. Add the mushroom broth, whisking as you go, and cook until thickened—about 5 minutes. OR (for the non-vegan version), add the mushroom broth to your turkey pan once you remove the turkey. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen up any brown bits, allowing them to become part of the broth. Then pour the broth and brown bits into a liquid measuring cup (or glass bowl) and let it sit until the fat separates from the broth (placing the measuring cup in the refrigerator will speed up this process). Once separated, remove 2 tablespoons of the fat from the top of the measuring cup and add it back to your turkey pan over medium heat, along with the flour (you can discard any additional remaining fat in the measuring cup, but be sure to reserve the broth). Whisk the flour and fat mixture to combine and allow it to cook for 1 minute. Then whisk in the mushroom broth from the measuring cup and cook until thickened—about 5 minutes. *Read the “Keep It Simple” note for ideas about how to make this for a large group.

Notes:

  • Keep It Simple - This is a very rich gravy that you can stretch for a large group—especially if you are combining it with turkey drippings and/or using a turkey or chicken stock instead of veggie stock.
  • Also, for each additional cup of stock you use in this recipe, you will also need to use an additional 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of drippings/oil. For example, if you use 2 cups of stock instead of the 1 the recipe calls for, you will also need to increase the flour to 3 tablespoons and the drippings or oil to 3 tablespoons. Keep extra stock or water on hand to thin if necessary.
  • Find more information on mushrooms at thrivecuisine.com.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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