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 type—they'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
Holiday Brie Crostini 7.jpg
 

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Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

Sometimes you want to take things up a notch!

You want to put a little extra time and love into some special dishes that are sure to get "oohs" and "aahs" at your table.

If this is what you are looking to do, I suggest you start by simmering down some pomegranate juice into a thick molasses-type sauce.

Then make it into a honey, orange zest, and vinegar dressing that will coat your perfectly roasted carrots in a glaze of goodness.

And finally take the time to top those glistening, sticky sweet carrots with pecans, a touch of yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and parsley...

In the end you will be rewarded with a side dish that definitely takes things to the next level--offering all the flavors of a home-cooked meal, but with enough elegance for a sophisticated restaurant service.

Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

servings: 2 -3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice (see note below)
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest of ¼ orange
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a small sauce pot, bring the pomegranate juice and sugar to a simmer. Continue to simmer this mixture until it has reduced to a molasses-like consistency—about 30 minutes. You should have about 2 tablespoons of this thickened pomegranate juice.
  2. Transfer the pomegranate mixture to a medium bowl, then whisk in the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the honey, Dijon, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the orange zest.
  3. Add the carrots to a baking sheet, tossing them with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Roast them in the oven until they are tender and nicely browned on the outside—about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the carrots from the oven and toss them with the pomegranate vinaigrette, then return them to the oven for 5 minutes more.
  5. After removing the carrots from the oven, serve by drizzling them with the yogurt, then sprinkling with the pecans, pomegranate seeds, and parsley.

Notes:

  • You will want to use 100% pomegranate juice, not pomegranate juice mixed with other juices, or with added sugar. If you can't find pure pomegranate juice, you can use a blend, but your glaze will be significantly sweeter; adding a little extra vinegar may balance it out.
: @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 three—or 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, third—and 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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Brown Butter Garlic Carrots

If you have read my vegetable-focused cookbook, Meat on the Side, it was probably shocking to learn on page 108 that...I don’t like carrots.

Because as much as I’m a huge veggie fan, I have to say that not all veggies are created equal.

In my mind, carrots just fall low on the list.

But that doesn’t mean I don't eat them.

I know that the more I eat them, the more I’ll get used to them and develop a taste for them.

In other words, I'll actually learn to like them.

So when thinking about a carrot side dish, I knew I wanted it to be delicious to carrot-lovers, carrot-likers, and carrot-tolerators alike. 

And I figured the best way to do this was to invite some of my favorite things like brown butter and garlic to party.

In the end I seriously LOVED these carrots--like shockingly LOVED these carrots.

YOU MUST MAKE THEM!

Brown Butter Garlic Carrots

servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch small + thin carrots, with tops (about ¾ inch in diameter and 8 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cubed sourdough bread (about 1½ ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet and toss them with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the carrots until they are tender and browned in spots—about 30 minutes. Please note that if your carrots are thicker they will take longer to cook.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the bread until it is dried out and golden brown. Then transfer the bread to a food processor and pulse until breadcrumbs form. Set these aside for later.
  3. Next, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and swirl the pan until the butter stops foaming and bubbling and you see brown specks on the bottom of the pan—about 5 minutes. Remove the butter from the heat and allow it to cool slightly, then add the garlic followed by the carrots, and toss these ingredients together.
  4. Transfer the carrots to a plate and top with the breadcrumbs and parsley.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Sweet Potato Casserole with Apples + Cranberries

A sweet potato casserole is a good thing.

The sweet potatoes take on an extra sweetness, complemented by all of those warm fall spices.

Top that goodness with marshmallows, and you have a comforting side that’s always welcome on my Thanksgiving table.

But as much as I like a good sweet potato casserole, they always seem to be missing something. 

I've noticed that there's usually no texture--just a lot of mush.

And as much as the sweetness is nice, it gets a little too sweet after a couple bites.

So let’s make a better sweet potato casserole!

One with cinnamon spiced apples to give it a little bite and a slightly sour relief from all that sweet!

Mix that in with the usual suspect and a couple of eggs for a fluffy yet firm dish.

Finally, top it all with a simple (but simply tasty!) cranberry sauce and some crunchy granola and you have a mouthwatering side dish that tastes like your traditional holiday staple--just better!

It's balanced, textured, and so completely addicting.

I like a classic Thanksgiving Day sweet potato casserole as much as the next person, but this sweet potato casserole will make you fall deeply, madly, in LOVE!

Sweet Potato Casserole with Apples + Cranberries

servings: 6 ; makes three cups of cranberry sauce

Cranberry Sauce:

  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest + juice of 1 orange
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Sweet Potato Casserole:

  • 5-6 medium/large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 apples (about 1 pound), peeled, cored, + diced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups Cranberry Sauce
  • 5 marshmallows, halved crosswise
  • ⅓ cup granola

Cranberry Sauce:

  1. In a 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 (keeping in mind that it will thicken as it cools)--about 25 minutes.

Sweet Potato Casserole:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Add the sweet potatoes to a baking sheet, toss them with the oil and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook them until they are fork tender—about 45 minutes. You might also choose to leave the sweet potatoes whole and unpeeled, cooking them until they are fork tender—50-60 minutes.
  2. While the sweet potatoes cook, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until it is browned—about 5 minutes. Add the apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook this mixture until the apples are tender but not mushy—about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Once they are done cooking, remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and turn it down to 375°F (if you left the sweet potatoes whole and unpeeled, peel them once they are cool enough to handle). Add the sweet potatoes to a large bowl and mash them with a fork or potato masher, then mix in the milk, brown sugar and eggs and stir until well combined. Next, stir in the apple mixture along with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt.
  4. Add the apple and potato mixture to a greased 8½ by 11-inch casserole dish and bake until it is firm and slightly darker in color—about 25-30 minutes. Then remove the casserole from the oven and top it with the Cranberry Sauce, marshmallows, and granola. Return it to the oven and cook it until the marshmallows are brown and crispy and the cranberry sauce is dark red—10 minutes more.

Notes:

  • REHEAT + TOP - To make ahead, prepare the casserole as indicated in the recipe, then bake it for 25-30 minutes at 375°F; however, do not top it with the Cranberry Sauce, marshmallows, and granola. Instead, refrigerate it and on Thanksgiving Day, remove it from the refrigerator and let the casserole sit until it reaches room temperature. Then reheat it in an oven preheated to 375°F for about 10 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and top it with the Cranberry Sauce, marshmallows, and granola. Return it to the oven and cook it until the marshmallows are brown and crispy and the cranberry sauce is dark red—10 minutes more.
  • ASSEMBLE + BAKE LATER - Or you can leave it raw, so that you only follow Steps 1 through 3 above; refrigerate it until Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, complete Step 4 to bake and prepare the casserole. You may need to bake it for an extra 5 minutes due to the fact that it will be coming out of the cold fridge.
  • TIMELINE - You can make the casserole up to 3 days in advance; you can make the cranberry sauce up to 5 days in advance.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Pumpkin Butter

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which means my 10-day "Meat On The Side Countdown to Thanksgiving" is officially coming to an end.

Aw, no need to cry! I know, I know--it’s a sad day--but I promise there will be more Meat on the Side recipes in the very near future!

And as a celebration of our last ten days together, I'm giving you one more recipe--quick and easy enough that you'll still have time to make it before Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow! 

I’m showing you how to whip up a pumpkin-infused butter, perfect for slathering on all those biscuits, dinner rolls, and crescent rolls.

Just start by letting some regular unsalted butter come to room temperature.

Whip it up in your food processor and then combine it with pumpkin puree, vanilla, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice.

Suddenly you have a unique holiday butter that makes everything taste special. 

Enjoy!

And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Pumpkin Butter

servings: 1 1/2 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Add the pumpkin puree to a small pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until it reduces by almost half—about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whip the butter in a food processor until it is smooth. Add the cooked pumpkin puree along with the maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract to the food processor. Continue to puree until this mixture is smooth and combined.
  3. Transfer the butter from the food processor to an airtight container for storage in your refrigerator. When you are ready to use it, allow it to warm to room temperature, then spread on your favorite bread or toast.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Creamed Spinach Garlic Bread

 

 

Sure, you could have regular old garlic bread.

 

Yes, it is warm, garlicky, and of course, buttery.

 

 

 

 

But why not throw some creamed spinach into the mix, creating a garlic bread with a creamy, spicy base that also gives you a Popeye’s dose of spinach?!

 

 

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