Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese

This sandwich is dedicated to Kathy, who is in many ways my opposite but has the best insights on the Ames food scene and is a huge fan of beets.

One of my favorite local stores is an oil and vinegar shop by the name of Olivelle. It’s a relatively recent discovery for me but has quickly grown into quite the collection of balsamic vinegars, infused oils, and spice blends. I’ve featured some of their products before, mostly as salad dressings, but they are amazing on basically everything from breakfast to dessert.

Olivelle also does really fun cooking demonstrations where you watch four different courses being made and then get to enjoy eating them. It’s both delightful and delicious and makes for a fantastic girls’ night out. At my most recent attendance, there was a roasted beet salad with a blood orange fig dressing that kind of blew my mind. It was the perfect blend of savory and sweet and a truly great winter salad that I look forward to crafting next season (or maybe this one, if winter continues at its current velocity).

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired by the flavor combination, this week’s grilled cheese is highly non-traditional and equally delicious: roasted beets and feta, with an optional (but supremely recommended!) blood orange fig drizzle.

Although I really enjoy roasted beets, I’d somehow never purchased them before this adventure. One of the great things about running this blog is the incentive to step outside my box, and this was no exception to a quality outcome. Like sweet potatoes, beets take a while to roast but you could certainly do it ahead of time and reheat them a bit right before making the sandwich. It’s both a great way to use up leftovers from salad or breakfast hash and worth it to make them specifically for this meal, I promise. The beet and feta filling is not gooey like a traditional grilled cheese, but has a totally new flavor profile that really classes up the final result. It reminds me a bit of last year’s Boursin and veggie version in that it doesn’t stick together very well but is completely worth the slightly messier experience.

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Naturally sweet, the beets lend a harmony of sweet and savory that is balanced nicely by the Feta cheese (I also think chèvre would work splendidly), and complimented by my favorite sourdough bread. The denser bread contrasts nicely with the softened filling and the drizzle of blood orange balsamic dressing is the perfect addition to really up the wow factor. Delightful as an entrée or cut up for an appetizer, it was a win with four out of four taste testers and a really fun way to add a twist to an otherwise commonplace meal.

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

As an added bonus, the bright color of beets and balsamic drizzle give a professional presentation to the plate – great for parties! (Especially on a snazzy rectangular plate.)

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

1 beet, peeled and diced into 1/4″ pieces (or smaller)
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup feta (or chèvre), crumbled
2 slices sourdough bread
olive oil or butter

Blood Orange Vinegar Dressing
1 Tbsp Olivelle Blood Orange Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Olivelle Harvest Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with olive oil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine beet, oil, salt, and pepper and stir until evenly coated.
  3. Spread onto prepared pan and roast 20-30 minutes, or until fork tender.
  4. When the beets are nearly done, heat a small amount of oil or butter in a lidded nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  5. In (the same) small bowl, gently stir together 1/4 cup roasted beets (you’ll probably have leftovers) with feta cheese.
  6. Place bread side-by-side in the pan and top one slice with beet and feta mixture. Cover with lid and cook until bread is golden and cheese is warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk together Blood Orange Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar until completely combined.
  8. Top beets with the other slice of bread (cooked side out) and remove sandwich to plate.
  9. Slice in half and (somewhat) optionally drizzle with blood orange fig dressing.
  10. Enjoy immediately!
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Apple Cranberry Pie

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the pie the inspired the apple cranberry sauce from two weeks ago…this is it. You’re welcome.

For the past couple of years, M and I have attended a huge potluck feast rather than having a tiny Thanksgiving all to ourselves. This is fantastic for being able to eat many different dishes without having to cook them all, but does have the downside of often eating things at room temperature, regardless of what their ideal temp might be. There are always numerous pies in many different flavors, and going home hungry is pretty much impossible. I usually contribute to the event with homemade dinner rolls, but I may switch it up this year.

Despite the multitude of desserts, I always personally bake pies just for the two of us. M doesn’t get excited about pumpkin pie (weirdo) and apple is typically his flavor of choice. Last year, I found an apple cranberry pie that sounds amazing, and, (with M’s blessing), opted to make that instead. I don’t hate plain apple pie by any means, but there are many other flavors I consider to be much more enticing.

I will never give up my pumpkin pie, but for a fresh flavor, this might be a new fall favorite. Traditional apple and cozy spices are complemented perfectly by the tart cranberries. It lends a more complex profile without being overwhelming, and still works just as well for both dessert and breakfast as your traditional apple. I’ve always been partial to the more tart fruits, and the addition of cranberries here is a wonderful update. A little almond extract completes the whole experience.

As a bonus, the cranberries also add some beautiful color to your place. Bright red cranberries make the dessert table more festive both in flavor and presentation, and you can really up the ante with some fun pie crust cutters. Arranging leaves is way less tedious than a lattice crust, and even more impressive looking; a win-win situation in my book. Paired with homemade cinnamon ice cream or cinnamon whipped cream (recipe included), the tart pie and creamy topping are a perfect end to any fall day.

If you’re looking for a way to add some flair to the table this year, look no further than this pie. It’s sure to be a hit, and maybe even a new holiday tradition.

Apple Cranberry Pie

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes one standard pie

Ingredients

pastry for a double-crust pie

3 large apples, cored, peeled, and sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract

optional crust topping
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

cinnamon whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, spices, and extract. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Roll out half your pie crust into a circle (as close as you can), then gently drape into the bottom of your pie dish. Trim edges to a half inch or so wider than the plate.
  4. Gently spoon your filling into the crust, using a slotted spoon to avoid the excess liquid.
  5. Roll out your remaining crust and arrange on top of the filling however you like (I used pie crust cutters for the shapes here), pinching together any seams. For bonus presentation points, crimp edges with your fingers or a fork, or arrange cutouts along the edge. If you do a full crust on top, cut a few vents for steam to escape.
  6. In a small container, stir or shake remaining cinnamon and sugar together. Sprinkle evenly on top of the pie (I use an empty spice container.)
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. If necessary, tent the pie with foil to avoid over-browning the crust.
  8. Let pie cool on the counter for at least three hours.
  9. Just before serving1, make the whipped cream. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, whip cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
  10. Add in sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and continue to whip to desired consistency.
  11. Serve pie at room temp, topped with cinnamon whipped cream or cinnamon ice cream. (Or your favorite vegan alternative.)
  12. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap or foil.

Notes

You can make the whipped cream ahead of time and store it in the fridge, but you may want to whip it again just a bit before serving as it tends to loosen over time. It only takes a couple of minutes so I typically just make it on demand.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Likely from here through Christmas my posts will be pretty seasonal, but also more abundant. Hope you enjoy the plethora of holiday options!

Of all the dishes weighing down a typical Thanksgiving table, cranberry sauce is one of my favorites. I love all the more sour berries and a nice tart cranberry sauce is a lovely addition of color and flavor to my plate. As a kid I’d often take seconds and thirds just of cranberry sauce, and adult me is not much different. The perfect cranberry sauce is different for everyone, and the key to happiness is making it yourself so it’s just right. Maybe you’ve always been an out of the can sort of person (no judgements!) but I encourage you to try the from-scratch version this year.

Cranberry sauce is one of those things I’m absurdly picky about, and it’s rare that someone else’s recipe really strikes my fancy. I need all the cinnamon and none of the orange, thick and chunky and not too sweet. I’m not sure why orange became the traditional flavor pairing, but I personally think it too easily overpowers the rest of the flavors.

Inspired by a pie last year (check back in two weeks for that), I tried utilizing apple instead. It complements the tart cranberry perfectly, without becoming a prominent flavor. Instead of it being an obvious addition, the apple blends more smoothly into the whole profile, adding a little something without necessarily being able to pinpoint it.

I added a smidge of almond extract to round out the holiday experience, but you can certainly use vanilla if you prefer. Almond is a nice twist on tradition without straying too far from comfy, and I often utilize it in fruit pies in lieu of (or addition to) vanilla extract.

This is definitely my new go-to cranberry sauce recipe, and I’m already looking forward to making it again in a few weeks. It’s excellent both chilled and warm, resulting it an excellent make-ahead recipe. Large enough to share or to enjoy copious leftovers, so long as everyone doesn’t serve themselves the same heaping amount I tend towards.

If for some reason you’re hesitant on the apple, or want to keep to a more traditional flavor, just leave that out. It’ll still be an excellent spiced cranberry sauce with a little almond boost.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 2.5 cups

Ingredients

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 medium apple, grated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp cinnamon (or one stick), to taste
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, stir together cranberries, apple, sugar, and water.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Stir in cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Cranberries should be a mixture of burst and whole.
  4. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick.
  5. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, use a fork or a silly egg salad masher to mash the cranberries to your desired texture. (I like mine chunky but all burst, so I mash mine pretty well.)
  6. Allow to cool briefly before serving, optionally garnished with sliced almonds.

Sweet Potato Alfredo

Consistent readers will know about my obsession with sweet potatoes, but if you’re new here perhaps you haven’t been initiated yet. I could (and sometimes do) eat sweet potatoes with every meal, and they are definitely one of my favorite autumn flavors. I’m not dissing pumpkin by any means, but the sweet potato is an extremely versatile flavor and I love it equally in both sweet and savory dishes.

When the weather cools most of us gladly welcome the cozy comfort foods like pasta and chili, and I’m no exception. Pasta is a wonderful meal on a cold day, and a good creamy sauce is hard to beat. However, most of them are rather heavy (both in calories and in experience) and it’s not always what I’m looking for. This sauce was somewhat of an experiment born of Pinterest inspiration, but I have a feeling I’ll be meal-prepping it often for lunches this year. The picture might look like mac and cheese, but it’s actually a sweet potato Alfredo.

The thick and creamy experience of a quality Alfredo sauce is typically reached with, well, heavy cream. In this case it (obviously) comes from the sweet potato, which admittedly surprised me in how excellently it works. Honestly, it kind of blew my mind. The flavor is also fantastic, and not just for die-hard sweet potato fans. Smooth and creamy like a sauce should be, a wonderful fall flavor, and quite a bit lighter than your standard heavy cream experience.

Personally I think it’s delightful all on its own, but for a little crunch some toasted walnuts are a great addition. It’s hard to go wrong with cheese, so I added some parmesan as well; I also think chèvre would be a welcome addition and I’ll be trying that next time. If you feel the need to add a meat, a sprinkle of crumbled bacon or pancetta would complement everything nicely. I’m also excited to play with some different flavor profiles in the coming months, and I’ll be sure to share them all as I have time.

Next time you need a comfort food with maybe fewer calories, give this pasta a shot – be sure to let me know what you think!

Sweet Potato Alfredo

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb (ish) dried pasta

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree1
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbsp dried sage or rosemary
salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings
toasted walnuts or pecans
parmesan or goat cheese
crumbled bacon or pancetta

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; reserve 1  1/2 cups of water, drain, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. For added flavor, continue to heat until it begins to brown.
  3. Vigorously whisk in flour until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add milk and continue to whisk until mixture bubbles and thickens; this will take a few minutes.
  5. Stir in sweet potato, and 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water. Optionally, use an immersion blender to get the sauce nice and smooth. If sauce is too thick, add water about two tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached (I usually add about 1 cup total).
  6. Add sage or rosemary, salt and pepper to taste, then let simmer for a couple of minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  7. When sauce is ready, stir into pasta and continue to simmer until everything is well combined and heated through.
  8. Serve immediately, optionally topped with nuts, cheese, and/or protein of choice.
  9. Pro tip: Reheats well if you add a little extra water to the bowl before microwaving.

Notes

You can puree ahead of time in a blender or food processor, or just mash it well and then use an immersion blender while making the sauce to smooth it out.

Fall Harvest Browned Butter Pasta

During the summer I rarely eat pasta as I prefer lighter and cooler meals in the hot weather. As the temperature drops and the leaves change, I reintroduce pastas and soups into my regular rotation. However, with Montana’s bipolar weather patterns, fall typically holds as many days in the 70s as it does in the 40s, which makes my usual bulk preparation a bit more challenging. Quinoa salads are great for this, because they are excellent both warm and cold, making it easy to match the weather and my mood for the day, but I don’t want to eat one every week. Another option are vegetable-heavy pasta meals that don’t involve a heavy sauce.

This recipe is partly inspired by my favorite cookbook, written by an elite distance runner. It’s full of hearty and delicious meals that aren’t “skinny” but still full of veggies and healthy fats. I modified my version slightly, adding Brussels sprouts and changing the spices a little, based off a similar recipe online. The result is a colorful mix of veggies and pasta, falling somewhere between a light summer entree and a cozy fall one.

Brussels sprouts are a winter staple for me, as they keep well in the fridge and roasting them is simple and always delicious. (They are also sold at Costco, which admittedly factors heavily into my produce selections.) The butternut squash takes a bit more effort to prepare, but you can really streamline the process by buying the pre-diced version. This does feel slightly ridiculous, but it saves a huge amount of time and effort so personally I think it’s worth the extra couple dollars.

Browned butter adds a nice caramel flavor, complimented by herbs and a few red pepper flakes. I kept my sauce on the light side as I wanted the veggies to shine, but absolutely double the sauce recipe if you want a more decadent experience. I opted to add toasted walnuts for some crunch, and parmesan (because you can’t go wrong with cheese) for a delicious protein boost. I personally loved this recipe in its original vegetarian state, but some crumbled bacon or prosciutto would be a nice addition as well.

It reheats nicely for leftovers, and is also pretty good cold if you didn’t add too much extra sauce. Welcoming in the fall vegetables without the heat or heaviness of a chili, it bridges the divide from summer to winter with a more gradual shift. If, like me, you’re in a place that can’t quite make up it’s mind about the weather, a batch of this will be that perfect mix of cozy and cool.

Fall Harvest Browned Butter Pasta

Inspired by Maebells and Run Fast, Eat Slow
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1 lb pasta (I used casarecce)

for the sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

optional toppings
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together butternut squash and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until squash is well coated. Spread in an even layer on one baking sheet.
  3. In the same bowl, mix together Brussels sprouts and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, mixing until well coated. Spread in an even layer on the other baking sheets.
  4. Sprinkle both sheets with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Roast for 30 minutes (squash on top), stirring halfway through, until squash is tender.
  6. Remove squash from oven and move sprouts to the upper rack, roasting another 5-10 minutes until browned and crispy.
  7. Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  8. When the veggies have about 10 minutes remaining, make the sauce: melt butter in a large pot (I used a wok) over medium heat. Simmer until it begins to darken and contains brown flecks, stirring occasionally.
  9. Turn off the heat and stir in garlic and spices.
  10. When the veggies and pasta are done, stir gently into the sauce until completely combined and evenly coated.
  11. Serve hot with extra grated pepper, optionally topped with one tablespoon each of Parmesan and toasted walnuts.

Notes

I kept the sauce fairly light as I wanted the veggies to shine through. If you’re looking for a rich, buttery experience, feel free to double the sauce recipe.

To toast walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until warmed, lightly golden, and a little crunchier (about 5 minutes).