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Savory Sweet Potato Cheddar Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Chive Frosting (Yields: 12 servings)
(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations)
1 cup sweet potato (pumpkin puree can be substituted)
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 large eggs
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 ¼ cups grated sharp cheddar
8 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
Several tablespoons milk
12 cherry tomatoes or olives for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet potato and sour cream. Whisk in eggs and butter until combined. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Make a well in dry ingredient mixture and pour the wet ingredients into it. Fold in ¾ of the cheese until just combined. Pour batter into greased, 12-cup muffin tin. Sprinkle each cake with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool 5-10 minutes. Remove cakes from tin and display as desired.
To make frosting: Beat goat cheese with an electric mixer until softened. Blend in chives. Add milk one teaspoon at a time until mixture is smooth and spreadable. Frost cupcakes and garnish with a cherry tomato or olive and additional chives to taste.
Winter Salad with Root Vegetables, Feta, and Oregano (Yields: 4 servings)
Salt and pepper
2 mid-sized (or 1 large) sweet potatoes
1 large Yukon Gold potato
1 head of broccoli
½ a mid-sized red onion
½ cup crumbled feta
Fresh oregano to taste
2 acorn squash, hollowed
2 butternut squash, hollowed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place beets in foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold foil edges to seal beets and roast for 45-60 minutes or until beets pierce easily. Open foil and allow beets to cool, then peel off skin and slice into wedges. Set aside.
Turn oven temperature up to 400 degrees F. Line one large or two small baking sheets with foil. Chop remaining vegetables into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and hand-toss until coated; season with salt and pepper. Spread coated vegetables in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Roast for 25 minutes, then flip with spatula and continue roasting until crisp-edged. Serve in hollowed-out squashes with beets, feta and fresh oregano.
Creamy Tomato Soup (Yields: 10-12 appetizer servings)
(Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large shallots, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Red pepper flakes to taste
½ teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic Bread Croutons* for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Drain juice from canned tomatoes through mesh strainer into a bowl, minus seeds, and reserve. Spread drained tomatoes out on foil in a single layer. Sprinkle evenly with dark brown sugar. Bake 30 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Place butter in large saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots, tomato paste, allspice, red pepper flakes and pinches of salt and pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook soup 7-10 minutes, until shallots are softened. Add flour and stir to combine. Slowly add chicken stock, stirring constantly until mixed into a thickened base. Add reserved tomato juice and cooled roasted tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Re-warm over a low heat. Add heavy cream and red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Garlic Bread Croutons, prosciutto and basil.
Garlic Bread Croutons (Yields: 10-12 servings, 6 cubes each)
1 large baguette
2-3 large garlic cloves, pressed
¼ cup olive oil (or enough to lightly, entirely coat all cubes)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut baquette into cubes. Toss with garlic and olive oil in a large bowl. Transfer coated cubes to a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crisp. Serve with soup.
Self-Serve Stuffed Shell Bar (Yields: 16 servings)
2 boxes (12 ounces each) jumbo shells, cooked as directed
3 cups alfredo sauce (prepared or homemade)
3 cups marinara sauce (prepared or homemade)
Spinach and Mushroom Filling
(Recipes adapted from handletheheat.com)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
14 ½ ounces ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
½ cup fontina cheese, shredded
½ cup mozzarella, shredded
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme for garnish
15 ounces ricotta cheese
½ cup asiago cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Oregano for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9- x 11-inch cookie sheets. Spread cooked shells on sheets in single layers. To make Mushroom and Spinach Filling: Sautee mushrooms with olive oil and garlic until cooked through. Stir in spinach until wilted. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Add ricotta, basil, fontina, mozzarella, and salt and pepper to taste. To make Three-Cheese Filling: Mix ricotta, asiago, parmesan and garlic in a medium bowl. Spoon mixtures separately into cooked shells and bake for 30 minutes. Present with options of heated sauce and fresh herb garnish.