Fall Foodie: Sweet Potato Crostini

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

The work-week is halfway over, and before I jump into what few tasks I set aside for my half day at the office this morning and prepare to head on over to The Big E a little later on today- I wanted to share the first of what I’m sure will be many Fall-inspired recipes I recently cooked up (and will no doubt be revisiting again soon since we are pretty much officially in my favorite season right now!)

Sweet potatoes are probably my favorite vegetable because you can do many different things with them in the kitchen and they always taste delicious. Cut into fries? Added into stews? Turned into a traditional but delightful dessert? They’re fantastic- and very much something I love to cook/bake with this time of year.

These crostini, which are essentially a crispier and slightly smaller-sized take on a loaded baked potato- are the perfect pre-dinner or Game Day snack because you can top them with pretty much anything and they’re guaranteed to be a crowd favorite. For this particular batch- I opted for seasonal flavors that I thought would compliment the potato’s sweetness- but feel free to get experimental!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced/cubed brie cheese (one piece to top each potato slice.)
  • ½ cup of cooked and crumbled bacon pieces
  • ½ cup of chopped and salted roasted almonds
  • ½ cup of chopped dried cranberries

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the ends off the sweet potatoes and then cut the potatoes into ¼-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the potato slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange the potato slices on the prepared baking sheet and roast until they are golden brown and crisp, 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely.
  4. Top each cooled potato slice with a piece of brie and sprinkles of the toasted almonds, dried cranberries and bacon crumble. You can mix and match here- it’s totally fine!
  5. Serve and enjoy!

I honestly ate so many of these things in one sitting and I’m not ashamed to admit it. They’re so good!

I also read a recipe that topped the potato slices with cream cheese and smoked salmon- which sounded like it might be life-changing- so I may have to incorporate that into the next batch I make, as well!

But before I make another couple dozen of these and before I head off to enjoy my afternoon off- I’ve got some work to do over the next few hours.

As always, I’ll be back on Friday morning- as is tradition!

Enjoy your “Hump Day,” y’all!

xx

– Ashley –

Cozy Cooking: Smoked Gouda Potato Pancakes

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to another weekend- and considering I almost *didn’t* make it to the weekend- I’m very grateful.

Last night, while en route to visit a friend for a pre-birthday dinner celebration since I won’t see them on my actual birthday- I was hit from behind by a woman speeding on the highway who failed to slow down for the line of traffic I had been stopped and waiting in. The collision caused some serious damage to the back of my car, and unbeknownst to me until later on when I attempted to get myself and my vehicle home safely- some even worse damage to my tires.

What made it worse was that when I went to pull over to exchange information and see if she was okay- she went around me and took off. The impact had caused my stuff to go flying around the inside of my car- so I didn’t get a photo of her car, her license plate, etc. It was a hit and run- and now I’m dealing with the fallout, the appraisal process, and a very sore back. I hope wherever she is- she steps on a Lego block.

I digress. I’m thankful it wasn’t worse- and even though I’m in some pain right now- I’m especially thankful it seems to be a superficial injury.

___________________________

We’re expecting a significant amount of snowfall here in New England this coming weekend, which means a couple of things- the supermarkets are going to be like something out a post-apocalyptic horror movie with people fighting for the last of the bread and milk (it’s a Northeast thing) and I am more than likely going to be spending a considerable amount of time indoors while the roads are cleared.

I’ve already done my grocery shopping for the next couple of weeks- so I’m ready for anything- and I know of at least one Winter-friendly, warming dish I can whip up if I don’t lose power! These Gouda-loaded potato pancakes are crispy, cheesy, super filling- and can make even the coldest climate feel a little more cozy and comfortable.

Best of all? They’re super easy and fast to make! I did a trial run of these earlier this week- and they came out fantastic!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 lbs. russet potato, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¾ cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Grapeseed oil, as needed
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced green onions

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Coarsely shred the potato and onion on a box grater. Transfer shreds to a piece of cheese cloth and squeeze as dry as possible. Let sit for 2 minutes and then squeeze dry again.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes, onions, and cheese in the flour to coat and then the lightly beaten egg and stir until evenly coated.
  3. In a large skillet, heat up a generous amount of oil over medium heat until hot and shimmery. Drop the potato mixture by the tablespoon and flatten.
  4. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until edges are crisp and golden, about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels.
  5. Continue pancaking until potato mixture is done. Top pancakes with sour cream, green onions, and more shredded Gouda, if desired.

I could eat these pancakes every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. They’re like thicker, cheesier hash browns and are perfect for breakfast, lunch- or dinner!

Prior to the snowfall, I’ll be finishing up some things/loose ends in regards to my car accident and icing/applying a heating pad to my back to alleviate my pain. This coming Tuesday is my birthday- and depending on the weather and if I have a car or not- we’ll see what ends up happening for a celebration!

I hope you all have a wonderful, warm and safe weekend. If you’re from my neck of the woods- be careful driving and shoveling!

See you all next week!

xx

– Ashley –

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Cheeseburger Skewers

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Hello July!

Before I finish up some pre-holiday work at the office and prepare to take a mini blogging break for the Fourth of July (I’ll be back on Friday!)– I wanted to share a backyard BBQ/cookout/Independence Day recipe that is ridiculously simple to make, tastes delicious- and can be completely customized!

Also, not that it’s not *the* most important thing- but these sure do look cute in photos, too!

There’s obviously a million and one ways to arrange a burger these days, using a number of tasty and unique ingredients. BBQ bacon burgers? Bleu cheese burgers? Burgers with fried eggs on top? Burgers with crushed potato chips grilled in (awesome, by the way.) The possibilities and combinations are endless!

For this recipe, all you really need is the beef (or beef substitute, per your personal preference) and your selection of toppings to arrange on your stick. You can lay out the toppings on individual plates and let your family and guests assemble their own- and offer up some dipping sauces to top off their creation!

I’ve found that kids love this recipe, because it lets them be creative and make their own burger- and eating them off of the skewer is half of the fun!

But, if you’d like to know the basic ingredients needed to make this recipe- I’ve got you covered!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 lbs of lean beef (I used 93%!)
  • 2 tablespoons of prepared mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 slices/chopped pieces of American cheese (measuring about 1″ x 1″)
  • 4 ounces cooked and chopped bacon
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 red onion, sliced/chopped
  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 20 dill pickle chips/slices
  • Ketchup, mayo and/or mustard (optional for serving/dipping)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Using your hands, gently mix together the beef, mustard, salt, onion powder and pepper. Form into 20 (golf ball size) meatballs.
  2. Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat and grill the meatballs for about 3 minutes on each side, or until your preferred level of finish.
  3. Lay out your toppings on individual plates: cheese slices on one plate, chopped bacon on another, lettuce on another, etc. until each topping has it’s own respective place in the line. Fill three small serving bowls at the end of your toppings line with your dipping sauces (one for ketchup, one for mustard, and one for mayonnaise.)
  4. Assemble the skewers with the meatballs, cheese, bacon pieces- and the toppings of your choice. Dip your skewers in your desired sauces- and enjoy!

If these aren’t the most convenient (and cute) pre-fireworks appetizer, then I don’t know what it!

I hope everyone living here in the States has a wonderful Independence Day. I’m still scoping out the best place to watch the fireworks with friends, so we’ll see if I can get any good shots as the night progresses.

I’ll be taking a few days off from the blog-o-sphere for the occasion, but I’ll be back on Friday morning with some more content!

Enjoy your week, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Comfort Food: Baked Mac-and-Cheese Bites

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a chance to rest, relax, and regroup this past weekend- which I know may have been a little tricky with Daylight Savings Time throwing a wrench into everything.

I’m still a bit off, especially since I forgot to re-set my clock in my car- so when I happened to glance at it when I was halfway to the office this morning- I had a moment of panic thinking that I was somehow (and miraculously) an hour earlier than scheduled.

I’m sure I’ll get accustomed to it by the time Fall rolls around and we have to set the clocks an hour back, of course.

Anyway- this morning I have a pretty fun (and not really appropriate for those avoiding carbs, sorry!) appetizer/snack recipe that adds a fun twist on an old classic. I love pasta, and I love cheese- so homemade mac & cheese is one of my “Cheat Day” indulgences- but I never really get a chance to bake it in a way that gives me some control over portion sizes.

Until now, anyway. All you need are the below-listed ingredients and a mini-muffin tin- and you’re good to go!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound small elbow pasta
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups grated yellow cheddar cheese, divided

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease two mini-muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow pasta and cook according to the package instructions, about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain.
  3. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
  4. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the milk and whisk well to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season the sauce with the cayenne pepper (if using), salt and pepper. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the white cheddar and 1½ cups of the yellow cheddar. Stir until the mixture is melted.
  7. Stir in the cooked pasta and mix until it is evenly coated with the sauce. Scoop 1½ to 2 tablespoons of the mac-and-cheese mixture into each cavity of the prepared pans.
  8. Sprinkle a few pieces of yellow cheddar on top of each mac-and-cheese bite and then transfer the pans to the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted and the bites become golden, 17 to 20 minutes.
  9. Let the bites cool for 15 minutes before unmolding and serving. Serve hot or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

I’m not ashamed to admit I ate way too many of these things when they were done- because they were so delicious and addictive! I also want to mention that I used smoked cheddar in this recipe, which gave these bites a really great and almost unexpected kick of flavor- so if anyone is feeling experimental- it’s a pretty tasty alternative to regular cheddar cheese!

I think when I make another batch of these (which I most certainly will soon!)– I’m going to add pieces of cooked bacon and maybe some diced jalapeño peppers to the mix. This is a pretty versatile recipe that you can play around with and customize- which makes it even better!

Enjoy your day, everyone! Here’s to another beautiful, brilliant week!

xx

– Ashley –

Starters: Prosciutto and Fig Salad Board

For the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I plan on sharing a brief series of recipes that I handpicked to serve as creative and/or unexpected alternatives to a starter, a side, and a dessert for those gearing up to prepare the big “Turkey Day” meal but who want something a little different than the standard cheese and cracker appetizers, mashed potato side dish, or pumpkin pie finale.

The first recipe of the series I’m putting up on Blondie Birdie is the starter. This sweet and slightly tangy salad is lightweight and delicious- and only takes 10 minutes to prepare. The best part about serving it spread out on a board as opposed to tossed in a large bowl, however- is that all the incredible toppings and dressing don’t sink down to the bottom. Everything stays fresh and spread out evenly over and between the spinach to guarantee a ton of flavor in each and every bite!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces spinach
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 12 figs, quartered
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and Dijon. Gradually add the olive oil, whisking continuously until the mixture is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and shallots. Add the dressing and toss well to coat.
  3. Spread the spinach on a large board and arrange the prosciutto and figs on top of it. Finish with a sprinkling of blue cheese. Serve immediately.

I made extra portions of this salad to bring to work with me this week- that’s how good it was.  The fig gives it an unexpected texture and sweetness while the mixed in Dijon mustard adds a kick to each serving. Depending on your preferences, you can add/reduce certain ingredients- but I really like it the way it is!

xx

– Ashley –