Skillet Black Bean Queso

Skillet Black Bean Queso

There’s a burrito barn in Wilmington that has the most ridiculous black bean queso ever. It was getting to the point where I was starting to fantasize about driving two hours just to quell the craving. In traffic. With. A. Toddler.

Once I got a handle on my queso-goggles and came to my senses, I did what any hungry food blogger would do. I made my own. Though I skipped over the questionably processed cheese product and went straight for the good stuff. There’s almost always a brick of Cabot in my fridge and it beats the pants off of the shelf stable block of… what is that stuff anyways? It scares me. On second thought, I don’t want to know! I’ll stick with pepper jack.

5.0 from 1 reviews
black bean queso dip
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: dip, appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4 cups
  • ¾ cup tomatillo salsa verde
  • 15 oz [1 can] vegetarian refried black beans
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 8 oz pepper jack cheese, freshly grated, plus a few extra ounces for topping
  • 1 oz grated mozzarella, for topping
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes for topping [deliciously spicy + optional!]
  • ¼ tsp dried parsley for topping
  • tortilla chips and veggies for dipping

  • notes notes notes: I beelined for Target's Archer Farms Salsa Verde and Cabot Pepper Jack for this recipe, they're my go to for dips and taco nights! No cast iron skillet? No problem! You can make the dip in your favorite pot or pan and then transfer the mixture to a baking dish for the final step, basically grab any oven-safe dish that doubles as a serving dish and you're good to go!
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Take out pepper jack cheese and cream cheese ahead of time and allow to soften.
  3. Next combine your beans and green salsa in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet and bring to medium heat on your stove top, stirring frequently.
  4. Add softened cream cheese, salt, and cayenne pepper, and mix thoroughly.
  5. Once the beans are hot and the cream cheese has fully melted, slowly add freshly grated pepper jack cheese, stirring constantly to incorporate.
  6. Top with extra pepper jack, grated mozzarella cheese, parsley and red pepper flakes, and bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until hot and bubbly!
  7. To make the cheese bubbly and golden, switch your oven to broil on high for just a minute or so [keep an eye on it to prevent burning]
  8. Dig in right away and store leftovers for up to 4 days in a covered bowl. May be reheated in the oven or microwave. Enjoy!

Cheesy Skillet Black Bean Queso

 It tastes great the first day, fabulous the next, and the third day? You’ll have to make more because it’s gone baby gone!

still hungry?

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20 fabulous freezer-friendly recipes

20 Fabulous Freezer Friendly Recipes

So while Paul was gone these past several months, things got a little crazy in my kitchen. I devoted nearly all nap times to recipe testing and meal planning and I cooked my freaking face off! So much so, that I wound up with a multitude of leftovers. The chickpea and I would stuff our faces for a day or two and then into the freezer it would go!

Now that my other half is back, we have the bulk of our meals already made for us! How freaking awesome is that!? Last year we purchased a stand-alone deep freezer for Mia’s milk stash and it’s now serving as my handy dandy  “fast food” freezer filled with blog recipes that I can’t wait to dive back into. In fact, since writing this post we’ve already made a considerable dent in my stockpile, so it gives me an excuse to test a few more! I love a good win-win situation, especially when it’s edible!

Curious about which recipes on P&C are freezer-friendly? Here’s a round-up of dishes you can stash away for a rainy day or make use of during the super-busy holiday season that’s pretty much about to hit us like a freight train in 3…2…

20 fabulous freezer-friendly recipes: Homemade Veggie Burgers

These uber-tasty burgers are all gloriously gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan too!

Cook up the burgers as directed, freeze individually, then bake at 400F for around 20 minutes. Add the essentials and pop them on a fluffy bun, crumble them over salads and sweet potatoes, or even wrap them in lettuce! The possibilities are endless!

Butternut Black Bean Burgers: These are my latest obsession! Hearty black beans and buttery roasted squash are a match made in heaven. The flavor is further amplified with sauteed onion, celery, and garlic and seasoned to compliment. My current track record involves eating no less than four of these a week. I regret nothing. Extra sriracha aioli on mine, please and thank you!

Mexican Veggie Burgers: They’re Taco Tuesday in burger form! I love these crumbled over a fluffy baked sweet potato with a mountain of taco toppings!

Pumpkin Burgers: I only eat pumpkin in savory forms, so these burgers were the perfect opportunity to combine gorgeous pureed pumpkin with garlic, white beans, and a sweet-yet-savory spice blend including cinnamon and allspice. Yum!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers: These beauties are one of the most popular recipes on my blog, and for good reason too! They’re delicious! Serve them up over a crisp salad, wrapped in a giant leaf of lettuce as a wrap, or on the fluffiest bun you can get your hands on. They great every which way!

Triple Bean Veggie Burgers: My first veggie burger has a special place in my  heart, and my freezer! These use a combination of mashed and whole and mashed beans to deliver an amazing texture that will win over vegetarians and carnivores alike!

Vegetarian Chili Burgers: Another one of my chunky textured burgers that tastes like a warm bowl of hearty veggie chili, in sandwich form! Chili-spiced and served with a zesty chipotle aioli, they’re simply amazing!

Freezer Friendly Soup Recipes

Snag a bowl for now, and freeze a few for later!

Crock-Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup: I LOVE THIS SOUP! Ok to be fair, I love all my soups [they’re not allowed on the blog unless I heart them dearly] but this one has a special place in my heart. I’m thinking it’s because of the smorgasbord of veggies, beans, and toppings involved. I’m a hussy when it comes to my food and I want it all. The more variety the better. Though this soup is packed with ingredients, they’re all super simple to find and the slow cooker does all the work for you! Easy peasy!

Slow Cooker Veggie Loaded Baked Potato Soup: A vegetarian spin on the classic loaded baked potato soup… in the crock-pot! This soup is a warm hug for your tastebuds and one of my all-time favorites to make and devour. I rarely have enough left over for the freezer so It’s clearly time to make a double batch!

Slow Cooker Mexican Potato Soup: Ole, mofos.

Chicken Parmesan Soup:  Man this soup is dreamy. I think I love the soup more than the dish it was inspired by! As a bonus, this comfort food remix is healthier than the original, which means I get to add more cheese.

Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Soup: Yup! I went there! Another kicked up comfort food in slurpable form that absolutely rocks my socks. Keep it mild or turn up the heat and make it spicy!

Creamy Tomato Soup and Mozzarella Balls: Both elements freeze really well! I typically freeze the soup in one container, and the cubed mozzarella in another [yup! freeze it!] and then while the soup is heating up, I’ll dip the mozzarella in flour, egg, and herbed panko and bake. By the time the soup is warm and bubbly the ooey gooey mozz balls are ready too! Well, assuming you didn’t stand over the stove eating them all first =) Watch out, they’re hard to resist!

I haven’t tested it yet [I totally need to now!] but I’m thinking my slow cooker Black Bean Soup will freeze + reheat like a champ too! I’ll freeze a few bowls next time I make it and keep you posted!

[This site] has some really great tips for freezing soups, like leaving out the pasta in noodle based soups and making a fresh pot of pasta for the soup while you reheat it. Cheese and cream based soups can curdle and look a little different the second time around, so you can absolutely leave out the dairy from the recipe and add it after reheating as well. It’s a small step that requires so little effort that it’s often worth the delicious results! I do this often with my homemade Broccoli and Cheese Soup.

20 fabulous freezer-friendly recipes: fiesta favorites

Baked Black Bean and Sweet Potato Flautas:  I love that one of my most raved about recipes is also gloriously freer friendly! Freeze a batch and reheat in small batches  for speedy snacks or bake up the entire tray for a Taco Tuesday with a delicious twist!

Triple Bean Flautas: a re-mix of my famous SP flautas, these triple-bean flautas rock! I amped up the flavor and maxed out the beans for a fiber filled recipe that serves double-duty as a snack or a meal!

Mexican Pizza Lasagna: I clearly have a soft spot for all things Mexican, and my freezer loves it too! This super easy, super speedy lasagna is as easy to assemble as it is to reheat.

Fiesta Enchilada Casserole: These are hands-down my FAVORITE enchiladas… especially since they nix the soggy corn tortillas in favor of fluffy egg noodles. Game on! I freeze the seasoned meat and veggies as well as the sauce and while they’re defrosting I boil the egg noodles. Then simply combine and top with your favorite grated cheeses! Finish the dish off with your favorite toppings [like cilantro or pico de gallo!] and enjoy!

Lentil Veggie Tacos: The super-flavorful filling for these crunchy tacos can be frozen and defrosted whenever you want a speedy taco night! You’ll never miss the meat!

Something Sweet:

Crock-Pot Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Honey: If you’re craving traditional cranberry sauce this is totally your jam! Er.. sauce! This is your sauce! The apples lend yum-factor while also releasing pectin to thicken the sauce to perfection. A little honey and fresh orange juice lend all the sweetness you’ll need for this delicious condiment. It keeps for four days in the fridge and months in the freezer so make a large pot and put it on everything in sight! Especially Thanksgiving leftovers! Yum!

Apple Strawberry Cranberry Sauce: like all cranberry sauces, this one can be made on the stove or in a slow cooker and both options are beyond easy! Don’t be scared of the strawberry in this one, it’s not enough to turn this flavorful sauce into jam but enough to add a little sweetness and that little something extra that will keep guests guessing as to what your secret is! Orange juice, fresh lime juice and zest, honey, and cinnamon all join the party for a sauce that just plain rocks on everything!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie Cake: Did you do a double take? Heck yes this can be frozen! I wanted to save half of the cake for P’s homecoming but didn’t quite know if it would work. HOLY COW IT DID! It was downright fabulous too! I’m happy to know I can freeze leftover cookie cake for future snacking and celebrations. Cue happy dance.

 There’s a party in my freezer, and you’re invited!

What’s your favorite dish to stash away for a rainy day?

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log with Walnuts, Pecans, and Parsley

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log with Walnuts, Pecans, and Parsley

Yes I’m sticking with that title. It’s a mouthful and after one bite you’ll want another. And another. And then you’ll walk away and pretend like you’re done but we KNOW you’re coming back for another bite.

At least that’s how I operate at parties. I try to play it cool, do the whole socialization thing, hug hands, shake babies, all that jazz, but I’m as transparent as a jellyfish. It’s allllll about the food. If I get cornered by a friend who doesn’t quite know the drill by now, Paul is usually quick to step up to the plate and grab me something to eat. I love that man. I’m also still continuing my love affair with cranberries, if you haven’t noticed by now.

This Pollack-esque interpretation of a cheese log is quick, easy, and is sure to put the “HO-ly cow this is good!” in your holiday spread.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log with Walnuts, Pecans, and Parsley

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cranberry Goat Cheese Log with Walnuts, Pecans, and Parsley
Recipe type: appetizer
  • 1 large log of your favorite goat cheese
  • ¼-1/2 cup cranberry sauce [recipe]
  • ¼-1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 TBSP [or more!] dried or fresh parsley

  • extras:
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • a drizzle or two of honey
  • crackers, crostini, and veggies, for spreading and scooping!
  1. Remove goat cheese from wrapper and allow to soften to room temperature.
  2. Warm up your favorite cranberry sauce [hello great use for leftover sauce!] and spread it on a cheese tray or serving platter.
  3. Next chop your nuts and cranberries and mix together along with parsley.
  4. Roll your goat cheese in the mixture, pressing gently to coat.
  5. Set the festive goat cheese log atop the cranberry sauce and surround with all your favorite crackers, crostini, and veggies!
  6. Feel free to get a little trashy and sprinkle any leftover nuts all over the tray. Hello edible confetti!
  7. Ohmygosh and please please please take this baby over the top with a nice hearty drizzle of honey. It's divine.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log with Walnuts, Pecans, and Parsley

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log with Walnuts, Pecans, and Parsley

Well that was easy!

Butternut Black Bean Burgers

Butternut Black Bean Burgers

First off, these are totally veggie burgers. I was forced to leave the veggie bit out of the title because I suffer from severe AA. Alliteration Addiction: it’s legit, Google it. No wait don’t, I’m totally lying. But I’d never lie about food; these burgers are borderline bitc– oh gosh, maybe I really DO have AA!

Secondly, I totally have spinach on my finger in the above photo and while it’s making me positively twitchy to look at it, I can’t photoshop veggies out of my photos. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

Lastly, I ate these so fast I’m fairly certain I stopped breathing for the entire duration of this veggie burger. After that first glorious bite it became imperative that I smash that sandwich into my face as fast as possible. I really need to work on my speed eating issues, huh? I’ll tackle it right after I figure out how to nix that pesky AA.

Phew! I feel so much better! Now that my dirty laundry has been aired, let’s eat!

Butternut Black Bean Burgers

Butternut Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Butternut Black Bean Burgers
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 burgers
  • 1 flax egg [1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP water] or 1 egg
  • 1 cup mashed black beans [refried black beans work too!]
  • 1 cup pureed butternut squash
  • ⅓ cup diced onion
  • ⅓ cup diced celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 TBSP olive oil [or butter]
  • ¾ tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [like mrs. dash]
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp dried parsley [or fresh if you have it!]
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats [not instant]

  • the toppings:
  • 4 burger buns [I used a bakery poppyseed onion bun - amazing!]
  • 4 slices of pepper jack cheese
  • romaine lettuce
  • fresh baby spinach
  • mayo [store-bought or homemade] mixed with sriracha chili sauce

  • note: Most weekends I'll cube and roast an entire butternut squash and use it for soups, salads, and even these burgers! You can puree roasted butternut squash at home for this recipe or opt for a store bought puree, totally up to you!
  1. Whisk together 1 TBSP ground flax with 3 TBSP water and pop it in the fridge to set.
  2. Next mash black beans in a large bowl and set aside. Alternatively you can use refried black beans, I've made it both ways! Measure to ensure you have a cup and you're good to go.
  3. Add your butternut squash to the beans and set aside.
  4. Next saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender and near-translucent, adding the minced garlic towards the end to prevent burning.
  5. Season the veggies with your Italian seasoning blend, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and parsley and stir to coat.
  6. Add the freshly sauteed veggies to your beans and squash and stir in your oats.
  7. Remove your flax egg from the fridge and add it to the bowl.
  8. Stir to fully incorporate and roll mixture into four balls.
  9. For optimal burger shape, cup each ball in your hands and squeeze tightly, rotating as you gently, but firmly, press it into a disc.
  10. Giggles aside, pop your burgers onto a plate, cover with foil or cling wrap and refrigerate as you prep your buns [or lettuce wraps!] and toppings. This will give them a little while to set. You can even leave them overnight and cook them up the following day. I often make one after 15-30 minutes of chill time and cook up the rest the following day.
  11. Ready to eat?
  12. Pour a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet and heat to medium-high, so the burgers sizzle when you add them to the pan!
  13. Cook for a few minutes on each side until you're left with a golden crust. and a warm center. Repeat for each burger, or cook two at once if you have a big enough pan! I'd skip crowding all four together just because they're a pain to flip when all up in eachother's business. A tip for perfectly shaped veggie burgers? While sizzling away in the skillet, I use my spatula to gently help form the sides into a perfect disc. Works like a charm!
  14. Slather your buns with sriracha mayo, pile them high with lettuce, spinach, pepper jack and top each with a yummy butternut burger. Enjoy!

A certain someone couldn’t keep her paws off them. I won’t point fingers… but she will!

Butternut Black Bean Burgers

so… how were they!?

In a word? Awesome! Need a few more words than that? They’re flavorful, filling and f– I should stop before the alliteration takes over again! Yikes!

I’ve made these so many times in the past few weeks that my freezer is like a shrine to butternut burgers. I’ve been pacing myself, having a veggie burger every few days so I don’t have a repeat episode of the time I made no less than 5001 Sweet Potato Burgers and Paul held an intervention. To be fair I was eating sweet potato burgers like a madman. It was glorious.  I should make more and just alternate between the two until I have a rockin’ beta carotene tan. Or I could be normal and eat a varied diet like a civilized human being. Let’s pretend I’m the latter. We’ll all get gold stars for imagination use on that one.

I’ve rambled oodles, let’s part ways so you can frolic into your kitchen and make these. I’ll whip another up too and we can cheers veggie burgers over the ordeal. Too weird? Nah!

Still hungry?

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Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta: a fabulous Fall side dish for any occasion!

Who has two thumbs and just rocked her self-implemented post deadline!? This girl! Of course it took posting a photo of this plate-o-yum on IG to give me the push I needed. I have some very awesome friends with some very impatient squash [squashes? squashi? I think I’m overthinking this!] awaiting this recipe. I had to deliver!

Without further adieu, here’s my  all-time favorite butternut squash recipe. Hands-down. No question. This savory sweet side dish is perfect for the holidays; make it!

Well, make it now, and then make it AGAIN for the holidays. All of them. Duh.

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta

5.0 from 1 reviews
Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta
Recipe type: side
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled + chopped
  • a hearty drizzle of olive oil [approx 1-2 TBSP]
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2-3 TBSP honey
  • ¼ cup finely crumbled feta
  • ground cinnamon, to taste [optional but delicious!]
  • fresh or dried parsley, to garnish [optional]
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Lightly drizzle or spritz a baking sheet with olive oil.
  3. Add cubed squash to the sheet along with another drizzle of olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with a light layer of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, based on taste preference.
  5. Roast at 400 F for 25 minutes on the center rack.
  6. At the 25 minute mark, pull out the oven rack, and add your fresh cranberries to the roasting pan.
  7. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cranberries have started to soften and burst a bit, resembling really juicy craisins vs fresh firm cranberries.
  8. Remove from oven and add a sprinkle of cinnamon [approx ⅛-1/4 tsp depending on preference] along with feta and honey.
  9. Garnish with parsley for a burst of color and dig in while it's hot!

So I read somewhere that when honey is cooked it loses a lot of it’s coveted antibacterial properties, boo. I still bake with it because it’s an awesome natural sweetener and I adore it so, but if I have the option to keep it as close to raw as possible, I do. Hence adding the honey after roasting the squash and cranberries in this recipe. The fruit and veggie medley is still just warm enough to allow the honey to cover the dish as a deliciously sweet glaze, but not so scorching that it’s spending 30+ minutes in my oven losing all it’s fabulous benefits. File this under things I tell myself so I can eat more honey.

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta

This simple side can be whipped up with just a few fresh ingredients and is loaded with Fall flavor! As an added bonus, as the butternut squash roasts away it fills the house with the most delicious aromas. I had to hold myself back from climbing in the oven with it after the twenty minute mark. It was a little less Sylvia Plath and a little more was more  “LET ME AT THAT SQUASH!” I may have stolen a few cubes to munch on when I added the cranberries. So good!

still hungry?

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Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts

While I love a good bowl full of Summer, festive Fall salads have a special place in my heart and, quite frankly, my stomach! I’m thinking it’s the change of pace that gets me all riled up. By the end of summer I’m so positively over salads that I eye-roll at the thought of having one for anything other than a side dish to a more exciting main course. Of course those last few weeks of Winter leave me craving a fresh cucumber salad so badly I might die. If you’ve been reading long enough you’re probably used to my end-of-season whine fest and how quickly I throw myself into the next season out of sheer exasperation over the last. I’m a sucker for tradition. [and dramatics apparently]

Now that it’s fall all I want are my favorite comfort foods! Of course I still want salads too! There’s also the fact that I need to get creative if I want to partake in the holiday cookie chomping spree that happens ever year, and that means throwing some lightened up fare into the mix.

Now I know you kids are still cuckoo for pumpkin puffs, but I’m all about that bass those cranberries.

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts

and I’m allllllll about those candied walnuts:

Homemade 10 Minute Candied Walnuts with Honey and Brown Sugar

I’ll never shell out [hah!] for pricey candied nuts again. It’s far to easy to make them fresh AND I get to crack [ha ha!] cheesy nut jokes while I make them. It’s a win-win situation of nutty proportions. Now I’m going to go hide under the bed until I learn how to behave myself.

That… may take a while. You should make this salad to help pass the time.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts
Recipe type: salad, side
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 + ¼ cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup fresh cranberries [or frozen!] or 1 cup dried
  • ½-1 cup fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 TBSP chopped green onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • for the candied walnuts:
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • the teeniest pinch of salt

  • for the dressing:
  • 2 TBSP light olive oil or grape seed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced [1/4 tsp]
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 1 TBSP orange juice
  • a pinch of salt
  • a dash of black pepper

  • notes and such: If you're using fresh berries, the dish will have an extra burst of tartness that those juicy little buggers are infamous for! For those of you who find cranberries to be super tart when served straight up, grab a bag of dried cranberries. They're sweeter and still deliver amazing flavor to this dish! Both will result in some serious deliciousness!
  1. First rinse + drain your quinoa.
  2. Bring a medium saucepan to medium heat and lightly toast the quinoa to remove any excess water. Stir as it toasts for just a few minutes. This step is optional but really adds to the fluff factor of the quinoa!
  3. Next add your broth and bring pot to a boil.
  4. Once it's boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for 12-13 minutes.
  5. If you're using frozen cranberries, add them to the pot after 6-8 minutes; if you're using dried or fresh cranberries add them in around the 9-10 minute mark and recover.
  6. Test the cranberries before pulling from heat to make sure they've had enough time to cook, then remove from heat.
  7. Once your quinoa and cranberries are done, season with a teeny bit of salt and pepper, fluff gently with a fork, and set aside.
  8. Add a little water to that same pot and bring to a boil. Gently blanch your broccoli florets until bright green and al-dente [you want it to still be a bit firm yet tender, not mushy] which should only take a few minutes.
  9. Drain, chop into bite-sized bits, and add to the quinoa along with chopped green onion.
  10. Place quinoa in the fridge while you prep your dressing and walnuts.
  11. DRESSING: Smash and mince garlic into a paste and combine with all remaining dressing ingredients. Whisk well and set aside.
  12. CANDIED WALNUTS: Heat a skillet or saucepan to medium heat and butter to melt. Next add in your chopped walnuts, honey, salt, and sugar. Saute for 5-6 minutes and pour over parchment paper, using a spatula to separate the nuts. Otherwise you'll have yummy walnut brittle that you'll want to break apart over your salad, which is no big deal either! Yum! Allow to cool for several minutes until the coating hardens and you're walnuts have officially been candied! Woot! Try not to eat them all before they hit the salad.
  13. Grab your bowl-o-quinoa and top with the walnuts. Drizzle with dressing just before digging in! Serve this up as a salad for lunch [I ate the entire thing myself, ha! It can easily serve 2 if needed] or serve it up as a colorful side dish to stretch it to 4 servings. Serve it chilled or at room temperature, it's great both ways! Enjoy!

inspired by and adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen and  Juan-Carlos Cruz 

vegansaurus chefs: To whip up a vegan-friendly version of this salad, simply skip the honey in the candied walnuts and use a little extra sugar or maple syrup instead!

t-rex chefs: Feel free to add some chopped or shredded chicken to this salad. It also makes a great use for thanksgiving leftovers, so save a little turkey and use it to make this!

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Homemade Candied Walnuts

In other news, I wanted to DRINK this dressing! I stole a spoonful while I was taste testing and might have dove back in for seconds or thirds. The combination of juicy lime and orange juice with the subtly fruity undertones of the olive oil and the punch of raw garlic? I just love it. You should probably go ahead and double the recipe so you can pour it on your veggies all week long. Assuming you don’t indeed drink it.

I won’t tell if you do, pinky promise.

Actually, while you’re at it, you may want to double the recipe for the walnuts too. If you’re anything like me you’ll start shoving them in your face the second they’re cool enough to handle. Or while they’re still molten… We live life dangerously around here.

Slow Cooker Apple Strawberry Cranberry Sauce

Hello November, so nice to eat you! Bring on the cranberries!!!

Slow Cooker Apple Strawberry Cranberry Sauce

We have a few things to address here. Ok well, maybe just one thing: the strawberries.

They’re in my cranberry sauce.

“Oh, are you freaked out? You’re like so freaked out. You’re like running for the door…”

Name that movie and we can be best friends forever.

After plowing through my entire freezer stash of my usual crock-pot cranberry sauce, I got fancy. I have a thing for trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to my own recipes. They’re typically ones I can make blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back and not a measuring cup in sight. I know my way through these recipes like I do the halls of my own home, actually these recipes ARE home. So from time to time, I rearrange. A little spring cleaning here, a new rug there, and sometimes, like today, I rearrange the furniture.

Though instead of moving couches I’m adding new ingredients to my cranberry sauce.

So strawberries, eh? They’re amazing. Add too many and you’ve got a pot full of jam on your hands, but add just a little and you’ve got a recipe for a baller berry sauce that will keep everyone guessing… and eating! Now strawberries are typically the furthest thing from our minds as Fall blusters on and Winter gains momentum, but that’s why we have freezers! Berries frozen at harvest’s peak make a perfect addiction to this sassy sauce. I could go on but once I hit 400 words you start to get twitchy on me, so let’s dive face-first into the recipe instead.

Slow Cooker Strawberry Apple Cranberry Sauce

Slow Cooker Apple Strawberry Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 [12 ounce] bag fresh cranberries [or 3 cups]
  • 1 cup dried cranberries [aka craisins]
  • 10 large ripe strawberries, frozen
  • 1 large red delicious or honey crisp apple, peeled + diced
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • lime zest [I zested nearly the entire lime in mine! YUM!]
  • 3 TBSP honey
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt

  • note: for a fun and edible garnish, when you pop the lid to stir the fruit, fish out a few cranberries, sprinkle with granulated sugar and set aside until you're ready to plate the sauce. You can also garnish with a little bit of mint, basil, or even parsley [hey I was desperate!]
  1. Add all of the above ingredients to your slow cooker on high for around 2 hours
  2. Once the majority of the berries have popped and the house smells AMAZING, allow sauce to cool.
  3. Next puree using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.
  4. Give it a taste and feel free to sweeten a bit more if desired, this sauce has my ideal ratio of sweetness and tartness and I'm beyond in love with the flavor, but won't be offended if you add a pinch of brown sugar or a little extra honey.
  5. The final step? Slather it on everything!
  6. It'll keep in the fridge for up to four days and can be frozen for several months and reheated whenever the craving strikes!
  7. Alternatively this can be made on the stove top over medium heat in a fraction of the time. In about 10-15 minutes your'll have a gorgeous cranberry sauce that thickens as it cools. I'm just hopelessly addicted to recipes I can toss in the slow cooker and walk away from, especially since I'm usually multi-tasking my face off. Plus when you're cooking up a huge holiday feast, oven and stove-top space are prime real estate, yo! Regardless of the method you choose, the results will be fantastic! Enjoy!

Recipe yields approx 1 quart [4 cups] of sauce. Scarf some now and freeze the rest for later!

Crock-Pot  Apple Strawberry Cranberry Sauce

Of course you don’t have to freeze the leftovers! My all-time favorite uses for leftover cranberry sauce are [these] cranberry streusel bars and [this] out of this world cranberry walnut cream cheese spread that’s fantastic on bagels, croissants, celery, and sandwiches galore! I make extra sauce just so I have a bounty of leftovers to make both recipes. Tis tradition!

Sandwich Remix: Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Soup

I thought I was seriously living on the edge when I turned my favorite SP&O hoagie into the cheesiest of grilled cheeses. You guys remember that one right? It was a beast! Ever since that sandwich, I’ve been a sausage, pepper, and onion fiend.

Until now.

Now you’re going to need a straight-jacket to get me away from this flavor combo.

Sandwich Remix: Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Soup!

 I’ll eat the spoon if I have to. I mean business!

Well that was dramatic. And awkward.

Continuing along with my penchant for turning comfort food classics into slurpable soups, I give you the most amazing sausage, pepper, and onion soup. I wish you all could smell how amazing my house smells right now. The aromatics off this pot are killer and so is the in-your-face flavor of this dish! I took my go-to soup base [a combination of veggie broth and fire-roasted crushed tomatoes] and added delicious partially-caramelized onion, an array of tasty bell peppers, and the perfect amount of oomph from my favorite, local, hot Italian sausage.

Toss in a little smashed garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and OMGWHYAREYOUNOTMAKINGTHISRIGHTNOW!?

It’s because I’m still talking, isn’t it? I’ll shut up now.

Sandwich Remix: Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Soup

Sandwich Remix: Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Soup!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Soup
Recipe type: soup
  • 3-5 large links hot Italian sausage
  • 1 + ½ yellow onion, sliced or diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ large red bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ large orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 3 + ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes [I used this fire-roasted variety]
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • extras:
  • homemade croutons seasoned with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper
  • freshly grated mozzarella and hot habanero cheddar or pepper jack
  • fresh chopped parsley

  • Add the croutons, the cheese, or both! The soup is also phenomenal all on it's own and is both paleo and gluten-free sans toppings!

  • recipe yields approx 2.5 quarts of soup and serves 4
  1. Before you begin: You'll be able to belt out your prep-work while your sausage cooks and your onions start to caramelize away. Once you pile everything together, you'll then have enough time to let it simmer on the stove, allowing all the awesome flavors to meld and intensify. A little multi-tasking goes a long way!
  2. First decide how you'd like your onions! Sliced onions will give the soup a French Onion Soup-esque feel to it while diced onions will be uniform with your peppers and a bit easier to fit on the spoon. I went with sliced, both will work fantastically.
  3. Bring a large pot to medium heat with 2 TBSP of olive oil and add your onions. Stir to coat and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir often.
  4. While your onions are cooking, chop your peppers, mince the garlic and prep the remainder of your ingredients.
  5. Cook sausage via your favorite method.
  6. I boil mine for about 20 minutes while the onions get all gorgeous and golden.
  7. Keep stirring your onions to prevent sticking/burning. Once they start to semi-caramelize and take on a golden hue, add your bell peppers, garlic, salt, and black pepper, then allow them to simmer away until the peppers are tender.
  8. Once they've softened, add the vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, and sliced sausage [which should be done by now!] and reduce heat so the soup is gently bubbling/simmering.
  9. Prep you toppings while the soup simmers and the flavors deepen.
  10. Grate your cheeses [YUM!] and, if desired, crisp a few slices of your favorite bread [I used a fresh garlic + onion loaf] into homemade croutons by spritzing them with oil, seasoning with garlic, salt, and pepper, and toasting in the oven at 350F until golden.
  11. Back to the soup. Give it a taste, and if you'd like a little burst of heat to the soup, add the red pepper flakes. They're not essential but I LOVE the kick!
  12. Serve piping hot with your choice of extras on top and dig in!

So if you’ve been reading for a while, you know I tend to over-explain my recipes a little. Don’t let that fool you! This recipe is super easy and really really ridiculously good. In fact, chances are that while you’re reading this, I’ll have a leftover bowl in my face.

And for those of you still wondering how I manage to feed your faces with new recipes while a toddler scales my leg…

Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Soup


Each recipe is a team effort!

When she’s not stealing the food off the table, the chickpea actually makes a fabulous assistant. She can frequently be found holding my foam board at ridiculous angles, dropping random objects into the shot, closing the shutters, dancing on the tripod, rearranging my props, texting Maria photos of her foot, and, above all else, eating all my food. It’s our thing!

This soup should be your thing. Get on it!

Chicken Parmesan Soup

aka what happens when your chicken parm wants to go for a little swim…

Chicken Parmesan Soup

This soup makes me giddy. There’s something about serving up my favorite foods in soup form that’s just plain fun. It’s also a really great way to lighten up comfort food and make it deliciously freezer-friendly too! It’s a win-win situation in my book. Plus it’s slurpable. So there’s the added bonus of annoying my husband. I’ll take it!

Like most of my recipes, this chicken parmesan soup underwent typical P&C test kitchen shenanigans. I tried three different cooking methods and ingredient line-ups, which is why it took me so ridiculously long to finally post this soup. Luckily it’s well worth the wait!

Dare I be cliche and say the third time’s the charm?

Chicken Parmesan Soup

Cliche or not, it’s downright charming. AND DELICIOUS!  Let’s eat!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken Parmesan Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2.5 quarts
  • 2 lbs chicken breast [weighed post-trimming]
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes [28 oz]
  • 3 cups low-sodium broth [veggie or chicken]
  • ¼ tsp salt plus extra to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 3 TBSP olive oil or butter
  • ½ tsp parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried/ground oregano
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • chopped fresh basil, to taste
  • crusty bread [1-2 slices for each bowl]
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
  • freshly grated mozzarella cheese, to taste

  • note: most broths and canned tomatoes are salted, so beyond seasoning the chicken breast, I typically wait until the very end to add any additional salt and pepper. This way you can season it perfectly to suit your tastes! I've made the soup with an added ½ cup of half and half [for creaminess] and without, both are delicious! Enjoy!

  • adapted from Rachel Ray
  1. For this recipe you can spend a little extra to save a little extra [time] and grab boneless skinless chicken *or* trim your own and save some cash monies.
  2. Once your chicken is prepped and ready, use a meat tenderizer [I won't tell if you saran wrap your hammer] and pound out the chicken until it's uniform in thickness. This is optional, but will help it cook evenly, and a bit quicker.
  3. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper. I used ¼ tsp salt.
  4. Next heat a large pot [3 quart or larger] to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the chicken.
  5. Cook for about 5 minutes until golden and seared and flip.
  6. Add 1 cup of broth and cover.
  7. Cook approx 8-15 minutes until fully cooked and opaque [cook time will vary depending on thickness of your chicken, you can use a thermometer to check if it's reached 165F]
  8. Once cooked, remove chicken with tongs and shred on a cutting board with two forks.
  9. If you own a stand mixer you can use [this] nifty trick to shred it super fast!
  10. Return shredded chicken to the same pot and add crushed tomatoes and 2 additional cups of broth. Simmer covered while you saute the onions.
  11. Heat a pan to medium heat with 3 tablespoons of butter.
  12. Saute garlic first, to infuse the butter, then add onions and saute until tender and, if time permits, a teeny bit caramelized.
  13. Season the onions with parsley, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano and add to the soup.
  14. Stir in tomato paste and any additional salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer on low until you're ready to dig in.
  15. I typically let mine sit on the stove-top a little longer while I prep the toasts.
  16. Stir in shredded basil just before serving.
  17. Before serving, take this soup to the next level by toasting a few slices of your favorite crusty bread.
  18. Rub the toasts with minced garlic [use a little or a lot!] and top with freshly grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
  19. Stick the toasts under the broiler to melt the cheese or simply pop a slice on each bowl of soup and use the microwave to melt it; I love doing this simply because the bread soaks up some of the soup and ends up with a french onion soup-esque topping that sends me swooning.

 going gluten-free? you can skip the bread altogether or use your favorite GF varitey!

Alternatively, you can absolutely cook this bad boy in the slow cooker. My crock-pot test batch was delicious, but the chicken spent so much time getting up close and personal with the veggies that it straight up took over the flavor profile of the dish. As far as soups go, I loved it, friends and family loved it, but we all also agreed that we loved the stove-top version the best, so do with it what you may! If you break out the slow cooker, the flavors will be a little bit different, and I highly suggest carving out a few prep minutes to saute the garlic and onion before adding them to the pot. Cook on high for no more than 4 hours [or low for 6-8], fish out the whole chicken breasts with a pair of tongs, shred, and return to the pot. The key when slow cooking tomato based soups is to avoid over-cooking. Stir in fresh basil just before serving and top with your garlicky parm-toast topping. It was good, but the technique in the recipe above totally won me over like a squealing fangirl.

To freeze, simply pour into your favorite freezer-friendly container, leaving about an inch at the top [soup often expands when frozen], pop it in the freezer, and defrost on a rainy day! Now you’ll have delicious fast food without the fuss! =)

Fork-Shredded Chicken

Chicken Parmesan Soup

If you’re a fan of that ridiculously awesome crouton/cheese combo on top of French Onion Soup you’re going to flip over this. Depending on how you feel about your soup accessories, you can simply dunk the crusty, crunchy, cheesy, toasts into your hot soup and use it as a bonus utensil or allow the garlicky bread and cheese to soak up the delicious broth as you scoop it apart bit by bit with your spoon.

My long winded descriptions do this no justice. Your butt: get it in the kitchen! Stat!

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash

Since boycotting pumpkin this year, I stepped up my squash game. Er… let me rephrase that so I sound less moronic, since pumpkin is technically a squash too! I benched pumpkin and brought my favorite over-looked and under-loved squash all-stars out to play the field. They’re seriously rocking my plate and I’m certain you’re going to love them too! It’s safe to say that I’m one proud couch. I mean cook! I mean… Oy, just eat your veggies will ya?

In other news, I think my brain is broken.

I’ve never been a huge fan of squash [Though I said the same for sweet potatoes a few years back and look at me now! Hah!] mainly because any time I tried it, that poor veggie had been manhandled and mistreated into a mushy, soggy, and/or sweetened state. With the right cooking techniques and the right add-ons, it’s downright delicious! A little roasting and some savory side-kicks can take squash from meh to MEEEEEE-OWW!

And with that, my brain finally broke.

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash

Since Winter squash finally hit the shelves, I’ve been hoarding dumpling squash. Have you had it before? It’s actually the perfect squash for people who don’t like squash! It has the buttery texture and facade of an acorn squash but the mild, easy to compliment flavor of yellow squash and spaghetti squash. It’s not too sweet or too strong or too anything, as Goldilocks would say, this one is juuuuust right!

Can you tell I’ve been reading more baby books than big girl books as of lately? Yeah. Sorry about that.

Let’s get squashed! [again!]

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash
  • 1 dumpling squash
  • ½-1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast [1-2 cups cooked]
  • ½ cup salsa verde [I'm obsessed with Target's brand]
  • ⅛ tsp garlic powder
  • a pinch of cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp butter or oil for sauteing
  • ½-1 cup diced tri-colored bell peppers
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 2-4 oz freshly grated cheese

  • tower of toppings:
  • plain greek yogurt or sour cream
  • chopped green onion
  • am optional pinch of red pepper flakes for added heat
  • diced jalapenos for even more heat! [also yummy; also optional]
  • fresh cilantro

  • note: Any cheese that rocks your tastebuds will rock this dish! My favorites lately have been gouda [the un-smoked variety!] and pepper jack yogurt cheese. The yogurt cheese is usually in the fancy cheese section and goes on sale often! It's delicious!

  • Have some of your favorite enchilada sauce handy? Go ahead and add it to the mix!
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mental prep: though this dish has a few components that are all cooked differently, don't fret! You can cook the chicken while the squash roasts and the veggies while the chicken poaches and, before you know it, the kitchen will be clean and you'll have food in your face. Ready? Let's do this!
  3. Slice your squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
  4. To prevent sticking, rub the rim of the squash's flesh with a teeny bit of olive oil or simply place a little water inside your baking dish. Both work great!
  5. Place inside a baking dish or atop rimmed, lined baking sheet [some liquid will escape] and roast face-down for approx 40 minutes.
  6. While the squash roasts, cook your chicken and saute your veggies.
  7. You can cook the chicken any which way you prefer but to save on time I typically crock-pot it ahead of time [see notes in the post below] or throw it together on the stove top while the squash bakes away.
  8. Bring a medium pot of water or your favorite broth [hello flavor!] to boil and add your boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the water.
  9. Cover your pot with it's lid and remove from heat.
  10. Allow the chicken to poach for approx 25 minutes.
  11. Remove from liquid, chop with the grain into small pieces and combine with salsa verde.
  12. Season with salt and pepper [cayenne pepper if you're feeling spicy!] as well as your garlic powder and cumin.
  13. Stir and set aside.
  14. As mentioned earlier, while the chicken cooks, saute those veggies!
  15. Simply bring a little bit of butter or oil to heat, add your peppers and onion and saute until tender.
  16. By now you should have a kitchen full of yum!
  17. Rake a fork across the bottom of the squash and stir in your salsa chicken, peppers, and onion.
  18. Top with a mountain of freshly grated cheese and pop squash back in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
  19. Serve bubbly and hot with all your favorite toppings!

chopped bell pepper and onionfreshly grated pepper jack yogurt cheese

shortcut shenanigans: If your kitchen happens to be overrun leftovers from a festive Taco Tuesday the night before, or any night of the week really, then you can whip this dish up with little to no effort! That’s actually how I created this baby in the first place! Of course other ways to shave time off this recipe would be to bake your squash ahead of time, when you know you’ll be around to yank it from the oven when the timer goes off. It’ll stay fresh in your fridge for a few days awaiting this delish dish. You can also cook the chicken in advance on the stove top, in the oven, or using your slow cooker! I love making a huge batch of salsa shredded chicken over the weekend to toss into meals all week long. It’s easy and requires so little effort that it’s become a go-to these past few months. Simply season the chicken with a little salt, cumin, and garlic powder, pour over your favorite salsa verde, and let your crock-pot do the work! It can be ready in 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low; choose what works for you!

update: squash can also be microwaved for 5 minutes, halved, and then roasted at 400 F for 15-20 minutes! I tried this method the other day and it worked great! xo

so… how was it?

Despite the fact that it I over-explained the crap out of this recipe, it’s so ridiculously easy and awesome and, well, you’ve got to try it! It’s a fiesta in a [squash] bowl!

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash

I think I have a cheese problem.

case in point:

Savory Sweet Potato NachosPanera Broccoli and Cheese SoupCreamy Tomato Soup with Baked Mozzarella Balls