Kitchen Concoctions

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles with Creamy Sausage Gravy

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hillshire Brands™ and Safeway for the Mom It Forward Network. All thoughts and opinions are my own. #BringHillshireHome #ad 

Biscuits and gravy are the ultimate southern comfort food! They have long competed with waffles and pancakes for the breakfast spotlight, but not anymore! This recipe for Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles with Creamy Sausage Gravy, takes a simple buttermilk biscuit recipe and transforms it into crispy waffles topped with that comforting, creamy sausage gravy. 

Hi my name is Heather and I am a coupon addict.

There I said it and yes, it is true! On most Sunday afternoons you will find me carefully sorting, clipping and organizing coupons into a nifty little coupon book.

Each week I can't wait to grab that thick, dull newspaper and flip through to the colorful, shiny weekly ads and coupons. I love seeing what deals are awaiting and carefully matching up each coupon with the weekly sale.

Yes, I'll admit coupon clipping can be time consuming and tedious. And truth be told, the last few months have been crazy around here and my coupon clipping has slacked and therefor my wallet and inventory has suffered. But I am trying to get back into the coupon clipping habit.

Despite my coupon addiction love, by no means am I an extreme couponer. In fact, where I live that is hard to do; with many local stores having strict coupon policies. But coupons do save me a lot of money (even with the tight coupon laws, I can usually save about 30-40 percent on my bill) and help me stock my pantry with not only staples, but pricey toiletries at rock bottom prices.

Even though I love grabbing a good deal, there are many myths about couponing and stereotypes those of us who coupon (this might be one reason why I was afraid to admit my little coupon clipping “problem”, but we are all friends, right?). No, I don't have a basement, room or closet filled with coupon freebies, but I do believe in being prepared for a natural disaster, job loss, etc. and having an inventory of supplies and food storage to help you get by when needed. Plus, with how crazy expensive things are these days, I'll take any savings I can! My motto... coupons are just like dolla bills, y'all!

Another myth is that you can't get coupons for things like fresh produce, meat and dairy products. But there are lots of coupons available for so many things (believe me, I know... like I said I use coupons -just like cash- for everything.... groceries, toiletries, clothes, dinner out...). In fact, right now, with the J4U coupon program, via Safeway (where you can download valuable coupons online right to your store card), you can grab several coupons for Hillshire Farms™ brand products giving you the opportunity to add protein, at affordable prices, to every meal!

Not only am I super conscious about saving money by shopping sales and using coupons, I try and make sure every meal we cook at home is affordable and budget friendly. Brinner (breakfast for dinner) is a weekly occurrence. Eggs, a sweet or savory baked good, fresh fruit and sausage or bacon can easily serve a family of four to six, for less than ten bucks! Today's recipe is my most recent brinner concoction! Fluffy and flaky buttermilk biscuits, transformed into crispy, savory waffles topped with a creamy sausage gravy; all ready in 30 minutes or less! Come on! With a meal like this, who doesn't love breakfast any time of day!

Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles with Creamy Sausage Gravy
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4-6

Crispy, flaky buttermilk biscuit waffles with a thick and creamy sausage gravy. 


Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles:
2 ¼ cups self-rising flour
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 egg, whisked

Creamy Sausage Gravy:
1 pound Jimmy Dean All-Natural Fresh Pork Sausage
6 tablespoons butter 
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups beef broth
1 ½ cups milk
1/8 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper, or to taste


For Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles:

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt and black pepper. Using a pastry cutter, fork or your fingers; cut cold butter into flour until coarse, sand-like crumbs are formed. Slowly stir in buttermilk and whisked egg, mixing just until moist, making sure not to over mix (mixture should be thinner than biscuit dough and thicker than waffle batter).

Spoon biscuit mixture onto preheated waffle iron, close and bake according to manufacture's instructions; cooking to desired crispness. Remove waffles and repeat with remaining batter.* Separate cooked waffles into sections and serve immediately topped with prepared Creamy Sausage Gravy.

Creamy Sausage Gravy:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl, leaving some of the rendered fat in the skillet.

Add one tablespoon butter to skillet. Add onions and cook until they begin to caramelize slightly, approximately 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add remaining butter to skillet and melt. Slowly whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until a roux forms and turns a golden brown color, about 2 minutes. Continue whisking and slowly pour in the beef broth. Whisk constantly until there are no longer any lumps. Slowly whisk in milk. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in cooked sausage. Season gravy with allspice, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Allow gravy to simmer until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately over prepared Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles.

*Kitchen Tip: To keep waffles warm while cooking additional batches of waffles or while making sausage gravy, place cooked waffles on a baking sheet in a preheated 225 degree oven until ready to serve.

Eager to make this twist on the classic biscuits and gravy for brunch today or brinner tonight?!?! Sign up for the J4U coupon program, via Safeway, and save $.55 on one roll of Jimmy Dean Refrigerated Sausage. Also, be sure and grab other Hillshire Farm™ brand coupons and make one of these fabulous recipes for dinner this week:

Pretzel Wrapped Lit'l Smokies (Making the World Cuter)
Kielbasa with Apples, Potatoes and Peppers (Meatloaf and Melodrama)
Hot Dog Kebabs (Busy Mommy Media)
Pesto Alfredo Tortellini with Smoked Sausage (Belle of the Kitchen)
Spicy Smoked Sausage Wrap (Strawberry Mommycakes)
Ditalini & Sausage Soup (Kleinworth & Co.)
Fried Rice (My Pinterventures)
Smoked Sausage Penne Pasta (Sincerely, Jamie)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Steak and Potato Burgers {Plus Tips for the Perfect Burger}

A classic burger and fries is All-American comfort food! Equally as comforting is a steakhouse dinner, with a perfectly cooked steak, creamy mashed potatoes all topped with a hearty mushroom gravy. This recipe takes all the favorite flavors of a fancy steakhouse dinner and transforms them into a knife and fork kinda burger!

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Stubb's.)

I love the fall! While most people tend to cook out on the grill during the warmer days of summer, the fall months (before the bitter cold of winter sets in) is absolutely perfect for firing up the grill! Nothing excites me more than cooler fall days, colorful leaves, backyard cookouts and watching football with friends! Gathering on the back porch, a cold drink in one hand, surrounded by good company and a grill sizzling with tasty food, is simply picturesque.

My favorite food to cook on the grill, happens to be America's favorite, burgers. Nothing beats a juicy, all-beef patty grilled to perfection, topped with a thick slice of melted cheddar cheese, plump tomatoes, crisp lettuce, tangy mustard, all sandwiched between a toasted bun.

Taking that first, mouthwatering bite of burger, instantly takes me back to so many happy memories. I am quickly transported to my childhood and my first exhilarating, yet terrifying, summer camp away from home. To college tailgating, cheering on the school's football team, all while making new friends. And of course to many 4th of July celebrations spent on the lake celebrating life, family and freedom!

While burgers are quintessential to a cookouts, mastering the perfect burger, requires a little knowledge and know how.

Below are a few of my favorite tips to make sure your next burger is flawless!

Tips for the Perfect Burger: 

The meat: I like to use equal parts ground sirloin and ground chuck. The ground chuck, with 20 percent fat, helps yield a juicy flavorful burger. While leaner, ground sirloin adds an extra layer of beefy flavor and helps prevent the meat from shrinking too much. Ground turkey, chicken, fish, pork and lamb can also be used to make fantastic burgers.

Seasonings: Some burger traditionalist believe in simply seasoning burgers with only salt and black pepper. However, fresh onion or garlic, fresh or dried herbs and spices, cheese, pickled condiments, like jalapenos, and even prepared sauces, such as Stubb's Texas Steakhouse Marinade; can all be added to the burger mixture to for an extra pop of flavor. While these seasonings and sauces can be mixed directly into the burger mixture, salt and pepper should only be added to the patties right before cooking, as salt dissolves muscle proteins, which can create a tough, dry burger. Before forming the burger patties, pinch off a piece of your burger mixture and cook it to check the seasoning amounts.

Forming the patty: Chill the meat for 20-30 minutes before shaping burgers. Wet hands with cold water and divide meat into equal portions. Shape beef into ¾-inch thick patties. Using your thumb, press a small dimple into the center of the formed burger. Be careful not to overwork the meat as it will yield a tough burger.

Cooking: Whether grilling or pan searing your burgers, make sure your grill or pan is extremely hot before adding the burgers. Never, ever, press down on the burger patties as they cook. This releases all the natural juice and will result in a dry burger. Also, avoid closing the lid on the grill and over-flipping the burger. Flipping the burger only once during the cooking process will help prevent the burger from falling apart as it cooks. Since ground beef contains harmful bacteria, which is spread throughout all the meat, burgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 

While the “All-American” burger I described earlier is classic, since I love burgers so much, I love experimenting with new flavor combinations. This Steak and Potato Burger combines all my favorite flavors of a fancy steakhouse dinner: a juicy, seasoned burger topped with creamy homemade mashed potatoes and a robust mushroom gravy! Go on, grab your knife and fork and dig in!

Steak and Potato Burgers 
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 25-30 minutes Wait Time: 20-30 minutes Cook Time: 35-40 minutes Serves: 6

A burger that combines all the favorite flavors of a fancy steakhouse dinner! 


1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
1 ½ tablespoons Stubb's Steak Spice Rub
4 tablespoons Stubb's Texas Steakhouse Marinade
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper 

Mashed Potatoes:
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2/3-1 cup milk
4-5 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper 

Mushroom Gravy:
¼ cup butter
1 small onion, diced
1 (8-ounce) container sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 cups beef stock
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon Stubb's Steak Spice Rub
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

For serving:
6 large hamburger buns, toasted right before serving


In a large bowl, gently mix together ground chuck, ground sirloin, Stubb's Steak Spice Rub and Stubb's Texas Steakhouse Marinade. Refrigerate ground beef mixture for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat grill to high heat. Once ground meat is well chilled, wet hands with cold water and divide into six equal portions. Be careful not to over work the meat, and shape beef into ¾-inch thick patties. Using your thumb, press a small dimple in the center of the formed burger. Season prepared burgers with salt and black pepper. Transfer burgers to preheated grill. Cook burgers for 4-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

Mashed Potatoes:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully add peeled and diced potatoes to boiling water. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Drain water and return cooked potatoes to the pot. 

Add milk and butter to pot with potatoes. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, mash the potatoes until desired consistency is reach. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Mushroom Gravy:
Melt butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes or until onions start to caramelize. Stir in mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 to 60 seconds.

Sprinkle flour over cooked vegetables, and stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup of beef stock, stirring constantly until fully incorporated. Stir in remaining stock and milk. Season gravy, to taste, with Stubb's Steak Spice Rub, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes, stirring often.

To assemble:
Place cooked burger on the bottom toasted bun. Top burgers with approximately 1/3 cup mashed potatoes. Top mashed potatoes with 2-3 tablespoons prepared gravy. Top gravy covered potatoes with remaining bun. Serve immediately.

Disclosure: I am in a working relationship with Stubb's Sauces and Marinades. This recipe was developed by me for Stubb's. This blog post was written by me on behalf of Stubb's. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Because of sponsors like Stubb's I am able to continue to bring you all the content I feature here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Baked Garlic Parmesan Fries

French fries and hamburgers go together like peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin and lattes and milk and cereal! But these crispy oven baked fries with nutty Parmesan cheese and toasted garlic are sure to steal the show on your next burger night!

I used to not be a big TV watcher. Growing up we didn't have cable (and I still don't) and since there were four of us kids, sometimes it was easier to just get lost in a good book than fight over the TV. Yeah, sure, there were a few shows that I loved (like every child growing up in the 80's and 90's TGIF was a weekly routine and so was Saturday morning cartoons) but 'binge watching' didn't exist back then.

In high school, to keep up in conversations with friends, I got into a few shows. You know, like Friends and Dawson's Creek, and towards the end CSI and Gilmore Girls. But still, this was the time before DVRs and if you missed the show, and I often did, you just missed the show. Then in college I lived with roommates for a few years and getting to watch your show was also non-existent. Basically I only got hooked on popular shows like The O.C. and One Tree Hill, purely because of roommates and friends. Once I got my own place the TV was all mine, but honestly, even then I never watched it! I was busy with school, work and living life! I never got to see how those shows ended, after all that investment.

Fast forward to today. Now with things like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, I can catch up on all these shows and more. For years I have waited patiently for Gilmore Girls to be added so that I can finally see the end and to say I was giddy when I discovered that in fact Netflix now has all seven seasons is an understatement (it's the little things in life).

It is in not in my nature to sit and truly 'binge watch' TV. If I am watching TV I am always doing something; like laundry, doing paper work, clipping coupons or working. Since most of these activities can take a little bit of time, it is easy to watch several episodes back to back. It is also easy to get distracted. Like now, as I sit and type this, The Good Wife is playing and I can't think of anything else good to write about... except TV and how I can't believe one of the main characters just... well I won't spoil it (FYI: I am half way through season five).

So now that I have bored you long enough, with distracted ramblings nothing to do with this recipe; I am turning off the TV to head somewhere (like my patio or a coffee shop) so that I can concentrate and really focus on writing.

Oh wait, before I go... the recipe. We love baked French fries. It is my go-to side dish for so many things and while we normally love them seasoned like this French fry recipe, I also like to change them up! Toasting some garlic and adding a fresh sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is a simple and fancy way to dress up your basic baked fry!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Granola Bars
Two Years Ago: Owl S’mores
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread
Four Years Ago: Breakfast Stuffing
Five Years Ago: Jerk Chicken

Baked Garlic Parmesan Fries
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 8-10 minutes Cook Time: 25-30 minutes Serves: 4

Crispy oven baked fries with nutty Parmesan cheese and toasted garlic. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 large Russet potatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a small sauce pan over low heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

Place sliced potatoes in a large bowl. Pour garlic infused oil over fries. Add Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper; toss to coat.

Arrange fries in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until fries are crispy and tender.

Serve immediately topped with additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serving Suggestions: These fries would be the perfect accompaniment to these Parmesan Pesto Chicken Burgers or Seared Sirloin Steak with Sweet Balsamic Wine Sauce for a tasty twist on steak and pommes frites.

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Seasoned Shoestring Fries with Creamy Mesquite Fry Sauce
Carrot Fries
Barbecue Fries 
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
Pie Fries

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dog Halloween Treats {Plus Dog "Howl-oween" Printables}

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TrickOrTreatEm #CollectiveBias

Celebrate Howl-oween with your favorite pup! Our adorable pets deserve to enjoy some fun and treats this Howl-oween! In honor of my beloved “four legged child,” Mo, I created some cute Halloween Treats and put a fun twist on the popular and mysterious “BOOed” activity for all my friends and family with “fur babies” too!

Growing up we had so many holiday traditions. From chopping down a real tree every year for Christmas to dyeing Easter eggs and making decorated sugar cookies for every single holiday; we knew how to celebrate! Halloween was no exception. From visiting the local farmers market to get the biggest pumpkin around, to dressing up and Trick-or-Treating or attending every fall festival possible... it was a fun and festive time of year! One tradition, I remember vividly started when I was in middle school. That was the year that we got “BOOed”. You know, the fun holiday twist on the popular game ding-dong-ditch. That year some sneaky friend or neighbor rang our doorbell, ran off, leaving a bag full of Halloween treats on our door, with a cute note instructing us to spread the holiday cheer.

After that first year of being “BOOed” my family would eagerly wait for October to roll around so that we could be the first ones to “BOO” someone else! This fun game continued for years, but since I moved away from home, it is one holiday tradition that I almost forgot.

That is until this year!

This year we have tired to soak up every moment and appreciate the small things in life. As the end of September grew close, Eric and I started eagerly planning the upcoming holiday season. Since the holidays are kinda our thing, we knew we wanted to celebrate with our usual festivities, like our annual 31 Days of Halloween Movies and hosting a pumpkin carving party for friends, but we also wanted to add a few new traditions.

I remembered the excitement of getting “BOOed” and wanted to bring this fun to some of our friends and family. But since we don't have any kiddos to take Trick-or-Treating (just yet), I thought I would pamper my sweet pup and get him already for Howl-oween! Since I have several friends with “four legged children,” as well, I thought they would appreciate if I remembered their doggies too!

To get started I created some fun printables (that you can download and print too!) and headed to Kroger to grab some pet treats and dog costumes. Not only did Kroger have a variety of dog treats (including MilkBone, Milo's Kitchen, Pup-peroni and Canine Carry Outs) if you go to you can take a quiz to find out your pet's Halloween personality, create a custom digital Halloween pet photo frame and score valuable dog treat coupons!

I then created, printed and cut out the special dog treat printables, including a special dog version of the “BOO” poem and instructions. You could simply share some dog treats or create a fun dog themed gift pack, filling a dog bowl with treats, a Halloween bandanna or pet costume and dog toys! I seriously can't contain all my excitement for all the Halloween... err should I say Howl-oween, fun!

How to you pamper your pet? Do they participate in the Halloween festivities?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Apple Pie Smoothie

Apple pie is an All-American dessert and a popular fall treat! This smoothie recipe is a tasty and healthy breakfast or post work-out snack inspired by those delicious apple pie flavors!

I have been eagerly awaiting the cooler fall weather. Yes, this is despite the weeks and weeks were I went on and on about how I didn't want summer to end back in August and early September... you know when the rest of the world was all hyped up for fall.

But then in mid-September we had a few rainy, cooler days and instantly that fall giddiness swept over me like a monsoon and I have not been able to shake it since. Now don't think that this Texas girl is oblivious to reality. Having spent most of my life living in this great land, among tumbleweeds, cowboys, Republicans, football fanatics, a few musicians and hippies too, I know the wild ride that Mother nature puts Texas residents on. One September day it will be cool and rainy and the next, a sunny, 90 something degree 'so-called' fall day!

That's why, although I would love to dive face first into all the pumpkin spice lattes in all the land; here in Texas we still need a few refreshing cold drinks, with fall flavors of course, to get us through the ups and downs, err should I say highs and lows, of the Texas 'fall' weather!

Today's apple recipe is a healthy, drinkable twist on a favorite All-American dessert, the coveted apple pie! It is my solution to the finicky Texas fall weather and is a way for me to eat pie everyday! This Apple Pie Smoothie is full of apples, warm apple pie spices, maple syrup and all the the things I love in a good crumb topping. It is totally like drinking apple pie a la mode! Oh, and in case you were wondering, yesterday (when I started writing this post) was one of those scorching (95 degree) fall days. A mere 24 hours later, it is cool and pleasant and only expected to reach around 85 degrees later this afternoon (which is still warm but much more pleasant)!

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Smoked Brisket
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Pie Toast
Three Years Ago: Easy Caramel Apple Pork Chops
Four Years Ago: Breakfast Stuffing
Five Years Ago: Cookbook Review: Emeril at the Grill

Apple Pie Smoothie 
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Serves: 1

A healthy twist on a favorite all-American dessert. 

1 Honeycrisp, Pink Lady or Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or all-natural apple juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/3 cup rolled oats
5-6 whole walnuts
4-5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a high power blender and blend until smooth. Add additional milk or ice to reach desired constancy. Serve immediately topped with additional cinnamon, if desired.

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Jack-o-lantern Smoothie (a.k.a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie)
Sour Apple Creamy Green Smoothie
Casper the Friendly Ghost Smoothie (a.k.a Very Vanilla Smoothie)
Apple Spice Flavored Water
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Protein Shake

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon

Not a fan of Brussels sprouts? Give them a second chance and try these Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon. These crispy, caramelized Brussels sprouts tossed with sweet apples and smokey bacon will surely become a fall favorite! 

When I first started blogging I had absolutely no direction. I just blogged whatever (as long as it had something to do with food), whenever I could. After about the first year I finally started finding my voice and was a little bit more focused. I had grand ideas of posting on a regular schedule and had special features I wanted to start.

Slowly these ideas started to become a reality. I found time to post regularly, posting 3-5 times a week. I started my cookbook of the month series which transformed into a magazine and website of the month series. I had a blogger spotlight series call “Bites with Bloggers” and did recipe round ups. I also had blog posts were I shared cooking basic 'how-tows” and shared “crafty concoctions”. I have spotlighted many different seasonal ingredients and shared a “foodie field trip” or two. Not to mention the hundreds of recipes I have shared all along the way!

Of course the main purpose of this blog has always been to share my old family recipes as well as the adventures (and sometimes misadventures) as I learn and try new recipes and cooking techniques. I have always loved it all. Simply sharing recipes and stories to all the special features. But this is a one woman show and blogging, every little detail that is involved in the process, is a lot of work. A work, of course, that I love!

And the last two years I feel like I have been more busy than ever. With life. With the couple of contract jobs that are my main source of income. With trying to balance it all.

But I have missed all those special things. I have missed getting a new cookbook and pouring over it and analyzing every detail. I have missed reaching out to my fellow bloggers and sharing their story. And I have especially missed my 'theme weeks,” where I pick an ingredient or holiday or cooking technique and highlight it by featuring it in a series of blog posts (mostly recipes, but FYI articles and sometimes crafts) for one whole week.

As I try to balance life, work and my passion and love for this blog; I hope to bring back some of those special features that I have always enjoyed sharing.... like those special theme weeks! This week is the first theme week I've had in a long time and it is to highlight my current favorite fall food... apples!

Yesterday, I shared a quick, easy, (almost) all-in-one slow cooker meal. I say almost, because while that recipe has pork loin, apples and sweet potatoes; I strive to have some sort of green veg or salad with every meal. These Brussels sprouts have become our new go to side dish. Yes! Brussels sprouts are our current favorite vegetable! With the addition of bacon and apples all roasted to perfect... I dare all you Brussels sprout haters to give these a try!

One Year Ago: Pina Colada Granola
Two Years Ago: Sour Apple Popsicles 
Three Years Ago: Pineapple Crush Smoothie
Four Years Ago: Georgia Peach Tea
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Chipotle Brownies

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15-20 minutes Serves: 4

Crispy, caramelized Brussels sprouts tossed with sweet apples and smokey bacon.

5 strips of bacon
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 large Granny Smith, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Cameo or Johnny Gold apple, diced
¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Chop raw bacon into bite sized pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease from skillet. Return skillet to burner and add Brussels sprouts and apples. Cook Brussels sprouts and apples for 1-2 minutes over medium-high heat. Transfer Brussels sprouts and apples to prepared baking sheet and season with salt and black pepper. 

Roast Brussels sprouts and apples in preheated 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately topped with crispy bacon.

Serving suggestions: Since Brussels sprouts are in season in the fall and winter months, they would complement this Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes or Brown Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese perfectly.

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Easy Creole Potato Salad
Kale Salad with Creamy Anchovy Dressing
Raw Cauliflower Couscous
Braised Peas and Green Onions
Green Bean Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts and Feta

Monday, September 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media® and Smithfield, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade #SmithfieldAllNatural 

This sweet and savory slow cooker dinner is made with festive seasonal flavors of fall including apples, sweet potatoes and pork.

Whoa! I cannot believe that it is already the end of September! I used to say I would never comment about how quickly time passed or say to a young child “when did you grow up?” because well, time does go by so quickly and unfortunately to many parents disbelief children do grow up. But as I get older, I am more and more amazed, with every flip of the calendar page and passing season, just how quickly time really does go by. And even though time passes by more quickly than I would like, I feel like with each day I grow, learn and embrace life; a phrase, which I realize, makes me seem much older than I really am! Smile.

By now, with it being the end of September, and a month (or more) well into the new school year; I am sure we are all readjusting from the lazy days of summer and settling into our “back to school” routines. While back to school schedules vary from family to family, I can confidently say that it means a busy time for most.

From early mornings to after school PTA meetings, soccer practice, choir concerts and upcoming holidays, filled with fun seasonal festivities; life is full in more ways than one! For us, back to school means I am back in the classroom teaching culinary arts to eager young minds and sophisticated adults. And for Eric, it means after years (and years) of working and going to school full time, he is finally in the homestretch!

It also means we are going non-stop and often in opposite directions. If you follow me on social media, you might have noticed a common trend with my updates. “Busy day means I am throwing this in the crock-pot now so I don't have to worry about dinner later!” then linking to one of our favorite, go-to crock-pot recipes. As much as I love to get in the kitchen, and mix and chop and taste; the truth is, that often crazy back to school schedules mean I rely heavily on my crock-pot to help me crank out dinners we can actually sit down and enjoy together!

My latest crock-pot concoction? A hearty (almost all-in-one) meal that highlights some of those delicious seasonal flavors of fall! Not only is this simple slow cooker meal perfect for your busy back to school routine, it is loaded with apples, sweet potatoes and a succulent Smithfield All Natural Pork Tenderloin, all conveniently available at my local Randall’s store. For me, I love the way apples and pork perfectly complement each other, so combining them was a no brainer. Since this recipe makes a tasty, flavorful sauce I was this close (insert finger quotes) to making mashed sweet potatoes to serve with it. And while that would have been amazing, hello, the whole point of cooking with my slow cooker is so I don't have to put so much effort into the dinner hour! Adding the potatoes directly to the slow cooker was a huge time saver (and cut down on the amount of dirty dishes!) and still yielded a fantastic meal! This crock-pot dinner is almost complete as is, serve with a simple green salad or roasted Brussels sprouts, like we did, and bam! dinner is done!

Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes 
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 25-30 minutes Cook Time: 4 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low Serves: 4

A sweet and savory slow cooker dinner with apples, sweet potatoes and pork. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (2-3 pound) Smithfield All Natural Pork Tenderloin
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 small onion, diced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1-inch pieces
2 large Granny Smith, Cameo or Johnny Gold apples, diced
1 cup apple juice
½ cup apple jelly
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut pork loin in half, if needed to fit in slow cooker. Season pork with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Add pork loin to skillet and brown on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer pork loin to a plate and set aside.

Place diced onion, sweet potatoes and apples into the bottom of a large slow cooker. Place browned pork loin on top of apples and sweet potatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together apple juice, apple jelly, mustard, apple cider vinegar, spices and dried herbs. Season to taste with remaining salt and black pepper. Pour apple juice mixture over pork loin in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.

Make this Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes and bring dinner back to the kitchen table on a busy school night! Grab this $1 off Smithfield All Natural Pork Products (while supplies last) available through the Safeway Just4U online portal and get slow cookin'! For more information about Smithfield All Natural Pork products, available at Safeway family stores (including Tom Thumb, Randall’s, or Genuardi), visit Smithfield online or on Facebook!
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