Chickpea greek pitaOne of my favorite meals to cook for an easy, weeknight dinner is this chicken souvlaki. I’ve recommended it to a few friends and it always receives rave reviews. The flavors are bold with the briny kalamata olives balanced nicely with the cool cucumber sauce.

The other day I gave the recipe a try but instead of chicken I substituted chickpeas. Using (organic) canned chickpeas makes this easy recipe even easier (and a little lighter). I really enjoyed it and not only is it a healthy meal, but an affordable one. You can pick up a can of chickpeas for about $1.50. To all my vegetarian friends, make this! You will love it.
Chickpea greek pitaChickpea Greek pita (recipe adapted via Real Simple)

Ingredients

4 pieces flat bread or pitas
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup crumbled Feta
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I use organic)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 small cucumber, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

Directions

Heat oven to 200° F. Wrap the bread in foil and place in oven.
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, Feta, and olives.

In a large bowl, combine the oregano, thyme, pepper, 1 ½ teaspoons of the vinegar, and the lemon juice. Slowly add 4 tablespoons of the oil, whisking constantly until incorporated.

Pour 2 ½ tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the tomato mixture, toss, and set aside.
Add the chickpeas to the remaining vinaigrette, toss and set aside. If you would like to warm the chickpeas place in a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute. They can also be served at room temperature. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, dill, and the remaining vinegar. Spread the pita with the yogurt sauce and top with chickpeas and tomato salad.

Alternatively, you can heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and heat the chickpeas in a pan for about 5 minutes. They will begin to crisp a bit and heat through. I was lazy and didn’t do this, but may try it the next time I make this dish. 
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Cranberry orange sorbetI made this pretty cranberry orange sherbet for my family’s holiday appetizer party a couple weeks ago. The sherbet was refreshing and had a nice, semi-sweet tartness that balanced the heavy, savory appetizers we had that day.

I’ve never made sherbet before and it was relatively easy. It’s a light dessert and a nice change from all the pies, cookies and cakes that are typically served around the holidays. Cranberry orange sorbetI’m having a bunch of girlfriends over on Saturday for more cookie baking and hanging out. I am going to whip up another batch of this sherbet and see how it tastes dropped into a glass of champagne. Best idea ever?

Cranberry orange sherbet (recipe via The Vintage Mixer)
Ingredients
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 ounces)
1 ½ cups of orange Juice
1 cup water
½ to ¾ cup sugar 
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Pinch of salt
2.5 teaspoons gelatin or 1 packet (I use Great Lakes Unflavored gelatin. Gelatin can be found in the baking aisle of your grocery store) 
1 extra large egg white
Instructions

In a medium pot add the cranberries, orange juice, water, sugar, lemon juice, thyme and salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer until all of the cranberry skins pop. Remove the pot from the heat and drain out the liquids through a mesh sieve. Taste the liquid for sweetness and adjust to your palate. 


Chill of the mixture for 20 minutes. While the mixture is cooling mix 3-4 tablespoons of the juice from the pan with the gelatin and whisk to dissolve the powder. Once dissolved place the gelatin mixture in a heat safe bowl tall enough to fit in a small pan with a few inches of simmering water (or you can use a double boiler). Whisk the mixture until it is transparent.

When finished with the gelatin, place the cranberry mixture in a blender or food processor and turn on. Through the top of the processor, pour in the gelatin and the egg white. Blend for a minute. Place in a container and freeze overnight.
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Oreo peppermint crunch cookiesThis cookie is yummy. Basically it’s Christmas in a cookie. Pepperminty. Chocolately. Soft. I am a sucker for a soft cookie. I am definitely adding it to my annual holiday cookie baking list for many years to come.

When I first tried this cookie at the baking party on Sunday I wasn’t blown away by it. But then I had one yesterday and I thought it was awesome. Turns out no cookie tastes that great after you’ve tried 8 different cookies and are beyond full and sugared out. Have I mentioned that I’m supposed to be on Weights Watchers? Yeah that’s working out really well.

Anyway.

In addition to these oreo peppermint crunch cookies the gals and I also made:

Gingersnaps
Farmhouse chocolate mint cookies (my sister in law, Nikki, makes these every year and they are amazing)
Russian tea cake cookies
Coconut macaroons
M&M cookies
Puppy chow
Peanut butter blossoms
White chocolate cranberry cookies
Pretzel M&Ms

I’m probably missing a few. Needless to say we each had plenty of cookies to take home.

Oreo peppermint crunch cookies (recipe via Inside BruCrew Life)


Ingredients
1 white cake mix
1 stick butter, melted (8 Tbsp.)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup Oreo cookie chunks
1 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch pieces
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

Combine the cake mix, melted butter, egg, and extracts. Beat until well combined. Add the cream cheese and beat in gently until combined. Stir in the peppermint crunch pieces and chocolate chips. Then stir in the cookie pieces with a spatula. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 36 balls. Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 9 minutes. Be sure to take them out right at 9 minutes. They are meant to be very soft cookies. 

Leave them on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes. Remove the cookies onto a cooling rack. Store in a sealed container. 

Or devour all 36 cookies immediately. Your choice. 
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Cranberry goat cheese canapesSunday was my family’s third annual holiday cookie baking party. This year we baked at my sister-in-law and brother’s house because they have 2 ovens. Even with 2 ovens we were still waiting in line for the next open spot.

I love our cookie baking parties. All the ladies in my family get together to bake and the guys get together and eat chicken wings and watch sports. If any of the guys wanted to bake they would be more than welcome to join us, but so far we’ve had no takers.

Our cookie baking party always starts off pretty chaotic. The ingredients crowd the kitchen, mixers are whirling, toddlers are running around. But I love this day. We end up with tons of cookies to take home and always have a lot of fun, despite the chaos.

This year we each brought an appetizer to share and I brought these cranberry-goat cheese canapes. Ever since my sis-in-law made this cranberry cream cheese dip I’ve been crazy over any recipe with cranberries.

This app was super good but I was missing a key ingredient that would have made it a thousand times better, cilantro. I actually had cilantro but when I went to use it I realized it had started to go bad. And since it was freezing and snowing yesterday I didn’t feel like going back to the grocery store for more. The cilantro would have added a brightness, a freshness that would have been awesome as well as pretty green flecks to make this appetizer the quintessential holiday app (the jalapeno gives the dish a hint of spiciness. Delicious).

Cranberry-goat cheese canapes (recipe via Southern Living)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. minced fresh jalapeno pepper (about 1/2 of a jalapeno)
3/4 tsp. grated fresh ginger
Baguette (or other canape bread), sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 5.3 oz container spreadable goat cheese (or a plain goat cheese log at room temperature)

Preparation

1. Stir together first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Spread each baguette piece with goat cheese, and top with a small spoonful of cranberry mixture.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a holiday cookie recipe from our baking party. Happy Monday!

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Holiday appetizer partyMy family gathered for a holiday appetizer party a couple weekends ago. Instead of sitting down to a full dinner, we mingled and ate apps the entire time. It was awesome. My family is big on appetizers and always tend to fill up and then get too full after the meal. An appetizer party is the perfect solution.

I’ve written a couple posts on my recent experience with Aldi. I’ve continued shopping at Aldi the past couple of months and have totally incorporated it into my weekly routine. There is no doubt it saves money and I completely love their organic selection and organic prices.

Be sure to read to the bottom of this post because I am giving away a $50 Aldi gift certificate. And believe me, $50 goes a long way at Aldi.

I shopped at Aldi for the holiday appetizer party for my family and was pumped to see a ton of awesome holiday entertaining-style food options. And for really great prices.

I set up a pretty little table just for the occasion.

Holiday appetizer partyAldi had cranberries for .99 cents a bag. I use cranberries for so many things over the holidays; decorating, drink embellishments and cooking. They are so versatile and with the right dish, taste awesome.  Holiday appetizer partyAldi has a great variety of cheese. I purchased a double creme brie ($2.99), havarti ($2.99) and an herb goat cheese ($1.69). I added crackers for just $1.49. A cheese platter is a great party appetizer because it’s always a crowd favorite and requires minimal effort from the host/hostess.
Holiday appetizer partyMy sister-in-law brought a cranberry cream cheese dip and it was the hit of the party. I had no idea how amazing cranberries taste paired with cilantro, jalapenos and cream cheese. It’s the perfect combination of flavors from salty to sweet to tart plus a hint of spicy.  I’m going to make this for my next gathering with friends.  Holiday appetizer partyWe gathered on a Sunday evening so we opted for sparkling juice ($2.49 per bottle).  Holiday appetizer party Holiday appetizer partyI made these green bean casserole quiche bites from this recipe on Aldi’s site. These were very popular with my family and a nice departure from the traditional casserole. I’m not usually a big fan of cream of mushroom soups from the can but for the holidays I make an exception. This is an awesome holiday appetizer.

My sister Katie brought mashed potatoes in a huge crockpot. We had a mashed potato bar with all the fixings (cheese, sour cream, bacon). You can never go wrong with potatoes of any kind, in my opinion.
Holiday appetizer partyI made amazing turkey meatballs. They were seriously the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Instead of the Italian seasonings the recipe calls for, I substituted rosemary, thyme and sage (2 teaspoons of each). The meatballs tasted like little bites of Thanksgiving. I served these with a small roll and gravy so people could build turkey meatball sandwiches. My brother’s fiance brought stuffed mushrooms. They were tasty and I was glad we had leftovers the next day.

I loved hosting this appetizer party and I think it may be a new tradition. When done potluck style it can be a stress-free party to host. And when getting the items from Aldi, it can be a very affordable party.

Do you want to check out Aldi or are you already a loyal shopper? Either way, be sure to enter to win a $50 Aldi gift certificate. The giveaway will be live for a week and I’ll announce the winner on December 12th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure – I am participating in a sponsored brand ambassadorship with ALDI. As always, all opinions are my own.

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healthy shrimp pastaThis recipe isn’t exactly a winter appropriate dish, but I made it regardless and enjoyed it very much. It came highly recommended from my friend Emily, who always has the best recipes saved from her monthly consumption of epicurean magazines. And in the spirit of lighter recipes post Thanksgiving, this qualifies nicely.

When I make this dish again, I will substitute plain yogurt, or greek yogurt, for the mayonnaise. I liked it with mayo, but I’d like to try it with yogurt to make the dish even lighter. This made a great dinner for Erik, Juliet and I and it was also great leftovers to take to lunch. In addition to dinner, this would be the perfect dish to bring to a summer BBQ. That’s hard to imagine right now as we are facing a winter storm here in MN, but it’s just 6 months away right?

Pasta with peas, shrimp and buttermilk-herb dressing (recipe adapted via My Recipes)

Ingredients

8 ounces uncooked pasta (any noodle works)

  • 1 cup frozen green peas (can substitute edamame for peas)
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, cooked (I buy already cooked shrimp to keep things easier)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (or try plain yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup fat-free buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (I used dried, about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • garlic cloves, minced

  • Preparation
  • 1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Add peas last 2 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and drain.
  • 2. Combine pasta mixture, shrimp and radishes in a large bowl. Combine mayonnaise, buttermilk and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Pour over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature, or cover and chill until ready to serve. 

  • Note, since the garlic is raw, I found it a bit overpowering, so next time I will cut the amount of garlic in half.
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