Friday, October 28, 2022

Fall Flavors: Harvest Spinach Salad

My Harvest Spinach Salad is loaded with fall favorites like butternut squash, chopped apples, pecans, cranberries and couscous.  It's the perfect side salad this fall.

Harvest Spinach Salad

I have the perfect side salad that's easy to make and has all the fall flavors.  It has no fuss ingredients you crave:  chopped apples, pecans, dried cranberries, roasted butternut squash, couscous, and spinach.  Plus it's all doused with with an apple cider vinaigrette.  

Here are some occasions that this salad would be perfect for:

  • Side Salad with weekday dinners
  • fall picnic
  • entertaining friends
  • Friendsgiving 
  • Thanksgiving 

There is a little prep work to roast the butternut squash and cooking the couscous,  however, you can use leftovers if you have them, or cook them on the weekend and store them until ready to use during the week.  The salad has it all going on, flavors, crunch, savory, and sweet.  This is one heck of a salad!

What Ingredients do I need?

Butternut squash 
Baby spinach

Nuts and Dried Fruit
Dried Cranberries

Israeli couscous

Pantry Items
Olive Oil
Apple Cider Vinegar
Dijon Mustard
Garlic cloves

Substitutions and Variations

  • Change up the salad greens:  Use any dark leafy green such as kale, red leaf lettuce, arugula, or swiss chard
  • Try a different squash: Use roasted acorn or kabocha squash. Or go with roasted sweet potatoes
  • Change up the fruit:  Pears would be a great substitute
  • Any nut will work:  Think pepitas or pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds - or go nut free
  • Change up the dried fruit:  go with raisins, golden raisins, dried cherries, or even apricots
  • Try a different grain:  bulgur, farro, or quinoa would all be great choices

Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Butternut squash can be bought pre-cut in to cubes in the produce section
  • Apples come in many varieties:  try Gala, Jazz, or Golden Delicious
  • Israeli couscous aka pearl couscous are the larger balls of semolina.  Moroccan and North African dishes contain the more popular small couscous.  This is actually a pasta and not a grain. 
  • Make Ahead:  batch cook your couscous and roast your butternut squash on the weekend and then refrigerate until you make the salad during the week.

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Harvest Spinach Salad

serves 2

4 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked Israeli couscous, cooked according to package directions (1/2 cup dry couscous)
1 - 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, chopped
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1/3 cup pecans
3 Tablespoons dried cranberries

1/4 olive oil
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic, minced
pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Add your chopped and cubed butternut squash to a baking sheet and drizzle with some olive oil.  Bake about 30 minutes until golden brown and soft.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile cook your Israeli couscous according to the package directions in a pot on the stove.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Make dressing:  in a small bowl or mason jar add all the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk or shake vigoursly until well combined.

To assemble salad:  In a medium bowl add spinach, apple, butternut squash, couscous, pecans, and cranberries.  Drizzle with salad dressing and toss to coat.  Serve.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Fall Flavors: Mom's Pumpkin Dump Cake - Family Size

There isn't an easier cake to make than a "dump cake" and my mom's Pumpkin Dump Cake will remind you of eating pumpkin pie with a cobbler topping.  

Mom's Pumpkin Dump Cake - Family Size

The ever so popular "Dump Cake" has made a comeback in recent years.  I was digging through my mom's old had written recipes the other day when I came across her Pumpkin Dump Cake.  I remember her making dump cakes way back when....(I'm not going to date myself and tell exactly how many decades ago that was!) and to tell you the truth I haven't made one in ages myself.  Her recipe is for an 8x8 square pan.  Most dump cake are very large in a 9x13, but this one is just right, family style.  You won't have cake around for days and in my book that is a good thing.

I've got to say, this has to be the easiest way to make a cake, other than just using a box.  But's it's better than the box, trust me.  You create this pumpkin base that's spiced just right and then layer on some yellow box cake mix, chopped pecans, and melted butter.  In the oven it goes and out comes a dessert that is like pumpkin pie on the bottom (no crust though) with a cake-ish crunchy topping similar to a cobbler.  Eating this warm with a little whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream is HEAVEN!


What Ingredients do I need?

  • Pumpkin puree – For this recipe, you want regular canned pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling.
  • Evaporated milk 
  • Brown and White sugar 
  • Eggs  
  • Pumpkin Pie spice – See below for my recipe if you want to make your own blend.
  • Salt 
  • Yellow cake mix (any boxed variety)
  • Butter 
  • Pecans
  • Whipped cream (for serving) 

Substitutions and Variations

  • Try a different flavored cake mix. Try white, spiced cake, or butter pecan. All would work well.
  • Skip the nuts. Not a fan of pecans? While I love the crunch nuts add to the topping, you can easily leave them out if desired.
  • Change up the toppings. Try chocolate chips or chocolate shavings on the top.

Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • You can get away with using one bowl for this cake, although I have been know to mix up the pumpkin batter directly in my baking pan!
  • Make sure that the middle of the cake is "set" and not jiggly.  
  • If you cake is browinging too quickly before the middle is set, cover with aluminum foil.
  • Make sure to wait at least 20 minutes for the cake to cool and the filling to set up before cutting.
  • Keep leftovers in the refrigerator as you would a pie.

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Mom's Pumpkin Dump Cake

Family size 8x8 - serves 6-8

15 oz can pumpkin purée
6 oz or 3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 of a 1 box yellow cake mix
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1 stick or 1/2 cup butter, melted
whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8x8 pan with nonstick spray.

Combine the pumpkin purée, evaporated milk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin spice, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the pumpkin mixture into your cake pan. Sprinkle 1/2 of the package of  cake mix (eyeball it).  The pumpkin should be completely covered.  Sprinkle pecans over the top of the and then drizzle the melted butter over the cake mix.  

Bake for 40-50 until golden brown and the center of the cake looks set.  If you stick a toothpick in the cake portion there should be little to no crumbs on the toothpick when you remove it.   Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Let cool for a 20-30 minutes to set.  Serve with some whipped cream if desired.  

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Easy Fall Weeknight Meals: Piri Piri Turkey Meatballs with Shepherd Salad

Using flavors from the famous Portuguese Piri Piri sauce my Piri Piri Turkey Meatballs with Shepherd Salad is a weeknight wonder!

Piri Piri Turkey Meatballs with Shepherd Salad

I used to never make meatballs until I found out how simple they are and how creative with flavors you can get.  What is Piri Piri anyway?  It's a spice or sauce the Portuguese use in dishes that is a wonderfully fiery mix of red chilies and spices with citrusy notes.  This one is for all my spicy lovers!  This dish has a little bit of heat, but tastes so good.

The meatballs are made with a healthier ground turkey and are broiled.  They is served with a simple salad of cucumber and cherry tomatoes, along with a flavored yogurt.  Serve over rice and some pita on the side and you have one great meal!


What Ingredients do I need?

  • ground turkey
  • egg
  • fresh pita bread
  • piri piri spice blend - I use this one
  • roasted vegetable pesto
  • greek yogurt
  • cucumber
  • cherry tomatoes
  • garlic
  • cilantro
  • red wine vinegar

Substitutions and Variations

  • Use ground beef, chicken, or lamb if you prefer
  • Use roasted red pepper pesto instead
  • Serve with roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes, instead of rice

Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • You will use a small part of the pitas to make a panade.  This is a combination of bread and egg that will be folded in to the ground meat, keeping it moist and tender.
  • The salad and yogurt sauce can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator.
  • Broilers vary, so watch the meatballs and the pita closely when cooking them under the broiler.
  • Make sure to use an oven safe skillet when you broil the meatballs.  Cast iron is perfect for this use.

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Piri Piri Turkey Meatballs with Shepard Salad

serves 4

1 lb ground turkey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Piri Piri spice, divided use
1/3 cup roasted vegetable pesto
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 pitas
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large clove garlic, minced, divided use
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped, divided use
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

In a medium bowl, combine vinegar and 2 tablespoons oil.  Add peppers,  cucumbers, and a pinch each salt and pepper; toss to combine. Let stand, stirring occasionally.

Preheat broiler with top rack 6 inches from heat source.  Cut each pita in half, then cut a 1-inch thick strip from two of the cut sides of the halves.  Finely chop the pita strips.  In a medium bowl, combine the egg and chopped pitas, mashing with a fork to combine.  Add turkey, salt½ teaspoon of the piri piri seasoning¼ teaspoon of the chopped garlic, and a 1/4 teaspoon pepper; stir to combine.  Shape into meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each).

Transfer meatballs to a medium ovenproof skillet. (I used a cast iron skillet)  Broil meatballs on the top oven rack until browned, 4–8 minutes (watch closely, as broilers vary). 

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine roasted vegetable pesto⅔ of the cilantro, and ½ teaspoon of piri piri seasoning

When meatballs are browned, spoon sauce over meatballs.  Broil on top rack until sauce is warm, 1–2 minutes more.

Brush reserved pitas all over with oil. Broil directly on top oven rack until lightly browned, 1 minutes (watch closely). Remove pitas to a cutting board, and slice into wedges.

In a small bowl, stir together yogurtremaining chopped garlic1 tablespoon water, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Stir remaining cilantro into the salad.  Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle meatballs and sauce with olive oil.  Serve meatballs over hot cooked rice if desired, top with a dollop of yogurt,  salad and pita wedges on the side.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin Pie Hawaiian Rolls French Toast

This scrumptious Pumpkin Pie Hawaiian Rolls French Toast is a simple yet decadent treat for Fall!

Pumpkin Pie Hawaiian Rolls French Toast

It's time to explore the flavor's of fall!  Who doesn't love apple, maple, pumpkin, or caramel?  Today we are taking the flavors of pumpkin pie and kicking it up a notch by making a decadent breakfast.  As if Hawaiian sweet rolls weren't good enough by themselves we had to go and make French toast out of them.  One step better...let's make Pumpkin Pie Hawaiian Rolls French ToastWhat?

These are so simple to make and yet they make the tastiest treats for breakfast, or a late dinner.  Buy yourself some Hawaiian sweet rolls just before you want to cook this (day old is best) and grab that jar of pumpkin pie spice and can of pumpkin puree stashed the pantry.  The rest of the ingredients you may already have.  

It's as simple as mixing up the batter/custard, dipping and frying it up in a pan.  You will have a wonderful fall flavored breakfast on the table in no time.  It's sure to be a winner with the whole family.


What Ingredients do I need?

  • King's Hawaiian Original Sweet Rolls (12 count)
  • half and half
  • eggs
  • pumpkin puree
  • brown sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • sugar

Substitutions and Variations

  • Use King's Original Sliced Hawaiian Bread for a more traditional looking French toast.
  • Use cream for extra richness, or whole milk in the custard mix. Try to avoid thin skim milks.

Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • The ideal French toast is browned and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  Not much goes in to making this so ingredients are important.  Quality eggs, use half-and-half if possible for its richness.  Whole milk is a good substitute but try to avoid thin skim milk.  
  • Does your bread need to be stale?  Bottom line is It’s not the end of the world if your bread is fresh, but a slightly stale loaf is preferable.
  • To avoid a mess, set up the pan with the soaking bread as close to your stove as possible to avoid drips when transferring them to the skillet or griddle.
  • Keep a baking sheet or platter nearby to easily transfer the cooked toast to.
  • Use a mix of butter and oil  The oil helps to slow down the browning of the butter, the French toast has time to cook evenly without burning.

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Pumpkin Pie Hawaiian Rolls French Toast

serves 4

1 package of King's Hawaiian Original Sweet Rolls (12 count)
3/4 cup half and half
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Toppings: powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar, maple syrup, whipped cream

In a medium bowl add the half and half, eggs, pumpkin puree brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon.  Whisk together until combined.

Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium to medium-low heat.  Add butter and a little neutral cooking oil to coat the skillet.    

Dip the Hawaiian rolls in the custard mix, covering all sides, and allowing any excess to fall off.  Place in the heated pan.  Repeat with a few more rolls.  Cook the rolls on each side until they are golden brown and a little crispy.  You will be flipping these about 6 times to cook all sides of the roll.  Remove from the pan and place on a rack and keep warm.  Repeat with the remaining rolls.

Mix 2 Tablespoons of sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in a little bowl.  Sprinkle the cooked rolls with cinnamon and sugar, and serve with your favorite toppings.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Oven Baked Hot Honey Chicken Tenders over Siam Salad

This healthier version of Nashville hot chicken is paired with a delectable Asian salad to create a Southern-Asian fusion that will knock your socks off!

Oven Baked Hot Honey Chicken Tenders over Siam Salad

Do you like fusion food?  Well today we are mixing good ole' Southern fried chicken and Asian salad.  That's 2 recipes coming your way today! It's a winning combination that the whole family will love.  

This chicken is actually healthier than "fried" chicken as it is baked in the oven.  What really takes this chicken up a notch is the hot, spicy honey that you drizzle over the top.  The taste is killer!

The Siam Salad, is a Thai style salad with lots of flavors and textures.  A little sweet, a little heat, and some crunch.  It's the perfect base for the chicken.  This is a flavor packed dish that is great for lunch, dinner, or entertaining!


What Ingredients do I need?


  • honey
  • red chili flakes
  • chicken breast - boneless, skinless
  • eggs
  • panko bread crumbs
  • spices - garlic powder and cayenne pepper


  • Napa cabbage
  • red cabbage
  • cucumber
  • fresh herbs - mint, cilantro, and basil
  • green onion
  • mandarin oranges - 1 8 oz can
  • peanuts
  • avocado


  • rice wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Thai sweet red chili sauce
  • soy sauce
  • fresh limes 
  • honey
  • sesame oil
  • sriracha sauce
  • ginger paste

Substitutions and Variations

  • Use chicken tenders or whole chicken thighs or breasts
  • Serve the chicken with mashed potatoes and biscuits instead of salad
  • Add carrots to the salad
  • Use your own or a store bought Asian dressing

Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Although the salad and dressing seem to have a lot of ingredients it comes together quickly.
  • Set up a dredging station with 2 pans side by side, next to your baking sheet.  One holding the beaten eggs, and the other the panko.  This creates an assembly line and breading becomes as easy task.  1) egg dip 2) panko dip 3) place on the baking sheet.

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Oven Baked Hot Honey Chicken Tenders

serves 4

1 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into long tender sized pieces
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoon olive oil

In a small saucepan whisk together the honey and red chili flakes.  Set aside for later

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place a long wire cooling rack over the top of the pan.  

In a shallow bowl or pan whisk together eggs and set aside.  In another bowl add the panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and olive oil.  Mix together until crumbs are coated evenly with olive oil.

Dip the chicken pieces in to the eggs and then dredge through the panko mixture.  Place on the baking tray with the wire rack.  Continue breading the chicken pieces and making sure that you leave a 2 inch space between pieces on the rack.  

Place in the oven and back for 15 minutes.  Flip the chicken pieces over and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Meanwhile heat up honey mixture over a low heat.  Plate the chicken over the Siam Salad if desired and drizzle with hot honey.  Serve additional honey in a small bowl for dipping.

Siam Salad

serves 4


2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons Thai sweet red chili sauce
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon ginger paste


1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced in half moons
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup basil, torn
2 green onion, green and white parts sliced
8 oz of mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cut in to chunks

In a small bowl or a mason jar add the dressing ingredients and whisk or shake until well combined.  

In a bowl toss together Napa cabbage, red cabbage, cucumber, mint, cilantro, basil, and green onions.  Add some of the dressing and toss to coat.  Transfer salad to a platter.  Top with mandarin oranges, and sprinkle on the peanuts and avocado.  Top salad with Oven Baked Hot Honey Chicken Tenders if desired.  (Serve with additional dressing on the side)

adapted from:  Everyday Entertaining cookbook

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Transition to Fall: Caribbean Style Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa

This easy to prepare Caribbean Style Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa is bursting with flavors and colors.   It's the perfect dish to transition into fall cooking.

Caribbean Style Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa

As we roll into October the weather in Los Angeles is still quite warm, but there is a noticeable difference in the air, and the evenings are getting cooler.  It's time to transition our cooking methods and flavors toward fall.

Portk Tenderloin is a protein that is the perfect base for all types of spices. We'll start by using Jerk seasoning to give it some zesty flavor, and then topping it with a peach salsa using late summer ripe peaches.   This gives the dish a bold fruity yet spicy topping that goes perfectly with the pork.

If you haven't cooked a pork tenderloin, don't let that scare you.  It's actually very easy to prepare with a quick sear and a little oven action.  You will wonder why you haven't cooked ir before.  


What Ingredients do I need?

  • Pork tenderloin
  • Caribbean jerk seasoning
  • Fresh peaches
  • Red bell pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Red onion
  • Garlic
  • Cilantro
  • Limes
  • Olive oil

Substitutions and Variations

  • Change out the peaches for another fruit such as mango, pineapple, or nectarine
  • Try a Mexican style dish by using chili lime seasoning on the pork and pico de gallo as the salsa topping

Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Don't forget to trim the silver skin off the pork tenderloin.This piece is tough and chewey and doesn't melt in cooking like fat does and you should remove it before cooking. Here's a how to video.
  • Take the pork tenderloin out of the refrigerator and set it on the counter to come to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Since the pork tenderloin is is so long go ahead and slice it in half for ease of cooking.
  • Make sure to preheat your oven as you will be finishing the pork in the oven.
  • Cooking method:  sear pork in a skillet, finish cooking in the oven.
  • When you sear, leave the meat alone. Don't keep turning it over and over. Allow to brown on one side then turning to the next side. Brown all 4 sides.

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Caribbean Style Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa

serves 3-4

2 large or 3 medium peaches, chopped and peeled 
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Caribbean jerk seasoning
1 pork tenderloin (1 pound)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Remove the silver skin from the pork tenderloin and trim off any unwanted fat.  Season all side with Jerk seasoning. 

In a skillet over medium high heat add oive oil and allow it to get hot. Add the pork tenderloin and sear it until golden brown. Turn the pork and sear the other side.  Turn the pork on it's sides to sear the sides. The pork will not be cooked through at this point.

Place the pork on a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Cook for 6-8 minutes or until an internal temperature of 155 is reached. Remove from the oven to a cutting board and allow to rest 5-6 minutes. 

Meanwhile, In a small bowl combine the first nine ingredients; set aside. 
  1. Slice the pork on a platter and top with salsa. Serve.


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