Sausage, Spinach, & Butternut Squash Soup

I’m a fan of all things with butternut squash. It is such “buttery” and “nutty” autumn vegetable. The name truly does describe its flavor profile. It can be used in so many different ways, and I love it about just as much as I love pumpkin when the seasons change from summer to fall. When I found this recipe, It seemed absolutely perfect for an easy weeknight dinner, on an evening where the weather may be a bit chillier. I made this when I was hoping for cooler weather, since south Texas has decided to boycott fall and every day has been 90°. Here’s to hoping for cool days and warm and soulful meals in the coming months *fingers crossed*. As for this dish, it’s great no matter the weather and truly may have ranked itself as one of the best soups I’ve ever made!

Ingredients

  • 1# spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups butternut squash peeled and cut in ½ in. cubes (can use store-bought pre-cut in bag)
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 14 oz cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmigiano reggiano optional garnish *but highly recommended

Instructions

  • Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and coat with a bit of olive oil. Add raw sausage to pot.
  • Brown sausage for 7-8 minutes using a potato masher or wooden spoon to break into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add garlic, diced onion and red pepper to pan (as well as a pinch of salt and pepper) and cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes.
  • When sausage is nicely browned, add broth to pan using a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Raise heat to high then bring soup to a boil. Add butternut squash cubes and cook for 15-20 minutes or until softened.
  • Five minutes before serving, add spinach and beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano if you wish.

Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes

This was absolutely the most fall breakfast I’ve ever had! It was everything I could have hoped for, fluffy, moist, full of spice, and perfectly pumpkin-y! This recipe was so easy and tasty, it honestly may be my favorite pancake recipe I’ve ever tasted. This would be great for entertaining friends and family for a brunch, feeding out-of-town guests during the holidays, and even as an annual fall tradition to make for the kids. I plan to make this again and again considering how much I LOVE THEM! Serve with warm butter, pecans, and your favorite syrup (my sister-in-law, Morgan, gifted us with delicious Bourbon Barrel Aged maple syrup and it was heavenly with these). Happy October!

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 ⅓ cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

  • Combine buttermilk, pumpkin puree, oil, eggs and vanilla in a bowl.
  • Mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl.
  • Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients. Mix just until combined.  Allow to rest about 10 minutes.
  • Preheat a skillet or griddle to medium heat. Grease with butter or oil. Pour ¼ cup batter per pancake and gently spread with the back of a spatula.
  • Cook until lightly browned and the bubbles on top begin to pop. Flip and continue to cook until done. About 4 minutes per side.

Seared Mahi Mahi with Avocado and Red Pepper

This is such a healthy and easy weeknight meal and can also impress your dinner guests! It’s unbelievably fresh and flavorful and can be made in less than 30 minutes, served hot on the table! I’ve made this recipe twice now and it has easily become one of my favorite Mahi Mahi recipes that I will make again and again. The red bell can be changed to different bell peppers if you want different colors!

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup minced red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Mahi Mahi– marinade for 30 mins
  • 4 Mahi Mahi portions, approx 6 oz each
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add sliced red pepper and minced red onion to saute until tender.
  • Toss avocado chunks in lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Set aside.
  • Pan sear the mahi mahi. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mahi mahi and sear undisturbed until well browned on the bottom and the sides are cooked just past halfway up the fillets, about 4 minutes. Flip the fillets and continue to sear until just cooked through and the flesh flakes easily, 2 to 4 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fillets.
  • On a serving plate, place your seared Mahi Mahi fillets, top with the avocado lime mixture, and then finish topping with the sautéed red peppers and onions.
  • Enjoy!

Chocolate Mousse with Berries

This is such an easy recipe and can be modified for any occasion. I made this recipe up when I was looking to take a mousse to a family dinner. It was a crowd pleaser to the MAX! It’s almost embarrassing to admit how easy it is and definitely “semi-homemade”. Enjoy this anytime for a delicious chocolate treat!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Start to beat pudding mix and heavy whipping cream in electric mixer
  • Add in 3-4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa until mousse consistency, about 2 minutes
  • Scoop out mousse mixture into serving bowl, and decorate with assorted berries.
  • Serve cold!

Watermelon Basil Margarita

Watermelon is the epitome of SUMMER! I just love watermelon and making cocktails with it. This recipe is perfect for a summer bbq, you can make a pitcher of it to please all your guests! The flavor of the basil adds just the right amount of herbal flavor to this sweet drink. I have found a new favorite! But be careful… it’s a strong one!

Ingredients (1 serving)

  • 3/4 cup watermelon pieces (cubed)
  • 8 leaves fresh basil
  • 3 ounce silver tequila
  • 1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 3 tbsp triple sec
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Twang-A-Rita Sunrise Spice for the rim

Instructions

  • In a cocktail shaker, add watermelon, basil and a few pieces of ice.  Muddle until watermelon is well juiced and basil is torn.
  • Add agave, triple sec, and lime juice and fill with ice.  Cover and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Rub the edge of the glass with a fresh lime wedge or lightly dip the glass in fresh lime juice.  Dip in chile spice mixture and move glass around to fully coat.
  • Double strain using the cocktail tea strainer into the freshly rimmed glass.  Finish with fresh ice.

Southern Peach Cobbler

It’s peach season in the Texas hill country! I absolutely love fresh peaches and can enjoy them in just about any way. These sweet, juicy, full of nectar little beauties go well in cocktails (like my Hill Country Peach Spritzer I did last season), for pies and cobblers, on top of pancakes and waffles, jams & preserves, accompanied on a charcuterie board for a nice cheese pairing, or just eaten fresh! I am a huge fan of cobblers and pies, as I feel they are such a staple in the south. I grew up on peach cobbler, and wanted to make it for a family BBQ recently. This recipe is easy and is as authentic and comforting as it gets! Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or some whipped cream for the perfect summer (or anytime) dessert!

Ingredients

Peach Filling

  • 8 medium-size fresh peaches peeled and sliced into thin wedges or bite size chunks
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Crust Topping

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter chilled and grated (use cheese grater)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Cinnamon Sugar Topping Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a large baking sheet covered in foil on the lowest rack in the oven. This cobbler overflows a bit almost every time I make it. The baking pan will catch the drips and prevent a mess in the oven.
  • In a large bowl, combine the peaches and the lemon juice and then add the rest of the filling ingredients. Stir to coat and then pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Bake the peach mixture in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. While the peaches are baking, combine the  dry topping ingredients and whisk to combine. Toss the grated butter in the flour mixture. Stir in the boiling water, just until combined, leaving plenty of little lumps of butter.
  • Remove the peaches from the oven and drop the topping over them in spoonfuls. Sprinkle the cobbler topping with the cinnamon sugar topping. Bake until the crust is golden and a toothpick inserted into the crust comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!
  • FREEZER DIRECTIONS: The peach filling can be prepared and frozen in advance. I have frozen it for up to a year without any problems. Combine the peach filling ingredients in a large ziploc bag, press the air out and freeze flat. When you are ready to bake the cobbler, thaw in the refrigerator and then pour into the baking dish and proceed with the recipe.

Grilled Queso Panela With Shrimp and Roasted Tomatillo and Poblano Salsa

I received Tomatillo y Poblano salsa from the Bernard family and needless to say that the entire jar is GONE! It goes well with so many things… the flavor is full and the heat is medium, just right. When I was thinking “outside the jar”, I wanted to make something unique with a flavor profile that reminded me of summer. Shrimp and queso panela were the perfect combo for this simple dish with an impressive presentation. You can make this for a night at home to share, accompanied with fresh warm corn tortillas, or for company to really WOW your crowd. Alternatively, this can be made using homemade tomatillo salsa, however, Bernard’s salsa is absolutely deliciously and I highly recommend checking out their website!

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 12 ounces queso panela, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 6-8 extra large brown gulf shrimp
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-6 tablespoons Tomatillo y Poblano Salsa
  • Corn tortillas, for serving

Instructions

  • Light one bbq pit full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.  Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill cheese slices until browned on both sides, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from grill. *alternatively can be grilled on a well oiled cast iron grill.
  • Toss shrimp in 1 tbsp salsa and 1 tbsp olive oil. In sauté pan, or on your bbq pit, cook shrimp until pink on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Spread a layer of salsa on the bottom of a shallow dish or plate. Nestle cheese in salsa. Add the cooked shrimp on top of cheese. Spoon salsa and cilantro on top and serve immediately with warm tortillas.

Blackberry Mojito

Mojito’s are one of the most refreshing drinks, perfect for a hot day outdoors near the bbq pit. I wanted to make a twist on the classic, involving some type of berry. As I reflected on the flavors of a classic mojito, I thought blackberries would pair well with mint and would yield a sweet flavor without having to add simple syrup. I’m a huge fan of cocktails that use fruit for sweetness, without having to add sugar. Clean, simple and fresh ingredients, and delicious! Cheers!

Ingredients (2 servings)

  • 4 ounces white rum
  • 4 ounces club soda
  • 1 ounce lime juice, or 3 lime wedges
  • 6–7 mint leaves
  • 6-8  blackberries
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup or 1 tablespoon of sugar *optional
  • cup of ice

Instructions

  • In a cocktail shaker, muddle mint leaves, blackberries until pulverized. *add sugar or simple syrup if you are adding it. Add rum and ice and shake for 10 seconds.
  • Pour contents into a glass (no straining) and top with two ounces of club soda. Stir and garnish with mint leaves and blackberry.
  • For different variations, substitute blackberries for raspberries, strawberries, mangos, blueberries, you name it!

Blackened Catfish

One of my favorite weeknight dinners is blackened catfish and pairing it with roasted broccoli or brussel sprouts. I love the flavor of the spicy cayenne, smoky paprika, herbal basil, thyme, and oregano, with savory onion and garlic, all seared to a buttery perfection with light flaky fish. It’s so satisfying and fulfilling, and it’s healthy! I wanted to make my own blackened seasoning instead of using store-bought, and after making this, I will never buy store bought again! It has the perfect ratio of seasonings and spice and just the right amount of salt. This batch recipe yields leftovers, so you can save in a jar for the next time you make it!

I also enjoy learning about the history of certain cuisines and recipes. This one without a doubt has strong cajun/creole roots, a perfect reflection of Louisiana culture! I loved reading about Chef Paul Prudhomme, the original inventor of “blackened” fish. Read more here!

Homemade Blackened Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoon smoked paprika (or use regular paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne powder (use more for a spicier blend)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until they are well combined. Store the seasoning blend in an airtight container. 

Ingredients for Blackened Catfish

  • 2 large catfish fillets
  • 2-3 tbsp homemade blackened seasoning
  • 4 tbsp salted butter
  • 2-4 lemon wedges

Instructions

  • Heat a large cast iron skillet (recommended) or heavy aluminum skillet over high heat for 10 minutes.
  • Coat both sides of fish with spice mixture, using about 1.1.5 tbsp spice mixture for each fillet.
  • Melt butter in skillet, then place the 2 fillets in the hot skillet.
  • Cook until the spices are burned onto the fillets and the catfish is opaque and flaky inside, about 3 minutes per side. 
  • Serve with lemon wedges!

Hot Spinach Dip

This is the biggest crowd pleaser of them all! I made for a party and everyone raved about how delicious it was…if only they knew how easy it was to make! The original recipe has artichoke in it as well, which is optional. I chose to make it without and really enjoyed the consistency. This is definitely my go-to recipe for a hot dip you can enjoy with or without company. Accompanied with a glass of cold white wine, this is the perfect appetizer!

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (9 oz.) baby spinach leaves or 1 box (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, cooked, cooled and squeezed dry
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup real Mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
  • 1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped *Optional
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole, then top with remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until dip is hot.
  • Serve with crostini, soft French or Italian bread, or crackers.