Gingered Sweet Potato Soup with Toasted Coconut and Pecans

I’ve never really been a soup person.  I mean, I’ll enjoy the occasional bowl during the Fall and Winter or a refreshing bowl of gazpacho in the Summer but it’s never been my favorite.

Until recently.

I’m craving soup – I even ordered soup in a restaurant.  (I never do that.)

Maybe it’s all the rain we’ve had recently.  Or maybe it’s because soup is just so darn comforting.

Whatever it is, I’m obsessed.

Gingered Sweet Potato Soup with Toasted Coconut and Pecans is the perfect end to a long work day.  It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and it’s a super thick soup making it hearty and filling.  Even Big Guy adored this bowl of soup.

The soup is made up of onions, sweet potatoes, lots of fresh ginger, vegetable broth, white beans (this is the secret ingredient that made Big Guy think there was cream in the soup!), and some spices:  pepper, salt, cinnamon (I doubled the amount) and red pepper flakes.

On top, toasted coconut and pecans.  The flavors and textures were awesome.

A little kick from the ginger.

Warmth from the cinnamon.

Spice from the red pepper flakes.

Sweetness from the coconut.

Nuttiness from the pecans.

Here are some other soups that have caught my eye recently:

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Fresh New England Clam Chowder with Brown Butter Garlic Croutons

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Coconut-Curry Pumpkin Soup

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Creamy, Light Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Monday’s can be rough.

But what if I told you that you can have creamy, delicious mac ‘n cheese without the guilt?

That would make Monday totally doable.

Macaroni and cheese is such the American comfort food.  Kids and adults alike love this classic dish.

I did a little “research” and found that mac ‘n cheese in the 1800s was a food for high society.  It’s also a dish that started as a casserole – even more reason to throw away the boxed stuff.

The recipe for “macaroni and cheese” first appeared in a cookbook in 1824 called The Virginia Housewife.  And while I’m sure this recipe is oh-so-different (especially with the addition of a secret veggies) I’m quite positive it’s just as dreamy and comforting.

mac and cheese

Here’s how I personalized this recipe:

Instead of fat-free milk, I used about 1/2 cup of 2% that was leftover in my fridge and then the rest was almond milk.

I used gluten-free quinoa noodles.

I also used gluten-free seasoned Panko breadcrumbs.

The end result was heavenly.


Really cheesy.




Everything that mac ‘n cheese should be.

And don’t worry – you can’t taste the butternut squash.



Tailgate Thursday {biscuit bar and more}

I’m back with my biggest tailgate spread yet for 2015!  Last Friday night we hosted a BIG GAME party for the ECU and UConn football game.  I was more than excited to plan out a menu and even took the day off work to make sure I was able to execute the plans as perfectly and seamlessly as possible.


In addition to beer and bubbles, I made two signature cocktails.  One was a vodka based cocktail and the other was bourbon based.

For the Apple Cider Moscow Mules I mixed the ginger-infused vodka and the apple cider in a pitcher.  To serve, fill a copper mug with ice, pour in the vodka-apple cider base and top with ginger beer.  Garnish with a lime slice and a cinnamon stick.

The Shoo-Fly Punch starts with a base of bourbon, ginger liquor, simple syrup, lemon juice and a few shakes of bitters.  To serve, fill a glass with ice, add the bourbon base and top with ginger beer.  Garnish with an orange slice and a sprig of mint.


This was my second time making the Apple Cider Moscow Mules and they’re quite possibly my new favorite fall drink.  Sweet with a little spice and so refreshing.

biscuit bar

As I mentioned on Monday, we had a biscuit bar.  I was incredibly excited about my biscuit bar – especially after I found the perfect biscuits.  I picked up several packs of NC made biscuits at The Butchers Market in Charlotte.  There were several flavors including Cheddar and Honey, Cheddar, and Sweet Potato.  To stuff inside the biscuits – a pimiento cheese and  bourbon candied bacon combination and a country ham and red pepper jelly combo.  Also pictured, bread and butter pickles and pickled jalapenos.  The biscuit bar was a hit, to say the least.

the spread

Along with the biscuit bar we had another table full of food.  I can assure you that no one goes hungry at the tailgates we host.

The crock pot was filled with homemade sweet and sour meatballs that were incredible.  I used local ground beef (I doubled the recipe) and two eggs after reading the comments on the recipe.  I baked the meatballs for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and then arranged them in the crock pot with the sauce and cooked on low for 2 hours.  I then transferred the heat to warm and let them hang out until party time.

In addition to crackers, Pumpkin Spiced Sweet Potato Chips, and popcorn, there was a cheese platter with a couple of local cheeses plus an amazing apple-cinnamon goat cheese from Trader Joes.

cheese board

The Apple Cinnamon Goat Cheese was hands-down the favorite cheese of the night.  I also served some fig and ginger game to pair with the bleu marbled cheese – which, along with the garlic, parsley and chive cheese came from my SoCo Farm to Door delivery.

roasted veg

The above veggie dip is a repeat from a tailgate in early October.  The Pioneer Woman’s Cold Roasted Veggies and Lemon-Herb Yogurt Dip is fantastic.  It’s probably my new favorite way to serve veggies at a tailgate.

watson dip

I had a last-minute request from Big Guy to make a recipe that’s been in his family since he can remember.  Watson “Birthday” Dip is a recipe that was passed on to me and I doubt I make it as well as Big Guy’s grandmother.  This dip was also a huge hit on Friday night.

For a little sweetness, I had some candy out (duh, it was the night before Halloween) along with a Pecan Pound Cake from the latest Southern Living.

As you can see it was quite the spread – but honestly, putting together the menu and cooking all day on Friday but a smile on my face.  There are few things I enjoy more than cooking for others.

We have one more home game left this season that we’ll be able to attend and since it’s a night game, I’m thinking a Chili Bar might be on the menu.

What would your favorite biscuit toppings include?

Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy plus Herby Peas and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This is your Sunday night dinner.  Just go ahead and write out your grocery list.  And add a bottle of red wine to the list – this dinner deserves it.

When I had some leftover ground beef from making meatballs on Friday, I knew that the leftovers were destined for Salisbury steak.  I have no idea why I was craving this comfort dinner because I honestly haven’t had Salisbury steak in probably a decade.  Despite the layers of flavor, this dinner comes together pretty quickly.  The ground beef is mixed with grated onion, garlic, salt and pepper before being shaped into patties.  The patties are then cooked in a cast-iron skillet for about 3 minutes on each side.  Remove the steaks from the pan.  I didn’t add any butter to the skillet because there was some fat from the ground beef.  So I simply sauteed the mushrooms (I used shiitake – thanks, Jeremy!) until softened.  Add in the wine (or beef broth) and more onion.  Cook for about 2 minutes and then add in the beef broth that was mixed with the flour (I used a gluten-free brown rice flour) and bring to a boil.  My gravy began to thicken almost immediately – but allow to cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the patties into the pan with the gravy and add a splash of red wine vinegar.  Cook for 2 minutes or until the Salisbury steaks are warmed.

For the peas I simply cooked frozen peas according to the package directions.  While the peas were cooking, I sauteed some sliced onion in 1 tablespoon of butter.  I added the cooked peas to the sauteed onions and then finished with a DIY garden salt.  

And while I’m telling you about the potatoes last, I actually started the potatoes first.  Chop up about a pound of potatoes (I did a little more to guarantee leftovers for Big Guy) and place in a pot of water.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender.  I added in about 1/3 cup 2% milk (it’s what I had on hand) plus salt and pepper.  Mash to the consistency of your liking.


The Salisbury Steak was incredibly flavorful and every bite of the mushrooms was heavenly.  Please, please, please use quality beef – it makes such a difference in the taste of your meal.

The peas were bright and the perfect compliment to the meaty beef and mushrooms.  The potatoes were light and sweet and soaked up some of the luscious gravy.

All that’s missing was the glass of red wine.

Fast Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash

There are few things as comforting as a bowl of chili.  But I don’t always have the time during the week to let the chili simmer and the flavors to develop.  Thankfully this Fast Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash really does come together in a flash.  Under 30 minutes to be exact.

Rotisserie chicken is the biggest time saver in this recipe.  I also find that pre-chopped butternut squash is not only a time-saver but you actually get more bang for your buck (rarely will this happen with other pre-cut things at the grocery store).

My absolute favorite part about this dinner (well besides the leftovers) was the cilantro-garlic-lime garnish that went on top of each piping hot bowl.  When you stirred in the garnish it perfumed the entire bowl with fresh flavors of cilantro and lime.

Warm and hearty – the perfect bowl of comfort for the fall months.


Weekend Review

Good morning and happy November!  Despite the rain this morning it was a gorgeous weekend here and we had a lot of fun with friends.

On Friday night we hosted a party that I began referring to as “Piratween.”  We really threw the party because of the Pirate football game that was on t.v. but seeing as though it was Halloween weekend there was a little of that thrown in the mix, too.

Despite the Pirate loss, we had a wonderful time catching up with friends and the usual shenanigans.

And I promise to give you a full run-down of the menu on Tailgate Thursday but my favorite part of the spread – a biscuit bar!

Big Guy and I slept in a little bit on Saturday morning and then spent the majority of the day cleaning up from the night before.  Thankfully we had no plans so we took our time and by the time 3pm rolled around, the house was back in order.

Saturday night we turned on the front porch light, left a bowl of candy and a note out and headed to our favorite spot, SoCo.

Wedge salad with tomato, ranch, bacon and house croutons

Roasted tomato and red pepper soup with cheddar crostini

Cast Iron-Seared Salmon with butter-mashed sweet potatoes and creamy dill sauce

Dark Chocolate Cake with marshmallow frosting and caramel

After our bellies were full, we spent the rest of the evening sipping bubbles (or bourbon) and hanging out with Kimberly and Jeremy.

We stayed up a little too late and were very thankful for the extra hour of sleep.  Jeremy made us an amazing brunch complete with a cinnamon roll the size of my head.

We hung around the farm being lazy and then took a spontaneous trip to a new-to-us spot in town called Brewmasters.  They just moved to a new location and it’s HUGE.  We enjoyed a little Sunday Funday with mimosas and beers.  It was incredibly relaxing and the laughter was much needed before the start of a new work week.

We finally said our good byes and headed home.  Our original plan for dinner was postponed until tonight but thankfully we had a cooked SoCo Farm to Door meal in the freezer that came together in about 20 minutes.  The pork pastor was fantastic and while we don’t typically purchase the pre-cooked meals I might start having a few on hand for times like this.

The alarm went off way too early this morning but as usual, I was glad to have my workout done and over with by 6:00am.

Now I’m off to tackle this week.  It’s a busy one but I’m going to take it day by day and enjoy the ride.