Sweet Potato Salad with Goat Cheese, Pecans and Cranberries

I may have said this once or twice, but I swear I mean it this time… this may be the best thing I’ve ever made. Seriously.  I was partly inspired by a sweet potato salad dish made by the wife of one of my co-workers. Hers is made with gorgonzola and red peppers. So yesterday when I was trying to come up with something to do with my sweet potatoes, her idea of mixing cheese with them in salad form came to mind. As some of you may know, due to my oldest son’s allergies, tree nuts are off limits in my house. So when we received his diagnosis last year, I put my pecans up on the highest shelf of my pantry, not sure if I’d ever get to use them again (sniff, sniff). But this week Brogan happens to be at the beach with his grandparents, and so…. I am free to use nuts once again!

There are so many flavors in this salad it’s incredible – the sweetness of the cranberries, sweet potatoes and honey, the savory and tangy taste of the goat cheese, the spicy sharpness of the green onions and the crunch of the pecans. The combo is really quite spectacular. I served this with a pork tenderloin, and while it would have been really good on it’s own, the flavor overload of the sweet potatoes left everything else on the plate a little dull by comparison. So if you live for sides (like me), this is one to wow you. And so without further adieu…

Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato Salad

3 medium/large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Olive oil for drizzling on sweet potatoes
1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
2/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced small
1/4 cup green onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Juice from half a large lemon (or 1 small)
1 tsp salt

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and toss with a little olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
2.) While sweet potatoes are cooking, dice your onions. Place all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.
3.) In a large mixing bowl, add onions, cranberries, parsley, cooked sweet potatoes, toasted pecans and goat cheese. Pour dressing over top and stir until well combined. Mixing ingredients while the potatoes and pecans are still warm will make the goat cheese nice and creamy. Serve warm or cold.

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Sausage and Goat Cheese Stuffed Shells

Figuring out what to make for dinner is tough – especially on week nights.  While I don’t make the same things every week, it is almost a certainty that the week will contain something with chicken, something Mexican and something Italian, and last night was Italian night. I decided to try stuffed shells – something I had never attempted. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated because I thought it would be a pain in the butt to stuff them (like manicotti), but I got a wild hair and decided to try them anyways. Turns out, it was really easy. I found that if you hold the shell in your hand and squeeze it just so, it opens up nicely and you can easily spoon the cheese and the sausage and tomato sauce into the shell. It does take a little time to stuff them all, but truthfully, much simpler than I anticipated. I enjoyed the goat cheese / sausage combo so much in the lasagna I made a couple of weeks ago, that I decided to give it another go.

I tried out some new tomatoes with this recipe because a couple of weeks ago I saw a video on CNN about the 5 things you should never eat, and canned tomatoes was on the list. So I’ve had a little bit of a dilemma, I’ve been trying to make my own sauce from “scratch” (and by scratch I don’t mean boiling fresh tomatoes, but rather using canned tomatoes and adding my own seasoning), but this information has had me second guessing myself. Until, while at Publix this weekend, I noticed that they finally started carrying tomatoes in a box! Hallelujah! No more BPA! So I will have to adjust my recipes for the 26-oz package, but even with that hiccup, I’m thrilled.

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Disclaimer: I’m not claiming that I’ll never again use canned tomatoes or eat canned tomatoes. So please no calling me a hypocrite if one of my future recipe contains them. However, to the extent that these are available, I will use them.

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Sausage and Goat Cheese Stuffed Shells

24 to 30 jumbo shells, cooked according to box
2 cups prepared marinara sauce (I used Classico)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Sausage and Tomato Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb Italian sausage (I used mild Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
26-oz box of tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Cheese Mixture
2 cups ricotta cheese
5 oz goat cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan  over medium-high heat. Add sausage and break apart with spatula. Cook until browned.
2.) Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, wine, basil, oregano and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (it’s good to time it so it is simmering while your shells are boiling).
3.) In a bowl, mix together ricotta, goat cheese and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
4.) Take about 1 cup of prepared marinara sauce and spread it on the bottom of a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Placing each shell in your hand, take a spoon (I used one of my dinner spoons) and first scoop the cheese mixture in the shell, using your thumb and the shell to scrape the cheese off the spoon. Next use the same sized spoon to scoop the sausage tomato sauce into the shell. Place in casserole dish and repeat.
5.) Using the remaining marinara sauce, drizzle it over the shells. Sprinkle the shells with mozzarella cheese and place in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes.

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Lasagna with Goat Cheese and Sausage

Lasagna is such a comfort food!  Whether it’s a tried and true recipe or something outside the box, lasagna rarely disappoints. So I decided to try a new twist on an old classic and add goat cheese to my lasagna. One of my co-workers does this and her lasagna is always great, but this was a first for me.  I also opted for chicken sausage versus ground beef, for no reason other than wanting a different taste than my traditional.  I made the sauce from scratch, which I’ve been doing a lot lately (finally weening myself from Prego!), and having the tomato pieces in there was really good.  I was a little nervous about how the boys would like this because I’ve fed them goat cheese before and I think the taste was too strong for them.  But in this recipe, it is very subtle and to me, adds just the right amount of tang to make it interesting.  Blake said he could barely taste the goat cheese, so if you’re after a stronger flavor, I would suggest you up the ounces on the GC.  Back to my little boys, they loved it!  Like, really loved it – I was thrilled!

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Lasagna with Goat Cheese and Sausage

Meat Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb sausage (I used mild chicken sausage, removed from casings)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 to 10 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup red wine
3 14.5-oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Goat Cheese / Ricotta Mixture
16 oz ricotta cheese
6 oz goat cheese, softened
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
2 eggs

12 Lasagna noodles (oven ready)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage, break apart with spatula as it cooks and cook until it begins to brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.
2.) Add onions, garlic and mushrooms to the same skillet.  Cook for 3 to 5 minutes and deglaze pan with red wine.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add sausage back to sauce.
3.) In a bowl, mix together ricotta, goat cheese, parmesan and eggs.  Spoon cheese mixture into a gallon Ziploc bag and cut one of the corners (this will aide in evenly distributing the cheese mixture in the lasagna).
4.) In a 9″x13″ casserole dish, start with sauce on the bottom. Add 3 lasagna noodles and layer sauce first, then cheese mixture.  Repeat 2 more times.  On 4th layer, only top the lasagna noodles with sauce.  Tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  Remove from oven, remove aluminum foil and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.  Place back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese browns.  If it is slow to brown, use the low broiler (but watch it closely!!)

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Goat Cheese and Herb Stuffed Mushrooms

I love goat cheese.  Like, love it.  Will eat anything with it.  I’ve started buying it in bulk at Costco so that whenever I get the urge, I can cook with it.  Well I got the urge last night and decided to make use of some mushrooms and herbs I had around to create this yummy appetizer.  No Pinterest inspiration here – I tried to channel my inner chef and come up with something tasty all on my own!  And it was my personal chef (Blake) approved. Hope y’all enjoy!

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Goat Cheese and Herb Stuffed Mushrooms

15 to 20 mushrooms, stems removed (I used a mix of baby portobello and white)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
3 tbsp butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
5 oz goat cheese (at room temperature)

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) Place mushrooms on baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
3.) In a nonstick skillet, melt butter and add shallots, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Saute until shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add in breadcrumbs and mix well.
4.) In a bowl, mix goat cheese, parmesan, chives, salt and breadcrumb mixture.  Spoon into mushrooms.
5.) Bake for 20 minutes.

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