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Challah French Toast Sticks with Caramelized Bananas

These Challah French Toast Sticks with Caramelized Bananas are my favorite breakfast for a lazy weekend morning. They feel special, but are easy enough to whip up while you’re still bleary eyed and pj-clad.

Dress up your French toast routine with these Challah French Toast Sticks with Caramelized Bananas. It's the perfect weekend breakfast!

We’ve never been huge Valentine’s Day celebrators around here. That’s putting it nicely, actually. In truth, I’ve been a bit of a curmudgeon about the holiday. While everyone else is buying up bundles of red roses and heart shaped boxes of mystery chocolates (am I the only one who can’t stand not knowing what goopy filling awaits me??), I’m the one grumbling about commercialism and overpriced menus, and how Hallmark is making a fortune off their overly sentimental stock cards.

Maybe it’s motherhood or the wisdom of old age (haha), but I’ve found my heart softening to Valentine’s Day recently. It started with celebrating Galentine’s Day, the “fake” holiday made famous by Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. Leslie knows how to do holidays right. She leaves the commercialism behind in favor of brunch with her lady friends, sincere compliments, and thoughtful gifts. She’s the queen of making other people feel special and appreciated.

It’s that kind of heart that’s helped me warm up to not only Galentine’s Day, but Valentine’s Day as well. Why not devote a day to showing the people in our lives how much they mean to us? Why not take some extra time to say “I love you” and “you matter” and “you make my life better.” We don’t need to do it with shiny red balloons or obnoxiously large teddy bears, but some heartfelt words and a little homemade breakfast food sure doesn’t hurt.

This Challah French Toast was one of the first recipes I made for the blog, and it’s still one of my favorites. Challah bread’s egginess and slight sweetness makes it a perfect candidate for French toast. It’s sturdy enough to hold up to the custard, but doesn’t have the chewy crust that can turn a delightful breakfast into a jaw workout. I’ve made this French toast in both slices and fingers, but I’ve come to prefer the fingers since it maxes out the ratio of crispy edges to eggy centers. Feel free to do slices instead, but I recommend popping them in the oven for a bit after frying to ensure the centers aren’t soggy.

Now let’s talk about toppings. First off, whether you’re making pancakes or French toast, I must insist yo heat up your maple syrup. I mean, we’re not animals, after all.

Second–make yourself some caramelized bananas, perhaps the easiest way to feel like a kitchen genius. Sliced bananas are fried with butter and brown sugar and tossed with a bit of bourbon, just because. It seems almost wrong that something so simple could be so good. If you want to show someone just how much you care, these bananas are probably enough, but serve them up with the French toast, a dollop of butter, and a drizzle of maple syrup, and your undying love will be made abundantly clear. I hope you all have a lovely week celebrating the loves of your life. Make sure they know how thankful you are to have them on your team.

These Challah French Toast Sticks served with caramelized bananas are my favorite breakfast for lazy weekend mornings.

Challah French Toast Sticks with Caramelized Bananas
 
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Serves: 4
Ingredients
For the french toast:
  • 8 slices stale challah bread, cut in 1 inch thick fingers (About 1 loaf)
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups whole milk
For the bananas:
  • 2 bananas, in 1 inch slices
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Scant ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees and place a wire rack on a sheet pan.
  2. In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the milk.
  3. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, soak the fingers in the egg mixture for at least 1 minute per side. Transfer the fingers to the skillet (you'll probably have to do two batches) and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the other side is golden, another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooked fingers to the wire rack and place them in the oven to keep warm while the second batch is cooked.
  5. Meanwhile, make the bananas. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place banana slices in skillet in a single layer. Cover with brown sugar.
  6. Brown bananas on one side, then flip, allowing sugar to cook and the other side to brown.
  7. Remove the skillet from heat then pour in bourbon. Let sizzle for a minute, then use the bourbon to slide banana slices out of skillet and onto a plate.
  8. Serve the French toast warm with real maple syrup and the caramelized bananas.

 

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Cast Iron Ribeye with Garlic Mushrooms

Once you make steak in a cast iron skillet you’ll never go back! This Cast Iron Ribeye with Garlic Mushrooms takes about 20 minutes to make but is worthy of any special occasion.

Cast Iron Ribeye with Garlic Mushrooms is an easy dish that's perfect for special occasions. The flavor is incredible! Growing up, I was never much of a steak girl. In my mind, steak was chewy, tough, and dry. Why would anyone choose that over, say, a basket of fried chicken fingers and French fries? Let’s just say I wouldn’t have called my childhood palate “advanced.”

It wasn’t until I was newly married and on one of my first vacations with the Mr. that I began to appreciate steak. I don’t know if it was the elegant atmosphere or the salty sea air, but on a whim I ordered the filet mignon. And everything changed. This steak was juicy and so tender it almost melted in my mouth.

From then on, I was a steak girl, or, rather, I was a filet mignon girl. I decided that was the steak I liked and I was loyal to it like a kid is loyal to their favorite ice cream flavor. I eventually began branching out, trying new cuts of steak and even making them at home. I discovered leaner cuts make fabulous sandwiches and tacos, like these Grilled Flank Steak Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions or these Flank Steak Tacos. When we purchased a side of beef a few years ago, I tried all the different cuts–sirloins and T-bones, my beloved filet and skirt steaks.

If you're looking for a special occasion meal that's super easy to make, try this Cast Iron Ribeye smothered with garlic butter mushrooms. The flavor is incredible!

Out of everything we tried over those months, the ribeye’s marbly slab of intense flavor was what finally won my heart. The ribeye  has become my favorite steak to cook at home. I like to keep things really simple since this cut of steak already has such great flavor. A hefty sprinkling of Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper is all it needs before it’s placed into a sizzling hot cast iron skillet and finished off in the oven. I discovered the cast iron sear/oven bake method for steak a few years ago, and it’s the only way I cook it now. The steaks are always perfectly browned with a tender, juicy center. I use a Thermapen to check the temperature and make sure I get just the right amount of pink. I aim for medium, no more, which is right about 145 degrees.

Of course, steak this good really doesn’t need much dressing up, but because Valentine’s Day is coming up, I decided to smother it in buttery garlic mushrooms, which are a weakness for both me and the Mr. This combo is, unsurprisingly, phenomenal. I’ll admit, I was pulling off some of the crispy edges of the steak and sneaking mushrooms before I even took pictures. I have no will power when it comes to salty crispy meat niblins. What can I say? I’m a carnivore for life.

This Cast Iron Ribeye is smothered in garlic butter mushrooms. It'll knock the socks off whoever you make it for!

There’s more than one reason to include beef in your Valentine’s Day plans. Aside from it’s tantalizing taste, a 3 ounce portion of beef also provides 25 grams of protein and 10 essential nutrients, including iron. Of course, every great steak dinner also deserves a great wine to go with it. If you’re unsure where to start, I recommend reaching for a Cabernet Savignon, which is bold and full enough to stand up to the rich flavor of the steak. If you’re looking to branch out and try something new, check out the infographic below to learn how to pair your favorite beef dishes with wine.

Learn how to pair beef dishes with the best wines.

If you happen to have leftover ribeye (and that’s a BIG if!), I highly recommend using it for this Ribeye Steak Salad. It is incredible!

For more beef recipes and ideas, check out Ohio Beef on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for more cozy winter meal ideas.

Cast Iron Ribeye with Garlic Mushrooms
 
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Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 boneless ribeye steaks, 1-1.5 inches thick
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh parsley (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Remove the steak from the packaging and allow it to rest at room temperature while the oven preheats. Brush both sides of the steak with vegetable oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Place a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and coat with about a Tablespoon of vegetable oil. Heat the pan until the oil is shimmering and droplets of water sizzle in the pan. Add the steaks to the pan and allow them to cook until seared on one side, about 3-4 minutes. Flip the steaks over and then place in the oven to continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees for medium, or about another 4-6 minutes. Remove the steaks from the oven, transfer to a plate (preferably a warm plate!) and place a Tablespoon of butter on each steak. Tent with foil and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the mushrooms. Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and allow them to cook undisturbed until well browned on one side. Flip them over and continue to saute until the mushrooms are soft and browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, or until fragrant. Serve the steaks with the mushrooms on top.

This post was developed in partnership with Ohio Beef. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the wonderful businesses who keep NeighborFood afloat. There are also Amazon affiliate links in this post. If you click on a link and make a purchase, a small percentage will come back to NeighborFood. 

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Skillet Sausage and Rice

Need a healthy one pot meal to get you through the winter months? This Skillet Sausage and Rice with butternut squash and cranberries fits the bill!

This recipe is sponsored by UNCLE BEN’S® Flavored Grains Long Grain & Wild Rice, Original Recipe. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.This Skillet Sausage and Rice with butternut squash and cranberries is a simple, comforting one pot meal for busy weeknights.

This morning I pulled a muscle in my back, because apparently I’m 29 going on 60. I wish I could tell you I was doing something super awesome when it happened, like climbing a sheer rock face or lifting a burning car off of a trapped child. Unfortunately, the real story is much sadder. I was sitting up in bed first thing in the morning, when my just-woken tiny child came toddling in. I greeted him with a smile, reached my arms out, scooped him up, and then felt a tightening in my back so fierce it stole my breath, causing me to drop my sweet boy back to the floor. Mother of the year, right here.

Due to this turn of events, I’ll be limiting all future activity to getting the mail, brisk walks around the living room, and reaching between the couch cushions to pick up the piece of popcorn I dropped.

Make this Skillet Sausage and Rice with butternut squash for an easy and healthy one pot meal!

Luckily there’s nothing strenuous about making this stove top Skillet Sausage and Rice. This simple meal comes together in a single skillet and is positively loaded with good for you veggies. I like to start the party (don’t worry, nothing too rowdy–I have my back to think of, after all) with some good Italian sausage sizzling with onions, celery, garlic, and butternut squash. I am all aboard the butternut squash train this year, as evidenced by the Butternut Squash Curry.

Sweet and savory come together in this comforting, one pot Skillet Sausage and Rice recipe.

Once the veggies are starting to soften, I add Uncle Ben’s ® Long Grain Wild Rice to the mix. This is one of my favorite shortcuts for busy weeknights. This rice is quick cooking, filling, and has the ideal blend of seasonings for a wintery bowl like this one. Once the rice and seasonings are stirred in, I add some broth and dried cranberries (yes, cranberries!), cover the pot, and walk away. Now’s my chance to have a little me time, which these days looks like folding laundry, checking my Instagram, and rubbing some Icy Hot on my back. Ya know, normal 29 year old stuff.

In about 20 minutes, the rice and squash is tender, the cranberries plump and juicy. We’re just about ready to dive in, but the dish still needs a few final touches. I like to sneak in some kale for extra nutrition and top everything off with a sprinkling of slivered almonds.

If you need a quick, healthy one pot meal, try this Skillet Sausage and Rice with butternut squash!

I realize some of you may look at this and think it sounds a wee bit strange. Sausage and cranberries? Rice and almonds? Do all of these things really work together in one dish? The short answer is: YES. The long answer is: Seriously, they do! This sweet and savory thing is, in fact, all its cracked up to be. In fact, sometimes I like to add even more cranberries because that pop of sweetness is just so good! All the crunchy, creamy, sweet and savory goodness you need for a healthy weeknight meal is right here in one skillet.

If you're looking for a quick, healthy one pot meal, try this Skillet Sausage and Rice with butternut squash, cranberries, and almonds!

You can purchase Uncle Ben’s® Flavored Grains at Kroger or any of the other Kroger family of stores, and right now when you buy 2 Uncle Ben’s® Flavored Grains products, you get $1 off (redeemed at the register). Now is a great time to stock up for a winter’s worth of quick and nourishing meals like this one. For more weeknight recipe ideas, visit Uncle Ben’s® on Facebook and Pinterest.

Skillet Sausage and Rice
 
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Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 box Uncle Ben’s® Flavored Grains Long Grain & Wild Rice, Original Recipe
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup baby kale
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and break it up with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add the onion as well, and saute until the sausage is no longer pink and the onion is softened. Stir in the butternut squash and the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the wild rice, seasoning packet, chicken broth and cranberries.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice and squash is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the baby kale until wilted. Season with black pepper, if desired.
  3. The mixture will likely look a little soupy at first, but as it sits it will thicken up. Top the rice mixture with slivered almonds and serve.

 

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Crock Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup with Roasted Red Peppers

This Crock Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup is creamy and loaded with flavor from roasted red peppers, garlic, and onions. 

This Crock Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup is loaded with roasted red peppers, garlic, carrots, and chard in a creamy base.A few nights ago, the Mr. and I got sucked into an episode of Hoarders. I’m not even sure how we landed on the channel, but before we knew it we were knee deep in someone else’s unidentifiable piles of irreplaceable junk. There really is nothing like an episode of Hoarders to make you say, “Ya know, the house actually doesn’t look too bad. I think I can hold off on vacuuming for a few more days years.”

We don’t watch much reality TV around here, but when we do we go all out. The Mr. popped some popcorn, I slipped on my comfiest sweatpants, and we planted ourselves on the couch, soaking up the drama unfolding before us. My hubby is my favorite TV watching copilot. He can imitate almost any accent and picks up on the most obscure details–Wait, is that a signed picture of David Hasselhoff on that stack of coolers?? Why yes, yes it is.

Looking for an easy healthy one pot meal? This creamy Crock Pot Chicken Gnocchi soup has all you need!

If my husband’s mission in life is to throw me into fits of laughter during an episode of Hoarders, mine is to convince him that he actually likes gnocchi. Before this soup, the Mr.’s exposure to gnocchi was mainly in dishes where it’s used as a substitute for pasta and covered in sauce. He is not a fan of this, or pretty much any other substitute for pasta. Don’t even get him started on zoodles.

I felt my guy wasn’t giving gnocchi a fair shot, so I decided to try it in a soup and see if I could change his mind. I wanted to stack all the cards in my favor so I went all out with a creamy chicken soup loaded with flavor. I mean, if I’m going to do some persuading, I better bring my A game. Carrots, celery, onion, and garlic form the base for the chicken soup we all know and love. Roasted red peppers add sweetness and depth, and evaporated milk provides that comforting creaminess I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist. The gnocchi in this soup add just the right amount of carbs–a pleasing chewiness that makes this soup hearty and filling enough to eat as a main dish.

This creamy Crock Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup has everything you need for a healthy weeknight meal all made in a slow cooker!@

One bite in, and the Mr. exclaimed, “Oh, this is good.” I just smiled sweetly to myself while inwardly shouting “VICTORY IS MINE!” It’s the small things.

We’ve got another batch of wonderful Soup-er Bowl recipes for you today. Check out my friend Melanie and Emily’s recipes below and be sure to enter to win a gorgeous Le Creuset Dutch Oven!

Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Soup

Lemon Dill Chicken Noodle Soup

Crock Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup with Roasted Red Peppers
 
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Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1¼ pounds chicken breast
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 lb. gnocchi
  • 2 stalks Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves torn
Instructions
  1. In a crock pot, combine the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, chicken breast, both, and roasted red peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8. Shred the chicken breast in the slow cooker, stir in the evaporated milk, gnocchi, and Swiss chard. Cook on high for another 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the gnocchi is tender.

Recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

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Creamy Carrot Orange Soup

Creamy Carrot Soup gets a little zing and a lot of zest from a double dose of chipotle peppers and fresh squeezed orange juice. This will be your new favorite soup to pair with a grilled cheese!

This Creamy Carrot Orange Soup is bright and comforting, with just a little bit of heat. It's my new favorite side dish for a grilled cheese!

I’ve been surprised by several things along this blogging journey, but I have to admit one of the biggest surprises thus far is finding myself excited to make carrot soup. Seven years ago, the words “carrot soup” would’ve never even crossed my mind, and if they had, I probably would’ve crinkled my nose and wondered what kind of weirdos would make such a thing.

Well, friends, I guess it’s official. I’m a weirdo. In the last few weeks, I’ve made carrot soup not once, not twice, but three times. And I’ve enjoyed it every single time. I’ll admit, I did some tweaking along the way. The first go around, the soup was good, but a tad one dimensional. It tasted like (surprise, surprise)…carrots. While I find carrots quite delicious, I felt they needed a little something else to add both brightness and depth.

In round two, I added a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce and some fresh squeezed orange juice. Chipotle peppers are my secret weapon. They’re ideal for adding smoky heat to a dish without overwhelming it. The spice of the peppers won’t burn your tongue, but it will give you a nice, spreading, warm heat right in the back of your throat. It was perfect for grounding the carrots, and the orange juice added a subtly sweet boost. Round two was a raving success. This was a darn good carrot soup!

Of course, then I committed one of the worst errors a blogger can make. I forgot to write down the measurements of everything I had used. A full week went by, and when I sat down to write this post, I realized I didn’t have a single ingredient in writing. Hence, round three. Oh well, more carrot soup for me!

Move over tomato soup! This Creamy Carrot Orange Soup is rich, filling, and the perfect accompaniment for a grilled cheese!

For being comprised mostly of vegetables, this is a surprisingly rich and filling soup. I suggest serving it as an appetizer or having a small bowl alongside a stringy grilled cheese. Firey orange carrot soup is the new tomato soup! You can control the heat of the dish by lowering or upping the amount of chipotles in adobo. I find two teaspoons is about right for us, but it will have quite a bit of kick! Feel free to stir in a little Greek yogurt at the end if you’d like to add creaminess or cut the heat.

I’m so thrilled to be joining my friends Melanie of Melanie Makes and Emily of Jelly Toast for another year of Soup Week! We’ve got 6 soup recipes coming at you this week so you can plan for a winter full of cozy comforting meals. Check out their creations below!

Meatball Pizza Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons

We also have an awesome giveaway going on all week! Fill out the entry form below for a chance to win a gorgeous Le Creuset Dutch Oven!

Creamy Carrot Soup
 
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Recipe by:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped into ½ inch slices
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1-2 teaspoons of sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Plain Greek yogurt, for serving
  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Instructions
  1. In a Dutch oven or other soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in the chipotle pepper, cinnamon, chicken broth, and orange juice and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the carrots are tender. Blend the soup in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with smoked paprika and Greek yogurt, if desired. Serve hot.

 

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No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

With only 5 simple ingredients, these No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars are the perfect dessert to whip up for a party!

With only 5 ingredients, these No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars are a cinch to whip together and always a hit at parties!It’s been a little while since we’ve talked about books in this space, but I’ve actually been reading A LOT lately. I seem to go through spurts where I read like a T-Rex who can’t stop devouring every book in site, and then I hit a dry spell and don’t pick anything up for awhile. Luckily, the last few months I’ve been in full T-Rex mode, and have a few gems to show for it.

A couple months back, I picked up Kitchens of the Great Midwest. The book as a whole was not my favorite, but I really enjoyed the format. Each chapter is named for a food and tells the story of a person who is somehow linked to the main character, Eva Thorvald, a young and brilliant chef who we meet at the beginning of the book. Traveling around the midwest, each chapter gives us a glimpse into the foods and people that shaped Eva, including these Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, made by Pat Prager, the epitome of a small town church lady.

These No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars have only 5 ingredients and can be whipped up in a flash!

Pat’s bars won first place at the state fair, but when she decides to submit them to a hoity-toity foodie bake-off, poor Pat finds herself having to defend her spectacularly simple and perfectly unhealthy bars to a slew of “enlightened” eaters.

Her bars contain only five ingredients, including horrifying grade A butter (the kind from actual cows!!), graham cracker crumbs (the gluten! Have mercy!), peanut butter (she couldn’t have at least used organic almond butter??), powdered sugar (good heavens!), and chocolate chips (not vegan. THE HORROR!).

I had to chuckle as I read. I have nothing against healthy food, of course, but there’s still something to be said for a good old fashioned dessert like this one. There’s not an ounce of fanciness or pretense here, it’s just an honest to goodness treat. If you love chocolate and peanut butter, these are going to be your new best friend. These are maybe the easiest desserts I’ve ever made. They’re completely no bake, and you can have them whipped up and ready to serve in less time than it takes to a watch an episode of The Good Place (which I’m loving, by the way).

These No Bake Chocolate Peanut Bars are so easy to make and a huge hit!

These are pretty rich, so I like to cut them in small squares, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself reaching back for more than one small square! Save this recipe for one of those last minute dessert emergencies or put them on the menu for the Super Bowl. They will be a huge hit (as you can see), and, unlike Pat Prager, you won’t have to tell anyone they’re made with only five (very simple!) ingredients!

Looking for more no bake desserts? Check out my No Bake Peach Delight, Chocolate Peanut Butter Puppy Chow, or search the no bake archives at thebestdessertrecipes.com.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
 
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Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1 tsp. butter (I substitute semi sweet chocolate chips sometimes)
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. Press into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. Place the chocolate chips and butter in a measuring cup and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Spread the chocolate over the peanut butter layer. Place in the refrigerator until set. Cut into bars and serve.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, a portion of the purchase goes back to supporting this website. Thanks for your support!

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Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Humble, hearty, and nourishing, these Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins are more than just a sweet way to start your day–they’re an offering of love. 

These Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins are hearty, healthy, and bursting with blueberries!

2017 hasn’t started out quite like I imagined. I like to think of the start of a new year as a clean slate, a chance to start fresh, a bright and hopeful beginning. But sometimes life doesn’t deal us a fresh start. This year, a fellow blogger delivered her baby prematurely and had to say goodbye to him just a few short hours later. Another friend experienced a miscarriage. Other friends suffered personal tragedies—the loss of a grandparent, a frightening diagnosis. And while we didn’t suffer the brunt of any great tragedy this new year, our little family was taken down by a vicious cold, and we spent the better part of two weeks housebound, feverish, and generally rather miserable. The new year brought with it frozen temperatures, and while we didn’t exactly want to leave the house in our snotty states, the bitter cold also made me feel claustrophobic and trapped. 

 While a new year often brings with it excitement and opportunity, sometimes it also brings endings and sorrow, sickness and difficulty. I’m feeling the tension of this season more than any other year I can remember. I hold it all in my heart, the sadness and celebration, the loss and the blessing, the beauty in all of the mess. 

I try to hold onto the hope of a new year, not because of the turn of a calendar, but because of a Jesus who offers hope in every season. I cling to the promise of a Kingdom that is here and not yet here, a God who came, and One who continues to visit us in our sorrow and in our joy. 

These hearty Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins are bursting with fresh blueberries. They're a wonderful way to start your day!

When I don’t know what else to do, I light a candle for the ones who are brokenhearted, and then I make muffins. Baking is my prayer. My pouring out. A tangible way to work out my sorrow and my questions, my doubt and my fears. I keep my hands busy, whisking and stirring, so my heart can wander and be still. I always thought the phrase “baked with love” was a little trite, but I get it now. Sometimes baking is much more than flour and sugar, measuring and scooping. It is a working out of all our helplessness, all of our need to show the ones around us we care and we’re here. In a simple muffin, we pour out our love and hope those who need it will taste it in every bite.

I generally believe any kind of baked good can be a messenger of love, but I find these Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins work particularly well for this purpose. These are simple, hearty muffins, and they’re easily adaptable based on your mood or what you have on hand. Sometimes the need to bake happens at 10 PM at night, and when it does, I need a muffin recipe I can make with pantry staples. This is the one.

These muffins fall somewhere between extra healthy and extra decadent. I make them with oats and Greek yogurt, coconut oil and maple syrup, but you can always substitute with milk and butter and brown sugar if you like. The same goes for the flour. Use all purpose, or replace half with white whole wheat flour. I’ve had both, and they’re both delicious. I like my muffins to be positively bursting with blueberries, but if you don’t have any on hand feel free to use chocolate chips or dried cranberries or nuts or whatever else your heart desires.

These Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins bursting with blueberries and made with Greek yogurt, coconut oil, and oats are a hearty, healthy way to start the day. They freeze great too!

The muffins themselves are simple, moist, and subtly sweet. They’re satisfying in a coming home kind of way. They feel familiar and cozy, like your favorite sweatshirt. They might not dazzle like giant bakery blueberry muffins, but they’re true and good and honest–a muffin you can count on when the going gets tough. Make these for the ones in your life who need to know they’re not alone. They’ll appreciate the muffin, but they’ll appreciate the love you poured into it even more.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
 
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Serves: 18
Ingredients
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (or sub white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1½ cups blueberries (tossed with a spoonful of flour), chocolate chips, or other mix ins
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with 18 cupcake liners.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the milk, yogurt, and oats and allow to soak for 15 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Whisk the coconut oil, eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla into the oat mixture until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries or other mix ins.
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pans, filling each cup nearly to the top. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing. These freeze great! Simply cool completely then place in a ziploc freezer bag. Reheat in the microwave before enjoying!

 

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Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry

If you’re looking for a great big bowl of healthy comfort food, look no further than this warm Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry. 

This Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry is a quick, healthy one pot meal. A few days ago I was writing up my grocery list for the week and asked my husband what his favorite healthy foods are. He gave me a sort of vacant, blank stare and mumbled, “Uhhhh…salad?”

Unfortunately, I think that’s the response most people would give you if you asked them the same question. We associate a big bowl of greens with New Year’s Resolutions, and think “getting healthy” involves forking dry, bitter kale into our mouths for three meals a day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, salad can be wonderful (especially if it’s That Good Salad), but healthy food runs a much wider, more diverse gamut. When it’s cold and dreary outside, I don’t much care for salad. I want to come home to something warm and comforting, but perhaps a bit lighter than a casserole dish full of baked macaroni and cheese. Now, when I think of my favorite healthy foods, I think of this Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry.

Save this Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry is loaded with flavor and a super comforting one pot meal.

I can’t believe it’s taken me almost six years to make a curry for the blog. I hope this rich, colorful curry will make up for the long wait. Here we have sweet butternut squash, ground turkey, and snappy bell peppers swimming in an earthy, bright coconut milk and curry broth. This dish has layers of flavor–garlic, ginger, cayenne, curry–each adding dimension and depth to the final dish. If you’re looking for healthy comfort food, this is it. A bowl of this curry will warm you from the inside out.

I love using ground turkey in saucy dishes like this, as the turkey really soaks up all the savory, spicy, sweet flavors. Turkey also happens to have more protein and fewer calories than chicken, which makes it ideal for healthy weeknight meals. You can serve the curry over rice if you like, but I find it’s plenty filling on its own, with a sprinkling of cilantro, and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt swirled in.

Speaking of yogurt, I’d never had full fat yogurt until I started buying it for little P, and OMG WHY DID NO ONE EVER TELL ME HOW AMAZING FULL FAT YOGURT IS?! Didn’t mean to yell, but someone dropped the ball here. I never understood the appeal of Greek yogurt until I tried full fat. Now, I’m dropping it on baked potatoes, blending it in smoothies, and swirling it into curries. The creaminess and tang is just right with all the warm spices of the curry.

ground turkey product shot

This recipe was inspired by my recent trip to Virginia to visit a turkey farm with Honeysuckle White turkey. On a chilly fall morning, we drove to a family farm tucked into the valley, surrounded by tree lined mountains. There we met Glenn and Sheri Rodes, one of the 700 independent family farmers Honeysuckle works with. He shared with us his passion for raising healthy, happy turkeys and for helping supply our grocery stores with safe, fresh food raised without any growth-promoting hormones.

01_RIVER_HILL_075

I always appreciate having the opportunity to see exactly where my food comes from and meet the people who work so hard to provide it for us. I have done a few farm tours now, and with each one I have been overwhelmed by the great care and pride the farmers take in their animals and their work. I love Honeysuckle’s commitment to supporting these family farms and providing affordable, quality meat to the public.

This Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry is a healthy, comforting one pot meal that's packed with flavor.

You can find Honeysuckle White in your local grocery store, or if you’re on the East coast, look for Shady Brook Farms. Next time you’re at the store, grab the ingredients for this simple one pot meal (don’t forget the full fat yogurt!), and treat yourself to a bowl of warm, healthy, comfort food!

Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry
 
Prep time
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Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. Honeysuckle White ground turkey
  • 3 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • ½ a butternut squash, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon minced ginger
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • ¼-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with their juices
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro, for serving
  • Prepared rice, for serving
  • Greek yogurt, for serving
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat a teaspoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring often, until no pink remains. Remove the turkey to a plate.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and add the onion, bell pepper, and squash. Saute until the onions start to soften--3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and spices and saute until fragrant, another minute or two.
  3. Add the turkey back to the pan along with the tomatoes and coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer, cover, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the butternut squash is softened.
  4. Serve the mixture with a swirl of Greek yogurt, a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro, and rice, if desired.

This post is sponsored by the wonderful people at Honeysuckle White Turkey. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who keep NeighborFood running!

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That Good Salad

There’s just something about That Good Salad. This much-requested recipe has everything a good salad needs–fresh greens, crunchy nuts and croutons, a bright garlic dressing, and bacon, of course!

Known only as That GOOD Salad, this bowl has everything you need--crisp lettuce, tomatoes, crispy bacon, two cheeses, and croutons tossed in a simple lemon garlic dressing.

I was standing in line at Carter’s doing a little Christmas shopping when I got a text from my husband: “I just cat-called a lady on the sidewalk outside Carter’s that I thought was you. I’m staying in the car.”

Well, that certainly explained why he hadn’t joined me inside yet. Being the gentleman that he was, he had dropped me off in front of the store 10 minutes earlier then went to find parking. Unfortunately, as he circled back around the over-crowded parking lot, that same gentleman happened to spot a woman who looked shockingly like me (especially in our matching puffy, black, fur lined winter coats) and proceeded to let out an exuberant “owww owww!” in her general direction. When the woman turned to face him with an expression that was clearly annoyed (and clearly not me!), my husband shrank into the seat of his car and immediately signed up for the witness protection program.

When I got the text, I couldn’t help letting out a little yelp of laughter. I love that I’m married to a man who still wants to cat call his wife but is also genuinely mortified at the prospect of ever cat-calling a random stranger. He’s a good one.

This salad, known in our family only as That Good Salad, is the best combination of crunchy, fresh, bacony, cheesy goodnees!

We’re kicking off the new year with a salad. I know. I’m so basic. But guys, this isn’t one of those dumb salads you force yourself to eat because it’s good for you, and you made that pesky resolution to eat salad every day in 2017. There’s no “forcing” when it comes to this salad, only asking for seconds. I got this recipe from my best friend, who brought it to a dinner party a few months ago. It was go good, I texted her immediately after she left, begging for the recipe. She texted me back a few minutes later with a picture of the recipe in her family’s cookbook. The title? “That Good Salad.” No other description needed.

Of course, I’m a food writer, so I feel the need to give you a little more description. Let’s start with the lettuce–a simple mixture of romaine and curly kale. I slice it into thin strips, which is ideal for soaking up dressing and giving you a fresh crunch in every bite. Then there are the toppings–halved grape tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, toasty slivered almonds, crumbled bacon, and croutons. It’s all you ever needed in a salad–fresh, crunchy, creamy, and bacony. That’s like the four food groups of salad, right?

Everything is tossed in the easiest ever lemon garlic dressing. The dressing is bright, but subtle, hanging out in the background and letting all those amazing toppings shine. If I’m feeling feisty, I like to add an extra clove or two of garlic to the dressing for a big pop of flavor. One note about the croutons–I like to rough em up a bit so they’re in small crumbles instead of big honking squares. This evenly distributes the crunch factor and also keeps you from cutting the roof of your mouth on a giant crouton. Win-win.

This salad is so good it has only one name: That GOOD Salad. Take it to your next dinner party and watch it disappear!

This year, resolve to eat deliciously…and maybe to avoid cat calling people other than your spouse, too. Just a little word of advice from a guy I know.

That Good Salad
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Serves: 3 for a main dish or 6 for a side
Ingredients
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 8 strips bacon
  • 1 romaine lettuce head
  • 2 stalks curly kale, stems removed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup croutons, coarsely chopped
Dressing:
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2-3 big garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Add the bacon to a cold skillet and fry until crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and allow to drain, then chop the bacon into small pieces.
  2. In a dry skillet, toast the slivered almonds for a few minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned and fragrant. Cool.
  3. Chop the kale and romaine into thin strips. In a bowl, toss together the cherry tomatoes, cheeses, croutons, nuts, and bacon.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and garlic. Pour the oil slowly into the mixture, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve.

 

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Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Soft, chewy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls will make you the rock star of Christmas morning. We like to eat them warm with plenty of cream cheese frosting!

These big, fluffy, soft, and chewy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls are everything a cinnamon roll should be. Pair with cream cheese frosting for a breakfast treat!

For about a decade of my life, I refused to eat cinnamon rolls. It all started with the stomach flu, as so many bad stories do. I was about 12 years old and was spending the night at my best friend’s house while my parents got away for the weekend. It had been the most glorious day. We had played and ate ourselves silly, indulging in two of our favorite treats: boxed macaroni and cheese and Cinnabons. Everything was going along swimmingly until the middle of the night, when I woke up with the worst stomach ache of my life. I will refrain from sharing the gory details, but let’s just say cinnamon rolls were effectively ruined for me that fateful night.

For the next few years, I always felt a tinge queasy when I smelled the chemical-tinged cinnamon scent of giant Cinnabon rolls being piped through the mall. The strong aversion eventually subsided, but by that point I had convinced myself I didn’t like cinnamon rolls. And just like that, an entire cinnamon swirl lacking decade passed.

In my early 20s, I rediscovered my love for cinnamon rolls, and I now consider that time of my life “the lost years.” Think of all the gooeyness I missed in those years! The last few months I’ve been trying to make up for lost time by testing out ALL the cinnamon roll recipes. Someone should come test my blood, because I’m pretty sure it’s just rivers of cinnamon and butter by now. I’ve tried a copycat Cinnabon recipe, the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls, and a few “best ever” recipes from cookbooks I own.

Save yourself from a stressful morning with these Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. They're soft, chewy, and pair perfectly with cream cheese frosting.

Of course, the ultimate recipe ended up being in the most obvious place–an old Mennonite cookbook. The recipe intrigued me from the very start. First off, it was made with bread flour. I don’t know why I never thought to make cinnamon rolls with bread flour before, but it makes so much sense! Bread flour makes the rolls extra chewy and gives them that dreamy, pullable texture I was longing for.

The recipe also adds eggs, butter, and milk to the cinnamon roll dough. All of these ingredients help keep the dough nice and soft and also gives the dough a lot more flavor than a simple yeast, flour, and water roll.

The cookbook gave me a great place to start making my own cinnamon roll recipe, but, like most of my Amish and Mennonite cookbooks, it left out some key details, including the quantities and ingredients for the filling! I eyeballed my first batch, and it was good but not quite right. Luckily, the second batch was exactly what I was looking for–fluffy, chewy rolls around a buttery brown sugar filling with plenty of spicy cinnamon flavor.

No cinnamon roll is complete without frosting, and for me, it’s gotta be cream cheese. I like to keep my frosting on the thick side so it melts a bit into the cracks and crevices of the roll, but you still have a nice slather on top.

These Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting are soft, chewy, and loaded with cinnamon flavor! The ultimate make ahead breakfast recipe.

I know everyone’s taste in cinnamon rolls is different, but let me tell you why these check all of my boxes. They’re chewy and soft, but still have a nice brown exterior. They’re sweet, but not in a cloying, my fillings are begging for mercy kind of way. They have a whole lot of cinnamon flavor, and most importantly, I can make them the day before I want to bake them.

Let’s be honest, this was a must for me. There is no possible way this girl is getting up at 5 AM to make cinnamon rolls. I love you, family, but no. I will, however, make these at a reasonable hour the day before Christmas and then look like a rock star when I pull fresh cinnamon rolls out of the oven on Christmas morning. You can thank me by making coffee and doing all the dishes.

One last note about these rolls. They make A LOT. Approximately 2 dozen generously sized rolls. This is fantastic if you’re having everyone over for Christmas, but perhaps not so wonderful if you’re making rolls for your tiny family of 3. Luckily, you can also freeze pans of cinnamon rolls to pull out whenever the craving hits. OR, you could become the best neighbor/coworker/customer ever and distribute pans to everyone you know. Either way, no one has ever thought having too many cinnamon rolls is a problem.

These giant Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting are soft and chewy with gooey cinnamon sugar centers. It's everything a breakfast treat should be.I developed this recipe in partnership with Ohio Eggs. You can see the original Overnight Cinnamon Rolls recipe on their site!

Cinnamon Rolls
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 24
Ingredients
For the rolls:
  • 2 packages fast rise instant yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water (aim for 105 to 115 degrees)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 9 cups bread flour, plus more for sprinkling
For the filling:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks, 12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3½ Tablespoons cinnamon
For the frosting:
  • ½ cup (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • Splash heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Add the water to the bowl of an electric mixer then stir in the sugar and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the milk. The mixture should foam up quite a bit. If it doesn't froth or foam, your yeast might be bad, and you'll want to start over.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the milk to just below boiling, then stir in the butter, allowing it to melt. Allow the mixture to cool to warm.
  3. Stir the beaten eggs into the yeast mixture. Pour the cooled milk mixture into the yeast mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the salt.
  4. Add half of the flour to the bowl, using a spatula or spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour (up to 8 cups) and stir, then switch to the dough hook and beat until well combined. Continue to beat with the dough hook until the dough is soft and springy, about 6 minutes. If the mixture is still very sticky, add up to another cup of flour to the dough. The dough should be tacky but shouldn't coat your finger when you touch it.
  5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover loosely with saran wrap, and place in a warm spot to rise for 40 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size.
  6. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a floured surface. Roll or press the dough out into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 24 inches long. Pour the melted butter over top, spreading it evenly. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars and cinnamon and then sprinkle that evenly over the top. Cut the rectangle in half so there are two 12 x 12 inch squares. Either roll each square into a tight log and then cut it into 12 slices using dental floss OR use a pizza cutter to slice the rectangle into 24 long strips, and roll each strip individually into a slice. Once the rolls are sliced, place them in a buttered dish, approximately 8 in a 9 x 13 inch pan or 6 in a 9 inch pie pan. Cover the rolls loosely with saran wrap. Refrigerate the rolls overnight, for 8-12 hours.
  7. In the morning, take the rolls out and allow them to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, or until puffed.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rolls in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are golden and set. I recommend under baking just slightly so the rolls stay nice and soft.
To make the frosting:
  1. Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt. If you're serving immediately, the rolls can be frosted while still warm. Otherwise, store them unfrosted, then frost and reheat the rolls for a few minutes before serving.
Notes
**You can substitute regular yeast for the fast rise yeast, but your baking time may increase by up to 40%.
**If you would rather bake the cinnamon rolls right away instead of leaving them to set overnight, follow the instructions through step 6, then immediately set the rolls in a warm place to rise for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

 

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