Menu Plan + Old Factory Candles Review

Menu Plan | thepajamachef.com

Week of November 9

Sunday: beef stroganoff with egg noodles
Monday: mexican rice & black beans
Tuesday: leftovers
Wednesday: salad & baked potatoes
Thursday: out to eat
Friday: roast chicken
Saturday: some kind of pasta

A few weeks ago I received an email from Old Factory Candles asking if I’d like to try their candle gift set for review. Ben is obsessed with candles so of course I said yes! They have a bunch of different scents–all sold in sets of three complementary scents on Amazon. They seemed like a great company, committed to natural ingredients and quality products. Their candles are made of soy wax and are hand poured. After much deliberation we chose the fall harvest gift set and quickly received three flavors in the mail: Pumpkin Spice, Cranberry, and Autumn Leaves. They arrived neatly packaged and they smelled wonderful! Nothing fake or headache-inducing. Just like fall in a box. :)

fall harvest candles - a review on thepajamachef.com

So, what did I think? Overall these were great candles. They claim to burn for 20 hours each–quite an accomplishment since each is only 2 ounces. I haven’t burned any of them for quite that long, but I’m guessing that’s fairly accurate based on the amount of wax left after burning for about 5 hours in one stretch. I have heard that candles in general burn better if you can let them go for a long stretch as opposed to short bursts [no idea if that's true or not] and I could see that may be true here. The scents were perfect for fall and smelled good without being overpowering. Pumpkin spice seemed the strongest of the ones I tried, and that’s a-okay with me! The packaging is simple and attractive and would match any decor. I liked that the candles were just white instead of being some crazy color. No need to coordinate with decor. Now, the cost. Would I pay $25 for three small candles, even if they did burn 20 hours each? Well, that’s a toss up. Depends on the day, honestly, and how spendy I’m feeling. Most of the large jar candles are sold for over $20 so it may be a good deal after all. They giftwrap and are sold through Amazon so that’s a win right there! I’m glad I was able to try these candles. I think they’d be a great Christmas gift. Thanks for the opportunity!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary gift set of Old Factory Candles to try and review on my blog and on Amazon. I was not compensated for my time or to publish positive comments. My opinions are my own.

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Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

A creamy, veggie-filled pasta dish that comes together quickly with lots of pantry ingredients.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comDoes anyone else watch Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network? Ever since we moved to Nashville and got a DVR [yes, I know these have been around forever but we didn't get one til a year ago. We are way behind technology-wise.] I have been obsessed with recording episodes of cooking and HGTV shows. Because I can, and because they’re good tv shows to watch while blogging or reading magazines or something. I never watch and only watch tv. I need to be doing something else in the process, so I need somewhat mindless shows that aren’t totally trashy. Does that make sense? This one, if you haven’t seen it, requires chefs to dash around a grocery store in search of ingredients for an assigned meal/category of food, and then COOK their meal… but there’s always a twist or challenge. I never in a million years would want to be on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, or any of those other cooking shows… but if I had to choose a cooking competition show to be on, this would be it. It’s relatively tame, Guy seems nice, and hello! Grocery stores are my favorite place to browse. Is that weird? Ha. Anyways, on a recent episode of triple G, one of the judges said that pasta dishes aren’t supposed to be light. She thought they needed to be heavy, or at least, hearty to be a true pasta dish. I have to say I disagree with that. There’s a place for heavy, hearty dishes like baked pasta or lasagna [take a look in my archives, I have tons of recipes like that!] but sometimes lighter pasta dishes totally hit the spot. Maybe they aren’t traditional but I love ‘em.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comThis pasta dish is exactly the kind I love–full of flavor and interesting things, but still relatively light. It uses cream cheese and Parmesan cheese but also a lot of tomatoes, onions, and spinach to balance everything out. You can make this pasta in a pretty short amount of time, using mostly pantry ingredients, so it’s great for weeknights. The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks, so it really doesn’t take more time to make than  a box of mac ‘n cheese. So what if it’s not this big, hearty meal? Isn’t that what sides are for? :) To make this more of a one dish meal, I think some sliced grilled chicken, shrimp, or even some canned white beans would be great additions. I’ll have to try that next time! Enjoy!

one year ago: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce
two years ago: Pumpkin Cornbread
three years ago: Honey Whole Wheat English Muffinsfour years ago: Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, aka “Pumpfredo”

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
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from Budget Bytes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound small pasta like penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 ounces fresh spinach [frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained should also work too]

Directions:

Prepare pasta [al dente] according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened about 7 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Add tomatoes [undrained], oregano, basil, red pepper, and black pepper and stir to combine. Add tomato paste and 1/2 cup water to skillet, stirring until tomato paste has dissolved. Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese cubes one by one, stirring until incorporated. Then add the Parmesan cheese gradually, stirring until it is creamy.

When pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce. Top with spinach, cover, and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes until spinach wilts. Stir in and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately.

Chaider

Chaider is an awesome fall treat; the perfect blend of hot apple cider and chai. It’s fall in a mug!

Chaider: A Fall Treat with Apple Cider and Chai | thepajamachef.comThere’s this great coffee shop in Ben’s college town, Athens, OH, called Donkey. Saying they are great is a total underestimation of their wonderfulness. They’ve won awards for having the best coffee in the state of Ohio and they totally deserve it! I lived in Athens for two years and went to Donkey on my first full day in town per the recommendation of a friend. I had no idea the love I would develop for that coffee shop, and not just because it was the place of our second date [and many more afterwards]. It’s the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, and the atmosphere inside is even better.  You can literally spend all day there, lounging in one of the comfy armchairs under the funky lights. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and I would seriously consider leaving Nashville behind to head back to that tiny college town just so I could frequent Donkey Coffee on a regular basis.

Chaider: A Fall Treat with Apple Cider and Chai | thepajamachef.comLike many coffee shops, Donkey serves up a variety of specialty seasonal drinks. I have no idea if they do the pumpkin thing, but I do know they do the Chaider thing. I’m sure to many folks, Chaider sounds a bit weird, but it’s actually pretty phenomenal. It’s this fun blend of apple cider and chai, perfectly spiced and served hot. It’s always in high demand during the fall since you can only get it for a few short months. It’s Ben’s favorite, and since we are 5+ hours away from Donkey, I just had to find a way to make it at home!

Chaider: A Fall Treat with Apple Cider and Chai | thepajamachef.comIn the past I have made chaider by blending fresh apple cider with some chai. Pretty simple. But this year, I think I finally found the secret to making authentic homemade chaider–fresh orange juice, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Boil and simmer, then remove cinnamon and cloves before serving. It takes a little more time but amps the flavors up SO much more. For this drink you’ll need to use coffee shop style chai, so either the bottled concentrate or the powdered stuff. Chai tea bags aren’t exactly the same thing. Donkey uses the powdered kind of chai [and has their own wonderful blend, in case you're ever there in the non-fall months] so that’s what I used too.

Chaider: A Fall Treat with Apple Cider and Chai | thepajamachef.comWhen I made a batch of this on a recent Sunday afternoon, Ben said he felt like he was back at Donkey again. I’d consider that a win! Try it soon–you’ll love it! It’s a perfect drink for an afternoon walk in the woods to admire the leaves or a cozy night at home or whatever else suits your fancy in the fall. Ahhh, bliss.

Chaider: A Fall Treat with Apple Cider and Chai | thepajamachef.comone year ago: Pizza Frittata
two years ago: Lemon Herb Eggs in Ciabatta
three years ago: Candy Corn Pretzel Bites
four years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Chaider

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10-15 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups chai [I use the powdered chai mix from Trader Joe's--2 scoops + 1 1/2 cups water whisked together]
  • juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and heat for 5-10 minutes or until hot.

Remove cinnamon stick and cloves, then divide between 2 mugs and serve hot.

Linked with Weekend Potluck

SRC: Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins

These sweet muffins swirled with cranberry compote and a delicious cream cheese center are the perfect afternoon snack!

Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins | thepajamachef.com #secretrecipeclub

Welcome to November’s Secret Recipe Club! This month I was assigned to Maxine’s blog, Why I Am Not Skinny. Maxine is a South African expat living in Brussels… two great places! I’ve been to South Africa for a few days when I was in Lesotho for part of a summer in college, and I would absolutely love to go back. On her blog, Maxine shares so many delicious recipes and restaurant recommendations. If/when I go to Brussels I will have to check out her blog again! Though I really wanted to make her Pea and Mint Risotto or Pumpkin Fritters, I settled on these Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins because I wanted a sweet treat. :)

Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins | thepajamachef.com #secretrecipeclub

I also kind of wanted to make these as a sort of redemption for Maxine, because her muffins didn’t come out quite as well as BBC’s picture. And I am SO glad I did. They were tangy and creamy and all sorts of deliciousness. Though they weren’t quite as simple as most muffins are–you have to make the cranberry compote and the cream cheese filling, they are well worth it. Next time [and there WILL be a next time] I think I’ll skip mashing the cranberries so as to have bigger chunks in the muffins, and I might reduce the temperature for baking down to 325 or 350 so they don’t brown quite as quickly. Some of my unpictured muffins definitely got a little dark. Maxine, I hope my muffins live up to your expectations! Thanks for a great recipe! :)

one year ago: Pumpkin Graham Muffins
two years ago: Pollo alla Poggia Alloro
three years ago: Homemade Maple and Brown Sugar Almond Butter
four years ago: Pumpkin Soup and Homemade Croutons

Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 30 minutes
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from Why I Am Not Skinny

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams/3.5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 250 grams sugar/1 cup + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 175 grams/6 ounces fresh cranberries [frozen can also be used, just add a splash of water or apple cider to help liquify]
  • 200 grams/26 tablespoons flour – UPDATED: I used this calculator to come up with this. When I made the recipe I used my kitchen scale and didn’t measure in tablespoons… I think the previous measurement I had here was wrong. So sorry about that!
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 75 ml canola oil [this is just between 1/4 and 1/3 cup]
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or grease well with cooking spray.

Beat together cream cheese with 2 tablespoons sugar. Place in refrigerator to chill until ready to use.

In a small saucepan, combine another 2 tablespoons sugar with 6 ounces fresh cranberries. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop. Then mash gently with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, vanilla, and almond extract. Fold in wet ingredients into the dry, then fold in cranberries. Do not overmix or else the batter will bleed.

Scoop batter–it will be thick–into prepared pan, about 1/2 to 2/3 way full. Do not overfill. Use a spoon to scoop a ball of cream cheese mixture into batter, pressing down gently. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Notes:
Some of my muffins spilled over the top of the muffin cups because I filled them too full, so don’t make that mistake.

Also, you may want to skip mashing the cranberries so the batter bleeds less.

Do not overbake–cheese may still seem a bit soft. If muffins are browning too much, cover with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking or reduce heat to 325 degrees F.

Be sure to check out all the other fun recipes made this week for the Secret Recipe Club below!

 

Mystery Dish: Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin

For this month’s edition of Mystery Dish, Marcie of Flavor the  Moments was our host. She gave us a lovely  list to work with, including: pork, fennel, kabocha squash, hard apple cider, heavy cream, orange, farro, hazelnuts, quince, thyme, maple syrup, and brussels sprouts. A lot of fun ingredients, for sure! But some were a little too exotic or expensive for me to get without a trip across town to a fancier grocery store, so simple it was!

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDishBut simple doesn’t have to mean boring. This honey-thyme roasted pork tenderloin was anything besides boring! It was bursting with lots of fresh flavor–before roasting, the pork is seared in a hot skillet then coated with an amazing mixture of honey, butter, thyme, and orange zest AND juice. Talk about flavor overload! I could totally see making that honey mix into a fun spread on cornbread or a biscuit. It was SO delicious when I test tasted it [before it came into contact with the raw meat] that I was super tempted to put the spoon in my mouth later. But raw meat=gross=unhealthy so I talked myself out of that one. :) It was hard, guys, but I did it.

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDishAs the pork roasted, a wonderful hearty sweetness filled the house. I tended up having to cook the meat a little while longer than the original recipe advised, despite the internal temperature reading 145 degrees F as it should, hence the photos above being a little too pink for my liking. But I was chasing daylight and thought the pork was done before I cut into it, so I had to take the photos then or else incur the wrath of the dreaded florescent kitchen lighting. Ugh, no thanks. But once the pork was done, it was amazing–juicy and rich, with the perfect blend of herb-citrus-honey baked right into the crispy coating that appears as the honey bakes on the pork. I served my pork with an awesome butternut squash side dish that I’ll have to share before Thanksgiving because it has “holiday side dish” written all over it. Enjoy!

one year ago: Skinny Southwest Chicken Dip
two years ago: Mexican Rollups
three years ago: Individual Pumpkin Pie Parfaits
four years ago: Asian Chicken Bowls

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Print

adapted slightly from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 pound pork tenderloin
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme [or 1 tablespoon ground thyme] + more for serving
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Let pork sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes before using, then pat dry and season with pepper and salt.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, sear pork for about 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove from pan and add chicken broth, scraping up brown bits, then remove from heat and reserve sauce.

Whisk together thyme, orange zest, orange juice, honey, and butter in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When pork has seared, place pork in a baking dish then rub with thyme mixture. Pour chicken broth into baking dish.

Bake for at least 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Let rest for 10 minutes, covered with foil, before slicing and serving with more fresh thyme.

See what other Mystery Dish gals made this month:

Baked Apple Donuts with Maple Glaze by Yummy Healthy Easy

Baked French Toast Casserole by I Want Crazy

Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Truffles by Culinary Couture

Hazelnut Maple-Glazed Cinnamon Rolls by I Dig Pinterest

Hazelnut Macarons with Pumpkin Maple Filling by Baking a Moment

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin from The Pajama Chef

Italian Sausage and Ravioli Skillet by Simply Gloria

Kabocha Squash Curry with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Farro by Chez CateyLou

Maple Glazed Fennel and Brussels Sprouts by The Well Floured Kitchen

Pear Hazelnut Bread with Orange Maple Glaze by Blahnik Baker

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Bacon, and Hazelnuts by Flavor the Moments

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Harvest Salad with a Hard Apple Cider Vinaigrette by Joyful Healthy Eats

{Vegan} Orange Hazelnut Maple Cinnamon Rolls by Sweet Tooth Life