Chopped Kale Salad with Bleu Cheese & Bacon

Kale. Seriously can’t get enough of it. Ben can’t either. No complaints here.

Chopped Kale Salad | thepajamachef.com

Normally, our kale is cooked–in pasta, fried rice, or as a base for chicken or pork. But this time, I decided to do something different and make a chopped kale salad. That’s right… raw kale, chopped into a billion teeny tiny bites and tossed with a fabulous array of toppings and the most spectacular dressing ever. Intrigued?

Chopped Kale Salad | thepajamachef.com

What makes this salad special and different is ALL the tastes and textures going on. Crisp carrots, sweet apples, salty bacon, pungent bleu cheese, tart cranberries, crunchy toasted almonds. And a sweet peanut butter-maple vinaigrette that is nothing short of amazing. I was literally eating it with a spoon, for goodness sake! It has a peanut butter base, so that’s totally legit, right?

By the way, if you aren’t the biggest fan of bleu cheese, don’t let this scare you. There’s only enough to give a hint of the flavor, but if you like it you can always substitute feta or parmesan. I don’t always include cheese in my salads but it really works in this one, to make it more substantial. Just FYI.

Chopped Kale Salad | thepajamachef.com

I threw this recipe together quickly on a busy night when we were headed to a small group dinner, and it was all but polished off. Fortunately, there was enough leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day, but the salad definitely got a little soggy on day 2 so I would recommend adding the dressing just before serving if at all possible. I only made this a couple weeks ago and am totally craving it now, as I write this at 10:27 pm. I have a feeling this salad is going to become a regular in our house and I hope it will in yours too! Enjoy!

So you tell me… have you ever had a kale salad before? What are your go-to [kale] salad mix-ins?

a year ago… Man Cupcakes
three years ago… Creamy Baked Spaghetti

Chopped Kale Salad with Bleu Cheese and Bacon [dressing adapted from Iowa Girl Eats]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 bunches kale
  • 1 1/3 cups red cabbage
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large Fuji apple
  • 3 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • freshly ground black pepper

dressing

  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

Directions:

Wash and dry kale, then tear into small bite-size pieces, discarding thick stems. Add to a large bowl and set aside.

Wash and dry cabbage, carrot, and apple, then shred. I used my food processor but a grater would also work. Add to kale, along with bleu cheese, bacon, almonds, and cranberries.

Whisk together balsamic, olive oil, maple syrup, and peanut butter until smooth to make dressing, then drizzle half over the salad. Toss to combine, and add more dressing as desired. I used about 3/4 of the total dressing made. Season with black pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Time: 20 minutes.

Yield: 10-12 side salads, 3-4 meal size salads.

Linked up with: Tuesday Talent Show.

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Lemon Cranberry Muffins

Man, I am so sad that I didn’t share these Lemon Cranberry Muffins during peak cranberry season!! Boo! It got buried in my post queue and I justtttt found it. What a bummer. Don’t these muffins look divine?

Lemon Cranberry Muffins2

I really have no excuse for not sharing them until now though; I made these muffins in October. But all might not be lost–I just scored three bags of cranberries for 99 cents each at the grocery store, so maybe you can find a crazy clearance sale too, or find some frozen cranberries, or maybe you’re a planner and have already frozen some cranberries for offseason baking needs. In that case: this recipe qualifies. However…. if you’re cranberry-less, do not despair. Read on, be sad for a minute, bookmark this recipe for the fall…and comfort yourself by gazing at my cute kitty hanging out on a pile of blankets.

Sheba | The Pajama Chef Isn’t she so pretty? I think so, but I’ll admit I’m a bit biased.

But back to these muffins… cause they’re pretty too, I think. Pretty and yummy! Did you get a glimpse of these colors? Wow! And the colors aren’t all there is to it. Each bite of these decadent muffins is absolutely incredible. Have you ever had yogurt cake before? I made a lime yogurt cake in the early days of this blog [read: the post is a wee bit embarrassing, but such is life, eh?]. If yogurt cake is new to you, you must try it. It’s a moist, soft, and fluffy with a fabulous crisp top… and it’s made with little [or no] butter. Cray cray! I’ve always loved yogurt, and this is just another reason why.

Lemon Cranberry Muffins | The Pajama Chef

Now, I’m sure the lemon muffin is absolutely perfect as is. Sweet, with a little tart bite. But really, they are a little incomplete. That’s where the tart cranberries come in. These little berries really liven up a traditional muffin. I love how they pop in your mouth with each bite. :) When I read the recipe called for whole cranberriesI was a bit skeptical, and almost chopped them up, but I’m so glad I didn’t, because the whole berry really makes the muffins special. I love that these muffins are sweet and tart all at once, but if you want more sweetness, check out the original recipe for a glaze that will likely take these over the top!

I’m sure if you’ve read my blog for any length of time you’ve picked up that I love muffins… and everything I post on this blog is something that we have loved. But truthfully, not everything is make again. I’m sure you know those recipes. Things that are too good not to share, but not good enough that you crave it. Well, these muffins do not fall into that latter category. They are definitely make again winter after winter, year after year… in fact, I think I’ll be making them again soon! They are a perfect portable winter treat. Enjoy!

P.S. I keep forgetting to link this up, and this ‘P.S.’ is even an edit to the original post… but have you seen my interview with Healthy Page? It went live last week [I am so behind] and I’d love for you to check it out! What a great site. I am honored to be featured! Thank you, Healthy Page!

Lemon Cranberry Muffins [from Food Republik]
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together yogurt, sugar, and eggs. Then add lemon zest and vanilla extract. Lastly, stir in oil.

In a smaller bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. Gently fold into wet ingredients and stir until just moistened. Add cranberries and stir until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, then bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container for up to 3 days before freezing the leftovers.

Time: 35 minutes [10 minutes active].

Yield: 14-16 muffins.

Notes: Original recipe called for plain yogurt. Since I used [sweetened] vanilla, I decreased the sugar. If you use plain yogurt, you may want to increase the sugar to 1 cup to match original recipe.

This recipe is linked up with Weekend Potluck.

Cranberry Orange Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup

When we’re home and I’m not training for a marathon that requires me to spend the majority of my Saturday mornings out on a long run, our typical Saturday routine is to sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and then waste the day away with football games [Ben] and a good book [me] until we drag ourselves out the door to go workout, unless it is summertime, in which case we workout first thing to avoid the heat. Whoa. Run-on sentence. Sorry. All that to say, our leisurely breakfasts are the best. Except figuring out what to make. I’m a weekend breakfast snob, pretty much always insisting on some form of pancakes or waffles or egg casserole or french toast or or or… anything but boring toast or cold cereal. Not on the weekend…LAME!

Most men would delight in that. 1950s ideals and all. You know what the kicker is? 99% of the time, Ben would be just fine with eating dry Cheerios out of the box. Seriously. He uses a bowl, because of me, but how lame is that? So every week, our conversation is: what do you want for breakfast? Oh, cereal is fine. Really? Well if you really want to make something, I’d eat it… blah blah blah. But THIS SATURDAY!! This Saturday was different! When I asked Ben what he wanted for breakfast and said I was in a pancake mood, he immediately asked if there was a recipe somewhere for cranberry pancakes.

Cranberry pancakes? Well, I wasn’t sure, but a little Googling later led me to this awesome fare.

Cranberry Orange Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup | The Pajama Chef

Yup, that’s definitely a big ‘ole stack of Cranberry Orange Pancakes with a bowl of Cranberry Maple Syrup! Can it get any better?

Cranberry Orange Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup | The Pajama Chef

These pancakes were fluffy and sweet, slightly scented with a faint flavor of orange, while also having the unmistakable tartness of cranberries in each bite. So so so good! And the syrup! It was the star of the show, almost like a mixture of jam and syrup together… thick and sticky, as any good syrup is. It goes without saying that the cranberries in the syrup are tart…but a good tart, like cranberry sauce tart. Mmmm! A little vanilla in the syrup sophisticates this syrup. SO GOOD!

Cranberry Orange Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup | The Pajama Chef

Wait! It does get better because it was the boring breakfast eater who inspired me to find this recipe. Except now that I look at the photos, I realize it couldn’t have been Saturday morning when these photos were taken because it was obviously dark out so I took them indoors. Sigh. That means my story is slightly invalid… but the principle still remains! And these pancakes are incredible. I think we must have made these Friday night. Exciting lives we lead…haha. They are sure to become a Christimastime favorite in your house too. Enjoy! :)

Cranberry Orange Pancakes [from Coastal Living]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter $
  • zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, thawed if previously frozen

Directions:

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. In a large measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, egg, butter, orange zest, and vanilla extract.

Fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then add cranberries and mix gently until incorporated. Let batter rest while skillet heats up.

Meanwhile, heat canola oil on a large griddle or skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, reduce heat to medium and add batter, 1/4 cup for each pancake, then cook for 2-4 minutes or until edges cook and top is bubbly. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned.

Time: 20 minutes.

Yield: ~16 pancakes.

Cranberry Maple Syrup [from Coastal Living]

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, divided [thawed if frozen]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

Bring maple syrup and 3/4 cup cranberries to a boil in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to low, then simmer for 3-4 minutes until cranberries begin to pop. Crush cranberries with a potato masher, then add remaining cranberries. Simmer for another 2 minutes, then stir in vanilla and butter.

Time: 10 minutes.

Yield: 1 cup.

Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole

Christmas is coming, faster than we know. And I didn’t want to let the season go by without sharing this awesome roasted sweet potato dish. Even though it’s a sweet potato casserole, it bears little resemblance to the typical marshmallow-y sugar concoctions that are ever so traditional. Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole

I made this recipe for my family Thanksgiving dinner. I love roasted sweet potatoes as a side dish or light meal any time of year, so I thought that they would be the perfect basis for a new sort of sweet potato casserole! To make them a little more special than normal, I roasted the sweet potatoes in a lovely spiced maple syrup sauce. After they were nice and roasted, I added in some crisp apples and tart cranberries. A sweet oat streusel topped off the dish, and boy was it good! Even Ben, who usually passes on sweet potato casseroles, went back for seconds. That’s a success if I do say so myself!

Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole | The Pajama Chef

Plus, as with all good Thanksgiving or Christmas special side dishes, most of this can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until it is ready to be baked and served. It is absolutely delicious and would be a great addition to your Christmas table! I would love to make it again soon. Enjoy! :)

Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole [adapted from Cooking Light]
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Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks–about 6 cups, [peeled or unpeeled, your choice]
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup, divided
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, divided
  • 1/2 of a large granny smith apple, diced
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup half and half [I used fat free]
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place diced sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk together olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, then pour over sweet potatoes. Using your hands, coat sweet potatoes with olive oil mixture. Roast for 25-35 minutes, turning occasionally, or until fork-tender.

After sweet potatoes are done, transfer to a 10 inch round casserole dish [a 9x9 square dish should work too]. Mix in apples and cranberries.

Next, whisk together half and half, the egg, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Pour over sweet potato mixture, then bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

***Casserole can be made ahead up until this point and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, prepare the streusel. Stir together oats, brown sugar, flour, and pumpkin pie spice. Add melted butter and toss to form coarse crumbs.

Before serving, sprinkle streusel topping over sweet potatoes. Return to oven and bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until topping is browned.

Time: 75 minutes [15 minutes active]

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

I know Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I hope yours was nice… but I hope you aren’t sick of pumpkin yet, because these cookies are fabulous and I just had to share them, Christmas season or not!! I’m normally not an oatmeal cookie kinda girl–give me a chocolate chip or peanut butter cookie any day, but oatmeal? Meh. Aren’t they usually the weird leftover cookies abandoned at pitchins and other events? I think it’s usually cause they contain gross raisins and are slightly salty. Raisins are only good on their own, not in baked goods. But I digress. I shouldn’t use ‘gross’ anywhere near this post, because these Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies are anything but!!Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies | The Pajama ChefDespite my apathy towards classic oatmeal cookies, when I saw this recipe last month, I was intrigued. Pumpkin? Chocolate chips? Dried cranberries? All in one cookie, that wasn’t a soft cakey cookie?? Umm, how could I say no? Especially when they bore a slight resemblance to my favorite camp breakfast? Count me in! Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies | The Pajama ChefThese Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies are seriously a dream come true. Each cookie contains the perfect flavors of fall that I l-o-v-e [in case you were unaware]: pumpkin, spice, chocolate, and cranberries… all in a guilt free breakfast-resembling package. I mean, am I right??

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies | The Pajama Chef

They are hearty, chewy, and incredibly easy to make–they just take half an hour and you probably have all the ingredients available at home anyways. I know I do, practically all the time. You best believe that these will be popping up in my kitchen year-round from now on. They are that good!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies | The Pajama ChefThe fact that there’s no oil or butter in them is only a bonus… because I’m certain that eating 5 of them at once sort of negates the health benefits. But we can pretend, right?

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies [adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction and Love From the Oven]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. In a larger bowl, stir together flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Fold wet ingredients into the dry until just moistened–dough will be thick, but not un-stirrable. Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries.

Drop by spoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets, slightly flattening because dough does not spread much while baking. Bake for 13-14 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheet for about 3 minutes, then remove promptly to cooling rack to cool completely.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies.