Christmas Tree Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Breadsticks

 Happy holidays everyone. This year for the holidays I decided to try my hand at making one of those fancy stuffed bread stick Christmas tree appetizers. I'm really glad I gave this recipe a shot because it was not only simple to make, but it was super festive.

The most difficult part was getting the pizza dough to cooperate and not stretch too much while I laid it over the top. Other than that, it was as simple as mixing everything together and baking it. It was a really good, too. It was the perfect appetizer to make while we watched holiday movies.

Recipe from It's Always Autumn

  • 12 oz. package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 tube of refrigerated pizza dough

  1. Preheat oven to 400* 
  2. In a bowl mix together all package of frozen spinach, cream cheese, garlic, onion powder, pepper, chili powder, parmesan, and half of the colby jack cheese.
  3. To shape the tree, cut a triangle out of the center of the pizza dough (from one end to the other). Use the outer triangle pieces to create one large triangle that should match the size of the original triangle you cut out. I put the base of my tree right on parchment paper for baking. You will want to assemble this right on your baking dish.
  4. Place the filling on top of one of the large triangles. Sprinkle the remaining colby cheese on top. Place the second triangle on top. 
  5. Slice the branches of the tree, leaving a small section of the middle intact to hold the tree shape. Twist ends to get the spiraled look.
  6. Bake for 22 minutes or until golden brown on top and cooked underneath. Serve warm.

This video shows how to make the tree shape in the dough. 

Cheesy Broccoli Dip

One of the things I like to do on the weekend is make dip. The weekends are our time to unwind and either play games, watch movies, or catch up on our shows. I tend to get bored with the same stuff, so I'm always trying new recipes that are not only easy to make, but not horribly bad for you. So, when I saw this dip that had broccoli in it, I knew I had to give it a try.

While I liked the sound of the original recipe I found online, there were a lot of things that I wanted to change about it. I wanted more broccoli, less fat, and I wasn't going to go out of my way to buy special seasonings that I'd never use again. I'm definitely glad I made the changes because I loved this dish. It was hearty, warm, and delicious. I served it with a loaf of french bread and just used a knife to spread it on.

3 cup broccoli florets, chopped small
1 (8 oz) 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in a container)
1/2 cup Colby jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. thyme
pinch of cayenne
fresh cracked pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-inch baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup Colby jack cheese, yogurt, Parmesan, milk, and seasonings. Stir in the broccoli.
  3. Spread broccoli mixture into the prepared baking dish; sprinkle with remaining Colby jack cheese. Place into oven and bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately.

Vegetable Pot Pie

One thing I love about the colder weather is heating the house up with the smell of a delicious casserole. I love pot pie and have tried a few recipes over the years. However, I realized that I've never tried a vegetable only pot pie. Since I already had everything on hand, I decided to give this recipe a try.

Every week I sit down and go through my recipes and my Pinterest board to come up with all the dinners I plan to make for that week. That way I know what I need to get from the grocery story. This was a recipe that I didn't have to buy anything for because I already had everything on hand. I even had some white wine already opened. Well, technically it's a boxed wine... so I always have some white wine "opened". By the way, if you like white wine, I recommend the Black Box Chardonnay. That's what I used for this dish and it's probably my favorite boxed white wine. It's got a light, crisp, and subtle fruity flavor that you'd expect from a white wine but then it ends on a creamy note. So, yeah, that's my wine of choice for this dish but any white wine like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc would work.

recipe adapted from Life Currents

  • 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 1 sheet puff pastry thawed and unfolded

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Pierce the potatoes several times with a fork or knife, and microwave until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes and the power of the microwave. Allow potatoes to cool slightly so that you can handle them, and chop into ½-inch to 1-inch dice. Transfer cubed potatoes to a large bowl, and set aside.
  3. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon oil. Once the oil is hot, sauté the onions until starting to brown and caramelize, about 15-20 minutes. Add the carrots to the onions, and continue to cook, and until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer cooked vegetables to the large bowl with the potatoes, and set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the butter and 2 tablespoons oil to the same pot. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Slowly and gradually stir the milk, broth, thyme, salt, and pepper into the flour mixture. Continue to stir constantly as the sauce thickens. Stir in the white wine, and cook for an additional minute.
  5. Turn the heat off, and stir the cooked vegetables and the peas into the sauce, until well combined. Taste for salt and pepper.
  6. Pour the filling into a 13x9-inch baking dish, and bake in 400° F oven for 18 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven (keeping the oven on and close the door behind you), and place the puff pastry over the top of the filling, gently folding some of the pasty over the sides of the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut 3 slits in the top of the puff pasty to allow steam to escape. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cranberry Jalapeno Dip

I'm not a huge peppermint person. However, during the holidays, I LOVE cranberries. The fresh stuff, not the sugary dehydrated craisins you see in stores year round. My go-to is usually Upside Down Cranberry Cake but this year I wanted to do something different. We love eating dip on the weekends and this was a great way to incorporate that with one of my favorite holiday ingredients.

One thing that I loved about this recipe was how easy it was to throw together. I thought I would have to cook the cranberries, but you don't. Although, you do want to make this the night before since it needs time to allow the flavors to meld together. One thing I do recommend is right before you go to put the cranberry mix on the cream cheese, slice up a little more green onion and mix it in. The green onion loses its vibrant color as it sits overnight and I really wanted a red and green color to the dip when I served it. I served this dip with Triscuits, but sliced bread or even water crackers would work with this. I just always have Triscuits on hand. One thing I changed from the original recipe was I added plain yogurt to the cream cheese. I always add fat-free plain yogurt to my cream cheese when I use it as a dip. It not only adds more volume without altering the taste, but it also adds a creaminess to the cream cheese and makes it smoother and less dense.

recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 4-5 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)
  • 2 (8 ounces) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

  1. Chop cranberries until it's in small chunks and set aside in a bowl. You can also put the cranberries in a food processor or blender until coarsely chopped if you don't want to chop by hand. Add the green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, sugar, cumin, and lemon juice to the cranberries and mix until the ingredients are well combined. Transfer the mixture to a covered bowl or tupperware and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I let mine sit overnight).
  2. When ready to serve, mix the yogurt and cream cheese together (I used my handheld mixture for this) and spread it in an even layer on a serving plate or 9-inch pie dish. Top with the cranberry-jalapeno mixture, spreading evenly over the top of the cream cheese.
  3. Refrigerate for up to an hour before serving. Serve with crackers or sliced bread.

Biscuits and Lentil Gravy

One thing that I love and miss about eating meat are biscuits and sausage gravy. That was something that I could eat for every meal of the day and have no regrets. Actually, when the Mister and I were traveling across the country, every hotel we stopped at had biscuits and gravy as one of their complementary breakfast items. I won't lie to you guys, I may or may not have chosen the hotels we stopped at for the night based on their breakfast options.

So, I was really excited when I saw a recipe for this in my copy of Thug Kitchen, a vegan cookbook. I've tried a few recipes from this book and honestly, they've not been that great. There's always something that doesn't work out or I end up feeling like it needs more or different spices from what the recipe calls for. Basically, the recipes end up being a bit bland. However, that didn't deter me from trying this recipe. Of course, the one thing that did not work for me were the vegan biscuits. They were awful. They were so hard and tough. No amount of gravy made them palatable. I would up throwing them out to the birds to eat. Thankfully, the gravy turned out amazing. So, after we choked down the first round, I went out and bought a tube of buttermilk biscuits to use for the leftovers. Once I made the change, these biscuits and gravy were golden.

  • 1 ½ cups of green or brown lentils
  • 5 cups of water
  • salt
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
  •  1 tube of biscuit dough or one batch of homemade biscuits

  1. Bake biscuits according to package.
  2. Bring the lentils, water, and a little bit of salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer for 40 minutes to cook the lentils until they are falling apart.
  3. In a small skillet, heat up the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until it starts to brown (3 minutes), add the thyme, garlic, and some black pepper and cook for another 30 seconds. Take off the heat.
  4. When the lentils are cooked, drain the excess water and put the lentils back into the pot.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and the broth. Add the broth mix into the lentils along with the onion, soy sauce, paprika, and vinegar.
  6. Use an immersion blender or a normal blender to blend the gravy to a smooth consistency.
  7. Heat the gravy up again and simmer in the saucepan to thicken, 2-3 minutes.