Christmas

Quinoa Pizza Bites

Quinoa Pizza Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Happy Monday and happy December, everyone! I’m making the mistake of writing this post while I’m hungry and just thinking about these Quinoa Pizza Bites is making my stomach rumble! I should get up to go eat something, but I’m going to use it as motivation to finish writing this post!

Quinoa Pizza Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’m interrupting my Christmas and holiday dessert posts to bring you this Quinoa Pizza Bite recipe. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more chocolate and desserts to come, but today we’re all about this easy, cheesy and healthy-ish appetizer.

Quinoa Pizza Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love using pizza flavors in appetizers because they tend to be universally loved and nothing tastes better than some gooey cheese when you’re hungry.

Quinoa Pizza Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

These little bites are made right in a mini muffin pan sprayed with nonstick spray so you can pop them right out and serve them hot. The base of the bite is some cooked quinoa. Mixed in with the quinoa is shredded mozzarella cheese, chopped roasted red peppers, grated Parmesan, an egg and some pizza seasonings. Don’t forget the marinara for dipping!

Quinoa Pizza Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

The outside gets really crispy and crunchy, while the inside stays fluffy from the quinoa. You can use whichever pizza topping you prefer for the inside; Matt and I love roasted red peppers on our pizza so that’s what I used. I was also trying to keep them healthier where I could, but if you weren’t concerned about keeping it healthy, cooked crumbled sausage or mini pepperonis would be really good in these as well.

Quinoa Pizza Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

It’s nice to have some crowd-pleasing go-to appetizers around the holidays whether you’re hosting, asked to bring an appetizer or have a holiday potluck to attend. Or, as I mentioned in the Leftover Turkey Pull-apart Sliders with a Maple Mayo and Cranberry Barbecue Sauce post, if you just want a Friday night snack. I have a few more tasty holiday appetizers to share with you this month, but in the meantime below are some of my favorites! Okay, now I’m off to go eat!

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

Cheesy Pesto Bread with Crispy Prosciutto

Cheesy Pesto Bread with Crispy Prosciutto

Sweet & Sticky Honey Baked Wings

Sweet & Sticky Honey Baked Wings

Apple, Bacon and Brie Bread

Apple, Bacon and Brie Bread

Aunt Jen's Chicken Ginger Dumplings

Aunt Jen’s Chicken Ginger Dumplings

Honey Walnut Baked Brie

Honey Walnut Baked Brie

Caramelized Onion & Apple Dip

Caramelized Onion & Apple Dip

Cheesy Corn & Chorizo Dip

Cheesy Corn & Chorizo Dip

Southwest Turkey Baked Egg Rolls

Southwest Turkey Baked Egg Rolls

Quinoa Pizza Bites
 
Yield: About 20
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup cooked quinoa, see note
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers, or other preferred topping
  • ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • Marinara, for serving
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cavities. You will fill about 20. Make sure you press down to compact the mixture in each cavity.
  3. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan before eating. Gently use a spoon to help remove them from the pan if necessary.
Notes
If you don’t already have cooked quinoa, bring ½ cup uncooked quinoa to a boil with 1 cup water, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender.

Recipe from Live Well Bake Often.

World’s Smoothest Peanut Butter Fudge

World's Smoothest Peanut Butter Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

I have some more fudge for you today and you will not want to miss this one! This is the first non-chocolate fudge variation I’ve posted, but that’s okay because we have peanut butter. If you are someone that likes to eat peanut butter off a spoon and lives for the center of a Reese’s then you will love this creamy peanut butter fudge.

World's Smoothest Peanut Butter Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

It has the same smooth texture of the original fudge that you get from using sweetened condensed milk instead of granulated or powdered sugar. The fudge has just the right amount of sweetness and a hint of vanilla letting the peanut butter flavor really shine through.

World's Smoothest Peanut Butter Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

You can thank my former boss, Darcy, for this creation! Two years ago I set out to attempt to convert my fudge recipe into a peanut butter version after Darcy said that was her favorite flavor. I swapped the bag of chocolate chips for peanut butter chips and used a white chocolate baking square instead of the unsweetened chocolate one so there wouldn’t be any cocoa flavor in the fudge. Finally, I got rid of the butter and added in peanut butter. Normally just peanut butter on its own isn’t a great swap for butter in baking, but since we’re making candy and only using two tablespoons I figured I would give it a shot.

World's Smoothest Peanut Butter Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

The end result was peanut butter perfection and I’ve been making it this way ever since! I was so excited it worked out since not all my variation attempts have been successful. One of the versions I was hoping to post this year did not set up quite right, but that just prompted me to come up with an even better flavor idea that I will be sharing next Friday!

World's Smoothest Peanut Butter Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

Now back to this addicting peanut butter version. I make a note about it in the recipe, but I’ve only ever made this with creamy “regular” peanut butter, like Jif, so I can’t guarantee you will get the same results if you use the type of peanut butter that you have to stir because the oil separates. Usually that type of peanut butter doesn’t work as well in baked goods and treats. Also, as I say with all the fudge, I think this tastes best eaten cold straight from the fridge. Yum!

World's Smoothest Peanut Butter Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

Peanut Butter Fudge
 
Yield: 36-64 pieces depending on how big you cut them
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce Baker's white chocolate baking squares
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, like Jif
  • One 12-ounce bag peanut butter chips
  • 1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Line an 8" x 8" pan with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Melt peanut butter and the Baker’s chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in half the bag of peanut butter chips and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula to help melt. Once partially melted add the rest of the bag of peanut butter chips and stir until fully melted.
  4. Carefully stir in the condensed milk to combine and remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula.
  6. Refrigerate until the fudge is set then cut into bite size pieces. Best eaten straight from the fridge.
Notes
I have only made this with creamy Jif-type peanut butter. I can not guarantee the same results with a natural peanut butter (the type you have to stir because the oil separates). Also, a peanut butter with less sugar might not taste sweet enough.

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Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

It’s not even December, but I can’t help diving into holiday season content. I just have too many recipes I’m excited to share! Normally I don’t start listening to Christmas music until December, or at the very least I wait until Thanksgiving is over, but I’ve been seriously in a holiday mood this year. I think it was all the baking I was doing the week before Thanksgiving and the early snow we got here in New England, but I have to confess that I had Christmas music playing in my kitchen two weeks ago. Oops!

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

If there’s one dessert that is guaranteed to get me in the Christmas spirit it has to be Diane’s fudge. I love my stepmom’s classic fudge recipe (and you all do too – it’s the most popular recipe on Lemon & Mocha!), but I love all the fun variations I’ve made over the years even more. I’ve shared S’mores Fudge – crazy good – and Chocolate Peppermint Fudge – so Christmasty!

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

Today, we’re all about the Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge. In case you aren’t familiar, chocolate turtles are chocolate covered pecans with caramel inside and they kind of look like little turtles. I wanted to take those flavors and bring them into this classic semi-sweet chocolate fudge. The end result was messy, but so good!

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

The chopped pecans are folded into the fudge so you get a little crunch in each bite. The caramel is drizzled on the fudge then swirled in before the fudge sets.

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

I used Smucker’s salted caramel sauce since I love how quick it is to whip together a batch of fudge so I didn’t want to over-complicate it with homemade caramel. Do you think you will try this twist?

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge
 
Yield: 36-64 pieces depending on how big you cut them
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ⅓ cup caramel, see note
Directions
  1. Line an 8" x 8" pan with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and the Baker’s chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in half the bag of chocolate chips and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula to help melt. Once partially melted add the rest of the bag of chocolate chips and stir until fully melted.
  4. Carefully stir in the condensed milk to combine and remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and the pecans.
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top of the fudge and use a knife to swirl into the fudge.
  6. Refrigerate until the fudge is set then cut into bite size pieces. Best eaten straight from the fridge.
Notes
Your caramel should be soft enough to drizzle off a spoon. If it’s too firm from being in the fridge, heat it slightly.

 

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Every time I make a dish with mushrooms in it, it immediately becomes one of Matt’s new favorite dishes. I’m also mushroom obsessed, but Matt is on a whole other level. When I ask him what he wants me to make, his answer is always “that <insert name of food here> with the mushrooms.” This Warm Mushroom Barley Salad was no exception. The reason I’m telling you all this is because I was distracted with getting ready for our Japan trip and I couldn’t think of what to write for this recipe so Matt said, “just tell them that I love it.” Haha! That would be my shortest post ever – Matt loves this dish. The end.

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love cooking with different grains and was excited to discover how much I liked pearled barley a few years ago. It has a nice chewy texture and a slightly nutty taste that pairs really well with the sautéed mixed mushrooms. You can use any mushrooms you want for this, but since it’s the star ingredient I recommend a mix of a few that are maybe a bit different from your usual cremini or white mushrooms. I used a combination of cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

The Warm Mushroom Barley Salad is a simple dish, but simple is good. Especially around the holidays, then simple is really good. You can make this dish ahead of time and warm it in the microwave or serve it right from the stove-top without using any precious holiday oven space.

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since it’s simple, feel free to jazz it up further with some of your own obsession ingredients. It would taste so good with some caramelized onions, some kale or even some garlicky chicken sausage – yum! Or just keep it as is and enjoy!

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad
 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Directions
  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pearled barley then cook for 30 minutes, drain.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook half the mushrooms for 5 minutes, until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper while they’re cooking. Then remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl. Reheat the skillet over medium-high heat with another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and the other half of the mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes, until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper while they’re cooking. Remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl.
  3. To the mushrooms add the drained barley, the lemon juice, parsley and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be afraid to salt! Serve warm or room temperature.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food & Wine.

Strawberry Dutch Baby

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Yes, this recipe has a funny name, but I will get to that in a minute. For now, let’s focus on how absolutely delicious and stunning it looks. Beautiful! The enormous pancake is light and bursting with vanilla and cinnamon-sugar flavors. Crispy puffed pockets and softened doughy pillows cradle the syrupy strawberries and the whipped cream. Are you dreaming in your bed or did you actually just make this in no time at all with a blender and cast iron skillet? Since I just posted it you probably are dreaming, but you could be the later and be the hero of brunch this weekend.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

I had seen these Dutch babies on Instagram and cooking shows for a while now, but I never actually read through a recipe. I assumed to look so impressive that they must be complicated. I apologize to the last five years of my life for never reading a recipe because it is the opposite of complicated. Complicated doesn’t even exist on the same continent! The eggs are beaten until frothy then the rest of the ingredients are dumped in for some more mixing. I used a blender to do this to make it even easier. The mixture is poured into a cast iron skillet that’s been getting hot on the stove-top with melted butter. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet any oven safe skillet will work. Into the oven it goes! When it is done in the oven it gets sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, loaded with syrupy strawberries, and dolloped with whipped cream. In come the brunch eaters with their forks to savor the puffiness until the puff deflates, but the Dutch baby stays just as delicious.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

I came across this recipe when I was brainstorming for Christmas morning. I wanted something that would be minimally hands-on while also looking impressive. That’s hard to come by in the realm of brunch food. Thank the breakfast heavens for these oddly-named Dutch baby things. I did a bit of research, aka read Wikipedia, about the name and it turns out that this cross between a pancake and a popover isn’t Dutch at all. It is an American food and name said to be coined by a family cafe in Seattle, Washington in 1942. It seems to be their version of the German-style pancakes known as pfannkuchen, which look like slightly thicker crepes and are topped with fruit and sweet toppings. They speculate the Dutch part of the name came from the German word deutsch, which means German, but no word on where the baby part came in. My guess is that it is so delicious when you eat it that your speech becomes incoherent like a baby’s.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Part of the Strawberry Dutch Baby’s deliciousness is that it has the perfect amount of sweetness. Even though the actual Dutch baby has no sugar in it, all the sweetness is coming from the cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top and the syrupy strawberries. So stop dreaming and start planning when you’re going to make this impressively easy popover pancake!

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Strawberry Dutch Baby
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, tops removed and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Whipped cream, for serving
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Blend the eggs until frothy and pale in a high-speed blender, about 1 minute. Add the milk, flour, cinnamon, and salt then continue to blend until combined.
  3. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or an oven safe skillet. Once melted, remove from the heat and quickly pour in the prepared batter. Place right into the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the pancake has puffed, about 18-22 minutes.
  4. While the Dutch baby is baking, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls of the cinnamon-sugar (reserving some for the Dutch baby) over the sliced strawberries then stir to coat and let sit until the Dutch Baby is ready.
  5. When the Dutch Baby is done, remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle it with the cinnamon-sugar. Don’t be shy about it! Add the strawberries and whipped cream. Serve sliced with the extra strawberries and whipped cream.
Notes
If you do not have a blender, you can use a stand mixer or hand mixer.

Recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker.