Holiday

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Are you guys peanut butter fanatics like I am? Most days I just look around the kitchen to see what would be a good vessel for my peanut butter snack. Pretzels? Check. Carrot sticks? Yup. Pancakes? Yes, please. Spoon? Sure, why not?

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Sometimes when I’m coming up with recipes I think the same way. I quickly discovered that roasted acorn squash makes an excellent peanut butter vessel. Especially when the peanut butter is combined with coconut milk, lime juice, coconut aminos (or soy sauce) and maple syrup to make a rich, tangy, salty and slightly sweet sauce. Add some chopped crunchy peanuts and savory scallions and you have absolute veggie perfection.

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Have you ever used coconut aminos? I bought a bottle at Trader Joe’s and this was my first time using it. Many people use it as a substitute for soy sauce since it tastes similar, although slightly sweeter. Coconut aminos is lower in sodium and contains no soy. If you would rather use low sodium soy sauce because that’s what you already have in your fridge you might need to adjust the sauce to taste a little since it’s not a direct substitution.

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love pretty much all roasted vegetables and acorn squash is no exception. The slices get tender, a little crispy and caramelized. Plus, how fancy do they look all laid out on the platter? You definitely need a very sharp knife to cut through the squash. If you’re finding the squash too difficult to cut through, cut a few slits in the skin of the squash then microwave for three minutes to help soften the skin.

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Looking for more peanut vessel inspiration? Check out my Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos, Sesame Peanut Noodles with Chicken or Apple Nachos. Or if you want something a little sweeter, the Chocolate Drizzled Peanut Butter Crunch Chocolate Brownies and the Peanut Butter Apple Bars are both loaded with peanut butter. Yum!

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce
 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 acorn squash
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter (I used Jif)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Cut the acorn squashes into ½-inch slices. Use a small round biscuit cutter or a knife to remove the center of each slice to leave you with acorn squash rings. Lay the squash slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Spray with nonstick cooking spray then season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. While the squash is roasting, make the peanut sauce. Whisk the peanut butter, coconut aminos, light coconut milk, maple syrup, lime juice, ground ginger and red pepper flakes in a small mixing bowl until well combined.
  4. When the squash is done, layer on a serving dish. Drizzle the peanut sauce over top then top with the chopped peanuts and scallions. Serve warm.
Notes
Substitutions: If you can’t use coconut aminos, you can try swapping in low sodium soy sauce. You might need to increase the amount of maple syrup. If you can’t use light coconut milk, substitute water.
Leave the acorn squash unpeeled. When you cut the slices you want the squash positioned so the stem end is facing your left hand and the bottom end of the squash is facing your right hand (if you are going to be cutting with your right hand).

 

Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all having a fun-filled weekend so far! I wanted to pop in this Sunday with a quick recipe before all my family Christmas festivities got started. I saved this recipe for the last minute because it’s so easy, but I wanted to make sure I shared it because these Candied Pecans are seriously addictive.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

If they look familiar it’s because I first made them to go on top of my Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream Pie I shared before Thanksgiving. When I made them for the ice cream pie I was so excited by how tasty they were that I decided the pecans deserved their own post here on Lemon and Mocha.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

Most recipes I’ve seen online for candied pecans use butter, but this recipe actually uses a single egg white instead. The egg white and vanilla extract are beaten until frothy before tossing with the pecans, which then get coated with brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and ground cloves. The pecans get the best crispy and sugary spiced coating on the outside without any greasiness of butter. If you’re like me and have been baking like crazy all holiday season then you probably have all these ingredients in your pantry right now to whip up a batch.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

I just made a batch for putting on top of my browned butter pecan cheesecake for Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house and I may have sneaked one or two (or ten) for myself. They are perfect for sprinkling on cakes, cheesecakes, trifles or ice cream, but they also taste crazy delicious just by themselves. Especially warm out of the oven – drooling over here! Simply put them in a bowl for snacking alongside dessert or use as part of a sweet and salty cheese and snack board.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends and I’ll be back here with a fun post on Wednesday!

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

Candied Pecans
 
Yield: A little more than 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces pecan halves
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg white and vanilla until frothy. Add the pecan halves then toss to completely coat. Spoon the coated pecans into the bowl with the sugars, trying to leave any excess egg white behind. Place on the prepared baking sheet and spread out the pecans. Bake for 1 hour, tossing the pecans on the pan every 15 minutes. I use a spatula to separate the pecans from the parchment paper then spread them back out in an even layer before putting back in the oven.

 

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

Does anyone else think this year flew by? Here we are, already looking at the December muffins! As I mentioned in my October Apple Pumpkin Muffins post I decided not to make the Food Network Magazine’s December muffins, which were candied cherry muffins. I might try those muffins at some point in the future because they sound good, but with all the cookies and fudge I was making this holiday season I wanted something a little lighter on the sugar. Instead, I decided to bake these Healthy Gingerbread Muffins from Ambitious Kitchen.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

They are free of refined sugar and instead use maple syrup and molasses as the sweeteners. There’s a few other healthy swaps in this recipe, such as using whole wheat flour, nonfat plain Greek yogurt and olive oil instead of butter. These are a great breakfast muffin, especially since they’re studded with tasty chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Matt and I enjoyed these muffins, but they are definitely “healthier” muffins.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

Without the refined sugar they are noticeably less sweet than muffins I’ve posted already this year and they have a less moist texture that you get from using whole wheat flour and minimal fat when baking. The best way I can describe them is that if you already don’t eat a lot of sugar or full fat foods then their “healthiness” won’t be that noticeable to you, but if you are in full Christmas cookie mood you could whip them up in January to jump-start your sugar detox. Like most of the muffins I posted this year, they freeze well, so for now ours are in the freezer to pop out whenever we need a quick and healthy breakfast.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

It definitely is interesting how your body adjusts to the sugars you are eating. Over the summer I was eating very little processed sugar. I made some “healthy” chocolate brownies and thought they tasted amazing. I froze a bunch of them and recently tried one, mid-holiday cookies-for-every-meal mode, and thought they tasted horrible! Do any of you have a refined sugar free lifestyle or have you ever “quit” sugar before?

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins
 
Yield: 12 muffins
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour, see note
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk (any fat percentage or almond milk)
  • ⅓ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup chocolate chips, optional
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • Coarse sugar, optional for sprinkling on top
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners and spray the inside of the liners with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the milk, yogurt, maple syrup, molasses, olive oil, vanilla and beaten egg. Stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, if using.
  3. Evenly divide the batter among the prepared paper liners. The batter should fill each liner ½ way up. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with coarse sugar. Bake the muffins for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple crumbs. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, them remove to a wire cooling rack to completely cool.
Notes
If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, take 1½ cups whole wheat flour then remove 1½ tablespoons of it. Add in 1½ tablespoons of cornstarch and sift together.

Recipe slightly adapted from Ambitious Kitchen.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

I know I say this all the time, but you need to try these Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites! This perfect party appetizer has all your favorite flavors of antipasto packed into one creamy bite. I love making appetizers with store-bought puff pastry because they look so fancy, but are actually incredibly easy. The puff pastry does all the work resulting in a buttery and flaky vessel for all the antipasto fixings.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’m not sure if you can tell from the photos, but these bites are made in a mini muffin pan so they’re really small, like a one bite deal. Since we are working with limited space inside these little flaky cups I decided to incorporate the artichokes and roasted red peppers by turning them into a simple artichoke dip. The artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers are chopped up then mixed with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and a secret ingredient to make the easiest and creamiest artichoke and red pepper dip ever.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Then on top we have some salami and a mini mozzarella ball to round out our antipasto flavors. You can add in some olives if you like, but Matt and I aren’t olive fans so I left those out. Top with some fresh basil or Italian parsley and you’ve made a delicious twist on a classic antipasto!

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Make sure you read the instructions through and do not put the mozzarella on until they are out of the oven. Mozzarella melts really easily so if you put it in the oven each bite will just be covered in a pool of melted mozzarella. Since we’re using fresh mozzarella balls you really want to be able to taste them so we’re adding them after the bites are all baked.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

My Crab Dip Puffs recipe is working overtime around here because that, along with my love for antipasto platters, inspired this recipe, too! I hope you all enjoy this one!

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites
 
Yield: 24
Ingredients
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted, but still cold
  • 3 artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • ⅓ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • ⅓ cup Hellman’s real mayonnaise
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 ounces hard salami
  • 6 ciliegine size mini fresh mozzarella balls
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley for serving, optional
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface unfold the puff pastry sheet. Roll into a rectangle about 10” by 15”. Cut the rectangle of puff pastry into 24 squares. Press each square into a cup of the prepared mini muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.
  3. While the puffy pastry bites are in the oven, mix together the chopped artichokes, chopped roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, Parmesan and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the salami into 6 thick rounds then cut each round into quarters.
  4. When the puff pastry comes out of the oven, gently press a spoon into the middle of each bite to lightly deflate the middle and make room for the artichoke dip. Spoon the artichoke dip into the puff pastry bites, about a teaspoon per bite. Keep dividing the dip among the bites until all the dip has been used up. Add a piece of salami to the top of each bite, but off to the side to leave room for the mozzarella. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  5. While the bites are in the oven, cut each mozzarella ball into quarters. When the bites come out of the oven let them cool slightly then use a spoon to help you remove them from the pan and place on a platter. Top each bite with a quartered mozzarella ball and the fresh basil or parsley, if using. Serve hot.
Notes
If you want to roast your own red peppers, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a pan or line with nonstick aluminum foil and roast a whole red bell pepper for 20 minutes. Flip the pepper then roast for another 20 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard along with the stem and seeds.

 

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Today I am writing this post and I’m not hungry, but I have a feeling by the time I’m done talking about these Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites I’m going to be starving! I wanted to share a shrimp appetizer since firstly, shrimp is delicious, and secondly, I like having seafood as an appetizer especially if the main course is meat.

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

My inspiration for this recipe was the Crab Dip Puffs I posted forever ago. Also, can we briefly talk about those photos? I think I need to re-make and re-photograph them because that post is not doing the deliciousness of the Crab Dip Puffs justice! Anyways, I’m a sucker for crab rangoons and lately I’ve been seeing lobster rangoons on menus so I thought why couldn’t we just make shrimp rangoons?!

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

This recipe is so simple and the bites taste creamy and cheesy. Plus, they look extra fancy because of the little wonton cups. If you wanted to save time you could always bake the wonton cups the night before, but you don’t really need to save time because the whole recipe cooks in under fifteen minutes anyways.

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

We’re mixing up shrimp that we’ve cooked, cooled and chopped up, cream cheese, scallions, sour cream, shredded cheddar and garlic powder. I didn’t chop the shrimp too small because I wanted to get big bites of shrimp here and there. Feel free to use low fat cream cheese and sour cream if you would prefer.

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Also, you can definitely use more shrimp if you would like. I only did four ounces because I was trying to keep it cost effective – cooking for a crowd can get expensive fast! If you aren’t concerned about that though feel free to pack in the shrimp. And like I thought, now I’m hungry! Happy Monday, everyone!

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Shrimp Rangoon Wonton Bites
 
Yield: 24
Ingredients
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • 4 ounces shrimp, cooked and chopped
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a mini muffin pan then place the wrappers into the cavities so they create little wonton bowls. Lightly spray the wonton wrappers in the pan then bake for 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
  3. While the wrappers are in the oven, combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, setting some of the sliced scallions aside for topping.
  4. After the wontons have baked on their own, spoon the mixture into the wontons in the mini muffin pan, evenly dividing between them. Bake for 6-8 more minutes. Top with the reserved sliced scallions then serve hot.