Side Dishes

Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Today is Lemon & Mocha’s five year anniversary! Can you believe it? Five years ago today I published the first ever Lemon & Mocha blog post and here we are with another first – the first ever mac and cheese recipe on the site! Can you believe that? I can’t decide which thing shocks me more. I think, and anyone who knows me well will agree, that this being the first mac and cheese recipe is the most surprising part of today by far. I am OBSESSED with macaroni and cheese. I have been since I was a kid and I’m equally surprised I haven’t just turned into a big mac and cheese noodle so far. Although not for a lack of trying – check out my Halloween costume from last year!

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

When I was in middle school I would come home from school every day and eat an entire box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I took my box mac and cheese very seriously, too. I remember one time being at my best friend’s house and telling her mom not to worry, that I would make the box of mac and cheese because I knew the secret way to make it taste best (more butter, less milk, is key!). Nowadays, I’m all about the Annie’s mac and cheese. But what I love most of all is a cheesy, gooey, flavor packed homemade macaroni and cheese.

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

The flavor packed part is really important because a quality mac and cheese needs to be more than just noodles and melted cheese sauce. It has to have depths to its flavors so each bite takes you on a flavor roller coaster. Not a huge upside down one, but like a medium curvy one so just when you think you’ve settled in another flavor curve hits your palate. I usually use multiple types of cheeses and a little dijon mustard in all my homemade mac and cheeses as a start for that extra depth of flavor.

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

This mushroom version is some next level mac and cheese though since it’s loaded with umami. If you aren’t familiar with the term, check out my Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms post! We’re sautéing both cremini and shiitake mushrooms in shallots and garlic before putting them in the dish so they’ve reached their peak deliciousness. We’re also using dried mushrooms, which get re-hydrated in some warm water before being sautéed. The reason we do this is so we create a rich mushroom liquid that we use right in the Mushroom Mac and Cheese. This lets rich mushroom flavor permeate every bite, even if you don’t get an actual piece of mushroom.

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’ve made this mac and cheese in the past, but this most recent time Matt and I couldn’t get enough of it. The minute I took my last photo I grabbed a fork and started eating it right from the serving bowl – smelling it while photographing had been tortuous! We didn’t want to eat it all over the weekend because it’s, you know, not the healthiest, so I froze a container of it. Needless to say, that container promptly got defrosted the next night!

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

I can’t believe this is the first macaroni and cheese recipe I’m posting on Lemon & Mocha, but I promise it won’t be my last. Also, how many times did I just type mac and cheese? It must be my favorite word combination. Thank you all so much for continuing to follow this journey with me! As much as I pour my heart into my cooking, I equally pour my heart into my writing each week and connecting with everyone in this tiny online space brings me so much joy. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

Mushroom Mac and Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Mushroom Mac and Cheese
 
Yield: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 pound dried medium shell pasta
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces whole cremini mushrooms, stems removed and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1½ cups shredded fontina cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded sharp or smoked cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Submerge the dried mushrooms in the hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. When they are done, remove them from the water, squeeze them out, then chop and place with the other chopped mushrooms. Make sure to reserve the mushroom stock.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9x13” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the box instructions. Drain.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped cremini and shiitake mushrooms. Add the dried oregano and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms have stopped releasing liquid and are browned. Set aside.
  5. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes, whisking constantly. The roux should be slightly darkened. Add the white wine, whisk to combine and let cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and whisk. Once the milk has warmed, add 2 cups shredded gruyere, 1 cup shredded fontina and 1 cup shredded cheddar, whisking after each addition. Once smooth, add 3 tablespoons of the mushroom stock (the water the dried mushrooms were in), the mustard and the cooked mushroom mixture. Stir to combine. Add the cooked pasta and stir to completely coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup shredded fontina cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

 

Fall Fruit Salad

Fall Fruit Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I can’t believe it’s already late September! Time goes by way too quickly for my liking, but at least it’s Friday so I’m not really complaining. I had a completely different recipe scheduled to share today, but then I made this Fall Fruit Salad and it was so good I decided it needed to be shared here on Lemon & Mocha.

Fall Fruit Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

As soon as fall hits, everyone is all about the pumpkins and apples, myself definitely included. As great as those flavors are, there’s so many other seasonal fall fruits that often get ignored. I’m here to bring their gorgeous selves to the center stage with this Early Fall Fruit Salad. I’m including the ‘early’ because most of these fruits are in season right now and won’t be in just a week or two. It’s hard to keep up with all the seasonal fruits and vegetables going in and out of the stores! Just a few weeks ago I wanted to buy some fresh cherries, but seemingly overnight they had all disappeared from the produce shelves. So take advantage of these juicy fruits while you can!

Fall Fruit Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I mixed together blackberries, plums, figs and strawberries. I find that fall fruits and berries aren’t as sweet as most summer fruits so I’ve added a little maple syrup to sweeten them up. You’re going to want to use a bold maple syrup for that extra depth of flavor. I used an infused maple syrup, which you can read about in my Instagram post. I also added some lime juice and fresh mint, which really brings the whole fruit salad together.

Fall Fruit Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

This fruit salad did not last long in our house. Matt opted to eat it as is, while I scooped mine over fluffy pancakes – so good! Another reason I love this fruit salad is having fruit prepped and ready in the fridge makes us much more inclined to reach for them as snacks during the week.

Fall Fruit Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

There’s a little bit of time left while some of these fruits are still in season so we’ll definitely be back to the store soon to make some more Fall Fruit Salad. I hope you all enjoy and have a great weekend!

Fall Fruit Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Fall Fruit Salad
 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces blackberries
  • 8 ounces strawberries, sliced
  • 2 ripe plums, cored and sliced
  • 8 figs, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon whole fresh mint leaves
Directions
  1. Combine the fruit in a serving bowl. Pour the maple syrup and lime juice over top. Gently toss to combine. Top with the fresh mint leaves; if they are large cut them in half.

 

Three Bean & Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

There’s still plenty of time for barbecues and this Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad is the perfect side dish. I didn’t grow up with bean salad on the dinner table and I had never really given the dish much thought before. However, a couple months ago, Matt and I were grabbing dinner at Whole Foods. We live right by one so this is a common occurrence for us; it’s too hard to go in there and shop without getting dinner! I usually put together something from the salad bar. I’m not big on salads, but I throw in all the toppings and sides they have without any lettuce on the bottom. Anyone else do this or am I the only weird one?

Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Anyways, I put in some of this four bean salad they had along with some multi-colored roasted cauliflower (among probably ten other things). When we sat down to eat, I couldn’t get enough of the bean salad and roasted cauliflower combination.

Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I decided to make my own version when we had some family come stay with us. I found Cookie and Kate’s bean salad recipe and decided to tweak a few things. The salad got rave reviews! It is crunchy, well-balanced and has just the right amount of acidity. All the fresh chopped parsley brightens it up as well. My Aunt liked it so much that she made it while we were down at the beach!

Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Shortly after making it for my family, I decided I wanted to make it again, but this time with the roasted cauliflower like my Whole Foods salad bar meal. I found some rainbow cauliflower in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s and thought the colors of the purple cauliflower would pop really well. I had never roasted frozen cauliflower before, but it came out perfect.

Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

So after a bit of tweaking, below is my favorite version of this refreshing Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad. It makes a lot so definitely make sure you’re going to have some hungry eaters!

Three Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Three Bean & Roasted Cauliflower Salad
 
Yield: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ small red onion, minced
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil then place on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper then roast for 20 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
  2. In a large serving bowl or mixing bowl, combine the roasted cauliflower, kidney beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, red onion, cucumber red bell pepper and parsley.
  3. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and cauliflower and gently toss to combine.
Notes
I like to peel my chickpeas even though it takes a while. If you wish to peel them, simply pop them out of their skins after you’ve rinsed them.

Recipe adapted from Cookie + Kate.

Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I am a little addicted to this Sweet Potato Salad. This inspiration came from the restaurant chain Not Your Average Joe’s. I’m not sure if you have one in your state, but we have a few here in Massachusetts and Matt and I are hooked. Last summer they had a limited time barbecue menu and one of the sides was a sweet potato salad. When I asked our waitress about the special sides she started raving about the sweet potato salad so I figured I would give it a shot.

Sweet Potato Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

It was amazing! It was incredibly flavorful, a little tangy, a little sweet and I couldn’t stop eating it! The next day at work I started telling people that they had to go and order it because it was that good. This summer I haven’t seen it back on their menu yet so I set out to recreate the recipe. Just like the one I had at Not Your Average Joe’s, I couldn’t stop eating this potato salad!

Sweet Potato Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I knew the base of the dressing wasn’t all mayonnaise since it had a rich tanginess to it, so I added some buttermilk. The mustard seeds give it a great crunch and the celery salt and smoked paprika bring a ton of flavor. I added in hard boiled eggs and scallions because I remembered them from the original dish and I love both those ingredients in my potato salads. I don’t like spicy food so I put in the teeniest tiniest pinch of chili powder, but you can definitely add more if you want a bit of a kick in your salad.

Sweet Potato Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

One of my favorite parts of this Sweet Potato Salad is that it tastes even better the next day making it the perfect make ahead side dish for 4th of July, potlucks and summer barbecues. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend and enjoy this Sweet Potato Salad!

Sweet Potato Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Sweet Potato Salad
 
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of chili powder, optional
Directions
  1. Put the cubed sweet potatoes in a large sauce pan then cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat then reduce to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. Drain the potatoes, rinse with cold water, then let drain until dry. Place in a large mixing bowl and let cool. Once cool add the chopped hard boiled eggs and sliced scallions.
  2. Mix together the dressing. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, parsley, Dijon, mustard seeds, celery salt, smoked paprika and chili powder, if using. Pour over the potatoes and carefully stir until coated. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Give it a stir before serving. It tastes even better the next day.
Notes
If you don't want to buy buttermilk you can make your own with regular milk. Put a little less than a teaspoon of lemon juice (or vinegar, but I like to use lemon juice) in a measuring cup then fill with milk until you reach ¼ cup. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes.

 

Watermelon Caprese Salad

Watermelon Caprese Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Tomorrow is the first day of summer! I’m posting one of my favorite summer dishes to celebrate – Watermelon Caprese Salad. Even though caprese salad is incredibly simple, when it’s made with fresh peak-season tomatoes it is complete summer perfection. Layers of sweet tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and fresh basil are drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, syrupy balsamic glaze and thick granules of sea salt.

Watermelon Caprese Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

The only addition I’ve ever tasted that has somehow been even better than the classic is juicy watermelon slices. I first had this combination during the summer five years ago with my parents at a restaurant out in Colorado. I even have a picture! Here it is below. Matt had just gotten me my first “real” camera that spring for our trip to Seattle so I was putting it to good use taking pictures of all our dishes.

Watermelon Caprese Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

It was a special on the menu that night and even though their summer caprese had figs, heirloom tomatoes and burrata, the real standout was the watermelon. Diane and I could not believe how much the crisp sweet watermelon brought to the dish.

Watermelon Caprese Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Later that summer we were at our annual family beach week and my aunt was making a caprese salad with some tomatoes she got at the farm stand. Diane suggested that we put some watermelon slices on it like the dish we had in Colorado; just like that we officially converted to religious Watermelon Caprese Salad makers and we haven’t looked back since! Watermelon individually pairs well with all the components of a caprese salad and makes the salad even more refreshing and summery.

Watermelon Caprese Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since there’s only a few ingredients you want them to really shine so make sure you buy the best watermelon, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil your farmer’s market or grocery store has to offer. I promise once you try this version it will be your new summer go-to! Enjoy and happy summer everyone!

Watermelon Caprese Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Watermelon Caprese Salad
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • ¼ of a seedless watermelon, sliced into pieces roughly the same size and thickness of the tomato slices
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, preferably sea salt or kosher salt
  • Balsamic glaze (see note)
Directions
  1. Layer the caprese salad. I like to do a tomato slice, topped with a mozzarella slice, topped with a watermelon slice, then finally topped with a basil leaf. I usually plan on 2 stacks like this per person, depending on how many other sides there will be. Arrange the stacks so they are layered over one another.
  2. When you are ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze. Sprinkle the salt over top then serve.
Notes
You can find balsamic glaze at the grocery store - Trader Joe's has a great one. If you want to make your own: combine ½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. The glaze should be thick and syrupy. Let cool before serving. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.