Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

Carrots are one of those things that I don’t really LIKE… but they’re non-offensive enough (and convenient enough for a quick snack) that I force myself to eat them, because apparently they’re healthy and stuff. I’ve found that the most tolerable way to eat them is paired with something with a bit of spice – for instance, some raw carrots dipped in chipotle hummus (Dear Trader Joe’s, WHYYYY did you discontinue your amazing chipotle hummus?? You’re breakin’ my heart, guys…)

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

Another tough part of the carrot equation is texture. Cooked carrots are… not delightful, in my opinion. Too often they’re mushy, and just plain overcooked. So, given all of the above information, you’re probably wondering why the hell I opted to make these carrots at all! I kind of wondered myself, actually. But, if any unappealing vegetable can be saved, there are two ways to do it: roasting it, or crusting it in a boatload of delicious spices. And I plan to employ the “crusting vegetables in spices” method a lot more from now on, because the results are FABULOUS.

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce
serves 8-10 as a side
adapted from here

2lb small to medium carrots, with tops
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2-3 T vegetable oil
1 cup greek yogurt (2% or full fat)
zest of one lemon
1 T harissa, sriracha, or other chili sauce

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

1.) Set a large pot of water to boil, and prepare an ice bath (fill a large bowl about 1/3 of the way with ice, then add water). As the water comes up to a boil, peel the carrots, and trim their tops to about 1-2″ long.

2.) When the water is boiling, add a small handful of kosher salt, then add the carrots. Allow the carrots to blanch for about 6 minutes – less if they’re particularly small, more if they’re large. After 6 minutes, remove them from the water and put them straight into the ice bath.

3.) While the carrots sit in the ice bath for a minute, mix up your spices. Combine the brown sugar, ground mustard, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside.

4.) Once the carrots have cooled a bit (just 2-3 minutes), remove them from the ice bath and pat them dry. Place them into a large mixing bowl, and toss with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and the spice mixture, until all the carrots are well-coated in the spices.

5.) Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat, and add enough vegetable oil to very thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Once it’s good and hot, add a single layer of carrots, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they’re nicely golden brown, and then flip. Keep a close eye on them – if your pan is too hot or you didn’t use enough oil, the brown sugar in the spice mix will burn REALLY fast.

6.) Continue cooking batches in the same manner, until all the carrots are done. While the carrots cook, mix up your dipping sauce. Add the zest to the greek yogurt, and mix to thoroughly combine. Then, add the chili sauce, and swirl it into the greek yogurt (it looks prettier if you don’t fully mix the two together, but it’ll taste delicious either way).

7.) Serve the carrots hot, with the greek yogurt chili sauce spooned on top.

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

This recipe might just make a carrot lover out of me, yet. The spice mix is SO GOOD – a lot of savory flavors, some spice, and just a touch of sweetness from the brown sugar. I’ve actually used the leftover spice mix on a few other vegetables this week, and they’ve all been totally delicious! The greek yogurt dip is nice and creamy and cool, but with a bit of brightness from the lemon and the chili sauce, which cuts the richness a little. All of the carrot-haters at our table loved these, and I can’t wait to make them again!

Who knew that boiling purple carrots would turn the water black??
Tina

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Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

This year, I thought I’d try something new, and post a Thanksgiving recipe BEFORE Thanksgiving! Isn’t that a great idea? Just you watch, I think it’s gonna catch on around the food blog world. I’m practically a genius.

This has become one of my go-to sides this fall. The idea actually came to me after I made a dinner that involved stuffing acorn squash halves with chipotle chicken (I’ll be back with that recipe before too long) – and I LOVED the flavor combination of the sweet squash and the smokey, spicy chipotles. I often find that acorn and butternut squash can be too sweet for my liking, but the addition of some spice completely turned things around. I tried this mash out shortly thereafter, and my husband and I can’t get enough of it! I think it’ll make a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving – a newer, more interesting take on the traditional sweet potatoes (not that I have anything against brown sugar and marshmallows – I’m not a MONSTER).

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash
serves 4 as a side dish

2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded
3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and poked with a fork
2 chipotles, minced
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (2% or full fat – sour cream will also work)
1 T butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°, and line a baking sheet with foil. Lightly spray the inside of the acorn squash with olive oil, and season the flesh with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Place the squash cut side down on the baking sheet, and place the potatoes on the same sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the squash and potatoes are fork tender (the potatoes might take longer than the squash).

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

2.) When the squash and sweet potatoes are cooked through, allow them to cool for a couple minutes. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh of each into a medium bowl, and add the chipotles, greek yogurt, butter, salt and pepper. Mash until smooth, and well-combined.

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

3.) Spread the mash into a baking dish, and pop back into the over for 5-10 minutes, so everything can warm through. Serve hot.

This could certainly be made ahead of time – I’d say up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate the mash (either in an airtight container, or in the baking dish, covered with plastic wrap), and then reheat in the oven for 20-25 minutes before serving.

I’ve actually found that this makes for a great, quick, weeknight side dish. I throw the squash and sweet potatoes in the oven, and let them bake while I prep the rest of dinner, or work out, or watch some HGTV. Despite needing some baking time, the active prep for this mash is about 5 minutes total! Not too bad, if you ask me. It’s healthy, it’s creamy, it’s a little spicy, and it reheats beautifully – so make a big batch, and use it up throughout the week! You could even spread a little bit on to your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, to add a little kick.

How can you not love a holiday that basically REQUIRES elastic-waist pants?
Tina

Grilled Artichoke Subs

Do you have Penn Station subs where you live? We have a few near me – one by my office, and one by my house that’s pretty new. I’ve had their subs a few times over the years, and I usually just select some kind of turkey sub, as is my standard at a sub shop. Probably about a year ago, I realized they had a grilled artichoke sub – and I was immediately intrigued, as I love artichokes, and the only thing better than a plain artichoke is one that’s covered in cheese. Needless to say, it was love at first bite! And it only took me about 9 months to realize, DUH, I could make one of these at home! (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting one from the sub shop… but Penn Station also serves fresh-cut fries, and I think in Michigan it’s illegal to exit an establishment that sells fresh-cut fries without BUYING any fresh-cut fries, and I don’t want to go to jail, so I always end up with a bucket of fries in addition to my sub… and let’s just say that’s not doing anything positive for my waistline.)

Grilled Artichoke Subs

Please note: you could also leave the top of the bread off this sandwich, cut the cheesy artichoke bread into 2″ pieces, and serve it as an appetizer. Versatility!

Grilled Artichoke Subs
serves 2

2 demi baguettes (or one regular baguette)*
3 T mayo (low-fat is fine)
2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
juice of half a lemon
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts (packed in water, not oil)
1 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
kosher salt
black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 slices provolone cheese

Grilled Artichoke Subs

*In general, I prefer a baguette with a good, crisp crust. However, for these specific subs, I like to look for a baguette that’s slightly softer. Since we’re baking the subs, the exterior will have plenty of time to crisp up – and if you’re starting with a baguette that’s already pretty hard, the roof of your mouth will get destroyed as you try to enjoy your dinner. Just my 2 cents.

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°. Drain the canned artichokes well, and then lay the artichokes in a single layer on some paper towel to drain further; water gets trapped in between the leaves, so you want to make sure to get rid of as much of that moisture as possible to avoid having a soggy sub!

2.) Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter to the pan, and once it’s hot, add the artichokes. Season the artichokes with a pinch each of salt and pepper, the red pepper flakes, and the dried oregano. Stir until everything is well-combined, and then leave the artichoke mixture alone for a couple minutes, so they will start to crisp and brown a bit on the bottom.

3.) Once the artichokes have started to brown nicely, add the grated parmesan, and stir well. Let the artichokes cook another minute or so, and the parmesan will start to brown and crisp a bit, too.

4.) While the artichokes crisp up, make your mayo. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, lemon juice, and grated garlic. If you don’t love the taste of raw garlic, you can cut this back to one clove, or use a dash of garlic powder instead. Set the mayo aside.

5.) Slice your baguettes in half, leaving the “hinge” intact on the back side of the bread. I like to scoop out some of the bread from the interior of the baguette to make adequate room for artichokes (and as a bonus: the interior of the bread is excellent in a kale panzanella salad).

6.) Spread the bottom of each baguette with the garlic mayo, and top with half of the artichokes. Lay the provolone slices over the top of the artichokes, and bake the subs for 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the bread are golden brown, and the cheese is nicely melted and browned. Serve immediately.

Grilled Artichoke Subs

I mean… seriously. These subs are so cheesy, and gooey, and delicious! And despite being meatless, they still feel and taste hearty and filling, because the artichokes are pretty meaty (as vegetables go). Crisping up the parmesan in the pan adds just a bit of nutty flavor, and the lemon in the mayo lends a little acid to cut through the richness of the cheese. In recent months, we’ve had these subs for dinner at least once every 10 days or so – paired with a salad, or some roasted chickpeas, or some variety of roasted vegetable. Fast, easy, and satisfying.

My household is basically keeping the artichoke industry in business,
Tina

Crab and Corn Crostini

Crab and corn is a match made in heaven, is it not? Something about those two ingredients together just really sings… so it was an obvious pair when I was trying to come up with a slightly fancy, but not too fussy, appetizer. I wanted something that would (obviously) be tasty, and that would look pretty, but I didn’t want to spend 100 years making it. I think I succeeded pretty well!

Crab and Corn Crostini

Crab and Corn Crostini
serves about 12 as an appetizer

2 medium baguettes
olive oil
8 oz lump crab meat, picked over for shells
8 oz corn (fresh or frozen, preferably)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T mayo
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 – 4 T minced chives
large pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper

Crab and Corn Crostini

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with foil. Slice your baguettes on an angle, until you have about 24 crostini. Lightly mist or brush the crostini with olive oil, and bake for about 10 minutes, until they’re just lightly golden brown and crispy.

2.) While the crostini bakes, make your crab salad. Add everything but the crab to a mixing bowl (use about 3 tablespoons of the chives, and reserve the rest for garnish), and mix it well with a spatula. Once everything else is well-combined, gently fold in the crab, so you don’t break it up too much!

3.) Once the crostini are baked and cooled slightly, spoon the mixture on to the bread. Put everything back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, to warm the crab and corn mixture through.

Crab and Corn Crostini

4.) Remove the crostini from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining chives, and serve immediately.

Oh man, these were so good! The creamy crab mixture is a great contrast to the crunchy, toasted bread – and the sweet crab and crisp, fresh corn are perfect with the slight onion-y edge of the chives. Even better, these crostini look so pretty all lined up on a platter! Great for a cocktail party, a brunch, or a summer barbecue.

Crab and Corn Crostini

If you don’t want to fuss with topping the individual crostini, you can always just bake the crab and corn mixture in a baking dish (though I’d bake it for a bit longer – maybe 20 minutes – to make sure it warms all the way through). Serve with the toasted baguette, and let guests assemble their own appetizer!

I can’t wait for the start of corn season in the mitten,
Tina