Top 10 Grab a Plate Recipes of 2014

Popular recipes from Grab a Plate for 2014

I know these tasty dishes will stand the test of time. If you didn’t get a chance to make these dishes in 2014, give them a try in 2015! These are the Top 10 Grab a Plate Recipes of 2014:

1. Meatballs are somewhat of a specialty in my Italian family. These Spanish-style Meatballs take on a bit of Spanish flair in flavor, and they’re perfect as a party appetizer.

A bowl of Spanish-style Meatballs

2. I’m giving my husband the credit for these delightful (and spicy) Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chipotle Bacon Jam. Two words: the bomb.

Serve these Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chipotle-Bacon Jam for a fab side dish

3. Seasonal fruit rolled up in a crunchy crust covered in cinnamon and sugar is what you get with these fun Cranberry-Apple Pie Spring Rolls.

What a treat! Cranberry-Apple Pie Spring Rolls

4. This vegetarian recipe for Roasted Tomato Bisque with Blue Cheese Croutons will warm you on a cold day.

Warming on a cold day: Roasted Tomato Bisque with Blue Cheese Croutons

5. Maybe this vegetarian recipe for Creamy Pasta with White Beans and Spinach was a favorite because it’s filling and flavorful?

A bowl of Creamy Pasta with White Beans and Spinach

6. Skillet Sweet Potato and Black Bean Migas is another vegetarian recipe that’s super popular in my house, so I’m glad you liked it, too.

A pan of Skillet Sweet Potato and Black Bean Migas - a tasty vegetarian dish

7. You’ll want to stay at home for these easy-t0-make Lentil-Kale Burritos with Roasted Red Pepper Ranch Sauce — they’re healthy, flavorful, and filling.

These vegetarian Lentil & Kale Burritos with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce are easy to make

8. The most popular tequila drink in Mexico is the Paloma Cocktail — and for good reason!

Serve a delicious tequila-based Paloma Cocktail

9. Oh, these Cinnamon Pretzel Crunch Sugar Cookies are definitely a treat!

A plateful of Cinnamon Pretzel Crunch Sugar Cookies

10. Quinoa Succotash with Spiced Tahini Dressing is a vegan and gluten-free recipe that is perfect as a side dish or main salad.

Gluten-free and vegan: Quinoa Succotash with Spiced Tahini Dressing

I hope you give one or more of these recipes a try, and look for a many more to come in 2015!



Sweet Potato-Pear Smoothies with Candied Pecans

A short glass of Sweet Potato-Pear Smoothies with Candied Pecans with colorful straws

It’s officially fall, so I’m now fine with serving and eating fall-inspired recipes — I didn’t want to rush things. I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the summer, but I’m definitely ready to say sayonara to the hot temps that are still lingering.

I was recently working on a recipe for work that included sweet potatoes. I had some leftover – not enough to do much with, but I didn’t want to waste them, either. I also had some pears on hand. My immediate thought was, “Smoothies!” Sweet potatoes in a smoothie? Why not! They’re sweet and have good nutritional value. Plus I knew I could bring some fall flavors to the table that would taste great with them.

Sweet Potato-Pear Smoothies with Candied Pecans with colorful straws

This recipe for Sweet Potato-Pear Smoothies with Candied Pecans will pleasantly surprise you. After my first sip I actually said, “OMG.” Aloud. To myself.

These smoothies are decadent, but I decided that they still needed a little something extra on top. I add whipped topping to them, but in my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about pecans. I had just enough in my pantry to use somehow.

Candied pecans sit with a straw

I added a candy coating to the pecans in no time flat. It’s exactly what these smoothies needed. The candied pecans were the perfect, crunchy complement to the creamy sweet potatoes and pears, and brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger seasoning.

Keep in mind that prior to making these Sweet Potato-Pear Smoothies with Candied Pecans, I had already roasted the sweet potato for about 10 minutes (in a little melted butter). You can easily cut back on some of the decadence of these smoothies and blend together a healthier version. I think these are the perfect way to welcome the fall season.

Recipe for Sweet Potato-Pear Smoothies with Candied Pecans
Yields 2, 8-ounce smoothies

Cantaloupe-Mint Caipirinha Cocktails


If you can’t be at the World Cup, join in with a toast from home! This recipe for Cantaloupe-Mint Caipirinha Cocktails is a fun, not-quite-classic version of the national cocktail of Brazil.

In case you’re out of the loop, the World Cup is taking place right now in Brazil. Since my husband and I can’t be there in person, we’ve been tuning in via TV. To help set the mood and get in the spirit of the games, we’ve been mixing up Caipirinha (pronounced kai-pee-REEN-yuh) cocktails and yelling “gooooooooal” whenever possible.

Caipirinha Cocktails

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like this drink, but I think I’m hooked. Really hooked. This drink has a fresh, slightly sweet flavor that includes a hint of tart lime.

Caiprinha is made with cachaça (pronounced ka-SHAH-suh), a distilled liquor made from sugarcane (but don’t confuse it with rum). Cachaça has been made in Brazil since the 1500s, so let me sound it out for you: it’s time you give this drink a try!

One version of this drink we put together – Cantaloupe-Mint Caipirinha Cocktails – takes a little liberty with the simple original. I’ve been reading up on Caipirinhas, and apparently adding fresh fruit like berries or melon is fairly common, too.

Caipirinha cocktails

I like the original recipe, but adding cantaloupe and mint gave these drinks a nice blush color, not to mention a punch of flavor and texture. Most recipes for Caipirinhas call for muddling the lime. Go for it if you need to relieve some stress (and enjoy a little pulp). I simply juiced my limes.

Cantaloupe-Mint Caipirinha Cocktails perfect to enjoy during the warm weather, and they’re wildly appropriate to drink during this year’s World Cup – no matter who you’re cheering for!

Cantaloupe- Mint Caipirinha Cocktails
Serves 2

Paloma Cocktail

The Paloma CocktailWho’s ready for a cocktail? I discovered a refreshing cocktail last year, and it is a delight! It’s called a Paloma Cocktail and it’s said to be the most popular tequila drink in Mexico (the margarita is apparently the most popular tequila drink in the U.S.). This drink is vibrant and refreshing, and doubles up on citrus flavors.

Try a Paloma CocktailAdd grapefruit soda and lime juice to this tequila-based drink and enjoy. It’s pretty straightforward. Some people make it with grapefruit juice and club soda, but I made this recipe using a Mexican soda called Jarritos. It’s pretty common in Phoenix, but if you can’t find it, any grapefruit soda works well.

I’ve noticed the Paloma Cocktail showing up in more and more bars and restaurants lately, and I for that, I’m thrilled. Since it has already reached 100 degrees here in Phoenix, I’m going to make cocktail hour all about this refreshing drink!

The Paloma Cocktail delights!You don’t have to wait for 100-degree temperatures to enjoy a Paloma Cocktail. My husband surprised me with one a few times this spring, and we even made them for the family in Ohio over the Easter holiday (they loved it, too). Try something different this summer and make your very own Paloma Cocktail.

Recipe for Paloma Cocktail
Yields 1, 12-ounce drink

Fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies

Fresh orange juice & ginger smoothies

Summers in Phoenix are brutal, but I’m pretty sure Mother Nature tries to make up for it by giving us mild winters with trees teeming with citrus fruit. So what do you do when life gives you oranges in the middle of winter? You make Fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies, of course!

Enjoy fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies

Out with friends recently, the topic of working in the mall as high schoolers came up. Our friend revealed that he was a toy soldier at a toy store. I was the Easter bunny for a season. Both entailed wearing hot, heavy, stinky costumes. The kind that made you lose 5 pounds wearing it for a shift. The kind that had one eye hole in the spot where, say, the Easter bunny’s mouth would be. The kind that were top heavy and made it hard for you to do anything without another human (sans costume) escorting you around by the elbow (or rabbit leg, as the case may be).

Fresh squeezed for Fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies

Talking about these crazy jobs also brought up memories of Orange Julius and their famous sweet, orange shakes. From time to time I crave those frosty drinks made with who-knows-what. During our flashback conversation we talked about what you could put in a smoothie to make it taste like Orange Julius. My “toy soldier” friend suggested powdered sugar.

Since my husband and I had just picked a bunch of oranges from our tree, I thought it would be a good time to start juicing them for Fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies. I wasn’t going to go the copycat-mall-smoothie route, but I did decide to add the powdered sugar to the mix. It didn’t make my version taste Orange Julius-y, so if you prefer, use honey instead.

Orange peels from making Fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies

This recipe is super-simple and serves 4 – unless of course you trip and drop a full glass on the kitchen floor, spraying the cupboards and surrounding surfaces with sticky smoothie (luckily the glass fell on the little rug by my sink and didn’t break!). You can use oranges or orange juice from the store to whip up a batch of Fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies, but if you’re enjoying the bounty of winter oranges like I am, you’ll want to use the ones straight from the backyard!

Recipe for Fresh Orange Juice & Ginger Smoothies
Serves 4