Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s

Man is this recipe good. I almost cringed writing the title because I really hate the idea of “hidden veggie” anything, but I felt like the world needed to know just how versatile and nutrient-packed these SJ’s are. Whether you’re cooking for picky kiddos or just trying to add a bit more vegetables into your dinner, I’ve got you covered with this one-pan wonder of a meal.

Ingredients needed to make Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s

This recipe makes a large amount of SJ filling. It calls for two pounds of ground beef, plus a large portion of food-processed veggies that leaves you with enough for 6-8 servings. I created this recipe on the larger side on purpose, firstly because Jeff eats the equivalent of two adult portions in one sitting and secondly because this recipe works wonderfully for meal prep. The leftovers keep for a solid 5 days in the fridge and it’s incredibly versatile. I serve it over buns, cauliflower rice, mashed potatoes, scooped up with chips, or even eaten with a spoon as-is. If you don’t need this much sloppy joe action in your life, just half the recipe! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Grass-fed ground beef
  • Zucchini
  • Red bell pepper
  • Mushrooms, any variety
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Canned tomato paste
  • Maple syrup
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hamburger buns, for serving

You may be wondering, can you:

  1. use ground chicken or turkey, instead? Yes! Since ground poultry is leaner than ground beef, I would add two Tbsp cooking oil per pound of meat
  2. substitute other veggies in your kitchen for the ones listed in this recipe? Yes! I have made these using cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, different varieties of mushrooms, hot peppers instead of bell peppers for extra heat, and fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Use what you have and what you like, just keep the amounts the same.
  3. omit the sweetener? Yes, but I would be aware that traditional sloppy joe’s are on the sweeter side. Omitting the sweetener will leave you with more of a chunky Italian meat sauce rather than a sweet sloppy joe flavor. You can, on the other hand, sub out the maple syrup for whatever you’ve got on hand- honey, agave nectar, or other forms of sweetener.
  4. use beef that isn’t grass-fed? Absolutely! Grass-fed is my preference for a multitude of reasons, but regular beef is just fine.

Tools used to make Hidden-Veggie Sloppy Joes

I love this meal for easy, weeknight-friendly meal prep. It comes together in one large skillet or pot, making for easy clean up. You’ll need just five pieces of equipment for this recipe, which are as follows:

How to make Hidden-Veggie Sloppy Joes

As mentioned above, this recipe can happen rather quickly, making it perfect for weeknights. It’s also very kid friendly, if that’s something you’re looking for in the kitchen. I don’t yet have kids, but I can imagine the joy on their faces while helping food process all the veggies in this recipe. Every kid loves to push the button, ya know?

You’ll start by processing all the vegetables in the food processor. You may need to work in batches, because an over-crowded food processor can lead to some veggies being pureed and some being too large. We’re looking for everything to be a nice, uniform mince that is similar in size to pieces of cooked ground beef. Once everything is processed, set it aside.

Brown the ground beef in your large skillet or pot. While the beef cooks, you can measure out the remaining ingredients.

Once the beef has browned, add the minced veggies and let everything cook together for 10-15 minutes, until all the water from the veggies has cooked out. Then, add the remaining ingredients to create the sauce. At this point, the sauce can be done after just 10 minutes. However, if you want even more developed flavor, you can let it go over very low for a few hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. If I’m making this on a lazy Sunday, I’ll often opt for the longer route, but both options taste delicious!

Serve the sloppy joe’s over whatever your heart desires. Traditionally, they’re served on hamburger buns. I’ve also been known to eat it over rice or cauliflower rice, mashed potatoes, or even as-is with a spoon. Jeff loves to dip tortilla chips into the filling, like a sweeter version of chili on chips. Go for it!

Looking for other veggie-packed recipes?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

Chicken and Dumplings

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Recipe Ingredients

2lbs grass-fed ground beef

1 large zucchini, minced

2 medium carrots, minced

1 red bell pepper, minced

4oz baby bella mushrooms, minced

½ yellow onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

28oz can crushed tomatoes

6oz can tomato paste

¼ cup maple syrup

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp worcestershire sauce 

Salt and pepper, to taste

Hamburger buns, for serving (optional)

Recipe Instructions

  1. Process or very finely mince the zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Set aside. 
  2. In a very large skillet, brown the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper,
  3. Add the minced veggies and stir everything together thoroughly. Season again with salt and pepper. Let the mixture cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until most of the water from the vegetables has cooked out.
  4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Let the mixture come to a boil, then simmer an additional 10 minutes to let the flavors meld together. 
  5. Adjust salt and pepper as needed, and serve over hamburger buns for a traditional sloppy joe. Alternatively, serve over rice, cauliflower rice, or mashed potatoes for a fun twist. Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

Another great transitional recipe for those weird days between winter and spring, this creamy risotto-style dish is loaded with vegetables. It’s still warm and comforting, but the overall light feeling of the dish gives a nod towards warmer days ahead. I absolutely love it and I hope you do too!

Ingredients needed to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

The ingredients are straightforward and veggie-heavy. A few notes on substitutions- I prefer using ground chicken in this recipe, but you could use turkey as well. If using frozen cauliflower rice, it may take longer to rid the pan of liquid before adding the goat cheese, as described below. I find fresh riced cauliflower in the refrigerated produce section in most grocery stores, and generally prefer it to frozen riced cauliflower! Here’s the list of everything you’ll need:

For the meatballs:

  • Olive oil
  • Ground chicken
  • Fresh garlic
  • Roasted red peppers, jarred
  • Fresh or dried oregano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

For the risotto:

  • Grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Olive oil
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Shallot or yellow onion
  • Roasted red peppers, jarred
  • Tuscan kale
  • Chicken broth
  • Goat cheese
  • Whole milk or unsweetened dairy-free milk
  • Flour or tapioca starch, if gluten-free
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Tools used to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

This is a wonderful meal to make on a weeknight because it’s made using just one large skillet! I prefer using a deeper skillet to make sure there’s enough room in the pan for everything, but you could also use a large Dutch oven if you prefer. Here’s a complete list of equipment for your convenience:

  • Large, deep skillet (at least 12 inches) or large Dutch oven
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Tongs
  • Stirring utensil, such as a wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • #40 (1 1/2 Tbsp) cookie scoop, optional

How to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

As always before beginning a recipe, make sure to read the entire recipe through. Part of stress-free cooking is taking time to do this simple step, as well as chopping and measuring everything that needs to be chopped and measured before you even turn on a burner. If you do those two tasks, I guarantee you’ll feel better tackling whatever recipe you land on, not just including ones I’ve written.

You’ll start by mixing the meatballs and forming them into balls. I like to use a cookie scoop to ensure all of my meatballs are the same size, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one. You can eyeball them, keeping in mind the recommended size for these meatballs is about 1 1/2 tablespoons per ball.

Once formed, cook the meatballs over medium heat. You’ll need to work in at least two, if not three, batches to ensure your meatballs get a nice browning and don’t just steam from a crowded pan. When a recipe says work in batches, it’s for a reason more than just slowing you down!

After all of the meatballs have cooked, set them aside. In the same skillet you cooked the meatballs, lower the heat slightly and add the butter and olive oil. Stir in the riced cauliflower and scrape up any meatball bits from the bottom of the pan, which are going to add a ton of flavor to this risotto!

After the cauliflower has cooked for 1-2 minutes, add the garlic, onion, roasted red peppers, and chicken broth, then cover and cook for 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower has become tender.

At this point, you’ll remove the lid and check for liquid in the skillet. You can also add the kale at this point. We want to let as much of the liquid evaporate as possible before adding the cheese and milk, which is what gives this dish that “risotto” feeling. To do this, simply continue cooking the cauliflower, uncovered, over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated. Note: If using frozen riced cauliflower, there may be more liquid. Plan to increase the time needed to reduce the liquid.

Next, we’ll make a “slurry” of flour and milk. This is just a fancy way of saying we whisk flour into milk before adding to a hot pan. It helps the dish thicken and leaves us with a creamy “risotto” as the final product. If you’re dairy free, you can swap any unsweetened dairy milk you like. To make the dish gluten-free, as I often do, swap flour for tapioca starch or a gluten-free flour blend. Both options work! Once the slurry is made, add it to the cauliflower along with the goat cheese. Stir everything up until the goat cheese has melted and incorporated, and the whole dish is creamy.

Finally, you’ll stir in the lemon juice and crushed red pepper, then season again with salt and pepper to taste. Add the meatballs back into the skillet and serve hot!

Looking for other one-pan/one-pot recipes from The Ardent Cook?

Chicken and Dumplings

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Chicken with Nectarines and Crispy Prosciutto

Recipe Ingredients

For the meatballs 

2 tbsp olive oil

1lb ground chicken

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium roasted red pepper, finely diced, from a jar of roasted red bell peppers 

½ tsp dried oregano

A few shakes crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

For the “risotto”

Two tbsp grass-fed butter or ghee

1 tbsp olive oil 

Two 12-14oz bags fresh or frozen riced cauliflower 

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium shallot or small yellow onion, diced 

One 10-12oz jar roasted red peppers (minus the one used in the meatballs), drained and chopped

1 small bunch tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves very thinly sliced

½ cup chicken broth 

6oz goat cheese 

¾ cup whole milk or dairy free milk of choice

2 tsp flour, GF flour blend, or tapioca starch

Juice of ½ lemon

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients for the meatballs and mix well using your hands or a fork. Form into 1 1/2 tbsp-sized balls. Recipe makes about 15 meatballs, for reference.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook meatballs, flipping often to brown them on all sides, until cooked through, approximately 5-6 minutes. When all meatballs are cooked, set aside.
  3. Make the risotto. Lower the heat slightly and add the butter and olive oil. Add the riced cauliflower and scrape up any bits of meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, chopped roasted red peppers, and chicken broth. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.
  5. Remove the lid and check for liquid in the pan. Continue cooking, uncovered, over medium heat until all of the liquid from the cauliflower has evaporated.
  6. While the liquid evaporates, vigorously whisk the flour into the milk to form a slurry. Once all the liquid has evaporated, stir in the goat cheese and the milk slurry and continue stirring until thickened.
  7. Stir in the lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes. Season once more with salt and pepper to taste, add the meatballs back into the skillet to warm, then enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar is officially my segue into spring flavors. I love cold months so much, but one of the reasons I live where I do is for the distinct four seasons. If winter hadn’t already outstayed its welcome, it really made its place known with another unexpected, and pretty large, snow dump earlier this week. My car got stuck and I ended up staying late at work because I was literally trapped. Needless to say, I’ve had enough of winter.

Enter this celery salad and I was met with a little bit of joy in the otherwise cold and dreary days. It’s crisp, easy to pull together, and really adds an unexpected element to those heartier winter meals. I really love the balance in this salad!

This recipe was inspired by a favorite chef of mine, Joshua McFadden. His book, Six Seasons, is truly one of the most beautiful cookbooks I’ve ever read. Trust me- my collection is overflowing. In that cookbook, he has a recipe for a similar celery salad with dates, parmesan cheese, and various other delightful ingredients. This is basically a riff on that famous recipe. I took out the nuts that are present in his recipe and made the addition of za’atar in my recipe. I love nuts, but I found that we’ve been consuming a lot of them since adopting a gluten-free lifestyle. Whether its almond milk, almond flour, other nut flour blends, etc., it was just a lot of nuts. The za’atar is punchy and bright enough to stand up to the lemon in this dish, plus I just love the taste of it.

Nuts or not, this salad excels in every aspect. Read on for the how-to.

Ingredients needed to make Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

To make this celery salad, you really need to get yourself some celery. I implore you to skip the pre-cut celery hearts at your store and instead grab a full-blown head of celery, with the leaves attached. Those little celery leaves are so delicious chopped up and added into this salad, plus it’s just one other way you can reduce your food waste in the kitchen. Save the leaves!

Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Celery
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Golden raisins
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Za’atar spice blend
  • Sharp cheese, such as parmesan, aged provolone, pecorino romano
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Tools used to make Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

This salad requires super minimal equipment. You’ll need a large cutting board, sharp knife, large mixing bowl, small mixing bowl, a whisk or fork, and measuring cups and spoons. Pretty simple!

How to make Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

To begin, combine the thinly sliced celery and leaves, torn romaine, and golden raisins in your large mixing bowl. I like to cut the celery on the bias to make it look pretty for serving, but you can cut it any way your heart pleases. I also like the rustic look of the torn romaine leaves, but you could roughly chop them if you must.

In the smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, za’atar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, stream the olive oil into the lemon juice mixture and keep whisking until a vinaigrette forms. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, toss, and season once more with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving plate.

At the end, I’ll sometimes garnish with more golden raisins. Sometimes they sink to the bottom of the salad, and I like a few to be resting on top so folks know whats in the salad they’re about to eat. Finally, you’ll top it all with your shaved sharp cheese of choice. SO delicious!

Looking for other quick and fresh salads?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook

Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

Harvest Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Golden Raisins

Broccoli Salad with Quick Homemade Ranch

Charred Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Vinaigrette

Recipe Ingredients

8-10 stalks celery, stalks thinly sliced, leaves roughly chopped

6 romaine leaves, torn

¼ cup golden raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

Scant ¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp za’atar 

2 oz sharp cheese, such as parmesan or aged provolone, shaved 

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine celery and leaves, torn romaine, and golden raisins in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, za’atar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, stream the olive oil into the lemon mixture and continue whisking until a vinaigrette forms.
  3. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette, season once more with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving bowl or plate.
  4. Top with the shaved cheese and additional golden raisins if desired. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

A Year of The Ardent Cook: Favorite Recipe Roundup

I woke up this morning to a complete shock: an annual charge had been pulled from my bank account for my domain name, which means that I’ve officially had this blog for an entire year! While the unexpected withdrawal hurt a little, I’m floored at how quickly a year has passed and how far this project of mine has come. Since The Ardent Cook’s inception, I’ve developed and shared over 100 recipes, gained hundreds of followers, failed while testing numerous recipes, and succeeded in creating a community for myself that I’m proud of. I wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of you as readers and followers, and I’m incredibly humbled by it all. Thank you for being here for the past year! I’m looking forward to many more together here at The Ardent Cook.

To celebrate, I’ve rounded up a list of my top 10 most favorite recipes from the past year. I hope this serves you well in your cooking endeavors, whether they be sharpening your skills in the kitchen, feeding a crowd, or serving a comforting dinner to your loved ones. Enjoy!

#10 Whipped Feta Dip

#9 Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings

#8 Blistered Green Beans with Garlic and Ginger

#7 Quick(er) Chicken Shawarma with White Sauce

#6 Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad

#5 Favorite Roast Chicken

#4 Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

#3 Curried Pumpkin Chickpeas with Cucumber Raita

#2 Salted Raspberry-Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

#1 Brie-Stuffed Soft Pretzels with Rosemary Butter and Fig Mustard

Once again, thank you! Stay tuned for another year filled with delicious recipes for the home cook. Yum!

Miso Ginger Meatballs

Miso Ginger Meatballs are little bombs of umami flavor perfect for adding protein to any meal or serving as a delicious appetizer. Made using just 8 ingredients and baked in the air-fryer or oven, these meatballs are quick to whip up and great for meal prep, if that’s your thing. You may consider doubling the recipe if you’re feeding a larger family or adding them to lunches for the week, as this recipe makes approximately 15 meatballs.

Ingredients needed to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

As mentioned, you only need 8 ingredients to make these meatballs, and many of them are pantry staples. Here’s the list:

  • 85/15 grass-fed ground beef
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh ginger
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Rice vinegar
  • White miso
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Scallions (optional, for serving)

Tools used to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

To make these meatballs, you’ll really only need a few kitchen tools. The mandatory items you’ll need are as follows: cutting board, sharp knife, measuring spoons, mixing bowl, and an air fryer OR rimmed baking sheet (if using oven method). If you’d like to make your life slightly easier, I’d also recommend a #40 cookie scoop (this fits about 1 1/2 tbsp) to make sure each meatball is the same size, as well as a microplane or citrus zester for grating the garlic and ginger. Both of those items are completely optional, however. That’s all you need to make delicious meatballs in no time!

How to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

This recipe is as simple as combining all the ingredients, shaping the meatballs, and baking. It’s really that easy. No eggs, no breadcrumbs, no fuss. There is one caveat, which is that you really should use 85/15 ground beef. The fat ratio is very important to achieving juicy meatballs without adding extra ingredients, so don’t go any leaner than that ratio. I beg!

If using an air-fryer, I like to line the basket with parchment and bake the meatballs in two batches so they get nice and crispy outside while staying juicy inside. Adding all the meatballs at once would make for a crowded air-fryer and soggy, not crispy meatballs. If using the oven method, it’s helpful to line the baking sheet with parchment to minimize sticking, but you could also just spray your pan very well to avoid this issue.

Once baked, I let them cool slightly before topping with scallions (and sometimes cilantro) and devouring. They’re so delicious!

Looking for other make-ahead recipes for meal prep and beyond?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Harvest Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Golden Raisins

Recipe Ingredients

1lb 85/15 ground beef

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

½ inch piece ginger, minced or grated

1 tbsp soy sauce 

1 tsp rice vinegar

3 tbsp white miso

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

Scallions, optional, for serving

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the air-fryer or oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the air-fryer basket or sheet tray with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients except scallions in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a #40 cookie scoop, or a large spoon, scoop approximately 1 1/2 tbsp of the meat mixture into your hands and roll to form a meatball. Repeat until all the meatballs are formed.
  3. If air-frying, bake the meatballs in two batches. Lower the temperature on the air-fryer to 390 and cook for 9 minutes, then repeat with the second batch.
  4. If baking, add the meatballs to the prepared sheet tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches at least 155 degrees and the meatballs are beginning to brown on the outside.
  5. Garnish with sliced scallions, if desired, and serve hot. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

When I saw that TikTok pasta trend with the baked feta and tomatoes, I knew I had to try it (and try to do it better). I think I succeeded with this delicious take on the viral dish, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I swapped tomatoes for broccoli for a little green veggie overhaul (and because tomatoes aren’t in season for me right now), then added fresh lemon to brighten the dish. The pasta is finished off with a quick pesto made with fresh mint, kale, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices and it really takes this pasta over the edge in terms of fresh flavor.

Ingredients needed to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

If you’ve seen the viral video of this pasta, you probably know the majority of the ingredients you need. This recipe will not work with store-bought crumbled feta, so be sure to get an 8oz block. Here’s the full list:

  • Pasta
  • Broccoli
  • Feta cheese block
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Fresh kale
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh garlic
  • Honey
  • Salt

Tools used to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

To make this recipe, you’ll need a few kitchen tools. First, a large pot to boil the pasta, as well as a 9x13in baking dish. Additionally, you’ll want to have a large cutting board, sharp knife, food processor or high speed blender, a microplane or cheese grater (for zesting), and measuring cups. That’s it!

How to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

You’ll begin by preheating your oven and bring a pot of water to a boil. Chop the broccoli into small florets and arrange in a baking dish around a block of feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, you’ll cook the pasta according to package directions, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water just before draining.

To make the pesto, combine all the ingredients into a food processor or high speed blender, then blitz until a pesto forms. You may need to add more olive oil to achieve desired consistency, as well as additional honey and/or salt to taste.

Once the feta and broccoli have baked, toss the feta with the broccoli and pasta water in the baking dish to create a creamy mixture. Add the pasta and a couple tablespoons of the pesto and gently toss again, coating the pasta in the sauce. Top with lemon zest, additional pesto if desired, and serve immediately!

Looking for other delicious pasta dishes?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Creamy Green Goddess Pasta

Vegetarian Bolognese

Recipe Ingredients

For the pasta

1lb pasta

1 medium head broccoli, cut into small florets

1 8oz block feta 

½ cup olive oil, divided

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Zest of 1 lemon

½ cup pasta cooking water, reserved 

For the pesto

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh kale, packed

⅛ cup fresh mint, packed 

1 small garlic clove

1 tsp honey

½ tsp salt

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange broccoli florets around feta block in a large glass baking dish. Drizzle all over with ½ cup olive oil, then season with crushed red pepper flakes. Bake for 25 minutes, or until broccoli is tender and beginning to crisp up. 
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid before draining. Set pasta and reserved water aside. 
  3. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, kale, mint, garlic, honey, and salt in a food processor or high speed blender. Pulse until a pesto forms. Additional olive oil may be needed to achieve desired texture. 
  4. Remove the baking dish from the oven and add pasta cooking water. Stir to combine immediately, mixing the feta with the water to create a cheesy sauce. Gently fold in the cooked pasta and approximately 2 tbsp of the minty kale pesto. Serve immediately, topped with fresh lemon zest and additional pesto, if desired. Leftover pasta can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave, and leftover pesto should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Syrup are a delicious treat to cook up on a weekend morning. This recipe makes a large quantity of pancakes, making it perfect for a big family or to save as breakfasts for the week ahead. Each pancake is made using about 1/4 cup of batter, leaving you with dinner-plate-sized pancakes that feel like they came from a diner. This recipe was tested using both all-purpose and gluten-free flours, and it is important to note that the gluten-free flour behaved slightly differently in this recipe (see recipe notes below regarding flour amounts*).

Ingredients needed to make Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

You’ll need a variety of ingredients to make these pancakes. Here’s everything:

Tools used to make Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

There’s no fancy equipment required to make these pancakes, which makes them a great recipe for a lazy morning. No fuss, just delicious. These pancakes can be made using one skillet, but for efficiency you may consider using two. Here’s the full list:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Whisk
  • Small saucepan
  • Medium skillet, or two
  • Spatula

How to make Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

To start, you’ll need to measure out the dry and wet ingredients in separate mixing bowls. *If using gluten free flour, start with 2 1/2 cups, then adjust if needed after adding the wet ingredients. If using all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 cups should be exactly what’s needed to achieve the correct batter consistency. If you’re looking for a reference point, think back to childhood when your parents made pancake batter from a box. It’s thin enough to flow steadily out of the bowl and into the pan, but not so thin that the pancakes can’t hold their shape once they hit the hot skillet.

Once you have your wet and dry ingredients measured out, you’ll combine them and adjust flour accordingly, as described above. It may seem “willy nilly” to approach a recipe by feel or looks, but I can’t stress enough the importance of adjusting as you go. This doesn’t always work, especially for baking recipes, but pancakes are forgiving enough to handle a little extra flour to achieve a thicker batter. Trust your gut, as they say!

Heat one or two skillets over medium-low heat and melt butter to grease the pans. Begin cooking pancakes, flipping once the top begins to bubble and the sides are setting up. I love to make these pancakes as big as possible, so I typically use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to drop the batter in and only cook one pancake per skillet at a time. If you prefer small pancakes, that works just as well.

While watching the pancakes, make the coffee maple syrup in a small saucepan. Combine the maple syrup, instant coffee, and cinnamon stick and heat gently until the instant coffee has dissolved into the syrup.

Stack the pancakes, pour over that syrup, maybe at a pat of butter, and enjoy! It doesn’t get much simpler than pancakes.

Looking for other breakfast ideas?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Apple Spice Smoothie

Gluten Free Olive Oil Zucchini Bread

Double Chocolate Scones with Salted Peanut Butterscotch Glaze

Recipe Ingredients

2 ½ – 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend) (*see recipe note above if using gluten free flour)

2 tbsp baking powder

½ cup coconut sugar

½ cup milk or almond milk

1 cup (8oz) cold brew espresso

3 eggs

4 tbsp melted butter or ghee

1 tsp vanilla extract

Butter, for greasing the pan 

½ cup pure maple syrup

½ tsp instant coffee powder

2-inch piece cinnamon stick

Recipe Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and coconut sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, cold brew espresso, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet in the larger of the two bowls. Whisk to combine, and adjust flour amount as needed (described above*)
  3. Heat one or two skillets over medium-low heat with butter. Once the butter has melted, add pancake batter to the skillets about 1/4 cup at a time to create large “diner-size” pancakes. Let cook, then flip when the tops begin to bubble and the sides have started to set.
  4. Meanwhile, heat maple syrup and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, whisk in the instant coffee and continue whisking until dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  5. Serve pancakes hot with a pat of butter and a drizzle of the coffee maple syrup. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Salted Raspberry-Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

If there were a treat I could eat every day for a year, it would be these Salted Raspberry-Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. They’re basically giant chocolate chip cookies, in bar form, with raspberry jam swirled into them and sprinkled with flaky salt right out of the oven. What more could you ask for?

Ingredients needed to make Salted Raspberry-Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

These cookie bars used ingredients commonly found in chocolate chip cookies, with a few fun swaps. First, I like to brown my butter and chill it slightly before adding to the dough, rather than using regular softened butter. The nutty flavor it adds in unlike anything else and it’s a simple step that doesn’t require too much extra time. I also use a combination of store-bought raspberry jam and fresh raspberries mashed together to create an easy raspberry swirl, which really takes they cookie bars over the top and makes them perfect for Valentine’s day with the pop of red! Here’s the list of everything you’ll need:

Tools used to make Salted Raspberry-Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I love using my KitchenAid stand mixer to create these delicious bars, but this recipe can easily be done by hand or with a hand-mixer. It’s totally personal preference there. Since we’re using browned butter in its liquid state in place of regular softened butter, the need for “creaming” the butter and sugar together is less important, so mixing the dough by hand is completely fine.

You can make these bars in whatever size baking dish you like. For a thicker bar, as pictured, I used an 11x7in pan. Alternatively, you could use a 13x9in pan for thinner cookie bars that cook in less time. You’ll need the following kitchen equipment to make these bars:

  • Electric stand mixer, hand-mixer, or mixing bowl and wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 11x7inch or 13x9inch baking dish
  • Small saucepan
  • Butter knife
  • Parchment paper

How to make Salted Raspberry-Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

The process for making these cookie bars starts by browning our butter. This takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes, plus chilling time, and adds so much flavor to these bars, so I’d recommend taking the time to do it rather than using regular old softened butter. While the butter browns, you can gather your remaining ingredients and combine the wet ones in one bowl and the dry ones in another bowl.

Once the browned butter gets a 10-15 minute chill in the freezer, we’ll add it the rest of our wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients and chocolate chunks, and press the dough into a parchment-lined baking dish.

You’ll make the raspberry swirl by combining raspberry preserves with a handful of fresh raspberries and mashing it together. Then, you’ll drop spoonfuls right over top of the cookie bar dough in the baking dish and swirl it around using a butter knife. Bake the bars, let cool slightly, then slice and enjoy!

I love packing these cookie bars up into cardboard cookie boxes and adding festive ribbon for a sweet Valentine’s treat. We dropped some off to friends and neighbors the other day, and it made for such a cute little mid-week surprise ahead of this weekend’s holiday. See below for how I packed them up!

Looking for more dessert recipes from The Ardent Cook?

Check out these yummy ideas!

Classic Spice Cookies with Vanilla Whiskey Frosting

Peanut Butter Beach Berry Cobbler

Chocolate Pistachio Rice Crispy Treats

Recipe Ingredients

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter 

¾ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (or GF 1-1)

1 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp salt

1 ½ cups chocolate chunks

½ cup raspberry preserves

¼ cup fresh raspberries

Flaky sea salt, for serving

Recipes Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9×13 inch baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. In a saucepan, brown the butter over medium-low heat. As the butter bubbles, push the foam out of the way with a spoon to monitor the browning solids. Remove from the heat once the butter turns golden-amber and transfer to a heat-safe bowl. Place in the freezer to chill for 15-20 minutes. 
  3. Once the butter has cooled, add to the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together with the brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix again. 
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate mixing bowl. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until fully incorporated. 
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in the chocolate chunks. Press dough into the baking dish in an even layer. 
  6. Combine raspberry preserves and fresh raspberries, using the back of a spoon to mash the fresh raspberries into the preserves. Once combined, spoon little dollops of preserves over the cookie dough in the baking dish, then swirl it into the dough as best as possible using a butter knife. 
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes (if using a large baking dish, decrease the bake time to 18-23 minutes) until the cookie bars are golden brown and the middle is beginning to set. Let cool for 3-5 minutes, then run a butter knife along the edge of the baking dish and lift the bars out of the dish onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings is a classic comfort food recipe. I grew up eating this on school nights, coming home from winter track practice to smells of chicken soup and biscuit batter. The base of this dish is a slightly thickened-up chicken soup…. not as thick as a chicken pot pie filling, but more stick-to-your-ribs than traditional soup. Then, free-form biscuits get dropped into the bubbling soup and steamed until you have a dozen pillowy dumpling floating and waiting to be devoured. It’s so good!

Ingredients needed to make Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe requires the typical myriad of chicken soup ingredients; celery, carrots, onions, sage, thyme, etc. I love this dish because of the versatility. It’s great for a warming family dinner, to serve to guests (if we can ever have those again), or to prep for a few days of lunches. It also transitions seamlessly between all-purpose flour and a 1-1 gluten free flour blend, so there are no issues if you need to eliminate the gluten. You’ll see options to make this meal dairy-free as well in the recipe section. Here’s the full list:

  • Butter (or olive oil)
  • Shredded chicken
  • Yellow onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • All-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend)
  • Chicken broth
  • Heavy cream (or full-fat unsweetened coconut milk)
  • Fresh sage
  • Fresh thyme
  • Frozen peas (optional)
  • Fresh parsley
  • Eggs
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Milk (or full-fat unsweetened coconut milk)

Tools used to make Chicken and Dumplings

I can’t say it enough- I love soups. They require so few tools to pull off and they’re really hard to mess up. LOVE them. Here are all the tools you’ll need to make these Chicken and Dumplings easily:

  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large Dutch oven with lid (or a soup pot)
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • A wooden spoon
  • A ladle, for serving
  • #40 (~1.5 tbsp) cookie scoop (optional, but very useful)

How to make Chicken and Dumplings

As mentioned above, this recipe is very akin to a traditional chicken soup crossed with a chicken pot pie filling. The process starts the same as any other soup, by chopping your onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cooking them down in some butter. Once the veggies have started to take on a little color, you’ll sprinkle in some flour and fresh herbs to coat the veggies, then pour in the chicken broth and heavy cream. You’ll let the soup simmer over medium heat, stirring here and there, until it thickens up slightly.

While the soup thickens, you’ll prepare a basic biscuit batter of flour, an egg, butter, milk, and a few other ingredients. The batter will be a touch thicker than, say, a pancake batter, but you won’t believe how the dumplings cook up in the soup. It’s amazing!

Once the soup has thickened, add the shredded (and already cooked!) chicken and frozen peas, if using, to the pot. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Lower the heat so the soup is no longer boiling, then use a cookie scoop (or a small measuring cup) to drop roughly 2 tbsp worth of batter into the soup.. The batter will immediately come together to form floating dumplings once it hits the heat, then just keeping adding little scoops until all of the batter is used. Cover the pot completely and walk away for 15 minutes, then return to find the most amazing pot of chicken and dumplings! I love to serve this with fresh parsley over top and an extra crack of black pepper. That’s it!

Looking for other stick-to-your-ribs recipes?

Try these ideas from The Arden Cook!

Pork Chile Verde

Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa Beef Stew

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Recipe Ingredients

For the Soup

2 tbsp salted butter (or ghee)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 medium carrots, finely chopped

5 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp all-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend)

4 ½ cups chicken broth 

½ cup heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk)

1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1 cup frozen peas (optional)

Chopped fresh parsley, for serving (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Dumplings

1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend)

1 ½ tsp baking powder

Rounded ¼ tsp baking soda

½ cup milk (or full-fat coconut milk)

5 tbsp butter, melted (or ghee)

1 large egg 

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Recipe Instructions

  1. Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add onions, carrots, celery, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Sauté 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.
  2. Sprinkle in 2 Tbsp flour and the fresh herbs, then stir to coat the vegetables. Pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly to avoid flour clumping. Then, add the heavy cream. Simmer over medium-low for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup has thickened slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dumpling batter. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  4. Once the soup has thickened, stir in the shredded chicken and frozen peas, if using. Lower the heat and ensure the soup is not bubbling, then use the cookie scoop or a small 1/4 cup measuring cup filled halfway to drop scoops of batter into the hot soup. The dumplings will immediately start to form and rise to the top. Repeat until all the batter has been scooped into the soup, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and garnish the soup with fresh parsley and another crack of black pepper. Ladle into bowls, ensuring every bowl gets plenty of soup and at least 1-2 dumplings each, and serve hot. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Brie-Stuffed Soft Pretzels with Rosemary Butter and Fig Mustard

Brie-Stuffed Soft Pretzel Bites with Rosemary Butter and Fig Mustard are the perfect weekend baking project. Fluffy, cheesy, salty, and a hint of sweet from the fig mustard, these soft pretzels are easier to make than you probably imagine. With a little time and some good pretzel-twisting skills, you’ll have amazing homemade soft pretzels in no time.

Ingredients needed to make Brie-Stuffed Soft Pretzels with Rosemary Butter and Fig Mustard

To make these delicious soft pretzels, you’ll need a few basic baking ingredients like flour, instant yeast, salt, etc.. You’ll also need a good quality fig jam and dijon mustard, to make the sweet and tangy dipping sauce for these pretzels. Here’s the full list:

Tools used to make Brie-Stuffed Soft Pretzels with Rosemary Butter and Fig Mustard

The biggest piece of equipment required to make these soft-pretzels is a stand mixer. It is very difficult to knead the dense pretzel dough by hand, however if you choose that route be aware that you’ll need to knead for at least 10 minutes. The kneading happens much more quickly in the stand mixer, taking only about 5 minutes using the dough hook. Other than that, you’ll need a cutting board, a sharp knife, a small saucepan, two rimmed baking sheets, a pastry brush (optional), a small mixing bowl, and measuring cups and spoons.

How to make Brie-Stuffed Soft Pretzels with Rosemary Butter and Fig Mustard

These pretzels start with a fairly basic bread dough. You’ll combine yeast with the wet ingredients, then add in the dry ingredients to a stand mixer. Let the stand mixer do the kneading, then let the dough rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Once the dough has risen, you’ll divide the pretzel dough into 8 pieces and roll each piece out into a long snake. Flatten the snake, stuff with a piece of brie, form the dough around the brie, then twist into a pretzel. Pretty simple! You’ll repeat this process for all 8 pieces of dough, then boil them in a pot of baking soda and water for 45 seconds each. Boiling in baking soda is what creates that classic pretzel flavor in the final product, so don’t skip that step.

Just before baking, you’ll brush each pretzel with a fragrant rosemary butter, which is made simply by melting butter and simmering it with fresh rosemary sprigs for 2 minutes. Bake the pretzels until golden brown, and that’s it! Serve with the fig mustard, which can be made in 3 minutes while the pretzels cool.

Looking for other weekend baking projects?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Classic Spice Cookies with Vanilla-Whiskey Frosting

Buttery Dinner Rolls

Gluten-Free Olive Oil Zucchini Bread

Recipe Ingredients

2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (one packet)

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

1 ½ cups warm water, heated to 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit 

4 ¼ -½ cups flour, may use closer to 4 ½ if needed 

4 tbsp butter

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 wheel brie, rind removed and cut into 8 equal pieces 

8 cups water

½ cup baking soda

Flaky salt or pretzel salt, to taste

¼ cup mayonnaise 

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp fig jam

Salt and pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine yeast, brown sugar, salt, and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for 3-5 minutes, or until bubbly. 
  2. Add the flour and mix on low with a dough hook until a dough forms, about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and coat in olive oil, then cover and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour, or until dough doubles in size. 
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal parts. Roll each piece into a 12-16 inch worm. Flatten the worm with a rolling pin or your hands, then stuff with a piece of brie and wrap the dough around the cheese. Make sure the brie is completely encased in the dough, then twist into a pretzel. Repeat for the remaining pieces of dough until you have 8 pretzels. 
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and rosemary sprigs. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the rosemary smells fragrant. Set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line two sheet trays with parchment paper. Boil the water and, once bubbling, add the baking soda. 
  6. Working in batches, boil the pretzels for 45 seconds, then place on the sheet trays. Brush with the rosemary butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pretzels are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes so the brie can set up slightly. 
  7. While the pretzels cool, make the fig mustard. Combine the mayo, dijon, fig jam, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until thoroughly combined. 
  8. Serve pretzels while still warm alongside the fig mustard. Leftovers keep for 1-2 days covered in the fridge. To reheat, simply place on a piece of foil directly on the oven rack and warm at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.