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.

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.

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.

Baked Goat Cheese with Herbed Orange Olives

Baked Goat Cheese with Herbed Orange Olives is a recipe that is sure to impress, plus it looks way more fancy and complicated than it actually is. Tangy goat cheese gets baked in a bath of good-quality olive oil alongside salty olives and lots of fresh herbs and citrus zest. It’s delicious scooped onto crackers to slathered onto bread.

Ingredients needed to make Baked Goat Cheese with Herbed Orange Olives

This recipe requires just a few good-quality ingredients, most of which you likely have in your pantry and fridge already. Here’s the full list:

Tools used to make Baked Goat Cheese with Herbed Orange Olives

The tools required to make this dish are next to none. You’ll need an oven-safe baking dish, measuring cups and spoons, a sharp chef’s knife, a cutting board, and a microplane or citrus zester. That’s it!

How to make Baked Goat Cheese with Herbed Orange Olives

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Before slicing your goat cheese, make sure it is very cold. It helps to stick the log into the freezer for 10-15 minutes before slicing it if you want precise rounds, however this step isn’t necessary if you don’t mind a more “broken” presentation (it still tastes delicious).

Slice the goat cheese into 7 or 8 even rounds and place them in the baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the chopped fresh herbs, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, citrus zest, and a pinch of salt. Arrange the olives around the goat cheese, then cover the entire dish in the olive oil.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the oil begins to bubble just slightly around the edges and the entire dish is hot.

I love to serve this dish with crackers or fresh crusty bread for a delicious alternative to a cheese board!

Looking for other delicious appetizers?

Try these easy recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Pomegranate Goat Cheese Guacamole

Whipped Feta Dip

Turmeric Cauliflower Hummus

Recipe Ingredients

½ cup good quality olive oil

4oz log goat cheese, chilled, sliced into rounds

5-7oz mixed olives

1tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped

1tsp dried oregano

¼-½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

½ tsp orange zest

½ tsp lemon zest

Pinch sea salt

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Slice goat cheese into 7 or 8 rounds and add to the baking dish in an even layer.
  3. Sprinkle the fresh chopped herbs, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, citrus zest, and a pinch of sea salt over top of the goat cheese rounds. Arrange the olives evenly around the goat cheese.
  4. Cover the entire dish with the olive oil. It’s okay if the oil doesn’t cover the olives entirely.
  5. Bake the dish for 10-15 minutes until small bubbles begin to appear on the sides of the dish and the goat cheese is hot. Serve immediately alongside crackers or fresh bread. 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.

Holiday Heart Beet Cocktail

This cocktail was inspired by one of my favorite local businesses, The Salt House in New Hope, PA. A delicious combination of fresh beet juice, aromatic ginger and rosemary, a touch of sweetness, and a little bubble, this cocktail is everything you’d want from a holiday beverage. The ingredients are fresh and simple, so you feel good drinking it despite the shot of vodka that’s in there. I hope you enjoy this bright and inspired cocktail and have a wonderful holiday celebration, no matter how different it looks this year!

Ingredients needed to make the Holiday Heart Beet Cocktail

The ingredients needed to make this cocktail can vary depending on what equipment you have at home. We have a fruit and vegetable juicer, so we actually juiced our own beets and ginger. However, don’t fret if you don’t have an expensive juicer, because both beet and ginger juices can be found in the produce section at most grocery stores! Here’s everything you’ll need:

Tools used to make the Holiday Heart Beet Cocktail

As mentioned above, we used a juicer to make our fresh beet and lemon juices. This is absolutely optional, as most grocery stores sell fresh pressed juices in their produce section. Love Beets is a great brand to seek out for pure, unsweetened beet juice, and those infamous ginger “immunity shots” in the refrigerated section are perfect to add that ginger punch to this drink. Regardless of whether you choose to use a juicer, these are the other tools you’ll need to make this cocktail:

How to make the Holiday Heart Beet Cocktail

This cocktail requires as much or as little fuss as you want to put into it. For my boyfriend who enjoys craft cocktail making, he does all the fuss. He juiced everything for me when we first tried to recreate this drink and even went out into the snow to clip the fresh rosemary from our herb garden. Don’t have a lot of time? Don’t worry! Use the store-bought juices and enjoy your life It’s entirely up to you.

You’ll begin by making the rosemary simple syrup, which sounds much fancier than it is. Combine the water, sugar, and fresh rosemary springs in a small saucepan and let bubble until the sugar is just dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely before discarding the rosemary so the flavor really infuses.

Next, we assemble the cocktail. Combine all ingredients except the sparkling water into a cocktail shaker or large mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add a few ice cubes and shake until the cocktail is mixed well and chilled.

Strain into your favorite fancy glasses and top with as much or as little sparkling water as you like. I also love to garnish with a little fresh rosemary so people know what to expect when they take a sip. That’s it! The ingredients listed in this recipe make enough for 2 generous cocktails, so keep that in mind when considering whether or not to double (or triple) this recipe!

Looking for a delicious appetizer to pair with the Holiday Heart Beet Cocktail?

Try these other recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Pomegranate Goat Cheese Guacamole

Whipped Feta Dip

Muhammara-Style Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Recipe Ingredients

Makes 2 cocktails

4oz fresh beet juice

1oz fresh ginger juice

1oz rosemary simple syrup (recipe below*)

1oz fresh lemon juice

3oz vodka

3-4oz sparkling water

Recipe Instructions

  1. Make the rosemary simple syrup. *Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely before discarding rosemary.
  2. Make the cocktail. Combine beet juice, ginger juice, simple syrup, lemon juice, and vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well for 30 seconds or so, then strain into two cocktail glasses.
  3. Top each glass with 1-2 ounces sparkling water and garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig. 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.

Pomegranate Goat Cheese Guacamole

With the holidays looking different this year, I figured it would be an okay time to create a non-traditional Christmas Eve appetizer. Speaking from experience, not many holiday gatherings include a big vat of guac, so why not break the mold this year? When Erika of Esteem Wellness kindly offered to feature one of my recipes on her account, I knew I wanted it to be simple, made from clean, whole ingredients, festive, and delicious. This guacamole fits the bill. Did I mention that it’s made using only 5 ingredients? Jump on this, folks!

Ingredients needed to make Pomegranate Goat Cheese Guacamole

As I said above, this guac requires just FIVE ingredients. It’s absolutely delicious and so simple to pull together. All you need are a few ripe avocados, fresh lime juice, pomegranate arils, goat cheese, and salt. If you’d like to take this guac up a notch, it would also be delicious dusted with some fresh chopped cilantro, roasted pistachios, or crushed red pepper flakes for a touch of heat. Serve it with your favorite tortilla chips and you’re ready to go!

Tools used to make Pomegranate Goat Cheese Guacamole

Everyone has their preferred method of mashing guac, but the easiest way, in my opinion, is to use an old-fashioned potato masher. This one is very similar to what I have at home and it leaves me with perfect, lump-free guac every time. If you don’t have a masher, you could use a fork, a pastry cutter, or even your hands. You’ll also need the following tools to complete this recipe:

How to make Pomegranate Goat Cheese Guacamole

This guacamole couldn’t be simpler to make. You’ll start by halving your avocados and carefully removing the pits. Scoop the flesh of the avocado into your mixing bowl, then squeeze the juice of half a lime into the bowl. Add the salt and mash until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the goat cheese and pomegranates. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Looking for other easy appetizer recipes?

Try these options from The Ardent Cook

Savory Holiday Snack Mix

Whipped Feta Dip

Cheesy Black Bean Skillet Dip

Pst!! Looking for a cocktail to pair with this guac? Try my Holiday Heart Beet Cocktail!

Recipe Ingredients

3 medium, ripe avocados

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1/4 cup pomegranate arils

2-3oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Optional add-ins: fresh cilantro, chopped pistachios, crushed red pepper flakes

Recipe Instructions

  1. Halve the avocados and carefully remove the pits. Scoop the flesh of each avocado into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the lime juice and salt, then mash to combine.
  3. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the pomegranate arils and goat cheese. Serve alongside your favorite tortilla chips and enjoy! Leftovers keep for 1-2 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

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.

Savory Holiday Snack Mix

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that Jeff and I have been following a pretty strict 10-Day Reset eating protocol. Without disclosing too much personal information, I will share that we have had some health concerns that warrant an elimination diet to see if symptoms reduce or subside. So far, it’s going well, but I definitely miss snacking. With the holidays coming up, I brainstormed a way to create a snack mix that would satisfy the parameters of our new way of eating while also being a welcomed edition to any holiday party for all to enjoy. This snack mix is IT. Loaded with my favorite nuts and seeds, a savory combination of spices, and completely customizable, this mix is a winner in my book.

Ingredients needed to make Savory Holiday Snack Mix

This snack mix is wonderful because it truly is customizable. You can use any combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, pretzels, cereal, etc. that you like or have on hand. Keep in mind that if you add more ingredients, you may want to consider increasing the amount of butter and seasoning blends that you use. The amounts listed are for about 3.5 cups of mix. Anything more than that and you’ll want to scale the amounts up. Since we’re following this Reset protocol, we kept it just to nuts, seeds, and coconut chips, but feel free to get crazy with your add-ins! Here’s what I used to make this mix:

I left the maple syrup out of this batch, as we aren’t consuming any added sugar at the moment. If I were making this at any other time, I would absolutely include the maple syrup. It gives a really nice balance to the savory, salty flavors of the snack mix, but it isn’t necessary if sweet + salty combos aren’t your thing.

Tools used to make Savory Holiday Snack Mix

The tools needed to make this snack mix are so minimal, you likely have all of them on hand already. You’ll want a variety of mixing bowls to melt the butter as well as mix the spices, one or two large sheet pans (I like these rimmed ones), measuring spoons, and a wooden spoon or spatula for tossing the snack mix. If using the maple syrup, you may want to line your sheet pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking. In addition, I recommend a large storage container to keep your snack mix fresh if you plan on making it ahead. I use this glass container and absolutely love it. That’s it!

How to make Savory Holiday Snack Mix

This snack mix comes together in minutes, making it super quick and easy to whip up as a hostess gift or to set out for guests as an appetizer. You’ll start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, then measure out all of your seasoning into a small mixing bowl and stir to combine. Next, melt the butter in another mixing bowl in the microwave. Add the nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, and any other mix-ins you’ve chosen to the sheet pan and drizzle all over with the butter. Use your hands or a large wooden spoon to toss the mix until coated with the butter. Sprinkle on the seasoning blend and toss to coat again. Place the sheet pan in the oven and let it cook for 8-10 minutes, tossing every few minutes, or until it smells fragrant and your nuts have taken on a golden color. Store the mix in an airtight container to keep it crisp for up to a week!

Looking for other easy appetizers to serve this Holiday?

Give these other recipes a try from The Ardent Cook!

Whipped Feta Dip

Turmeric Cauliflower Hummus

Cheesy Black Bean Skillet Dip

Recipe Ingredients

1 cup raw walnuts

1 cup raw pecans

1 cup unsweetened coconut chips, such as Dang

1/2 cup raw pepitas

2 tbsp grass-fed butter (or avocado oil), melted

1 tbs onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp dried oregano

¾ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

½-1 tsp sea salt, to taste

2 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Melt the butter in a heat-safe dish in the microwave, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the walnuts, pecans, coconut chips, and pepitas onto a sheet tray. You may need to use more than 1 sheet tray depending on the amount of mix. Drizzle all over with the butter, then toss to coat. Sprinkle on the seasoning, and toss to coat evenly again.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the nuts and coconut chips have taken on a deep golden color and the mix smells fragrant. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container on the counter for up to a week. 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.

Classic Spice Cookies with Vanilla Whiskey Frosting

I love a good pie as much as the next person, but sometimes all I want after the big Thanksgiving meal is a small piece of something sweet. That’s why I’ve been team cookies-on-Thanksgiving for years, and this is one of my favorite recipes! It’s a classic, chewy spice cookie recipe that gets smothered in delicious vanilla whiskey frosting (you can leave the whiskey out if that’s not your jam). It has all the warm spices you think of on Thanksgiving without the commitment of a full slice of pie.

Ingredients needed to make Classic Spice Cookies with Vanilla Whiskey Frosting

These cookies have a lot of spices, which in my opinion are good investments for holiday season cooking and baking. You can use them to flavor both savory and sweet dishes, so it’s worth it. Here’s a full list of what you need:

Tools used to make Classic Spice Cookies with Vanilla Whiskey Frosting

It’s easiest to make these cookies using a stand mixer, such as a KitchenAid, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one. In addition, you’ll need two rimmed baking sheets, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, parchment paper, and a butter knife or icing spatula. For ease, you can also use a cookie scoop, but that is completely optional.

How to make Classic Spice Cookies with Vanilla Whiskey Frosting

If you’ve ever made cookies before, this process should be no surprise to you. It’s really simple. Start by creaming together your butter and sweeteners, followed by the eggs. Add the dry ingredients. Chill the dough. Bake. See where I’m going with this? While they bake you can make your frosting either in a regular old mixing bowl or in the stand mixer, up to you. Let cookies cool, lacquer that icing on, then enjoy by a fire with an after dinner drink. Got it? Good.

Looking for other un-pie Thanksgiving or holiday desserts?

Apple Bourbon Spoon Cake

Chocolate Pistachio Rice Crispy Treats

Recipe Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, divided (12 and 4)

1 cup sugar 

¼ cup molasses 

1 egg

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger 

¾ tsp ground cloves 

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

A few turns black pepper

½ tsp salt 

3 ¾ cup powdered sugar 

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 tbsp milk

3 tbsp Irish whiskey

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream together 12 tbsp of the butter, sugar, molasses, and egg until fluffy and lighter in color. 
  3. Switch the whisk attachment for the paddle, then slowly add the flour and spice mixture. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough chills, make the icing. Combine remaining butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, 1 tbsp milk, and whiskey in a mixing bowl. Whisk by hand, or use whisk attachment in the stand mixer, until the frosting is light and fluffy. If additional milk is needed, add accordingly. Store in the fridge until cookies have cooled completely. 
  5. Once chilled, shape dough into 1-inch balls, or scoop onto the baking sheets using a 1-inch cookie scoop, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies have spread slightly and have firmed up. 
  6. Cool on a wire rack, then ice. 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.