Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad is a healthy main-course salad that still feels hearty and keeps you full. Loaded with crisp veggies, salty feta, and slightly spicy harissa chicken thighs, this salad is perfect for a weeknight or busy weekend meal. To save even more time, you can buy pre-marinated harissa chicken thighs from everyone’s favorite grocer, Trader Joe’s, or try my delicious copycat recipe, available here. I love topping this salad with a quick homemade lemony herb dressing (details included in recipe), but if you aren’t in the mood to make your own, I would highly recommend a store-bought ranch.

Ingredients needed to make Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

My recipe for Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad includes some of my favorite veggies to add to a salad, but don’t let me stop you there. In my experience, the more a salad has in it, the better it gets. This would also be delicious with some halved cherry tomatoes, a different kind of cheese, fresh corn, roasted broccoli, etc. The options for customization are endless! Here’s the full list of ingredients for the salad:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Harissa chicken thighs (recipe here)
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Radishes (I love watermelon radishes in this salad)
  • Avocado
  • Feta cheese
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Crispy chickpeas
  • Cilantro

If you also want to make my favorite easy dressing that compliments this salad perfectly, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tahini
  • Dijon mustard
  • Lemon juice
  • Cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

Tools used to make Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

This salad comes together using the most minimal of kitchen tools. All you need is a few kitchen staples and you’re ready to eat! I used the following tools to make this salad happen:

  • Large cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Large mixing bowl or serving plate
  • Small mixing bowl, optional if making homemade dressing
  • Measuring cups and spoons, optional if making homemade dressing
  • Whisk, optional if making homemade dressing
  • Air fryer, optional if making homemade crispy chickpeas

How to make Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

This dish is as simple as chopping and plating. If you plan to make your own harissa chicken thighs using my recipe, you’ll want to do that as the first step. The chicken thighs don’t take very long as they’re absolutely worth the effort, trust me!

You’ll begin by chopping everything you need for the salad, including the lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, avocado, and cilantro. Add it all to a large mixing bowl or serving plate, crumble the feta and sprinkle the pomegranate arils on top, then add the crispy chickpeas. You can make these using a simple recipe for Air Fryer crispy chickpeas, available here, or just grab a bag of them already made from the store.

To make the lemony herb dressing, combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Alternatively, you could add all ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender for an even smoother consistency, but I personally enjoy the texture of the chopped herbs in this dressing. Both methods are excellent and the flavor remains the same!

Slice the chicken and add it to the salad, then drizzle all over with the lemony herb dressing (or dressing of your choice)! It’s so good and the perfect hearty salad for any day of the week.

Looking for other simple, healthy recipes?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook

Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Recipe Ingredients

2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

Harissa Chicken Thighs, cooked and chopped (store-bought available at Trader Joe’s, or homemade)

1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced or shredded

Handful of assorted radishes, thinly sliced 

1 avocado, quartered 

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled 

1/4 cup pomegranate arils

1/2 cup crispy chickpeas (store-bought, or homemade)

1/8 cup cilantro, chopped, for serving

For the Lemony Herb Dressing

⅛ cup tahini

Juice and zest of 1 whole lemon

1 TBSP dijon mustard

⅛ cup finely chopped cilantro

3 TBSP water, or more if thinner consistency is desired

Salt and pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine the chopped lettuce, cucumber, carrots, radishes, avocado, and cilantro in a large mixing bowl or arrange on a serving plate. Crumble the feta and scatter the pomegranate arils and crispy chickpeas on top.
  2. Make the dressing, if using. Add the tahini, lemon juice and zest, dijon mustard, cilantro, water, salt, and pepper to a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
  3. Slice the chicken and arrange it on top of the salad. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. To store in the fridge, do not dress the salad. Leftovers keep very well undressed in an airtight container, with the dressing added once you are ready to eat. 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.

Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

I absolutely love all things Chinese food, but when we transitioned to a gluten-free way of eating it ruled out a lot of take-out options. Unfortunately, soy sauce and other soy products contain wheat, and they’re hidden in a lot of dishes. I’ve learned a lot about how to balance the intricate flavors of what we consider “Chinese” cooking (and I’ve still got A LOT to learn about the legit, authentic, traditional recipes), and and I’m pretty proud of how this dish turned out. The combination of the punchy garlic and ginger paired with the sweet honey and earthy toasted sesame oil is mind blowing, plus the dish is pretty healthy! Let’s make it!

Ingredients needed to make Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

All the ingredients used in this dish are ones I pull out constantly when I’m making anything Asian-inspired. If you love Asian flavors and cook them at home frequently, I would highly recommend stocking up on some of these ingredients to ensure your meals are tasting as true-to-flavor and balanced as possible! Here’s everything you’ll need:

Tools used to make Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

This take-out-inspired dish is wonderful because it requires very basic kitchen equipment. You’ll need the following items: a cutting board, a sharp chef’s knife, a medium pot with lid, a medium-large skillet, a pair of tongs, and a jar with lid OR a medium mixing bowl with a whisk. There are also a few optional kitchen tools that helped make this meal happen quickly, which are a microplane and a force juicer, although the dish can still be successfully made without those items.

How to make Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

This dish happens rather quickly, so I find it’s helpful to have most of your ingredients measured out ahead of time. You’ll begin by cutting your chicken breast into thin 1/4-1/2 inch strips and coating them in a mixture of tapioca starch (this helps our chicken get a nice crispy sear), ground ginger, ground turmeric, and garlic powder. Once your skillet is heated, sear the chicken on both sides. You may need to work in batches to do this in order to avoid crowding the pan. While the chicken sears, steam the broccoli and make the sauce.

I love to make this sauce in a mason jar with a lid so I can just dump everything and shake to mix. However, if you don’t have a mason jar, it works perfectly well to mix everything in a bowl with a whisk. Either option is perfect!

Once all the chicken has been seared, return it all to the skillet and pour in the sauce. The honey will help create a delicious, thick sauce that coats all of the pieces of chicken. You’ll let the sauce simmer with the chicken for a few minutes, toss in the steamed broccoli, and garnish with fresh lime juice, cilantro, and more sesame seeds! Serve it over rice, rice noodles, or eat it as-is. It’s so delicious!

Looking for other Asian-inspired dishes?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Ponzu Greens and Grains Bowl

Aromatic Chicken Meatball Curry

Recipe Ingredients

1.5lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced

2 ½ tbsp tapioca starch

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp garlic powder

2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into florets

3 tbsp avocado oil, divided (1 for searing chicken, 2 for sauce)

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

¼ cup coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce

3 tbsp rice vinegar

¼ cup honey

1 tbsp sriracha, more or less to taste

1 tbsp raw sesame seeds

1-inch knob fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

2 cloves fresh garlic, grated or finely minced

Juice of 1 lime

Cilantro, for serving

Sesame seeds, for serving

Recipe Instructions

  1. Cut the chicken into thin strips, each about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Combine the tapioca, ground ginger, ground turmeric, and garlic powder and coat the chicken in the mixture.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the avocado oil in a skillet over medium heat and sear the chicken, working in batches if necessary. While the chicken sears, steam the broccoli until fork-tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. While the chicken and broccoli are cooking, make the sauce. In a mason-jar with a tight fitting lid OR a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 2 tbsp avocado oil, sesame oil, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, honey, sriracha, sesame seeds, fresh ginger, and fresh garlic. Shake or whisk to thoroughly combine.
  4. When the chicken is seared, return all of it to the skillet and pour in the sauce. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce with the chicken until the chicken is cooked-through and the sauce has thickened slightly, another 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice.
  5. Add the steamed broccoli, then stir once more to coat everything in the sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and more sesame seeds. Serve hot over rice or rice noodles! 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.

Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

The crossover recipe to end all crossover recipes….. this stew! Yes, I know that wasn’t a complete sentence. Two of my favorite winter meals are french onion soup and beef stew, and I never really thought of combining them until now. I’d say french onion is my top choice, but it’s frustrating that it never feels like a complete meal. It could be that it’s lacking variety in vegetables, there’s not really any protein, etc. So, I created a cross between the two comfort food recipes, added some quinoa for nuttiness and extra volume, and fully lost it when I tasted the first bite. It was that good.

This recipe is made in the Instant Pot, so it’s relatively quick and easy. The steps can be a bit confusing if you don’t read through the instructions fully, so make sure you actually pay attention before beginning the recipe. But, as long as you read everything, you’ll be left with a delicious, wholesome cold-weather dinner in under an hour. Let’s make it!

Ingredients needed to make Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

This stew has a fair amount of ingredients, which is part of the reason the flavors are so complex. I would not recommend leaving anything out. Here’s the full list:

  • Avocado oil
  • Beef stew meat
  • Yellow onions
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Red wine
  • Beef broth
  • Water
  • Tomato paste
  • Carrots
  • Quinoa
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Fresh thyme
  • Sharp cheddar or goat’s milk cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley
  • Toasted bread or croutons

Tools used to make Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

As mentioned above, this recipe is made almost entirely in the Instant Pot. If you don’t have an Instant Pot but feel comfortable in the kitchen, you could absolutely try making this on the stovetop or even in a slow-cooker. I did not test the recipe using those methods, so I can’t provide specific instructions. However, it will certainly work as long as you adjust the cooking time accordingly (the Instant Pot works much faster than other methods, so any other method take longer to achieve the same beef tenderness and depth of flavor).

I use the Instant Pot Duo Nova 6-qt, linked here. I absolutely love it. I was NOT a gadget-lover in the kitchen until I bought one of these on a whim, and I promise you- it’s life changing. Other than the Instant Pot itself, you’ll want to gather a few more kitchen items to make this recipe a breeze: a cutting board, a sharp knife, a pair of tongs, measuring cups and spoons, aluminum foil, a rimmed baking sheet, and a stirring utensil. I prefer to use my favorite wooden spoon for stirring, as it’s the perfect length for reaching the bottom of the Instant Pot. That’s it!

How to make Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

This stew is not difficult to make, but it does require a few extra steps to ensure everything is cooked to perfection. It drives me nuts when I make a soup and the meat turns out too tough/chewy while the vegetables are so soft they’re falling apart, so I made sure that didn’t happen with this stew. To achieve the perfect tenderness for both the beef and the vegetables, we actually pressure cook the stew twice. The first time, it’s just for the beef, while the second time is for the vegetables and quinoa. It sounds fussy, but I promise it doesn’t take any extra time than if we were to make this on the stove!

You’ll begin by trimming the beef of any fat or cartilage, then cut down any very large pieces. The stew meat should come already cubed, but sometimes there are a few wild pieces that need to be cut in half. Aim for approximately 1-inch pieces of beef.

Once the beef is trimmed, we’ll work in batches to sear it on all sides using the Sauté feature on the Instant Pot. Working in batches is key to ensure our meat gets browned and crispy. If we tried to sear all of the beef at once, the pan would be overcrowded and no browning would occur. Remember: browning= flavor.

Once we’ve seared the beef, we’ll add all of the thinly sliced onions and shallots, garlic, and a little red wine to deglaze the Pot. It’s very important to scrape up all of the caramelized bits that stuck to the Pot as we seared the beef, as those provide amazing flavor in our stew. Once the onions and garlic have absorbed much of the wine and are becoming tender, we’ll transfer them to a plate and return the beef to the Pot.

Next, add a splash of beef broth and start the first round of pressure cooking. The first round takes about 35 minutes start-to-finish, including time for the Pot to pressurize, cook, and then release the pressure. While the beef cooks for the first round, we can prepare the carrots, herbs, and quinoa.

You’ll want to cut the carrots into uniform pieces, each about 1/2 inch thick. Gather your fresh herb sprigs, rinse your quinoa, and maybe even have a glass of wine while you wait.

Once the beef is finished the first round of pressure cooking, we’ll go ahead and add the par-cooked onions and garlic, quinoa, carrots, fresh herbs, and remaining beef broth to the Pot. Close the lid again, and pressure cook the entire stew one final time. We’ll only be cooking it for 2 minutes, however this second round of cooking takes more like 15 minutes start-to-finish, including time for the Pot to pressurize again, cook, and then release the remaining pressure.

Once the stew has finished cooking, taste it for salt and pepper, then season accordingly. Turn your oven to Broil and ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls or crocks. At this point, you can top the soup however you see fit. I love to use a piece of toast and freshly shredded goat’s milk cheddar cheese, while Jeff prefers to top his with salad croutons. Alternatively, this stew is excellent served over mashed potatoes, or eaten as-is. You can absolutely customize it and have a delicious meal!

Looking for other soup recipes?

Try these from The Ardent Cook!

Herbed Chicken Tortellini Soup

Chipotle Peanut Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Pepitas

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Recipe Ingredients

1 tbsp avocado oil

1.5 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup red wine

One 32oz container beef broth, divided

1 cup water

2 tbsp Tomato paste

3 medium carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces

¾ cup quinoa, rinsed

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Toast or croutons, for serving

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for serving

Fresh parsley, chopped, for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Trim beef of any fat or cartilage and ensure there are no excessively large pieces. Each cube should be roughly 1-inch in size. Season the beef on all sides with salt and black pepper. Turn Instant Pot to “Sauté” and sear the beef, working in batches to avoid crowding the pot. 
  2. Once all the beef has been seared on both sides, remove it from the pot and add the onions. Stir to coat in the beef drippings and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to take on some color. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Stir in the red wine to deglaze the Instant Pot. The onions and garlic will soak up some of the wine and start to become tender. Cook for 2-3 minutes until most of the wine has been absorbed by the onions or evaporated, then transfer the mixture to a bowl. 
  4. Add the beef back into the Instant Pot along with ¼ cup beef broth. Close the lid and ensure the vent is in the “Sealing” position. Turn the Instant Pot to “Pressure Cook” and then “High Pressure.” Set the timer for 20 minutes and let it go. Once the time is up, let the Pot naturally release pressure for 10 minutes, then carefully quick-release the remaining steam by opening the vent. 
  5. To the Pot with the cooked beef, add the water, par-cooked onions, quinoa, carrots, herbs, tomato paste, and remaining beef broth. Return the lid to the Pot and follow the same process as above to pressurize the Pot, this time setting the timer for 2 minutes. Let the soup pressure cook once more, allowing for 5 minutes of natural release once the time is up. After 5 minutes, quick-release the steam and safely take the lid off. 
  6. Turn your oven to broil and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Ladle soup into oven-safe bowls or crocks and top with a piece of toast or handful of croutons, followed by the shredded cheddar. Place the filled crocks onto the lined baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly golden brown. Top with fresh parsley and enjoy hot!

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.

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.

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.

Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

The holidays always bring about strong feelings of comfort food, and this Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni fills the void so incredibly well. If gluten and dairy aren’t for you, I’ve tested this recipe using a grain-free pasta alternative as well as dairy-free milk and cheese. Luckily, there are loads of swaps you can make to create the dish that works for you based upon your dietary needs, or just use the real stuff. I love this as an easy weeknight dinner or as a solution to your Christmas Eve dinner needs for gatherings large and small. I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients needed to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

This dish uses all the traditional Italian pasta ingredients like rigatoni, ground sausage, herbs, and cheese. Here’s a full list of everything you’ll need, plus links to some swaps I used to make this compliant with my current gluten- and dairy-free eating habits:

  • Rigatoni or other cylindrical pasta shape (I like this brand if GF)
  • Ground Sweet Italian sausage
  • Olive oil
  • Kale
  • Fresh garlic
  • Crushed red pepper flake
  • Heavy cream (substitute non-dairy milk or cream alternative if DF)
  • Pasta cooking water
  • Mozzarella (substitute non-dairy cheese or goat cheese, if tolerated)
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Tools used to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

I love pasta dishes because they take close to no equipment to pull off. This dish comes together with only a few tools, most of which you likely already have. Here’s the complete list:

How to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

This pasta recipe is very straightforward, making it a welcome addition to any weekly meal plan. It’s also the perfect recipe to throw together the night before a big holiday, such as, ahem, Christmas Eve… particularly if you haven’t finished wrapping gifts for the big day.

You’ll start by cooking your pasta in the pasta pot according to package directions. Be sure to reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining, as this helps us achieve a silky creamy sauce that adheres to each noodle.

While the pasta cooks, brown your sausage in a large skillet or deep pot. I prefer to use my Dutch oven for this step. Once browned, push the sausage into a ring at the outside of the pan to make space in the middle for the garlic. Add the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring it around until fragrant, then stir to combine with the sausage. Add the kale and stir again, allowing it to wilt slightly.

Once the pasta is drained, add it directly into the pot with the sausage and kale while still hot. Add the heavy cream, pasta cooking water, and cheese, folding everything together. If needed, you may turn the burner on low to encourage melting of the cheese and thickening of the sauce.

Once the pasta is creamy and all ingredients are incorporated, fold in the freshly grated lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately! Leftovers keep well in the fridge or freezer.

Looking for other weeknight comfort food ideas?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Favorite Roast Chicken

Curried Pumpkin Chickpeas with Cucumber Raita

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Recipe Ingredients

1lb Rigatoni

1lb ground sweet Italian sausage

1tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste

1 head kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed

1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 tbsp fresh lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, brown sausage in a large skillet or deep pot. Once browned, push sausage to the sides of the pan and make an open area in the center.
  3. Add olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes to the center of the pan and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Mix to incorporate with the sausage. Add the kale and stir again, allowing it to wilt.
  4. Add the pasta directly to the pan with the sausage and kale, turn the pan to low heat, then stir in the heavy cream, pasta cooking liquid, and mozzarella. Fold consistently until a creamy sauce forms. You may use additional cream to achieve your desired sauce consistency, if needed.
  5. Stir in the freshly grated lemon zest, salt, and pepper, 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.

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Now that I finally bit the bullet and bought an Instant Pot (albeit I got it for half price on Facebook marketplace), I truly can’t believe I lived without one. It’s not that it can do anything magical that I can’t do in a pot on the stove, it’s just the fact that it goes so. much. faster. What would normally take over 2 hours takes like…. 15 minutes?!

I will admit I was extremely nervous to use this. Something about the pressure had me totally wigged out, like I’d open the lid and pork would shoot across my kitchen. Let me state this disclaimer: as long as you allow for 10 minutes of natural release (or longer, if you’re doing something else), you will be completely fine to let the remaining pressure release via the quick release function. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, continue reading this recipe, which will explain everything.

These Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls are loaded with bright flavor from the lemongrass and fresh veggies. They are customizable based on the vegetables you have on hand and it’s easy to swap out the brown rice base for whatever base you want. If I can give you one tip, it would be to absolutely make the easy pickled red onions. They totally make this dish in my opinion, and they only require a little bit of forethought and prep work to have homemade pickled red onions for days.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and I look forward to sharing more Instant Pot recipes with you all in the future!

Ingredients needed to make Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

These bowls are made using lots of fresh ingredients, which is one of the reasons I love them. The recipe includes amounts for 4 servings, so this is great for a small family or to have prepped leftovers for later in the week. You can always halve the amounts listed in the recipe if you only want 2 servings! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Brown rice
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Fresh garlic
  • Lemongrass paste
  • Shredded carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Pickled red onion
    • Red onion
    • Red wine vinegar
    • Sugar
    • Salt
  • Jalapeno
  • Cilantro
  • Sesame Chili Vinaigrette

Tools used to make Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

As the title of the recipe suggests, you need an Instant Pot to make this recipe in the time specified. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you could also do the pork in the oven roasted low and slow to get it to the perfect shredded consistency. I’d highly recommend the IP version, however, to make this a quick weeknight meal. Other than the Instant Pot, you’ll need a large cutting board, sharp chef’s knife, small saucepan, mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, and a whisk.

How to make Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

The majority of the work for these bowls happens behind the scenes in the Instant Pot, which is great. To start, you’ll want to make your pickled red onions so they have time to cure while the rest of the meal cooks. Bring the vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil and stir until everything has dissolved. Pour over the sliced red onions in a glass jar or tupperware container, and set aside.

Next, sear the pork on all sides using the sauté feature on the IP. You may need to work in batches to avoid crowding, then you’ll transfer the seared pork back into the pot along with the garlic, lemongrass paste, water, and a little salt and pepper. Set it to manual high pressure, then set the timer for 32 minutes. Keep in mind the whole thing will take longer than 32 minutes, as the pot needs time to pressurize as well as time to naturally release after cooking. Total time in the pot is about 50-60 minutes.

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can easily make the pork in the oven. Simply follow the steps above to sear the pork, then roast in a Dutch oven (or similar oven-safe pot with a tight-fitting lid) at 350 for 1-2 hours, until the pork shreds very easily.

While the pork cooks, you’ll thinly slice all of the vegetables and cook the rice (if not cooked ahead of time). You can also make the dressing- simply combine all the ingredients and whisk until mixed. Once the pork is finished, shred it using two forks and toss it back in with the juices, then assemble. Layer the rice, shredded pork, sliced veggies, and fresh cilantro, if using, then drizzle all over with the sesame chili vinaigrette. Easy as that!

Looking for other easy weeknight bowls?

Try these other recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Curried Pumpkin Chickpeas with Cucumber Raita

Harvest Steak and Goat Cheese Bowls

Ponzu Greens and Grains Bowl

Recipe Ingredients

2 cups brown rice or quinoa, cooked

2 pork tenderloins, about 2-2.5lbs total

½ cup water 

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup lemongrass paste

1 cup shredded carrots 

1 cup thinly sliced cucumber

½ cup pickled red onion

  • one medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt

1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced

½ cup cilantro, finely chopped, packed 

½ cup sesame chili vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp sesame seeds
  • ¼ tsp toasted sesame oil
  • ¾ tsp chili garlic sauce (or sriracha)
  • ¼ tsp salt

Recipe Instructions

  1. Make the pickled red onions. Thinly slice onion and add to a large pickle jar or heat-safe container. Bring the vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Let cool for 3 minutes, then pour over the onions to cover. Set aside.
  2. Cut the two tenderloins into 2-3 equal pieces and season on all sides with salt. Turn instant pot to the normal sauté function and sear pork. You may need to work in batches. 
  3. Once seared, transfer the pork to a plate and add the lemongrass and smashed garlic. Stir for 30 seconds or so, until very fragrant, then add water to deglaze the pot. Add the pork back in and set to manual high pressure, then set the timer for 32 minutes. Allow for natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then quick release to completely depressurize the instant pot.
  4. Shred the pork using two forks, then return it to soak in its juices. Assemble the bowls by dividing the ingredients amongst four servings. I like to have a bowl each for dinner, then have two leftover for our lunches the next day. Layer the rice, shredded pork, sliced veggies, pickled red onions, and cilantro (if using). Drizzle all over with the sesame chili vinaigrette and 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.

The Ardent Cook Holiday Gift Guide

You all know I love Halloween, Fall, and all things cozy like no other. But, the next best thing in my mind is the holidays. We’re all going to be celebrating a little bit differently this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still gift thoughtful items to friends and family. These are my picks for each gift recipient you might come across, and I hope you find joy in giving this holiday season as much as I do.

I have to begin with a disclaimer that there are affiliate links in this post. One of the ways I can monetize my efforts in this space is by sharing affiliate links with you all. The kick-backs from these links are small, and all of the gift ideas featured in this post are ones I either use and love myself, or that I’ve done extensive research into and feel comfortable recommending to you. Your support of The Ardent Cook is so meaningful to me, and I am thankful for such a wonderful audience!

Let’s get to the giving, eh?

for The Home Cook (that has it all)

Le Creuset 10¼” Cast-Iron Skillet

Most home cooks have a cast-iron skillet in their arsenal, so why not give them an upgrade? This is a more affordable option out of Le Creuset’s line of enameled cookware. It’s timeless and lasts forever when taken care of, and they have a ton of colors to match any kitchen. I have the meringue color!

Farm Share Subscription

Having a farm share completely forced me to think and cook outside of my comfort zone. I love the surprises that come with having a farm share, like trying new ingredients, attempting a new preparation of an ingredient, etc. Plus, I feel so much more inspired to cook seasonally (since these items we’re literally pulled from the ground for my box that week). This is a great gift for a home cook looking for inspiration in the kitchen! I get mine through Just Farmed, but check out local options in your area to find the best fit.

Ina Garten’s Modern Comfort Food

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I idolize Ina Garten of The Barefoot Contessa. Her approach to cooking is everything I hope to embody. She keeps an emphasis on classic techniques that work every time, she honors the ingredients she uses, she cooks seasonally, and she loves to entertain. Better yet? She loves butter. Her newest book, Modern Comfort Food, is arguably the best cook book she’s ever written. It’s relatable and very well-suited to a home cook.

Cooking Class with The Ardent Cook (ME!)

That’s right! This holiday season, I’m offering up my expertise in the kitchen to anyone on your holiday shopping list. The suggested rate for a private video call is $30 per person, but I am happy to work with you to find a price that fits your budget this year as I continue to work out the kinks and grow my business. This would be a great option for a date night, or a fun gift for anyone on your list from the novice cook to the seasoned chef. Recipes are decided ahead of time (and can be selected by the attendee), then a grocery list and suggested wine pairing are provided. For more information, email me at theardentcookblog@gmail.com and I’d be happy to answer all of your questions and get your class on the schedule! Keep an eye out on Instagram, as I periodically offer group sessions that are less expensive but just as fun and informative.

for The Artsy

Leslie Tyler Designs Art Box Subscription

Reagan Leslie of Leslie Tyler Designs (Instagram @blackhouseseven) is a light in the design space. She’s a lover of old homes and making design work for you, and her company recently started an Art Box subscription. You complete an intake quiz that helps her design team understand your own personal style, then you receive curated items like artist prints, vintage wares, and small batch handmade home goods each month. This is such a cool idea to spread Christmas cheer all throughout the year, as your recipient will be reminded of this awesome gift every month when they get their box! Order here.

Black Lab Ceramics

Ben Bunting of Black Lab Ceramics is a local-to-me ceramist and I’m obsessed with his work. From pet bowls, to mugs, to trinket dishes, he has a plethora of beautiful pieces to choose from for the artsy one on your list. Here’s the link to his Etsy shop, but you can also follow him on Instagram (@black.lab.ceramics) for information about where to purchase in-person if you’re local.

The Craftery Workshop Gift Card

Jess of The Craftery (@thecrafterypa) is a local entrepreneur who has been a part of the Dublin Revitalization Project for a while now. Owner of Makers Vintage + Handmade (and a new store, Wheat and Vine Provisions, coming 11/28/20), Jess is a joy to follow along with. The Craftery hosts craft workshops with local makers that would be the perfect event for your artsy giftee. With loads of options that change with the seasons, like eucalyptus wreath making or floral centerpiece arranging, you can rest assured your crafty friend, aunt, or mother-in-law will have fun choosing which workshop to attend. Pick up a gift card on their website, linked here.

Hand-Blown Bud Vases

These handblown bud vases are so stinking cute. Perfect for someone with an eclectic, artsy style, these would fit inside a stocking or tiny little box under the tree. Grab them on Food52 here!

for The Man

Philips Hue Light Bulbs

My boyfriend learned about these and almost lost it. He loves all-things automation, and these light bulbs can change to over 16 million different colors using just your phone. They’re on the pricier side, but a great gift to build upon. With quarantine continuing through the winter months, adding a little ambience to any room of your home should be at the top of the list for your man!

Wireless Device Charging Mat

This is a no-brainer for a type-A guy who likes to minimize cords and maximize efficiency. The sleek leather looks great on a nightstand or kitchen counter for charging everything from phones to smart watches. I’ll be scooping this up for my boyfriend this holiday season!


This is an oldie but a goodie, and perfect for an indoor activity that isn’t a board game or Netflix binge. It’s small enough to be played in your living room with just two people, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get extremely competitive. It’s also a game I don’t mind playing with my boyfriend, which is rare. Grab one for the guy on your list here!

Geometric Whiskey Stones

These beautiful whiskey stones can be used to chill more than just the dark stuff, and they guarantee that your drink stays stiff rather than watered down by melting ice. I love the look and weight of these, plus they make any drink look way more elevated. Any man in your life would be lucky to open these on Christmas day!

for The Traveler (who can’t travel)

Steuber Travel Group “The Endeavor” Gift Card

My friend Madeline and her mom Kristen started their own travel business in the midst of a travel-free global pandemic. They have persevered through the challenges of both entrepreneurship and COVID-19 to offer excellent travel consulting complete with perks and discounts that you can’t get by booking a trip yourself. My boyfriend and I plan to use their services to book a European tour once COVID restrictions lift. Madi has kindly offered my readers 20% off their Endeavor package for Small Business Saturday, which is normally priced at $300. Visit their website here and use the code ‘WinterWonderland’ to give the gift of future travel!

Home Again Studios Candle

Home Again Studios is a local-to-me small business crafting handmade soy candles and other home decor. The scents are incredible, my favorite being the Winter Woods, and come in a classic glass jar or handmade clay pot. A cozy candle is a great way to make home feel special when your traveling giftee can’t go on their dream excursion. Little tip? Sign up for their email list to get an extra 15% off your first order!

Modern Bento Box

If there’s one thing you can do to get away during COVID, it’s a socially distanced road trip. I love the idea of these bento-style lunch boxes to pack road trip snacks galore. See my post here about my favorite items to pack on a road trip, and grab the bento boxes here! These would be perfect to gift alongside an already-booked weekend stay for your partner, parents, or in-laws as a fun way to signal “Road Trip!”

Internationally-inspired Food Items

What better way to make the traveler on your list smile than to gift them a little piece of their favorite place. I love the idea of these little Parisian candy tins for the Paris-lover, or a delivery of LoRe fresh pasta (PA/NJ locals only, sorry!) for the person who swears they’ll only eat pasta from Italy. Get creative and make it feel personalized, as every awesome gift should!

for The Foodie

Wheat and Vine Provisions Gift Card

Jess, owner of The Craftery (mentioned above), is opening a new food provisions shop 11/28/20. I cannot wait for this grand opening, and let me tell you why. She’ll be sourcing delicious specialty foods and kitchen goods from local producers that are perfect for the Foodie on your list. Gift cards aren’t yet available on their website, but watch this link to purchase once the shop opens up. Wheat and Vine Provisions is sure to be a stunner of a shop.

Cast-Iron Spice Grinder

The Foodie on your list will feel extra special when your gift them this cast-iron spice grinder. Grinding your own spices adds an element of sophistication and immense flavor that you can’t get from dried, pre-ground spices. Their home-cooking efforts will be taken to the next level (since their efforts to eat out may be stifled by winter pandemic woes). Grab it here!

Slow Up Fresh Food Bars

This one is for tri-state area locals only (sorry)! Slow Up bars are made with whole food ingredients that are perishable, making them one of the freshest bars on the market. They have delicious savory and sweet flavors (my favorites are the Coconut Curry and Peanut Cacao) and they are made fresh just for you right before shipping. They were generous enough to give you all a discount code for 40% off your first order using ‘TheArdentCook’. Go get them for your foodie friends and family alike!

Forthave Spirits

I’m lumping the craft cocktail-lover in with the foodie category, but for good reason. Forthave Spirits is a Brooklyn-based distillery with phenomenal small batch spirits. My personal favorite is the “Red,” an aperitivo that goes really well in cocktails such as a Negroni or Manhattan (I replace the sweet vermouth with the Red) or in an Aperol spritz (sub the aperol for the Red). It’s so unique and comes in a pretty cool bottle. Use this link to purchase, or ask your local liquor store to order it for you!

for The Self-Improver

Esteem Wellness “QuaranCleanup”

Erika of Esteem Wellness is a holistic health counselor specializing in a bio-individualized approach to mind and body wellness. Someone in your life need a little reset after the downward spiral that was 2020? Gift them a session with Erika. She has generously offered a “pay what you can” rate for her QuaranCleanup service, but feel free to check out her entire menu of services here! Disclaimer: she’s my boyfriend’s older sister, which means she’s basically my older sister. I really look up to her and hope that her services can benefit my audience as we all continue to navigate this rocky pandemic.

Acupuncture Mat

This acupuncture mat has been a game changer for work-from-home life. After hours of staring down at my laptop (which is inevitably on my lap, with me on the couch, forcing me to look down at it and strain my neck), this mat is a wonderful release. It looks a lot scarier than it is, and after 10 minutes laying on that thing you’ll feel completely rejuvenated. I’m obsessed with it. Here’s the one I have, which I think would make a great gift for the wellness fiend in your life.

Breville Juicer

Getting a juicer has been one of the biggest joys of my quarantine. My boyfriend and I use it a few times per week to up our nutrient intake. It’s also great for making fresh squeezed juices to use in cocktails or to enjoy with your Sunday breakfast. I absolutely love it. It’s on sale for the holidays at the link here and absolutely perfect for the health-nut on your list.

Glass Storage Containers

I’m all about finding “clean” alternatives in the kitchen, and many people forget that “clean” extends beyond just our food. One of the easiest changes you can make to remove toxins from your kitchen is by transitioning to glass storage containers and ditching your plastic ones. I love these glass containers by Ello. They don’t leach toxic plastic-born chemicals when you heat them, and they are perfect and durable for all your meal prep needs. These are a great option for anyone on your list, not just your health conscious friends.

Bonus Category: Things I’m shamelessly eyeing for myself

Crate and Barrel “Tour” Wine Glasses

Oh man, I’ve wanted these for a while. At $14 per glass, they are harder to justify for an every day purchase. But, they are a shape that Jeff and I both really love and are made with durable “Tritan glass” which makes them less prone to shattering if bumped or dropped. They are a nice investment piece for a young couple transitioning to living together, or maybe your parents who haven’t updated their stemware since they got married in the early 90s.

Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick 11′

I’ve been in the market for a large non-stick pan for a while, and rather than buying a $40 pan that will last a year at best, I figured it might be time to invest in a nicer one. This Le Creuset option sits large at 11 inches and has a deeper volume than most frying pans, making it great for large curries or stir-fries. It’s also 30% off right now, so maybe I’ll bite the bullet?

Apron Dress

An apron is such an overlooked kitchen essential. I’ve ruined so many shirts in the kitchen and it’s time I get myself an apron. I love the whimsical feel of this apron dress, and I like that it would cover a majority of my clothing. It’s made by a small Etsy shop, so I also love the small-business aspect.

For questions or concerns regarding any item on this gift guide, please direct them to theardentcookblog@gmail.com or send me a DM (@theardentcook) on Instagram! Thank you for your support of The Ardent Cook.

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.