Oktoberfest in Connecticut

Getting all my friends together for a night is difficult. We all work in media so our schedules are very unpredictable. Luckily this Friday night in September all of our schedules aligned for a beautiful fall evening. I decided to make Oktoberfest style food for everyone, because it’s a crowd-pleaser and everything I made was so easy and ready in a flash.pretzel-and-cheese

The menu included a big Bavarian pretzel (along with little pretzel nuggets) with beer cheese spread and mustard, bratwursts marinaded in German beer and then grilled, healthy apple slaw and to end the night with s’mores by the fire.

the-fest

Most of this German-fest was brought to by Stew Leonard’s grocery store. We love going there because they have local produce and it isn’t your typical grocery store with aisles. It takes you on maze through the store with fun farm animals all around that sing! If you’re ever in the CT or NY area and pass by one, check it out.

We got 2 lbs of brats to put in the crock pot to bathe in the beer. All you need is your brats, a bottle of German beer and one onion sliced up. Dump it all in the crock pot abratsnd turn it on low for 4 hours. I poked holes in the brats with a fork to make sure all the beer got in there.

Next I made the apple slaw. I used Skinnytaste’s Gina Homolka’s recipe for this one. I added about a cup of pea shoots (I just had some off hand) and I didn’t make my own poppyseed dressing. I didn’t think I could find another use for the poppyseeds so I just bought a fat-free one for $2 (and also – who’s got time for that??). For this recipe having a food processor is so helpful! You also need a spiralizer for the apple. I realize this is a specialty tool but if you don’t have one they’re worth the investment. I love mine! I make a lot of healthy veggie noodles with it and this apple slaw! You can find affordable hand spiralizers or if you want to splurge a little try the Williams Sonoma one I have in my kitchen. All you have to do is chop up 2 cups of green cabbage, two cups of red cabbage, spiralize the apple, toss in the pea shoots and top it with dressing. And you’re done! That was so easy. I put the dressing on a few hours before everyone arrived. Because it’s cabbage it won’t get soggy like regular lettuce. It will also let the flavors marinate a little. Here’s the recipe below (with instructions for the poppyseed dressing if you want to try it out):

apple-slaw

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 granny smith apples, stem removed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp golden balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Read for directions for dressing

Next is the best part – beer cheese dip! You also need a food processor for this (thanks for the best Christmas present ever, Mom!) recipe. All you need to do is put everything in the food processor (except for the beer), start to blend the ingredients and stream the beer into the hole of the food processor, then beer cheese complete! Just make sure to refrigerate it for about an hour before serving. All that’s left to do is heat up your pretzels in the oven so they’re warm and soft. Here’s the beer cheese recipe –

beer-cheese

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons yellow mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup German beer (or non-alcoholic beer if you don’t drink or are pregnant!)

 

Everyone arrived including my friend’s 9 month old little boy Brady! Such a cutie. We ate all the German delights and enjoyed some German beers right from Europe and some an hour away in CT. It was so nice to enjoy everyone’s company outside of a wedding (even though those are always fun, too). We ended the night by the fire with s’mores as desert. It was such a great evening with friends. I hope we get to do it again soon!

bon-fire

Did you have an Oktoberfest celebration? Do you have a favorite German beer? Let me know! This German would love to hear about it.

xoxo,

Erika

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Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Rice Casserole 

Okay I know it’s the time of year for everything pumpkin and warm, homey crock pot dishes for Fall, but summer is still here until the 21st so here’s a light and healthy cauliflower rice casserole filled with cheese and broccoli.  cauliflower-8

I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s. I’m always surprised when I leave the register that 1) my total is so low after buying strictly everything organic and 2) that the cashiers are so friendly! So when I heard Trader Joe’s started making bagged cauliflower rice I wanted to try it right away. I also heard T Joe’s can’t keep it on the shelf! Eric and I went shopping for the essentials and there it was! I grabbed a bag and planned on doing something with it.

I work nights so casseroles are my go-to for summer. I find crock pot recipes are usually too rich for the summer months or only give you the option to make meat for tacos (MMMM!) for lighter fare. Don’t get me wrong, I heart taco Tuesday but I can’t really bring a whole taco bar to work. So this cauliflower casserole was the perfect option for me to bring to work for a few days and for Eric to have something other than a sandwich to eat for dinner.

cauliflower-9I bought most of my ingredients from Stop and Shop as its right around the corner and I didn’t have time to go to Trader Joes for the rest. I bought their all natural chicken in the bag which I love – buy chicken that’s similar. High quality chicken goes a long way in a casserole with not many ingredients.

Preheat your oven at 400 degrees and prep your chicken on a baking sheet. Cover the chicken in olive oil. I use a Misto. If you don’t have one – get one! You can put your favorite olive oil in the bottle and use it as a spray to cover chicken like in this recipe without using too much, grease a pan or spray a skillet. I use it all the time!

After you chicken is coated in oil olive season it liberally with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. While the chicken is baking, grab a bowl and dump your cauliflower rice and broccoli in a big bowl. Pour in the melted butter, 1 cup of the Italian cheese blend, onion
powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Stir well in the bowl.cauliflower-1

When chicken is done cooking slice it in bite-sized chunks. Add the chicken to the bowl with everything else and mix it all together. Take the contents of the bowl and carefully dump it into your 9×13 baking pan. I actually coated the pan a little with my Misto before just in case. After everything is in the pan and you’ve picked up the pieces of cauliflower rice off your floor (let’s face it, that was bound to happen), top everything with a cup of mozzarella cheese. Pop it in the oven for 50 minutes.

cauliflower-3

When it comes out you have a flavorful, cheesy and low-carb meal! This was my first time making it and I think next time I would put it in for slightly less time because it was a little too brown for me on top. If that’s more your thing then 50 minutes is perfect! So enjoy this casserole as summer is fleeting away.

INGREDIENTS 

1 lb skinless, boneless all-natural chicken breasts 

1 tbsp olive oil

1 bag of Trader Joe’s cauliflower rice

16 oz bag frozen broccoli cuts

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp butter, melted

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup Italian six cheese blend, shredded

INSTRUCTIONS 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally, lightly coat in olive oil and place on baking sheet. Liberally season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

While chicken is baking, pour the cauliflower rice into a large bowl. Add frozen broccoli cuts, chopping some of the larger pieces in half.

Remove chicken from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

While chicken is cooling, add sea salt, melted butter, onion powder, garlic powder, shredded mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of the shredded Italian six cheese blend to the large bowl.

Mix everything together.

Carefully cut baked chicken into cubes. Toss with broccoli/cauliflower mixture and transfer to 9 x 13 inch (3 quart) baking dish or larger.

Top with ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake in oven for 50 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Loved this recipe? Love Trader Joe’s? Let me know! I’d love to hear what you think!

xoxo,

Erika