Thursday, October 29, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

I had a mass of butternut squash from my garden this year, which is good because my husband and I just love it. So I've been trying to find new things to do with it that we can enjoy before my harvest is up. And since risotto is another one of our favorite things, I thought this would be perfect.

I cannot even begin to describe how much we both loved this risotto. Not only is it perfect for this time of the years, the flavors are just exceptional. The creamy risotto combined with the smokey bacon and earthiness of the squash is just a combination that cannot be beat. We absolutely loved this recipe and will certainly be making it again and again. Like my husband said last night, "Bacon, squash and risotto. How can this be bad?!"

And posting this amazing recipe today ended up being perfect because today's post is my 200th! I still can't believe I've posted over 200 recipes in less then a year...again I am reminded how glad I am that I started this blog to keep track of my recipes and share with you all some of our favorites!
Adapted from: Ina Garten

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used low sodium)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced (I had to use thick cut American bacon since my store didn't carry pancetta)
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I omitted and substituted with chicken stock)
1 teaspoon saffron threads (I omitted)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 fresh sage leaves, minced (I added this)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (I completely omitted salt from the risotto because of the bacon and since I salted the squash itself. It was perfectly seasoned without any additional salt). Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes, sage and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pea Pod Baby Shower Cake & Cookies

A month or two ago, a family friend asked if I would do a cake for her daughter's upcoming baby shower. The theme of the shower was "A Pea in a Pod" which gave me a lot to work with. However I was nervous at first since this would be the first cake that I would do for someone other then family, and the first one that I'd actually get paid for.

But the cake ended up coming out great and the proud mom and grandmother to be were just so happy and pleased with the end result which made the labor and stress totally worth it. To see the smiles on their faces and their continual praise upon seeing the cake made me feel so beyond happy I can't even express it. I'm so glad they provided me with the opportunity to do my first "real" cake and am grateful that they loved it just as much as I loved making it.

The cake was an almond scented white cake with fresh raspberry filling. I topped that with homemade butter cream and homemade fondant. I made the pea pods out of fondant and the cake topper was also made of fondant (I added in some gum tex to strengthen it).

This was such a fun cake to do and again I was so happy that the mom-to-be loved it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jimmy's Apple Pie

One of my coworkers looks forward to autumn all year. Why? A) because he's a hunter and B) Because he loves apple pie. He is an older bachelor, who has been divorced for a while. However, he says that no one can make apple pie as good as his ex wife.

Well, that was enough for me to start on the quest of making Jimmy's perfect apple pie. I wanted to make it perfect for him because he basically lives on frozen food and well, I'm a competitive cook. When I hear that someone makes the "best" of anything I have to try and make it better. It's just in my nature.

So after many attempts and many pie's in Jimmy's belly, I have finally perfected his apple pie. I got some critiques along the way and have now mastered his favorite apple pie (which is basically a dutch apple pie in case you're wondering) and am pleased to say that he has given it a score of 10/10.

Filling recipe adapted from a vague outline of ingredients by Jimmy's ex wife, and a little of my own tweaking. Topping recipe adapted from Ina Garten's apple crisp recipe.

1/2 recipe Pate Brisee for one pie

6-8 cups apples, peeled sliced and cored
1/2-3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch allspice
2 tbsp. flour
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie dough and place in a pie dish. Trim edges if needed. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, and all spice. Spoon filling into crust lined pie dish and arrange apples so they fit neatly in the dish. It might seem like you have too many apples, but they will bake down.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Around the edges of the pie, fit pieces of aluminum foil over exposed crust. This will prevent your crust from burning. Place pie on a large baking sheet (to catch any apple that might bubble over) and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until filling starts to bubble. During the last 20 minutes of cooking, remove foil from crust edges and discard. The crust should then turn a golden brown color at the end of cook time.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

This is a recipe I have been wanting to make for ages, but have been unintentionally avoiding because I knew it would be very time consuming. So on a lazy Saturday afternoon I decided to make this delicious sounding recipe with some fresh butternut squash out of my garden.

This ravioli went above and beyond my expectations. My husband and I truly loved it and were so impressed with the flavors. It is perfect for this time of year when all you want are hearty, comforting foods. And really this recipe is easy to follow and easy to make. Of course it's time consuming since you are making fresh pasta, but it really is worth the effort.

Source: Williams-Sonoma Italian cookbook, page 55

For the Pasta Dough
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon safflower oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)

For the Squash Filling:
1 butternut squash, about 1.5 lb
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Egg Wash:
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

For the Butter & Sage sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter
40-50 small fresh sage leaves (I used about 20 leaves since I didn't want to strip my poor little sage plant. But I really think the 40-50 would have been great)

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

For the pasta dough: To make the dough by hand, place the flour in a mound on a wooden or plastic work surface. Make a well in the center. In a measuring cup, whisking together the eggs and oil. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Then, using your fingers and working in a circular motion, gradually blend the egg mixture into the flour. Lightly flour your hands, gather the dough into a ball, and knead, adding additional flour in small amounts as needed to prevent stickiness until smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Place the dough in a plastic bag or just on the counter and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes to let the dough relax.

Cut the dough in halves or fourths to make it more manageable to work with. To roll the dough on a pasta machine, adjust the rollers to the widest setting. Flatten the piece of dough with your hand or a rolling pin, lightly dust the dough with flour, and pass through the rollers. Fold the dough in half and pass it through the rollers a second time. Repeat the rolling and folding 6-8 more times or until the dough is smooth. Flour the dough lightly if it tears or starts to stick, brushing off the excess. Reset the rollers one width narrower and pass dough through them. Again reset one width narrower and repeat, passing the dough without folding through the rollers. Continue to put the dough through the rollers, without folding it and using a narrower setting for each pass, until the sheet of dough is the desired thinness, usually the last setting for pasta such a ravioli. Each sheet should be about 4-5 inches wide. Makes about 1 lb. of pasta dough.
To Make the Squash Filling: Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and discard. Place on the prepared baking sheet, cut side down, and bake until very soft with pierced with he top of a knife, about 35-45 minutes. Let cool to the touch. Peel the squash and puree the fles in a food processor. Add the bread crumbs, egg yolk, and Parmesan and pulse to blend. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and pulse to combine. Set aside.

To assemble the ravioli, roll out the pasta dough as stated above. Place a pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface and spoon 1 tablespoon squash filling onto the pasta at 2 inch intervals. Using your fingers or a pastry bursh, lightly dampen the edges of the pasta sheet and the spaces between the filling with the egg wash. Top with a second pasta sheet and press with your fingers along the edges and around each mound of filling to seal and remove air bubles. Cut into squares with a straight edged pastry wheel or sharp, thin bladed knife, then press the edges to secure. Make sure the filling does not break the sale, or the raviol with come apart during cooking.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, in a saucepam pver medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sage and cooking without stirring until the leaves crisp slightly and infused the butter, 2 -3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain well, place in a warmed large, shallow bowl and top with the sauce and Parmesan. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve at once.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn Leaves Cake

Over the weekend my family and I joined together in celebration of my aunt and uncle's 40th wedding anniversary. My cousin hosted the beautiful party at her house and of course I supplied the cake. Since my aunt and uncle love the fall, I decided to decorate the cake around this beautiful season.

The cake is frosted with chocolate buttercream since my aunt doesn't like fondant (even the homemade stuff!) so of course I would have loved to have gotten it smoother but I just did the best I could and used swiss dots for more visual interest. The leaves were made of fondant and cut out with leaf cookie cutters and then dusted with gold luster dust. I also arranged extra leaves on the cake table at the party.

The party was so much fun and of course my aunt and uncle loved the cake (they even fed each other the first slice of the cake just like they did at their wedding! Awww...)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I got the idea for this meal last year from a co worker who says this is how she prepares her acorn squash. It sounded like a perfect fall side dish. So I tried it last year and have made it many, many, many times since then (so it's tried and true).

If thanksgiving was one dish, this would be it. The delicious Acorn squash mixed with the comforting flavors on classic stuffing make for a hearty side that everyone will love. This is certainly a treat that is perfect for this time of year!

Inspiration for idea: My Coworker
Source of Classic Stuffing Recipe: Martha Stewart

1 acorn squash, cut in half with seeds removed
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2-3 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 fresh sage leaves, minced
Aprox. 2 cups chicken stock
2-3 big thick slices of homemade french bread (you'll need more bread if you have thin slices) and cut into 1 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Make sure squash will stand up straight (hollowed-side up) without tipping over. If it does, cut off the tip of the bottom until it will stand up. Place on baking sheet. Using a fork, poke a few small holes into the hollowed section of the squash. Place 1/2 tbsp of butter and brown sugar on both halves of squash. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook until tender and onions are translucent (about 5-10 minutes). Add sage and stir to combine, cook about 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl add onion/celery mixture, bread, and more chicken stock. I honestly never measure the chicken stock so 1 1/2 cups (after the 1/2 cup already used) is just an approximation. Just add a little bit at a time until the bread has soaked up most of the liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff stuffing into your acorn squash until completely filled up. Put into oven and bake for 1 hour. Check the stuffing after about 20 minutes until the end of cook time. If the stuffing looks like it's getting two brown I simply put an empty sheet pan on the rack above the squash which prevents burning. Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Healthy Turkey Meatloaf

This is a recipe that my mom used to make frequently when my brother and I were younger. It's healthy, quick to come together, and really delicious. Even my meat loving husband loves it. I really have no idea where the original recipe came from, but I've always remembered how to make it from memory. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Source: My Mom

1 package ground turkey (around 1.25 lbs)
1 egg white
1 carrot, shredded
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 - 3/4 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup marinara sauce
shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan with non stick spray. In a large bowl, combine turkey, egg white, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and bread crumbs. Mix with your hands until well combined and put in loaf pan. Drizzle marinara sauce over loaf and spread using a spoon. Sprinkle as much mozzarella cheese as you want over the whole loaf. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Slice and serve!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

White Chicken Chili

After I told my good friend Julie that I had never had White Chicken Chili, she urged me to try this recipe and I was very anxious to do so! The weather is getting very cold (it actually SNOWED a bit north of where I live earlier this week!) and I am officially in the mood for soups and stews.

This recipe went above and beyond my expectations. It was perfectly seasoned and had a great, hearty flavor that is perfect for fall. It's also a 1-pot meal which is easy and great for clean up! This recipe is for the archives, you will absolutely love it.


Source: My friend Julie who got the recipe from her "Church Suppers" Cookbook

1 lb. BS chicken, cubed (about 2 large breasts)

1 onion, chopped

1-1/2 t. garlic powder (I used 3 cloves of freshly minced garlic instead)

1 T. oil

2 15 ½ oz. cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

14 ½ oz. can chicken broth

2 4 oz. cans green chilies (I used 1 can which I thought was the perfect amount of heat for me)

1 t. salt

1 t. ground cumin

1 t. dried oregano

½ t. pepper

¼ t. cayenne pepper

8 oz. container sour cream

½ cup whipping cream

aprox. 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I added this)


In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and whipping cream. Top with a sprinkle of cheddar. Serve immediately.


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