Smokey Potato Leek Soup ala Sickly Baba!

Ever since I started making my own soups, I have a hard time with any type of canned soup. (This is mainly because the stuff in the cans is so full of sodium and fat and yet it still tastes bland to me.)Today I made a Smokey potato-leek soup that turned out really well. Here is the recipe.

I am on my second go around with sickness. Thankfully, it’s just a virus, and I’m feeling better today, yet I am still not really into eating anything but mild food. That being said, after having not eaten a thing but saltines yesterday, this morning I woke up feeling hungry for chicken noodle soup. Ordinarily, I would have made my own, but I’m sick, remember? Charlie pulled out a can of chunky chicken noodle and lovingly made it for me. (He takes such good care of me even when I’m not sick. I am Blessed!) I was happy to eat it (and that it stayed down), but it reminded me of why I like to make my own soups. It was borderline tasteless, brimming with sodium and fat and the noodles tasted like rubber.

Now I don’t know what to think of myself. Have I become a food snob? I used to love chunky chicken noodle soup!

This afternoon while Charlie was at the gym, I reached that stage of illness where you are really still too sick and weak to do much; yet you are so bored, your brain tells you it’s okay to get up and go make a pot of homemade soup. (After all, it’s not that hard.) I have a butternut squash sitting on the counter waiting to be cut up and roasted and turned into a beautiful, creamy soup, but instead I focused my attention on the ever present leeks in my fridge. I pulled them out, cut them up and threw them into a bowl of cold water to be certain there was no sand. Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped about two and a half pounds of russet potatoes. (Why? Because if I didn’t, they were bound to start sprouting any day. We don’t eat a ton of russets.) It bears reporting that I prefer to use Yukon gold potatoes in soups, but this is what I had on hand. Use what you have on hand, people!

Next, the leeks got drained, dried; then sautéed in some olive oil and butter for just a short time. Afterward, I added the potatoes, seasonings, and then six cups of chicken stock. The top went on and I let it boil for about thirty minutes-until everything was soft enough to blend.

At this point I was feeling accomplished and it dawned on me that we had a pound of bacon that also needed to be used before it was wasted. What better thing to do then to make some bacon as a garnish, right? I always make my bacon on a sheet pan with a rack, so this too, is really easy to do. I was just about to lay the stuff out in strips when I remembered having seen one of those Facebook videos that showed bacon being weaved together so it would form a perfect square for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. OMG! Genius! I just happened to have a big juicy tomato on the counter and some lettuce in the fridge. Poof! Done! I weaved that bacon like a professional bacon weaver and into the oven it went.

I was so proud when it came out looking pretty! (Seriously, I was envisioning the Instagram praise-fest about to happen! I am a sick girl and not in a good way.) I decided to take some of the smaller pieces of cooked bacon and drop them into the the soup for a little more Smokey flavor. See them?

Truth to be told: I did all of this today…but I made frequent trips to the couch to pass out, drink ice water, take my temperature, cough, etc. See that last soup photo? It’s not even hot. I just forgot to take the money shot so I fudged it. Now I am back, dying on the couch, but this blog is scheduled to go. LOL! (I really did love this soup, however.)

This photo below; now that’s actually hot soup! LOL!


Ingredients:

2.5 pounds potatoes peeled and cut (I used russets but Yukon golds are better.)

3 large leaks sliced into rounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter (REAL butter)

6 cups low sodium chicken broth (that’s two 32 oz cartons)

1.5 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon raw honey

2 pieces of cooked bacon crumbled

1/4 cup cream

3 tablespoons full fat sour cream

Juice of half a lemon

Salt & fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1) Clean and slice leeks

2) Peel and cut potatoes (If you use Yukon Gold, skip peeling. It isn’t necessary.)

3) Heat olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven (medium high heat) Sauté leeks for about five minutes. Salt & pepper.

4) Add potatoes, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, hot sauce, Italian seasoning, more cracked pepper. Stir.

5) Add chicken broth and bacon pieces. Turn up heat, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and put the lid on. Simmer 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender enough to be blended.

6) When the vegetables are tender, turn off heat, remove bay leaves, stir in honey and allow to cool with the lid on about 30 minutes.

7) Pull out and mash (or rough chop) about a cup of the potatoes. Set aside.

8) Add cream and sour cream. Stir. Then blend with an immersion blender (This is what I use.) Add the reserved potatoes back in with the juice of half a lemon.

9) Taste. We like our soup spicy, so I usually add more cracked pepper and red pepper flakes.

10) Stir and cover. Turn the heat back onto low. Let the flavors marry for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: The best garnish in the world for this soup are caramelized onions! Also great: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions


PS- I ended up making a grilled cheese sandwich with the bacon lattice for Charlie. (By the time he came home from the gym, I was way too tired and over-extended to make TWO. I didn’t need a sandwich. I needed to be in bed.)

I present the Cha-Cha approved bacon, tomato, caramelized onion, Fontina cheese on Sourdough bread grilled cheese:

Sexy Zucchini Leek Pie drives my husband wild!

I confess. I am a reformed recipe hoarder/waster.

I used to go through my favorite foodie magazines ripping out recipes I fully intend to try, only to have them get thrown into my kitchen “drawer of death”, resurfacing years later to be thrown straight into the recycle bin. Thanks to the Internet, if I see something I love and want to make later, I usually just google it later.

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I confess. I am a reformed recipe hoarder/waster.

I used to go through my favorite foodie magazines ripping out recipes I fully intend to try, only to have them get thrown into my kitchen “drawer of death”, resurfacing years later to be thrown straight into the recycle bin. Now, thanks to the Internet, if I see something I love and want to make later, I usually just google it until I find it.

The following recipe was adapted  from one of the only recipes that I purposely stuck to my refrigerator door so that I would see it every day and be shamed into making it! The original (Zucchini pie) recipe was torn from the pages of Cooking Light Magazine (August, 2017 edition). Their pie photo was so beautiful, (google it), I had to save it! Last week while trying to decide on dinner,that photo grew arms and started waving a white flag in my face. Okay, Okay, it was time! I had all of the ingredients in the fridge to make something similar, so I adapted it to make “Zucchini Leek Pie”.

The first step is to set your spiralizer on the “thick” setting and go to town on a couple pounds (I used a little less) of unpeeled zucchini. Then you place your spirals on paper towels with some salt and let them stand for 30 minutes. This is to let them sweat out their liquid. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you should get one. They are so fun to experiment with and you don’t need to spend a ton of money. Ours came from the “As seen on TV” section at Walgreen’s. (I think we paid $9.99 for it.) We have discussed buying a fancy version, but we aren’t making zucchini spirals with any regularity, so the little one works well for us.

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When I opened our fridge I spied two cleaned and prepped leeks that had been in there a while. Not wanting to waste them, I decided to cut them up and use them in the pie. I also subbed in freshly chopped chives, basil and garlic.  Their recipe called for just the tomatoes, garlic and fresh oregano to be wilted in the pan. I didn’t have oregano, so I left it out. (When I do this dish again, I will skip this step with the tomatoes. I don’t think it’s necessary.)

Here you have the beautiful tomatoes halfed, chopped leeks, chopped fresh garlic, chives, basil, salt and pepper in just a wee bit of olive oil. Pretty colors!

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Once the leeks were cooked to my satisfaction, I turned off the heat and let the mixture cool a little bit. Meanwhile I blotted the zucchini with more paper towels until it felt dry, then put it in a kitchen towel and squeezed it as hard as I could. Once you’ve extracted as much moisture as possible, transfer it to a bowl. If you have never made zucchini spirals, you might not realize that the strands are very very long. I used kitchen scissors to cut them up so they would be more manageable.

Whisk the remaining ingredients, then add the vegetables and stir. (Sorry, no photo of this part.) The whole shebang goes into a spring form pan to bake. When it’s finished, it gets turned out upside down and it looks LOVELY!

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds zucchini
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 large leeks, carefully cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce (or your favorite hot sauce) optional
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

1) Using the large holes of a spiralizer, cut zucchini into noodles. Place zucchini on a bed of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let this sit for at least 30 minutes.

2) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add tomatoes, leeks, garlic, chives and basil; cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft and the tomatoes are wilted. Remove from heat and allow this to cool. (Remember, you will be adding it to an egg mixture so it needs to be close to room temp.)

3) Preheat oven to 375°F. Place half of zucchini noodles on a clean kitchen towel. Wrap towel around zucchini; twist and squeeze until all liquid is extracted. Repeat with remaining zucchini. Cut zucchini into manageable lengths.

4) Whisk eggs in a large bowl until lightly beaten. Whisk in milk, flour, hot sauce, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add tomato mixture, cheeses, and zucchini and stir to combine (kind of gently as you want to combine everything but not destroy the integrity of the vegetables.)

5) Wrap bottom plate of a 9-inch spring form pan tightly with foil. Assemble pan; coat bottom and sides with cooking spray. Pour egg mixture into pan. Bake at 375 degrees until set in the middle. Check it at 50 minutes. Mine took 60. Important step:  Make sure to let it cool for at least 15 minutes. Carefully remove the sides of the pan. Place your serving platter on top and invert. Then remove the bottom and garnish.

6) Watch your family swoon. I really love sour cream so I garnished mine with that, but you can do anything you like or nothing at all.

NOTE: This pie is NOT good re-heated in the microwave. The morning after I made this we got up thinking it would be great for breakfast. We nuked two pieces and both agreed that it tasted bitter. Best to put it in the oven covered (at 250 degrees) and let it heat up slowly and evenly for about 15-20 minutes.

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PS- Tomorrow we’ll talk about stuffing spaghetti squash with broccoli Alfredo (Not to be confused with Charlie Alfredo, below.)

Charlie Tortellini

Lemon-Basil Brown Butter Chicken

This was intended to be lemon chicken, but I goofed and let my butter get brown. Introducing Lemon-Basil Brown Butter Chicken ala Bobbe! It ended up being very tasty (and it smelled delightful too!)

At some point I will stop using my iPad to do my photos in favor of using the canon that just sits upstairs feeling lonely. Although most of the time I’m fine with my photos, the iPad just could not capture a great image of this dish. Trust me, it received rave reviews from the hubs and I actually loved it too. (I can always find some way to be critical of my creations, but not this time.)

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This started out to be lemon chicken but I got lazy when it was time to make the sauce, so it became lemon-basil brown butter chicken because I let my butter get too brown. Happy accident.

The first step was to butterfly and pound the chicken breasts into about 1/4″ cutlets. Then I salted and peppered each side and dredged them in a seasoned flour mixture. (Lemon pepper & Italian seasoning.)

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Once I had all of the cutlets dredged on both sides. I set them aside in order to assemble my sauce ingredients.

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Cast of characters for the sauce: chicken broth, zest of three lemons, juice of three lemons (I didn’t cut or squeeze the lemons until I was sure I would need them all.), garlic, basil, olive oil, a little flour and BUTTER. (Butter was late for the photo-op. I trust everyone has seen butter before!)

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Next I heated some butter and olive oil to medium high in my cast iron skillet and I added the first cutlet in. This guy was pretty large, so I didn’t try to crowd the pan with the other one. Instead, I did them in batches.

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Once browned, I took them out and set them aside. At this point I added some more butter and a little flour and some chicken broth and started whisking away. Then came the lemon juice and zest, the basil and at the very end; the garlic.

Here is a video of what it looked like. I did add some more liquid to it after this because I didn’t want it to be too thick.

We served it over plain orzo with a side of delightfully perfect roasted Brussels sprouts and rainbow carrots.

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And here you have it! I garnished mine with cilantro even though there isn’t cilantro in the dish. I failed to save some fresh basil leaves, so I improvised. LOL! This is a no-no in the real world; but since this is “Bobbe’s World”, I get to do what I want!

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Ingredients:
2-4 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded to ¼”
2 ¼ cups flour
1-2 Tbsp. lemon pepper (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp. Olive oil
3-4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (use REAL full-fat butter, anything else is poison!)
3 cloves garlic slivered (can be chopped if you are lazy)
16 oz. Chicken broth
Zest & juice of three lemons
½ fresh chopped basil

Directions:

Create a flour dredge using 2 cups of flour mixed with 1-2 Tbsp. lemon pepper & Italian seasoning.

Butterfly the chicken and pound into ¼” cutlets. Salt & Pepper both sides.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high, add in 2 Tbsp. olive oil & 2 Tbsp. butter. Fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides (about 4-5 minutes per side).

While the chicken is in the pan, assemble the ingredients for the pan sauce:
Butter, Flour, Chicken broth, Lemon zest, Lemon juice, Chopped Basil, Garlic.

When the chicken has finished cooking, remove to a plate. Using the same skillet with the chicken drippings: whisk in 1-2 Tbsp. butter, then 1-2 Tbsp. flour, and the chicken broth. Continue whisking until the lumps are out and you have a smooth consistency. Reduce heat to medium and while still whisking, add the zest, juice, basil and lastly, the garlic. Continue whisking about 2 minutes more.

At this point, you may add the chicken back to the pan OR if you are serving it over rice or noodles, or in our case, orzo; you may want to wait and drizzle the sauce over the top. Anyway you do it will be the right way for you!

 

Delicata Squash & Onions with Tomatoes!

I like to try new things. On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I spied a pretty display of different types of squash. My eye kept going to the pretty Delicata Squash and so I picked two of them. Here’s what I did with them.

I have had two delicata squash’ sitting on my counter for the past month (yes, MONTH!). They arrived in my home in much the same way a lot of things do: impulse purchase at Trader Joe’s! Last night I decided I was tired of looking at them, so I did a quick search through some recipes on the Internet to see what to do with them. Nothing appealed to me so I decided to put together my own using ingredients I had on hand.

I have an abundance of fresh herbs in my garden so I picked some thyme and some tarragon. I also had about a quarter of a bag of basil sun-dried tomatoes to get rid of. I hate those things, but my husband loves them, so I indulged him. Next I simply cut the squash in half, cored it and sliced it and then sliced a couple of Spanish onions. (I would have loved to use red onions for their color, but we were out.) Lastly, I threw in the last of a bag of baby Roma tomatoes mostly for color.

Pretty, isn’t it?

If you have never had Delicata squash, it tastes like a cross between butternut, acorn and yellow squash. They told me at the store that it is sweeter, but I found it to be milder. It’s not as dense as acorn and butternut and not as watery as yellow squash. I found it to be a perfect mixture and I love the fact that the skin is so thin, it can be eaten. (No need to peel! Yay!)

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I greased a casserole dish, sprinkled in some of my fresh thyme leaves and a few cloves of garlic and then I put down my slices, alternating between the squash and the onion. Last but not least, I sprinkled on the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and the last of a bag of baby Roma tomatoes.

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Once I was satisfied with how it looked, I melted about 3 Tablespoons of butter and a splash of olive oil along with more thyme leaves and tarragon. I drizzled the mixture over the top of the squash and onions and tomatoes.

I covered it with foil and baked it at 400 degrees for the first 20 minutes, then I uncovered it and baked it 30 minutes more (until it was fork tender.)

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Let me tell you. I am a fan of this squash and this dish. The next time I make it, however, I will come up with some form of sauce to bring it all together. This could have easily been done on a sheet pan with no particular order, but I liked this presentation for the table.

I decided to pair this with blackened sword fish (recipe is coming next ), and roasted green beans and it was delicious.

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Ingredients:
2 small Delicata Squash
2 Onions (use what you like)
10 sprigs (or more) of fresh thyme
10 sprigs (or more) of fresh tarragon
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
4 Tbsp. butter (use REAL butter!)
10 (or more cherry tomatoes) I used baby Roma tomatoes
3 Tbsp. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the squash length-wise. Core and then slice into wedges.
Slice the onions the same size as the squash.
Grease a baking dish. (anyway you like. I used coconut oil spray)
Sprinkle down about ¼ of your fresh herbs.
Crush the garlic and add it to the pan as well.
Put down the squash and onions, alternating between the two.
Add the tomatoes and the sun-dried tomatoes on top.
Melt the butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil with remaining herbs and drizzle all over the top of the vegetables.
Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.
Uncover and bake 30 minutes more (or until fork tender).

Now say, “Delicata, Delicata, Delicata!” (because it’s fun to say!

 

 

Breakfast Burritos ala Bobbe. My first video.

Breakfast on Thanksgiving was delicious and a personal favorite: breakfast burritos ala Bobbe! Rater than repost the recipe, I decided to try to make my first video!

Trying to teach myself how to do videos. This is too slow, but it’s a good first try.

This was Thanksgiving Day breakfast. I have posted the recipe before. The key to these things is not to skip the step of heating and browning in a medium heated pan. Don’t worry if you burn them a little either; that’s extra flavor!

I will be back next week with some new recipes and blogs. Hubs and I catered a Wedding for 250 people last weekend, so this little blog of mine had to take a backseat for a time.

Here are some pictures of what we did. I was very pleased with the results. It was all simple food, but we made it beautiful.

Chicken & Toasted Orzo with Spinach, Tomatoes & Goat Cheese!

For times that I feel uninspired I turn to my cookbooks to get the creative juices flowing. I adore the “America’s Test Kitchen” cookbooks. This recipe is adapted from one of theirs. Delish!

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I am a huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen Cookbooks! They are beautifully illustrated and I love that each recipe starts with a forward that says, “Why This Recipe Works”. Lately I have been cooking so much that often, when it comes time to decide what’s for dinner, I am drawing blanks. Thankfully, these cookbooks live in my kitchen, so it’s easy to pop one open and find some inspiration. This recipe is adapted from their recipe entitled: “Chicken and Orzo with Spinach and Feta“. It’s from their cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen Cooking For Two.

After I refreshed my memory of the recipe, I decided to get completely organized before starting to cook. It’s much easier when the ingredients are all prepped and ready to go. I began by running out to my herb garden to get some fresh oregano. While I was there I noticed my sage plant is growing like crazy, so I picked a bit of that and I also snagged some baby kale. I wish I could take credit for growing those beautiful little tomatoes, but they came from Sam’s Club as did the baby spinach/kale mixture.

I removed the stems from the spinach (I hate stems), chopped my garlic and herbs, then measured out the red pepper flakes, the amount of orzo and the amount of chicken stock I would need.

The first step is to put the raw orzo into a skillet and toast it until it’s a little brown. Don’t skip this step because it really imparts a great flavor and a little bit better texture.

Then in the same skillet, I sauteed my chicken tenders in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and some granulated garlic. Not very interesting. It’s just chicken! LOL.

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Once the chicken has browned on both sides and is barely cooked through, you remove it to another pan and then add in your stock and orzo. I put the stock in first to deglaze the pan. The recipe doesn’t actually call for tomatoes, but we like them so I added some in to let them cook with the orzo. Once you get it to a boil, you add the chicken back in, nestling it in the orzo until it’s cooked through. Since I used chicken tenders, it only took a few minutes. If you use breasts, it would be longer.

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Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it again, to a plate tented with foil. Continue to cook the orzo until al dente, then start adding the spinach in small batches, stirring pretty continuously. I kept extra stock handy in case I needed it and I did need to add about a half cup before the orzo came together the way I wanted. The recipe calls for the juice of a lemon. I added the zest of a lemon and the juice and the taste was bumped up considerably!

Lastly, I removed it all, placed it in my serving dish, added the chicken and topped it with crumbled goat cheese and fresh oregano leaves…and of course, my beautiful tomatoes!

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Winner winner, chicken dinner!


 

(Adapted from an original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. orzo
2 T olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh minced oregano
1 tsp fresh minced sage
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 1/2 c chicken broth (more if needed)
12-15 cherry tomatoes
4 cups baby spinach
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from one lemon
Fresh oregano leaves for garnish (You could use basil or flat leafed parsley if you don’t have fresh oregano)

Directions:

  1. Toast the orzo in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat (just until brown, stirring often.) Remove from skillet.
  2. Using the same skillet, saute chicken in olive oil until brown and just barely cooked through. Remove to a plate.
  3. Toss herbs and garlic into the same skillet, let it bloom 30-40 seconds
  4. Add in chicken broth. tomatoes and orzo, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, add back the chicken and cover until chicken is cooked through. (10-15 minutes if using tenders, 15-19 minutes if breasts) Remove chicken to a plate and tent with foil.
  5. Continue simmering the orzo, stirring and adding more stock.
  6. Add in the lemon juice and zest. Season with more pepper and a little salt.
  7. Add in the spinach, one handful at a time, continuously stirring.
  8. Once your spinach has wilted and the orzo is cooked through, transfer it to a serving platter. Nestle the chicken into the orzo, garnish with crumbled goat cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs.

 

 

 

Vegetable Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash! Pretty Food!

Once upon a time around Thanksgiving time, we catered a huge interfaith meal. Because there were many different religious dietary restrictions, it was important that we offered a vegetarian option. As per usual, I wanted the food to be beautiful and colorful, so we came up with this recipe for stuffed acorn squash! I was beyond thrilled with the result!

Last year around this time we were contracted to contribute a vegetarian dish for an Interfaith meal hosted by the church where I am employed. We knew we wanted to make something eye-catching utilitizing a Fall vegetable. Say hello to my friend, Mr. Acorn Squash.

I literally went to the store and searched for something colorful to stuff it with and I found this tri-colored pearl couscous. (Thank you, Lucky’s Market!)

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Next, I knew I needed more than just couscous to make it an actual vegetarian dish. Well, to be honest, the squash and the couscous would have been fine, but it wasn’t enough for me. I decided to sauté some yummy vegetables to add into the squash, so I stocked up on onions, carrots, a few butternut squash, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, etc. I literally just thought about things that I love and went from there.

Next, I needed my big, strong hubba hubba hubby, Charlie, to open each squash and scoop out the innards! Don’t worry, I will reduce this recipe so you aren’t feeding 150 people with it! <<grin>> He also sliced off a bit of the bottom so they would sit on a plate without wobbling.

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After the squash have been halved and scooped out, they go in a pan with a little water, (cut side down) to bake until almost soft. (To make these for the family, you can absolutely do this step in the microwave to save time.)

Then it’s a matter of sautéing the vegetables, (I used squash, onion, carrots, cranberries, toasted almonds) preparing the couscous according to package directions and combining all…then stuffing the squash. Here is my bowl combining my sautéed ingredients with my toasted almonds.

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Here is the couscous combined with the sautéed vegetables and toasted almonds stuffed inside the acorn squash.

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Here, I have spooned in the stuffing.

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And finally, it goes back into the oven, sprinkled with fresh seasonings and then it comes out looking like a work of art! (So colorful!) If you are looking for something new to take to your Thanksgiving pot luck dinner, try this. It looks like you’ve spent hours, yet it’s super easy. You could even prepare all of this a day or two in advance, then bake just before you leave for your event OR before you have your event. These will do well stored warm in a baking dish covered with foil.

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Pretty, aren’t they?


Ingredients:

4 acorn squash, washed, cut in half, seeds scooped out.

1 Package tri-colored pearl couscous (or whatever your favorite happens to be) prepared according to pkg directions.

2 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Tbsp butter

2-3 fresh sage leaves chopped

2 carrots peeled & sliced.

1 large onion diced

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, and cubed (save time and buy this already diced from the market)

1/2 c Toasted almonds

1/2 c Dried cranberries (chopped dried apricots would be great in there too or even yellow raisins)

Salt & pepper

1/2 freshly chopped Italian parsley

1/2 c freshly grated cheese of your choice. (I used Asiago/Regiano)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Prepare tri-colored couscous according to package directions, set aside.
  2. Dice all of the vegetables (except the butternut squash) and sauté (until tender) in half the olive oil and half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and the sage. Just prior to finishing, toss in the cranberries to soften them.
  3. When the vegetables are tender, remove to a bowl, clean out your skillet and dry roast the almonds over medium high heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add to the vegetables.
  4. Put the butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, pour out onto sheet tray, bake 20-25 minutes.

Prepare the squash:

  1. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds.
  2. Brush the cut sides and the cavity with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt & pepper& garlic
  3. Place cut side down in a large roasting pan
  4. Roast in the oven for one hour until tender and still holding their shape.

Prepare the stuffing:

  1. In a bowl, combine the couscous with the roasted butternut squash and the sautéed vegetables and cranberries.
  2. Stir in the parsley
  3. Spoon into the cooked acorn squashes.
  4. Sprinkle the tops with freshly grated cheese of your choice. I like Asiago, but you can use what you like.
  5. Place back in oven uncovered for about 5-8 minutes until just heated through.
  6. Garnish with more parsley.

Enjoy!

Vegetable Tartlets! Beautiful and Delicious!

I catered a cocktail party the other day and my clients wanted a vegetarian option. We decided on vegetable tarts, mainly because they are delicious, but also because they are so pretty!

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I catered a cocktail party the other day and tarts were on the menu. I thought long and hard about what kind to make and in the end, I decided on making individual ones because they make a better presentation. I am all about doing things that are beautiful but I don’t bake, so I always opt for pre-made crusts. I was aiming to use Pepperidge Farm tartlets, but of course, I didn’t discover until I was about to bake, that I had actually purchased SHELLS instead. (Shells are bigger than tartlets.) Of course this made me panic, but I decided to bake a few of them to see what happened and to my surprise, I liked how they looked.

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Translate this to, “I don’t want to have to go to the store to start over, so I’m going with this!” It’s hard to tell from this photo but these things are about the size of cupcakes. I was really in search of something half this size. Anyway, they baked up really nicely (18 minutes tops). So that first step was simple.

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Second step is to fill these bad boys with my ricotta mixture. (Ricotta mixed with grated Fontina, Italian spices, lemon zest, a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese & a pinch of nutmeg.)

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Then comes a layer of caramelized onions. We made a huge pot of these the day before, but you can make them whenever you want.

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Toppings come next. We sliced these using a mandolin set on the thinnest setting. The way to make tarts work is to try to get as much of the liquid out of your vegetables as possible. We sliced these, laid them out on paper towels, the sprinkled them with salt and let them sit for half an hour. After this, we patted them dry and they were ready to use.

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I made the little shapes simply by folding my zucchini medallions in half and then in half again. I loved how they turned out. Once you are satisfied with how you’ve decorated your tarts, paint on some garlic olive oil and bake for just about 10 minutes. The key here to remember is that the shells are already baked,so you must be careful not to brown them too much.

Also, I made a huge mistake and covered them after I was finished with them. I wanted them to be warm and poof, they got soggy. These are best served pretty soon OR just leave them out at room temp and if you must warm them, throw them in the oven uncovered, just prior to serving.


Ingredients:

  • 2 package of Pepperidge Farm Puffed Pastry Shells (6 come in a package)
  • 1 c. Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 c. freshly grated Fontina Cheese (you can substitute shredded Swiss cheese)
  • 1/2 freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Zest
  • 1 Teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 onions chopped and caramelized
  • 3-4 Zucchini sliced paper thin
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes diced or sliced (depends on how you want to use them to decorate)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Smash your garlic and combine it with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Pre-bake the pastry shells according to package directions.
  4. Slice the zucchini and tomatoes using a mandolin. Lay out on paper towels, sprinkle with salt. Leave them out for at least 30 minutes, then blot them dry as possible using more paper towels.
  5. Thinly slice the onions, saute low and slow in a pan with 2 Tbsp butter & 1 Tbsp Olive oil until they slowly brown and become caramelized. Set aside to cool. (This step can be done a day or two before. Just store them in an air tight container in the refrigerator.)
  6. In a bowl, combine the Ricotta, Fontina, Parmesan cheese, Italian Seasoning, lemon zest, nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Assemble the tarts by starting with a layer of the cheese, then the onions, then arrange your vegetables how you like them. Brush with garlic olive oil and bake uncovered about ten minutes.

**These tarts can sit on the counter up to 2 hours prior to being cooked.**

**Serve warm or at room temperature.

Click here to see another version on this tart.

 

Grilled Cilantro Lime Swordfish

I confess that I used to hate fish but I think it’s only because I’d never tasted really good fish! Now that my husband and I are trying to eat more healthfully, we make it all the time and I’m loving it. This sword fish recipe is simple with just a couple of ingredients and it takes just a few minutes to make!

I just realized my husband and I are eating a LOT of fish lately! At least once a week, we used our cast-iron grill pan to make some delicious sword fish! We season this all sorts of ways, but one of our favorites is with cilantro and lime. (Go figure. Seems like these are our favorite flavors lately!)

So many people are afraid of cooking fish at home, especially things like sword fish, that can be a little pricey. I did not grow up in a household that ever, even one time, cooked fish. I suspect my Mom was afraid of it. I was never a fish fan until I met my husband and we began our quest to eat healthier. What I have found is that fish is actually the quickest, easiest meal to make on a week night. The worst thing you can do to a fish is to over-cook it, so I usually pick a hearty variety, like this sword fish. I am also picky about taste and even mouth-feel. Anything that’s slimy or that has a strong “fishy” taste, doesn’t make it to my mouth. I absolutely love tuna and cod and swordfish. I wish I loved salmon, but it’s falls on the “fishier”side, so I don’t make it often.

Anyway, start with your sword fish filets. I usually take mine out of the refrigerator about a half hour prior to cooking. Coat both sides with olive oil, about 1/4 c. Cilantro, zest of a couple of limes, juice of a couple of limes, and of course, salt and pepper.

At this point I let the fish just rest in the juice for 15 minutes, then I flip them and let them rest for 15 minutes more.

Then I heat my grill pan to medium-high. Add 2 Tbsp real butter and about 1 Tbsp of your favorite cooking oil.

Sear the fish on the first side (about four minutes), then when it releases from the pan easily, flip it to sear the second side (about 4 minutes). Then I turn the heat down about medium and let the fish cook all the way through. (Time depends on how large your filets are.)

And here you have the finished product. You can tell it’s ready when you see it starts to flake! YUMMY!!


Ingredients:

2 large swordfish filets

4 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 Tbsp butter

2 limes (zest & juice)

1/2 c. Chopped fresh cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Coat fish with olive oil (both sides)

In a bowl, mix 1 Tbsp olive oil, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and salt and pepper. Pour over the fish, then turn the fish so both sides get the marinade.

Let rest for 15 minutes, turn over and let rest 15 more.

Heat a grill pan to medium high. Coat it with olive oil and butter.

Sear both sides of the fish for 4 minutes or until it easily releases from the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium, continue cooking fish until it’s flakey.

Veggie & Quinoa Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

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Yesterday’s blog about Good Grains got me to thinking about stuffing things! During the summer months our city has an abundance of farmers markets I like to visit. I must have walked by a dozen types of patty pan squash before I decided to pick up a few to see what they are like. It was actually the grower who shared with me that one of the best uses for them is to stuff them. (We also like them on the grill, but that’s for another time.)

As soon as I arrived home, I scoured the cabinets and bins to find what would go inside my squash. I settled on sprouted quinoa with red peppers and onions.

Here’s my sautéed onions, red bell pepper, squash, salt & pepper, minced garlic and cooked quinoa all read to stuff in.

In order to do these squash properly they need to be pre-baked a little bit. (Below)

All stuffed and ready to head into the oven for the final bake! And then, the final product. These were delicious, filling and super healthy.


Ingredients:

3 patty pan squash

1 package sprouted quinoa (I save time by using the pre-packaged mixes)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp REAL butter

1 large onion diced

1 large red bell pepper diced

2 cloves garlic minced

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 egg

1/4 cup fresh herb (I used basil because I grow it, but flat leaf parsley or fresh thyme would be wonderful in this.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare the quinoa according to package directions and set aside.

Scoop out the squash to make a well for your stuffing.

Coat the squash in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes until somewhat soft but still firm.

Chop up what you scooped out and add it to your vegetables for sautéing

Using the olive oil and butter, Sauté the onions, peppers, garlic and squash until soft. Set aside to cool.

Mix the egg, prepared quinoa, 1/2 the chopped basil and sautéed vegetables together.

Stuff your squash.

Return to the oven and back 20 minutes.

Garnish with the remaining basil!