Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pie Convert

   My assignment for Thanksgiving, 9 times out of 10, is the vegetable dish. Either because they think I am the "food police" and want at least something healthy there, or because no one else actually likes cooking vegetables or maybe they don't want me "improving" or "experimenting" with the traditional staples. I don't mind though. I usually come up with something fun and even get my dad to to try a vegetable he only has bad memories parsnips!
   Anyway, this year I also got to make a pie! I was excited to try this recipe for Creamy Pear Pie I got from my friend Kate at OurBestBites. Her recipes always turn out... so there were no qualms about trying something new, especially something you can't taste beforehand (it's impossible to sneak a piece of pie without everyone knowing). 

Since my husband has always told me he doesn't like pie, I haven't made one for a long time. I was surprised that he actually wanted a taste of my slice after Thanksgiving dinner. All it took, though, was one bite and he was converted. He couldn't stop exclaiming how good it was. We brought the leftover pieces to his parents' house the next day and he made everyone try a bite. I agree that it turned out fantastic. He told me a week later that it was honestly the best dessert he had ever tasted. Now THAT's a compliment

 We have now conquered his aversion to soups, pie, fruit in salads, and pumpkin. Now off to convert him to the fruit/meat combo idea he is still wary of.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna

So, I think I started a post about this last year and never finished it. Oops. Since I love cooking and I especially love cooking for my very appreciative husband, you are getting more food posts lately. I don't know if you all like that or not, but it's the most exciting thing in my life right now.

This recipe is one of my most requested recipes.  Friends ask about it every year. I have yet to have anyone tell me they have tried it on their own but maybe one of you will, especially any of you that have unused butternut squashes from their gardens still hanging around. I used the bones of a recipe I found from Bon Appetit but changed it a good deal and have stuck with my changes for years now because they worked well for me.

One of the tricks is to know how to handle butternut squash. Many people tell me they are scared of it or have no idea what to do with it. I have a few suggestions to start with.

First: use rubber gloves to handle it while cutting (If you don't, you will be left with this weird dry film that you can't get off your hands for a day no matter how much you wash them).

Second: use a big knife (this is not the time for your do-it-all little paring knife). Get your large chef knife or any other big and sharp knife to help make this easier on you. Winter squashes are tough when still raw.

Third: Separate the top portion and the bulby portions. They are much easier to peel separately.  If you get to choose your own squash at the store instead of using them from your own garden, get ones with long necks to get more stuff you can use.

Peel it by running your knife down the outside layer of the squash to reveal the bright orangey inside (that's the edible part).
For this recipe, chop it into 1/4 inch slices. Still use the bottom portion of the squash after you remove the seeds, those slices will just look like rings. 
Ok, now the hardest parts are over. Let's get cooking! Here's the recipe.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 9 oz. package of lasagna noodles

2 TBSP olive oil
1 chopped red onion
1 large package (or 2 small) of baby bella or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2/3 C chopped pecans

2 lb butterut squash (peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch slices)
1 14 oz. can chicken or vegetable broth
4 TBSP thyme
4 TBSP sage

2 15 oz. containers of lowfat cottage cheese
1 15 oz. container of blended hard cheeses (romano, parmesan, asiago)
1 egg (beaten)
salt and pepper

Start by boiling the lasagna noodles, according to package directions (you may use the no-boil kind but the edges still come out hard).

In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onion in the olive oil until just soft (about 3 min) , and mix in chopped nuts. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

In same skillet, layer the squash slices (put rings on the bottom to allow more of the steam/liquid to cook the solid slices). Add in broth plus 1/2 the thyme and sage. Cover and let simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender but not falling apart (about 8 min.).

Mix together the cheeses, the egg and the rest of the thyme and sage. Add several turns of black pepper and a few shakes of salt to season.

Assemble the lasagna in 9 x 13 pan by layering cheeses, noodles, squash and mushroom mix a couple times. I usually make sure cheeses end up on top. Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 min. covered, then 25 min. more uncovered. Let sit about 10 minutes before serving (or it will fall apart more while serving it... but it still tastes good). This works great to make the day before, both waiting to cook it the day of, or cooking it before and just reheating. I've tried it all. Always yummy.

p.s. If you are looking for other ways to use butternut squash, I have a few other recipes here and here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


We had a great cooking date night with our friends, inspired by the show "Chopped" where we had to make a course with 4 mystery ingredients. It was a lot of fun and challenged our cooking creativity under pressure. We got second place...  the Elkins totally won with what they came up with for dessert (wow!). See my friend Kasey's post ( about it for a longer explanation and pictures. I would love to do it again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

pumpkin oatmeal

An autumn-ized breakfast for you. The inspiration for this came from a visit to my friend Ivy's house last year when she served me this hot pumpkin cereal for breakfast. You know how I love everything pumpkin... I don't remember much about it except that it was yummy so I decided to create a version of my own.

Prepared plain oatmeal (quick, regular or steel-cut oats, steel cut). I will not specify the time you cook it or the ratio of water/milk to oats, I think most people have varying preferences on this. I like mine more watery with still chewy oats, not a congealed I tend to undercook mine, but to each their own.

Add a spoon of plain pumpkin puree (I used a heaping TBSP for my one bowl, which was plenty)
1 tsp brown sugar (you really don't need as much as you used to use when you were a kid)
a dash of cinnamon and allspice

It's that easy. I guess if you wanted to even skip the seasoning part, use just pumpkin pie filling and it would probably be very similar.

p.s. I added a few mini chocolate chips for decoration in the picture, but I have to admit, as appetizing as it sounded, I didn't like it as much with them in there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Zupa's Pumpkin Coconut soup

This year, I took a break from my usual spicy pumpkin bisque (which I swear I've posted before but can't find) and decided to recreate Zupa's newest seasonal soup that I had the other day on an outing with my sisters.

I think I did pretty good for my make-it-up-as-you-go, knock-off recipe. I figure I need to write it down before I forget what I did (I didn't measure the spices so those are estimates). My picture of it didn't turn out. Here it is:

Pumpkin Coconut soup

2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/2 chopped onion
1 TBSP olive oil
1 C canned pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 potato (chopped into small cubes)
1 large roma tomato (or 2 little ones) chopped into small cubes
shredded coconut

In a soup pot, saute the garlic and onion with the ginger, and nutmeg in the oil until fragrant and translucent (do not brown), then add the pumpkin, broth, and coconut milk. Stir to combine, bring to a boil. Add in the potatoes and tomato and cook until the potatoes are soft (sometimes I precook these to cut down on prep time). Taste and add the salt and pepper (I have to add that in because I break that rule too often and need reminders). Top with shredded coconut and serve.

(I've also thought of adding a few pine nuts or sunflower seeds)