Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with Fontina Crostini

I love butternut squash soup. And adding a cheesy bread thing to go with/on/in it just makes it that much better.

Butternut Squash Soup with Fontina Crostini
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis


2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 to 8 cups)
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 cup (2 ounces) grated fontina cheese
Kosher salt

In an 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat.

For the crostini: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sage. Sprinkle the cheese on top and season with salt, to taste. Bake until the cheese has melted and the bread is light golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the cheese crostini.

Cook's Note: The cooked vegetable mixture can also be pureed (after cooling for about 5 minutes) by ladling, in batches, into a food processor or blender and blended until smooth.

Banana Cupcakes

Since we liked this recipe so much for Benjamin's birthday cake, I thought I'd tweak it to make some cupcakes for Jillie's school birthday celebration. They got mixed reviews from the kids, but overall, they seemed to work out well. Though I am always surprised by how big cupcakes look in the hands of 4-year-olds. Happy birthday to my baby girl!

Banana Cupcakes
A variation on this recipe from Gourmet


For cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 large)
1/4 cup plain yogurt or well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

For frosting:
1/2 pound confectioners' sugar (about 1 7/8 cups)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin tin or line with muffin cups.

Into a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl whisk together mashed banana, yogurt or buttermilk, and vanilla. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy and beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour and banana mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture and stirring after each addition until just combined. (Do not overmix.)

Divide batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Make frosting: Into a large bowl sift confectioners' sugar. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy and beat in vanilla and a pinch salt. Beat in confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, and beat frosting until smooth. Frost cupcakes, adding food coloring and/or decorations, as desired.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

I decided to do the entire Thanksgiving dinner all on my own this year. My sister is getting married in a few months, so this was our last time having her and my mom all to ourselves. It was time to pull out all the stops. And I had to try to redeem the turkey that I attempted at Christmas last year and failed due to a power outage. So I got another fresh turkey from Wolff's, and I got myself organized. I put together a menu that I thought would flow well in terms of scheduling everything, that would satisfy everyone's tastes, etc.

And then...

Everything worked! The electricity stayed on. And I was able to get everything ready pretty much around the same time. It was a crazy few days of preparation, but I was proud of the work I'd done.

Although... I'm not sure I actually like roasted turkey anymore. It smelled fabulous while it was roasting, but after all that preparation, it just didn't taste that good to me. I brined it using Alton Brown's brine recipe, which had been good when I tried it before (though I also used his roasting recipe before, so that may have been the difference?). The injected sage butter seemed totally useless since it didn't really infuse the turkey but rather just kind of made pockets of oddly-colored turkey. I just don't think it was worth all that fuss. Especially since I ended up throwing away a lot of the turkey due to most of it being so fatty I could barely get to the meat from all the fat. Plus, really, I love the turkey leg meat more than pretty much anything else, so I'm thinking maybe next time I do Thanksgiving, I'll just get turkey legs and cook those in some kick-ass way.

Oh, and what magical spell am I missing that makes gravy thicken properly? Because I've never been able to do that. And it's annoying. The gravy tasted good though, even if I did forget to add the balsamic vinegar at the end.

As for the side dishes, everyone loved the Brussels sprouts. And the green bean casserole was lovely. The only thing I did differently with that is that I didn't steam the green beans during the preparation process. It made for some crunchy green beans, but I prefer them crunchy rather than mushy, so that's why I went that way.

The dressing (called that because I didn't stuff it into anything) was just okay. It tasted good, but it just wasn't that exciting. I didn't use sausage in the dressing because I wanted to use pancetta in the Brussels sprouts, but I think it really could have used it.

I made the cranberry sauce that I made at Christmas last year, which is super good. I'm going to make biscuits tomorrow since we discovered last year that it works especially well as a kind of jam on a bread product.

As for dessert, I made the cinnamon-streusel pumpkin pie that I made back in September, which was yummy. But then I also made a chocolate-hazelnut tart, which was a giant hit with the whole crew. It was basically a hazelnut cookie topped with Nutella pudding. I'm not sure how that couldn't go over well.

So overall, the meal was pretty good. The turkey disappointment was a big one because it was the most labor-intensive part of the meal, but oh well. Everyone was here, seemed pleased, and went to bed tonight with full bellies. So I'm very thankful for that.

Roast Turkey with Garlic, Sage and Fennel
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

1 20-pound turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 heads garlic
1 small onion, cut into 6 wedges
2 cooking apples, quartered
1 large bunch fresh sage
1 small bulb fennel, cut into 6 wedges
1 small carrot, cut into 3-inch pieces
4 sticks unsalted butter
8 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup instant flour (such as Wondra)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Bring the turkey to room temperature 1 hour before roasting. Place a rack in the lowest position of the oven and remove the other racks; preheat to 350°F. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey; discard the liver and reserve the neck and the rest of the giblets. Dry the turkey inside and out with paper towels and season the cavity with salt and pepper. Halve 1 head garlic crosswise and stuff into the cavity along with 3 onion wedges, the apples and 1/2 bunch sage.

Place the remaining 3 onion wedges, the fennel and carrot in the center of a large roasting pan with 1 cup water. Set a rack above the vegetables and place the turkey breast-side up on the rack. Season all over with salt and pepper. Chop 3 tablespoons sage, then melt 3 sticks butter with the sage and salt and pepper to taste in a saucepan over medium heat. Fill a meat syringe with the sage butter and inject it into the breasts, legs and thighs; continue until you have used about half of the sage butter. Brush the bird with the rest of the butter and tie the legs together with twine.

Roast the turkey, uncovered, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue roasting until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165°F, 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the turkey inside until the thermometer registers 170°F, 15 to 20 more minutes.

While the turkey roasts, make the gravy: Melt the remaining 1 stick butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the reserved neck and giblets, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 10 minutes. Peel and smash the remaining head of garlic, add it to the pan and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bay leaves, cover and simmer over medium-low heat, about 2 hours. Discard the bay leaves, neck and giblets.

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Transfer the vegetables to a blender. Pour the drippings into a liquid measuring cup and skim off the fat. Add 1 cup drippings and the flour to the blender and puree until smooth. Whisk the remaining drippings and pureed vegetables into the broth mixture. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the gravy is smooth, about 10 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar; season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the turkey to a platter and garnish with any remaining sage. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.


Classic Dressing
A variation on this recipe from Food Network Magazine


16 cups white bread, cubed
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups onions, diced
2 cups celery, diced
1 tablespoon sage, minced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
Salt and pepper
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread cubes on cookie sheets and toast in oven for 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. Set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 375°F. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, sage and thyme; add salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add 3 cups broth and bring to a simmer. Put parsley in a large bowl; add toasted bread, then pour in the vegetable-broth mixture and toss. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and dot with butter. Cover and bake for 30 minutes; uncover and bake until golden, 30 more minutes.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 shallot, diced
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss all ingredients together and place in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.


Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots
A variation on this recipe from Ellie Krieger


1/4 cup olive oil
6 medium shallots, sliced into rings (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 pounds thin fresh string beans or haricots verts, trimmed
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 cups low-fat (1%) milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add 1/4 cup shallots and cook, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining shallots, cooking 1/4 cup at a time. Reserve the oil in the skillet.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid is evaporated and they begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl.

Whisk together the milk and flour until the flour is dissolved. Add the mixture to the skillet and, whisking constantly, bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans, mushroom mixture, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, the parsley, nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon the green bean mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle the top with the crispy shallots and the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake until golden on top and bubbling, about 20 minutes.


Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine


For the Crust:
1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Filling:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Make the crust: Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet over medium heat until golden, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Transfer 1/3 cup nuts to a food processor. Add the flour, sugar and salt; pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Drizzle in the egg and vanilla; pulse until the dough starts to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Coarsely chop the remaining hazelnuts and reserve.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round. Press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, then trim the excess dough. Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the crust with foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until golden brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk the cornstarch into 1/4 cup cream in a bowl. Combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups cream, the chocolate-hazelnut spread, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and scraping the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. Once the mixture starts to boil, stir constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour into the crust and swirl the top. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Top with the reserved hazelnuts.

Cranberry Vodka Tonics

I made these for the cocktail and hors d'oeuvres portion of Thanksgiving. I liked them, but they didn't really taste like cranberries at all. They tasted a lot more like vanilla. Which definitely wasn't a bad thing. It seemed like a lot of fuss for something that didn't really taste like what it was supposed to taste like, so I'm not sure I'll do it again, but it was fun to give it a shot.

Cranberry Vodka Tonics
Courtesy of Michael Chiarello


1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 cups vodka
1 liter tonic
Lime slices, for garnish

Combine the cranberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the vanilla extract or split vanilla bean and cook, stirring, until the cranberries burst, 5 to 6 minutes.

Divide the cranberry mixture between 2 large mason jars. Divide the vodka between the jars. Cover and refrigerate for 1 week. Strain out the cranberries. Store the flavored vodka in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

For each drink, pour 2 ounces cranberry vodka over ice in a tall glass; top with tonic. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese

I enjoyed tweaking this recipe to fit this month's craving for mac 'n' cheese.

The amaretti cookies that were in my pantry just didn't smell or taste right, so I ended up using panko breadcrumbs for the topping instead. I'm sure it changed the flavor a lot, so I'll have to try it with the cookies next time.

I also added some onion and garlic since I thought it would add nicely to the dish.

Roasted Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese
A variation on this recipe from Closet Cooking


1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 pound macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sage, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups cheese, shredded (your choice)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the squash, onion, and garlic with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Set aside.

Cook the pasta as directed.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat add the sage and cook until the butter is bubbling and it has turned golden brown. Mix in the flour and let simmer until it returns to a light golden brown. Add the milk, nutmeg, mustard and cheese and simmer until it thickens and the cheese has melted.

Mix the squash mixture, pasta and cheese sauce and pour into a baking dish topping it with the breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown on the top and bubbling on the sides, about 40 minutes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Crispy Pork Medallions with Roasted Root Vegetables

Crispy this pork is not, but it is moist and very tasty. A delightful Sunday dinner option.

Crispy Pork Medallions with Roasted Root Vegetables
Courtesy of Cooking Light


Pork medallions:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 8 medallions
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Roasted root vegetables:
8 ounces quartered small red potatoes
2 thinly sliced carrots
2 thinly sliced parsnips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Make the vegetables: Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine potatoes, carrots, and parsnips in a medium bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetable mixture on a rack placed in a broiler pan. Bake for 28 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.

Make the pork medallions: Rub mustard evenly over pork medallions. Combine panko, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Dredge pork in panko mixture. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork; sauté 2 minutes or until golden brown. Turn pork. Place skillet in oven with roasting vegetables; bake for 8 minutes or until pork reaches 145°F. Let stand 3 minutes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

This is quite possibly the tastiest and most beautiful lasagna I've ever made. I used leftover the meat sauce that I just made last week, which I'm sure added a lot of flavor. I also used chopped fresh baby spinach rather than the kale the original recipe called for. I didn't think it needed to be blanched before it was added to the dish, and it worked out great just using it raw.

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
A variation on this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped small
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped small
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1/3 cup water
4 cups finely chopped fresh baby spinach
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
6 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups low-fat Mozzarella or other low-fat white cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy frying pan over medium heat; add onions and saute until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, chopped mushrooms, ground fennel, and dried basil and saute about 5 minutes more, or until the mushrooms lose their water and the liquid has evaporated. Add the vegetarian marinara sauce and water and turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the chopped spinach, cottage cheese, beaten eggs, and finely grated Parmesan.

Spray a 9x13-inch lasagna dish with nonstick spray. Lay 3 uncooked lasagna noodles across the dish. Cover with 1/2 the tomato-mushroom sauce, spreading it across the noodles so they're all covered with sauce. Then add 1/2 the spinach mixture, spreading it out with a rubber scraper, and sprinkle over 1 cup of the grated low-fat Mozzarella. Make a second layer of lasagna noodles, tomato-mushroom sauce, spinach mixture, and cheese.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake 50 minutes without removing the foil. Take the dish out of the oven and remove foil. Cook 25 minutes more with foil removed, or until the lasagna noodles are soft, and the lasagna is bubbling and lightly browned on top. Let lasagna cool 5-10 minutes before cutting; then cut into pieces and serve hot.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Indian-Spiced Roasted Squash Soup

Delish. And I just love love love how roasting vegetable smell. And it goes especially well with the garam masala biscuits I decided to make.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Squash
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


1 cup chopped yellow onion
8 ounces carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (1-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
1 (8-ounce) acorn squash, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 cups water
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Arrange the first 5 ingredients on a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss. Roast for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning once. Cool for 10 minutes. Peel acorn squash; discard skin.

Combine vegetable mixture, 2 cups water, curry powder, garam masala, and red pepper in a food processor or blender; pulse to desired consistency. Scrape mixture into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.


Garam Masala Biscuits
A variation on this recipe from Alton Brown


2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled
Heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and garam masala. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)

Brush with heavy cream and bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chewy Candy Cookies

I wanted to take the mounds of Halloween candy we have in the house right now and make something a bit more interesting out of it... And I'm a big fan of these kinds of cookies, so here's my version. It has certainly curbed any desire whatsoever to dip into the remaining candy in our pantry. The cookies themselves are wonderfully chewy and delicious, and the candy adds a lovely addition of sweetness and flavor. I will happily make these cookies, post-Halloween and other times when these candies pop up in my life, for years to come.

Chewy Candy Cookies
A variation on this recipe from Fun and Food Blog


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup combination of M&M’s and Reese's Pieces, divided

Heat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and keep ready.

Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 2/3 cup candy. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheet, leaving enough space in between to let them expand. Press 4-5 of remaining candy on each cookie before baking.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, then remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool completely on the wire rack. Eat a few immediately, storing others in air-tight containers for later.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow-Simmered Meat Sauce

Wonderful sauce. It takes a little doing before you get it into the crockpot, but it's worth the effort. I tweaked things a bit so that I wouldn't have to split a package of sausage (I used all sausage instead of a beef/sausage combo). And I'm not usually totally keen on olives, but I added them because I knew they'd add a nice depth of flavor (which they totally did). I served the sauce over egg noodles with some lightly-dressed greens on the side. I'm thinking I'll add a little garlic bread and red wine and serve this when we're having guests over during the holidays.

Slow-Simmering Meat Sauce
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 small carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds hot and/or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
16 ounces uncooked pasta
Shaved or grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Place vegetable mixture in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Add sausage to skillet; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from skillet using a slotted spoon. Place sausage on a double layer of paper towels; drain. Add sausage to slow cooker. Stir olives and remaining ingredients (through dried basil) into slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Serve sauce with hot cooked pasta; top with cheese.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili

Delicious. It made the house smell wonderful and then tasted great. It also goes particularly well with these cornbread muffins. I used cooked pork instead of cooked turkey, but I'm excited to try this again with some leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili
A variation on this recipe from Taste of Home


1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey or pork
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, sauté the onion and pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker; stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through.