Roasted Butternut Squash With Hazelnuts – So Easy, So Yummy!

roasted butternut textI love roasted vegetables! Their flavor comes to life, enhanced by the sweet caramelization process. Add to that the slight crispiness. Yum!!!

This ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH recipe is very easy to prepare…but does take about an hour in the oven. So plan ahead. That time is hands off, so you can use it to prepare the rest of your meal…or, decompress from the day with a glass of wine.

Note: If you don’t like hazelnuts, try another nut such as almonds or pecans.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH HAZELNUTS

  • 2½ – 3 lbs butternut squash
  • 4 T butter, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, skinned
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit.

Wash and dry whole squash. Place in microwave for 3 minutes. (Don’t worry, it won’t explode – this is just to soften it enough to make peeling easier and safer.) Flip and zap it for 30 more seconds. Place squash on a cutting board, taking care not to burn yourself. Cut off both ends and discard. Dissect the neck from the body (I know, this sounds ghoulish!) Standing these halves on end, remove the peel down to the deep orange color with a sharp knife. butternut risotto3Slice the body and neck in half lengthwise (yikes!) and remove seeds and fibres. Cut the four halves into 1/2″ pieces.roasted butternut2 Place pieces in a mixing bowl. Melt 2 T butter and pour over squash. Stir in the salt and pepper.roasted butternut3 Lay butternut squash pieces in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until bottoms are browned. Flip pieces and bake another 10-15 minutes, until well browned on both sides. roasted butternut6While squash is baking, coarsely chop hazelnuts. In a small skillet or saucepan, melt remaining 2 T butter. Add in chopped nuts and sauté over medium/high heat. Stirring constantly, cook until nuts are browned – about 2 minutes. (The butter will be bubbly at first.)roasted butternut4Remove from heat and stir in the 1 T water. Let cool a little, then add in the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. roasted butternut5When squash is cooked, place slices into a mixing bowl (I use the same one from before). Gently stir in the hazelnuts and butter. Sprinkle on chives. Serve while hot.

 

 

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CRANBERRY TART: A Tasty Way To Say “I Love You!”

cranberry tart text2Cranberry Tart is a beautiful dessert that can be served year-round. But I thought it particularly appropriate for Valentine’s Day…even though the only chocolate in it is the white chocolate I sprinkled on top (which doesn’t really count).

Making this tart was my excuse to finally purchase a tart pan. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it does make a pretty presentation with the fluted edges. However, a 9″ regular pie dish (like Pyrex) will work fine. By the way, I didn’t grease the pan and the tart still released perfectly.

CRANBERRY TART

Crust:

  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour (1¼ oz – it’s always better to weigh, if you can)
  • 10 T butter, soft
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Toast almonds either in the oven or a dry skillet until lightly browned. Let cool.

Place almonds, sugar, flour, and salt in the food processor with the steel blade. (You can use the blender, but you’ll have to mix the rest by hand or with an electric mixer.) Pulse until the almonds are a fine crumb – about 8 pulses. cranberry tart12Add in softened butter and almond extract. Pulse until mixture clumps together. cranberry tart11Place a 9″ tart pan on a cookie sheet – this is important since tart pans have a removable bottom and you don’t want to accidentally push it up when you lift the filled tart. (You don’t need the cookie sheet if you’re using a regular pie plate.) Scatter pieces of the dough around the tart pan (or regular 9″ pie pan), putting more near the edges. cranberry tart10With fingers, press down the dough starting with the sides so it evenly covers the sides all the way up the top, and the bottom of the pan. Pay special attention to the corners – push them in so you have a nice sharp inside edge with more room for the filling.cranberry tart5 Place a piece of waxed paper over crust and fill with pie weights, uncooked beans, or rice. Bake in preheated 375º F for 12 minutes. Remove waxed paper and weights by bringing corners together and carefully rocking it out – you don’t want the crust to stick to the paper. (If some of it does stick to the waxed paper, scrape it off and replace it in crust.)

Continue to bake the now-uncovered crust for another 5 minutes or so until lightly browned. Carry the cookie sheet with the tart pan on top to a rack and completely cool.

Filling:

NOTE: As Queen of Freeze, I encourage you to freeze the unused egg whites from the required egg yolks in the filling for future use. Waste not, want not!!!

SECOND NOTE: I wanted a deeper red color but don’t like to use commercial food colorings. So I made my own red coloring using a red beet. It’s quick to do and doesn’t affect the flavor of the curd. But, you don’t need to color the filling – it’s a pretty pink on its own – or you can use purchased coloring, if you want.

  • optional for deeper red color: 1 red beet
  • 12 oz cranberries (either fresh or frozen), rinsed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice (I use Pom)
  • 2 T lemon zest
  • optional: 2 tsp beet juice extracted from the beet
  • 8 T butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 2 eggs, whole
  • 2 yolks

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

If you want to make a deeper red colored tart:  wash, peel, and roughly chop beet. Place in a small saucepan with about 1/2 cup of water. Bring to boil and cook, uncovered, until water (which is now red) boils down to about 2 teaspoons. Let cool.cranberry tart9 In another saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, salt, pomegranate juice, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and cook until the cranberries start to pop – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. cranberry tart3Note: Possible suggestion (although I haven’t tried this): To eliminate the above step of separately boiling the beet, try quartering the peeled beet (so you can find them easier), and add them to the cranberries before boiling. Then remove the 4 beet pieces before running the cranberries through the food mill.

Place butter in a medium sized bowl. Set food mill or strainer on top of bowl and pour cranberry mixture through the food mill or strainer. Extract as much liquid as you can. The hot liquid will melt the butter and cool down the liquid. cranberry tart4Beat the whole eggs and yolks together in a small bowl, then slowly whisk into the cranberry mixture. Add beet juice (if using).cranberry tart8 Clean out the saucepan you used for cooking the cranberries. Pour the filling through a strainer (to remove any bits from the egg and/or cranberries) into the empty saucepan. This takes some time since it’s thick! You don’t HAVE to do this step, but the curd is silkier if you remove the bits. You can see what would have been left in the curd if I hadn’t strained.cranberry tart7Over medium heat, cook until thickened, stirring often – about 5 minutes.cranberry tart6 When oven is preheated, pour filling into cooled crust. (Make sure tart pan is still sitting on a cookie sheet – you really don’t want to chance pushing up on the bottom!)

Bake at 350º F about 8 minutes, until center 3″ is still jiggly but sides are firm. Don’t wait until center is firm or it’ll be overcooked. Remove from oven. cranberry tart1While tart is still hot, remove tart pan side by very carefully scooting the tart pan from the cookie sheet onto a wide can or bowl. (Make sure the diameter of the bowl is smaller than the tart pan opening.) Gently press down on tart pan edge and it should fall right down. Don’t move the tart yet – let it completely cool before moving it. cranberry tart2Once tart is completely cooled, remove tart pan base – it may crack if it’s still warm. To remove base, run a thin, long implement (or maybe unflavored dental floss – I haven’t tried that, though) between crust and tart pan bottom. Carefully, nudge tart onto a serving plate.

Chill at least 6 hours. Making it the day ahead is best.

ROMAN GNOCCHI: A Semolina Sensation!

roman gnocchi textWe’re all familiar with the POTATO GNOCCHI – awhile back I even posted a recipe for POTATO GNOCCHI WITH SAGE BUTTER:gnocchi 2But gnocchi are merely dumplings that are made from various things besides potatoes, such as wheat flour, cheese, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, and semolina flour – the basis for this Roman Gnocchi recipe.

Roman Gnocchi are fast and easy to make and can be formed ahead of time – I love make-ahead recipes! They can be served as a first, side, or main course, depending on how many one eats.

Note:  I store my semolina flour in the freezer since I don’t use it that often.

ROMAN GNOCCHI – makes 12

  • 2½ cups milk (use whatever you have)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 4 T butter, divided
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 tsp dried crushed rosemary (or 1 tsp fresh chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
  • topping sauce of your choice (marinara, cheese sauce, butter sauce)

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring milk up to simmer. Add in salt and nutmeg. roman gnocchi7Very slowly pour in semolina, stirring constantly to prevent lumps (a whisk is best for this). Once all the semolina in mixed in, decrease heat to low and cook 3-5 minutes, until it becomes very thick and pulls away from the sides of pan. (Don’t undercook or the gnocchi will taste floury.) Let cool 4 minutes. roman gnocchi11Cut 3 T of the butter into pieces and stir them into the dough until all butter is melted and incorporated. roman gnocchi10Mix in the beaten egg, Gruyère, rosemary, and baking powder. roman gnocchi8With the remaining 1 T butter grease an 8″ x 8″ baking pan (or one of equivalent size). Dip a 1/4 cup measuring cup into water to wet it, then fill it with dough. Empty onto the pan, using your fingers to fix the shape, if needed. Dip measuring cup into water each time – this helps release the dough. You should get around 12 gnocchi. roman gnocchi1Chill at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit. roman gnocchi3Sprinkle Parmesan on top of gnocchi and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

 

CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Eat As Much As You Want!

cauliflower soup6
Once again, we’re nearing sweater-shedding season and those holiday pounds are coming home to roost. But weight-loss doesn’t have to be painful. Starting a meal with a bowl of soup takes the edge off hunger, keeping you from inhaling two helpings of the main course. And, of course, soup can become a main course.

This low-cal CAULIFLOWER SOUP recipe is full of flavor and fills you up enough to leave the table sated. It’s, also, very quick and easy to make.

CAULIFLOWER SOUP – makes about 5½ cups

  • 6 T butter, divided
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4½ cups water
  • 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 3 T chives, chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice

In a 4 quart or more sized pot, melt 3 T butter over medium heat. Add in the shallot, onions, and salt. Sauté until onions are soft, but not brown – about 7 minutes. cauliflower soup3Cut out stem core from cauliflower. Remove and discard the outside area – you’ll see a difference in color – then slice up the remaining core. cauliflower soup1Cut the head into 1/2″ slabs. cauliflower soup2Remove 1 cup of cauliflower florets and cut into about 1/2″ pieces – these will become garnish. Set them aside.

Put half of the slabs and all of the core pieces into the pot with the onions. Add in the water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add in the rest of the cauliflower, bring to boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook another 15 minutes, uncovered. cauliflower soup5While the soup is cooking, prepare the garnish:  Into a small skillet, melt the remaining 3 T butter. Add in the garnish cauliflower pieces and sauté over medium/high until golden brown – about 7-9 minutes. cauliflower soup4With slotted spoon remove cauliflower bits to a small bowl. Stir in the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt. Save the butter in the skillet – that will be garnish, too.

Once the soup has cooked, pour it into a blender and purée. You may need to do this in batches if you don’t have a large blender. The soup is hot, so don’t overfill the pitcher. Start blending at a very slow speed, working your way up, so it doesn’t splatter. Clean out pot and add the pureed soup. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning – I add at least a tsp of salt and some ground pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, add in some cauliflower pieces, sprinkle on chives, and drizzle with a little butter from the skillet. (If you want to cut down on calories, don’t do the butter drizzle.)

MASHED POTATOES & PARSNIPS: Add A Little Sweetness!

mashed pot & parsnips textMashed potatoes can get a little boring. True, they’re filling, easy, cheap, and everyone likes them. But, maybe it’s time to add in mashed parsnips…you know, to shake things up a bit.

If you’ve never had a parsnip, it’s really time you did. They have a slight sweetness, kind of like a carrot. In fact, the two are related.

And, just to show you what an adventurous gal I am, I use Yukon gold potatoes in this recipe, rather than the standard russet for mashed potatoes.

MASHED POTATOES & PARSNIPS – makes 3½ cups

  • 4 T butter
  • 8 oz parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices (cut fat end into half moons)
  • 1½ lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ circles
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock (homemade or purchased)
  • 3/4 cup half & half (or half cream & half milk)
  • 2 T chives, chopped

Melt butter in pot and add parsnips. Over medium/high heat, sauté until browned – about 10 minutes.mashed pot & parsnips2 Place potato slices in strainer and rinse well to remove excess starch. Let drain. mashed pot & parsnips5When parsnips have browned, add potatoes to the pot. Cover, decrease heat to low, and cook about 20 minutes – until potatoes are tender. Uncover pot and let set 2 minutes to allow steam to escape.mashed pot & parsnips3 Mash mixture until smooth. mashed pot & parsnips4Warm the milk and pour 1/2 cup of it into the potatoes. (Use the rest, if needed. Save it for any leftover mash.) Add in chives and fold mixture gently together. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

 

GLUTEN-FREE CRACKERS: So Easy, So Good!

crackers textI’ve been a from-scratch cook for as long as I can remember, pushing the boundaries over the years as to what I would make and what I would buy. (Puff pastry and filo dough are still on my “never in a million years” list.)

While I whip up homemade tortillas, pasta, yogurt, and pie crusts without a thought, it never occurred to me to make crackers. I don’t even buy them unless we have company. But then I came across an America’s Test Kitchen recipe for paleo crackers and I was intrigued.

Of course, I tried them. Not only were they easy, but very tasty. The only issue I had was rolling them evenly since they’re so thin. I ended up buying rolling pin rings (they’re rubber bands) that fit on either side of the pin, allowing for a consistent depth. I used the 1/16″ size.

NOTE: It’s really best to weigh flours to get an accurate dough consistency.

GLUTEN-FREE CRACKERS

  • 2¼ oz (3/4 cup) almond flour
  • 1/2 oz (2 T) coconut flour
  • 1/2 oz (2 T) arrowroot flour (or arrowroot powder found in the spice section)
  • 1½ tsp sesame seeds, toasted, divided
  • 1½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted, divided
  • 1½ tsp poppy seeds, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 2½ T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ egg whites, divided
  • 1 T water

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Toast sesame and fennel seeds in a toasteroven or dry skillet. (You don’t need to toast poppy seeds.) Watch carefully – they can burn quickly. (Toasting brings out their flavor.)

Into a small bowl combine the 1/2 tsp sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp poppy seeds, and 1/4 tsp salt. Set aside.cracker2Into a bowl combine the almond flour, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, remaining 1 tsp sesame seeds1 tsp fennel seeds1 tsp poppy seeds, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and onion powder.cracker3 In another small bowl whisk 1 egg white to break it up. Then whisk in the olive oil and the 1 T water. cracker1Pour egg white mix into the flour mixture and blend together with a spoon, until all flour is incorporated.cracker7 Lay out a sheet of parchment paper (NOT waxed paper). Place the dough in the middle and form it into a square with your hands – this will help the dough roll into a rectangular shape.cracker11 Cover with waxed paper (or parchment). Roll out the dough to a 12″x10″ rectangle – or as close as you can get. Mine was nowhere near that – it really doesn’t matter. The dough should be of even thickness – 1/16th inch. The bands really helped with that.cracker13 Carefully remove waxed paper and set it aside. cracker6Beat the remaining 1/2 egg white and generously brush entire top of dough. You won’t need all of the white so you can put the leftover in a small container and freeze it for next time (waste not, want not).cracker10 Sprinkle on the seed blend you set aside. Cover with the waxed paper and gently run your hand over top to press in the seeds. (Without the waxed paper the seeds will stick to your hand.) Remove and discard waxed paper. Lightly score top with a dull knife to desired shapes. cracker5Slide parchment onto a rimless baking sheet (I prefer silver colored). Bake at 375º F for 14-18 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking time to promote even baking, until lightly browned. The edges always turned darker for me.cracker4Slide parchment onto wire rack to cool completely. Break apart crackers at scored lines.

GLUTEN-FREE CRACKERS go great with hummus. Here’s my super-easy recipe: HUMMUS

 

 

BAKED ZITI: A Go-To Favorite!

ziti textBAKED ZITI is, admittedly, not a very pretty dish. But it’s absolutely delicious, and a kid-pleaser, to boot. (With my picky-eater children, this is a huge thing!)

The most time consuming part about BAKED ZITI is preparing the marinara sauce. This takes about 15 minutes for the normal person, and about 25 minutes for obsessive people – like me – who rather than buy canned chopped tomatoes, buy canned whole and then cut out the stem ends, imperfections, and any skin. THEN I chop them. (I’m not sure the companies do all that – I suspect they just wash them and throw them in a machine.)

However, if you like this BAKED ZITI recipe, next time double, triple, etc. the marinara and freeze in portions for future use. The rest of the recipe is very easy and quick.

I guess this would be a good time to acknowledge that while the preparation is fast, the bake time is 1 hour, plus a 20 minute set time. BUT THIS IS ALL HANDS OFF!!!

BAKED ZITI – makes 5-6 servings (unless you have a teenager)

Marinara:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 14 oz tomato sauce
  • 8 oz canned whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1½ fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup + 1 T fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Casserole:

  • 1/2 lb uncooked ziti (or other tubular pasta)
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 2¼ oz (3/4 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
  • 1/2 lb whole milk cottage cheese
  • 3½ oz (1 cup) Mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided

If you already have the marinara sauce made, then go straight to the Casserole instructions.

Marinara:  In a large skillet or saucepan heat the olive oil over medium flame. Add in the garlic and sauté about 30 seconds – until fragrant. Turn off heat and add in the tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, and oregano. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower flame to maintain the simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes to thicken a bit. lasagna prep15Turn off heat and stir in 1/4 cup basil, sugar, and pepper.

Casserole: Bring 2 quarts of water to a full boil. Add in 1/2 T salt and the ziti. ziti7Cook for 5 minutes. SET A TIMER! You don’t need to cook it fully right now – it will continue to cook in the oven. Pour pasta into a strainer to drain, but don’t shake it to remove water.

While pasta is cooking, combine cornstarch and cream in a small bowl. flour-pasteIn another bowl, beat egg with a fork then mix in 1/2 cup (1.5 oz) Parmesan and cottage cheese. ziti6Once the pasta is draining, pour the cornstarch-cream mixture into the now-empty pot. Over a low heat, bring to boil.ziti8 Immediately turn off flame and stir in the cottage cheese mixture.  ziti9Add in half of the mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the marinara. ziti1Stir in the cooked ziti, breaking up stuck together pasta. ziti2Pour into an 8″ x 8″ casserole dish (or it’s equivalent). ziti3Top with remaining marinara sauce, then sprinkle on remaining mozzarella, followed by the rest of the Parmesan. ziti4Cover with a lid or foil and bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle on 1 T basil. ziti5Let set 20 minutes before serving.