Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Easy Scrumptious Butternut Squash Pizza



     I am a member of the "Lamest Book Club Ever".  I know that sounds disrespectful to the other members, but that is what we call ourselves!  Although we all love to read, coordinating meeting times to accomodate everyone's busy lives has been quite a challenge and we usually end up rescheduling just about every meeting.  However, another thing we love to do is cook and eat!  Last month we had a pitch-in dinner and my friend Tanya brought butternut squash that was so delicious that we all went crazy over it.  I knew Tanya was super smart, but I'd didn't realize how talented she was at putting wonderful flavors together!  Her dish added basil, walnuts, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar to the squash and the result was amazing!  My craving for this yummy combination led me use the same ingredients, but I put it on a ready made whole wheat pizza crust.  My family declared it as "scrumptious"!  Enjoy!


Ingredients:



1 whole wheat ready made pizza crust

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash

1/4 cup diced shallots (or red onion)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

4 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Place the squash cubes and diced shallots in an oven safe dish.  Toss them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Roast them in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until they are tender.

Mix in the basil and the walnuts to the squash mixture.  Spread this evenly over the pizza crust.

Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the pizza.  Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Luscious Butternut Squash Soup!

          One thing we really enjoy when the weather starts to get cold is soup.  I especially love comforting bowls of thick creamy soup such as the kind chain restaurants have, but they can be a bit pricey and, I suspect, not very good for my waistline!  Our Aunt Lynn says you can take any type of vegetable or fruit, cook it until it's tender, and then food process or blend it into a lovely soup.  She says it's "the French way to make soup" and she should know - she lived in Switzerland for seven years.  I've adopted her technique and it works equally as well with my hand held immersion blender as it does with a food processor or regular blender.  It makes soup seem rich and thick without using flour for a roux -  good news for people who need to avoid wheat.  For this soup, I included Granny Smith apples and a bit of curry powder to add a tang and a kick that our family loves!

 

Ingredients for 4 to 6 servings:

 

1 medium sized butternut squash

2 medium sized Granny Smith apples

1 medium sized yellow onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 (15 oz.) cans chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup half and half (optional)

Directions:


Peel the apples and the squash.  Scrape the seeds out of the squash and cube enough of it to make about 4 1/2 cups.  Core the apple and cube it also.  Set the apples and squash aside.



Dice the onion and saute it in the olive oil until it is soft and tender.  Then add the curry powder and garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.  Pour in the two cans of broth.



Add the cubed squash and apples along with the salt and the pepper.  Bring the mixture up to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Cook until the squash and apples are tender.  A fork should go through them easily since they are going to be pureed.



Use an immersion blender or process the mixture in two batches.  If desired, add the half and half, stir well, and heat again if neccessary but do not bring the soup back up to a boil.  If you do not use the half and half, you might want to add at least 1/2 cup more broth so that the soup is not so thick.  Half and half is a splurge but it's lower in fat than cream!



Another splurge is serving them with croutons!  Cut bread into cubes and brown in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil. Asiago bread is great for this!

 



Easy Autumn Meal

     My favorite go-to meal for autumn entertaining evolved out of a sweet potato salad. The salad was developed as a way to ease our cousins' distress - their dad was (and is!) addicted to sweet potatoes and made them several times a week, but always with mini-mashmallows.  I tried to invent some tasty but easy alternatives he could try.  The resulting sweet potato salad and four other recipes became Yates Yummies most visited post! Since then, I started serving the salad on a bed of baby spinach and then topping it off with sliced grilled chicken. So far this month I've served it at three different gatherings - it's that quick and easy to make.   The recipe for the apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressed sweet potato salad is also featured on Cooking Planit HERE  The grilled chicken is rubbed with a fall-festive blend of sage, garlic, and other spices; it's aroma is heavenly! I also like to skewer pears, apples, and cheese on cake pop sticks tied the end with raffia. Then I chop up the extra fruit and put it in the apple cider served in canning jars.  Hot Caramel Pears (or Apples) over ice cream is a great dessert to finish this meal off - you'll find it HERE .

Click HERE for printable recipes


The Menu:

     Sage Thyme Grilled Chicken

     Sweet Potato Salad on Baby Spinach

     Skewered Fall Fruit and Cheese

     Apple Cider


Sage Thyme Grilled Chicken


Ingredients:


4 to 6 chicken breasts

2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press

1 sprig fresh sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:


Cut the sage leaves off their stem and chop them up.  Blend them with the rest of the ingredients to make a paste.  Rub the mixture on the front and the back of the breasts.


Grill them over medium low for about 7 minutes a side.  Or, bake them at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.  Let them rest about 5 minutes before you slice them to put on the salad.


Skewered slices of fall fruit and cheese make a great accent to this autumn entree salad. 

Autumn Sweet Potato Rice Salad

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 Granny Smith apples
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Directions:

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes. Cook them in salted water until tender, but not overdone. Cook rice according to package directions. Put sweet potato cubes, rice, apple, celery, and onion in bow.  Whisk vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder together. Pour vinegar and oil mixture over ingredients in the bowl and gently toss.

Cider with the extra cut up fruit is just a bit more fun served in Ball glass canning jars!


 



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Something Special - Sauced Scallops






       One summer when Caroline was about twelve and Jenn was nine, they spent two weeks in an overnight camp a couple states away.  I remember that after the six hour drive home, Allison (who was six), burst into spontaneous tears when we walked into our house without her sisters.  A few years later, all three of the girls attended camp at the same time and then it was me who felt like bursting into tears!  To cheer myself up, I got busy with several different projects like making curtains and painting - but I found what really made me happy was cooking dishes that veered away from our usual daily fare.  I got busy with my trusty Betty Crocker's International Cookbook and found a recipe for Coquilles Saint-Jacques a la Parisienne (Scallops in Wine Sauce).  Roy loved it and felt like it was something really special!  Yesterday Jenn flew to Argentina to visit Allison who is studying there for a year.  When I came home after taking her to the airport, I got that "empty house" feeling again.  Suddenly, I got the urge to make this yummy scallop dish; both Roy and I still think it's something special!

   

 


Ingredients for Four Servings:

1 pound jumbo scallops

2/3 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/3 cups sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons of sliced green onions

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup bread crumbs

1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter

 
 

Directions:

Place the scallops and wine in a saucepan.  Add just enough water to cover the scallops.  Bring them up to a boil and then turn down the heat and allow the scallops to simmer until they are white throughout.  Be careful not to cook them too long - they become rubbery of you do! Take the scallops out of the pan and set them aside.  Take the liquid out of the pan and set it aside.  Using the same pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter; then add the mushrooms and green onions and saute them until tender.  Now take them out of the pan and set them aside.

 
 

 Next, melt the three tablespoons of butter and whisk in the 3 tablespoons of flour.  Cook over low heat until this mixture is bubbly.  Whisk in one cup of the reserved liquid and cook over low heat - stirring constantly - until the liquid thickens. 

 
 

 Take it off the heat and add in the reserved scallops, mushroom mixture, 1/4 cup of the cheese, half-and-half, salt and stir until combined.  Spoon the mixture into four oven proof serving dishes.  Divide the remaining 1/4 cup cheese over the four servings.

 
 

  Mix the bread crumbs with the melted butter and sprinkle some over each serving.  Place the dishes in the oven and broil until the bread crumbs are toasted.  Watch carefully!  They burn very quickly if left unattended!