Oven-Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots

With Autumn upon us, I’m in that mindset to switch to my colder weather cooking – casseroles, crockpots and last Sunday, my mouth-watering pot roast.  I’d bought the most perfect carrots at the Farmer’s Market and thought they’d be a colorful and tasty side dish.

While I could have dropped them in with the simmering pot roast I wanted to change it up and do something visually stunning and delicious.  Though it’s in the seventies today, on Sunday our furnace was on and having the oven fired up was welcome, making the kitchen cozy.

After perusing lots of recipes, as usual, I took those ingredients that looked the best from several recipes and came up with this.  Visually stunning – check.  Delicious – check. I wanted to share it as it would make a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving.

Oven-Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots

  • 6-8 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch long sticks
  • 3-4 T honey
  • 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • chopped flat leaf parsley, chives and thyme for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a shallow baking pan with foil (for super easy clean up), drizzle with olive oil and smear to cover the surface.

In a bowl, mix the olive oil, honey, pepper, salt and balsamic till blended.  Add the carrot sticks and toss to completely coat them.  Place the carrots in a single layer onto the pan, use a spatula to get any excess glaze out of the bowl and drizzled over the top.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, onto your serving platter and top with the chopped herbs.  If you don’t have honey or want to make this vegan, maple syrup would be wonderful as a substitution.

Sweet Potato Brûlée

So I’m having my mom over for dinner today and along with my famous rotisserie chicken, I wanted to create a new side dish.  Since Spence turned my mom onto sweet potatoes, she’s become a huge fan (as have I) and I came up with this idea.  This would also be a nice way to change up left-over baked sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Brûlée  serves 2-4

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • nutmeg
  • orange zest
  • sea salt
  • 2 t brown sugar

Bake the sweet potatoes after rubbing the skin with olive oil and salt at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Allow them to cool then slice them in half and using a soup spoon, scoop out the flesh (as intact as possible) and place into a buttered baking dish.

Using a microplane, dust the potatoes with nutmeg (to taste).  Using the microplane again, zest the orange over the top of the potatoes (to taste).  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Crumble the brown sugar so it is fine, no clumps, then sprinkle lightly over the potatoes.

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Preheat the broiler, placing these on the next to top rack for a few minutes, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn.  When the top looks bubbly and like a brûlée remove from over and rest for five minutes, then enjoy!

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Can I just say this…..yummy!

 

 

 

 

 

Morels with Herbed Butternut Sage Pappardelle

Let me start by saying “I LOVE MOREL MUSHROOMS”.

Many years ago I tried morels after Spence returned from a visit to Charlevoix (in northern Michigan) with a paper lunch bag chock full of them. They grew on private wooded property belonging to his friend Don.  I’d only heard of morels but knew they were not to be squandered. I proceeded to prepare scrumptious meals over the following days with this “gift”; we were in foodie heaven.

And I was hooked.

On very rare, random occasions I’ve come across morels since then and always succumb to their allure.  A dear, lifelong friend was coming this past Wednesday for a visit and I was grocery shopping when my eyes locked on two boxes.  They were perfect and they were mine. There was no price – I didn’t care! I now knew what the menu for the following night would be.  After I’d purchased them I texted Jerene to ask “do you like Morels?“. Almost instantly she replied “I love them” (not a surprise as she is a fellow foodie).

My herb garden is bursting and I went foraging to find those which would complement the “recipe” I was formulating.  “Which pasta?” I pondered.  I recalled during my recent visit with her in Grand Rapids, I’d purchased a box of artisan Butternut Sage Pappardelle made at this amazing market that we’d visited. “Perfect!” I thought since I’d already planned to use the gorgeous sage growing on my patio. Funny how a plan comes together right?  Here’s how I prepared it:

Morels with Herbed Butternut Sage Pappardelle     serves 4-6

  • 7 oz Butternut Sage Pappardelle
  • 12 oz morel mushrooms
  • 1 minced shallot
  • fresh chopped herbs – flat leaf parsley, sage, thyme, garlic & regular chives, rosemary
  • really good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 – 2 T all purpose flour

It is important to soak the morels in salted water for at least twenty minutes (per Pinterest morels have all these little crevices and tiny insects could be lurking…).   Drain and rinse them thoroughly and place on paper towels in a single layer and let them air dry.

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Morels, one of nature’s special treats

While the morels are drying, all the herbs should be given a fine chop.  I kept them seperated so that I could add pinches as I went along, saving some for garnishing.

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Heat a deep skillet, adding the butter and enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Add the shallots and saute for about 2 minutes.

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Raise the heat to medium high.  Toss the mushrooms with that little bit of flour, they’ll be coated very lightly.  Add them to the skillet with the shallots.  Move them around as you want them to cook for about six minutes, browning a bit.  Start adding pinches of the various herbs to taste.
While they are cooking, prepare the pasta per the package instructions, drain and drizzle with olive oil, toss in some of the herbs. Add the morels to the pasta, tossing gently.  Garnish with any herbs that remain.  As a special treat, I fried 10 velvety sage leaves in a bit of butter till they begin to crisp and topped the pasta with them.  Serve immediately and bon appetit!

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OMG – so delicious!

I served this meal with a salad of baby spinach, sliced strawberries, dried cherry covered goat cheese, toasted pecans, slivered red onion and avocado chunks, dressed with a White Peach & Strawberry Vinegar, EVOO and a pinch of sea salt.

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As a side dish, I wrapped bundles of 4 asparagus spears with a slice of prosciutto, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest and cracked black pepper, roasted at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.

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Tasty Tuesday … Homemade German Spaetzle

Spence and I love Spaetzle and I’ve long harbored a desire to make it from scratch. Spence bought me a Spaetzle maker late last year and I set it aside. Till now. Check out this truly authentic recipe from a blogger I follow, incahootswithmuddyboots.com. And wish me luck!

in cahoots with muddy boots

Growing up in Germany, we ate homemade Spätzle fairly regularly. The side dishes served with these tastily little morsels depend  on the region you live in. We generally ate brown lentils perked up with a splash of vinegar and Wiener Würstchen along with the Spätzle.
First we would make the batter, let it rest and then cook the Spätzle in salted water. When all the batter was used, we would sauté a finely chopped onion with some garlic in butter, add the drained Spätzle and fry them until they got a bit crispy in spots. Last but not least, we would sprinkle some Swiss mountain cheese over the top. Before you knew, a huge pan full of these popular little noodles had disappeared!

It has been a long time since I’ve made Spätzle at home. A while back I

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My Famous Roasted Chestnut, Sausage & Apple Stuffing (or Dressing)

Here's the ingredients, prepped and ready to go, plus a glass of wine for the cook!
Here’s the ingredients, prepped and ready to go, plus a glass of wine for the cook!

I know, I know. It’s stuffing if it goes inside the turkey and dressing if not. Whatever you call it, mine is seriously without equal.  Here you see the ingredients of what goes into it.  It’s just Spence and I on Thanksgiving and what looks like overkill on the quantity that I make, I call smart.  At least half of what I make I freeze – unbaked in air-tight freezer bags and some in large size muffin tins (once frozen popping them into freezer bags as well).  I make rotisserie and baked chicken throughout the year and this makes the best side dish, lovely to have on hand – simply thaw and bake!

This recipe is flexible. I’m going to list the ingredients and you can make as much or as little as you need:

Cubed leftover bread (I always have a lot in the freezer) I use a mixture some artisan, bakery & grocery store “regular” bread – even cubing up leftover cornbread if I have it on hand.  Place all cubed bread on a sheet pan in the oven overnight with the oven light on to let it dry out. (turn oven on lowest setting for 30-60 minutes the day of assembly if it’s still too soft)

Additionally I use both the Pepperidge Farm seasoned Classic Stuffing & Country Style cubed stuffing

1 lb cooked sage breakfast sausage, use your spatula to crumble it while it’s browning, drain off any grease and blot with a paper towel

Apples – I generally use two kinds and don’t peel them, just chop into bite size chunks

Lightly saute chopped onion and celery (about 6-8 minutes), in several tablespoons of butter, add some poultry seasoning during the saute.  I use equal quantities of onion and celery.

Chestnuts – I roast my own (check my blog for how-to roast chestnuts, link is below) if you want substitute toasted pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts.  (But the chestnuts are what make this special in my humble opinion)

Fresh herbs – flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary – adds both a pop of color but also lots of flavor, chop them. I use a mezzaluna (pictured above).

Poultry seasoning

Lots of chicken stock – have more on hand than you think you’ll need, trust me on this.

I assemble this using two very large mixing bowls and put half of the ingredients (except chicken stock) into each, little by little – and adding chicken stock and poultry seasoning along the way, stirring and then building more ingredients, seasoning and stock (you get it) until the prep station is cleared.

I fill a large oval baker and refrigerate this overnight – really packing it in (and fill a second one to refrigerate and bake later with leftovers. Freeze the rest). I take the oval baker (or casserole dish) out of the fridge on Thanksgiving morning to take the chill off. It will have absorbed a lot of stock overnight so drizzle an ample amount over the top. Bake this at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, uncovered, until it’s browning a bit and there’s some crunch happening on top. If you’re making this and have your oven set at another temp when this goes in it’s not a problem – just watch the top and feel for the crunch.

Bon appetit!

Assembled and ready to be baked tomorrow!
Assembled and ready to be baked tomorrow!

As promised, here’s the link on how-to roast chestnuts:

Roasting Chestnuts

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi

I love Gnocchi and when I saw this recipe being prepared on Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin, by actress Debi Mazar and her husband, talented Italian chef Gabriele Corcos, I went out immediately bought the ingredients and made it for Mom and Spence.  It was a huge hit – the fried fresh sage leaves from my garden made it extra delicious.

Fast forward to last night.  My lifelong BFF were attending a Harvest Meal, all plant based, locally sourced and delicious.  She has been a longtime advocate of meat free Mondays (and primarily eats vegetarian/vegan meals). It so happens that we are spending the next three days at her beautiful second home in the gorgeous Traverse City Michigan. Over dinner we discussed what we’d like to do while there and I suggested that I prepare dinner for Monday night.  I’d told her about this meal and she readily agreed.

I’ve kept the recipe very close to the original with only a few modifications.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi – serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a sidedish

  • 1 lb fresh spinach
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese (not low fat)
  • fresh grated Parmesan
  • 2 egg yolks – beaten
  • 4 T butter
  • sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • fresh lemon zest
  • fresh sage leaves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil (I use a huge pasta pot with a strainer.

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Add the spinach to the boiling water, pushing it down over the next minute to wilt it.

Pull the basket and drain the spinach immediately, plunging it into an ice water bath to halt the cooking.  Drain the spinach and squeeze out the water completely.  (I wrap it in several paper towels, then place that bundle inside a clean kitchen towel and squeeze it)

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Squeezed out, it looks much smaller

Chop the spinach very fine.

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Chopped

Place the spinach in a large bowl, add the ricotta, 4 T of parmesan, eggs yolks, salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon zest.

Stir to combine.  Shape the mixture into balls about the size of large walnuts.

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Butter a casserole dish and lay the gnocchi in it, dressing it with a few thin slices of buttter and more parmesan (I use a generous amount of parmesan).

Bake the gnocchi for 20 minutes then set under broiler for 5 minutes to brown the top.

In a medium skillet, melt 1 1/2 T of butter and saute the sage until it starts to brown.  Serve the gnocchi, dressed with the sage and butter sauce, sprinkle on more of the parmesan.

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Prepare to fall in love….so yummy.

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Chef’s note: You could use frozen chopped spinach in this recipe.  If I weren’t retired, I think I might do that as the blanching step is time consuming (but worth it).  I added the nutmeg and lemon zest which really puts this into the “over the top” amazing category, in my humble opinion. 

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes

  • Fresh green beans, trimmed
  • Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
  • Sweet white onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Finely shredded cheese
  • Salt, pepper & seasoning blend ( I like Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute or Melting Pot’s Garlic Wine Seasoning)

Trim green beans, place in steamer basket. Steam on high for 4-5 minutes, remove from heat. In a separate pan, drizzle oil and sauté onions until carmelized. Add tomatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and seasoning. Place beans into serving bowl, sprinkle with cheese, add tomatoes and onion, add more cheese and serve.