Stuffed Acorn Squash

As mentioned in an earlier post, I deliberately make extra stuffing at Thanksgiving, follow this link for my recipe.

While at the market yesterday I saw this pretty little acorn squash and thought…”hmm, this would be delicious filled with my leftover, unbaked stuffing”. I was right – here’s how I did it:

Stuffed Acorn Squash  serves 2

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Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the squash in half and scoop out seeds.
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Brush the edges of the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, place face down into a baking dish for  30 minutes.
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I used a bowl to tightly pack 1 1/2 cups unbaked stuffing per half squash. Remove the squash from the oven, flip it, scoop  packed stuffing into the cavity  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until squash is softened.
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Add a glass of red wine, enjoy every bite.

 

Prosciutto, Fig & Spinach Pizza

Some nights I imagine I’m on Chopped (perhaps my favorite of all shows on The Food Network) and decide to challenge myself based on featuring four random ingredients and transforming them into something that would delight the Chopped judges – or in this case me.  Okay guys, work with me here……

In my Chopped fantasy, Ted Allen asks me to open the basket and announces my four mystery ingredients:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Prosciutto
  • Dried Black Mission Figs
  • Hazelnuts

If you regularly watch Chopped, you’re likely thinking I got lucky – no gummy worms, eel or headcheese in my basket.  Keep in mind, if I were on Chopped (seriously on my bucket list) it would be a home-chef episode. For those shows they typically don’t give the contestants something that would send them running from the studio in tears.

Here’s what I decided to make with my basket ingredients:

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees, place your baking stone in the oven. Mix together a pizza crust mix (add water, olive oil, knead, cover rest for 10 minutes)  Place dried figs into boiling water to hydrate – set aside. Prepare the toppings – prosciutto,  chopped shallots, spinach, slice the figs in half. Using a cutting board with a dusting of corn meal and garlic powder, manipulate the pizza dough into the desired shape and thickness. Place the prosciutto, spinach, shallots, figs onto the unbaked crust, add red pepper flakes and top with shredded mozzarella and a drizzle of good olive oil.  Pull the heated baking stone from the oven and slide the pizza onto the stone.  Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the crust is nicely browned.  Remove from oven, top with chopped hazelnuts and cool for five minutes.  Slice and enjoy.

And yes, in my Chopped fantasy – the judges not only rave about my culinary skills but I’m offered my own show on The Food Network on the spot.  Of course, I humbly accept their accolades and realize I’m going to have to come out of retirement to do my show but this is a tradeoff I must make to follow my passion….

 

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

On Sunday when Mom came to dinner, she brought me three perfect, lavender baby eggplants from the Farmer’s Market.  I wish I’d thought to take a “before” picture.

I thought of what I had on hand – fresh Michigan tomatoes,  fragrant basil from my herb garden, tart goat cheese and toasted breadcrumbs made from my homemade croutons and came up with this recipe last night.

They were….phenomenal.  And I’m going to share how I did it in case you’d like to make these little melt-in-your-mouth bites of goodness. They would be great for appetizers, side dishes or a meatless entree.

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

  • three baby eggplants
  • 1 c fresh chopped tomato
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • sea salt
  • garlic powder
  • olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c goat cheese
  • breadcrumbs

Trim the tops and bottoms off each eggplant then slice them in half. Place the eggplant halves on paper towels, flesh side up and salt them. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. After 15 minutes, blot the eggplant and drizzle olive oil over the cut side lightly coating the surface. Place them flesh side down on a grill pan (I used my cast iron one) and roast them for 15 minutes.  Chop the tomatoes, add sea salt and garlic powder to taste, chiffonade then stir in the basil and set aside. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the eggplant over (skin side down), top them with chunks of goat cheese, chopped tomatoes mixture, then a sprinkle of the crunchy breadcrumbs and place them back into the oven. Turn the oven off and remove them after 3-5 minutes until the goat cheese is warmed and softened.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats

I’ve mentioned my maternal grandfather and his talent for cooking in earlier posts, sharing some of his best recipes with my followers.  This is one, once discovered, that he made often for us; I haven’t made it in years. Farmer’s Markets are currently brimming with vibrantly fresh zucchini and I’ve been thinking how hungry I am for this easy and satisfying dish. As always, I’ve tweaked the recipe but just a bit…. and it was great!

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats  serves 4-8

  • 3 – 4 zucchini
  • 1 lb italian sausage
  • 1/3 c chopped shallots
  • 1-2 large cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan + more for topping
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 c plain bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 t fresh thyme (you can use dried)
  • red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Start by boiling salted water in a large deep pot. Place the zucchini (whole) in the pot for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

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In another pan, brown the sausage, onions, garlic and green pepper, drain.

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Slice the zucchini in half, scoop out the middles (I used a melon baller), saving them for the stuffing.  Turn them face down on a paper towels to dry a bit, then place face up in an oven safe dish.

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In a separate bowl, chop the zucchini that was scooped out.  To that, add the egg, parmesan, mozzarella, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, thyme and red pepper flakes. Stir just to combine.  Add the cooled sausage mixture, stir together. Spoon the sausage filling into  the zucchini.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and top with a few handfuls of parmesan and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until melted. Let them rest for 5 minutes and serve. Bon appetit!

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I made these the day before which allowed the flavors to blend even more.  I removed them from the refrigerator about an hour before baking and served them with my (famous) bruschetta.  Watch for that recipe in future posts…..

 

 

Easy Slow-Cooker Baby Back Ribs

I have a confession.  I have never successfully prepared ribs….until earlier this week.  My failure many years ago left such an indelible memory that I decided it was easier to order them out.  Then came the challenge from my Mom.

“You’re such a great cook, how come you never make ribs?”  

Well, this week after researching “baby back ribs” and “slow cooker” on Pinterest I decided, “if not now, when?”  Challenge accepted!

Spence is out of town visiting his best friend and I needed a dinner partner to honestly critique my creation, a compilation of several recipes. Mom was happy to oblige. It was a simple, set it and forget it preparation and most importantly they were delicious!

Easy Slow-Cooker Baby Back Ribs   – serves 2-4

  • 3 lbs baby back ribs
  • Dry Rub Spice for Pork  (I used one from Market Street Saloon in Charleston SC)
  • 1/2 vidalia onion – cut into thick slices
  • 1 can A&W Diet Root Beer (you can use Coca Cola)
  • BBQ Sauce (I used Open Pit Original)

First remove the silver skin from the backside of the ribs.  Thanks to Pinterest, I learned that by slipping a butter knife under it, pulling gently backwards it will come off easily – if it’s too slippery pull it with a kitchen towel.  (Omitting this step had lots to do with my epic fail years ago).

Cut the rack of ribs into 3 sections. Generously cover all surfaces of the ribs with the dry rub and massage into the meat.  Wrap the ribs and put them back into the refrigerator for 24 hours if you have the time.

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I used a Reynolds Slow Cooker Bag which incidentally makes clean up super easy.

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Place the sliced onion at the bottom of the slow cooker followed by the can of root beer.

Next place the ribs into the liquid and turn your slow cooker to the low setting. Cover and step away for 3 hours.  After 3 hours, turn the ribs reversing the top side with the bottom and cover again.  Let them slow cook for another 3 hours.

Set oven at 375 degrees. Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and place onto a foil covered pan.  Baste all surfaces of the ribs with BBQ sauce. Place into the oven for 10-15 minutes until the sauce carmelizes.  Serve and enjoy!

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Mexican Stuffed Mini-Peppers

This recipe was created as a result of brown rice and taco meat from earlier this week as well as my purchase of those beautiful tri-color mini-peppers.  It was easy and absolutely delicious.

Mini-Stuffed Peppers – serves 4  Weight Watcher Smart Points 6

  • 1 c taco meat (see my recipe below)
  • 1 c brown rice
  • 1 T chopped parsley
  • 1 can Rotel Tomatoes with green chilies – drained, reserve liquid
  • 1/2 c finely shredded cheese
  • 16-20 mini-peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut in half

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the meat, rice, parsley and tomatoes together.

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Load each half pepper with about a tablespoon of filling and place into a large casserole dish. It’s fine if the filling spills over the sides a bit. If there is extra filling after you’ve wedged all the peppers in the casserole simply spoon it over the top. Pour the reserved liquid over the peppers.  Top with cheese.

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Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

Taco Meat

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • minced jalapeno
  • minced garlic
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper

Brown the ground beef with the items above – to your taste. Drain and blot any excess grease with a paper towel.  This meat is what I prefer for the recipe above as well as tacos, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas or taco salad.

Shrimp Stir-Fry

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Shrimp Stir-Fry   serves 2  Weight Watchers Smart Points 5 

  • 24 cooked shrimp
  • Veggies for stir fry: carrots, celery, sweet white onion, shitake mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli
  • 2 t peanut oil

Additional flavor elements: Grated fresh ginger, 2-3 garlic cloves minced, green onion – minced, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, juice from one half lemon, chopped flat leaf parsley, baby arugula and red pepper flakes to taste.

Stir-fry the veggies, adding the shrimp, arugula and parsley at the very end. Top with 1 oz chopped cashews when serving.

Orange Carrot Zucchini Bread

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I recently came up with this recipe after looking at Pinterest seeking a way to use both frozen shredded zucchini and a partial bag of carrots.  I found several recipes, each which had appeal – and took ideas from each.

After I made this bread, I shared it with my Mom and my lifelong BFF, both who gave it a big thumbs up.  It remains moist even after a few days, the orange zest and cinnamon giving it a delicious flavor, chopped walnuts adding texture and  the flecks of orange and green make it look festive.  I loved it so much that I made two loaves this morning to enjoy over Thanksgiving and the weekend.

Orange Carrot Zucchini Bread – makes 2 loaves

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3/4 c canola oil
  • 2/3 c orange juice
  • 1 1/2 c shredded zucchini – squeeze out any excess liquid
  • 1 1/2 c finely chopped carrots
  • 3 1/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 t orange zest
  • 3 t cinnamon
  • 1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat four eggs until they are a creamy yellow, add sugar and beat till blended, followed by oil, orange juice and orange zest.

Add all dry ingredients, blending as you go.  Fold in the zucchini, carrots and walnuts.

Grease and flour two loaf pans. Pour the batter evenly between the pans, it will rise as it bakes.  Check after 45 minutes by testing with a toothpick, if not clean when tested, place back in oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Cool on a rack, loosen around the edges with a knife.  After cooling turn out of loaf pans and if completely cooled, wrap in foil or plastic wrap.

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