Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Butternut Squash Ravioli

It's been almost a week since I've done any cooking. We've been living off of Thanksgiving leftovers and eating out for a couple of meals! My cupboards were pretty bare, but I had a butternut squash that need cooked. I saw my new ravioli maker and thought butternut squash ravioli sounded good. Luckily, I had enough semolina flour for the pasta. This recipe is more labor intensive and took 2 hours from start to finish. The sauce was just an uncomplicated brown butter and sage. I also had turkey meatballs that my youngest son chose after sampling them at Target. They are their store brand and when my non-meat eater said they were good, I was sold!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce:
Serves 8


1 large butternut squash - halved lengthwise, peeled and seeded
2 teaspoons butter
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the squash cut side up on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon butter in the hollow of each half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the squash with a sheet of aluminum foil tucking in the edges. Bake squash in preheated oven until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 45 to 65 minutes. Scoop the cooked squash into a bowl, and mash until smooth. Mix in the allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and Parmesan cheese until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Semolina Pasta:
(1.5 lbs)
2 cups semolina
1 1/3 cups pasta flour
2 tbsp water plus more as needed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in mixing bowl. If you're using a KitchenAid mixer attach the flat beater and run that speed to 30 seconds. Change out the flat beater for the dough hook. Knead for two minutes. Add additional water 1 tbdp at a time as needed to bring the dough together. Turn out of the bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes don't overwork. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refridge for 1 hour. When you start to cut the dough, I've found it best to wrap the resting dough in damp paper towels. Either roll out by hand or run pieces through a pasta sheet maker. Flour a ravioli pan and place a sheet of pasta over it. Lightly press pasta into the wells of the pan. Cover with another sheet of pasta and the roll over all to seal and cut the edges. Repeat steps until all the pasta is cut. Bring a pot of well salted water to boil. Drop the ravioli into the boiling water, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove, drain, and keep warm until sauce is prepared.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sage. Continue to cook and stir until the sage is crispy but not browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place 6 to 8 raviolis on serving plates, and drizzle with sauce.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Keys to a Stress Free Thanksgiving: Prep and Make Ahead Dishes!

As many cooks know, the day before Thanksgiving is when most of the heavy work is done! I've just spent 3 hours peeling and chopping all the vegetables for tomorrow:

Butternut Squash

I also made 3 side dishes, mashed potatoes, cole slaw and cranberry sauce. The potatoes and cranberry sauce are recipes from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. The col slaw is made easier with the use of pre-shredded cabbage and carrots.

Cole Slaw:
Serves 10

2 bags cole slaw vegetables
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp shredded onion
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp dry mustard
3 tsp celery seed
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Open bags os vegetables into a large bowl. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, sugar, vinegar, mustard, celery seed, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl, and then add to the cabbage mixture. Mix well to combine and taste for seasoning; add more salt, pepper, or sugar if desired.

Cranberry Sauce:
Serves 10

2 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
2 cup cranberry juice
2 cup maple syrup
6 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoon grated orange rind

Wash the bags of cranberries under cool water, and then throw them into a medium saucepan. Pour in the cranberry juice and maple syrup. Add the orange juice and orange rind. Stir together and turn the heat on high until it reaches a boil and the berries begin to pop.

Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking over the lower heat until the juice is thick, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Allow to cool, and then chill in the fridge. It should have a nice jelly-like consistency.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes:

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened, plus more for pan
5 pounds potatoes
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. Place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the heat and add 1 1/2 sticks butter, the cream cheese, heavy cream, seasoned salt, kosher salt and pepper. Mash to combine.

Spread the potatoes in the prepared baking dish. You can cover tightly and refrigerate for a day at this point. The day of serving, bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fun Party Drink: Cherry Limeade

This morning on the Pioneer Woman, Ree made cherry limeade for her crew. I thought it would be a fun drink for my boys and their friends too! I made up a batch this afternoon and it was given the kid seal of approval!

Cherry Limeade:
(Source: The Pioneer Woman)

1 cup lime juice
1 cup sugar
1 10oz jar of Maraschino cherries
1 2 liter of lemon-lime soda

Combine all and chill before serving. Serve over crushed ice and garnish with cherries and lime wedges if desired.

GF Candy Bark

It's that time of year to start thinking about candies and cookies. My problem is that I always think, but never actual put into motion my plans to have things made ahead so I'm ready for the Holiday Season! On Thursday, I took a step in the right direction and made a batch of candy bark. I saw a recipe on Pinterest and adapted tweaked it a bit to be gluten free and to my family's taste. It is a no-bake recipe and my boys were able to help. Only a couple of caramels went directly to their mouths instead of the bowl! After getting the caramels into the bowl, it turned into a mini science project as they watched the candies melt after several turns in the microwave. The hardest part was waiting the 2 hours while the candied firmed up in the refridge! The taste test was a success and the boys are ready to make other goodies to fill the freezer so Santa has a variety to choose from when he hopefully stops under our tree!

Candy Bark:
1-2 cups GF pretzels
1 bag caramels
1 1/2 tbsp cream
1 bag peanut butter chips
1-2 cups mini M&M's

Line a 8x8 or 11x7 pan with parchment and lightly grease with nonstick spray. Place the pretzels in a single layer in the pan. Open the caramels and place in a microwave safe bowl along with the cream. Microwave for 15-20 second intervals and stir in between. When the caramel is melted spread over the pretzels. Melt peanut butter or chocolate chips in the microwave in 10-15 second intervals. Spread the melted chips over the caramel. Sprinkle the M&M'S minis over all and lightly press into the melted candy. Let candy firm up for at least 2 hours in the refridge. Cut the candy with a knife run under hot water. Enjoy or store in the freezer for a month.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gluten Free Taco Casserole

For dinner last night, I had thawed out ground beef for tacos, but we had to have a quick dinner with easy clean up due to family obligation that popped up so I decided to combine all the ingredients into one dish. This recipe took about 45 minutes from start to table. I also made guacamole to go along with the casserole.

Taco Casserole:
Serves 8

1 lb lean ground beef
Taco seasoning ( recipe below)
1 pkg corn taco shells
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cheese
24 oz sour cream
1 small onion, diced
5-6 cherry tomatoes, diced
Shredded lettuce

Cook meat over medium heat. Drain fat and then stir in taco seasoning and canned tomatoes. Turn heat to low and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Crush taco shells and place in a 9x13 baking dish. Layer meat mixture then the black beans and onion. Next, spread the sour cream evenly over all as if icing a cake. Now, layer on the lettuce and fresh tomatoes. Lastly, sprinkle the shredded cheese over all. Cover and bake at 350* for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Let casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with salsa and guacamole if desired.

Homemade Taco Seasoning:
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stuffed Manicotti

A couple of weeks ago when I made chicken parmigiana, I made a double batch of sauce and froze the unused portion. Pairing the sauce with some manicotti noodles I had in the pantry and I was half way to a tasty week night meal! Because the sauce was done ahead, the start to table time was about an hour and fifteen minutes with 40 minutes of that being cooking time. I stuffed the manicotti with sausage and cheese. We prefer Johnsonville sausage links over the bulk sausage varieties so I've gotten a little creative to get it diced up for the manicotti filling. I first cut eat link into 4 or 5 pieces before browning. After it has cooked, drained and cooled, I use my Pampered Chef chopper to dice it up into fine crumbles. Not sure if the makers of the chopper intended it to be used in this way, but it works like a charm!

Sausage and Cheese Manicotti:
Serves 7-8

8 cups sauce (recipe below)
1 lb package sweet italian sausage
2 tbsp olive oil
1 box manicotti noodles
15 oz ricotta
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 egg

Cook noodles per package directions. Drain noodles and let cool on a sheet pan for about 10 minutes. While the noodles are cooking, drizzle olive oil in a pan and place over a medium heat. Slice up sausage links and cook in the heated oil for 5-7 minutes. Drain the sausage and set aside to cool. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella and egg. After the sausage is cool, finely dice and fold into the cheese mixture. Stuff the sausage and cheese mixture into the cool manicotti. This recipe uses two 9x13 baking dishes. Spread 2 cups of sauce into the bottom of each dish. Place half of the stuffed manicotti into each dish and cover each with an additional cup of sauce. Cover the dishes and bake for 35 minutes in a 350* oven. Remove cover and sprinkle the other cup of cheese over the manicotti. Bake for 5-10 minutes more or until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.


4 29oz cans of tomato sauce ( I use Hunt's)
1 8 oz can of tomato paste
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 small onion diced fine
4 cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp each of basil, oregano and thyme
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups water
Olive oil

Drizzle 2-3 tbps of olive oil into the pot you are using for your sauce. Heat up over low-med heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add diced garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the spices and cook another minute to start releasing the flavors. Add the cans of sauce, paste and diced tomatoes. Stir gently to combine. Add sugar and water stir again. Turn heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours. Stirring occasionally. Taste after 1 hour and add spices and/or sugar to taste.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Angry Birds Birthday Cake

My oldest son celebrated his 10th birthday this week and tonight we went out to eat with our family to honor this milestone! He asked if I would make a chocolate cake like the one I made the other day for the Cub Scout cake walk.  One of his favorite games is Angry Birds so I used that as my inspiration for decorating.  I've always enjoyed decorating cakes since I was first introduced to it in my early teens.  Back in the days of bake sales, my friend, Mary's mom would create really neat ccakes!  She had many different Wilton pans and could make just about anything you wanted!

For the bread part of this cake,  I made two 9-inch cakes using the Hershey recipe published in another entry.  For the icing, I made a triple batch of buttercream.  I do this so I'm sure I have enough because you can never get the exact match if you run out of a color and have to tint another batch!  For tinting, I use the gel colors as they give you a more consistent color.  I learned the recipe when I took the Wilton courses t my local hobby store. The classes are great for any level baker.

Wilton Buttercream Icing:

1 cup solid shortening (I use the Crisco sticks)
1 teaspoon butter flavor extract (you can use clear vanilla also)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon meringue powder
1/2 lb (4 cups) confectioners sugar

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, water and extract. Add meringue powder and slowly add the confectioners sugar.  Beat on medium for 2 minutes. The icing will be very dry. Add water 1-2 teaspoons at a time. I find that the icing will get to a medium stiffness after about 4-5 teaspoons. Transfer the icing to a lidded airtight bowl.  Keep refrigerated when not in use.  Reserve 1.5 cups to thin with a little more water.  You can use the thinned icing to create a crumb coat on your cake which will allow your decoration to go on more easily and have no bread showing through.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Treat From My Neighbor - Peachy Bread Pudding with Carmel Sauce

This evening, there was a knock on our back door and I was happy to see my neighbor was here for a visit.  We haven't seen each other much because her father-in-law came to her house under hospice care so social time is at a minimum.  Not only did she come to chat, but she brought us some bread pudding fresh fom the oven! It was a little piece of heaven on a plate!  The bread pudding has peaches in it and then drizzled with caramel sauce. She took a recipe from and modified it.  Her first modification was the use of 4 peach cups with half the syrup drained off as this isn't he time of year for fresh fruit.  She also used vanilla extract in place of the rum called for in the caramel sauce.  Thank you, Sherry for the lovely dessert!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cub Scout Cake Carnival: Chocolate Cake

Last night was the annual Cub Scout cake carnival.  The boys had lots of fun watching magic, playing games and getting their faces painted.  While all that goes on, there is a silent cake auction to raise funds for the Pack.  This year, I made Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" chocolate cake.  It is an easy and fun cake to make.  I always make a double batch of icing as I hate to run out! Plus, I like to have enough icing to thin some for a crumb coat which helps make a smooth cake.  The dividend for the boys is getting to have a chocolate treat while I clean up.  At the end of the night, the cake brought $10 for the pack and won a certificate for "Most Delicious Looking"!  Hope you try this at home, it is sure to be a winner in your house too!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Blustery Day Calls For Warm Chicken Pot Pie

It is starting to feel wintery outside as the wind blows from the north and the rain turns slushy. It is a day for a cozy fire and a warm, filling meal. As part of my weekly meal planning, I knew that I would have leftover chicken. While the chicken roasted, I simmered the giblets for about 30 minutes and saved the rich chicken stock to make chicken pot pie tonight. This cut down on prep time and mess tonight. I also made this recipe gluten free by using rice flour, but it works with regular flour too. The recipe below includes all the steps that I did last night so if you decide to do it from start to finish, it would take about 2 hours.

Chicken Pot Pie:


For the crust:
1 stick butter, cut up
8 oz cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
Pinch kosher salt
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:
Olive oil
3 shallots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed & chopped
3 pounds skinless chicken legs and thighs or about 3 cups roast chicken
4 cups rich chicken stock
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water, for egg wash

To make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter, cream cheese, flour and salt. Pulse to combine. Pulse, pulse, pulse until the ingredients start to come together and resembles Parmesan. Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water. Pulse a couple of more times until the ingredients start to form a ball. If the mixture is exceedingly wet, add some more flour. Or conversely, if the mix is dry add in a few more drops of water.
When the mixture has come together into a ball, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead it a couple of times to help it come together. Dust it with flour, form it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use. This can be done a day ahead.

To make the filling:

Coat the bottom of a stock pot lightly with olive oil put over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and sprinkle with salt, to taste. Saute the vegetables for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt, then add the uncooked chicken and the chicken stock. If the stock doesn't cover the chicken, add water until it does. Bring the stock to a boil, over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, add the butternut squash to a large bowl, drizzle with some olive oil and add salt, to taste. Toss to coat the squash with the oil and transfer to a baking sheet. Roast until the squash is cooked but still has some texture, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.

Remove the chicken and vegetables from the stock and put into a large bowl. Reserve the stock. When the cool enough to handle, remove the bones from the chicken and stir into the vegetables. Add the roasted squash to the chicken and vegetables. Stir to combine and season with salt, if needed. Stir in the chopped sage.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir to combine with melted butter. Cook stirring frequently until the mixture is the consistency of wet sand and is starting to turn a little beige, about 6 to 7 minutes. Gradually whisk in the reserved chicken stock. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. When the stock is combined into the roux, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until it has a gravy-like consistency, about 20 to 25 minutes. If the gravy reduces too much and becomes too thick, whisk in a little more chicken stock or water.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the chicken mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish or 4 individual crocks. Ladle the gravy over the chicken mixture until the dish(s) are 3/4 filled.

Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the dough into the shape of the casserole dish or large enough to cut circles to cover the individual casserole dishes. Whichever dishes are being used the dough needs to have generous overhang of dough on the edges of the dish. Brush the outside edges of the dish with a little of the egg wash to help "glue" the dough to sides of the dish. Fold the edges of the dough under and press it onto the edges of the dish. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining egg wash. Cut a couple of vents in the top of the dough to allow the steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven until the dough is golden brown and the inside is hot and bubbly, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.

Roast Chicken and Sourdough Dressing

I've started thing about my Thanksgiving Day menu. Since we have been trying to modify our eating to include more gluten free and low glycemic index foods, I want to make sure I have smart choices on the table next to our turkey. I also wanted to try the recipes out prior to turkey day so over the next few weeks, you will see my results posted! Today, I made a simple, but delicious sourdough dressing. I make dressing instead of stuffing as we prefer a dryer dish. Someday, I will reach my mother's level and have both dressing and stuffing on the table, but I'm not there yet! Also, this dressing can be made in an afternoon without 3 days of waiting for bread to dry. Sourdough is an acceptable bread per the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) food plan.

The star of tonight's table wasn't the dressing, but rather a beautiful roasted chicken. This is a Barefoot Contessa gem. I love this recipe for it's uncomplicated elegance.

Roast Chicken by Ina Garten:


1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Sourdough Dressing by Dave Lieberman:


1-pound loaf sourdough bread
8 tablespoons butter
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/2-inch thick in both directions
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 to 4 stalks celery with leaves, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
About 10 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
10 to 12 fresh sage leaves, chopped
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.

Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch cubes and spread it evenly on 2 baking sheets. Toast the bread in the oven until completely dry and beginning to crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a few pinches of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add celery, onion, 2 tablespoons butter, and thyme. Once the butter has melted, cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add sage and remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Add chicken broth to skillet and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl. Pour the chicken broth mixture over the bread cubes and toss to combine until the bread cubes absorb the liquid. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, and sprinkle with parsley. Bake in the center of the oven until heated through and the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove the stuffing from the oven and allow to cool about 15 minutes before serving.