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Holiday Dinner Side Dish: Squashle Sauce

Holiday Dinner Side Dish: Squashle Sauce

Did you know that squash and apples go together like cranberries and oranges? When combined, I call it “Squashle Sauce” and it is super simple to make! It is a sweet rather than savory side dish so it is a nice contrast to stuffing, green bean casserole and the like.

First you need some butternut squash and some apples – this batch had 2 medium sized squash and 4 apples, but you can adjust to however much you want to make (this was a huge batch for a large crowd!

Butternut squash - peel with veggie peeler

Butternut squash – peel with veggie peeler

After washing the produce, peel the squash with a vegetable peeler and cut it into chunks, discarding the seeds and pulp. Peel and chunk the apples, discarding the core/seeds/etc.

Put water into the bottom of a large pan to about an inch deep – add the chunked up goodies. Bring to a simmer and cover. Stir frequently – add more water if needed to keep from scorching (lower the heat!) If it is too juicy, leave the lid off to allow it to cook down.

Use a fork to test for tenderness – you want to be able to pierce the chunks easily. Once they are tender enough, use a potato masher to, well, mash them!

Add butter, brown sugar, salt, spices – I use cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, but ginger would be a nice addition, too!

Chunks!

Chunks!

Add brown sugar, salt & spices to taste
Add brown sugar, salt & spices to taste
Continue to stir & cook until the butter is melted or it until it has an apple sauce-like consistency. (NOW do you get the name of the recipe?)  This is a great one to make a day ahead because it is easy to reheat. It can also be frozen.
Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Recipe

 

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Fall Foods: Pork Roast Stuffed with Goat Cheese

For me, fall means beta carotene season, but one can’t live on orange-color root vegetables and squashes alone!  What to serve with roasted sweet potatoes? Pork! This recipe is super-simple, but looks ever-so-fancy! I find cheeses to be salty – goat cheese being no exception – so I didn’t add any salt to the recipe and it was delicious. My husband begged me to photograph the roast and put it on this blog so I could make it again – how can I resist a begging man? (roasted sweet potato instructions are below – just in case you need those too!)

Roasted sweet potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to pork roast!

Roasted sweet potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to pork roast!

Boneless Pork Loin Roast Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Tomatoes

1.5 lb boneless pork roast

5 oz. semi-soft goat cheese

4 grape tomatoes, halved

Olive Oil

Fresh ground pepper

½ tsp thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a roasting pan with non-stick spray. Place the roast in the pan. Cut a slit down the center of the roast, but not completely in half. Distribute the cheese evenly in the slit and stuff the tomato halves into the cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the roast. Grind pepper over the roast (to your preference) and sprinkle with thyme. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover and continue cooking for 10 more minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

The sweet potatoes (two decent sized tubers) were scrubbed, peeled and cubed before placing in a non-stick spray coated roasting dish (not the same one as the pork roast). I drizzled a little olive oil on them and used my hands to make sure they were coated evenly. I ground fresh pepper and sea salt over the potatoes and dusted them with a combination of sugar and cinnamon. They were covered with foil and roasted alongside the pork for the same amount of time. Yum!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Bleu Cheese Bacon Burgers: Best Ever!

Summer feels like it is winding down and I haven’t grilled nearly enough burgers! We can grill year-round in the PNW, of course, but it’s nice to be able to do it without wearing a headlamp during our long summer days.

We love bleu cheese burgers, so I have been working on the right combination of ingredients with the thought of posting it to this blog – mission accomplished! I even remembered to take pictures! I like to use the lowest fat content ground beef available because I am adding more fat to the mixture in the guise of cheese and bacon. I also get the thickest cut of bacon and dig through all the packages looking for the best fat<meat ratio. I love baking the bacon on a rack because the mess is so much less than frying and the fat drips away to the pan underneath. For this recipe, you only need two slices of cooked bacon, so it might be easier to immediately hide two slices after cooking up a package to save them for your future burgers. I use food scissors to cut the bacon up into “bits” and, no, “Bac-os Bits®” are NOT an acceptable substitute! Because the cheese tends to be salty (not to mention the bacon), I do not add salt.

This recipe makes 4 quarter-pound burgers.

RawBurgers

  • 1 lb. 4% fat ground beef
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, cut into “bits”
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3-1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
  • pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a largish mixing bowl – I use my hands encased in plastic gloves to mix everything up. Two reasons: 1) Ew! Raw hamburger under my fingernails? No thanks! and 2) Squishing everything together by hand mixes it much more thoroughly than with a rubber spatula or spoon.

After the ingredients are thoroughly combined, form 4 patties. Grill as desired until done. Every grill is different, so I won’t attempt to instruct you in how to work your own grill!

BurgerDoesn’t this look delish? Maybe I should take up a second career as a food photographer….

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2013 in Recipe

 

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‘Tis the Season: Christmas Cookie Sweatshop

When my kids were young, we decided it would fun to make and decorate cookies to give to neighbors and friends for Christmas. We like to eat Christmas cookies, too, (who doesn’t???) so I made a huge batch so we would be sure to have plenty. I rolled, cut and baked for hours as the kids decorated until they were exhausted – and that’s when we coined the phrase, “Christmas Cookie Sweatshop!” It is also how we answer the phone on Sweatshop day – “Christmas Cookie Sweatshop – How may I help you?”

Another tray-full, heading to the oven!

Another tray-full, heading to the oven!

With just a few of us decorating, the creativity slumped as the sweatshop rolled on, leaving lots of cookies with just a glob of frosting and a sprinkle of colored sugar. We needed more help in the sweatshop – what to do?

Make it a party! Now everyone comes over to our house and decorates and takes home cookies – they make them as pretty as they want – or not! I add food dye – the gel type gives the most intense colors – to canned frosting (cream cheese flavor). I usually have 6-7 different colors -plus white. Handfuls of plastic knives are tucked into each frosting bowl – no waiting! And I have copious sprinkles and sugars for adding detail or just pizazz to the cookie. A plastic table cloth is laid on the table and wax paper for the still-warm cookies to cool upon.

Some vie to see who can decorate the most bizarre cookie. Frontrunners in the past have included a snowman cookie re-purposed as Jabba the Hut and penguins changed to Santa Clauses (below- Note that one is “Santa Noir”). We serve eggnog punch and other beverages along with “savory” treats to counteract all the sweets as Christmas music plays in the background.

Penguin cookie shapes "re-purposed" as Santa Cookies!

Penguin cookie shapes “re-purposed” as Santa Cookies!

Here is a link to a video of some of the creations from a previous year. I think one of the Jabba the Hut cookies is in that one…

Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 c flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream together in a large bowl the butter and sugar – add the eggs and mix well. In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry to the creamed mixture – mixing well after each addition. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours. Roll out 1/4″ think on floured surface (have purchased a sil-pat yet? – ask Santa for one – so worth it!) and use cutters that have been dipped in flour to avoid sticking. Place evenly on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone liner (ask Santa for some of those, too!) – see photo. Bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes (watch closely!) Cool slightly before frosting. For best results, keep the dough you aren’t using in the fridge.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Entertaining, Information, Recipe

 

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Cutest Cookies Ever!

I made these cookies for Halloween last year and thought they were super-adorable! I found the idea on the PBS “Fresh Tastes” webpage, but used my own tried-and-true recipe for sugar cookie dough. I use this recipe annually for my “Christmas Cookie Sweatshop” party (to be blogged later….) and it has never failed me! I think this recipe will work with whatever sugar cookie recipe you prefer as long as it is refrigerated before slicing and you use real butter. Seriously. There is no worthy substitute for real butter in a sugar cookie.

My recipe: Cream 1 c. (two sticks) room temperature butter with 2 c. sugar. Add 4 eggs and continue mixing until well blended. In a smaller bowl, stir together 5 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. nutmeg (optional). Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients, mixing well after each addition until you have a smooth dough.

For Candy Corn Cookies:

Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Line a regular-sized loaf pan (or two small ones if you like tiny cookies…which I do…) with plastic wrap. Press one portion of the dough into the loaf pan(s) so that it is an even, flat layer (harder than you think!). Transfer another portion of the dough onto a lightly floured roul-pat mat (if you don’t have one, you should.) Add several drops of orange food coloring and mix in by hand – wear plastic or latex gloves unless you want to look jaundiced! – until the color is uniform. I use gel food dye for a more intense color. Press into pan(s) as before. (using glass pans helps a lot!). Transfer the last portion onto your floured surface and add yellow food coloring and mix/press as before. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

After dough is properly chilled, remove the block to a floured surface and slice in 1/4″ slices. Cut each slice diagonally as shown to create three triangle shapes. Bake on lined cookie sheets (silicone baking mats or parchment) at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes (watch carefully!) until lightly browned on the bottom and the top is puffy. Try not to eat them all at once…I dare you!

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Recipe, Uncategorized

 

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Super Easy, Super Tasty: Sugared Cranberries

Sparkling cranberries; drying before storing.

My friend Kim brought a bowl of these to a potluck at my house once and I immediately had to have the recipe! Turns out they are very easy – with a little patience** – and they look just beautiful! I would say they are too beautiful to eat, but it would be wrong of me to deny you the chance to pop these little orbs of sweet-tart goodness into your mouth!

I’ve made them several times since Kim shared her recipe and – as I always do with recipes – tried out some variations. Some worked, some didn’t!

What didn’t work: Using coarse, colored sugar. I thought the larger crystals would be pretty on the berries, but it turns out that they kinda melt and just look crusty (and not a good kind of crusty!)

What did work: I poured my ultra-fine baker’s sugar (I found it in the baking aisle in a milk carton-like container) into a Tupperware container and put a couple of vanilla beans in with it for several days to give the sugar a vanilla riff. The sugar with beans is still in my cupboard and I am looking forward to making the cranberries with it to see if the vanilla is stronger! Turns out, this is pretty much how they make vanilla powder for coffee shops (also good in pie crusts!)

**Regarding patience: the cranberries have to soak in the sugar liquid for at least 8 hours, so you need to plan ahead. This is not a spur-of-the-moment recipe! It is important to make sure you do not boil the cranberries – they will pop, if boiled, and will not make a very pretty treat. They need to dry for an hour before storing – try not to eat them all before they are dry!

Now, you could make a batch of these and sit in a corner, eating them all yourself, but that would not be in the spirit of the holiday season. Bring them as a hostess gift in a pretty tin, set them in a crystal bowl alongside your appetizer platters, toss a handful onto a plate of turkey or eat them while watching a movie with your family! There is no wrong time for sugared cranberries!

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Recipe

 

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Bleu Cheese Burgers

Here they are before grilling. After grilling, they were grabbed and eaten so no pictures!

In the Pacific Northwest, with our propane grill on a covered porch, we can and do grill year ’round. One of the family favorites is my Bleu Cheese Burgers. I like my burgers lean, but extra lean ground beef with only 3-4% fat can get you a pretty dry burger, so I add a different kind of fat -bleu cheese – to the mixture and it is not only moist, but very flavorful.

To 1 1/3 lb. extra lean ground beef, I add 1 tbl. Worcestershire sauce, 1/3 c dried onion, ground pepper, 1/2 tsp dried thyme and 1/3-1/2 c crumbled bleu cheese (in the refrigerated deli section at the grocery store). I don’t add salt as the cheese adds some saltiness and it is easy to over-do. Mix the ingredients well and divide into 4 equal portions to make 4 1/3 pound burgers. I use the large Tupperware hamburger press so they are pretty uniform (and I don’t get raw ground beef under my finger nails – ew!) We grilled these to a “medium well” and served them on potato buns with an assortment of condiments – including spinach for crunch and the veggie factor.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Recipe

 

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