Judi

Cheesy Butternut Squash Bake

Cheesy Butternut Squash Bake

This butternut squash  dish was a big hit at dinner last night. Creamy, cheesy and naturally a little sweet from the squash, it came out even better than I had hoped. When I started making it, I had no idea what I was going to end up with.

I had some leftover cooked squash in the fridge.  I needed a side dish for dinner and wanted to use up the squash. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go savory or sweet. I mashed up the squash, then rummaged in my fridge. I had some sharp white cheddar cheese and shredded it up, adding it to the squash. I also had an open carton of whipping cream- so I added that, too. I was worried it would be too runny, so in went a little cornstarch. Then I added a generous amount of salt and fresh ground pepper.

I put the mixture in a baking dish and popped it in the oven. I took it out when it was all bubbly and hot. In hindsight, I could have given it a few more minutes to brown a little on the top.

Sometimes the hardest part about cooking is coming up with a name for a new dish. I wasn’t quite sure what to call this one. I thought about calling it a mash or maybe a casserole. I ended up with the innocuous name bake. Well, whatever you call it, I think you will love it as much as I did.

Feel free to play around with the cheese you use. Anything that melts will work. You can also use different winter squashes or pumpkin, too.

So here is the recipe.

 

 

Cheesy Butternut Squash Bake

 

4 c. cubed butternut squash

8 oz. shredded cheese- I used a sharp cheddar

½ c. heavy whipping cream- or half and half

2 T. cornstarch

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Cook the cubed squash until tender. You can steam, boil or roast. If boiling, be sure to drain well. Place cooked squash in a bowl and mash. It is ok if there are still some small lumps. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Place in a baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until mixture is bubbly. Serves 4-6.

Mom’s Green Beans

It’s funny how certain foods spark memories. Last week, a friend gave me some beautiful beans. Not just green beans, but a mix of colorful beans. Thanks, Terry.

I can’t see fresh green beans without thinking of my mother.

She loved fresh vegetables and I credit her with inspiring a love of veggies in me. But there were certain vegetables that were favorites. Beans were one of those.

In the summertime, our family would often go for a Sunday drive. We’d make our way into the countryside, stopping at little roadside farm stands on the way. My mom would always be on the lookout for beans.

During the summer, after one of our drives,  she would serve us an evening snack that seemed normal to me. I am sure it would have seemed odd to my friends.

Mom started by trimming the ends off the beans, but leaving them whole. She would then boil up the green beans. She cooked them until they were just tender. She didn’t like her vegetables “cooked to mush.” Then she would pile them up on a plate, sprinkle them with salt and add a pat of butter.

We ate the beans with our fingers, picking up a bean and running it over the butter.  It was a favorite snack of mine.

So I decided to enjoy some of the lovely beans I was gifted, by making them ‘Mom style”.  The only difference is that I used a homemade toasted sesame salt.

It was just as wonderful as I remember.

Wilted Kale Salad – With Bacon and Eggs

Wilted Kale, Bacon and Eggs Salad

When I was a kid, my Mom used to make a wilted spinach salad. I loved it. I used that as inspiration for this dish. I have a lot of kale growing in my garden. As summer comes to a close, I feel the need to enjoy my garden produce more than ever.

It was muggy yesterday, and I wasn’t in the mood for a lot of cooking. I wanted something fast for dinner and a salad came to mind. I didn’t have any lettuce or spinach in the house- but I did have all that kale.

What I ended up having was even better than expected. A couple of hard cooked eggs, smoky bacon, onion, and a touch of maple syrup made this a dish I plan on having again soon. It is a lovely salad for a muggy end of summer dinner, and a nice Autumn salad, too.

 

Wilted Kale Salad With Bacon and Eggs

2-3 slices thick sliced bacon, chopped

1 onion, sliced

4-5 cups kale, washed and torn into pieces

2 T. cider vinegar

1 T. maple syrup

dash of hot sauce

2 hard- cooked eggs, peeled and cubed

In skillet cook bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Remove some of the fat from the pan- leaving about 2 tablespoonfuls. Add onion and cook until golden. Return bacon to pan and add the kale. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until kale in wilted. I don’t mind my kale on the firm side-cook it longer if you like it more tender. Drizzle in the vinegar, maple syrup and hot sauce and stir to coat evenly. Place on a serving dish and top with the eggs. Enjoy!!

City Chicken

City Chicken

If you never had City Chicken, you don’t know what you are missing. Meat on a stick- always a good thing. But not just meat on a stick- breaded meat on a stick!  If you like breaded pork chops, you should love City Chicken.

This is a dish I grew up with. When my Mom made City Chicken, I knew dinner was going to be special.

There is no chicken in the dish at all. Odd, but well, I didn’t name the dish, I just like eating it.

City Chicken is normally made with chunks of pork- or chunks of pork and veal- skewered on wooden sticks. I used pork.  After skewering, the meat is dipped in seasoned flour, egg wash and then bread crumbs- or cracker crumbs.

You can just bake them, or brown in a little oil first, before baking- for a crispier coating.

I didn’t have my Mom’s recipe, so I recreated it as I remembered it. I invited a few friends over to try them, and all my guests enjoyed them. So here is my recipe. A tasty dish, and also a trip down memory lane.

 

City Chicken

 

2 lbs. boneless pork – I used Western style ribs

½ c. sherry – not cooking sherry

2 T. soy sauce

¾ c. flour

Salt and pepper

3 eggs

½ c. milk or half and half

2 T. chopped parsley

Hot sauce

½ t. garlic powder

1-2 c. bread crumbs

2 t. dried basil

2 t. dried oregano

½ t. dried thyme

Oil

6 –inch Wooden sticks or skewers

Cube pork into 1-inch cubes. Place in a bowl and add the sherry and soy sauce. Stir to combine, cover bowl and place in fridge. You can do this a couple of hours ahead or even a day ahead. You might not really need to do this step, but I like the flavor of the sherry, so I chose to marinade my pork in it before breading. Your choice, completely.

Take pork and skewer it onto wooden sticks. I used skewers that were a little thicker than what I normally use. Since they were long, I cut them in half before using. I ended up with 9.

Place flour in a bag with salt and pepper to taste. Add one pork skewer at a time to the flour, shaking to coat evenly. Place floured pork skewers on a tray. Once finished, combine eggs with the milk, parsley, hot sauce, garlic powder and a little more salt and pepper. Place bread crumbs in a bag with the basil, oregano and thyme. Shake to combine. Dip each floured skewer into the egg mixture, remove from egg mix and allow excess to drip off a little. Then place in the bag of bread crumbs, shaking to coat evenly. Repeat until all the city chicken is breaded.

Now I know I already asked you to wait to marinade the pork in the beginning. I am going to ask you to wait again. If you fry up the city chicken right away, the breading is likely to fall off. If you bread the city chicken early in the day- then leave it in the fridge at least a couple of hours before cooking it, the breading will stay on much better. I actually marinade a day ahead, in the morning. Then I bread them in the evening the night before. But even breading them a couple of hours before makes a big difference. Just keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

 

When ready to cook them- I know you were giving up hope we would ever get to this step- heat oil in a large skillet. You don’t need much oil- a few tablespoons, at most. Brown the city chicken on all sides in the hot oil. Transfer them to a baking dish, as you finish browning them. Place in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Don’t bake them too long- you don’t want them to dry out. Pork has to reach a minimum internal temp of 145 F. Serves 6.

 

Spiced Pear and Oatmeal Muffins

Spiced Pear and Oatmeal Muffins

It is pear season. While apples seem to get more attention, pears are a wonderful, versatile fruit.

Pears will ripen off the tree and are often picked unripe and allowed to ripen after harvest. Unlike a lot of other fruits, pears do not suffer from being picked before they are ripe. As they ripen, pears become very sweet.

I like to pick out both ripe and unripe pears at the local market. That way, I’ll have ripe pears over a longer period of time.

I had some ripe pears and wanted to do something with them. Since I had a friend coming for over breakfast, I thought muffins. It’s always nice to have an easy breakfast option on hand.

I started with a basic muffin recipe, and added some diced pears, cinnamon, orange zest, nutmeg  and a cinnamon sugar topping, to make them special. And yes, you could substitute apples for the pears!!!

I was really happy with how they turned out. Not overly sweet, moist and tender.  Here is the recipe.

 

Spiced Pear and Oatmeal Muffins

1 ½ c. flour
1 c. rolled oats
1 T. grated orange peel
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
½ t.  each nutmeg and salt
½ t. baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. oil
¼ c. orange juice
1½ cups of peeled, diced pears – 2 or 3 pears should do it
2 T. melted butter, optional
cinnamon sugar, optional

Combine flour with the dry ingredients. Set aside. Combine egg with the honey, oil and juice. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until flour is just moistened. Fold in pears. Batter will be thick. Divide batter among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 375- degree oven for 20-25 minutes. While the muffins are warm, dip tops in melted butter and then dip in the cinnamon sugar, if you like. They are tasty, with or without the cinnamon sugar topping, but I like to add this last step. Makes 12.

Pineapple Scones

Pineapple Scones

This is one of my favorite scone recipes. Pineapple gives them a wonderful flavor, then they are topped with a crunchy cinnamon  and nut combination. What’s not to love?

We made these in class last night. Everyone loved them.

I am always surprised when someone tells me they don’t like scones. Often, the comment is that they are too dry. My reply is that you haven’t had a good scone.

Good scones are slightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. These scones never disappoint. These are great served warm from the oven, topped with jam.

 

Pineapple Scones

3 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
½ t. salt
¾ c. butter
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, un-drained
milk
3 T. chopped nuts
1 T. sugar
½ t. cinnamon

In medium bowl mix together dry ingredients and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in pineapple and stir until dough starts to hold together. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead 10-12 strokes until dough holds together, but is tender and soft. When you first start to mix this dough- you might think there is something wrong- that you need to add more liquid. Be patient. There is a lot of moisture in the pineapple and as you mix the dough it WILL come together.  Roll or press dough ½ inch thick and cut out with 2-2 ½ inch biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Re-roll scraps and cut out remaining dough. Brush scone with milk. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over scones. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Makes 21.

Apple Crumb Cake

Apple Crumb Cake

I love apple season. I will go to local farm markets and orchards several times, picking out different varieties.

Several of my favorite varieties won’t be around until October, but there is a great selection already.

I eat plenty of apples fresh, but I  also cook with them. This is one of my favorite apple recipes.

The tender cake and crunchy topping seem like the perfect combination. Most days I would rather have a crumb topping on a cake than frosting.

This recipe hits all the right notes. Sweet with apple chunks throughout, a nice touch of cinnamon and that crunchy topping that I love.

 

Apple Crumb Cake

For cake batter:

2 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

½ stick (¼ cup) butter, softened

¾ c. sugar

1 egg

½ c. milk

2 c. chopped peeled, cored apples

For topping:

½ c. sugar

¼ c. flour

2 t. cinnamon

½ stick (¼ c. butter, chilled and cut into bits)

 

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and milk. Add flour mixture gradually until just mixed in. Fold in apples. Grease and flour an 8 or 9-inch pan and add prepared batter. Combine topping ingredients until they resemble coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the batter in pan and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 35-45 minutes. Use toothpick to test.

Note: I used a 9-inch square pan and it worked fine.

 

Crumpets

Crumpets

I love crumpets when I make them myself. They are a cross between a pancake and an English muffin. Crumpets should be moist, soft and light. The ones I’ve tried from the grocery store are heavy and dry. If the only crumpets you have ever tried were from the store, you probably don’t like them either. I think if you make your own, you will be surprised at just how tasty crumpets can be.

I’d suggest serving them with jam and clotted cream.

You will need crumpet rings to cook them in. Crumpet rings and English muffin rings (they are pretty much the same thing), can be purchased online and in some specialty cooking supply stores.

The rings are greased and set in a skillet to warm. Then, the crumpet batter is spooned into the rings. They cook in the rings, right in the skillet. This helps them to keep their shape and to rise nice and high.

Many years ago my father made rings for me from cans. We saved cans from things like canned tomatoes or corn. He cut off the lids on both sides and then cut the cans to about 1 1/2 inches in height. There is a rough edge, so I am always very careful when handling them. Buying them is probably a better idea.

Crumpets

 2 c. skim milk, scalded

3 c. flour

1 t. salt

1 package active dry yeast

¼ c. warm water

¼ c. butter, melted

Cool milk to lukewarm, then stir in flour and salt, beating until smooth. In small bowl place water and sprinkle over with the yeast. Let stand 5 minutes until bubbly. Stir in butter then add this to the flour mixture, beating well. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Grease 2 ½ inch muffin rings, or use 3 ½ oz. tuna fish cans and place in a hot, lightly greased skillet. Spoon 2 tablespoonfuls of batter into each ring, reduce heat to low and cook crumpets 12 minutes per side. Remove from rings and set aside to cool. Repeat procedure with remaining batter. Makes about 32 crumpets. Serve split and topped with jam or preserves and Devonshire clotted cream. You can make a mock version of clotted cream- recipe follows.

 

Mock Clotted Cream

1 c. whipping cream

¼ c. sour cream

Just beat together whipping cream and sour cream until soft peaks form.

Mini Cheesecakes

Mini Cheesecakes with Raspberries

These miniature cheesecakes are a wonderful dessert.  The recipe just makes 6, so you can make cheesecake anytime. No need for a party or special occasion. Also, no need for a springform pan. These are baked in muffin tins.

The recipe is very simple. The little cheesecakes are baked in less than half and hour. Once baked and cooled, you can top them with all sorts of fruits, jams, chocolate sauce or whipped cream.

I used some raspberries for this batch. The creamy filling works so well with the tart/sweet berries. I brushed a little raspberry jam over the top, but you could also sprinkle the berries with a little sugar, if you prefer.

You can use a mix of berries and seasonal fruit. Raspberries and blueberries would make a great combination. I like fresh peaches with berries, too.   They bake quickly and can be frozen. I freeze them plain, then top with fruit or jam when ready to serve.

Mini Cheesecakes

6 vanilla wafers

Filling

1 (8 oz.) pkg. Cream cheese, softened

1/4 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 6 muffin tins with paper or foil liners and place a vanilla wafer in each cup. Beat the cream cheese with the sugar until well blended. Beat in vanilla, then egg. Spoon the cheese mixture into the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until set. They will be pretty full and will puff up while baking. They will also settle when cooling. Once cooled, arrange fruit on the top of each little cheesecake.Makes 6.

For the raspberry topping, I used about a cup of raspberries and 1/2 c. of raspberry jam. I placed a few berries on each cheesecake. Then I warmed the raspberry jam and brushed it gently over the tops. Chill before serving.

 

Corn, Black Bean and Pepper Salad

Corn, Black Bean and Pepper Salad

I had some friends over for dinner the other day. I made this salad as one  of the sides.  It was so tasty. I love a dish I can prepare ahead of time, especially when I have company.

The salad was a last minute addition to the menu. A friend who was bringing a bean salad could not attend. I needed a dish to fill the gap. I used ingredients I already had around.

I used frozen corn in this dish. Fresh corn season is too short around here. I always buy extra corn for freezing. I just blanch the shucked corn for a few minutes  in boiling water, then drop into ice water. Once the corn is cool enough to handle, I cut the corn off the ears. Then I package up the corn and freeze it.

You could also grill corn and cut it off the cob to freeze.

I like to boil the cobs after the corn is cut off, for a corn stock, which I also freeze. The cobs have a lot of flavor.

When using the frozen corn in a salad, you’ll want to drain it after thawing.

So here is the recipe. Pretty simple. You could add some sweet onion, if you like, too.

 

Corn, Black Bean and Pepper Salad

4 c. cooked corn

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped

¼ c. olive oil

3 T. red wine vinegar

1 T. Balsamic vinegar

2 t. Italian seasoning- I used my Tuscan blend

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot sauce to taste, optional

 

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Stir to combine well. Chill before serving. Serves 6-8.