Squash “Lasagna” Bake

My dinner tonight was a last minute meal inspired by our morning trip to the Shorewood Farmers Market. I ran into my friend Rachel who told me about this delicious squash lasagna she made earlier in the week. After my mouth was watering my husband set out to find some squash at the market and I made my grocery list of other things we’d need. My friend, like me, often gets inspiration from a recipe then whips it up in her own way based on what she has and how she likes. I got some inspiration from pinterest variations of this but ended up doing my own simpler thing so I thought I’d write it down so I could make it again. I also had to share this as I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow. Another friend of mine prepped a similar bake tonight for a dinner early this week which made me realize it’s a great dish to pre-prepare and pop in after work on a crisp fall day.

This recipe is gluten free and could also be made vegetarian by replacing the sausage with diced eggplant (if using eggplant make sure to let it simmer with the onions and sauce the whole time the squash cooks to ensure it’s tenderness)

Squash “Lasagna” Bake

serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • Butternut or Summer Squash (one large or two small)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound sausage, Italian or turkey (I buy in bulk if not bulk remove casein) –> 1 1/2 cups eggplant if making vegetarian
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil, separated
  • 1/2 jar of classic marinara
  • 8 ounces of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded and separated
  • 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 Tbsp fresh
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil onto squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven to roast for 50-60 minutes
  2. In the meantime heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and let cook 3-5 minutes then add the sausage, breaking up pieces and cook until the meat is brown and cooked through. Turn heat to low and add 1/2 container of marinara sauce, let simmer until squash is done.
  3. Mix together the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and parsley and set aside.
  4. Once the squash is done let it cool 10 minutes. Keep the oven on. Then using a fork scoop out the inside of the squash into a greased 8×8 casserole dish. It will come out looking like spaghetti noodles. I personally mashed mine a little with a fork in the dish. Once the squash is set layer it with the meat sauce and then spread the ricotto cheese mixture on top.
  5. Place the dish back in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the sides bubble a little. If you are making the dish ahead then skip this part until you are ready to eat and place in the refrigerator. I would suggest cooking the day after it’s prepped.

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Spicy Sausage

When the temperature gets below 20 degrees all I want is some warm, tasty comfort food. What better way than with a warm risotto. I adapted this from a Weight Watchers barley risotto recipe to be less…well less weight watcher-sie and more me. This recipe is easy to make dairy free or half and half as I did to accommodate myself and my cheese eating husband and our fairy godmother (I know we have a fairy Godmother. It’s pretty cool). What I liked best about this recipe was unlike the constant stirring required in traditional risotto with arborio rice this barley one allowed it to simmer on its own without having to be mixed. This means I will now be eating rissoto 10 times more often as that was always my deterrent to cook it. I mean what mom with two kids has the ability to stand next to a pot and stir for 30-40 minutes!?!  One thing I will add is the spicy sausage gave it a kick so if you want to make it more kid friendly I’d recommend doing two regular sausage instead of one of each. Without further ado here is the most recent Teskey dinner hit!

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Spicy Sausage

yields ~6 cups of risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~12 ounce of mushrooms, chopped (more or less is okay too- I used crimini but baby portabellas would work too)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sausages (1 regular, 1 spicy)
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of hull-less or pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 tsp of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in medium dutch oven  or large pot
  2. Add onion and let sautee for 2-3 minutes
  3. Add mushrooms and garlic to the pot and cook 3-4 more minutes
  4. Remove casein from the sausages and add small pieces to the sauteing vegetables. Cook until the meat is cooked through and the onions and mushrooms are tender (~10 minutes)
  5. Pour in chicken broth and 1 cup of barley. Stir.
  6. Increase heat to have the broth boil then cover and reduce to a simmer for ~40 minutes until barley is tender and the liquid is absorbed
  7. Remove saucepan from heat. Add thyme and cheese. I removed my portion and didn’t add cheese then added the cheese to the pot for others. It was delicious even without the cheese!
  8. Add salt and pepper as desired and serve

The amazing cooks I know…

This month I want to feature another amazing cook I know; my best friend Rachel.
You’ve probably heard me talk about Rachel before as she is one of the three women who inspired me to love cooking (her, my mom and my Aunt Nancy). Rachel has always been great at baking and trying fun new recipes. We both are Cooking Light addicts so it’s fun to hear what she makes out of the magazine each month and what I chose to make. Often times there is some overlap as we seem to have the same taste. She is also the proud mother to a new gorgeous baby girl, Alexis. Alexis is the luckiest girl in the world as she will always have delicious lunches that her friends will be jealous of.

I asked Rachel to think of a recipe she makes a lot to feature on the blog and she thought of the perfect dish; jambalaya. This is great for two reasons. One, I can think of multiple times I’ve been on the phone with Rachel as she makes this and two, I don’t eat shellfish so my blog is lacking great recipes with shrimp. What better recipe to make on a cold evening than this flavorful, spicy dish. My mom has already said she can’t wait to make this recipe! Enjoy!!!

Jambalaya with Shrimp and Andouille Sausage (click on the title to bring you to the recipe)
Source: Cooking Light April 2005

You know you’ve become an expert at a recipe when you have your to do adjustments. Here are Rachel’s recommended adjustments after many preparations.
-Double the Shrimp and Sausage
-Use a little extra of all the spices. If you’re nervous just do a few extra shakes of each
-Add Rotisserie Chicken

Serve with cornbread

Choose Cherries

Fall is upon us which means colder weather, falling leaves and for many back to the routine cold weather fruits. Nearly half of the fruit Americans eat are from oranges, bananas, apples and watermelon alone. While I love all four of those I also find myself searching for more variety and trying to avoid the dreaded fruit fatigue. Whether your 20, 30, 80 or a small child, we can all benefit from fruit so don’t let your intake go down this winter because of boredom! Only one in five Americans currently reaches their recommended intake of fruit each day (1-2 cups). One easy way to increase your intake is to try new fruit and recipes and fight off fruit fatigue. That’s why November’s food of the month is tart cherries.

Cherries are known as a super fruit for their powerful antioxidant properties that help reduce inflammation and in turn may help decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease or decrease the symptoms of arthritis. They are also a great source of potassium and recent research shows they may relieve muscle pain for active adults.

It’s no surprise that eighty-seven percent of Americans put taste as their number one consideration when purchasing food. Cherries sweet, tart and juicy flavor will keep you coming back for more. Another plus for cherries are the many forms available year round (fresh, frozen or dried) making it easy to add them to your daily intake. They’re also a great fruit for the holiday season; their bold red color can brighten any dish and add flavor to meats, stuffings, sides and desserts.

To start out this month I made a new cherry smoothie recipe from Choose Cherries. I really enjoyed the hint of cinnamon mixed with the sweet honey and tart cherries.

Cherry Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 cup frozen tart cherries, pitted
1/2 cup 1% low fat milk
1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon cherry juice concentrate
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
8 ice cubes

Garnish

1 tablespoon slivered toasted almonds
1 tablespoon chopped dried tart cherries

Directions


Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour into two chilled glasses
Another one of my favorite ways to eat cherries is in a pork dish my mother in law makes. If you like savory with a touch of sweet I highly recommend trying this recipe.

Pork Roast Tenderloin with Dried Cherries and Rosemary

Serves 6
Source: The Foster’s Market Cookbook by Sara Foster 

Ingredients

Two 1-pound pork tenderloins
½ cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dry red wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup good-quality, all-natural cranberry juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 shallots, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Directions

1. Rinse the pork loin, pat dry, and place in a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish.  Set aside.
2. Whisk together the cherries, wine, vinegar, cranberry juice, shallots, and rosemary in a bowl.  Pour this mixture over the pork, cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight, turning the pork several times.
 3. Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Remove the pork from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and place the pork in the heated skillet.  Cook the pork on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes total time, until light brown.   (I browned in my electric skillet then transferred to a baking dish).
 4. Pour the reserved marinade over the pork and place the skillet (or baking dish) in the oven.  Roast, basting several times, 20 to 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 150 to 155 degrees.  The meat will be a very light pink color.  (NOTE:  The pork will continue cooking after it is removed from the oven).
 5. Remove the pork from the baking dish and place on a grooved carving board.  Cover the pork loosely and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
 6. Season with salt and pepper.  Slice into ¼-inch pieces and spoon the pan juices over the pork.  Serve immediately.
I’m also really excited to try Cooking Light‘s Wild Rice Stuffing with Dried Cherries and Toasted Pecans from the November 2011 issue.
For more information and numerous great cherry recipes go Choose Cherries

A Weekend of Food

Cold winter weekends always make me want to cook. This weekend my cooking escapades started with a fabulous brunch with my dear friend Brent. We started by making homemade hash browns; a first for both of us. We then made a poached egg dish with prosciutto, manchego cheese and crushed red peppers layered on a piece of toast: replicated from an entree at my favorite breakfast restaurant in Madison, Marigold Kitchen(If you are ever visiting you have to stop!).

Poached Eggs with Prosciutto, Manchego and Crushed Red Pepper

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs per person
  • 2 thinly sliced pieces of sourdough bread, toasted per person
  • 2 slices Prosciutto per person
  • ~1/4 cup or less of Manchego cheese, shredded per person
  • Crushed Red Peppers to top

Directions

  • Poach Eggs
  • While eggs are poaching, toast bread
  • Sautee prosciutto for 1-2 minutes until warm
  • Layer your toast with prosciutto, then eggs, shredded cheese and top with crushed red peppers
  • Serve
My next kitchen endeavor was to prepare Sunday night dinner. After a very relaxing and productive weekend I thought my husband and I could use a good home cooked meal. Knowing the pork chop recipe I was going to make (Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo Source: Guy’s Big Bite- Food Network) I grabbed our Brussels sprouts and squash out of the refrigerator and put my thinking cap on. What should I do with my vegetables tonight? My inspiration for the Brussels sprouts came from the leftover prosciutto and manchego cheese from brunch. For those of you who think Brussels sprouts are bland think again.

Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 pound Brussels Sprouts (stems trimmed off and cut in half)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 thin slices of Prosciutto, diced (Pancetta or bacon would also work)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/8 cup white wine
  • 1-2 Tbsp shredded Manchego or Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil
  2. Add Brussels sprout and saute for 3 minutes
  3. Add water and cook for 3 more minutes (I covered my pot to slightly steam the sprouts)
  4. Add prosciutto pieces and garlic and continue saute for 5 minutes
  5. Reduce heat and add lemon juice and white wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the flavors off and let cook for a few more minutes or until liquids have dissolved and Brussels sprouts are tender
  6. If desired, add shredded cheese to the top
     
Next, I had the task of seasoning the squash. Roasting is my favorite way to prepare squash (really most vegetable for that matter). Cinnamon and curry are my go to flavors for this starch and since I was in a creative mood I figured why not try mixing the two. Here’s what I came up with.

Curried Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of butternut squash, cubed (I used one full container of the peeled and cubed butternut squash sold at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 tsp Curry Powder
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Place squash and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and toss
  3. Put the squash in a 9 x 13 pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until squash is tender when a fork is inserted
After watching a lot of football this weekend my mind was drawn to the colors on my plate and the upcoming green vs orange showdown (for those of you non-football followers my Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears this weekend for a spot in the Superbowl). I hope the game is as good as this meal was. I was in complete bliss the rest of the evening and reminded that a good meal in with family is priceless.

Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo

Source: Guys Big Bite-Food Network