Friday, December 31, 2010

For Pita's Sake

My mom and I ate at a Greek food place the other week, and they had the most amazing pitas. These were not like the ones I used to get at the grocery store that were thin and dry. These were softer and thicker with a better taste and a great chewy texture. We bought some to bring home with us.

We had some ground lamb that for Christmas my mom was going to make into meatballs from her new Tapas cookbook, but she didn't end up making them. (Instead, she made the best apple pie I've had in years, so I wasn't disappointed.) Earlier this week I decided I'd better cook the lamb since I didn't want to waste it by letting it go bad.

Inspired by the Greek food I'd had, I made meatballs with the ground lamb, cumin, coriander, garlic, cayenne, and a little cinnamon. There might have been something else in there too, but I've forgotten. I rolled them into small balls and cooked them in a skillet. I made a yogurt sauce with non-fat Greek yogurt, finely minced garlic, a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I also cut up some lettuce, grated a carrot, and very thinly sliced up some yellow onion.

To assemble the sandwiches, I warmed the pitas up on a cast-iron griddle pan, let them cool for a few seconds and then spread them with the yogurt sauce. I sliced up some of the meatballs and layered them on 1 side of the pita, added lots of lettuce, carrot, and onion, and then folded the pita in half.

They turned out really yummy. I liked the combination of hot pita and lamb with the cold yogurt and vegetables. The lamb was spicy but not too hot and the yogurt was creamy with the sharp bite of garlic and tanginess of lemon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dessert Report

Today's post is about the dessert I made because the dinners I made yesterday and tonight were both things I've made and reported on--pizza and stir fry. However, tonight's dessert was a thing born from necessity. The necessity to do something with the milk before it went bad.

     My mom buys Strauss non-fat milk. It's organic milk from a Northern California dairy where all the cows are happy California cows. They are grass-fed and pasture raised, so the milk is a little different from everyday milk (read expensive). Here's the thing about Strauss milk though. As the days go by, it starts to get sweet. There's a point, based on how sweet it tastes, at which I know that in another day or so the milk will go bad. That day was today. I didn't want to waste almost 3 cups of milk, so I knew I had to do something with it.

     Pudding! I like pudding. I even like the boxed stuff. Unfortunately, we didn't have any of the boxed stuff, so I was out of luck. But wait...people made pudding before Jello ever started boxing the stuff. What to do? Ah, the internet, I love you (even though sometimes you infuriate me.) I found a recipe for Chocolate pudding made with cocoa and cornstarch (I had both of those things!). It also called for sugar (check), milk (duh), salt, butter, and vanilla (just a little of the last 3).

     The recipe did take some effort, but it wasn't complicated. It just took some time. I am not renowned for my patience; I always want to hurry things up. This sometimes leads to unpleasant results when cooking. I managed to be patient this time, and it was worth it. The pudding came out creamy and chocolate-y with the added bonus of being low-fat and without any preservatives or weird food additives.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday and Saturday Nights' Dinners

Yesterday I made Fennel and Squash Gratin from the Raley's 75th Anniversary cookbook. (For my east coast friends, Raley's/Bel Air is a chain of grocery stores here in Northern California.) This recipe consists of butternut squash, acorn squash, fennel bulb, onion, mascarpone cheese, and havarti cheese. The squash was microwaved ahead of time to minimize baking time, and the onion and fennel were sauteed until the onion was soft. Then everything was mixed together including the mascarpone and cubed havarti and put in a baking dish. After baking for about 30 minutes, it came out bubbling and lightly browned on top. I let it set for a little while before serving.

I have to admit that it was tasty, but it was pretty rich. There are different kinds of richness in foods, at least to me. Some kinds of richness I can enjoy more of, and other types I can only handle in small amounts. This squash dish was of the latter variety, unfortunately. I'd never had fennel bulb before and was nicely surprised by the way it tasted. The licorice smell was pretty strong coming off of it when I was chopping it up. You can find the recipe for the gratin on the Raley's website here. I have found many good recipes from Raley's on their website and in their free magazine, Something Extra. Check it out.

Last month, I wrote a post in which I mentioned making Curried Chicken and Vegetable Roast from a recipe I cut out of the November issue of Food & Wine magazine (I mistakenly attributed it to Eating Well magazine). The chicken had come out on the bland side, but the vegetable were okay. I decided to try making it again, but this time I made some changes to the recipe and to how I made it last time. (Sorry, the photo doesn't look super appetizing, but the food tasted really good.)

This time I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which the recipe originally called for. These worked much better than the cut up chicken I used last time. For the curry marinade/sauce stuff, I began like last time making half the recipe. However, this time, I used half the non-fat Greek yogurt, but I kept all of the spices at the original amounts called for--essentially doubling the spice I used last time. I also used fresh ginger this time instead of powdered ginger--this made a big difference to the taste. I also included the juice from half a lemon. I mixed it all up, tossed in the chicken, and stirred until all the pieces were well-coated. I then covered the bowl and let it sit for about 90 minutes.

Once again, I used carrots, onions, beets, and Brussel sprouts. I did not put in any squash since we just had squash yesterday. A little olive oil, salt & pepper, and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary rounded out the vegetables. Everything went into a rectangular baking dish (the one I used was slightly smaller than a 9x13) and then set the chicken pieces on top. Everything roasted for about an hour. This time, the dish turned out sooooo good. Everything was cooked just right, and the chicken was very flavorful.

Here's the recipe for the yogurt marinade:

1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbs minced fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves minced
1 Tbs Madras curry powder (I used one from Williams-Sonoma, but you can get this at Cost Plus and even some regular grocery stores)
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Put all ingredients in a bowl and stir well to blend. Coat chicken pieces and allow them to sit for at least an hour before cooking.

This is really good, and if you don't like really hot-spicy curries, I recommend the Madras curry powder I got from Williams-Sonoma; it wasn't very spicy, just a really flavorful blend of spices.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soup's On

     I made soup tonight. The only soup I'd made before was ham & bean, and I'd only made that a couple of times. Making soup is kind of a long process, and you end up with this huge amount of soup. When you live alone, you can end up eating soup for days and still have a bunch to freeze. A few weeks ago, I got an email from Borders saying they were giving me free $10 in Borders bucks, but the offer expired just a few days later. I ended up using it to buy a copy of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. It's a fun book, full of recipes for food mentioned in the books and also some typical and traditional British dishes. There are recipes for cauldron cakes, pumpkin pasties, pork pies, and even homemade marshmallows.

     As I was looking through the book, I came across a recipe for Scotch Broth. My mom used to love Campbell's Scotch Broth, but they stopped carrying it in any of the local grocery stores. When I saw the recipe, I thought that it might be a treat for her if I made it. I made it the first time on Thanksgiving. My mom had to work, and so I went over to the hospital at lunchtime and had turkey dinner with her. I knew she'd be hungry when she got home and though soup would be good for dinner. It turned out really well. My mom really liked it, though she said it didn't taste like the one made by Campbell's.

     This is one recipe I followed strictly. As I mentioned, I don't have much experience making soup, so I wanted to make sure I followed the recipe (that way if it didn't turn out, I could blame the recipe, lol). The recipe calls for lamb or beef chuck, but it's traditionally made with lamb or mutton, and since we like lamb in our family, I deboned some lamb chops and cubed the meat. Also in the recipe are barley, onions, carrots, celery, turnip, leeks, garlic, cabbage, and fresh parsley. The base is chicken broth. The process was to brown the lamb on high heat then remove it to a plate, and then cook the onions in the same pan. Then you add the broth, barley, salt, and add the meat back in. That has to cook for an hour and a half. Then you add the vegetables (except for the cabbage and parsley) and the garlic and simmer for another hour. Finally, add the cabbage and parsley and cook for an additional 30 minutes. This is not a quick soup. Cooking time alone is 3+ hours, and that doesn't count the initial prep of the meat (I think the deboning took me almost half an hour.) and onions. The rest of the veggies can be prepped during the first stage of cooking.

     However, all the work is worth it. The soup turns out thick and creamy with a great mix of vegetable flavors. The barley adds an interesting texture and helps thicken the soup, and the meat ends up fork tender. The first time I made it, I made some biscuits to go along with it. They didn't turn out so well. They didn't taste bad, but I think my baking powder is old because they didn't rise; they ended up pretty flat. My mom suggested letting them rise on the baking sheet for a while before baking them. I think I'll try that next time. I don't really have a biscuit recipe I regularly use. In the past, I've mostly used Bisquick. If anyone has a good biscuit recipe, let me know. Thanks.

     Sorry for the long delay between the last post and this one. I have been cooking, but not a whole lot, and nothing too exciting--mostly things I've mentioned before in the blog or on facebook posts. Over the next several days, though, I'll be making some new dishes. I got a copy of the Raley's 75th anniversary cookbook, which had some tasty-looking recipes. I'll be making a winter squash gratin and a quinoa salad as well as blackened fish, which is a favorite of my mom and me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving...

About 4 o'clock this afternoon my mom sent me a text asking what was for dinner. No idea. Ended up looking in the fridge and found a few things that sounded good. I found a recipe for Penne with Sausage Cream Sauce that looked good on The only thing I didn't have was any cream, so I went to the little market and bought half & half instead. I figured I could cut a little of the fat (this is not a low fat dish) out; better some than none.

I followed the recipe pretty closely with only a couple of changes. A few of the reviewers mentioned that the recipe made too little sauce for the pound of pasta and sausage. I was going to make half the recipe, so I used half the sausage and pasta but made the whole sauce recipe. It turned out to be just the right amount of sauce. It was a creamy, tomato-y, garlicky sauce that really went well with the sausage and pasta. It was creamy without being too rich; the tomato helped cut the richness. The recipe also called for flat-leaf parsley, but I had none so left it out. I also used spaghetti instead of penne, but I think that doesn't really change the recipe, just the look and maybe texture of the dish. I think it would be very good with penne too.

Now, I'm writing this while chilling some brown sugar-shortbread cookie dough. Shortbread cookies are one of the easiest, simplest types of cookie to make. My favorite recipe comes from the Brown Bag Cookie Mold company. They make shortbread/cookie pans; I have a couple of them, and they make very good shortbread. However, most of the time I just chill and slice the dough instead of using the pan. You can find some of their shortbread recipes on their website,

My two favorites are the original and the maple walnut shortbread. My dad loved both of these but especially the original. He didn't like getting birthday or Father's Day presents, so I would make him a batch of these instead.

Anyway, they're dead easy to make. I made them tonight with brown sugar instead of powdered sugar. It makes a denser cookie with a hint of caramel to it.

If you haven't commented on the last post with your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, please feel free. Thanksgiving dishes usually work well for Christmas dinner too.

I'm thankful that I have wonderful friends, a loving and supportive family, a roof over my head, and food and clothing. It's more than some people have. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Calling all Cooks

So I was thinking about Thanksgiving today and they types of dishes we've traditionally made for family Thanksgiving dinners. Reading recent magazine issues and watching Food TV, I see that families have very different takes on Thanksgiving sides. Pretty much the turkey part is similar enough, but those sides can be completely foreign to me. Some sound delish while others sound vile.

So, I'm calling all cooks to post about your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes (with or without recipe), either traditional family ones or new ones you have added to the tradition. Post your contribution using the comment box below. Thanks!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pumpkin Praline Torte

Since it's been mentioned recently on facebook, I thought I'd post about the Praline Pumpkin Torte that so wowed everyone I know who has tasted it.

About 5 years ago, my mom emailed me about a recipe from Sunset magazine she thought looked good. It would be something different for the holidays while still being seasonal. I looked the recipe over, and it looked really good. It was a big hit from the first.

Fast forward 2 years to Thanksgiving 2007; I was in Boston at grad school for my MLIS. Since I was going home to California for Christmas, I stayed in Boston for Thanksgiving. Some of my friends and co-dorm residents were also staying, so we decided to make our own Thanksgiving dinner. It turned out great! Everyone made something, and it was all so yummy. I was in charge of dessert, so I decided to make the Praline Pumpkin Torte.

It was a huge hit! There's just something about the combination of layers of rich, spicy pumpkin cake studded with praline pecans and sandwiched together with whipped cream.

The recipe was featured in a Sunset Magazine website feature called 17 Thanksgiving Desserts.

Praline Pumpkin Torte
from Sunset

Notes: You can bake the cakes (through step 3) up to 1 day ahead; cover and store at room temperature. [I recommend making them at the night before, letting them cool, and then wrapping them up. I think it makes the cake dense, moist, and melds all the flavors together.] Up to 6 hours ahead, assemble layers; cover with a large inverted bowl or pan and chill.

Prep and Cook Time: about 1 hour, plus 1 1/2 hours to cool cakes.

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons plus 1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1 cup chopped pecans
4 large eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups canned cooked pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 3/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with cooking parchment. In a heavy 1- to 2-quart pan over low heat, stir brown sugar, butter, and 3 tablespoons whipping cream until melted and blended, about 5 minutes. Pour half the brown sugar mixture into each of the cake pans. Sprinkle 3/4 cup chopped pecans evenly into pans.

2. In a bowl, with a spoon, beat eggs, granulated sugar, and oil until well blended. Stir in pumpkin and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt to blend. Whisk dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture until well blended. Pour half the batter into each of the pans; smooth top.

3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans on racks about 5 minutes, then invert onto racks and remove pans and paper. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Up to 6 hours before serving, in a bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat remaining 1 3/4 cups whipping cream until soft peaks form. On low speed, beat in powdered sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla just until blended. Set one cake layer, pecan praline side up, on a serving platter. Spread two-thirds of the whipped cream mixture over the top. Set second layer, praline side up, on top. Cover with remaining whipped cream mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup chopped pecans.

Yield: Makes about 12 servings

If any of my friends who have made this cake have any variations they've tried, let me know.

--recipe and photo copyright Sunset Magazine, photo by Monica Buck--

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Original and the Leftovers

This will be 3 nights in one since I didn't get to this post when I said I would. I actually didn't eat much early this week other than mashed potatoes, split pea soup, and pudding because of my tooth; first it hurt then after the root canal I wanted to be careful about chewing. This past Thursday I made Curried Chicken and Vegetable Roast from a recipe in Eating Well magazine. The recipe looked really good, but it ended up kind of blah.

The recipe called for butternut squash, onion, and brussel sprouts. I had a winter squash, but it wasn't butternut. I used it anyway. I also included brussel sprouts, onion, beets, and carrots. You were supposed to toss then in some olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt & pepper. The recipe was supposed to serve 12, so I reduced it by a bit more than 1/2. The original recipe called for 1 cup of oil, so half the recipe would have been 1/2 cup, which seemed like an exorbitant amount to me. I only used about 3 tablespoons, which was plenty.

The chicken part called for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but I had a cut up chicken, so I used that. The recipe called for non-fat Greek-style plain yogurt, ginger, garlic, and Madras curry powder mixed together then coat the chicken pieces with it and lay them on top of the vegetables in a large, shallow, roasting pan.

The vegetable turned out tasty except for the squash, which had a bad aftertaste. The chicken was pretty bland. I think it would turn out better if I added about twice the amount of ginger, garlic, and curry to the same amount of yogurt and then let the chicken marinate in it for a couple of hours before cooking. The chicken did turn out pretty tender though, and we ended up using the leftovers in various ways the next few days.

Friday night I used some of the leftover chicken in a vegetable risotto and served it with leftover roasted vegetables. I think I've become obsessed with risotto. That and frittata, I think. Trying different combinations of additions. The risotto had minced carrots, finely diced onion, garlic, chicken, and a little Parmesan. I really liked it, but I'm not sure if my mom did. I think she thought it was fine but not particularly delicious.

My mom made lasagna last night--so yummy. Dangerous because I could easily have eaten way too much of it, it was so good.

Tonight I made a frittata with the last of the chicken, some corn, and potato. I added some oregano, garlic, chipotle powder, and chili powder. It was good though it would have been really great with some salsa.

So that's the dinner report for the last few days. This coming week we'll be having a stir fry, vegetable barley soup, and quick mac n cheese with more roasted vegetables (they're a favorite of mine and my mom) and Thursday we'll be going out to dinner to celebrate my brother's birthday. I'll try to post again later this week because I'll be in Sacramento all weekend at the California Library Association Annual Conference.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cheese Sauce & Scones (don't worry, not together)

Cheese Sauce
I guess it was Sunday afternoon when my mom sent me a text asking me what I was making for dinner. At that point, I hadn't even thought much about dinner. I'd been feeling a little funky during the day (guess I was gearing up for that migraine on Monday), so I had nothing planned. Luckily, we had some leftover Italian sausage, so that went on the menu. Then I saw the squash we're still working our way through. Steamed squash always works. That seemed a little boring, so I decided to make some pasta with cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce is actually pretty quick and easy to make, and when you pour it over noodles, you get a quick mac and cheese that tastes way better than boxed stuff. (I like the boxed stuff too sometimes, but this is just better.)

The cheese sauce I make is basically a white sauce with added cheese and a little dijon mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup non-fat milk (you can use any milk--I just use what I have which is generally non-fat)
3/4 - 1 cup shredded cheddar (or jack or whatever you have on hand that is similar to either of these--I think my favorite is a combo of mild cheddar and smoked Gruyere.)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
ground nutmeg
cayenne pepper
black pepper

Heat the milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 to 4 minutes. Keep the heat low so the flour mixture doesn't brown. Whisking constantly, pour the milk into the flour mixture and mix vigorously until the sauce is smooth with no lumps. I have found that having the milk heated makes it easier to mix it into the flour mixture.

Keeping the temperature low, stir in 3/4 cup shredded cheese (more or less), Dijon mustard, a dash or 2 each of nutmeg and cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to fully mix in all the ingredients. Let simmer, covered, on low while you finish cooking the rest of your meal. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk or water until it is the desired consistency.

Cook up some pasta and mix in the sauce with whatever else you like (I like to add peas to mine.), and you've got mac and cheese.

I made scones today. I've made them from a mix and once before I've made them from scratch, but I couldn't remember what recipe I used. I did a search for scone recipes, and I think I found the one I used before. These scones turned out perfect. Scones aren't really like a biscuit--they're more NOT like a biscuit...meaning it's helpful to use biscuits in comparison to describe scones, but they aren't really that alike. Scones are denser than biscuits. They are also a bit sweeter, and the outside is slightly crispy but also flaky like shortbread In fact, that's probably the best way to describe these scones--kind of a cross between a biscuit and shortbread. Very yummy.

Cream Scone Recipe:
from Joy Of
with some changes and commentary by me

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (75 grams) cold butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream (contains 35-40% butterfat)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (I was out of parchment paper, so I just put the scones directly on the cookie sheet. I recommend parchment paper though as my scones ended up a little dark on the bottom.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives (I used my hands, working quickly so as not to let the butter get too warm). The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. In a small measuring cup combine the whipping cream, beaten egg and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix.

Knead dough gently on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round. Then, using a 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds. (Alternately, you can just cut the dough disc into wedges.) Place the rounds on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing a few inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream. This helps to brown the tops of the scones during baking. (I didn't find this to be true, but the cream does make them nice and glossy-looking.)

Bake for about 12 - 18 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with Devon cream or softly whipped cream and your favorite jam.

Makes about 8 round scones.

These are excellent with clotted cream and jam, but they are also great with just jam or lemon curd. Frankly, I even like them plain.

I really need to get my camera out and take some photos of the stuff I make. I think it could get boring just hearing about things without ever seeing pictures. I also need to try to find a way to format the recipes so they are easier to read. I'll work on that.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Summer's Last Hurrah

I spent the last week out at the coast near Bodega Bay with my family. We stayed in a house right on the coast overlooking the beach. The whole back wall of the house was windows; the view couldn't be beat. We spent time at the beach, played games, read, did puzzles, and just had a good time. The weather was great; warm but not hot. It was like a tiny bit of summer leftover into fall. I made this salad one day for lunch.

Asian-Inspired Chicken Salad

1/2 head of cabbage
1 large carrot
1 small can water chestnuts
1 bunch scallions/green onions or 1/2 cup very thinly sliced mild onion
1 cup chopped, cooked chicken

1/3 cup vegetable oil (if using olive oil, use light not extra virgin)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Flavor packet from 1 package of Maruchan or Top Ramen any flavor
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce (optional-I liked the stronger flavor it gave to the dressing)

Toppings: (or crunchies, as my sister calls them)
Toasted slivered almonds
Toasted sesame seeds
Ramen noodles (uncooked) crushed and toasted on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven. Stir every few minutes until lightly browned. Remove and cool.

Make dressing:
Place all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Set aside.

Make salad:
Shred cabbage into longish thin strips; make sure you remove and discard the core. Peel carrot and grate it or use the peeler to make long thin curls of carrot. Open and drain can of water chestnuts. In a large bowl, toss cabbage, carrots, water chestnuts, onion, and chicken. Pour in about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dressing (just enough to coat everything) and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serve salad and have each person top with crunchies and additional dressing as they like.

Serves 2-4

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Squash Casserole Recipe

A few people asked about the recipe for squash casserole I mentioned a few times on facebook. This recipe is adapted from another recipe (see below), but I tweaked it a bit after making it the first time to cut some of the extra fat and to obtain a firmer, less soggy result. Don't get me tasted great making it just as printed, but I found that leaving out some of the extra fat it called for didn't affect its taste and gave a firmer texture.

Summer Squash Casserole
adapted from "Summer Squash Casserole with Nuts" by Paula on
8 servings


1 pound summer squash, sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoon milk
1 egg
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
4 ounces sliced pancetta, cooked & drained (blot off any extra fat)-optional
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tablespoon butter


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add squash, and cook until tender. Drain well.

3. Place squash in a large mixing bowl. Mash well. If there seems to be a lot of extra liquid, drain some off so you won't end up with a soggy result. Mix bell pepper, sugar, onion, egg, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, cheese, nuts, and pancetta (optional) to the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a 1-quart casserole dish. Top with bread crumbs. Dot with the butter.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes.

5. Allow casserole to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

I've also made this recipe with bacon instead of pancetta, but the result was not tasty. For some reason, the bacon got rubbery during the baking of the casserole, but the pancetta didn't. Once when we were out of pecans, I used walnuts which turned out pretty good.

When you cut up the squash to cook it, you can scrape out the seeds or leave them in. I've made this both ways. If you leave the seeds in, you'll end up with more liquid when you mash the squash, but you can just drain some of it off. I usually leave the seeds in unless they are really large and tough.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dinner Report #1

Well, my friends, here is the first post of my Dinner Report blog--made just for you all. I've had lots of nice feedback from my friends on Facebook about the "dinner reports" I've posted. It's kind of cool since I was really posting things about what I'd made for dinner because, sadly, nothing more interesting happened on that day.

But, you know, I like to cook, so talking, or writing, about it is fun for me. I like trying new recipes, cooking old favorites, and tweaking recipes with good (and sometimes odd) results (like the time I mixed up cardamom and coriander in the recipe for Black Bean-Sweet Potato Burritos).

Anyway, here is the first recipe I'm posting. It was the last thing I posted about on Facebook, so I thought it appropriate to start with this one. The official title is Spinach and Sausage Deep-Dish Pie. We always just called it Spinach-Sausage Pie. I'm not sure where the recipe came from, originally. My mom cut it out of a magazine many years ago and pasted it onto a recipe card, but there's nothing to indicate which magazine.

Spinach-Sausage Pie

1 pound Italian Sausage, cooked and drained
4 beaten eggs
1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Pie crust pastry (enough for a two crust pie)

1 beaten egg
1 Tbs. water

In a bowl, combine the four beaten eggs, the spinach, mozzarella, undrained cottage cheese, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in sausage; set aside.

Prepare pie crust, set aside 1/3 of pastry. On a lightly flowered surface, roll out remaining pastry to a 14 inch square. Transfer to an 8x8x2 square baking pan; line with pastry. Fill with sausage mixture. Roll out reserved pastry to a 12 inch square. Place atop filling, folding edges under sides of bottom crust. Seal and flute edges.

Combine remaining egg and water; brush over pastry. Cut slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Cover the edges of the crust with foil. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I used an already prepared pie crust from the grocery store (I think it was Pillsbury.) I can make pie crust, but using the already made crust cut way down on prep time. I use part skim-milk mozarrella, low-fat cottage cheese, and non-fat milk, which cuts down the fat a little bit but doesn't affect the flavor or texture. Definitely allow the pie to rest before serving; this will give the filling time to set. This reheats fairly well in the microwave.

If you want to make your own pie crust, here's the basic pie crust recipe my mom always uses and which I use too.

Plain Pastry
from Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes, copyright Meredith Corporation 1966.

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
5 to 7 Tbs. cold water

Sift together flour and salt; cut in shortening with a pastry blender or fork until pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. water over part of mixture. Gently toss with fork; push to side of bowl. Sprinkle next Tbs. of water over dry part; mix lightly; push to moistened part at side.Repeat until all is moistened. Divide dough and form into two balls. Flatten ball on lightly floured surface. Roll from center to edge until dough is 1/8 inch thick.

I can remember my mom making this when I was a kid. I didn't care much for it because I didn't really like spinach or pie crust. My tastes have changed since then. I still don't want to eat a big ol' plate of spinach, but I like it in things, and I have developed a taste for pie crust too. I just wish I could develop a taste for all the super-healthy foods I happen to dislike too. I'm working on it.