Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs the theme of the week is Potluck, I actually started making this dish for last week's Served Family Style theme, but everyone likes a lasagna at a potluck, right? This lasagna is perfect for a fall evening, especially if you are a big butternut squash fan, like myself.

I have a favorite autumn squash lasagna recipe, Martha Stewart's Acorn Squash Lasagna, that I've made every fall for the last few years, but this was a nice change of pace and also a great way to use up some of this absolutely huge butternut squash I found at a local market...

I know that's not the greatest photo of a squash, but it was so huge, definitely the biggest butternut squash I've ever seen. It was over 5 lbs! In Giada's Butternut Squash Lasagna recipe, the directions say to peel, dice, and simmer the squash bits in a pot of water, before pureeing in a food processor -- but I thought that roasting would be an easier and tastier route.

I cannot believe all of that squash is from one squash! Above is after roasting for an hour at 400, spritzed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt before roasting, of course...

Here is the recipe, I've noted my changes in italics, which were mainly using different cheeses for more flavor and extra texture, and no basil.

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via InStyle Magazine

1 tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced (about 2 ½ lb.) -- I roasted my 5 lb seeded squash, spritzed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour, you would probably want to decrease that time for a smaller squash
Salt and pepper to taste

4 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups milk
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves - I did not use basil, had no fresh and didn't want to use dried
2 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided -- I swapped out the mozzarella and used Gruyere and also added 1/3 lb extra thinly sliced Provolone from the deli
1 box (8 oz.) oven-ready lasagna noodles -- I used a regular sized box of boil lasagna noodles with ruffled edges -- Barilla brand, and had about 4 noodles left over after the lasagna was completed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese -- I used Grana Padano and only for serving with

In large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add squash and toss to coat. Add ½ cup water. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 min. or until tender. Cool slightly.

Puree squash in food processor. Season with salt and pepper. -- I skipped the pepper

In medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, whisking for 1 min. Increase heat to high and gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 min., or until slightly thickened. -- mine was still quite thin but worked well in the recipe -- Whisk in nutmeg and cinnamon. Let cool slightly.

Pour half the white sauce into a blender; add the basil and blend until smooth. Return basil sauce to saucepan and combine with rest of white sauce. Season with salt and pepper. -- I skipped this step but did add about 1/2 of the bechamel to the pureed squash to make is easier to spread on the lasagna noodles.

Heat oven to 350°F. Reserve ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Lightly spray 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread ¾ cup of basil sauce in bottom of baking dish. Place three lasagna noodles crosswise over the sauce. Spread ½ of the squash puree over the noodles, followed by ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering using basil sauce, noodles, squash puree and mozzarella.

I pretty much just did the layers the same way with the other cheeses and bechamel squash puree and drizzled a little remaining bechamel over each layer.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 min. Remove foil and sprinkle with reserved ½ cup of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and continue baking 15 min. Let stand 15 min. before cutting.

This was really delicious, I absolutely love the nutmeg and cinnamon in the bechamel sauce, it gave such amazing flavor depth and was so seasonal.

In my opinion the Gruyere and Provolone made this amazing. I love the added texture from the deli sliced Provolone and the Gruyere gave a stuble nuttiness to the cheese layers. This could quite possibly be my new favorite autumn squash lasagna :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Time for Tuesdays with Dorie! Our treat of the week is Dorie's Caramel Pumpkin Pie, picked for us to try by Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs, thank you Janell! You can find the recipe for this delicious pumpkin pie here at Janell's site. I'm running a little late this week and didn't get this pie made until this afternoon, but it was worth the wait.

My husband is a huge pumpkin pie fan, and while it is not one of my top favorite pies (I think those would have to be key lime, blueberry, and coconut cream -- but really, I'm not picky with pie) I still love a good pumpkin pie and always make at least three during the holiday season, one at Thanksgiving, one at Christmas, and usually one sometime in January, for my husband as he laments all of the holiday foods we won't be having until the next season.

I'm always happy to give a new pumpkin pie recipe a try and still don't have a favorite recipe despite making it so many times. Our current favorite is Dorie's Twofer Pie, which is a combo of pumpkin and pecan, but I leave out the pecans for picky husband. I know that sounds kind of silly, but back when we made the Twofer Pies for Tuesdays with Dorie, I made minis and made a few sans pecans for picky husband and he absolutely loved it, and requested it again for Thanksgiving, and I've been making it that way ever since.

This pie had lots of deep flavor and color thanks to the caramelized sugar base that gets mixed with the pumpkin and spices. It certainly is an adult pumpkin pie with a nice dose of rum. While this is a delicious fall dessert, I don't think it will be replacing our current Dorie fave -- Twofer Pumpkin Pie -- minus pecans for picky husband -- and extra pecans for me :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vietnamese Spicy Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles

Time for French Fridays with Dorie! Our recipe this week is Dorie's Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup. I made a vegetarian version, so switched up a few things about the recipe as I went along.

First, I made some Chinese Egg Noodles with my pasta maker. We eat a lot of Asian noodles and have many varieties in the pantry -- soba, cellophane, Thai rice noodles, Cantonese, etc. but I didn't have any Chinese Egg Noodles and had been wanting to try to make my own for a while. I absolutely love the thick Chinese egg noodles you get at Chinese restaurants, I have purchased many Chinese Egg Noodles at the supermarket and specialty stores, always looking for that Chinese restaurant style thick noodle, with no success. Now I think I've made the closest I'm going to get at home. Yum!

Here is the recipe I used, it is from the website, and is so simple you won't believe it...

Chinese Egg Noodles

3 cups sifted flour -- I used all purpose
4 eggs -- I used large

You can mix this by hand, in a KA mixer, or pasta machine. There are more complete directions at the link above. If you do it by hand you can run it through a hand crank machine for flat Chinese Egg Noodles. I wanted thick and cylindrical, so went with my pasta machine and spaghetti extruder disc.

Dorie's soup recipe calls for 5 ounces of noodles, and since I was leaving out the chicken and happen to love noodley soups, I doubled this amount and measured out 10 ounces of fresh noodles on the kitchen scale.

The above photo is adding the noodles. I decided to just cook the noodles in the soup instead of cooking them separately and then adding them as per the recipe. In the below photo you can see how big and slurp-able the noodles got after cooking in the soup, yum!

The soup came together easily, I made a few substitutions -- using vegetable broth instead of chicken, and a mixture of vegetarian oyster sauce and soy sauce instead of the fish sauce. I also used one head of roasted garlic instead of the three sliced cloves, and let my chilies and star anise (I used two whole stars) simmer in the soup. Another tiny change I made was to use Ground Coriander Seed from my spice rack and just sprinkle a little in the soup, instead of the Coriander Seeds.

I thought this was delicious, it has so many different flavors all coming together beautifully. If I had ordered this in a restaurant I would definitely order it again. How did the family like it? Picky husband would not try this soup, my daughter said it was "great, the best soup I ever had," my oldest son said it was "terrible," and my youngest son said to me, "please don't make this soup again." Tough crowd tonight!

At first I had a little bowl, topped with mung bean sprouts and Thai chili sauce, and the second time I ate this I left off the sprouts and chili sauce and stirred in a little peanut butter, which was wonderful. I think I like the soup without the toppings the best. I hope everyone had as much fun with this recipe as I did :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mushroom, Pepper, and Goat Cheese Pizza

This has got to be one of my new favorite pizzas! It's almost more like a flatbread than a pizza, but whatever you call it, it's delicious. I found this recipe for Portobello Mushroom, Fresh Pepper, and Goat Cheese Pizza on allrecipes and changed it up a bit to use what I had on hand, and came up with this yummy version...

Mushroom, Pepper, and Goat Cheese Pizza
adapted from allrecipes

1 recipe pizza crust* (I used my favorite pizza crust recipe, but I think this would work great on a Boboli crust as well)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced white mushrooms
1/2 - 1 cup crumbled goat cheese, depending on how much you like goat cheese ;)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

optional 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella -- I added this the second time I made this pizza, just to make it cheesier -- photo below is of the extra cheesy version...

Whisk the roasted garlic into the olive oil and brush it evenly over your crust. Add a little of the cheese, then your mushrooms and peppers...

top with the remainder of the cheese, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.

*in the above photo you may notice some sun dried tomatoes, these ended up burning in the high temperature oven so I took them off

Baking times vary based on the dough you use, if you are baking on a pizza stone I'd say 5-7 minutes at 500 degrees, if you are baking on a baking sheet -- I'd say 15-20 minutes at 375. The original recipe from allrecipes calls for 15 to 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until the edges are golden brown. There are so many variables when it comes to baking a pizza at home, from what you bake it on (sheet, baking stone, sheet with air vents, etc.) and the dough you use. Just keep an eye on the pizza and take it out when you think it looks done.

I have gotten into the habit of baking my pizzas on a pizza screen on a pizza stone preheated to the highest temperature my oven goes (which is a little over 500) this ensures a nice crispy bottom and chewy crust. I have a double wall oven and the lower oven (the smaller one) is my "pizza oven" since I can get the temperature higher (it is a knob control versus the digital temperature control of my upper oven). I also keep the baking stone in the lower oven all the time so I don't forget to preheat the stone in the oven when I turn it on.

Easy Pizza Crust

3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dry milk powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon bread machine yeast

Put the ingredients in your machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer, in my Oster you put the wet ingredients first, layer the flour on top, and end with the additional dry ingredients and yeast. Set it on dough cycle and press into your pizza pan, this makes two smaller round pizzas, or one big rectangular pizza, the size of a large cookie sheet.

*This is our old standby pizza crust recipe and I usually double to make two large pizzas. Happy pizza night to you and yours :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gorgonzola and Honey Bruschetta

Time for a new season of I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are done cooking with Mark Bittman and are now cooking recipes by Giada De Laurentiis! The theme for our first week is Party Foods and I decided to make Giada's Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and Honey. Don't those sound like fun little party appetizers?

I decided to make my own bread for these bruschetta. I used
this recipe for French Baguettes. It was pretty simple and gave me an excuse to use my new Baguette Pan...

The baguettes turned out to be delicious, albeit a little thinner than I was expecting, now I will know to add more dough per baguette.

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and Honey
Giada De Laurentiis

36 slices (1/2-inch thick) baguette bread, about 1 loaf --
I cut mine about 3/4 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Gorgonzola, sliced
3 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. -- Mine were just about right at 5 minutes, I still like them a little chewy and not 100% crispy.

Arrange the cheese on the toasts and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.

Drizzle the toasts with honey. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

These were a delicious and super easy appetizer! I'm accustomed to bruschetta being topped with tomatoes and basil and maybe some mozzarella cubes, so this was a nice new take on a classic appetizer. I would make these again for sure, the gorgonzola and honey are a very nice combo, and on top of fresh bread you can't lose. I'm really looking forward to cooking with IHCC this season and using some of my Giada cookbooks and her recipes on Food Network, she always has something new to try :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gerard's Mustard Tart

Time for French Fridays with Dorie! This is our second week cooking and baking through Dorie's Around My French Table and our dish this week is Gerard's Mustard Tart. Dorie says in her book that mustard in France is like ketchup here -- a favorite condiment, always available along side salt and pepper. That was a new bit of food trivia for me, I had no idea mustard was so popular there.

Often on this blog I write about a recipe and mention that picky husband "wouldn't try it" or "had one tiny bite and that was it" well, today is my turn to be picky. Yep, I get the picky pants award for the night, but I can't be too down on myself because I did make this and did try it, even though this tart combines my "don't like list" almost perfectly. There are only a few foods I don't like, these things are: eggs, mustard, black pepper, and onions. I have not liked them all since I was a child, and have tried them at different points through the years, hoping my taste buds have matured and I will find a new love (or tolerance) of these ingredients to no avail. Tonight was a night of trying again, with no success. Picky husband said the only thing missing was onions for it to have all of my "don't like list."

This tart looked perfect, I made a mini and scaled the recipe down to 1/3 of the original. I used some Jack Daniel's Honey Dijon as my mustard. I know it's not French. I'm sorry. Even though I'm not a mustard fan, I did try to find a true French mustard locally to no avail. I actually bought a six pack of the Jack Daniel's Honey Dijon a few months ago as a food gift for my husband, yes, my extra picky husband likes mustard. And I don't. Makes me feel kind of bad for picking on him for being so picky all of these years. I always think I will like mustard, it looks so good to me, especially as dipping sauce for a big Bavarian pretzel, and I always try it but never like it.

Anyway, the tart came together easily, I adore Dorie's tart dough recipe even if I have to add a couple extra teaspoons of water, it never lets me down and is so delicious! I made a full recipe of the tart dough and have the remaining two thirds in the freezer, I'm sure it'll be used up in no time.

I had a nice time putting this tart together, the delicate placing of the veggies on top, etc. It was a fun recipe to try even if it wasn't my cup of tea. My husband had a small piece and said it tasted really good but the texture wasn't his favorite, although he would eat the rest of it. My older two children didn't want to try it, but my youngest little guy liked it and had two tiny slices. I am so proud of that guy, no picky palate there :)

Thanks for visiting, I hope that all of my FFWD friends enjoyed eating this tart as much as I enjoyed making it :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Double Apple Bundt Cake Minis

Time for Tuesdays with Dorie! Today's selection is Double Apple Bundt Cake, picked for us to try by Lynne of Honey Muffin, thank you Lynne. You can find the recipe here at Lynne's site if you do not have Dorie's book, Baking From My Home To Yours.

This cake, featuring apple butter and shredded apples and studded with raisins and walnuts sounded like the perfect fall treat to me!

I was happy to be able to use some of the crock pot apple butter I made for a previous TWD dessert, Apple Apple Bread Pudding, back in May -- I had made a huge batch and had this container in my freezer since then. Now that this delicious stuff is thawed out and readily available in the fridge, I'm sure it will get used up quickly.

I ended up making minis and a small half bundt (mostly to use up the leftover batter after I filled the mini bundt pan).

The mini bundts baked for 30 minutes at 350 and they were perfectly done. I was a bit nervous about unmolding them since I had read a few people had trouble with their cakes crumbling, but for whatever reason, luck maybe, mine slid right out of their pans. Whew!

I did not use the suggested icing but made a similar version with 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons apple cider, yum!

These look so cute, they will be our dessert tonight so no reviews yet, but I'm sure they'll be wonderful. I can't wait to give them a try :)
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