Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is here you guys!!! I know, it is sort of hard to tell if you live in Southern California right now. We are in the midst of a serious heat wave. I’m talking so hot, they had recess indoors at my son’s school. Ugh. This is not my jam. At all.

Anyway, last weekend I put up my fall decor in anticipation of this heat wave breaking and the season finally making an appearance.

Today, I braved my oven (with the AC on) and made my first “Fall” dish of the season: Stuffed Acorn Squash. It was so easy and delicious and healthy just very… FALL.

You should be able to find farro at any grocery store, but if you can’t, I’m sure you can substitute brown rice. Same with the garlic herb sausage. I got this at Trader Joe’s and I know I’ve seen similar varieties at regular grocery stores too. You could probably substitute just about any flavor you like.

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Serves 2 (1/2 squash each. About 360 calories per serving)

1 medium acorn squash
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 chicken sausage links (see note above), cut into small pieces
1/2 leek, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup COOKED farro
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (you can use dried as well, just cut the amount in half)
1 teaspoon dried sage

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (or, if you are deathly afraid of cutting winter squash and are scared you are going to accidentally stab yourself, enlist someone else to do it). Scoop out the seeds in the middle and coat with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Just until slightly fork-tender.

While the squash is roasting, make your farro according to package directions.

Make the rest of the stuffing (you can actually make the stuffing ahead of time, a day or two, and just use it when you are ready).  In a skillet, saute in a little olive oil the leeks, garlic, sausage, thyme, and sage.

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I don’t know why this picture is upside down, but I’m pretty sure you get it…

 

Drain the farro and add it to the sausage mixture. Then put half in each half of the squash. Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Funny story… When I was coming up with this recipe, I had planned on adding a diced apple to the stuffing (include it in the saute). I even bought the apple. I completely FORGOT!!  If you make it, try it with the apple and let me know how it goes. Next time I will include the apple! (I was going to use a Fuji, but any should work).

This was really yummy and quite easy. Perfect for a fall dinner. Now, someone send me pictures of changing leaves and sipping apple cider because I’m melting over here!

Chili

I’m sure you were all on the edge of your seat after my previous post, so I thought I would let you know the good, oh-so-important news: I did get my slow cooker. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas (see? I was right about that box I saw!) and it is every bit as glorious as I hoped it would be.

You can use the insert on the stove top to cook anything that may need to be precooked beforehand (like ground beef or searing meat), it has a timer you can set so you really can set it and forget it. No more “Wait, what time did I start that again?” Also, once the time is up, it automatically switches over to the “warm” setting so it stops cooking! It’s pretty magical and I highly recommend it to any and every one.

Of course, I had to use my new toy as soon as possible, so we had some friends over for game night and I made a big pot of chili. It was perfect for the cold El Nino weather we’ve been having.

There seems to be at least 7,000 recipes for chili out there. Everyone has their own special twist to it and most are really good. I don’t think even I make it the same every time, but this one is a pretty basic recipe that was warm, comforting, and delicious.

Here is my basic chili recipe. It makes a lot, so be prepared for leftovers, which is perfectly alright with me! It also freezes really well.

1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
2 15 oz cans water

In a skillet (or the insert of your crockpot, if you can), heat up the olive oil and add the pepper, onions, and garlic until almost soft. Then add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain off rendered fat. (Fun fact: I forgot to do this step, so after it was all cooked, I had the fun task of skimming it all off the top. It worked out, but man that was tedious!)

Put the meat and veggies in your slow cooker, and add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and beans. Mix together. Then fill up one of your 15 oz cans with water twice and add it to the mix.

Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6.

Top with some shredded cheese or your favorite chili toppings and make your favorite cornbread recipe (here is mine).

I don’t have a “final” picture because right as game night was getting started our power went out! We ate chili and played Cards Against Humanity by candlelight. You’ll have to trust me that food looked and tasted quite delicious!!

Baked Pumpkin Stuffed French Toast (Christmas Movie Series)

Over my years of watching holiday tv movies, I’ve noticed that there are pretty much two different career paths that our plucky protagonists follow in Christmas movies:

Food (this is mostly baking, but any sort of food job qualifies):

  • Recipe for a Perfect Christmas (chef and a food critic; two-for-one)
  • Christmas in Connecticut (food columnist)
  • The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (chef)
  • Matchmaker Santa (baker)
  • A Cookie Cutter Christmas (OK, she’s a teacher, but the whole thing revolves around a cookie baking competition and her love interest prides himself on his cooking abilities)
  • Let it Snow (it may be a stretch, but the woman who runs the ski lodge is always cooking something. Food does play a big role here)
  • Ice Sculpture Christmas (chef)

PR (this includes marketing and advertising as well)

  • Christmas Cupid (PR)
  • Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade (PR)
  • 12 Wishes of Christmas (PR)
  • Fir Crazy (Marketing)
  • Window Wonderland (Marketing)
  • Let it Snow (Marketing)
  • Northpole (reporter; I only count this because when I went to journalism school, I had to take PR classes, so they are pretty intertwined)
  • Hitched for the Holidays (advertising)
  • The Santa Clause (marketing)
  • 12 Gifts of Christmas (advertising)

Sometimes, you’ll come across the ones who are working one job but dream of making it big doing something else (Holiday in Handcuffs: waitress/wanna be artist meets architect who wants his own firm; Christmas Under Wraps: doctor must work in small town, but really wants a big city job)

People who work for Corporate or in Finance are usually the scrooges: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (she gets better though), Fir Crazy, The Best Christmas Party Ever, Charming Christmas 

For this recipe, I decided to revamp a dish I created a long time ago (way before this blog). It may sound complicated, but it is so easy and really delicious!

1 8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tubes of refrigerated crescent rolls
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice.

Open the crescent tubes and roll out the triangles.

Spoon a generous amount of the filling onto the triangle and roll it up.  

Place the filled rolls into a baking dish. I used a 7×11.
In another bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour over the top of the rolls. Like I said, I used a 7×11 dish. If you use a bigger one, you may want to increase the egg by 1 and the milk by about 1/2 a cup, maybe a little less.  

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Again, if you use a bigger dish, you may want to cook it a bit less because the egg will be more spread out. Just keep your eye on it.   This was so delicious! My house was filled with smells of cinnamon and baked rolls the whole time they were in the oven. The top is nice a crusty but the inside is really soft and creamy with the filling.

Such a great holiday breakfast! Or anytime of year!

15 Bean Soup 

One of my favorite things about Fall is that it is soup weather. There are so many delicious ways to make soup and I think, for the most part, they are pretty healthy and satisfying.

My mom used to make a soup like this when I was growing up. She would use navy beans and the leftover ham bone from Christmas Eve dinner. It was always something I looked forward to.

For this one, I used the bag of 15 bean mix that you can get at the grocery store. (You can discard the seasoning packet, unless you really want to use it.) There are so many good beans in here and changing up the beans from my mom’s navy beans just adds a bit more nutrition to the dish. The taste was still a nostalgic treat and so yummy. Just what I needed on a cold night fighting whatever sickness has invaded my body.

They say no matter how old you are, you always need your mommy. Well, even if she couldn’t be here to take care of me, at least her soup can be!

You just need:

1 lb bag of beans
1 ham hock
ham, diced
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

The night before, place the dry beans in a bowl and cover completely with water.
The next morning, the beans will have soaked up most of the water and look like this. You can leave them like this until you are ready to make your soup.

In a big soup pot, add a little bit of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until soft. Then add some diced ham. Stir around a little bit before adding the rest of the ingredients. You can add a little bit of salt and pepper at this stage, but I tend to wait until the end to see how much seasoning it might need.

Add the beans, ham hock, and bay leaf. Cover with with water, about 2 inches above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil for about a minute, then reduce to a low simmer and cover.

That’s it. Seriously. Just let it sit for about 2 hours, stirring every so often.

When you’re done, remove the bay leaf and taste it to see how much salt and pepper you want to add. I usually add a little bit of salt and a generous amount of pepper. Serve it up with some bread and enjoy on a nice cold night!

PS: This makes a lot of soup. I store it with the ham hock in the soup just to keep the flavors going strong.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Penne with Pancetta 

So a few days ago, it felt like Fall. For about 5 minutes. Today, however, it was back to 88 degrees. It is supposed to be 90 on Halloween.

Ugh… If this is what people mean by “Southern California Weather” you can keep it. It was never like this growing up, so you know, global warming sucks.

Anyway, back to when it was nice and cool for a hot second. I took full advantage and made this yummy pumpkin pasta. I had the rest of the can of pumpkin that I used for the ravioli and turned it into this delicious sauce. Even though it has cinnamon and nutmeg, it wasn’t too sweet at all. It had the right amount of balance and the flavor was just warm and comforting.

Best of all, it hit the trifecta: Quick, easy, and my kids loved it! My husband even went back for a small third serving! I think it is safe to say, this was a winner.

4oz diced pancetta
1-2 cloves minced garlic1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1-1/2 cups milk (you can use cream or half & half if you want)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup walnuts or pecans with cinnamon and honey (optional)

In a pot, add your pancetta and a light dusting of ground cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring around, until crispy. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate and keep any fat that rendered out in the pot.

  To the rendered pancetta fat, add the garlic and onions. Saute until soft.
  Add about 1 T of flour and stir to make a little paste with the fat. You can a little olive oil if you don’t think there is enough. Stir in the pumpkin puree, milk nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix well. Let the mixture come to a high simmer and then turn the heat down to low. This should allow it to thicken up nicely. Add the parmesan cheese. Taste it to see if you need to add any salt. I added a pinch but the parmesan is pretty salty, so it’s best to wait to see what you like.
  Add your cooked penne and mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce.  In a small pan, add your walnuts or pecans. Sprinkle with a dusting of cinnamon and drizzle with a little honey. Mix well and cook until heated through. This addition is optional. I really like the nuts mixed in, but my husband said he didn’t think the dish needed them. Your choice!
  Add the nuts and the pancetta into the pasta and stir to combine.
Eat up and send me pictures of Fall… at this rate we may not get one!

Easy Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

October 19, 2008. Seven years ago, I was walking down the aisle, ready to say “I do” to my husband. It was truly a great day that I will never forget. Our decorations were all Fall themed and it was so beautiful.

Collages

We spent a year planning the wedding. My mom and I pretty much did the planning, and my husband was all too happy to defer to us. The only thing he really cared about being part of, the only thing that was really looking forward to, was the food tasting. Unfortunately, something came up and he couldn’t even go. My maid of honor Jessica came with me and the caterer put together a box of leftovers to take home, but that wasn’t the same. The food was really good though!

One of the items we chose was a ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce. It was really delicious. In honor of our 7 year anniversary, I made my own version of this ravioli. The dish at our wedding did not have pumpkin, but I couldn’t resist adding it.

Happy Anniversary to husband. We’ve built a great life together. Here’s to the next 60 years of this crazy, chaotic, beautiful life.

1/2 can pumpkin
4oz mascarpone cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 tbls shredded Parmesan cheese
Wonton wrappers (make sure you get the wonton, not the egg roll)
Unsalted butter
1 tbls fresh sage

Spoon about 1/2 can of pumpkin in a medium bowl. Make sure this isn’t pumpkin pie filling; just regular canned pumpkin.

Next, add the mascarpone cheese. You can also use cream cheese if you want.

Next, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. I used my hand mixer to blend it together because it was much easier with the mascarpone. Plus, I really like the whipped texture it gives the filling. You can use a stand mixer or just stir it by hand if you want. Just mix it well

Stir in a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese. Just about a tablespoon will be fine since you don’t want it to overpower the other flavors. Give the filling a taste test to see if you want to add more nutmeg or cinnamon or salt. We aren’t going for pumpkin pie here, so we don’t want it too sweet.

Now, get out your wonton wrappers. Side Note: It isn’t hard to make your own pasta dough–I’ve done it a few times–but it is hard to get it as thin as you need with out a pasta maker or attachment for your mixer. I don’t have one so the easy substitution is wonton wrappers! They are the perfect stand in.

OK, back to the ravioli: Add about a tablespoon of filling to the middle. Don’t overfill it because then it will get all messed up when you boil it later. Dip your finger in water and rub along all sides.

Add a second wonton wrapper to the top and firmly seal the edges. I forgot to take a picture of the next step, but add the ravioli to boiling water to cook. Only add a few at a time. They don’t take long to cook at all, so don’t walk away. Add the ravioli and when they float to the top, they are done. Remove them right away so they don’t get mushy. It takes approximately 2 whole minutes. Alternately, you could line them in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 375 for 10-12 minutes. I’ve never done it this way, but you can do it.

For the sauce, finely chop fresh sage. The easiest way is stack the leaves and roll them up. Cut thin slices (chiffonade), then roughly chop into small pieces. It turned out to be about 1 tablespoon. You can used dried if you want, but use about half the amount.

Add butter to a pan and let melt. Add the sage to the butter. I made 6 ravioli and used half a stick of butter. It was more than enough sauce.

Let the butter cook, stirring gently, over medium heat until it starts to brown a bit. There is a fine line between browned butter and burnt butter, so watch it and take it off as soon as it starts to turn brown. Maybe there’s a better “chef-y” way to do this, but as I am not a trained chef, this is what works for me.

Put your ravioli on a plate and top with the browned butter sage sauce and a little more parmesan. Enjoy the autumn yumminess!

This recipe makes about 20 ravioli and unless you are serving a large crowd, that is a lot of ravioli. Good thing is, you can freeze what you don’t use! Make sure you store them in a flat layer with a paper towel or something separating the layers. This way when you go to make them next time, they won’t freeze/stick together and rip apart when you try to separate them.

White Bean Chicken (or Turkey) Chili

So, it’s officially the middle of October, and here in Southern California it is in the upper 80s/90s. I mean, seriously. I understand Indian Summers and what-not, but it’s the middle of October, for crying outloud.
I’m ready for my boots and scarves. I want to eat soup already! I’m not asking for much, here. Just some crisp, cool air. A fall breeze. Someday it’ll be here. Right?   

Because I don’t want to wait any longer for “appropriate” weather, and in an effort to move Mother Nature along a little bit, I decided to go ahead with some Fall recipes anyway, starting with this chili.

It’s a well-known fact (that I may or may not have made up) that chili is quintessential Fall food. It is delicious, comforting, and you can make it a million different ways. I tend to just call this one White Bean Chili because sometimes I make it with chicken and sometimes I make it with turkey so since the meat changes (depending on what’s on sale), I just stick with the beans, which always stay the same.

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ an onion, diced

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds ground turkey or chicken (whichever you prefer)

2 tablespoons cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 cans white kidney beans, drained (you can use cannellini beans too, if you like the beans smaller)

2 12oz jars of salsa verde

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

shredded Monterey jack cheese, for serving

sour cream or plain greek yogurt, for serving

In a pot over medium heat, add your olive oil, onion, and garlic. Cook until just starting to soften and the garlic becomes fragrant.

  

Secret kitchen confession: I LOVE these bags of frozen chopped onion. It saves so much time and they are inexpensive. I only use what I need and put the rest back in the freezer, eliminating food waste.

  

Back to the chili…

When the onion and garlic are soft, add the ground meat. Stir often to break up any large chunks. Let the meat cook over medium high heat until almost cooked through. It should be mostly white. If you see some pink still, that’s OK, it’ll finish cooking later.

Add the cumin, chili powder, beans, salsa verde, and chicken broth. Mix well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 30-45 minutes uncovered.

  
    
  

Serve with cheese and a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt.

don’t forget the cornbread!


 This chili has a good flavor, but it is pretty mild. If you want, you can add a jalapeno or other pepper with the onion and garlic if you wanted to kick it up a little bit.

Also, this may seem like it makes a lot of chili, and that’s because it does. This chili freezes beautifully. Put as much as you want into a freezer-safe bag or container and just thaw it out before you reheat it on the stove.