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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pumpkin

You may have family or friends visiting for the holidays who follow special diets. If you plan ahead and with just a few ingredients changes, many of the Thanksgiving recipes can be adapted to meet the needs of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and low carb diets. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Everyone.

Vegan Gravy (or Regular or Gluten-Free)

Kitchen Bouquet is a browning sauce that you can find in the grocery store next to the A1 and Worcestershire Sauce. It helps to add a brown color to the gravy. There are several brands of browning sauce available, but I use this one. Since 2006 this vegan sauce has been gluten-free. It is made from a base of carrots, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, celery and onion.

You can use this same recipe for everyone by make a second batch and using chicken broth in the second batch for regular diets. To make this gravy Gluten-Free, use gluten-free cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Gluten-free gravy also works for low carb dieters.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
2 heaping tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet, optional

Directions

Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cook until the mushrooms are soft and brown, and most of their liquid is evaporated.

Stir in the flour with a whisk and reduce heat to low. Cook for another minute or two.

Slowly add the vegetable broth while whisking to reduce clumps. Then add in the salt, pepper and thyme and whisk again.

Stir in the Kitchen Bouquet, if using.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir until it reaches the desired thickness, about 5-10 minutes.

Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing

To make this recipe gluten-free use cornbread instead of Italian bread in the recipe. The gluten-free cornbread recipe is below.

Ingredients

8 cups Italian bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, diced
2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried poultry seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and the sausage.

Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula, until light brown, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl of cubed bread.

In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and peppers, cook 1 minute and, then, add the mixture to the cubed bread.

Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

Place the stuffing in a large baking dish and bake in the oven for the last hour that the turkey cooks.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

This can be made several days ahead.

Ingredients

2 cups (264 g) coarsely ground yellow cornmeal (gluten-free)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square or round pan, and set it aside.

In a large bowl, place the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and whisk to combine well.

In separate bowl, mix the egg, butter, buttermilk and honey, and whisk to combine well.

Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top, golden brown around the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely and cut up into cubes.

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing

Ingredients

3 cups sourdough wheat bread (made without dairy or eggs) cut into cubes
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 leek white part only, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large rib celery finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until all moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes.

Add sage and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are well browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Add leek, celery, garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, and chopped pecans.

Add stock to the bread cubes and fold in the cooked vegetables until evenly mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Transfer mixture to a greased baking dish cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake with the turkey until hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and crisp on top, about 10 minutes longer.

Vegan Stuffed Squash

Serve this dish instead of turkey for your vegan or vegetarian dinners.

To make this recipe for non-vegans, add a ½ cup of cooked lean ground pork to the stuffing.

Directions for preparing the squash:

Cut a thin slice off from the top & bottom of one acorn squash (just enough to leave a flat edge, so the squash can stand up on both ends).

Cut the squash in half, horizontally, so you have two bowl shapes. Scoop out the membranes and seeds and discard.

Place the squash in a baking dish cut-side up. Brush the inside with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Roast the squash for about 30 minutes.

Filling

Combine the following:

2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons diced celery
1/4 cup diced, peeled pear
1/4 cup diced, peeled apple
2 tablespoons fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup cooked brown rice

 

 

Place the filling mixture in the partially cooked squash halves. Place the filled squash in the oven and bake 20 minutes.

Easy Vegan or Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin filling can be used for either pie.

Ingredients

Pat-in-the-Pan Vegan Crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Vegan Pie Filling Directions

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan and up the sides.

A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top.

Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pat-in-the-Pan Gluten-Free Crust

1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil (or alternative oil)
5 tablespoons cold milk (or cold plant milk)

Gluten-Free Pie Crust Directions

Mix together the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Blend oil and milk together in a separate bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine.

Place dough into a 9 inch pie plate and press the dough firmly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.

Place the pie crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Filling Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all the pie filling ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust and bake for about 60 minutes.

The crust should be golden brown and the filling should still be set.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set overnight.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

Crust

2¼ cups almond flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar substitute (1:1 with sugar)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten

Filling

2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup 1:1 sugar substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs at room temperature, beaten

Directions

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients until a dough forms.

Press the dough into 9-inch pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the beaten eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, spices and sweetener. Mix well.

Add the heavy cream until fully combined.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick (or knife) inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

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I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so generally desserts are not often on my menu. When I do want something to go a cup of tea, it would be a biscotti. I tend to not make them very sweet. Here are two of my favorites. The chocolate ganache is optional. These cookies can also be made gluten-free, if almond flour is substituted for the all-purpose flour.

Pecan Pie Biscotti

Makes 14-15 biscotti

Ingredients

3/4 cup pecan meal (finely ground pecans)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 1 ¼ cups almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, molasses and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto parchment lined baking pan and form into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown and just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscotti log cool for 20 minutes.

Using a sharp, straight-edge knife, slice into 14 or 15 even slices .

Space the slices a few inches apart on the baking pan and bake 10 minutes.

Turn the biscotti slices over and bake 10 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti

Makes 12 biscotti

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour or 2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree, egg, oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined baking pan and pat the dough into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the log is just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the biscotti log for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.

Gently slice the log into 12 even slices using a serrated knife.

Place the slices back on the baking pan on their sides and place the pan back into the oven.

Let bake 15 minutes and then turn the biscotti slices over and bake 15 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will firm up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Makes enough for both recipes.

4 oz Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% (or any high percentage chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

Directions

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds.

Add the cold heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the butter and gently whisk to combine.

The ganache should be thick and glossy.


Italian Cheese Stuffed Peppers

Take advantage of the lower prices for red bell peppers this month. There are so many different ways to fill them and they make a delicious entrée for dinner.

For each 2 servings

Ingredients

1 large red bell pepper
1/2 cup Tomato Sausage Sauce, recipe below
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F Coat a small baking dish or ramekin with olive oil cooking spray.

Slice the bell pepper in half lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds.

Place pepper halves in the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.

Remove the peppers from oven.

Mix the ricotta cheese with the salt and Parmesan cheese.

Fill each pepper half with ¼ cup of the tomato sausage sauce.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the meat sauce in each pepper cup.

Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of sausage sauce on top of the ricotta cheese in each pepper half.

Top each pepper with 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese.

Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes.

Tomato Sausage Sauce

You will only need a small portion of this sauce for the stuffed pepper recipe, depending on how many peppers you make. Leftover sauce can be used in a number of other dishes.

Ingredients

1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed (You could also use ground meat of your choice.)
¼ of a large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
26-28 oz container chopped Italian tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Place the oil in a large non-stick sauce pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage, onion, garlic and sea salt.

Cook until the sausage is brown. Drain off any grease in the pan.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Asian Meatball Soup

I prefer to use chicken for the meatballs in this recipe, so they are not heavy. I also like to use almond flour in Asian meatballs instead of all- purpose flour or breadcrumbs because I think the almond flour compliments Asian flavors much better. Asian cabbages are also in season during this month and they make a delicious option in your recipes.\

For the meatballs

1 lb organic ground chicken or ground meat of your choice
1 egg
2/3 cup almond flour/bread crumbs/all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
Pinch salt

For the broth

1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the vegetables

3 cups fresh bean sprouts
3 cups thinly sliced Napa or Bok Choy cabbage
1/2 cup radish sticks
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

To make the meatballs:

Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a small cookie scoop, form into 24 bite-sized meatballs and place on a baking sheet covered with foil and coated with vegetable cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

\To make the soup:

In a large saucepan heat the sesame oil, garlic and ginger for about 1 minute or until sizzling. Add the chicken broth, water, soy sauce, fish sauce, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the vegetables and meatballs. Stir well. Bring back to a simmer and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 30 minutes

Roasted Pumpkin

Have you ever thought of pumpkin as a savory side dish. I hadn’t either until I saw an article that suggested pumpkin was a fall squash that deserved more than being a pie. And they were right. It is delicious. Do not use a large decorative pumpkin. Instead use a sugar/cooking pumpkin between 2 and 3 lbs and your favorite spices.

Ingredients

2-3 lb fresh (cooking, sugar, pie) pumpkin, peeled & seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder or regular garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds.

Cut each half into 1″ thick slices

Place the oil on a baking sheet with sides.

Add the pumpkin slices and sprinkle the seasonings over the pumpkin.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft and tinged brown at the edges.

Turning the slices over halfway through the cooking time.

Pan-cooked Broccoli Rabe with Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 pound/bunch broccoli rabe
1 pound thin Italian sausage made with parsley and Pecorino cheese (or luganega), cut into 3-inch lengths
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened with a large knife
Salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup (or as needed) water

Directions

Cut off the tough ends and stalks of the broccoli stems.

Wash the trimmed broccoli rabe in a sink filled with cold water, swishing the stems gently to remove all dirt from between the leaves.

Let the leaves sit a minute or two undisturbed to allow the dirt to settle to the bottom of the sink, then lift the broccoli rabe from the water with your hands and drain in a colander.

Place the broccoli in a deep skillet and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover the pan and cook the broccoli until tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain and place on a kitchen towel to dry. Wipe out the skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.

Add the sausage and cook, turning as necessary, until caramelized on all sides and no trace of pink remains in the center, about 8 minutes for thin sausage or longer for thicker sausages.

Remove the sausages to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm.

Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the garlic to the oil. Cook, shaking the pan, until golden brown, about 1 minute.

Carefully lay the broccoli rabe into the oil, season lightly with salt and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Stir and toss to distribute the seasonings.

Pour 1/4 cup water into the skillet and bring to a boil.

Cover the skillet tightly and cook, lifting the lid to turn the stalks occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is tender and the water evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Return the sausages to the skillet and heat until warmed through. Serve the sausages and broccoli rabe on a serving platter with crusty Italian bread.


 

WINTER MOOD — PALETTE KNIFE Oil Painting On Canvas By Leonid Afremov

WINTER MOOD — Oil Painting On Canvas By Leonid Afremov

It’s January and cold outside with temperatures that will be that way for a few days, even here in the South. To give the house a warm feeling, I bake bread. And, of course, the smell is so enticing.

Below are three bread recipes that are sure to warm you up.

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Cranberry Sweet Potato Muffins

12-15 muffins

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cold mashed sweet potatoes (without added butter or milk)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
Chopped pecans
Cinnamon-sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a small bowl, combine the egg, milk, sweet potatoes and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the cranberries.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of chopped pecans and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.

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Bake at 375°F for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in muffins comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Serve warm.

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Swirled Pumpkin Yeast Bread

This is a large volume dough and if you do not have a heavy-duty large capacity mixer, you will have to make the dough by hand or cut the ingredients in half to make one loaf.

2 loaves

Ingredients

4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (120° to 130°)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, salt, sugar and yeast.

Beat in the warm water, pumpkin, applesauce and oil just until moistened.

Add eggs; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining all-purpose flour to form a firm dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic,about 6-8 minutes or knead in your mixer.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Roll each portion into an 12-inch x 9-inch rectangle and brush with the softened butter to within 1/2 in. of edges.

Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over both doughs. Roll up jelly roll style, starting with the short side and pinch seam to seal.

Place seam side down in two greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

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Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

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Sourdough Ciabatta

This is a great bread to serve with your favorite soup.

2 large loaves

Ingredients

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour

Directions

Mix the yeast with the flour.

In an electric mixer bowl combine the milk, olive oil and salt with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour, a cup at a time, until you have a dough the consistency of drop-cookie batter.

Switch to the dough hook and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces.

Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place each loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. With a serrated knife, make three slashes in the tops of the loaves, each 1/2-inch deep.

Cover with a damp towel.

Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately 30 minutes. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.

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Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.

Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes.


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Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture.

Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.

Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound small shell macaroni
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.

Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Glazed Cipollini Onions

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Cipollini means little onion in Italian.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.

Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture.  Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.

Pecan Pie

pies

  • Single Pie Crust Dough

For the filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out the dough and [lace in a 9 inch pie plate.

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Mix in 3/4 cup pecans.

Pour into the prepared crust. Sprinkle with remaining 1 ¼ cups of pecans. Bake the pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Apple Pie

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  • Double Pie Dough Crust

For the Filling

  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled McIntosh apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

To prepare filling:

Combine apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, flour and salt in a large bowl.

To assemble & bake the pie:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 425°F.

Roll out half of the dough and invert the dough into a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Pour the filling into the crust, mounding it higher in the center than on the sides of the pan.

Roll out the second crust and invert the dough onto the top of fruit. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a rolled edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.

Combine the coarse sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes; reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes more.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 1/2 hours before serving.


fallflavorsheadWhat flavors do you associate with fall? For me the ones that immediately come to mind are apple cider, cinnamon, caramel, ginger, cranberry, pumpkin and nut flavors. Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate these flavors into your cooking.

flavors7

Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Put the potatoes, apple cider and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring once, until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes).

Mash the potatoes with the cider until it is smooth. Add the butter and the pepper and heat just until the butter melts. Garnish with parsley.

pumpkin7

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 1/3 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the crumbs for a topping.

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one.

If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling:

Beat together with an electric mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice.

Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust and sprinkle the top with the reserved crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch.

Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving.

fruitdesserts11

Apple Bars

Makes 20 bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted or cinnamon chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan; set aside.

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir in the apples and nuts.

Add the egg mixture to the well in the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be thick).

Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour to serve slightly warm, or cool completely.

fruitdesserts4

Pear Crisp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups thinly sliced pears
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Topping

  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the sliced fruit with the granulated sugar and place in the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden.

nutbread3

Cranberry Pecan Bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup sweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).

Coat an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, oats, applesauce and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and thoroughly combine them.

Mix in the cranberries and pecans. It should have a consistency a little thicker than pancake batter.

Pour the dough into the loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the loaf’s center comes out dry or an instant read thermometer registers 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool before slicing.

nutbreadcover


Pumpkins

pumpkintreats

When choosing a pumpkin at the market, look for soft spots, mold, wrinkles or open cuts that would indicate damage or early spoilage. Choose a pumpkin with a solidly attached stem. A green stem indicates a freshly harvested pumpkin. Choose pumpkins between 4 to 8 pounds and labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Some specific names are Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella and Fairy Tale. Pumpkins have a long shelf life and can keep for months at cool room temperature.

Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ pounds pie pumpkins

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut pumpkins into 5×5-inch pieces. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Arrange pieces in a single layer, skin sides up, in a foil-lined baking pan.

Cover with foil. Bake about 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop pulp from rind. Place pulp in food processor or blender.

Cover and process or blend until smooth. Measure out what is needed for a recipe. Transfer remaining puree to an airtight container.

Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw frozen puree in the refrigerator.

img_0002

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Makes 12 – 15 depending on the size of your muffin tin.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup reduced fat milk or almond milk
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • Vanilla sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-15 cup muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Combine the remaining (wet) ingredients in another bowl.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture until just moist. Fill the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes (or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean).

Let rest for 10 minutes.Remove the muffins and cool on a wire rack.

img_0004

Apple Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin butter is a delicious addition to waffles, pancakes, banana bread, oatmeal or as a spread for toast. It also makes a great and healthy topping for ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups pumpkin puree or two 15-oz. cans pureed pumpkin
  • 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

In 5-quart Dutch oven combine all ingredients except nuts. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, about an hour until thick. (If mixture spatters, reduce heat to medium-low). Remove from heat; cool.

img_0003

Ladle into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cover; store in refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 6 months.

Acorn Squash

4383

Acorn squash can have orange, dark green, or tan skin. To pick a good-tasting one, press it all around to make sure it’s devoid of soft spots. Don’t refrigerate-just store the squash in an airy dry spot for up to 3 weeks.

img_0005

Roasted Acorn Squash Slices

Ingredients

  • 1 medium acorn squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven 350°F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds and membrane. Cut each half into 1/2-inch slices; discard ends.

Place slices in a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the maple syrup. Dot with butter.

img_0001

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

img_0001-2

Italian Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 large acorn squash, halved crosswise, seeds and fibers scooped out
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of 1/4-inch cubes of lightly toasted sourdough bread
  • ¾ cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Oven 400 degrees F.

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice off the bottom of each squash half so that they stand flat, being careful not to cut into the flesh.

Place in a baking dish large enough to hold the squash halves and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, until no traces of pink remain, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the thyme, salt, pepper, bread cubes and chicken broth until well mixed.

Divide the stuffing mixture among the squash halves. Add enough water to the roasting pan to make a depth of about 1/4 inch. Cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil.

Roast for 45 minutes.Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until the squash is tender. Place 1 squash half on each of 6 plates, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

 



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