A blog returns: Butternut Squash Lasagne with Hazelnuts

December 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

Somehow a year and a half jumped away from us. The fact that we moved to Louisiana didn’t necessarily help along with the little bundle of joy that another of us is expecting any time now. Maybe 2017 will be the year one of our bloggers becomes famous for baby food since she already is for horse treats! Anyway we must squeak at least one through for 2016. Though I have a few I’ve been wanting to share.

What makes this the perfect one to share? Well, for starters, it’s pretty darn delicious. Meeting and exceeding my expectations and a great combination of flavors. Equally as relevant for the first entry in 18 months…we had the unexpected pleasure of getting to cook it together during a visit to MN. It was so good I made it again for Christmas Eve dinner a couple months later. I just have this picture before it came out of the oven all nicely browned and gooey. Maybe we have a picture of the first version to add later…img_2559

When I made it the second time, I prepped everything the night before (made the bechamel/cream sauce and the butternut squash mixture) then just assembled it before cooking. Both making it when you want to eat it, and ahead of time worked equally as well.

Recipe from Gourmet, August 2004

The Stuff

For squash filling

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (I used a little less black pepper the 2nd time)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped (toast in an oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, wrap in a kitchen towel for a few minutes, then rub off the skins)

For sauce

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf (not California–this is in the original instructions, but I used whatever kind I had)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper (again used a little black pepper once)

For assembling lasagne

  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
  • 12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb)


The details

Butternut squash filling:

  1. Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.
  2. Can make ahead the night before and let sit out to room temp before assembly.

Sauce (make while squash is cooking):

  1. Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk while whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf.
  2. If making ahead, cover surface of sauce with wax paper and let sit out to room temp before assembly.

Assemble lasagne:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.
  3. Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Easy Beef and Potato Stew (Seriously easy and seriously beefy)

October 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is now the go to slow cooker beef stew recipe I’ve been making lately. Now that Fall is here, it’s certainly going to be part of the regular rotation. It really is quite beefy, so head to Sam’s or Costco to get the large portion of meat. The recipe is derived from the ATK slow cooker easy prep cookbook, which has been a great resource for crockpot cooking. Basically I added a few more herbs and carrots to the recipe. Unfortunately I have no good pictures of the stew, because stew generally does not photo well, but it sure tastes yummy!

The Stuff

2 10.5 oz cans of condensed French onion soup

1 cup water

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 1/2 tablespoons instant tapioca

1-2 tsp dried thyme

1-2 tsp dried, crushed rosemary

2 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half

3-4 carrots, cut in large chunks

4 pounds (yes, 4!, but 3 works too) stew meat in 1 1/2 inch pieces (or use sirloin steak tips)

salt and pepper to taste (shouldn’t need much salt)

2 cups of frozen peas (gets added at the end of the cooking process)

The details

1. Whisk soup, water, tomato paste, tapioca and herbs together in the slow cooker.

2. Stir in potatoes and carrots.

3. Season beef with a little salt and pepper, and stir into slow cooker. There is enough liquid but add up to another 1/2 cup if desired.

4. Cover and cook until beef is tender. 9-10 hours on low or 6-7 hours on high.

5. Skim excess fat from surface of the stew. Stir in the peas and let sit until heated through (5-10 minutes while some bread is heating in the oven perhaps).

6. Adjust consistency of the stew with extra hot broth if needed. Season with a little pepper (and/or salt) if needed. And eat it up. Leftovers also freeze fairly well.

Easiest and delicious! German pancake/Dutch baby

July 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is a quick, easy version of the German pancakes or Dutch baby that we first discovered at Mon Ami Gabi in Vegas. They have one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had and I could eat there every day because of their “big skinny pancakes,” which is like a giant version of this. While I have no idea how they make theirs and can’t really replicate it exactly, this is a good, super easy home version that makes two perfectly portioned servings.

I like to just have it with fresh berries and a squeeze of lemon. But it can be served with a fruit syrup and/ or powdered sugar or cinnamon apples or whatever your heart may desire!

Yield 2 9-inch pancakes.

The Stuff
4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter
Whatever you need for serving (e.g fresh berries and a lemon)

The Plan
1. Heat oven to 400°F.

2. Butter two 9-inch cake pans well.

3. Put eggs in blender container, cover and process at “stir” until light yellow in color.

4. Push “mix” button, remove cover and add remaining ingredients; process until smooth.

5. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes.

6. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake 10 minutes. Slide onto hot plates.

7. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh berries (perhaps lightly macerated with a tad bit of sugar) or however you’d like.

From Smitten Kitchen


“THE” chili cheese dip

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fine, I’ll admit it.  I love me some seriously unclassy food.  This dip, while not much to look at, is probably the appetizer I make most.  Why?  People LOVE IT.  They snarf it when no one is looking (lest they be dubbed gauche), but trust me – people adore it.  It’s delicious and it takes 2 minutes to put together, and then requires ‘cooking’ in the microwave.  Done and done, where’s the party?!


  • two (2) 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese, room temp if possible as it makes it easier to spread
  • 1 can of chili with beans (yes, a CAN of chili.  deal with it.)
  • 1 bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
  • If you want to be fancy, a scallion or two, for decoration once it comes out of the microwave


  1. Get a shallow large dish – a dinner plate works well.
  2. Smear the cream cheese on the bottom of the dish, leaving a slight border (otherwise it’ll be messy)
  3. Dump the chili on top and spread it around.
  4. Dump as much grated cheese on top as you want (at LEAST a cup, don’t be cheap)
  5. Microwave for 5 minutes or until the cheddar is melted.  If you’re posh, slice up a scallion and sprinkle on top for ‘garnish’ once it’s out of the microwave.

You are done.  Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy the compliments, or more likely, just notice it’s the first appetizer to be gone.

‘Tis the season…for PUMPKIN Bread!

October 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

It’s no surprise or new information that I love all things pumpkin spice related (including it’s close relative garam masala), mostly driven by my love of cinnamon. It’s made all the better when actual pumpkin is involved, especially when you can taste the pumpkin. What’s the point of having it in there if it doesn’t taste like pumpkin?

That brings me to the first post that I get to contribute in far too long for no good reason. Perhaps I haven’t found made any new recipes quite as delicious lately, although I say it’s mostly a lazy factor. Anyway. The recipe. I received it from my regular e-mails through ATK, which remind me of all the recipes sitting in my copies of the magazine that I have yet to try but should. This one comes from ATK September 2012. I did decide to add in allspice to the mix, and I do say I’m going to suggest that the spices get bumped up a notch, and so I’m adjusting amounts by putting a range (the upper limit not being directly tested yet. Season according to your taste. I didn’t add nuts because Nick is against nuts in bread/cake products, nor did I add chocolate though I wanted to in at least one of the loaves (I apparently ate all the chocolate in the house already…). Also important note when planning to make this super awesome pumpkin loaf, it makes 2 loaves! It is incredibly moist (and perfectly cooked), and has stayed that way for 3 days, as that’s as long as the 2nd loaf will last. Enjoy!

The stuff


5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon softened, unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt



2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

0-1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese (I used light), cut into 12 pieces

4 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine (optional)

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)


The plan of attack

FOR THE TOPPING: Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside.


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

3. Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 11/2 cups, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

5. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.

6. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK).

7. Fold walnuts & chocolate into batter if desired.

8. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes (if using a 9 x 5 loaf pan check at 40 minutes).

9. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 11/2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mike and Nick’s Improved Smith Island Cake (8 layer cake with raspberry buttercream and chocolate ganache frosting)

August 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

Made this cake for a recent birthday celebration. I’ve been wanting to make this again with a different/better frosting than used for the original recipe posted early in this blog’s life. This new concoction was undeniably successful. Even though the leftovers have to be kept in the fridge (because of the buttercream), this cake remained fresh, moist and really tasty for 4 days (only a emergency kept this from lasting that many days though). The cake recipe is the same as that posted before, but I’ll include it all for easier access.

For those that think making 8 cake layers is too much work (I assure you it’s really not), I think this combo would work very well in a two or three layer cake as well.

Raspberry buttercream adapted from Call me cupcake! and chocolate ganache frosting (not a glaze) adapted from Martha.



1 box cake mix (Duncan Hines yellow is the go-to, but use a flavor if you’d like, I suggest adding zest of 2 lemons to flavor)

1 can evaporated milk (1 1/2 cups)

1/3 cup water

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 t. salt

8 T. softened butter

The steps

1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease four 8″ round cake pans with cooking spray, dust with flour, and knock out any excess. Set aside.

2. Put cake mix, 1 1⁄2 cups evaporated milk, butter, vanilla, salt, eggs, and 1⁄3 cup water into a large bowl; beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 10–12 minutes.

3. Divide half the batter between prepared cake pans (if using 4 pans). Set remaining batter aside. Using the back of a spoon, spread out batter so that it covers the bottom of each pan, making it slightly thicker around the edges than in the middle. Bake until cooked through and golden around edges, 12–14 minutes. Set aside to let cool slightly, then loosen cake layers with a knife and invert onto cooling racks.

4. Wash and dry cake pans. Repeat process a second time with cooking spray and remaining flour and batter.

While all the cake layers are cooling, make the raspberry buttercream then the ganache.


Raspberry Buttercream 

This was on the sweet side for me when tasted alone but balanced really nicely in the cake. Adjust if desired or if using for another purpose (will also depend on your fruit).

5 egg whites

3/4 cups sugar

1 stick plus 6 T butter (just 2 T short of 2 sticks)

6 oz package of raspberries, macerated with a sprinkle of sugar


1. Pour eggs whites and sugar in a clean bowl to be used for a double-boiler. Put the bowl in your make-shift double-boiler (pyrex bowl over a pot with a little simmering water in it). Whisk the sugar and eggs constantly until the mixture gets to about 140 degrees F (or rub some of the mixture between figures, if sugar has melted you’re done).

2. Remove from heat, whip until white, fluffy and cool (should be mixture of shaving cream). Start adding butter 1 T at a time. This process can take 10-15 minutes. Just when you think you’ve done something wrong it all comes together. If it gets to cold, put over the double-boiler for a few seconds and re-whip. If it gets to hot and looks curdled and soupy, put it in the fridge briefly and re-whip.

3. Add raspberries (strain if desired, but I wanted it all in) and vanilla to taste. Whip until smooth.

4. Put just enough on each layer.


Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting

1.5 cups whipping cream

1/3 cups powdered sugar (a little more to taste if desired)

12 oz bittersweet chocolate (roughly chopped, I used 70% Ghirardelli and an amazing local chocolate)

pinch of salt

vanilla to taste

1. In a saucepan, bring the cream, sugar, salt to a gentle boil. Add vanilla, and pour over the chopped chocolate in a bowl.

2. Let stand, without stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk just until combined.

3. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until spreadable, about 1 hour.


March 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Bottom line: pâte à choux dough + cheese = mouth-watering yumminess.

Seriously, I cannot even explain to you how excited I am about these things.  They are incredibly easy to make, you probably already have all of the ingredients in your house, and they are positively divine.  They’re also terrifically versatile, and would present equally well as a quick breakfast, snack, or in the place of a dinner roll.  oh, and you can freeze the dough.  mmm. savory pastry goodness.

they follow the same theory as popovers, like popovers, this dough involves minimal ingredients and lacks a leavening agent, instead using the steam created during the cooking process to puff the pastry.

the recipe comes from 101 cookbooks.

yield: appx. 2 dozen.

2/3c. beer (or water, or tea, or whatever other liquid you fancy)

1/3 c. milk

8T butter, cut into Tablespoons

3/4t sea salt (I used kosher salt and everything worked out just fine)

1/2c. all-purpose flour

1/2c. whole wheat flour

4 large eggs, room temp (I used 3 jumbo, because that’s what I had on hand and the internet seemed to think it was a reasonable substitution)

1 1/4c sharp white cheddar, grated

1t fennel seeds, crushed with mortar & pestle

the how-to:

preheat to 425, with rack in top third. heat the beer, milk, butter and salt over med-high heat just until it begins to boil. reduce heat and add flours.  stir, and then stir some more.  stir until it comes together like play-dough.  101 thinks that you should let it go until it smells “toasty.”  to me, it just continued to smell like beer.  mmmm, beer.  remove from heat and let cool enough that your eggs won’t scramble (appx. 5 minutes).  add in the eggs one by one and stir (I did this by hand, but think next time I’d call in the big guns, because it was stickier than a kid with a Popsicle in July and was terrifically hard to integrate.  full disclosure: i gave up on mixing “by hand,” in favor of mixing WITH my hands).  once the four eggs have been incorporated, add in 1c. of the cheese and stir.  immediately scoop tablespoon-sized dough balls onto the cookie sheet that you have lined with parchment paper.  these guys expand, so give them room.  approximately 1.5 inches in  between them. sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and the fennel.

bake 5 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for another 20-25 minutes.  before they come out they shuold be golden, puffed and not appearing to be on the verge of collapse.

101 also says they can be frozen for later use! i tossed some in the freezer, and will dutifully report back. apparently you can bake straight from the freezer, just adding a couple minutes of bake time.

so, i used the recipe from 101 Cookbooks, but there are certainly no shortage of alternate versions floating around out there. here are some variations which are suggested elsewhere (namely here: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/recipes/132164493.html).  oh, and not to insult your intelligence or anything, but clearly the ingredients referenced below sub in for the cheddar and the fennel, though perhaps with the exception of the cheddar/rosemary combination below (and maybe not even that), i would incorporate into the dough before scooping.

1 c. Gruyere/2 tsp Dijon mustard or 1 tsp. dry mustard

• 1/2 cup blue cheese and 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

• 1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or dill (sprinkle tops with some grated Parmesan);

• 1 cup Cheddar cheese (I would add the additional 1/4 c for topping, as above)  and 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary;

• 1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese, the zest of 1 lemon and some chopped parsley.

please rest assured that i intend to try every. single. one.

psst: as usual, not my photo.  but since i have frozen dough, this time i really do think that i can fix that in fairly short order.

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