Swiss Chard Phyllo Pie

This recipe started life as an attempt to use up some frozen phyllo I had hanging around, but it ended up being something the husband and I fought over the last piece.  This is great for a light lunch or supper, or as an addition to a brunch.

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Swiss Chard Phyllo Pie

1/2 c onion, diced fine

Olive oil

1 lb Swiss chard or similar green, stems removed, chopped

1/2 c Parmesan cheese

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1/2 c parsley, minced

2 t dill

salt and pepper to taste

8 oz phyllo dough, thawed

1/4 c unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In skillet over medium heat, saute the onion in a drizzle of olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the chard and continue cooking until the greens have wilted and reduced significantly, about 2 minutes.  Transfer the greens to a bowl and add the cheeses, eggs, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Brush the inside of a 9″ springform pan with a think coating of the melted butter.  Lay one sheet of the phyllo in the pan and brush with butter.  Continue laying the sheets of phyllo in the pan until the sides and bottom are completely covered.  Reserve about 10 sheets of phyllo for the top crust.  It is not important that the phyllo be neat, just that the sides and bottom be covered.  Layer it at different angles as necessary, it’s not a precise science.  Pour the filling into the pan.  Cover the filling with the remaining sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter after it’s arranged on the pie. Fold the phyllo from the sides into the center of the pie to seal in the filling completely.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Cream of Sweet Potato (or any kind of winter squash) Soup with Bacon

Cream of sweet potato soup
This is my version of this Cooking Light recipe. I’ve changed some techniques and ingredients a bit. It is also no longer light. I have to admit I find creamy soups kind of bland after a while. Tasty, but just not enough variation. Enter, bacon!

  • 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes or winter squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 4 -6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil; toss. Roast in oven until soft and slightly browned, 20-30 minutes. Cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Drain bacon grease through sieve. Measure 1 tbs of grease into soup pot and add onion, cooking until softened and slightly caramelized. Add cumin, salt, and chipotle power. Add 4 cups veggie stock and heat until simmering. When sweet potato is cooked, add in batches  to blender with seasoned broth. Return to pot and add cream. Heat, and re-season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve with crumbled bacon, shaved Parmesan, and chopped parsley.

Next time I make this, I’m going to try roasting some oil-coated sage leaves with the sweet potatoes and crumble those on top instead of the parsley. I’ll post the results!

 

Don’t let Pumpkin have all the fun – Butternut Squash Spice Cake

It’s that special time of year when everything turns pumpkin.  Pumpkin spice coffee, cake muffins, cookies, pumpkin beer, pumpkin creamer, pumpkin pumpkin PUMPKIN.  Don’t get me wrong – I love pumpkin.  I love this time of year where everything is warmly spiced and pairs nicely with a warm cider.  It’s the time of year when we here in Central Texas might actually get to turn our air conditioners off and maybe possibly wear jeans all day without sweating.  It hasn’t happened yet, the current forecast is still containing the words “heat index,” but I have faith that autumn will soon be here.  I decided to do my darndest to lure it in with some delicious butternut squash spice muffins.

Here’s a concept that seems to have drifted past many:  pumpkin is not the only squash available at this time of year!  Fall is squash time.  And many of these squashes can be substituted for pumpkin with no difference in flavor or texture.  In fact, often times the cans of pumpkin you purchase at the grocery actually aren’t 100% pumpkin, they are a mixture of other winter squashes.  The beauty of butternut squash is that it’s easier to cook than pumpkin, cooks faster, and tastes pretty much exactly the same.  When it appeared in the box, I decided it was time to make some cake.

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This recipe was originally a pumpkin cake, and you can definitely substitute pumpkin in for the squash.  I’ll share a secret with you:  this is the #1 most versatile recipe in my repertoire.  Bake it in a loaf, you have bread.  Toss in a handful of chocolate chips, you have chocolate-spice bread.  Bake it muffin tins, you’ve got muffins.  Top those muffins with a cream cheese frosting and you’ve got a cupcake.  Bake it in layers and frost them with cream cheese frosting, you’ve got a layer cake that will beat any white cake with buttercream.  It can be anything, it can be everything.

Butternut Squash Spice Cake

Yield two 9″ cake layers or about 30 muffins/cupcakes

1 large butternut squash (or 1 15 oz can pumpkin)

1 c vegetable oil

2/3 c water

3 c sugar

4 eggs

3 1/2 c all purpose flour

2 t baking soda

1 1/2 t salt

1 T cinnamon

1 T nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place the squash cut side down in a baking pan or rimmed baking sheet.  Place the pan in the oven and pour about 1/4 inch of water into the bottom of the pan.  Roast the squash for 30-45 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the skin.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Scrape the squash out of the skin and puree in a food processor until it is very smooth.  Set aside until ready to proceed with the cake.  This step can be done a couple days in advance, or omitted if using canned pumpkin.

To prepare the batter:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 pound of pureed butternut squash (or 1 can of pumpkin puree) with vegetable oil, water, and sugar.  Mix to combine, then add the eggs one at a time, combining after each addition.  Sift in all of the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix until just combined.  Scoop into your chosen greased pan or muffin tins and bake until a toothpick comes out clean.  For muffins, this will take about 17 minutes, for cake layers, about 20-30 minutes.  If baking in a loaf pan, allow between 45-60 minutes for baking.

Becoming and Italian Grandmother: Squid Ink Noodles with Eggplant and Tomatoes

If I had known that putting a bowl of squid ink noodles in front of my toddler was going to result in that kid slurping down the noodles at record pace, I might have introduced them a year ago.  As it stands, this was my first time using squid ink noodles.  It seemed like a box that needed to be checked in order to become an Italian Grandmother.  I did not make the noodles myself because I didn’t want to go through the trouble of trying to track down the ink when prepared squid ink noodles were available at Central Market, our local fancy grocery store.  If you’re a little intimidated by the idea of squid ink, know this:  it’s just there for the color.  A little ink goes a long way, and it does next to nothing in terms of influencing the taste or texture of the noodles.

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Squid Ink Noodles with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Yield 3 servings

8 oz squid ink fettuccine or similar pasta

1 small onion, diced fine

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bell pepper, diced fine

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 14 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Freshly shaved Parmesan or Peccorino

Cook the noodles in salted water according to package directions.  Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.

In a large skillet, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent and softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and bell pepper and saute until the pepper is softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add the eggplant and continue to saute until the eggplant softens and begins to release it’s juice, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with juice and continue cooking until the juice begins to reduce and the sauce becomes fragrant.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the drained noodles and cook briefly so that the sauce coats the noodles and the noodles absorb any remaining tomato juice.  Serve warm topped with shaved Parmesan or Peccorino.

Bacon Cheddar Spaghetti Squash

What is better than taking a healthy vegetable and turning it into a delicious, artery-clogging bacon fest?  Not much!  That’s why I love this use of spaghetti squash.  You get to convince yourself you’re doing good while eating cheese and bacon.

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If you’ve never worked with spaghetti squash, don’t be intimidated.  It is very easy to cook and yields a squash product that is close enough to spaghetti to successfully fool my toddler.

Bacon Cheddar Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash

6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

6 oz cheddar cheese, shredded or diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by preparing the spaghetti squash.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Then lay the squash cut-side down in a large dutch oven or saucepan.  Add enough water to reach about 1/2 an inch up the squash and simmer over medium-high heat until the squash is very tender – about 30 minutes.  Add more water if the pan begins to go dry.  You will know the squash is tender when you scrape the flesh with a fork and it easily releases the meat of the squash in spaghetti-like strands.

Drain the water from the pan.  Scrape the flesh of the squash into the pan and continue to cook it over medium heat until any water left in the squash has evaporated.  Add the bacon and cheddar and cook, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Mint Chocolate Chip Scones

This was a happy accident recipe.  I had set some mint to steep in some cream to make some mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Then…well, I got lazy.  I left it in the fridge for a day or so and decided I didn’t have enough eggs to spare to make ice cream base and my ice cream machine wasn’t frozen and I really didn’t want to stir that custard…and so on and so forth.  In the end, I was left with some minty cream and no plan.  On a whim, I decided to use the minted cream in some cream scones.  The result was delicious.  The mint is light and not overpowering, the scones are fluffy and fantastic.  I will definitely be working this recipe into my regular scone rotation during mint season.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Scones

Yields 12 good sized scones

1 c heavy cream

3-4 big sprigs of mint

3 c AP flour

2 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

3/4 c cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/3 c honey

1 c chocolate chips

At least a day in advance, pour the cream into a bowl with the mint sprigs.  Mix the sprigs, bruising them with the back of a wooden spoon so they release their oil and flavor.  Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

When ready to bake scones, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The best tool for this job is a food processor.  It will yield the lightest, fluffiest scones.  Barring that, use a little elbow grease.  Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Strain the mint out of the cream and combine the cream and honey.  Add the cream mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Gently pat the dough into a cohesive disk about 10″ in diameter, patting in chocolate chips that might not have been completely incorporated.  The less you work the dough, the better, overworked dough will lead to flat, heavy scones.  Cut the circle into 12 equal pieces.  Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until the bottoms are starting to brown.

Deep Dish Double-Crust Pizza

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This beauty has been a favorite in our house for a while now.  Like any pizza, it’s so forgiving and willing to absorb any random things you have hanging out in the fridge.  This iteration took care of about 4 bell peppers and an onion, along with some other random meats and vegetables.  The key is the garlic.  Do whatever you want to the rest of the pizza, don’t skip the garlic.

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Deep Dish Double-Crust Pizza

Yields 1 12″ deep dish pizza, enough for about 6 people.

For the dough:

1 1/2 c warm water

1 package active dry yeast

1 t sugar

3 1/2 c flour

1/2 c cornmeal

1/4 c olive oil

1 t kosher salt

Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Set side until the yeast begins to froth, about 5 minutes.  With the dough hook attachment set at low speed, slowly begin incorporating the flour, cornmeal, olive oil, and salt.  Continue kneading until the dough is cohesive but still tacky, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down the dough.  Cut about 1/3 of the dough off and set aside.  Proceed with the pizza as follows.

For the pizza:

Dough from previous recipe

2 t butter

2 c prepared pizza or marinara sauce, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb mozzarella, shredded

Other pizza items of your choosing – pepperoni, diced peppers, sliced onions, sausage, whatever

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Melt the butter briefly in a 12″ cast iron skillet and swirl around.  Lay the larger piece of dough (about 2/3 of the total dough) in the bottom of the skillet.  Gently press the dough out to cover the bottom and sides of the skillet.  If it fights back or slides back with the butter, just let it sit for a minute or two and try again.  Once you have the dough approximately how you’d like it, let it rest for about 5 minutes.

Layer 1 c of the marinara sauce on top of the dough.  Sprinkle on the minced garlic and approximately half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Add your other pizza toppings then top with the remaining mozzarella and 1/2 a cup of the marinara.

Press the remaining 1/3 of the dough into a circle approximately the size of the top of the pizza.  Lay the dough over the top of the pizza, pinching the top and bottom pieces of dough together as you go.  Top with the remaining 1/2 c of marinara.

Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until the entire top layer of dough is cooked through.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting.