Pumpkin Pie

For our first Halloween at the new house we decided to host a get-together with the neighbors on the back deck, taking advantage of our recently installed sliding patio door. Since we had a couple of pie pumpkins to use from our CSA and it being Halloween, we figured what better item to contribute than a pumpkin pie!

This wasn't our first pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin; we made one for Thanksgiving 2011. That one turned out pretty well, but I thought we could do even better, especially now that we've recently gotten pretty good at our all-butter blind-baked pie crust which would help prevent the bottom crust from getting too soggy. This time around I mostly followed the New Best Recipe cookbook recipe for pumpkin pie. Of course, we roasted our pumpkins, pureed and drained them, and then before making the custard I sauteed the pumpkin for a bit to try get out as much moisture as possible and caramelize the pumpkin a little bit. One tip I found helpful was to pour the last bit of filling in the pie shell after the pie has baked for a few minutes, which prevents making a mess in the oven and allows the pie to be as full as possible.

I thought it turned out perfect, and I hope we can replicate the success on future attempts!

The stems of the pumpkins were chew toys for the cats until we roasted them (the pumpkins, that is)
Yay pie success! Next step: learn how to shape the crust edge
Deck set up for fun
And finally, some cat pics that are actually relevant to the post! We put off pumpkin carving until the day before Halloween and took a shortcut by using my recently purchased spade bits to just drill holes in the pumpkins. That cats couldn't get enough of the "carving" process. Not our finest pumpkins but they lit up well and were super easy!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! May you enjoy fellowship with family and friends this holiday... and pumpkin pie!

Pasta with sweet Italian sausage and other fall goodies

Hope you haven't been holding your breath for recipes featuring parsnips! Those have certainly been few and far between. If you're a parsnips lover and reader of the blog then you may have counted only three featured recipes - Guinness & Beef StewButternut Squash-Pear Bisque and Rigatoni with roasted root vegetables & mascarpone. Well we're here today with a fourth recipe! And after 519 posts that means that parsnips chime in with 0.7% of the posts. Woo parsnips! 

Our apologies to this unassuming root vegetable. We're not too opposed to parsnips but our CSA doesn't offer them so that means I don't go out of my way to get them. But I thought it was about time we threw some love their way; this pasta recipe with sweet Italian sausage, chard, and parsnips seemed exciting and a good reason to buy some parsnips!

Salt and pepper
3/4 pound orecchiette (we substituted whole wheat penne pasta, stocked in the pantry)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds (halved if large)
1 bunch Swiss chard, tough stems and ribs removed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces), plus more for serving
   Swiss chard and sweet Italian sausage both from our CSA

   In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta and return to pot.
   In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to pot. Add parsnips to skillet and saute until softened and browned, 5 minutes. Add chard and cook until wilted, 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to pot and toss. Add Parmesan and enough pasta water to create a light sauce that coats pasta; season with salt and pepper. Serve with additional Parmesan.

We changed the preparation up a little bit to better utilize our large skillet. Once the sweet Italian sausage had begun to brown, we threw the parsnips into the same skillet. Then we threw in the chard the last few minutes of cooking to wilt it. Finally we tossed in the pasta, pasta water, and cheese. This large skillet was part of our cookware upgrade on the registry and has become one of our go-to cooking pans! We are using it much more than we predicted. It's the Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 13" Deep Skillet

Are you a parsnips fan?!

I bet you're a cat fan!
Nacho discovering the heat vent!

Meal Plan Monday Post

Oh man! I can't believe how cold it turned last week. We stayed bundled up and enjoyed some time by the fireplace. We tried a few new recipes this week to utilize our CSA produce. We saw Cinderella at DPAC over the weekend and loved it! Looking forward to kicking off the holiday season this week.

Meal Plan for Monday November 17 - Sunday November 23

   Monday - Creamy pasta with spinach and artichoke
   Tuesday - Pork tenderloin with chard and grits, sauteed apples
   Wednesday - Acorn squash lasagna
   Thursday - Rotisserie chicken with roasted potatoes and onions, sauteed kale
   Friday - Chicken salad served on a bed of greens, sliced apple
   Saturday - brunch Clam chowder, toasties
      Cinderella matinee at DPAC with Mom and Granny
      dinner Harvest 18
   Sunday - brunch Apple pumpkin dutch baby
      dinner Fish, turnip-potato cakes, Chinese cabbage slaw

Tomato and Ricotta Tart

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

For the past year Patrick and I have been subscribing to the Sunday delivery of the Raleigh News & Observer. We have evolved into having a "paper day" ritual and look forward to reading the paper with a nice brunch. This was probably our last outdoor brunch before the chill brought us in. 

For this particular brunch we enjoyed a Tomato and Ricotta Tart! It's another recipe from ABC's The Chew and shared below. I was smart enough to put the puff pastry dough into the fridge the night before so that it had thawed out and we whipped this up in no time. Sometimes there is a brunch delay if it calls for puff pastry because we have to sit it in front of a window until it thaws < try to prevent that if you can!

1 pint whole milk ricotta
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 sheet puff pastry
2-3 various heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
8 ounces bacon (chopped)
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil

   In a mixing bowl combine the ricotta, lemon zest, parmesan, egg, salt, pepper, parsley, chives and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix to thoroughly incorporate and refrigerate until ready to use. (The ricotta mixture can be made up to a day ahead of time)
   Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place your puff pastry on a baking sheet and roll it slightly in to more of a rectangle shape. Next, spread the ricotta filling out to all four edges in a nice even layer, leaving a 1-inch border of crust. Fold the edges in and using your thumb and forefinger, create fluted edges.
   Bake until golden brown and bubbly looking on top, 30-35 minutes. Be sure to achieve a nice deep golden crust so the middle and bottom aren’t soggy!
   Meanwhile, preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
   Remove the pastry from the oven and slide on to a cutting board. Start layering your sliced tomatoes across the top. Next add the cooked bacon, torn basil, a drizzle of olive oil, cracked pepper, a little more parmesan and some flaky salt. Slice in to 9 pieces and serve.

We halved the recipe!

Extra cat pic day!
Dupree comfy on the stairs

Singapore Noodles

Welcome to the latest installment of Whitney's The Chew fanblog! I kid, of course - although I don't enjoy watching the show quite like she does, I do appreciate the many recipes that make it into our meal plan, most of which are very good. This Asian noodle dish was no exception. Like most stir-fries, once all the prep work is done (in this case, chopping veggies and peeling shrimp), the actual cooking is very fast. Since I was using a food processor anyway to shred the carrots, I ended up chopping all the other veggies in there too, which made the prep a little faster. I found that the rice noodles stuck together and were somewhat delicate, so they ended up kind of shredding when I attempted to toss everything together. This wasn't a big deal though, and all the flavors came out great.

3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon fresh hot red chili, minced - you can also use green serrano chili (we did)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1 pound shrimp - medium sized, peeled & deveined
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 cups shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup carrots, shredded
4 ounces cellophane rice noodles - vermicelli type, softened per package instructions
1 cup fresh mint, chopped (did not include)

   In a large deep skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the onions, garlic, & ginger. Sauté for 3-4 minutes then turn the heat down to medium & add the fresh chili.
   After about 2 minutes, add the mushrooms and carrots and stir. Two minutes later, add the curry powder, the soy sauce, and fish sauce. After an additional 2 minutes, add the shrimp & stir for 3 to 4 more minutes. Make sure not to overcook the shrimp.
   Next, add the rice noodles & toss well to combine all the ingredients.
   Sprinkle the fresh mint over the top. Stir the mint into the noodles just before removing the dish from the heat & serving it at the table.

Apple Dutch Baby

Now presenting a trifecta of Dutch baby pancakes! Dutch baby pancakes are a fun, quick fancier brunch food to fix. You don't have to worry about mixing the dry ingredients and then adding the wet ones. I throw them in a blender and then into the hot skillet they go. The Dutch baby pancakes can be quite versatile too with whatever seasonings, fruit, or add-ins you'd like to use.

And here's the trifecta
Dutch Baby One - Gingerbread Spice
Dutch Baby Two - Apple Pumpkin
Dutch Baby Three (below) - Apple

Martha Stewart's Apple Dutch Baby Pancake
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

   Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add butter.    When melted, add apple wedges. Cook until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in honey and cardamom, and remove skillet from heat.

   In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, except confectioners’ sugar, until smooth. Pour over apple mixture.

   Bake until puffed and brown, about 20 minutes. Slide pancake onto a serving platter.

   Serve immediately, cut into wedges, with confectioners’ sugar sifted over the top.

The Dutch baby pancake is great to whip up for holiday overnight guests.

Cats are good entertainment for overnight guests as well.

Pizza and Fall Greens

Patrick and I enjoy homemade pizzas. You may have noticed they were on the monthly meal plan posts quite a bit but they never actually happened. I included the monthly posts as they were planned and not what we actually ate. So I'd been planning homemade pizzas for awhile and they finally came together on a wonderful fall night!

We usually do homemade pizzas with a pesto or olive oil base but Patrick comments every now and then that he'd like to make them with a traditional tomato sauce. Being the loving wife I am, I listened and bought some traditional tomato pizza sauce for him this time! We divided the dough into quarters for four individual pizzas and topped them with the sauce, mozz, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions.

These were make your own so we were able to have a little fun that night. Patrick fixed pizzas on the left and I fixed the other side. We made four so that we could each have a leftover pizza for lunch at work the following day. 

As you can see we dusted the pan with cornmeal before placing the dough down. After assembly we baked them in a 450F oven until golden and the cheese was melty (about 10-12 minutes). 

The mini pizzas were served along side a salad with fresh fall greens straight off the back porch! In September I planted some buttercrunch and romaine lettuce and this was our first harvest.

The dinner was enjoyed by tiki torch light out back. It was a gorgeous fall weekend night before temps had dipped down into the 30s. Wonderful way to cap off the weekend!

Cat pic time!
Dupree stretching

Meal Plan Monday Post

Fun weekend behind us! UNC's Homecoming was this spent weekend and I had the distinct pleasure of having my dearest and bestest friends come in to town for the occasion! Despite the cold weather we all stayed warm and enjoyed the Carolina fellowship.

Here's the meal plan from last week!

Meal Plan for Monday November 10 - Sunday November 16

   Monday - Took lasagna out of the freezer
   Tuesday - Asian soup leftovers from the weekend
      My absent-minded self forgot to put noodles in the soup on Saturday so we reheated the leftovers and added in the noodles (was much better)
   Wednesday - Chicken and kale pasta bake
   Thursday - Porkloaf with broccoli and quinoa
   Friday - Mellow Mushroom with UNC folks
   Saturday - Breakfast Grab-n-go: apple muffins and sausage balls (made Friday)
      Football game
      Dinner Fajitas and fondue dessert
   Sunday Breakfast City Beverage brunch
      Lunch Birthday party for JR
      Dinner Salmon cakes, macaroni and cheese

Stuffed Squash with Turkey Meatloaf and Wild Rice Arugula Salad

My favorite daytime television show - ABC's The Chew - has been on point the past few weeks. There have been a handful of recipes that I just had to try. You'll slowly see them on the blog over the next little bit and today we're starting with this one. Michael Symon made turkey meatballs stuffed into butternut squash and paired it with a wild rice arugula salad. Everything about this is amazing. At first I was just going to make the stuffed butternut and toss something else together for the side but I didn't... and you shouldn't either. The wild rice arugula salad side holds its own next to the turkey stuffed squash and is delicious.

We commented that this would be a great dish if you're hosting a small group of folks sometime over the holidays.

Michael Symon's Stuffed Squash with Turkey Meatloaf and Wild Rice Arugula Salad from ABC's The Chew

For the Butternut + Turkey
2 butternut squashes
olive oil
salt + freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, finely diced
fresh thyme*
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko*
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped*
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano plus more
For the Salad
1 cup wild rice - cooked according to package instructions, cooled to room temperature
8 ounces baby arugula
1/4 Red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup pistachios*
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt + freshly ground black pepper
*substitutions made - no fresh herbs on hand so substituted an appropriate amount of a savory blend for the thyme and parsley; regular breadcrumbs for the panko; almonds for the pistachios

   Preheat your oven to 375°F.
   Cut both ends off of the squash and split in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and place on a foil lined baking sheet flesh side up. Score the long end of the squash every 1”, then go back and score every 1” the other way, creating 1” crosshatch marks. Drizzle with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, until light golden brown and mostly cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 350°F.
   While the squash is cooking, prepare the meatloaf. Preheat a pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil along with the onion, thyme and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs from the pan, remove the pan from the heat and let cool.
   In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, worcestershire, tomato puree, egg, panko, parsley and parmigiano-reggiano. Add a good amount of salt and pepper. Pour in the cooled onion mixture and gently mix everything together until thoroughly combined.
   Scoop the meatloaf mix into the squash where the seeds were removed. Level the meatloaf mixture so it does not appear to be mounded. Grate more cheese over the top of the entire squash. Repeat with the remaining squash. Place in the oven for 40 minutes, until is golden-brown on top and the meatloaf and squash are cooked through. Remove from the oven and let sit for a minute or two before serving.
   The Chew Tip: The Meatloaf mixture can be made the night before and refrigerated.

For the Salad
   Whisk together the vinegar and oil in a large bowl with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Add the arugula, onions, cooked rice and pistachio. Toss to combine.

Another cat pic today

Roasted Delicata Squash with Onions

In the same vein of branching out with new CSA offerings - like with tomatillos over the summer - we tried delicata squash this fall. We tried it first in this new salad recipe and then ventured out to try it solo as a side. The delicata squash has similar flavors to other winter squash but, in my opinion, it's a bit easier to prep (ie scoop out seeds) so we'll definitely be requesting this throughout the next few months.

Roasted Delicata Squash + Onions from EatingWell
2 pounds delicata squash (about 2 large)
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Cut squash in half lengthwise, then crosswise; scoop out the seeds. Cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss with onion, 1 tablespoon oil and salt in a large bowl. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.
Roast, stirring once or twice, until tender and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.
Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, rosemary, syrup and mustard in a small bowl. Toss the vegetables with the dressing.

Served this roasted delicata squash and onions with filet mignon and a nice side salad.

It's always Caturday here!
Nacho loves belly rubs

Tomato Pie

My apologies for bringing this to you after we've had some frosty conditions but it wasn't actually too long ago that we made this. Our CSA had these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes available through fall and we got our last tomatoes in October which was a treat.

I don't know much about the history of tomato pie but I imagine it's a wonderful Southern delicacy. I wasn't unfamiliar with them but they weren't something my family ever made. Christine's sister, Sarah, made one at Christine's Bachelorette party last fall and I thought it would be fun to try here at home. So I emailed Christine for the recipe this summer and she shared it with me. And here it is directly from the email:

Edisto Tomato Pie
Pie crust (she uses a ready made one)
4 large tomatoes
(light) mayo
shredded cheddar cheese
optional: onions (she doesn't put them in)

   Bake the crust at 350 for 10 min
   Boil tomatoes to get the skins off, then cut into wedges and layer in the bottom of the pie crust.
   When you have covered the bottom with tomatoes, spread a mixture of cheese and mayo on top of the tomatoes. Place another layer of tomatoes and then another later of cheese and mayo on top.
   Put in the oven for about 30 min or until the cheese is all the way melted.

A few notes from me
-We've made this twice. The first time I did not boil the tomatoes to remove the skins and the second time we did. I would say this is an optional step but certainly worth the time and effort to do it.
-We used our homemade pie crust instead of store bought
-I like to slice the tomatoes into slices rather than wedges, like so ...

Showcasing the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from our CSA
-In a small mixing bowl I combined the mayonnaise and shredded cheese so it would make preparing the pie a little bit easier. To this I added a small diced onion and a pasta sprinkle seasoning blend. The second time we made this I caramelized the onions and layered them onto the bottom of the crust and omitted them from the mayo spread mixture. A lot of onion flavor was lost this way so we said "thumbs down" to the caramelized onions.

-We served the pie with a nice, fresh salad with red peppers and sunflower seeds.

This will convert anyone to a tomato pie lover. It's  worth noting that he was quite skeptical when he came home one day and I said "we're having tomato pie for dinner!" I knew Patrick had greatly enjoyed that first tomato pie but didn't know how much. When I sent him a chat that I was meal planning and asked if he would like another one, this was his reply:

And you know you can't argue with Patrick!

Anyone else out there like tomato pie?!

Coming in with a cat pic...
They play together so well!

Soba noodles with peanut sauce

Asian style meals feature frequently in our meal plans, and we really enjoy trying new ones. For this meal, we combined a previous favorite (Brussels sprouts spring rolls) with a new noodle recipe. For the spring rolls, I've found that the filling is so tasty that frying them is unnecessary, so we save ourselves a step and they're healthier too.

The main dish was noodles with spinach and peanut sauce. Every ingredient in the peanut sauce is a winner for me (especially peanut butter), and despite what seems like a strange combination, as a whole it was very good. Do you have any favorite recipes for or dishes that include peanut sauce?

Spinach Soba Bowl with Peanut Sauce from NaturallyElla blog
   Prep time 5 mins | Cook time 19 mins | Total time 24 mins | 2 servings

4 to 6 ounces soba noodles
2-3 cups shredded spinach
½ bunch scallions, diced
Cilantro, for serving
Sesame seeds, for serving
   For the Peanut Sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon honey (or favorite sweetener)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

   Cook soba noodles (or other favorite noodles) according to package.
   In a bowl, combine shredded spinach and diced scallions. Once noodles are done cooking, drain and place on top of spinach. Let sit for 3-4 minutes then stir spinach into the noodles.
   In a separate small bowl, stir together ingredients for peanut sauce, taste, and adjust as desired. Pour peanut sauce over noodles and stir until well combined. Serve warm or refrigerate for a cold noodle bowl.
   Sprinkle with cilantro and sesame seeds to serve.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Back to the weekly meal plans! Nothing too exciting happened last week in regards to meal planning. The homemade orecchiette on Monday night was a bit of a fiasco (more on that later in it's own post). Election Day was Tuesday and we both exercised our right to vote! Speaking of a fiasco, we had last minute planned an impromptu sushi lunch date the week before with the intention to early vote afterwards but for some reason the polling place didn't open until 2pm that afternoon! At least the sushi was good.

Without any more chatter, here's the meal plan

Meal Plan for Monday November 3 - Sunday November 9

   Monday - Homemade orecchiette with roma beans
   Tuesday - Steak, sauteed mixed greens, delicata squash
      Election Day
   Wednesday - Had intentions for this but forgot it calls for an 8 hour marinate time Marinaded chicken with sauteed kale so we "threw together" orzo with browned ground turkey (from the freezer) with zucchini (forgotten about in the crisper), onion, and kale so it was good to use up those things
   Thursday - Pork chops with bok choy
   Friday - Salmon with green beans, quinoa
   Saturday - Breakfast Baked oatmeal
      Dinner Spicy mushroom Asian soup
   Sunday - Breakfast Frittata
      Dinner Loaded stuffed baked sweet potatoes

Delicata Squash Salad

Since our CSA has started back for the fall season we have hopped on the winter squash bandwagon. We have had spaghetti, acorn, butternut, and - for the first time - delicata squash!

My apologies for not putting something for size next to the squash but it is much smaller than its winter squash cousins. You can prepare this much like the other winter squash varieties - slicing in half, scooping out the seeds, and roasting. We, however, chose to slice the squash into rings, push out the seeds, and roast with the skin on. We paired the roasted delicata squash with a mixed greens salad and zucchini fritters.

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad inspiration from cookie and kate blog 

2 medium delicata squash, around 1 and ¼ pounds total
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fine grain sea salt
4 heaping cups arugula (or mixed baby greens)
⅔ cup pomegranate arils (or a generous handful of dried cherries or cranberries)
⅓ cup raw pepitas (or pecans)
3 to 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Maple-balsamic vinaigrette
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon real maple syrup
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper

   Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the squash and scrape off any tough bits of skin with a knife. Slice the squash into ½-inch wide rounds. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from each round. Drizzle the squash with a generous tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Use your fingers to lightly coat all surfaces of the squash with olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and golden, flipping halfway.
   In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pepitas (or pecans), stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and lightly golden on the edges. Remove from heat.
   In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard with a pinch of salt and pepper.
   Once the squash has had a few minutes to cool, combine the arugula, pomegranate (or dried fruit), pepitas (or pecans), crumbled feta and squash in a serving bowl. Toss with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Serve immediately.

This is the salad recipe from the blog that I used as inspiration. I followed the preparation for the delicata squash but did not use pomegranate, pepitas, or feta. We substituted dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and goat cheese. I did make the vinaigrette and it was amazing.

I had extra zucchini from making muffins and instead of making more muffins decided to make zucchini fritters. To about 1 cup shredded zucchini I added an egg, cornmeal, and whole wheat flour until desired thickness (to hold shape). I plopped them into a hot pan with a little olive oil and flattened them out, turning over once browned.

What are your favorite winter squash?

Cat in a Bag

Breakfast Croissant Sandwich

If you remember everything we write perfectly, you'll recall that we hosted a brunch with Romin and Mimi back on Sunday, August 31st (Whitney mentioned it here). They brought a box of tasty croissants to share, but we didn't consume all of them. The next day was Labor Day, which was great because we were able to enjoy our regular Sunday routine of making breakfast and reading the paper that we had skipped in favor of the company of our friends.

Without a specific Monday breakfast planned, this was the perfect time for a "throw-together" meal, for which the leftover croissants were a great inspiration. Whitney ended up toasting the croissants with some cheddar cheese and topping them with an egg and some bacon and avocado we had on hand. She's been making an effort lately to make sure we have enough fruit in our diets, so this time we had a sliced peach on the side. It was delicious and the perfect end to a fun, busy weekend of acquiring kittens and socializing with friends.

The kittens were still skittish enough at this point to not disturb our paper and food

Pie Crust

Allow me to get on a soapbox for a paragraph or two but not with a very large microphone because I'm not one to blatantly shout about my opinions. I do, however, think it's worth a quick mention - I threw away our Crisco when we moved. I am turning over a new leaf and am vowing to keep trans fats out of our pantry and blood vessels. Trans fat is an artificial substance that comes from hydrogen being inserted into oils to prevent them from going rancid thus giving them a longer shelf life. This hydrogenated oil or trans fats aren't tolerated by our bodies very well. This is the reason why I threw away the Crisco.

I'll admit one of the reasons I'm including this information today is because of my own ignorance. I thought since we did a lot of home cooking we wouldn't consume a lot of trans fats. I don't buy junky potato chips or lots of processed snacks but trans fats hide in lots of places. And something else tricky? An item can have "0 g trans fat" listed on their Nutrition Facts label but still contain trans fat. If an item contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving then the FDA lets a food company claim 0 g trans fat. So then I educated myself a bit more ... I now take a few seconds to read through the ingredient list. Anything with some form of "partially hydrogenated oils" listed has trans fats. Just the other day I went to buy canned biscuits and had to eliminate some for having hydrogenated ingredients! My ignorance stemmed from the fact that trans fats are hydrogenated oils.

Before I move on I'll share two reputable articles if you'd like to do some further reading - one from the Mayo Clinic "Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health" and one from the American Heart Association "Trans fat".

Off soapbox!

Today I'm sharing a pie crust made from real butter! Butter, flour, and water with a dash of sugar and salt are the only ingredients. I'm not the pickiest of pie crust connoisseurs so this crust may not live up to its flake-y Crisco predecessor but it's got me fooled.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons ice water, plus 2 more, if needed* I usually need a bit more

   In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar several times to combine. Add butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces remaining.
   Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers (if needed, add up to 2 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overprocess.
   Turn dough out onto a work surface; form dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
   Before baking, unwrap dough; place on a large piece of floured waxed paper. Roll dough to a 14-inch round. Using paper, lift and wrap dough around rolling pin (discarding paper); carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of plate.
   Trim overhang to 1 inch; fold overhang under itself. Pinch between thumb and forefinger to make a uniform edge around the rim. Crimp edge; refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Then I usually blind bake the crust in a 350F with pie beans until slightly golden, 20-30 minutes.

For our first experiment with the all-butter crust we made a quiche! The quiche was filled with sautéed leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese. We've made a few other quiches since then as well as two tomato pies over the summer and a pumpkin pie last week for Halloween. We love this recipe!

Always be sure to include your trans fat free pie (whether savory or sweet) with a side of fruit. Since, ya know, we're being healthy and stuff!

We said no to trans fats - can you?

Asian - Crab rangoons

One of our go-to flavor profiles is Asian. Patrick and I love the umami profile that is in eastern Asian dishes (not a big fan of Indian seasonings, however). At the end of the post I've included past blog posts that link back to some Asian dinner experiments. The stir fry and chicken adobo are a few we make quite a bit.

So we felt we were ready to venture out into harder Asian cuisine - enter fried rangoons. This turned out to have a high learning curve and was a fail on our part for this first time making them! Spoiler alert - all the filling burst out of the rangoons when they were fried. We trapped pockets of air into our filled rangoons which caused the fiasco. oops

Dinner Fail
We still had dinner that night and look forward to trying these again. The crab rangoons are from Michael Symon and ABC's The Chew. We served them with brown rice and Martha Stewart's Ginger garlic glazed green beans (both recipes below).

Michael Symon's Crab Rangoons from ABC's The Chew
vegetable oil (to fry)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 bunch scallions, finely diced
2 heaping tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 pound crab meat, drained and picked
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon salt + freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces mascarpone
24 2- inch wonton wrappers
cold water
sriracha (to serve)

   In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, scallion and cilantro. Gently mix in the crab along with the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Fold in the mascarpone and gently mix until everything is combined. This mix can be made a day ahead of time and kept chilled.
   Preheat oil over medium heat to 360°F.
   Setup a small bowl of cold water. Working with 2 wonton wrappers at a time, place one teaspoon of filling on to the center of each wonton using a spoon, or a piping bag. Dip your finger in the water and moisten all four edges of the wonton. Bring up 2 opposite flat edges then the other 2 opposite edges, pinching together in the center and sealing all four seams. You will end up with a four pointed star. Continue to make wontons until you’ve used all of your filling. Once the wontons are made they should be chilled in the freezer for at least an hour, until they are frozen through. When ready to use, fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy.
   Drop 4-6 wontons at a time in to the preheated oil and fry until golden brown and crunchy. Remove to a paper towel lined tray and lightly season with salt. Serve immediately with sriracha.

Alternate folding method < we used this
Using the same method of using a damp finger to dampen the edges of the wonton, spoon a tablespoon of filling into the middle of the wonton. Fold over into a triangle and press edges to seal. With this method, they may be fried immediately.

Martha Stewart's Ginger Garlic Glazed Green Beans
2 teaspoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, half sliced and half minced
1 pound green beans, rinsed and stemmed, with water still clinging to them
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

   Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil, ginger, and minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the beans and sliced garlic, and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
   Add 1/4 cup water to the pan. Cook for another 4 minutes, partially covered. With 1 minute left, add the soy sauce and sesame oil and swirl around the pan to form a glazy sauce.

There were a few rangoons that didn't fail us and burst so we enjoyed the few that survived.

Any tips on rangoons or fried wontons?

As promised - links to past Asian posts. Asterisk denotes a favorite!

Meal Plan Monday Post - October

It's the last monthly round up of the meal plan. Things got a little switched around at the end of the month and I can't remember how things ended up so some days are omitted. It's nice to look back and see how much we're able to do and still incorporate date nights. We've really gotten into a good flow with meal planning and fixing dinner. Our CSA at Brinkley Farms is instrumental in making this happen! In October yummy fall greens like kale and chard finally started showing up.

Meal Plan for October

   Wednesday 10/1 - Mushroom farfalle
   Thursday 10/2 - Broccoli cheese soup
   Friday 10/3 - Date Night @ TOPO Distillery Tour
       Dinner at Lantern

Shared bento box appetizer
   Saturday 10/4 - Breakfast Muffins

      Lunch Sandwiches
      Dinner Scallops with orzo, chard
   Sunday 10/5 - Breakfast Eggs and toast
      Dinner Tomato Pie

   Monday 10/6 - Eggplant rollatini, salad

   Tuesday 10/7 - Tilapia with pesto, squash, quinoa
   Wednesday 10/8 - Baked chicken, sweet potatoes
   Thursday 10/9 - Meatball subs with salad

The meatballs and sauce were from the freezer and made this quick prep dinner even quicker!
Link here for freezer meal recipes
   Friday 10/10 - Date Night @ Six Plates with Romin and Mimi then Phantom of the Opera at DPAC
   Saturday 10/11 - Breakfast Farmers market
      Dinner Salmon with roasted delicata squash and onions, salad, frozen cake?!
   Sunday 10/12 - Breakfast Dutch baby pancakes with apples

      Dinner Orzo with caramelized fall vegetables

   Monday 10/13 - Butternut squash stuffed with turkey meatball, arugula salad

   Tuesday 10/14 - Creamy mustard chicken with spaghetti and green beans

   Wednesday 10/15 - Lemon-garlic shrimp with vegetables, quinoa
   Friday 10/17 - Gnocchi and bolognese (from freezer)
   Saturday 10/18 - Duke Homecoming
   Sunday 10/19 - Duke Homecoming

   Monday 10/20 - Homemade pizza
   Tuesday 10/21 - Out with neighbors
   Thursday 10/23 - Salmon with brussels, white sweet potatoes
   Friday 10/24 - Stir fry
   Sunday 10/26 - Breakfast Tomato bacon ricotta tart
      Dinner Orzo with squash, leeks, sun-dried tomatoes

   Monday 10/27 - Singapore shrimp with shiitakes and noodles
   Tuesday 10/28 - Crockpot butternut soup
   Thursday 10/30 - Orecciette with sausage and parsnips
   Friday 10/31 - Chicken nachos; make pumpkin pie and host neighbors after trick or treaters
Dupree patiently waiting for the trick-or-treaters to quit ringing the doorbell
Back with weekly meal plans next week!