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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall is Here: Butternut Squash Lasagna

After months of 90+ degree weather here in Kentucky, the weather finally (thankfully) broke to reveal beautiful fall weather. Unlike a lot of people, fall is not my favorite season...it just reminds me that the cold of winter is just around the corner. But I do love fall and winter cooking, and I can finally get back to using my (new!) oven without turning my house into a sweat lodge.

The first fall dish I made this week was a butternut squash lasagna. My husband and I are picky about squash, so I thought I'd try something different with it. When I told my husband my plan, I have to admit the reaction was less than overwhelming. His exact words were, I think, "Well, I'll try it, but don't expect me to eat all of it." I had to promise him that I'd save some leftover chili in case he couldn't choke it down.

When I served it to him, he took two deep breaths (literally) and then put it gingerly into his mouth. And then put another bite in. His verdict? Not his favorite, but he'd eat it again. I liked it. It was sweet, savory, different, and is a perfect fall dish (and a great way to use up all of those butternut squashes I've been receiving from my CSA).

Roasted Butternut Lasagna
adapted from Oven Love

1 batch of Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage
2 Tbl unsalted butter
4 sage leaves, chopped
2 Tbl flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
2 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, separated into 2 ounce and 1/2 ounce piles
Kosher salt
8 lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, puree the squash and sage leaves. Add water little by little until the mixture is smooth.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and sage and stir until bubbly. Add the milk slowly, while stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add two ounces of the Parmesan cheese and a pinch of nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste.

In a small baking dish (I used 7"x11", but and 8"x8" will work too), spread a small amount of the squash puree. Add about 1/5 of the sauce, then 1/5 of the mozzarella, and a layer of noodles. Repeat with three more layers. Top the final noodle layer with sauce, mozzarella, and the final 1/2 ounce of Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown in spots. If you'd like it browner, put under the broiler for a few minutes. Top with chopped sage leaves and freshly ground pepper.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Our Weekly Menu: September 19-25, 2010

This week's menu has been thrown together haphazardly. It was one of those weekends--on Saturday, by 2:00pm I had already been to a soccer game, spent some time at work and attended a birthday party. This included a lot of car and kid switching, but also meant that grocery shopping didn't get tended to on Sunday. I'll have to figure out a day to get over to the store this week, but I'm trying to plan my menu based on what I have in the house just in case that doesn't happen. Our Thursday is a nightmare, and although I really would like to get something healthy on the table, there's a good chance we'll be eating out. Anyone else having a crazy week???

Sunday, September 19
Grilled cheeseburgers**
Summery Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
(Beef from local farm; tomatoes (both sliced and cherry), potatoes, and onions from local farms)
**We are not having this again after just two days (if you remember last week's menu)...it got bumped to this week after an impromptu dinner with friends.

Monday, September 20
Leftover West African Stew (from freezer)
Brown rice
(Squash and okra from local farm)

Tuesday, September 21

Wednesday, September 22
Dinner Party

Thursday, September 23
(Eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper and onions from local farms)

Friday, September 24
Grilled Lamb Chops with Oregano Dressing
Green Beans
Arugula Salad

Saturday, September 25
Eat. Drink. Danville. aka Oktoberfest

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Better-than-Delivery Pizza (and Homemade Pizza Sauce)

You may have noticed that pizza shows up on my weekly menu almost every week. We used to order from one of the big chains, but it still didn't always solve the problem of getting food fast. (Our local big chain takes at least 45 minutes to deliver, and when you're on a tight schedule or out until 7pm because of soccer, 45 minutes just doesn't cut it!)

For the past few months, we've started making our own. Until recently, I would buy premade crusts and premade marinara sauce, which worked fine, but I still wanted more control over the ingredients in our pizza to make it as healthy as possible. During the summer, my husband and I picked 37 pounds (!) of sauce tomatoes from our CSA farm, and I proceeded to make a lot of lasagna and pizza sauce--47 cups of lasagna sauce and six cups of pizza sauce to be exact. I froze it all and take it out when I need it. I need to make more pizza sauce soon, but it's the easy recipe, so I'm not worried. :-)

We have also started making our own pizza dough. I made a double batch this week, separated it into individual portions and then froze them on a cookie sheet. Once they were frozen, I put them into a freezer bag. Now I have at least a couple weeks worth of fresh pizza dough!

The best part about making pizza at home is that everyone gets to choose their own toppings and arrangements. I have a four year old, and in her world, arranging your pizza is important. This week she made a cat:

When I'm prepared (with dough and sauce on hand), it takes about 25 minutes, start to finish with very little hands-on time...a lot faster and healthier than delivery!

Pizza Sauce
adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

2 lbs. tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (or one large can of whole tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
A few fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 tsp dried
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar
Sugar (Optional)

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, lower heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. Once it's reduced a little, add salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, and if the sauce tastes too bitter or acidic, add a little bit of sugar (starting at about a teaspoon). If the tomatoes have not broken down enough for your liking, use a potato masher to break it down even further. Cook for a few minutes more until the sauce thickens and the flavors are to your liking.

Makes 2-3 cups. This is easily doubled or tripled and can be frozen.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Our Weekly Menu: September 12-18, 2010

Organic, local haricot verts on sale at the farmer's market...how could I pass those up?! The farmer we buy much of our produce from is swimming in green beans, so offered me the exceptional price of $1.50/lb. if I bought 10 pounds or more. (At the local WalMart, regular non-organic green beans are currently selling for $1.68/lb. Who says organic has to be expensive?) I bought them...and then subsequently spent the rest of the weekend in the kitchen cleaning, cutting, blanching, shocking and freezing the lovely haricot verts in 1/2 pound increments. After trimming and weeding (and snacking), I ended up with enough frozen beans for 18 meals. Crazy. I also froze some okra and made some chicken stock. Up for the rest of the week (when I get two seconds)--preparing edamame for some yummy dip!

On an unrelated note (to green beans), but related to weekly menu planning, Kathy of Panini Happy started a very interesting discussion last week about how busy people get freshly-cooked, healthy meals on the table. Meal planning and having freshly frozen ingredients on hand are a couple of ways I do it. How about you?

This week is super crazy with three soccer days and one evening spent at a play. This leaves very little time for cooking, so I tried to prepare this weekend. Here's what we're having:

Sunday, September 12
West African Stew
Brown Rice
(Okra and butternut squash from CSA)

Monday, September 13
(Bell peppers and homemade pizza sauce with veggies from CSA)

Tuesday, September 14

Wednesday, September 15
Chicken Schnitzel
Pickled Beets
(Beets from a local farm)

Thursday, September 16
Leftover West African Stew
Brown Rice
(Okra and butternut squash from CSA)

Friday, September 17
Fettuccine Alfredo alla Romana
Green Salad
(Peas and tomatoes from CSA)

Saturday, September 18
Grilled Burgers
Summery Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
Other veggies from CSA
(Potatoes and tomatoes from CSA; beef from local farm)

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Homemade Pickles

This summer at the farmer's market, I was drawn to the little pickling cucumbers. They were just so cute and cheap (anywhere from 4/$1 to 10/$2) that I couldn't resist buying them. Had I ever pickled anything before? Nope. Did I have any clue how to do so? Nope. But that didn't stop me! I looked around the web for some easy refrigerator pickles (because although I freeze a lot of things, I haven't gotten into canning yet), and found one at Annie's Eats. It's a winner! My four-year-old daughter even helped me make them. And now she's addicted to them...even asking for them as a dessert when she finishes dinner!

These are so easy to make and stay crisp for a long time in the fridge. I've had the sliced pickles in there for a couple of months now, and they are still safe to eat and as crisp as when we first started eating them. I recently made spears, and they turned out just as nicely.

If making slices, the 16-ounce Ball Freezer Jars work great. If making large spears, the 32-ounce Ball Freezer Jars work better.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles
adapted from Annie's Eats recipe

Pickling Cucumbers, cut into slices or spears (enough to fill up two to three 16-oz jars)
3 cups water
6 Tbl white vinegar
1 1/2 Tbl Kosher salt
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Dried dill (About 1 Tbl per jar, but you can add more or less to your taste)

Combine water, vinegar and salt into a pitcher and stir until salt is dissolved.

If making slices: Place about 1/3 tablespoon of dill in the bottom of each jar. Place half of the cucumbers in the jars. Sprinkle with another 1/3 tablespoon of dill. Finish filling the jar with cucumbers and sprinkle with the rest of the dill and the garlic. Cover completely with the brine. Seal and leave in the refrigerator at least 24 hours.

If making spears: Place about 1/2 tablespoon of dill in the bottom of each jar. Place the spears in the jar. Sprinkle with the rest of the dill and the garlic. Cover completely with the brine. Seal and leave in the refrigerator at least 24 hours.


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Monday, September 6, 2010

Potage Crécy Revisited

I first made this delicious soup when I lived in Strasbourg, where my ability to blend soups was hampered by a decrepit food processor. Now that I'm back in the States, and thanks to my mom's birthday present of a hand blender, I can now post a picture that 1) makes the soup look edible and 2) doesn't boast a shadow of my gigantic head.

For the recipe, go to my original post! This has been made for some of the pickiest eaters in my family, and each one has loved it (or at least, that's what they said). ;-)

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Our Weekly Menu: September 5-11, 2010

After a little glitch last week in planning (as in we were lucky we had time to eat dinner, let alone plan it!), I'm back to meal planning! This week is hectic too, so we'll have to hope that our CSA share gets us through the second half of the week in veggies.

Sunday, September 5
Potage Crécy
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Monday, September 6
Stovetop Roasted Potatoes
Green Salad
(Fingerling Potatoes and dill from CSA)

Tuesday, September 7
Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Leftover Potage Crécy
(Chicken from local farm)

Wednesday, September 8
Scrambled Eggs
Sliced Tomatoes
(Bacon from local farm; tomatoes from CSA)

Thursday, September 9
Fried Rice
(Green pepper and green onions from CSA)

Friday, September 10
(Homemade pizza sauce made from CSA veggies)

Saturday, September 11
Lamb Chops
Various veggies from this week's CSA share
(Lamb from local farm)

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stovetop Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

I don't know about where you live, but here in Kentucky, we've had a hot summer--so much so that I haven't wanted to turn the oven on at all. The problem is that our CSA has been giving us wonderful fingerling potatoes all summer, and although they taste great roasted, I just can't bring myself to cook them that way.

The other day, I was trying to figure out what I could do with them that was fast and easy, and upon a trusty Google search, I found Ina Garten's recipe for what she calls "Dill Fingerling Potatoes," but what I now call "Stovetop Roasted Fingerling Potatoes." I tried this with dill the first time, but I've also tried it with basil (pictured above). I think any leafy herb would work well in this, actually. The potatoes come out creamy on the inside and satisfyingly crispy on the outside.

Stovetop Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Basil
adapted from Ina Garten's Dill Fingerling Potatoes

2 Tbl unsalted butter
1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Pepper to taste
1 1/2 - 2 Tbl chopped fresh basil (or dill or other herb of your choice)

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter. Add the potatoes, salt and pepper, cover the pot, and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are just knife tender. Shake the pot or stir occasionally so that the potatoes don't stick to the bottom or burn. Turn off the heat and let the potatoes steam with the cover on for about five more minutes. Add the basil and toss. Serve.

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