Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apples for Dinner Party

We had a ton of apples and I decided to throw together a quick apple themed dinner using the things we had around the house. And Noam and Kristin brought a salad with a cider vinaigrette. Perfect!  I decided it would be fun to share the menu with you. Consider a theme for your next get-together! Happy Fall!

Wine: Hauser’s Grand Reserve Apple Wine from Bayfield, WI

Salad: Noam’s Toasted Almond Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Appetizer: Whiskey Cheese Fondue
                1 cup wine, 12 oz. shredded swiss and gruyere cheese, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 cup whiskey
In your fondue pot, heat the wine until it begins to bubble. Combine the cheese and cornstarch. Add the cheese in four handfuls. Stir each handful in until it is completely melted. When all of the cheese is melted and combined, stir in the whiskey. Keep over low heat while eating. Serve with chunked apples, and fresh sourdough bread. Spice it up with cayenne pepper, parsley, or green chilis! 

Main Course: Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Soup with Apples
                2 Butternut squash, 6 small apples, 2 purple+1 yellow onion, garlic, 4 cups chicken broth, spices, 1 bottle of Crispin hard cider

Remove the seeds and strings from two medium butternut squash. Roast the squash (4 halves) for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Caramelize 2 large purple and 1 large yellow onion with 3 Tbsp of butter for 25 minutes. Add 3 cloves crushed garlic. Pour in a 12oz bottle of Crispin cider and cook down for 3 minutes on high heat. Peel, core and dice 6 small apples. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, pepper and salt. Scoop the roasted squash into the soup and puree with an immersion blender.  Add a pinch of allspice and curry powder. Top with cream, chopped fresh parsley and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Dessert: Omenapiiraka- Finnish Apple Pie

Have a great Wednesday!

Omenapiirakka: Finnish Apple Pie

Apples, apples and more apples! After a successful day of apple picking with Emily and Joe this weekend, we had apples to spare. Last night we hosted Noam and Kristin for an apple themed dinner party to use some up and for dessert I made this amazingly easy apple pie. 

This is another rustic-style Finnish pie with a free-form crust. Based on Bea Ojakangas’ recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, this pie whips together in about 15 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of baking! I hope you enjoy this easy Finnish dessert.

1 ¼ cup white whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of ground allspice and cardamon
1 stick of cold butter, cubed
1 cup heavy cream

5-6 small tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
½ tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp flour
¼ cup cane sugar
Dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine the flours, baking powder and spices. Cut the cold butter into the flour until it is well-combined and crumbly. Pour in the heavy cream and form into a ball. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. Peel and slice the apples and mix with the remaining ingredients.

On a large greased baking sheet, roll out the dough into a large square. Cut to straighten the edges. Pour the apples into the center of the dough square and fold the sides up and over about 1 inch. Using the scrapes, roll out and cut to make a lattice pattern on the top of the exposed apples in the center of the pie.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Make sure to let the pie cool. Then cut into 9 squares. Top with fresh whipped cream and caramel sauce, or drop a dollop of ice cream on the side! Enjoy!


Monday, October 8, 2012

A Squash Adventure: Acorn Squash Puree

While visiting my buddy AnnaJean, I noticed she had some local squash on her counter.  So at her request, I am posting this recipe for Acorn Squash Puree. It is super yummy for kids and adults alike! Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos the last time I made it, but we have all seen acorn squash before. So here is the next installment in our Squash Adventure!

Exhibit B: Acorn Squash—shaped like an acorn, the rind is thick and dark green and the inside is a soft orange color that deepens when it is cooked. It has a very mild flavor, and the flesh is very similar in texture to sweet potato that is slightly undercooked.  It keeps on the counter for a LONG time. As long as it is still firm and without mold you can cook it up! It is readily available at most supermarkets and farmer’s markets.

I have had this squash a variety of ways. When I think of fall squash, this is the one I picture on the plate—cut in half, bright orange and beautiful, drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkle with pecans.  But this is also really great mashed into a puree as a side dish. It also makes this squash choice more friendly for those who do not like the consistency of plain squash. So here is a really easy recipe you can whip up in a flash!

Acorn Squash Puree
1 acorn squash
3 Tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup milk
1 Tbsp butter
Pinch of cinnamon
Brown sugar, to top with if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Score the squash with a knife into squares. Brush the squash with maple syrup. Bake for 45min to 60 minutes, until the squash is soft.

Scoop out the flesh into a glass bowl. With a handheld mixer or immersion blender puree the flesh with the remaining ingredients. You may need to add a bit more milk if it isn’t smoothing to your preference. Top with brown sugar and more butter if desired. This puree may also be frozen and would make a yummy baby food choice for your little one!


Monday, October 1, 2012

A Squash Adventure: Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Pesto

At the farmer’s market this weekend you might have noticed we are in squash heaven. Goodbye berries—hello winter foods. Growing up squash was NOT something that my siblings or I looked forward to and mostly it was because of the texture.  I have come to realize that the joys of the squash are really in the preparation.  I’ve decided to try every squash I can get my hands on this year—there are so many varieties to choose from!

Exhibit A: Spaghetti Squash: a light yellow oval shaped squash that is widely available. It has a yellow flesh that becomes stringy when heated, with strings about the size of thin spaghetti pasta. It is mild in flavor with just a bit of squashiness—slightly sweet with a mildly earthy aftertaste.

Spaghetti squash is a really fun one and is so versatile! I’ve actually been cooking this guy for about a year and find it can be subbed for pasta in just about any dish, though I find its hint of sweetness pairs perfectly with pesto sauce.  This is a very low-cal, healthy recipe I’ve converted to a casserole. You can whip this up in a snap! I prefer to cook my squash in the microwave, but you can also roast it in the oven as well.  Let’s make dinner!

Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Pesto
1 6-8 inch long spaghetti squash
¼ cup fresh pesto sauce: Sweet Basil Pesto Recipe
¾ cup 2% milk
1 tsp Italian herb blend
½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
½ cup shredded asiago or parmesan cheese
6 stalks kale, chopped or 2 cups baby spinach
11/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds and mushy pulp. Cooking one half of the squash at a time, place the half cut-side down in I cup of water in a microwave safe glass pie plate. Microwave on high for 4 minutes cut-side down. Flip and microwave for 4 more minutes cut-side up, then turn over and microwave for 1-2 minutes more until it is soft to the touch. This steams the squash and it will be very hot when you remove it. Allow to sit until it is cool enough to handle. Repeat with the second half of the squash.

Meanwhile, cook the kale or spinach in salted water. I used kale today. I placed the kale in a sauce pan covered, and steamed with 1 cup of water for 3-5 minutes. Drain.

Scoop the cooled squash flesh out with a spoon, gently scraping the inside of the rind and dump into a glass bowl. Combine with the pesto, herbs, salt, milk and shredded asiago/parmesan cheese. Stir in the cooked chopped kale.

Scrap the squash mixture into a 9 x 13 glass or stone casserole dish. Top with the shredded cheese.Bake for 20-30 minutes until the sauce and cheese is bubbly.

This dish makes amazing leftovers--in fact, mine are reheating right now.... Let me know if you like it!

Thanks for reading,