Friday, October 24, 2008

Acorn Squash Spice Cupcakes with Orange Sage Buttercream Icing!

It has been months since I have participated in a Joust, that is, The Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jen, The Leftover Queen. The winner of the previous month's challenge, which was Susan at Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy, chose acorn squash, oranges and sage as the three Joust ingredients. Our challenge is to use all three in a recipe, post on our blogs and then at the end of the month, fellow Leftover Queen Forum members vote for the best recipe. (You can stop by the site and see all of the entries for the month)

I have been thinking about what to make for weeks! Luckily, acorn squash is readily available at the farmers' markets now. I knew there would be savory dishes and wanted to come up with a sweet recipe, as well as challenge myself. So, these cupcakes are the result. I rarely make cupcakes, even though I know they are quite the rage. I am happy to say that I have a willing arsenal of friends and neighbors on standby, so 18 cupcakes will not be lurking in the house, begging to be eaten!

So, may I now present, my soon-to-be world famous........

Acorn Squash Spice Cupcakes with Orange Sage Buttercream Icing
makes 18 cupcakes

For the cupcakes
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp good cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup acorn squash puree
toasted acorn squash seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

To make the acorn squash puree; cut 1 squash in half, scoop out the seeds, place in a microwave safe container with a bit of water, cover and cook until soft, in my microwave that took 9 minutes. Let cool, then scoop the cooked squash into the food processor and puree until smooth. This can be done a day in advance.

To make the cupcakes; place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and lightly whisk to combine. In another bowl, add the egg, milk and oil, whisking to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined, do not over mix. Then add the squash puree, again stirring to combine. At this point I transfer the batter to a large 4 cup glass measure. This makes it easier to pour into the cupcake liners without spilling or dripping. Fill liners about 2/3 full.

Place the cupcakes in a preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. While the cupcakes are cooling you can toast the seeds and make the icing.

To toast the seeds, place the cleaned, dry seeds on a pan and lightly spray them with olive oil. Toast at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes or until you just hear them pop, stirring at least once. When they are toasted, remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with flaked sea salt. Set aside to cool completely.

For the icing
6 tbl softened butter
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tbl orange juice
zest of 1 orange
2 sage leaves, very finely chopped

Place the butter in the bowl of the mixer and beat on high until light and fluffy.

Add about half of the powdered sugar beat until incorporated, starting out a low speed, then increase slowly to high speed. Then add the other half and repeat the mixing process. In a small bowl combine the orange juice, zest and sage. Then add to the butter mixture, beating on high until fluffy. If too stiff, add a bit more oj.

Now you are ready to ice your cupcakes!

I decided to give mine the red carpet treatment and pipe the icing, very fancy, I know. After piping, I grated more orange zest and topped each with some of the salted seeds. Let me tell you, these are sooo yummy, and a little healthier than your average cupcake. So far, my tasters have given me great reviews!

Here's hoping I win the apron this month!

Before and after being zested and seeded.

This one was sacrificed in the name of quality control. A tough job, but someone has to do it!

For more yummy pictures, just click on the Flickr widget on the sidebar!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Baked Winter Squash, Raisin and Pine Nut Lasagna -WWW

Here is another great recipe utilizing winter squash. I chose to use butternut, one of my favorites. As with any other lasagna recipe, this one takes a bit of time and creates a sink full of dishes. The good thing is that you can make this ahead of time and freeze the leftovers for a future meal. The recipe can be found here. It calls for 10 oz of cooked winter squash. I peeled and cubed my butternut squash, placed it in a glass bowl with a bit of water and cooked it in the microwave for about 9 minutes until it was tender, stirring halfway through the cooking time. Then I weighed out 10 oz and pureed that amount in the food processor. The remainder of the squash I also pureed (about 2 1/4 cups), placed in a ziplock freezer bag and set aside for later. Actually, the bag is one of those ziplock vacuum bags. I just picked one up a few weeks ago and I love it. I have been lusting after a foodsaver system for a long time, but haven't saved my pennies up for one just yet. The ziplock vacuum was only $3.99, and so far, works very nicely. Back to the lasagna.

I baked my lasagna in loaf pans. Since there are only 2 of us I find this works out much better than baking in a traditional pan. The pasta fits in perfectly (as always, I use the no-boil noodles), you can bake one pan for dinner, bake the others about 2/3 of the way, cool, wrap and freeze them in the pan. Then you have them on hand to bake when you don't have time to prepare dinner from scratch. Now, I only made 2 pans this time, since I had not made this recipe before. I used 4 noodles per pan and all of the filling, so I am not sure how this would change the points count. I also get 2 servings per pan, so I will get a total of 4 servings. I found the serving size to be fine, and since this is such a healthy recipe to start with, felt no guilt. I will post the original recipe for those who are counting the points values. I will also include my one addition, and that was a small amount of dried thyme. I felt that some sort of herb should be added to enhance the taste of the squash.

This really was a surprisingly good recipe. The combination of ingredients gives it a very rich taste. I especially like the addition of the golden raisins. I served this with a salad of arugula, pears, walnuts and goat cheese with a light raspberry vinaigrette. A perfect, light and comforting vegetarian meal.

Winter Squash, Raisin and Pine Nut Lasagna
servings 8
POINTS® Value: 6

1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cup(s) fat-free evaporated milk
2 medium garlic clove(s), minced
1/3 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp dried thyme
10 oz dry lasagna noodles, cooked al dente (about 12 noodles), or no-boil noodles
10 oz cooked winter squash, thawed if frozen
1 cup(s) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup(s) golden seedless raisins
2 tbsp pine nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place flour in a small saucepan and very gradually whisk in milk and garlic. Warm over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce simmers and is thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and thyme.

Spread 1/4 cup of cheese sauce over bottom of a 9 X 13-inch glass or metal pan and cover with 3 lasagna noodles; top with 1/3 of squash and 1/2 cup of cheese sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of raisins. Cover with 3 more lasagna noodles and spread with 1/3 of remaining squash and 1/2 cup of cheese sauce; sprinkle with 1/4 cup of raisins. Cover with 3 more lasagna noodles and top with remaining squash and raisins; cover with last 3 lasagna noodles, pressing sheets firmly down. Top with remaining cheese sauce; sprinkle with pine nuts and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake until lasagna bubbles around edges and is browned on top, about 30 minutes. Slice into 8 pieces and serve.

For other great Weight Watcher recipes, check out the archives at Weight Watcher Wednesday!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ina's Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash-BB

I love cooking with the produce of the season, especially squash. They look great sitting around the kitchen, you don't have to cook them the minute you get home and when roasted, they become caramelized and sweet. So, you can imagine how happy I was to see that the Barefoot Blogger recipe for this week featured butternut squash, one of which I happened to pick up at the farmers' market last weekend. Thanks for this week's pick go to Rachel of Rachel likes to cook, and can be found in the book, " Barefoot Contessa Family Style", pg 86, or here on the Food Network website. Nice job Rachel!

I only made one change to this recipe (believe it or not), and that was to cut back the butter to 4 tablespoons, which was plenty. Ina calls for 6, but I will list my 4 in the recipe here. My squash was about 3 pounds and yielded 7 cups, but I added it all in anyway, no problem. I highly recommend adding the saffron if you can get your hands on it at a reasonable price. The flavor that it adds is worth it. If you are have difficulty locating all the ingredients, try reading the musings of fellow BB's. They offer many good suggestions for substitutions, along with their results.

Speaking of results, the final results of this recipe are outstanding! I served this as the main course paired with a salad of romaine, roasted beets, goat cheese and golden raisins. The risotto is so creamy, filling and comforting. The recipe makes plenty for 4, and leftovers for 2. You can get this together in about 60 to 90 minutes if you roast the squash while the risotto is cooking. If you are new to making risotto, one word, patience. Don't crank the heat up and rush the cooking. Pour yourself a glass of wine, stay by the stove and keeping stirring. The results are worth it.

By the way, don't pitch those seeds! They are great roasted (like pumpkin seeds) and tossed into salads.

Ina's Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash
4 to 6 servings

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tbl olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I use pacific brand organic stock)
4 tbl unsalted butter
2 ozs pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. To peel, cut the ends off so you will have a flat surface to work with. Using a good vegetable peeler, just peel the outside off, working down to the bright orange flesh.

Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt (I omitted the salt here due to the salt in the cheese and it was fine without it), and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock.

Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pork & Pear Saute with Lemon Vodka Sauce-WWW

Here is a quick dinner highlighting in-season pears that I picked up at the farmers' market this weekend. I was able to whip this together and have a delicious dinner on the table in 30 minutes. The recipe from the book, "Two's Company", calls for Anjou pears, but I had Bosc on hand and they were just fine. My pears were still pretty firm, but they softened up nicely when cooked. Since this is a properly proportioned meal and full of flavor, do yourself a favor and use the best ingredients you can get, especially the cut of pork. If you are serving more that 2, try this with a tenderloin. Just sprinkle with s&p, brown in the pan and finish off in the oven while the pears saute. What a great fall, cool weather meal, enjoy!

Be sure to stop by Weight Watcher Wednesday to see what else is cookin' this week.

Pork & Pear Saute with Lemon Vodka Sauce
serves 2
Points value: 9

2 (4oz) boned center-cut loin pork chops ( about 3/4 inch thick)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp cracked pepper, divided
2 tsp olive oil, divided
2 Anjou pears (about 1 pound), peeled, cored and cut in half
1/4 cup vodka or dry white wine
1 tbl chopped fresh chives
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tbl fresh lemon juice

Sprinkle chops with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add chops; saute 3 minutes on each side or until almost done. Remove from skillet and keep warm (remember, the meat will continue to cook).

Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in skillet over medium heat. Place pear halves in skillet: cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove pears from skillet and keep warm. Add vodka to skillet, scraping to loosen brown bits. Add remaining 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, chives, lemon rind, and lemon juice; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Serve each chop with 2 pear halves and sauce drizzled over all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm back!

After a very long week of illness, I am glad to report that I am back up and running. I can't believe how long it has been since I have felt like sitting at the computer or cooking in the kitchen. Yea to feeling up to both!

So, what is new? Not much. I was able to get ALOT of knitting and reading done. I am working on finishing those socks of mine (one down, one to go) and have several top-secret Christmas gifts in the works. As for the reading, I am halfway through, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", by Barbara Kingsolver and just started, "My life in France", by Julia Child and Paul Prud'homme. Both so far, are good reads. I was feeling better this last weekend and was able to get out to the farmers' market for some wonderful fall produce, and on Sunday we went to Burnham Orchards to pick apples. We came home with a huge 1/2 bushel bag of beautiful Jonagold apples. We had applesauce that night for dinner. I plan on freezing many of them in the next day or so for baking or sauce in the months ahead. Any suggestion are welcome.

Here is a recipe for a yummy White Bean Chard Soup that I made just before I was out for the count. You could use a variety of beans; cannellini, chickpeas, lentils just to name a few. Thanks again El, for the beautiful rainbow chard!

White Bean Rainbow Chard Soup

2 tbl olive oil
1 cup diced red onion (1 medium)
1 cup diced carrot
1 bunch of rainbow chard (about 8-9 stalks), leaves and stems separated, stalks chopped in about 1/4" pieces and leaves roughly chopped
1/2 tsp kosher flake salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
8 cups of vegetable stock
15.5 oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes or 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Saute the onion and carrot until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chard stalks, salt, pepper, and crushed pepper and saute another 4-5 minutes.

When the veggies have cooked down a bit, add the stock, beans, tomatoes and rosemary. Bring up to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer about 20 minutes. When the bean have softened a bit, add the chard leaves and cook about 5-8 minutes. Serve nice and hot with a few shavings of good parmesano reggiano on top.

Coming this week: WWW- Pork & Pear Saute with Vodka Lemon Sauce and BB- Ina's Butternut Squash Risotto. Don't forget to visit the Pier 1 Site to vote for my room: The voting ends October 9th!