Macaroni & “Cheese” butternut squash

I mentioned a bit ago that I heard you could make a pretty decent macaroni and cheese using butternut squash. A few years ago I would have told you you were crazy. Now I am coming around; so much so I tried it. I looked around the internet for a few recipes but decided to make my usual one and replace most of the cheese with the butternut squash. I was still a little skeptical but what was there to lose?
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I will advise you that if you are going to have your family or anyone for that matter try your new recipe I would not tell them what was in it.  I find that if you tell them it’s different or lighter or different in anyway, their senses are on high alert and they are sure to find or even look for something different with it.
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Case in point; my husband was home when I was making my lighter macaroni and cheese and when it was finished I just brought over a fork full and gave him a bite. First reaction was “mmmm good” I had to ask him what he thought it was. He looked at me a little funny and said “macaroni and cheese” but I think my comment made him add “of some sort” I had to confess it was made with squash and very little cheese. Oh and I also used rotini that was made from Chickpeas.  If you haven’t tried chickpea pasta I really think you will be pleasantly surprised. I have made 2 dishes with great success.

You might be thinking why chickpea pasta it has less carbs than average pasta, more protein and more fiber. So it is just a little better for you than ordinary box pasta. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any at either of my local stores my boxes were bought by my daughter when she visited one of Mario Batali’s Eataly. Looks like I will have to go and check it out.

Macaroni and “Cheese”

Small onion – diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves – minced
2 pounds cubed butternut squash – I used frozen
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
box of chickpea pasta
4 ounce gruyere cheese – grated
few drops sriracha sauce
Parmesan cheese – a small amount for grating on top
1/4 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

saute onion for a couple of minutes in the olive oil.  Add garlic saute another minute. add mustard, nutmeg, butternut squash, stock and milk still squash is softened.
Remove from the heat and using either a stick blender or however you puree your soups. puree the mixture and then add the cheese, season with salt and pepper to your taste.
place in a baking dish and grate some Parmesan cheese and a little seasoned panko bread crumbs.

Per 11 ounce serving
215 Calories – 12g Fat – 14g Carbs – 16g Protein  

 

Bark – chocolate, pistachios, craisins

There is nothing more surprising to me when someone walks up to me or sends me a message to ask a question or make a suggestion about what I blogged about last week or last month. Or when someone I’ve never met makes a comment, hits the like button or starts to follow me.  Thank you for all who reach out, I truly appreciate it and you for taking the time out of your crazy life to acknowledge little ole me.  I am pretty proud of this weekly delve into my food and sometimes personal journey!
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I talked with my daughter about doing a blog of some sort with her for a few years until I finally pulled the trigger on writing about one of both of our passions. While it ended up being more of my food blog I do share this journey with her as she is my strongest supporter, she is my sounding board, my technical adviser, my social media guru and a huge inspiration – thanks sweetie!
IMG_5483So I have been trying to make things a little healthier around here for me and my family but sometimes you just have to have something that just totally rocks – good bad or indifferent I just have to share this ridiculously easy treat that I can’t believe I have never made before.
IMG_5485I saw it a few weeks ago, I can’t even remember where; TV, Magazine, Online I have no idea but I literally went to the kitchen and threw it together.  And I guiltily have made it at least a half dozen times since. Though my first few times were with semi sweet chocolate, almonds and craisins my brilliant daughter called me on her way to work with a batch for her co-workers and said “White Chips, Pistachios, Craisins” if you have never had this combination in anything you need to stop reading this and make SOMETHING – ANYTHING with this combo. We discovered them, well at least in my house, when we made the biscotti recipe I blogged about awhile back. I think they are magical together and this bark is crazy good!
IMG_5490Spoiler alert some of my close peeps that follow my blog might just be seeing some for a little Christmas love this year!

1 cup chips melted – your choice
Dried fruit chopped
Nuts chopped

Yeah its that easy!
IMG_54861 cup white chips melted in the microwave – takes a minute or so
½ cup Dried craisins – chopped a little smaller
½ cup Pistachios – chopped a little smaller

Spread the melted chocolate onto either parchment or if you are lucky enough to have a silpat mat; if you don;t ask for one or two for Christmas, Birthday, Thanksgiving or even Wednesday.

Sprinkle your toppings and place in the fridge till it hardens.  Break apart and enjoy!
IMG_5489I’ll give you the macros for the 2 I have been making; but they are not great. OK! am back I just made a batch so I could give the most accurate measurements.  You’re welcome and Thank you 🙂

Macros = 1 ounce white bark
210 Calories – 11 g Fat – 24 g Carbs – 3 g Protein
Macros = 1 ounce semi-sweet bark
243 Calories – 13 g Fat – 24 g Carbs – 4 g Protein

BBQ Steak, Sweet Potato & Squash

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My family has re-discovered the outside patio area. We; well actually I wanted a sitting area on the patio. Not just any sitting area I wanted someplace where we can; after a long hard day of working we could sit and relax comfortably. I finally pulled the trigger on an outdoor couch and we LOVE it!  We make plans of when we could meet, what we are going to drink and who has to get up and make dinner.

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Looks pretty comfortable huh? 

With the nights already getting shorter meals have to be something quick to throw together just so no one has to be away from lounging on the patio for too long. What fun would it be if I spent an hour in the kitchen while they are out there chilling out. No fun at all.

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As long as the raw meat doesn’t touch the tray; you can use it to take everything off the grill

Here is something so surprisingly delicious but so crazy easy that anyone can make this meal and you won’t hear any complaints from the loungers

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I use a little tinfoil so I don’t lose the veggies

Steak – you cannot go wrong with Ribeyes
Squash – whichever kind you like or both
Sweet potato or whatever you have on hand
Large Onion peeled and sliced
Olive Oil
Black Pepper
Kosher Salt

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You still get grill marks even while using tinfoil

That’s it!  Take the steaks out before you start anything else, they are best when the come to room temperature; season liberally with Salt and Pepper and put aside.
Start the grill, Slice the veggies and potatoes. Season those with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Grab a sheet pan or whatever you use when you grill and head outside. I have a little plastic basket I put all the supplies I need like the plates, utensils and tinfoil etc. And I usually only have to come back in for a refill of my wine.

Have a wonderful long labor day weekend!

 

Red Sangria – Simple & Delicious

So does anyone even remember what we did before we could google everything we needed to know? I know in my family if any of us have a discussion and happen disagree wink wink; someone immediately pulls out there phone and googles whatever we were discussing. I guess we must have been SO isolated with our knowledge back then? My husband has gone as far to dub the passenger seat in his truck the “google seat” basically meaning if he needs to know something the person sitting next to him needs to “google it”. 99% of the time it’s our son and I swear he is the fastest googler I know.
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I am fairly certain that I have mentioned in the past how I google myself for my recipes all the time.  The other day I wanted to make a batch of Sangria and recall writing a blog about it.  So I type cookingatclarktowers/sangria and it popped up but the recipe, story and pictures were all gone – sad face! I then had to try to recreate it because I KNOW its good; I have had and have also made some that I just didn’t care for. Not all Sangria is created equal. Thankfully this is a recipe that is a super easy and the best one I have ever had. Bonus is you can drink it right away ever come across one that wanted you to wait 24 hours “to meld” umm no thank you!
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Red Sangria

1 bottle of inexpensive red wine – you still want it to taste good
1 bottle of Lemonade (equal size of the wine bottle plus another cup or so)
Plum Brandy – 1 shot or use one of your favorites
Grand Mariner – 1 shot – no need to buy a large bottle – buy a nip?
Apple – peeled and diced
Orange – peeled and sliced
Lemon – sliced
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In a large enough container combine all the ingredients – I fill to the top of my pitcher with more lemonade add some ice and serve

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I had some leftover blueberries – so I added those too!

BBQ Marinated Shrimp

I am writing this week’s blog on Friday morning before my house becomes so busy and full of a lot of people. A girlfriend of mine is coming over to help me prep for an anniversary party we are hosting for my in-laws. My feeling was that it needed to be a step up or so from the normal backyard BBQ I throw since it is their 60th wedding anniversary BBQ and that is quite the accomplishment in my book and deserves something a little special.
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In a little bit a couple of my sister-in-laws will be here along with my girlfriend JC oh and did I mention that JC is a trained chef; no pressure for me to be prepping along side her ugh!  I even felt obligated to clean my oven last week just because I wanted everything “perfect” for her. I doubt she would judge me for a dirty oven, but I wanted to make cooking in my kitchen a pleasant experience.
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When deciding what we were having I wanted some of my favorite sides. Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Baked beans and BBQ Shrimp.  So I well I guess we are all going to work on cooking the pasta & potatoes. I cheated on the beans and doctored up a large can I had on hand already. We’ll need to marinate the shrimp and decorate some cupcakes that I made up yesterday. JC is going to be in charge of the chicken and steak tips. She mentioned making up a few for us to taste, I have no doubt that they will be delicious.
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The BBQ shrimp is a recipe a friend brought to a party many years ago and has been a staple at my parties ever since. I have shared it with many people over the years but I have never blogged about it before. Funny thing is I tell everyone where I got it but they still refer to it as my recipe. When I make it I still bring out the same page that on the top says Jack’s family recipe, it has many stains and blotches on it but it is still excellent and a crowd pleaser!
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BBQ Marinated Shrimp

1 cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 pounds large, peeled and deveined shrimp with tails on

In a large bowl or ziploc bag, add all the ingredients except the shrimp, mix well and then add your shrimp. Let them marinate for a minimum of 2 hours or best overnight.
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Skewer them and cook on your grill just till pink which means they are done. They cook quick but also depends on how hot you have your grill.

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The cook gets to get at least a skewer to themselves. At least that is how it works at my house.

Homemade Pizza Dough & Sauce

Happy Father’s Day!
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I am not sure what happened but this day kind of snuck up on me. I know you are asking how is that even possible. It is a busy time of year for me. I am on a fundraising board which I have been on I think for the last 10 years but I have proudly supported them since the beginning 17 years ago! Both my kids have their birthdays and my youngest just turned 25 UGH not sure how that happened either. The time goes by so fast; it seems like in a blink of an eye they went from just starting to walk and talk to running and talking back. Then came their their license and off to college and back. Through it all I couldn’t have asked for a better father for my children.

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Our first time playing with the Uuni this last Nov

So how are we going to celebrate this extremely hardworking man? Luckily he loves food just as much as I do. I am sure many people are going to be grilling out today and I thought about that but then decided to make homemade pizza in my Uuni pellet burning pizza oven and invite over both of our fathers to share in the yumminess!
15036315_10207738742531251_9143904106138992854_nI had never even heard of an Uuni oven before but there was a raffle sheet at the office so for $20 I wrote my name on 5 tickets and forgot all about it. Then a month or so later I got a call that I won! Pretty crazy actually and it is a crazy little unit but I love it. We had some friends over a couple of weeks ago and unanimously declared this little $20; to me item; was SO worth it and such a fun social thing to do, plus made excellent pizza. It says you can make other things in it but I haven’t explored that yet.
14938181_10207738747891385_3594414411391080513_nI know you can buy pizza dough at most markets and can even ask your local pizza place to buy some of their dough but my dough is better than any I have ever brought home. That goes the same as with my pizza sauce.

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Cooks the pizza in about 60 seconds – yeah baby!!!

Basic Pizza Sauce
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 28 ounce can peeled, crushed tomatoes with puree
1 bay leaf
1 ½ tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup dry white wine
Several shakes of crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in  3-4 quart sauce pan and cook the garlic for 30 seconds. DO NOT allow it to brown or burn. If you do start over; add the remaining ingredients and simmer; stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened and the flavors meld about 30-40 minutes. Any leftovers can be frozen.

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I just pulled this out of my freezer

Basic Pizza Dough – enough for 2 round 14” or 1 rectangle 11”x17”
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
14938302_10207738748251394_3402989645596747515_nCorn Meal helps keeps the dough from sticking on the pizza peel or stone or whatever you are placing and transferring the dough to.

Pour the water and yeast into a large bowl or your stand mixing bowl. Stir and put a pinch of sugar in it. Let is stand in a warm draft place for about 5 minutes until the yeast starts to activate into bubbles. If it doesn’t bubble you are going to have to start over.
Add the olive oil and then sift the sugar and salt. Into the yeast mixture.  Work the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you are using a stand mixer with the dough hook, let the machine knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. If you are doing it by hand work the dough till it feels springy. If it’s too stiff add a little warm water a teaspoon at a time.
IMG_5255Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl that’s been lightly oiled.
Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm draft free place. Until the dough has doubled in size takes about an hour or so.
Punch the dough down, place on a lightly floured surface. This is the time to decide what size(s) you are making and split the dough as needed.  I tend to make individual pizzas so I break mine down quite a bit.

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This is my current dough I made a little bit ago

Roll out your dough ball and place on a lightly cornmeal pizza peel, stone or sheet pan. At this point you can cover it a let it rise a little again for a thicker crust or just put a little sauce, cheese and your toppings.  It’s best to not LOAD your toppings but place them sparingly so the pizza moves around easily for you. Not a fun mess to clean up topping debris after a split pizza dough.  Bake as you will in a very hot oven around 450’F for 10-30 minutes depending on how large your pizza is.

Garden Salad

Good morning and Happy Mother’s day!

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Looking forward to seeing this again this year!

My Mother’s day plans were to be spent in the garden but apparently Mother Nature had other plans. Unfortunately we are not supposed to see the sun until Tuesday; insert sad face here.

The gardens were on the agenda since the kids asked what I wanted to do today and I figured why not tick off something from my “to do” list. And the gardens need a lot of love to get ready for planting in a couple of weeks; and manual labor is a precious gift; to me anyway.  Many OK maybe 10ish years ago this was the weekend when I would go buy all my flowers for the porch and veggies for the garden but after losing more plants and money than I care to share I now wait until Memorial Day and then I go out and buy and plant everything I want. That seems to be the safest in this neck of the woods.

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Although yesterday; while it was still pretty nice out my husband got all the beds ready for planting and throwing caution to the wind he ended up planting a few things like potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, beets and shallots. I think we should be OK since they are in the soil versus a delicate plant above ground; though we will be watching the weather very closely.  I did see that 3 or 4 towns over awoke this morning to snow and power outages instead of rain YIKES!

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In anticipation of the yummy veggies coming out of our and possibly your hard work and dirty hands I want to re-share a quick and easy summer salad  that everyone loved.

 

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Best if you can make this first before you start whatever you are serving it with so it has time to meld and let the veggies soak up the dressing.

Summer Garden Salad

⅓ cup cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 small clove of garlic, minced
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup sliced cherry, grape or like tomatoes
½ medium cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced thin
½ medium yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced ¼ inch thick
¼ medium sweet onion sliced thin
Kernels from 1 ear of corn
1 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh basil

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the next diced/sliced 5 ingredients; stir well to combine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Stirring occasionally before serving. Garnish with the basil.