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  

 

Leftover Focaccia Panzanella Salad

This weekend I will be playing in my 17th KMS golf tournament. I have been on the board of the foundation for over 10 years and it is an honor to be apart of something that innocently started with a few family and close friends after losing a very dear person in all of our lives. The tournament and foundation has turned into something bigger than anyone could have predicted. We were just a bunch of family and friends that wanted to honor our friend in a fun way that he would have loved. It is the only fundraising we do and the monies collected go to supporting the health and well being of children in the greater Monadnock area. It really is my favorite meeting when we go through all of the grant requests and hand out thousands of dollars to the ones that meet our mission statement. I just wanted to share that little part of me that I am very proud of!

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I also sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top 

So last weekend I made pizza in my cute little Uuni pizza oven out on the patio. I of course made way more than we needed or could eat. I froze the dough and just made a frittata with the leftover sausage, ham, peppers, onions and mushrooms.
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I have a tendency to not want to throw away perfectly good; case in point the focaccia bread that I made a few weeks ago was quite large and way more bread than anyone should eat in one sitting. While the bread is delicious fresh out of the oven; it doesn’t really taste the same the next day. I ended up make 2 different leftovers with it. I hinted that I would make cheesy garlic bread – I did and it was amazing. No I didn’t take pictures but trust me – make it!!! Melt a little butter and add a little crushed garlic to the butter and spread it all over the bread. Cover in shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven until the cheese has melted Aahhhhhhh  

IMG_5261The second leftover was used to make a side panzanella salad; which is basically just a leftover bread salad. I sliced up some red onions very thinly, made an easy dressing and added some baby arugula just to have some greens next to my delicious steak.
IMG_5263Dressing
1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Honey
1 clove Garlic crushed
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl add the crushed garlic, vinegar, mustard and honey. Drizzle in the olive oil set aside until the salad is ready.

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Salad
Cubed day old (mine was a lot older – kept in the fridge)
Red onion – a few thinly sliced pieces
Baby arugula
Tomato – remove some of the seeds if you can (I used up some cherry tom’s I had in the fridge)

Place the cubed bread in the oven to dry out even more, I like them lightly browned. Not quite as hard as croutons. Place the arugula, onions, tomatoes and the cooled bread in a large bowl, cover with the dressing toss and serve.

Boston Baked Beans

I am going to assume we are going to be getting into BBQ season around here; Once it stops raining that is and gets out of the 50’s – Sorry SF another weather update here. He told me I’ve had a lot of weather talk lately. It’s been bizarre so i’m just sharing wink wink! Currently I am sitting out on the porch with my laptop, a glass of wine, Pandora playing and enjoying the end of the day first nice day in a long time and writing my blog for this weekend as we are going to be away.
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Since I have been sharing all of my favorites with all of you, I find it easier to google myself for my recipes than to go through my ridiculous pile of paper recipes. Pretty sad huh? or is it pretty cool? I know typing in cookingatclarktowers and what I am looking for is a lot faster. On Sunday I googled me (that cracks me up) looking for my Boston baked bean recipe. Nothing came up and I thought that was impossible that I haven’t shared it yet. I could swear that I did and I even had a part of what I thought I said in the blog. I will confess that I might be in there and I have labeled the title something else and wordpress (or just me) can’t locate it? I have been trying to get better at this blogging world but I still have a LOT to learn.
IMG_5199Back to the BBQ comment Baked Beans at a BBQ is a must for me I love baked beans ; I know this is a bit controversial; well that’s a strong word but I have a few friends that hate them. My BFF KP has proclaimed that she ONLY likes mine so that is saying something; I think. See this is one of the comments I swear I wrote but whatever I am going to share it now OR again since I made them on Sunday and they were delicious and worth trying.  I will also admit while they are delish and relatively easy, the baking in the oven takes a long time. This is something you have to plan ahead of time. I know there are a ton of shortcuts to delicious beans but I promise these are worth the effort and again very easy just hands off time consuming.
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1 package of navy pea beans – soak overnight
1 lb salt pork – rind cut off, pork diced / I had a ham bone leftover from Easter in the freezer
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 large or 2 medium vidalia onions – sliced
⅓ cup molasses
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
2 teaspoon salt
⅓ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dry mustard
IMG_5210In a large bowl soak the beans overnight covered in water
Strain and add beans, fresh water, the salt pork and the baking soda to either the stock pot you are going to bake them in or another pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12 minutes.  Skim off some of the foam.
IMG_5198Strain keeping the liquid in a medium sized bowl and then add the molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, dry mustard and the salt and pepper stir to combine.
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In a bean pot or dutch oven (which I used) layer onions, salt pork and beans.  Do this a couple of times.

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Cover with the liquid. Place in a 300’F oven for 5 hours. Don’t cringe I’m sure you can do many other things around the house while they are baking.

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Worth the wait!!!

Thank you to a pretty old Betty Crocker recipe!

 

Easy Potato Salad

I have a confession to make; this week there was not a lot of cooking or baking go on in my house; at least by me. I have been writing my weekly food blog for 3+ years now and my “norm” is to make something, take pictures of it and if it comes out good I will share it with all of you. If it isn’t blog worthy I either make something else, pull out something else I might have made and not shared yet or will try to share an oldie but a goody from a couple of years ago. I am sharing my easy Potato Salad – but these are actual photos from this morning! I wanted some today!
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To clarify my comment above about no cooking by me my daughter spent her entire Monday making up lunches, snacks and a dinner. The rest of the meals were quick throw together meals and I would think most of you already have your own that you can quickly put together.
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We are currently have a long weekend as it being Memorial Day – I do want to give shout out to all of the Veterans out there Thank You for your service!
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There are going to be a lot of cookouts around here this weekend; probably not on Monday as they usually are because we are going to have another rain out of a day. We are close to having one of the wettest months of May on record Yeah us! We did get the gardens in though; so that is yeah us!
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My go to Potato Salad

red new potatoes
eggs
mayo
celery
Kens Zesty Italian
scallions

Dice the potatoes into the medium/small even pieces. Boil for about 10-15 minutes; depends on the size of the potato.

put your eggs in your pot and cover with water. bring to a boil, cover and turn off the heat, let sit for 13 minutes.  Move to a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. and Peel once you can handle them.

This is what works best for me. I always make more and once peeled the pretty ones I turn into deviled eggs, the other ones I make into egg salad.

Drain your potatoes and rinse a little in cold water just so you can handle them a little. Place the warm potatoes into a plastic bag and add just enough Italian dressing so that they all get a little taste of it. I used around 2-3 tablespoons. Place in the fridge to cool completely.
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once cooled add to a bowl big enough to mix and then you can put the salad in a nice bowl or a travel bowl. add the sliced egg, chopped celery and top with the chopped scallions.
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Fried Brussel Sprouts & Piperade sauce

I wanted to give you all an update on my quest to like brussel sprouts! OK so that might not be the most exciting statement of the year, week or even day but I did come across another way that my husband will eat them.  My daughter and I actually do like them and would probably add them to my grocery shopping list a little more often if the faces and comments I get from my husband were a little less ummmm painful to see/hear.
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The other day my husband was at the grocery store with me; I’m not a fan of him going to the store with me; don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t mind if he didn’t end up spending me more money than I was thinking of spending. He’s like a little kid ooohh that looks yummy; and puts it in the cart. So I was grabbing the things that were on my list and yes there were brussel sprouts on it; he made a comment and a face and said several times that we really didn’t need them; such a child!
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My daughter had tried some fried brussel sprouts with a some red pepper sauce that she absolutely loved. Trying to recreate something we’ve had at a restaurant is kind of our thing. Sometimes it works and sometimes not so much. After making the sauce my first comment was; “where has this been all my life?” We all know the true test would be my husband. All I can say is my daughter and I both witnessed him finishing his plate AND reaching into the sprout bowl and grabbing a large one with his fingers and eating it.  YUP I win!!!!
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Piperade Sauce – definition below

Ingredients
3 plum tomatoes or use whatever you have on hand
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 red or green bell peppers (we used red because that is how Abbi had it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot Paprika or Espelette

Brussel Sprouts
Oil for frying
Balsamic vinegar
salt

Directions
using a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat, add the oil until hot but before it starts to smoke. add onions, peppers and the salt. saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and pepper start to lighten in spots; about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for another minute or so.
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Add the tomatoes and the paprika, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook till the tomatoes are starting to breakdown and the peppers are soft; about 15  minutes.
removing the cover and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, you want to let it thicken a bit. It should be the consistency of a slightly runny relish.  Adjust the salt and enjoy!
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Brussel Sprouts
prepare your sprouts by trimming off the outer, dry leaves, cut the bottom off and slice lengthwise. Fry them in batches in about and inch or so of oil. Drain, salt and place them in a bowl with the piperade sauce, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, stir and serve.
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Not my favorite picture to share but it tasted delicious!

wikipedia definition of Piperade
Piperade
(Gascon and French) or Piperrada (Basque and Spanish), from piper (pepper in Gascon and in Basque) is a typical Basque dish prepared with onion, green peppers, and tomatoes sautéd and flavoured with red Espelette pepper.

 

 

Crispy Risotto Cakes

I am SO excited to have another trick up my sleeve for leftover risotto. I only have leftovers because I double or so the batch every time I make it 🙂  My daughter works at my favorite local restaurant and she has a tendency to text me when she knows that her dad and I would love their special for the night. This is both awesome and terrible. Awesome because we have an amazing dinner, terrible because it gets mighty costly since they make such amazing food we can’t seem to resist.
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One such dish is dayboat scallops over a crispy risotto cake with some greens and a light sauce. Let me just say that seared scallops are just plain heavenly; all they need is a little salt and pepper and I am one happy camper. Throw in a crispy risotto cake and ahhhhhhhh!
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I am in the habit of making a double batch of risotto. While it is not difficult to make it is a little time consuming as you can’t or at least shouldn’t leave the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong you can still multitask but it’s best to hang around the stove so you can be sure to add more liquid to the rice before it dries out completely.
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I have shared with all of you how I make Arancini see link for the post/recipe https://cookingatclarktowers.com/2016/03/20/arancini/

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I started out using the wrong pan

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had to switch to a nonsitck

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I made a mess of the first pan!

The guys at the restaurant shared with Abbi how they make the crispy risotto cake. She came home and declared we can totally make them; So we did!

Directions:
Spread out the risotto on a nonstick sprayed rimmed sheet pan, using a cookie cutter that I would also spray with nonstick spray.  Cut out your rounds, on tray that will fit into your freezer, cover it with wax paper and freeze your rounds for an hour or so.  Transfer to a freezer bag for use anytime you want to make them. Great for a quick side during the week.

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It is a messy job but my rice was super wet, I might dry it out a little more next time.


Thyme and Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

I saw someone roasting a whole head of cauliflower on TV that looked SO good I wanted to try it. The other day I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge so I started looking for some ways to have this for dinner alongside a couple of Ribeye steaks I was making. Well lets just say baking a whole head of cauliflower takes far too long for my weeknight meal; especially since I was starting around 6:30ish. Unless I boiled it first it was going to be well over an hour in the oven. Since I had roasted cauliflower on brain I sliced it into large chunks added some sliced onion and a little garlic and some thyme roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes.

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It also worked out quite nicely that the oven was well pre-heated for finishing off my steaks in the oven once seared in my cast iron skillet. Dinner was awesome and we had the leftovers for lunch the next day score!!!

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If you have never roasted a vegetable; I can’t stress enough how it will change your life; OK no it’s not that revolutionary but it may make some youngsters; even some adults change their minds over eating their veggies. It makes carrots, beets, butternut squash and onions sweeter. It gives asparagus and broccoli a slightly charred taste. Potatoes have a wonderful crunch and it’s the only way I like brussel sprouts. A little olive oil, salt and pepper and you’re good to go; add an herb and you won’t be disappointed.
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1 head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 medium onion sliced
1 tsp dried thyme or 4 fresh sprigs
3-4 gloves of garlic kept whole
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Toss the first four ingredients either on the sheet pan or if you prefer in a bowl. once on the sheet pan sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes. sprinkle with cheese toss and roast for another 10-15 minutes longer.