Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Large cookies. Rustic pastry. Flat cake. Pizza pie. Can you picture it? Using these descriptions, can you picture a galette? Well, yes, you did have the advantage of that pretty picture that intrigued you enough to be reading my post but aren’t those some pretty awesome culinary adjectives? One look at that freeform, perfectly-imperfect Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette and it’s easy to be intrigued.

galette 101

Similar to a pastry (like pie crust) or more like a pancake or crepe, the base of a galette is subject to regional adaptations. Some are even made with potatoes. Fillings can be sweet (fruit and/or cream fillings) or savory (vegetables, herbs, cheeses and/or meats). The edge of the crust is often folded up and onto the filling to keep the filling contained and for convenience of eating. The fact that it looks stunning doesn’t hurt either!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

start here

For anyone who has ever hesitated to make a pie from scratch, this is the place to start.

  1. Store-bought crust is fine. Sometimes it is a good idea to simplify certain steps in a process to gain experience which will, in turn, encourage more confidence. It will be delicious! However, making pie crust from scratch is one of my favorite things to do and I credit that to the recipe I use (thank God for church cookbooks). It’s called Never Fail Pie Crust for a reason and this link includes a video of the rolling process and a trick on how to transfer the crust to the plate. One batch will make 3 single crusts which can be made ahead and frozen.
  2. A galette simplifies the pie-making process by using a cookie sheet in place of a pie plate. Once the crust is rolled out, it only needs to be transferred to, and laid flat on, the cookie sheet … no centering the crust over the plate … no crimping edges. It is a perfect way to become comfortable rolling out and handling pie crust.
  3. Make your own filling. This is where the homemade factor is really noticeable. It is not a difficult process and the smell of the fruit simmering is worth every minute! Also, the filling can be made a day or two in advance. If you still need convincing, the galette most likely will not hold all of the filling which means … LEFTOVERS! Just imagine the warm blueberries spread over pancakes or waffles or stirred into oatmeal. Even cold, it can be mixed into yogurt or added to a smoothie!

Blueberry Pie Filling

the folding process

ready … set … blueberry lemon ricotta galette

Print Recipe
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
This rustic pie, or galette, is filled with homemade blueberry-lemon filling and ricotta cheese sweetened with honey. Get the recipe and tips for making this perfectly-imperfect dessert!
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 2-3 hours
Servings
8 slices
Ingredients
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water divided
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
  • 1 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pie crust see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons raw (Turbinado) sugar or granulated sugar
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 2-3 hours
Servings
8 slices
Ingredients
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water divided
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
  • 1 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pie crust see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons raw (Turbinado) sugar or granulated sugar
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
Instructions
  1. Zest and juice the lemon.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until blueberries pop or burst easily with light pressure from the back of a spoon (5-10 minutes).
  3. Combine corn starch with remaining 1/4 cup of water. When most of the blueberries have burst, drizzle the corn starch and water mixture over the syrup, stirring constantly.
    Blueberry Pie Filling
  4. Continue to simmer until filling thickens. The consistency should be thicker than maple syrup but not as thick as a fruit jam. Add half of the lemon zest, half of the salt and the almond extract (if using) to the filling and stir to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (2-3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator).
  6. Preheat oven to 400°.
  7. Combine ricotta cheese, honey, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
  8. Roll out pie crust into a 12" circle on a floured surface. Transfer crust to a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  9. Sprinkle a few of the almonds and the remaining lemon zest around the inner 9" circle of the crust (staying away from the outer edges). Drop the ricotta mixture by spoonfuls around the inner circle and gently spread to cover, leaving the outer 2"-3" of crust bare. See video in text above.
  10. Spread a thick layer of blueberry filling over the top of the ricotta mixture. Any remaining filling can be used as a topping for pancakes or waffles or stirred into oatmeal or yogurt.
  11. Gently lift an outside section of the crust and fold it over onto the blueberry filling. Working around the crust, continue to make folds that slightly overlap the previous fold until filling is enclosed. Gently press on the folds to "seal".
  12. Whisk together the lightly beaten egg and a tablespoon of water and brush a thin layer all around the crust. Sprinkle crust with almonds and sugar.
  13. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling begins to bubble.
  14. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

Pie Crust: It is perfectly fine to use a store-bought crust. It is absolutely perfect to use one of the crusts from my Never Fail Pie Crust post too!

 

pin it for later!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Reuben Meatballs Feature

Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw

Daffodils, daylight savings time, green beer, Lent, basketball: March has arrived. I typically forget to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, have never filled out a March Madness bracket, and miss that hour of daylight in the morning. However, the extra hour of daylight in the evenings, the sight of the first green blades of grass and an Iowa State trip to the Big Dance are worth celebrating. What better way to celebrate than with a seasonal meal: Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw!

Reuben Meatballs

deconstructed sandwich: reuben meatballs

I love Reuben sandwiches all year-long, but seem to crave them more in March when Corned Beef and Cabbage is so popular. When thinking about creating a meatball from this amazing sandwich, there were the obvious ingredients to consider: corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, rye bread, and Thousand Island dressing. The difficult part would be recreating that distinct flavor balance throughout each meatball.

corned beef

The biggest challenge for this recipe was the main ingredient. I wanted to use ground beef as it is convenient and accessible. I have had mixed experiences buying corned beef in the deli counter: sometimes it’s great and sometimes it isn’t. Starting with a beef roast and allowing it to cure for 10 days was obviously much too complicated a process for making meatballs. After researching the spices and herbs used to create the brine for corned beef, a rather unusual combination resulted and, more importantly, worked! You can see the list of ingredients for the seasoning in the recipe below. Do not allow the number of ingredients to discourage you from making this recipe. They are likely already in your cupboard and take little time to measure and combine.

cabbage

The cabbage that typically accompanies corned beef is incorporated two ways in this recipe: as sauerkraut inside, and in the coleslaw beside, the meatball. Replacing the milk that is typically added to a meatball mixture with finely chopped sauerkraut and some of the sauerkraut liquid ensures that element of the Reuben will not be lost.

And who can resist that layer of tangy dressing? Using it to create a side of Thousand Island Coleslaw and as a dipping sauce for the meatballs carries the flavor into every bite.

rye bread

A Reuben just wouldn’t be a Reuben without rye bread. Making homemade bread crumbs is super easy and immediately adds more flavor to the meatballs. A blender is the perfect tool for making flaky breadcrumbs. My food processor tends to grind the bread up, making the crumbs dense. If the bread crumbs are dense, the meatballs will be too.

Reuben Meatballs Prep

bonus flavors

The trial run of this recipe turned out well but was definitely lacking something. My family agreed that they tasted good but did not taste like a Reuben. Adjusting the ingredient proportions and adding toasted caraway seeds was all it took to make the difference. Toasting and crushing the seeds is important; it brings out the oils in the seeds which wakes up the flavors.

The final enhancement comes from baking the meatballs alongside some carrots, celery and onions. When a beef roast is curing, these vegetables are added to the brine to give more flavor to the meat. Placing them on the pan with the meatballs will deliver a similar subtle flavor.

I am very happy with the results of this recipe. There were enough meatballs leftover so we now have a bag in the freezer to enjoy another day.

TIP: When reheating leftover Reuben meatballs, place some extra sauerkraut in a pan
with the meatballs and slowly warm them on the stovetop. The moisture from the
sauerkraut will keep the meatballs from drying out.

Blessings of March

Among all the other wonderful things about the month of March, I do love the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday, the midweek services and the accompanying soup suppers prior, Holy Week and the celebration of Easter are a traditional transition from winter to spring for my family. So allow me to close this post with a beautiful Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Reuben Meatballs

Print Recipe
Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw
Deconstruct that Reuben sandwich and you've got a bite-sized meatball! Ground beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, rye bread crumbs create an awesome replica in this recipe!
Reuben Meatballs Feature
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
50-60 meatballs
Ingredients
Meatballs
  • 2 teaspoons toasted caraway seed see notes below
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups sauerkraut
  • 8-10 slices rye bread
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 cup shedded Swiss cheese
  • 1 onion peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into 1” pieces
Thousand Island Slaw
  • 1 14-ounce bag Coleslaw Mix no dressing needed
  • 1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or dill pickle relish see notes below
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
50-60 meatballs
Ingredients
Meatballs
  • 2 teaspoons toasted caraway seed see notes below
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups sauerkraut
  • 8-10 slices rye bread
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 cup shedded Swiss cheese
  • 1 onion peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into 1” pieces
Thousand Island Slaw
  • 1 14-ounce bag Coleslaw Mix no dressing needed
  • 1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or dill pickle relish see notes below
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Reuben Meatballs Feature
Instructions
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toast caraway seeds in a dry pan over low heat, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from pan and into a small bowl. Add black pepper, salt, cinnamon, allspice, clove and ginger. Place in a small food processor or coffee grinder and pulse until caraway seeds have been crushed. Mixture could also be placed in a resealable plastic bag, folded into a towel and crushed with light pressure from a rolling pin.
  3. Add 2 cups of sauerkraut, removing as much liquid as possible, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  4. Tear half of the the rye bread slices into smaller pieces and place in a blender. Pulse until fine crumbs form. Measure resulting crumbs and repeat with more bread to make 3 cups.
  5. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, 1 1/2 cups of the chopped sauerkraut, spice mixture, eggs, mustard, 2 cups of the bread crumbs and cheese.
  6. Form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. If the mixture is too soggy, add more breadcrumbs (1/2 cup at a time). If the mixture is too dry, add liquid from sauerkraut (1/4 cup at a time). Make adjustments until meatballs will hold together. Place in a roasting pan or two sheet pans that have been coated with cooking spray or lined with aluminum foil. Leave room between the meatballs to allow browning and even baking. Toss carrots, onions and celery in between the meatballs.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Larger meatballs may require more baking time.
  8. Serve hot with Thousand Island Coleslaw.
Thousand Island Coleslaw
  1. Combine all ingredients except cabbage mix in a bowl and stir to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, combine coleslaw mix and half of the dressing. Fold together gently just until cabbage is lightly coated with dressing. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. The salt will draw out the water from the cabbage, adding moisture to the slaw. More dressing can be added according to personal preference.
  3. Serve remaining dressing as a dip for the meatballs.
Recipe Notes

Toasting Caraway Seeds: Pour seeds into a dry, non-stick pan over low heat, stirring frequently. Allow seeds to warm 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and from pan and allow to cool.

Pickle Relish: If using dill relish instead of sweet, add one teaspoon of sugar to the dressing.

Reuben Meatballs

 

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage Pasta

Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Louisiana. I am not French, Creole, Cajun or even the slightest bit southern. “BAM!” sounds ridiculous coming from my mouth. The only qualification I have for preparing a Cajun recipe is that I like spicy food. That being said, this recipe for “Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage Pasta” makes my family happy and therefore I am sharing it with you.

advice from my favorite cajun

If I told you my cousin married a man from Louisiana (born in New Orleans and raised in Lafayette), would that help? It does when he clarifies a few things for this midwest farmer’s daughter. I asked him what he would want people to know about Cajun food:

  1. Cajun and creole are not the same thing. New Orleans is creole – much more Spanish and Haitian influence and more tomatoes.
  2. “Cajun” is a phonetic derivative of the French word “acadian”. Acadiana is the region in south central Louisiana where you find true Cajun food – all of which is based on classical French cuisine and adapted to what could be grown very cheaply as the people were poor.
  3. Food and family are the absolute heart of Acadiana – so we pour all of our love for God and each other into our dishes.

I think my cousin married well … don’t you??

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta

cajun + chicken + Pasta

Pasta is not the first thing I think of when it comes to Cajun/Creole food. Rice might be more authentic and could certainly be adapted into this recipe. As is the case with so many recipes, this one seems to be a melting-pot version: taking elements from a variety of cultures (or what’s available in the pantry) and making something different.

Andouille is a French sausage that was brought to Louisiana, as so many wonderful foods are, by immigrants. It is a spicy sausage but I have quickly learned that heat levels vary greatly among different brands. The one used for this post was disappointingly mild … which might be perfect for you. My best advice is to ask and try. Before adding all the cooked sausage to the dish, try it. If it’s too spicy, don’t add it all. If it’s not spicy enough, consider adding more cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce. Make notes on the brands you like or don’t like on the recipe so it will turn out perfect next time.

There are many Cajun seasoning blends on the store shelf and, like the Andouille, they vary in heat levels too. It is not difficult to make your own blend and it is always a good idea to look for a recipe by someone you trust. In this case, I’d go to Emeril Lagasse. Here is his recipe for Creole Seasoning. Yes, it’s “creole” instead of “cajun”. There is no intent to mislead or misrepresent. It will be delicious.

Just say “BAM!” when you add it and all will be well.

recipe

Print Recipe
Cajun Chicken and Andouille Pasta
Dice up the Cajun Trinity (onion, celery and peppers), simmer a spicy tomato-based sauce, add chicken and andouille sausage and toss in pasta ... ready, set, GEAUX!
Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hours
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound Andouille Sausage cut into 1/2-inch rounds or semi-circles
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green/red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 3-4 sprigs of fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 8 ounces fettuccini, linguini or penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hours
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound Andouille Sausage cut into 1/2-inch rounds or semi-circles
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green/red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 3-4 sprigs of fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 8 ounces fettuccini, linguini or penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning over diced chicken pieces and place half of the chicken in the pan (do not crowd). Brown chicken on all sides, remove from pan and repeat (adding last tablespoon of olive oil to pan) with the remaining chicken.
  2. After removing all the chicken pieces, sauté sausage pieces 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan.
  3. Sauté onion, peppers and celery in the last tablespoon of olive oil for 3-4 minutes; add garlic and continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add thyme, cayenne, black pepper, basil, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, celery salt and bay leaf; stir until fragrant (about one minute).
  5. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes to cook out the alcohol from the wine, stirring frequently to release the browned "bits" of chicken and sausage from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add sugar, tomatoes and chicken stock/broth; simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by at least half.
  7. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook as pasta will continue cooking when added to the sauce.
  8. When the sauce has reduced, remove and discard bay leaf (and fresh thyme stems if using), stir in half-n-half and then the chicken and sausage and return to a simmer. Make sure chicken is fully cooked.
  9. Add pasta to the sauce and meat and toss until pasta is coated. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of the green onions.
  10. Serve with remaining Parmesan cheese and green onions.

Cajun Chicken and Andouille Pasta Pin

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

The winter of 2018-19 here in the midwest has been beautiful … but long and cold. We are searching for any hints of spring to help us through this virtual hibernation. For me, that hint came in the form of a request to help a friend and colleague with her tablescaping presentation for the DIY Or Don’t Expo in Des Moines. Rebecca, owner of This New Old House, asked me if I’d be interested in making some kind of baked treat for each place setting of her table. She described her vision and these beautiful Lemon Thyme Shortbread cookies came to mind.

shortbread basics

Shortbread might just be the simplest recipe I have ever encountered. Butter, sugar, flour … that’s it. Scottish by origin, these biscuits are simply delicious! This particular recipe varies a little from the traditional 1:2:3 ratio of sugar:butter:flour and calls for slicing the cookies into little rounds, or circles. Other traditional shortbread shapes include the fingers (long and rectangular) or a pointed wedge, which brilliantly, allows the cookie to fit into a wine glass for dunking.

I know, right?!?

I suppose that would also be a good shape for enjoying with tea but I’ll bet you’re stuck on that wine idea.

Getting a little silly with the wine discussion but seriously it brings us to the next beautiful thing about shortbread: it’s versatile. What you stir into the basic dough is up to you.

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

shortbread seasons

We choose different wines or teas because of personal preferences … spice, fruit and floral notes. Each season we crave and respond to different flavors: lemon and herbs in the spring and summer, orange and warm spices in the fall and winter.

Herbs, dried fruit, spices and juices/zest are the best options for customizing shortbread cookies. Herbs may seem an unusual addition for cookies but they add a subtle flavor. Use fresh herbs, not dried. Just as you wouldn’t want to bite into dried herbs by themselves, you don’t want to bite into a cookie and be overwhelmed by the herb itself.

If you want to add dried fruit, start with a quarter cup and make sure it is finely chopped. Adding too much will keep the dough from holding together and pieces that are too big will not distribute nicely throughout the dough.

I am already thinking about combinations for the other seasons this year:

SUMMER: Lime Basil
FALL: Cranberry Walnut
WINTER: Grapefruit Rosemary

Where are your taste buds leading you?

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

lemon thyme shortbread recipe

Print Recipe
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
The basic shortbread recipe becomes the perfect cookie for spring with the addition of lemon and thyme. Enjoy with a glass of tea (hot or iced) or wine.
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
3-4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt omit if using salted butter
  • additional sugar for baking optional
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
3-4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt omit if using salted butter
  • additional sugar for baking optional
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme leaves and mix until combined.
    Fresh Thyme and Lemon Zest
  4. Add flour and salt and continue mixing, scraping the sides of the bowl, until well combined. Dough will be crumbly.
    Shortbread Crumbs
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press together. Divide into two equal portions and press together again just until dough holds together.
  6. Roll each portion into a long rope with a diameter of a quarter.
    Shortbread Roll
  7. If the dough feels crumbly during the rolling process, simply pinch it together and gently knead the dough two or three times and try rolling again.
    Shortbread Tips
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with the other portion of dough.
  9. Refrigerate dough for at least two hours.
  10. Cut one roll into 1/4-inch slices. Place each slice in a shallow bowl of sugar and press gently. Only one side of each cookie needs to be dusted with sugar. Place cookies, sugar-side up and one inch apart, on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  11. Bake for 8 minutes. If cookies are lightly browned on the bottom edges and firm on top, they are done. If not, continue baking, checking every 2-3 minutes. See note below on the effect of different cookie sheets on baking time and oven temperature.
  12. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.
Recipe Notes

The type of cookie sheet, along with the oven temperature, can greatly affect the results of the cookies. A dark, metal cookie sheet will cause the cookies to bake faster and often the bottom of the cookies will be darker. In this case, it is often helpful to decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees. A lighter weight and/or color cookie sheet (e.g. air-bake) will bake the cookies more evenly at the higher temperature.

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Instant Pot Egg Bites Feature

Instant Pot Egg Bites

The words “pressure cooker” initiate strong images of my mom standing near our stove, carefully watching a round gauge on a big, metal, enclosed pot. It was not a time to ask her questions or distract her with anything less than a major emergency. Her focus was on that gauge and making sure to adjust the temperature of the burner just enough to keep the pressure from getting too high or too low.

my introduction to instant pot egg bites

When I started hearing people talk about these new, programmable, electric pressure cookers, I was curious, but skeptical. My curiosity started outweighing my skepticism as my Pinterest feed showed more and more uses … stock, dry beans, rice, roast, baked potatoes, cheesecake … in less time and with no gauge-watching. And then my cousin made me egg bites in her Instant Pot. I have never tasted eggs with such an airy texture.

You guessed it … one of those 8-quart Instant Pots was delivered by Santa. I love that guy! I quickly ordered an accessory kit which included a silicone egg mold so I could make those fluffy egg bites. After posting a picture of my first attempt (Parmesan, spinach and prosciutto), recipe requests filled the comments.

start with the basics

It all starts with 3 large eggs and two tablespoons of “liquid”.

I told you it was simple.

The Simple Scrambled version contains 3 large eggs whisked together with 2 tablespoons of milk and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Divide the mixture evenly between the seven molds (not  filling over 75-80%) and cover the mold with aluminum foil.

Instant Pot Egg Bites Tools

NOTE: Not all pressure cookers are the same. I am describing the process I used on
my particular pressure cooker. Make sure you read all directions and safety
precautions for using your pressure cooker and follow those instructions.

Pour 12 ounces of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot. Place egg mold on a compatible, removable trivet and lower into Instant Pot. Lock lid into place, making sure the pressure release valve is set on “SEALING”. Press the “PRESSURE COOK” button and set the time for 10 minutes. It will take a few minutes for the proper pressure level to be reached. At this point, the timer will start counting down from 10. When the ten minutes are over, allow the Instant Pot 12 more minutes to naturally release pressure. Press “CANCEL” and carefully move the pressure release lever from “SEALING” to “VENTING”. Make sure your hand and fingers are not above that lever as hot steam and water will escape as soon as it is moved.

Instant Pot Pressure Valve

The red valve pictured above is the pressure indicator. When it is raised above the lid like this, there is still pressure inside the Instant Pot and it is not yet safe to open. This valve will drop down, indicating that the pressure has dropped and it is safe to open the lid. Open the lid, carefully lift the lid up and away from you so the remaining steam escapes away from your face and hands.

Instant Pot Egg Bites

Using some hot pads (the ones pictured above came with the accessories kit I ordered), remove the  trivet from the Instant Pot and carefully remove the aluminum foil. Allow the egg bites to cool for 2-3 minutes, invert onto a plate, gently apply pressure to the outside of the silicone mold until egg bites drop out.

how do you like your eggs?

Instant Pot Egg Bite Platter

The recipe was just too simple so I just had to experiment a little … like four different versions.

Left to right in the picture above:

  1. Simple Scrambled
  2. Parmesan, Spinach & Prosciutto
  3. Pesto
  4. Salsa and Cheese
  5. Deviled

SIMPLE SCRAMBLED: This is the basic recipe described above.

PARMESAN, SPINACH & PROSCIUTTO: Place a little Parmesan and sautéed spinach in the bottom of each mold. Pour basic Simple Scramble egg mixture into molds and top with a little more Parmesan.

PESTO: Substitute pesto for milk in basic Simple Scramble egg mixture.

SALSA & CHEESE: Substitute salsa for milk in basic Simple Scramble egg mixture. Place a little shredded Mexican blend cheese in each mold and pour egg mixture into molds. Top with a little more cheese. Garnish with thinly sliced jalapeño.

DEVILED: Starting with the 3 large eggs, add 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing, 1 Tablespoon pickle juice, a dash of paprika, a dash (or four) of Tabasco sauce and 1 teaspoon yellow mustard. Garnish with a roasted red pepper strip and/or paprika.

ON THE GO … THE TABLE … Or THE TOAST

It’s a super-convenient breakfast. These can be made ahead, refrigerated and then reheated as needed. (If you are going to reheat them in a microwave, make sure you do so using medium power. Reheating on high power will toughen the eggs and make them rubbery.)

It’s not even necessary to reheat. Think of deviled eggs. They are enjoyed cold.

Speaking of deviled eggs … make these egg bites your go-to appetizer for tailgates, picnics, potlucks and parties.

My favorite way to munch of these cute little bites?

Instant Pot Egg Bite Avocado Toast

Avocado Toast.

Drop the mic.

Instant Pot Egg Bites Pin

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)

Grandma Glienke’s German Honey Cookies

Baking cookies at Christmastime is more than a sugar-loaded, flour explosion in my kitchen. As is the case for so many foods, it is the creation and recollection of memories. It is a hands-on recitation of “remember when”. Story after story surfaces about successes and failures, who made which delicacy best and the tricks and tips of those people who taught us the recipes. There is always the regret of not asking more questions regarding the history of those family favorites.

bitte, danke and lebkuchen

The first German word I ever learned was either Bitte (please), Danke (thank you) or Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies). I spent a lot of time with my Grandma Glienke throughout the year but especially during Weinachten (Christmas). I would help her wrap presents, clean house, put gumdrops on her gumdrop tree, and make cookies. As she aged, it became more of a challenge for her to make all the different types of cookies each year. Luckily, just as I was getting to the age of actually helping and not just “helping”, my mom invited her to come to our house to bake. Not long after, my Grandma Hinkeldey joined us and the four of us joined forces to produce a ridiculous amount of cookies. Sugar cookies, almond cookies (with egg white brushed on top for a shine), peppernuts (German and Danish), peanut butter blossoms, thumbprints (birds nests), snowballs (pecan crescents) and, of course, Lebkuchen.

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)

 

At that age, I was mostly interested in those with chocolate or frosting. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, nutmeg, and clove had little appeal to me. I helped with those simply to get to the ones I wanted. It was unclear to me why anyone would choose a “plain” honey cookie when they could get a stomach ache over a properly adorned sugar cookie … or three.

Brown is a christmas color

With age comes wisdom. I will still grab a well-frosted sugar cookie when I get the chance … and probably ask you for the frosting off of your cookie too … but brown has become my favorite color for Christmas. Give me molasses, honey, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts. There is a warmth to these ingredients that is so appropriate during this season.

baking lessons with a side of history

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)

In an effort to learn more about this cookie that made an annual appearance on our Christmas scene, I found this article, A Brief History of Lebkuchen: German’s Heart-Shaped Gingerbread Cookie. Dating back to the 13th century, these “honey cakes” continue to be very popular at the German Christmas markets, are typically heart-shaped and often the size of a dinner plate. Gee … sure sad to know that tradition didn’t trickle down.

The recipe has many variations, some sweeter and some with more spice. Some are decorated with frosting and others with nuts. Some are glazed and some have chocolate (NOTE: chocolate is also brown). As with so many recipes, the adaptations are often regional and subject to ingredients that are readily available and/or affordable.

I wish I had asked Grandma more about her memories of making Lebkuchen. When and why did they change from the traditional round or heart-shape cookies to the Christmas shapes like bells and trees? Did she make these with her mom? Her grandma? Were they her favorite cookie?

the ever-important slice of bread

As mentioned above, the tips and tricks of any recipe passed down from generation to generation are priceless. The trick I learned for this recipe from my Grandma Glienke has nothing to do with measuring, mixing, baking or decorating. It is a way to extend the life of these cookies. If you happen to bake the cookies a little too long or if they lose their chewiness and turn hard and crunchy, simply put a few of the cookies in a plastic bag with a slice of bread for an hour. The moisture from the bread will soften the cookies and restore their chewiness. Now that is a valuable lesson.

adding to my notes

Next year I think I will make two changes to this recipe. First, I will use my heart-shaped cookie cutter (the big one). Second, I will incorporate my other favorite brown ingredient into the recipe by dipping some of the cookies in chocolate.

Don’t worry. There will be plenty of bells and trees and stars.

The traditions will continue.

recipe

Print Recipe
Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)
Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)
Cook Time 10-15 minutes
Passive Time 1 day
Servings
100 4" Cookies
Ingredients
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • walnuts or peanuts
  • 1 slice bread see notes
Cook Time 10-15 minutes
Passive Time 1 day
Servings
100 4" Cookies
Ingredients
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • walnuts or peanuts
  • 1 slice bread see notes
Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)
Instructions
  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved and ingredients are well combined. Cool to lukewarm and pour into mixer bowl.
  3. Add eggs and one-third of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low speed until well combined. Add another third of the flour mixture and continue to mix, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure flour is mixed into the batter. Add the final portion of the flour mixture and stir it in by hand. If you have dough hooks for your mixer, you may be able to do all of the mixing with your mixer.
  4. Store dough in the refrigerator for at least one day (see storage comments in the post above).
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Apply a light coating of cooking spray to cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  7. Remove about 1/6 of the dough from the bowl and return remaining dough to refrigerator. Roll dough out on a well-floured, cool surface until it is 1/4" thick. Cut out shapes with well-floured cookie cutters and transfer to cookie sheets, leaving an inch between cookies.
  8. Add some peanuts or walnuts to the shapes, if desired.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness and size. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack or parchment paper.
Recipe Notes

When shapes have been removed from the rolled-out dough, gather the dough scraps and return to refrigerator. When all the original dough has been rolled out once, gather the scraps together and roll out again.

If cut-outs stick to countertop, try running a well-floured spatula underneath to avoid destroying the desired shape.

Why would I list a slice of bread in the ingredients? It's actually an amazing and useful trick. If the honey cookies lose their chewiness and become hard, place a few cookies in a bag with a piece of bread for an hour or two. The moisture from the bread will transfer to the cookies and soften them. Don't leave the bread and cookies together too long though or sogginess will ensue ... and who needs that.

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies) Pin

 

Pomegranate and Rosemary Mule

Pomegranate and Rosemary Moscow Mule

If I wasn’t able to convince you to make the pomegranate simple syrup for the Pomegranate Fruit Salad, maybe this will get your attention.

pomegranate and rosemary moscow mule

Pomegranate Mule

Pretty, huh?

Tastes even better.

My intent was for you to make the fruit salad, double the simple syrup and then try these Mules with the extra syrup. Not a rule-follower? It’s ok. I too am attracted to pretty and fragrant beverages that involve gin.

Just do me a favor? At least try the fruit salad. It’s pretty awesome.

If you have yet to click on either of the “fruit salad” links above, I’m going to force you to do so. Why? You need the recipe for the simple syrup and it’s right there in the Pomegranate Fruit Salad recipe.

make the syrup

Pomegranate, Orange and Black Pepper Syrup

Once you have a jar of syrup like this, you are minutes from …

Pomegranate Rosemary Mule

gather other ingredients

You will also need:

  • gin
  • ginger beer
  • fresh lime
  • pomegranate seeds (optional, but awesome)
  • fresh rosemary sprigs

find a mule mug or a pretty glass

Pour one ounce of gin into your mug or glass. Add one tablespoon of the syrup, a squeeze of lime juice and ice cubes. Pour 4-6 ounces of ginger beer into mug/glass and stir with the rosemary sprig. Sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with a slice of lime.

Don’t have a mule mug? All of your pretty glasses in the dishwasher? No worries. There are worse things than Solo cups.

black pepper? gin?

If you have been following this blog for even a short time, you will have likely picked up on the fact that I am an improviser. Two of my favorite things about this cocktail are the addition of black pepper to the syrup and the substitution of gin for vodka.

Black pepper seems like an odd thing to add to a syrup but, just as the tartness of the pomegranate balances the sweetness of the syrup, the black pepper gives it all a hint of warmth. It’s subtle. So subtle, in fact, that I am likely to add a little cracked black pepper to my next mug along with the sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. I like the contrast.

If you haven’t already called me out on this, Moscow Mules are typically made with vodka. Unless it’s in a Bloody Mary, I’m a gin girl. You can use vodka (might I even recommend the pepper flavored vodkas for this one?). I’m sticking to gin.

We can be friends.

Cheers to that!


Everyday’s a Holiday Pomegranate Fruit Salad

My go-to fruit salad for a weeknight meal was always the simple combination of strawberries, grapes, Mandarin oranges and pineapple. There was something about the bright colors and the combination of the tart and sweet that pleased my family. It was my secret weapon for battling the groans that would likely come when the broccoli or peas made an appearance on the table.

fruit salad upset

Oftentimes, in the fall or winter, strawberries would either be of poor quality or much too expensive (or both) and my go-to fruit salad became a no-go. I needed an alternate bribe. Enter the perfectly timed arrival of one of my favorite recipe magazines. I honestly can’t tell you which one it was and I can’t even say the picture was all that inviting but the words “pomegranate syrup” caught my attention.

Apples, pears, oranges, kiwi? All readily available and seasonal fruits in the fall and winter.

Pomegranates? Pomegranate Juice? Pomegranate Seeds? Fresh on the health scene. Beautiful. New to me.

Good enough to act as a bribe for the consumption of peas? Absolutely!

Holiday Pomegranate Fruit Salad

I modified the original recipe to include my favorite combination of fruits but you can absolutely use whatever you like, have on hand or is available in your stores/garden. I also made a bit of an unusual addition to the syrup …

pomegranate syrup

Pomegranate, Orange and Black Pepper Syrup

Pomegranate seeds and juice are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory powerhouses. The seeds add, not only nutritional benefits to this salad, but a nice texture contrast to the fruit. Using 100% pure pomegranate juice may be a bit more expensive than other juice options but the tartness of this juice keeps the syrup from getting too sweet. Adding a bit of orange zest and black pepper provides just the right amount of acid and warmth. Yes, black pepper sounds like a weird thing to add to a fruit salad but you have got to trust me on this one … it’s amazing!

I would even go so far as to recommend that you make a double batch of this syrup.

Pomegranate and Rosemary Mule

Got your attention, didn’t I?

I am also working on a recipe using this syrup to glaze pork loin slices.

Right?

It’s okay. You can take a minute to add 100% Pomegranate Juice to your grocery list. I’ll wait for you.

And, while you’re at it … add peas and broccoli to your list.


Print Recipe
Pomegranate Fruit Salad
Fresh fruit salad gets a holiday makeover with a touch of a tangy pomegranate and orange syrup. This recipe is sure to be a success at any meal.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
8 cups
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 2 apples
  • 2 pears
  • 2 cups grapes
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds optional
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
8 cups
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 2 apples
  • 2 pears
  • 2 cups grapes
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds optional
Instructions
  1. Pour pomegranate juice into a small saucepan and stir in sugar. Bring slowly to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and add orange zest and black pepper. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Peel and section oranges. Core apple and pears and cut each into 1/2 inch slices or chunks. Combine oranges, apples, pears and grapes in a bowl.
  3. Pour syrup over fruit and stir gently to coat. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.
Recipe Notes

One 15 oz can of Mandarin oranges (drained) can be substituted for the fresh orange segments.

Other fruit can be substituted or added as desired (e.g. bananas, grapefruit, kiwi, blueberries, pineapple, etc.).


Pomegranate Fruit Salad Pin

Butternut Squash Soup Feature

Squash Soup – What? No Marshmallows?

Until a few years ago, if you asked me, “do you like squash?” I would have told you that I did and in my mind I would see Acorn squash. Not Butternut. Not Spaghetti. Certainly not Delicata or Patty Pan. Just Acorn. If you asked me how to prepare it, I would have described how to bake it, scoop it, smash it and smother it in butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. Delicious! A very concerned look would cross my face if you asked me if I ever made squash soup.

That was then. This is now.

would you like a sample of our squash soup?

If you ever want to get my attention, simply ask me if I would like to try a sample. Seriously, that’s all it takes. When a smiling lady asked me this from her booth at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market last fall, I paid attention. She handed me a small cup filled with a warm and creamy orange purée, drizzled with just a little cream. I expected to taste the sweetness of squash but did not expect the warmth and depth of curry, onions and garlic. Often, free samples are a method to entice you to purchase a larger portion. This time, however, the free sample was sponsored by a local grocery and they were enticing people to eat healthy. To accomplish this, they gave away the recipe.

Jackpot.

Squash Soup Serving

TYPE AND SIZE OF SQUASH

Butternut and/or acorn squash work great for this recipe. Spaghetti squash might not be the best choice due to its stringy texture (this theory has yet to be tested in my kitchen). You do not have to be overly particular in choosing the “right” size of squash. Look for a butternut squash about 8″ long or use two small ones. Use two acorn squash for this recipe as they are typically about 6″ long.

Happen to have an abundance of carrots or sweet potatoes? They will work in addition to, or to replace, the squash.

Creamy, without cream

The key to a creamy soup is not necessarily cream. In this case, the consistency is dependent on the squash being cooked properly, the right amount of stock to determine the thickness and the ability to purée all the ingredients.

When roasting the squash, make sure it is cooked all the way through. The empty seed cavity will cook faster than the stem end of a butternut squash. Make sure you test several places on the squash for even cooking.

The amount of stock to add to the soup is flexible. Some people like a really thick soup and some prefer a thinner consistency. You control the thickness by the amount of stock you add. Do not be afraid to add more stock at the end if you find it too thick for your liking.

There are many ways to purée the ingredients. The immersion blender is your friend. It will allow you to blend the ingredients right in the pan in a few minutes. Be careful as it takes a little practice to avoid splattering. An apron is your friend too.

No immersion blender? A regular blender will work. Typically, allowing the ingredients to cool before adding to a blender is recommended. Often the blending will be done in small batches. A food processor can also be used to purée the squash before adding it to the other soup ingredients.

over the top

Squash Soup

I had no idea making a cashew cream was so easy. The cashews (or almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc) are soaked in water for 30-45 minutes. This softens the nuts so they blend well. Skipping the soak will result in a finished cream that has a grainy texture. Look for nuts that do not have an outer “skin” or have that had the “skin” removed. Almonds are a good example. Blanched almonds will work better than those with a brown exterior. Either will work but the outer brown skin will add more texture and color to the cream.

Coconut milk is amazing in this recipe and what I would recommend. If you do not have it on hand, feel free to substitute regular milk.

Thai, italian, mexican, and german

The original recipe was vegan. It called for vegetable stock. As I mentioned above, the soup was seasoned with curry powder and the “cream” was made with coconut milk and cashews. The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. I have made this soup with vegetable and chicken stock. The curry/cashew version is outstanding. We love an Italian combination of crushed red pepper, thyme and almonds (this is the version in the recipe below and pictured throughout the post).

Coming soon to the PLF table? A Mexican twist featuring chipotle peppers, cilantro and tortilla chips.

Who says squash soup has to be savory? I think my grandmothers would be pretty proud if I stuck to my German heritage and seasoned the soup with cinnamon and brown sugar, put some toasted marshmallows on top and drizzled it with a little maple syrup.

Now that sounds delicious!


Print Recipe
Squash Soup with Cashew Cream
This soup is creamy without the addition of cream, seasoned with herbs and spices and topped with a light and flavorful swirl of cashew cream.
Butternut Squash Soup Feature
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 1 medium size butternut squash see text above
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Cashew Cream
  • 1/3 cup cashews see text above
  • 1/3 cup Milk see text above
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • toasted pumpkin seeds & cashews
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 1 medium size butternut squash see text above
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Cashew Cream
  • 1/3 cup cashews see text above
  • 1/3 cup Milk see text above
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • toasted pumpkin seeds & cashews
Butternut Squash Soup Feature
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Wash and dry the outside of the squash. Cut in half, length wise, and scoop out the seeds.
    Roasting Squash
  3. Drizzle the cut side with one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    Roasting Squash Step 2
  4. Place squash halves, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until is it very soft and the skin bubbles. Make sure to test the thickest part of the squash (i.e. the end without the seed cavity). A fork or knife inserted in the skin should go through the squash easily.
    Roasting Squash Step 3
  5. Remove from oven and cool. Peel away the skin.
    Roasting Squash Step 4
  6. Sauté the onions with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and crushed red pepper flakes and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Add squash and return to simmer.
  7. Purée soup with an immersion blender until smooth. (Also, see text above for alternate methods of puréeing.
  8. Serve with cashew cream and toasted pumpkin seeds or cashews.
    Squash Soup Serving
Cashew Cream
  1. Soak the cashews in water for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Drain off all water. Place the soaked cashews in a blender or food processor with the milk, lime or lemon juice and olive oil. Blend or process until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

Squash Soup Pin

Autumn Au Gratin Potatoes

Comfort Food: Autumnal Au Gratin Potatoes

Think of your favorite comfort food. Is it sweet or savory? Is it warm or cold? Do you eat it with a spoon? A fork? Your fingers? Do you prefer a casserole or soup?

Final question: does it involve a starch, a cheese (or three), and a salty element?

I think that’s why I have always loved Au Gratin Potatoes and Ham. Salty chunks of ham surrounded by cheesy, soft and warm potatoes with just a hint of mustard and that crunchy bread crumb topping are the perfect combination for comfort on a plate. It’s my go-to recipe for delivering a message of love to someone who needs a bit of pampering or a sympathetic gift.

Whenever I make it, I smile in remembrance of a story about my boys that is precious to me. You can read the story of that humorous misunderstanding here.

the flavors of autumn in casserole form

Autumn Au Gratin Potatoes

Winter may be the season that many of us need and crave comfort food most but fall, to me, is the season that embraces the senses in the most comforting way. The warmth of the colors and spices, the last produce from the garden, and the chill in the air are just plain soothing.

As I started tweaking the recipe for traditional Au Gratin Potatoes and Ham, I saw some sweet potatoes on the cupboard. That orange color begged to be included. Veggies. This dish needs more veggies. Kale is a wonderful cool-weather vegetable and mushrooms go so well with kale. Sausage would be a good alternative to the ham. Why, yes, I do have some apple-bourbon chicken sausage links in the freezer (true story). What about herbs? Fall … Thanksgiving … sage is the answer.

This is my version of Autumnal Au Gratin Potatoes.

Autumn Au Gratin Potatoes Feature

If kale is a four-letter word to you, or if it is not at its best in the grocery store, feel free to substitute spinach or Brussels sprouts. The mushrooms are optional but I encourage you to try them in this dish. Since they are sautéed, they blend in really well and they are loaded with essential nutrients. Don’t happen to have apple-bourbon chicken sausage in your freezer? Substitute any pork, chicken or turkey sausage (link or rope) you like. Look for ones that have flavors (like sage, onion, maple, cranberry, etc.) that will compliment the other ingredients.

A salad of fresh spinach, apples, pears, cucumbers and red onion with a honey-mustard dressing and a few pecans or walnuts will be all you need for a nourishing, yet comforting meal. Well, that and your family.


Print Recipe
Autumnal Au Gratin Potatoes
This recipe takes the traditional au gratin potatoes and puts a fall flavor twist on it. Sweet potatoes, chicken sausage, kale, mushrooms and sage combine in this delicious, cool weather casserole.
Autumn Au Gratin Potatoes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings
8 people
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound fully-cooked chicken sausage
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter divided
  • 8 oz cremini or white button mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper divided
  • fresh kale wash and cut into bite-sized pieces to make 3 cups
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 3 medium white russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 tablespoon flour flour
  • 1 tablespoon dry sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups 2% or whole milk room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese divided, room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded swiss cheese divided, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings
8 people
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound fully-cooked chicken sausage
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter divided
  • 8 oz cremini or white button mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper divided
  • fresh kale wash and cut into bite-sized pieces to make 3 cups
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 3 medium white russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 tablespoon flour flour
  • 1 tablespoon dry sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups 2% or whole milk room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese divided, room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded swiss cheese divided, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Autumn Au Gratin Potatoes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; add sausage pieces, lightly browning. Remove from pan and set aside, reserving one tablespoon of drippings in the pan.
  3. Add one tablespoon of butter and the sliced mushrooms to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are brown (about 5-7 minutes). Sprinkle mushrooms with salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add kale to the hot pan and cook, 2-3 minutes, until kale wilts. Remove kale and set aside.
  4. Peel and thinly slice potatoes.
  5. Place 1/3 of potatoes in bottom of a 9”x13” pan. Cover with 1/2 of the chicken sausage, 1/2 of the mushrooms and 1/2 of the kale. Repeat layering, ending with a final layer of potatoes.
  6. Melt remaining butter in the skillet over very low heat. Stir in onions and sauté until tender, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in flour, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, sage, crushed red pepper and nutmeg, stirring constantly until bubbly (1-2 minutes). Slowly stir in milk (1/2 cup at a time) and bring back to a very low boil, whisking constantly. Add 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese (1/2 cup at a time) whisking after each addition until melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Pour sauce over potato/meat/vegetable layers. Use a fork to gently distribute the sauce throughout the potatoes.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  8. Combine bread crumbs, remaining cheese and paprika. Sprinkle on top of casserole and return to oven for 20 minutes, or until top is brown and bubbly.

 

Autumnal Au Gratin Potatoes Pin