Spaghetti with Radish-Greens Pesto

3Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I must admit: I am a pesto newbie. This was my first shot at it. And, I did not grow up eating it so I didn’t know what to expect as far as taste and texture. Being mostly Italian, I knew it had to be good…a little crunch, a lot of flavor! This autumn version is perfect. Who knew you could eat the greens of a radish? Not me. According to Food & Wine, you can also use beet or turnip greens, or even arugula for a similar outcome (I love arugula, have to try that one next). I was so pleasantly surprised by the final product. It was much less bitter and much more flavorful than I expected. I think the parmesan and the lemon are to thank. My favorite part is getting use of the entire vegetable– no waste! All combined, and topped with crushed pumpkin seeds, this pasta is sure to please this Thanksgiving. We’re almost there!!

Yield: 4 servings — Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Greens from 1 big bunch of radishes (8 loosely packed cups), chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 3/4 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds (3 ounces), plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, greens, parsley leaves and the 3/4 cup of pumpkin seeds; pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Stir in the 1 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the pesto, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and toss over low heat until coated, about 2 minutes; add more pasta water if a thinner consistency is desired.
  3. Transfer the pasta to bowls and garnish with pumpkin seeds and cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, www.foodandwine.com

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

My Dream Thanksgiving Menu

It’s all my mother’s fault.

Thanksgiving, I mean. She and my father raised me in a thankful home where it quickly became the most cherished day of the year. As I write this, I realize that it actually is my favorite day. From early in the morning, taking care of food preparations to late at night, stuffed and exhausted– it is the most joyful day of gathering. Family comes from near and far, special care is given to the food, the decorations, and the table setting (my mom sets her table over 1 week in advance). She’s what I’d call the one-and-only Thanksgiving queen. To prove it, she gave me a bound manual on how to host the best Thanksgiving! It’s something I really look forward to doing. So much so that I couldn’t wait to curate my “dream” menu. For as long as my mom can make her way around the kitchen, she’ll be hosting… so I may need to wait a while! Here’s a guide to my favorite flavors on this truly happy day.

DRINKS

When guests walk through the door, within minutes you can bet that my dad will ask, “Can I interest you in a cold beverage?” So, be sure you have a variety of drinks on hand– for both adults and kids. On the other hand, my mom is the ultimate health nut and never drinks soda (she’s smiling as she reads this) so the rest of us always have to stress the importance of offering guests more than just water! Let’s get fancy. I absolutely love the idea of pairing wine with food. I think it’s fun to do with your starters and hors d’oeuvres. Here are some of my picks:

  1. Riesling: my favorite white wine. It can range from dry to very sweet and is made from a single variety of grape originally grown in Germany. I like the ones that have peach notes. It goes great with fruits, cheeses and seafood. Try Smith Madrone Vineyards Napa Valley Riesling, $27.
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon: A popular, dry red wine made from a single widely cultivated variety of black grape. It has medium body and fruity flavor. I love it because it’s rich and bold. It goes really well with comforting, meaty dishes like a great steak. Here are Food and Wine’s top Cabs under $15.
  3. Sparkling Apple Cider: For kids and adults alike! I grew up drinking this by the glassful on Thanksgiving day. It’s vital to my family’s Thanksgiving meal. In fact, I can guarantee you there’s a value pack of 4 bottles in my mom’s kitchen right now! My favorite is Martinelli’s: They make the best variety of sparkling juices.
  4. Water, still and sparkling: Because it’s classy. Bottom line. Everyone loves to see San Pellegrino on the table.

SMALL BITES

Hors d’oeuvres always get me excited. They can be a great prelude for what is to come. While it’s great to get those appetites going, don’t overdo it. Nothing is worse than filling up on snacks and not having sufficient room for that turkey and the fixings. Being petite, I’m guilty of that almost every year. Just wet your whistle and have a little cheese and chips. As hostess, make it easier and try (2) cold and (2) hot bites (depending on your crowd size) so your guests have some things to munch on while you prepare the others. These starters make me smile:

  1. Cheese Board: Something comes over me when I see a gorgeously presented board of cheeses, fruits, nuts and crostini. It’s just so pretty and says “eat me!” I love the styling below by Honestly Yum. It’s got all the things you need. To assemble your own perfect cheese board, choose one of the following: a Soft Cheese (Brie, Mozzarella, Ricotta), a Semi-Soft (Jarlsberg, Oka, Gouda), a Semi-Hard (Manchego, Provolone, Comte), and a Hard (Parmesan, Sharp Cheddar, Gruyere). Then comes the fun accompaniments! Figs, honey, almonds, grapes, olives, prosciutto– the list goes on and on. Also, make sure you have some crackers in addition to a softer vehicle like a sliced baguette. Varying textures and flavor combinations is what makes this starter so good!

fall cheese platterPhoto Credit: Honestly Yum, www.honestlyyum.com

2. Stuffed Mushrooms: If you haven’t noticed already, this post is filled with all of my personal favorites. And this one is no exception. We make these every year without fail. While the recipe has changed from year to year, the love for stuffing that sumptuous mushroom with golden brown crumbs and cheese has not. This year I am going to try this recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. She can do no wrong!

stuffed mushroomsPhoto Credit: Food Network, www.foodnetwork.com

3. Onion Dip and Chips: I warn you now… this will be ultimately devoured. Who doesn’t love the classic sour cream and onion combo? I can tell you that my brother and I can easily polish off on this one! There’s just something about these flavors. As simple as it is to pour a packet of onion soup mix and sour cream together, I thought it would be fun to try this from scratch version from Alton Brown. Pop open a big bay of wavy potato chips for this. I can taste the salty chips and dip now. I love salt… it’s a problem. Just so good!

alton-brown-onion-dip

Photo Credit: Alton Brown, www.altonbrown.com

SALAD

My perfect salad is light, acidic, and anything but basic. I love the bitterness of arugula paired with a tangy cheese and citrus or something sweet. I found this recipe via Food and Wine magazine and instantly thought YES. The flavor of the beets, freshness of the avocado and pop of goat cheese will sing. It’s a nice change from the usual mixed greens, romaine and Italian vinaigrette. To me, this screams high-end restaurant. Dig in!

Beet::  Avocado  and  Arugula  SaladPhoto Credit: Food and Wine, www.foodandwine.com

SOUP

Roasted Pumpkin Soup Shooter: This is basically a shot glass of soup. How fun! A small, warm portion of delicious. With the remainder of food that is to come, no one will want a full bowl of soup. Besides being the perfect portion for tasting, these will also look darling on your table setting. I love this recipe I adapted from The Daily Meal. Add a sprig of rosemary to garnish. It that not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

soup shooters

Photo Credit: Blessed Beyond Crazy, www.blessedbeyondcrazy.com

MAIN COURSES

  1. Citrus-and-Butter Turkey: Get your taste buds ready and try not to drool over this: “Food & Wine’s Justin Chapple soaks cheesecloth in citrus butter and drapes it over turkey while roasting, yielding super juicy, delicious meat and skin.” You read that right: it’s a turkey that bastes itself! Self basting! They call this guy a “mad genius” for a reason. A cheesecloth is soaked in all that flavor and is continually released while cooking. If there were ever a *mind-blown* moment, it is now. The citrus + butter combination drew me to this recipe. You can count on Food and Wine to deliver.

Citrus-Herb-TurkeyPhoto Credit, The Suburban Soapbox, www.thesuburbansoapbox.com

2. Spiced Honey Glazed Spiral Ham: My cousin Paige and I will tell you: it’s not Thanksgiving without the spiral ham. Some prefer this over the turkey. I find I love the way it tastes alongside the flavors of sweet potato and cranberry sauce. That glaze makes the ham shine–literally!! Try this recipe from Saveur.

spiral hamePhoto Credit: Saveur, www.saveur.com 

SIDE DISHES

  1. Sweet Potato Gratin with Pecans: On most tables you’ll find sweet potatos. I think it’s the best starch to have on the table. If you prefer regular mashed, that works just as well. If you really can’t decide, do both like we do! I love this twist on a classic by Williams Sonoma. sweet-potato-gratin-leadPhoto Credit: www.themeaningofpie.com

2. Rosemary Focaccia Stuffing with Pancetta: What Thanksgiving table is complete without stuffing? Honestly, I have never been a fan of traditional stuffing. But, love the flavor of rosemary– and the use of Focaccia sounds divine. Plus a little Italian bacon never hurt anything…Try this recipe from Food Network.

ROSEMARY_STUFFING_031.tif

Photo Credit: Food Network, www.foodnetwork.com

3. Creamed Kale: Kale has been having a moment for a while now. While some claim they don’t like it, I think it all depends on how it’s prepared. This reminds me of when I had a hard time eating broccoli as a child and my mom would smother it with cheese so I’d eat them. I’m not saying kale is terrible on it’s own, it’s really not! But, cheese can not possibly hurt it. I forget how much I also enjoy creamed spinach. Take your pick on the greens, but consider creaming them for a perfect Thanksgiving Side. I like this recipe from Tyler Florence via Food & Wine:

Creamed Kale Beauty + A141112 Food & Wine Tyler Florence Thanksgiving 2015

Photo Credit: Food & Wine, www.foodandwine.com

4. Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower: This is one of the easiest side dishes, great for any gathering. So much flavor comes out of simply seasoning and roasting the florets. I think this final side rounds out a group of tasty accompaniments. Try this recipe from Bon Appetit:parmesan-roasted-cauliflowerPhoto Credit: Bon Appetit, www.bonappetit.com

BISCUITS

Buttermilk Biscuits: I know this technically counts as a side… but I gave biscuits their own category simply because there are so many to choose from. Some prefer Italian bread, dinner rolls, etc. but this classic buttermilk recipe from Southern Living had me at Buttermilk. Get a load of this:

Photo Credit: Southern Living, www.southernliving.com

DESSERT

We made it to dessert! Of course, no matter how stuffed you are, just wait an hour or two and you’ll muster up the strength to take a slice of granny’s pie. It’s one of those times when you really don’t have a choice. It isn’t Thanksgiving in my family without the apple and the pumpkin pie. Pair that with a steamy cup of coffee and cream… not to worry, sleep (Err, food-coma-induced hibernation) is coming!

  1. Apple Pie: A true classic for the fall season. My grandma has been making the same apple pie since she was twenty years old. Now that I’m married, it’s been my ultimate goal to master her art. The idea of closing my eyes and savoring her apple pie, and sharing it for years to come, gives me great joy. I know I’ll pass it down to my daughter one day and the legend will live on! Find a fool-proof crust and expert pie recipe from King Arthur Flour: 38-3-large

 Photo Credit: King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com

2. Mocha Espresso Cream Pie: Everyone loves chocolate on the dessert table. I especially love this recipe from Southern Living because it incorporates espresso into the mix. This seriously enhances that chocolate flavor! Crunchy crust, creamy filling and that light fluff on top: mocha-espresso-cream-piePhoto Credit: Southern Living, www.southernliving.com

And that’s all! Now, you find yourself flat on your back, in front of the fireplace with the buzz of football and family chatter in the background. If this is you, you’re just like my father and grandfather. When you’re full, you gotta do what you gotta do. But you’ll be gosh darn happy you did.

Lastly, we have a few cherished Thanksgiving family traditions. Make your day perfect by creating your own with family and friends you hold dear:

  1. Give Thanks: We have a little “10 Year Diary” of Thanksgivings that one day we’ll all look back on (or at least my sentimental mother will!) Each of us writes what we are thankful for, amongst a bunch of memories, recipes and photographs.
  2. Parade: Some of my earliest memories of Thanksgiving are the mornings we spent in front of the inaugural fire of the season watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’ll admit: I’m married now, but the truth is I wish I could spend every thanksgiving morning for the rest of my life at my parent’s home doing this very thing. My husband’s invited too. (winky face)
  3. Game On: Nothing is funnier than getting your 84-year-old grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins together for a riveting board game. Especially after all the good food and drink they’ve enjoyed. I’ve witnessed some of the most gut-wrenching, hysterical moments as my grandma acts out charades. I think laughter is the perfect end to a Thankful day– and my family would agree.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalms 100:4

Almond Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Let’s face it: It’s already the middle of November. Needless to say, Christmas cookie season is soon upon us. Don’t get me wrong– I am in no way trying to glance over Thanksgiving! In fact, Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. BUT, with your turkey and stuffing in mind, you may want to consider testing out some new Christmas cookies. I’ve considered freezing a batch or two at a time. You can freeze cookies easily for 1-2 months and they’ll come out just the same as they went in. I call this a “super” cookie. I say super because… well, look at these healthy ingredients!! Almond flour (gluten free!), flaxseed (awesome source of good fatty-acids and fiber), egg whites (no yolks, and no butter), coconut oil, and last by not least: dark chocolate. Heart healthy and as far as I’m concerned, part of a balanced diet! Not to mention, you’re done in 20 minutes from start to finish. Don’t be fooled: the texture here is not what you’d expect from a typical cookie creamed with an obscene about of butter and sugar. But, for the gluten-free, health-conscious and those who want that guilty pleasure without the guilt, this one’s for you. Just be sure you glob on a nice portion of dark chocolate. T-9 days to Thanksgiving Day, folks!


Yield: 12 large cookies — Prep Time: 10 mins — Bake Time: 12 mins — Total Time: 22 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed (ground is preferred, but whole will also work)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon melted coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, flax seed, salt, baking soda and brown sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, extracts and 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined.
  3. With wet hands, roll about 1 tablespoon of the dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Wet the back of a ½ teaspoon and gently press down in the center of each dough ball to create an indent. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and using the ½ teaspoon, press down again in the indent just to make it a bit deeper as it probably puffed up a bit while baking. Let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips and the ½ teaspoon coconut oil either in the microwave or on the stove top.
  6. Once cookies are cooled, spoon the chocolate into the indent. Let them sit for about 10 minutes until set. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Running To The Kitchen, www.runningtothekitchen.com

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Biscotti: traditional Italian cookies (also known as cantuccini) are twice-baked, oblong-shaped, dry, crunchy, and typically dipped in a something like coffee. The name comes from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, which means “twice-cooked.” Baking twice ensured they were very dry and could be stored for long periods of time. You learn something new every day! These were fun to make. And the aroma while doing so is wonderful. My mom and I spent the day testing out some new cookie recipes. While this is not as simple or as quick to make as your typical chocolate chip cookie, it is absolutely feasible for all levels of comfort in the kitchen. Just takes a little extra time and TLC. The very first step is to candy orange zest– while a little time consuming, it makes all the difference in the end result. That chocolate flavor, a bite of pistachio and the hint of orange zest in the background…it’s divine! My dad and my husband said so. I think they ate half the tray between them. Word to the wise: freeze these for up to two months and save them for Christmas. Put on a pot of your favorite brew and get dipping! In the company of friends and family, this is my idea of hosting beautifully.


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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Yield: 25-30 biscotti — Prep: 25 minutes — Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 navel oranges
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
  • ¾ cup shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • Fleur de sel (or sea salt)
  1. Cut long, thin strips of zest (avoid white pith) from oranges. Place zest in a small saucepan, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then drain off water. Repeat boiling and draining process 2 more times. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water and 1 cup sugar to a boil. Add zest and simmer for 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Place chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to break up. Add pistachios and pulse 2 or 3 times.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together butter and remaining sugar on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and beat on medium speed until incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce mixer speed to low; using a slotted spoon, add candied orange zest to butter-sugar mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Gradually add three-fourths flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add chocolate-pistachio mixture and remaining flour mixture, mixing until dough just comes together. Do not over mix.
  7. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using damp hands, shape each piece into a 12-inch-long log, 1/2 inch high.
  8. Bake logs until firm, about 24 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F. Cool logs on baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes.
  9. Transfer logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each into 24 half-inch-thick biscotti. Place biscotti on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle with sea salt if desired. Here comes the second baking phase! Bake biscotti until slightly crisp, about 10-15 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Country Living, www.countryliving.com

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Breakfast Cookies

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I’ve been making these breakfast cookies for about a year now–and I kid you not: 2 or 3 days later, my husband and I have eaten them all. While I see them as perfect for breakfast, he’ll eat them at all hours of the day and night (when hunger strikes at 1am while studying medicine). Also perfectly acceptable. But, what makes them so great for breakfast are the ingredients: a whole mashed banana, Greek yogurt, old-fashioned oats and coconut oil. There’s no egg or butter. Making these lighter and almost muffin-top like. If you want to bump up the health factor even more, you can try substituting some of the sugar out for honey or maple syrup.

This is a particularly happy morning. I woke up early to start thumbing through Giada De Laurentiis’s new cook book, Happy Cooking. Clearly we’re on the same wavelength! It has so much more than I expected– hundreds of recipes that put her in her happy place along with carefully placed tips, tricks and advice for the happy cooker. Insert: me. *happy dance* I can’t wait to start cooking from it. I think I’m going for her House soup or Roasted mushroom and kale pizzettes first… Get Giada’s book here. Happy Friday, everyone!


Yield: 24-30 cookies (medium size) — Prep time: 30 mins (plus 45 mins for chilling) — Cook time: 10-12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 1/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Be careful not to over measure the flower– the correct way to do this is to spoon small amounts into your measuring cup a little at a time, gently shaking until it overflows. Then level off evenly with the backside of a knife.
  2. In a separate bowl, mash the banana. Add the melted coconut oil, brown and granulated sugars, yogurt, and vanilla and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the oats and chocolate chips.
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Take about a tablespoon of dough, form a ball and drop the cookie dough ball on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat, spacing the cookie dough balls about 1-2 inches apart. For best results (thick, fluffy cookies!) refrigerate baking sheets with cookie dough balls for 45 mins to 1 hour to chill the dough. This will ensure that cookies, when baked, will not flatten out.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes until cookies are slightly golden brown. I had perfect golden-brown at 10 minutes in my gas oven. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Women’s Day.

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin

4Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

This pleasant little dish is all the decadence you want from “macaroni and cheese” without the macaroni. Sub in roasted cauliflower for a gluten-free, vegetarian version. I was also so excited to use these little baking dishes– scored for $2/ea at a consignment shop. Oven-to-table cookware is the best! Cauliflower is such a nice vegetable. The smell of roasting it in salt, pepper and garlic is incredible. Alright: can we pause for a second and talk about gruyere? A Swiss cheese made from whole cow’s milk, it has a pale-yellow color and is wonderfully rich and creamy. It is perfect for melting and often used in fondue. It’s got a great little bite to it which I love. It’s not a exactly an everyday item (I’ve splurged at $19.99/lb for a the smallest block I could possibly find) but, when I have it in the kitchen I could eat it slice after slice till the block is gone. This is a bit like a casserole side dish, but would also make a nice lunch portion. It’s time to get steamy…close your eyes and picture this: you pour that gorgeous melted, creamy cheese over the roasted cauliflower and watching it seep into every nook and cranny. Then, you bake it until the top is browned and the cheese is hot and bubbly. If this doesn’t get your mouth watering I don’t know what will!! Don’t get me wrong: I’m a girl who loves her American mac and cheese. But I’m also a girl who loves roasted vegetables and fancy cheeses. The combo fulfils that guilty pleasure of eating a comforting mac and cheese, but guess what? Zero guilt. Eat your veggies, kids! No one ever said you couldn’t smother them in cheese.


Yield: 4-6 servings (depending on portion) — Prep time: 20 minutes — Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (panko, plain or Italian)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower, olive oil, salt, thyme, and pepper. Place onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes, stir, then roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 375 F degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add the shallot and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the flour to the pan and stir constantly with a whisk for 1-2 minutes, or until the flour begins to turn golden. Pour the milk into the saucepan, continuing to whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the nutmeg and gruyère cheese, reserving a 1/2 cup for topping.
  3. Spoon a little bit of the sauce into the bottom of a 2 quart glass baking dish (I filled four 6″ oven-to-table dishes). Pour the cauliflower into the dish and top with the remaining sauce. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and the breadcrumbs. Spread evenly over the top and sprinkle with a little salt and freshly cracked pepper.
  4. Bake in the 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from The Two Bite Club & Ina Garten, www.foodnetwork.com

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Roasted Cheese Pumpkin Soup

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

A few weeks ago, my mom and I shared a memorable trip to a north shore Long Island, family owned farm. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day. I went with the goal of finding a good cooking pumpkin to make this soup with. I found a lovely cheese pumpkin, which has been decoration until now (it has a shelf life of up to 1 year!) Today is Halloween, and although I really don’t care for it, it felt like the perfect day to cook my pumpkin. With my husband at school preparing for an exam, I found myself with some quiet time. I finished a few house chores (naturally, my reward is cooking) prepared candy for the trick-or-treaters, put on some old-timey Christmas tunes (don’t you say a word) and lit tea lights around the house. It was so serene. This is how I cook happy.

I learned that the cheese pumpkin is slightly sweet with a firm flesh, making it lovely for roasting, soup making and pie baking. It gets its name for the exterior resemblance to a wheel of cheese. Basically, it makes a wonderful puree. On a Saturday or Sunday when you have a little more time, it is actually very simple to make your own! Trust me. Once the pumpkin is roasted, it practically falls apart. All the good stuff comes right out. And once you’ve made it into soup, the flavor of the final product is subtle, rich, but not overwhelming– it has the smoothest, velvety texture. It is worth every effort. The addition of the coconut milk swirls and roasted seeds adds another layer of texture and interest to the bowl. You’ll also be able to say that nothing was wasted! Those seeds… they are a seriously delicious snack all by themselves. Do not be intimidated! Bask in the glory that is autumn and give this one a try! Sweet November, you are almost here.


(Gluten free… paleo… and vegan!)

Yield: 4 servings — Prep time: 5 mins — Cook time: 60 mins — Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small cheese pumpkin (about 3 – 5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon chile powder
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut pumpkin in half, discarding the top stem and scooping out the seeds (don’t throw the seeds out!)
  2. Rub 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil on a baking sheet and place halves of pumpkins cut side down on pan. Roast for about 35 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. Don’t be alarmed if the pumpkin looks deflated when it comes out, it gets very soft.
  3. Let pumpkin cool and then scoop out the flesh, about 3 cups. Discard the skin. Once cool, I pureed the 3 cups of flesh until very smooth.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add the pumpkin flesh, thyme, sage, pumpkin pie spice, chile powder, and stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste (I added about 1 teaspoon of each). Garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk and roasted pumpkin seeds*.

To roast pumpkin seeds, first boil the seeds in a small pot of water for 10 minutes. Strain, so you lose any strands of pumpkin, and dry. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. When they roast, they turn from a grayish color to a lighter browned color. Crunch away!

79All photo credit: Ashley Cuoco

Soup recipe adapted from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.

A little lesson on other pumpkin varieties good for cooking and baking:

Cinderella Pumpkin: Looking much like the pumpkins that Cinderella’s fairy godmother magically transformed into a carriage, the Cinderella — with a flattened shape and striking red color — carries a strong and sweet flavor.

Long Pie Pumpkin: Also known as “Nantucket Pie,” the five to eight pound Long Pie looks nothing like a standard, round pumpkin. As its name suggests, it has an elongated shape, and its bright orange flesh is smooth and nearly string-less.

New England Pie Pumpkin: Known for making delicious pumpkin soup, the New England Pie has a superior consistency — string-less and slightly less sweet than the Baby Pam — that also makes for a thick filling in pies.

Pumpkin varieties via The Daily Meal, www.thedailymeal.com.