Winter Squash with Sugar-Toasted Almonds

It has been sooo freezing across the Midwest and East Coast recently. I was suddenly in the mood for something cozy and comforting in a way I haven’t been since pre-holidays so I grabbed a petite acorn squash from the grocery store last week.

Acorn squash is a favorite of mine since childhood; my mom would roast it and serve with brown sugar on top, which melted and flowed like a caramel river off the sides of a heaping helping of mashed squash.

This time, I scooped the flesh out of the roasted squash halves and mixed in some honey, clove, cinnamon and egg to make a souffle-casserole mash-up.

Winter Squash with Sugar Toasted Almonds

Bake it for 30 minutes and top with sugar toasted almonds and dried cranberries.

Crunchy, nutty, sweet and addictive! Awesome on salads too.

Crunchy, nutty, sweet and addictive! Awesome on salads too.

Yum, perfect as a side dish.

Winter Squash with Sugar Toasted Almonds

Or a very large bowl as a main dish if you are me :-).

Winter Squash with Sugar Toasted Almonds

  • one medium-small acorn squash
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove plus extra for dusting
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon plus extra for dusting
  • 2-3 tbl honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 heaping tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 heaping tbl white sugar
  • handle of dried unsweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cut acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and lightly dust with cloves and cinnamon. Place cut side up in a large baking dish with a little water in the bottom, cover with a lid or tinfoil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until squash is fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly until you can handle the halves.  Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Scoop out the roasted flesh into a medium bowl. Mash and mix well with a fork. Mix in the 1/4 tsp cloves and cinnamon, 2 to 3 tbl honey, and Greek yogurt (this makes it a wee-bit more creamy). If needed, temper the egg with some squash before fully mixing in. Mix well and then scoop into a 1 quart baking dish. Cover and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The casserole will crack a bit on top and not be jiggly in the center when finished.

For the almonds: Place the almonds and white sugar in a small pan over medium heat. The sugar will begin to melt and coat the almonds. Stir frequently and watch out, it can scorch easily.  Once sugar is melted and the almonds coated, spread out onto a sheet of parchment paper to cool.

Sprinkle the almonds and cranberries over top of the casserole and serve.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Hearty Tortellini Soup with Garlicky Toasts

Quick, go-to weeknight dinners in our house usually involve breakfast or pasta. I love ready-made refrigerated tortellini tossed with garlic, cheese and broccoli but I was feeling pretty burnt out on that dish.

In a moment of unusual inspiration I got the idea for soup.  Crumble and sauté some pork sausage in a large soup pot, toss in minced garlic, and them simmer gently with beef stock and tomatoes. There is no need to let this simmer slowly for hours to get good flavor, that comes from the sausage and stock. Plus, you cook the tortellini in the soup itself so this is literally a one pot meal.

Hearty Tortellini Soup

I paired the tortellini soup with some toasted farmhouse bread, buttered and rubbed with garlic cloves.  Sprinkle the toasts or the soup (or both) with some Parmesan cheese for extra bite.

Hearty, easy and delicious. After work my husband wasn’t feeling well (crabby and ill) but he proclaimed he felt better after two bowls of this and some relaxing on the couch. He thanked me for the ‘delicious Thanksgiving dinner’. An inside joke of ours, but I know it’s a high compliment.  🙂

Hearty Tortellini Soup

Hearty Tortellini Soup with Garlicky Toasts

  • 1 10 oz package fresh refrigerated spinach tortellini
  • 1/2 lb pork sausage (I like Bob Evans)
  • (3) 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 clove whole
  • 28 oz beef stock
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • Farmhouse bread (I like Trader Joe’s brand)

Put a small amount of olive oil, just to prevent sticking, in a large stockpot and add sausage. Turn heat to medium and cook the sausage, breaking into crumbles, until browned. Add in the two cloves minced garlic and saute for a couple minutes. Pour in the beef stock, tomatoes and dried basil and bring to a boil.  Read the package instructions for the tortellini and cook them, in the boiling soup, for the amount of time specified- usually between 2 and 6 minutes. When cooking time is up, immediately remove from heat, add salt and pepper.  Ladle into soup bowl and top with cheese if desired.

For the Garlicky Toasts: Preheat broiler for 400°. Slice the farmhouse bread and butter it. Put on a foil lined baking sheet and place under broiler until toasted and golden brown around the edges (keep an eye on them they burn fast). Remove and rub each toasted piece with the remaining whole garlic clove to impart some delicious flavor. You could add some cheese to these as well, and put back under the broiler for a quick melt.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: Do you like soup for comfort food? If not, what is your go-to?

Cinnamon-Cardamon Apple Pie

The apples I picked with my sister in law were begging to be made into a pie. Apple pie is really the vanilla ice cream of pies- delicious but boring. I spiced this one up with cardamon in the filling and fresh lemon zest in the crust.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream

We’ve been battering down the hatches to make it through Hurricane Sandy and this pie has been a comfort to have around. When it’s dark, rainy and windy, a slice of hot apple pie is just the ticket. Just the ticket? I’ve been watching too much Downton Abby.

Being off work due to the hurricane has essentially put us in vacation mode. We sometimes eat pie for breakfast when in vacation mode…. 🙂 This is excellent breakfast pie!

Cinnamon-Cardamon Apple Pie

For filling:

  • 7 cups very thinly sliced, peeled apples (I used Winesap and Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cardamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbl tapioca
  • Juice of half a small lemon

For crust:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • zest of half a small lemon
  • 6-8 tbl cold water

Prepare the crust:  Mix the flour, salt and lemon zest together. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until small pea-sized crumbs exist. Add in the cold water one tablespoon at a time, fluff with a fork after each addition to help the dough come together. As large pieces of dough come together, remove them from the bowl and set aside to make it easier to work the rest of the small crumbs.  Divide the dough into two even discs and  roll out, one for the top and one for bottom. I made a large basket-weave pattern for the top crust using 3 1/2 inch wide strips.

Prepare the filling: Thinly slice the peeled apples. In a large bowl, combine with the lemon juice. Toss to coat. Then mix in the sugar, spices and tapioca.

Assembly:  Put the bottom crust layer in a pie dish, let the extra hang over the edges. Layer the apples onto the crust, evenly. Roll the top layer of crust onto your rolling pin, then unroll over the top of the pie, letting the extra hand over. Cut the extra top and bottom crust, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches to roll under to make the crust edge.  Flute the edge with a fork.

Bake in a 425° oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400° and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes. If the crust gets to brown, loosely tent with aluminum foil.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of fruit pie?