Wednesday, January 25, 2012

roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette

I made myself a fancy lunch yestereday for this week's "new year, new recipe."  Although, it's not really fancy, the title just sounds oh so grown up.  Anyway, I prefer simple good ingredients to fancy.  What about you? 

Warm butternut squash mingles with the parmesan and spicy arugula, melting and ever so slightly wilting.  There is sweetness from both the squash and from dried cranberries, and a delicious nutty crunch from toasted pecans.  Not fancy, but very tasty.

It's really a shame I had this for lunch because it would have been lovely paired with a glass of full bodied cabernet.  (Um, full disclosure, I do sometimes drink at lunch.  Just not usually on a Tuesday.  Or if on a Tuesday, not usually alone.  But I suppose I could have should have made an exception.)

In all honesty, a glass of wine would have paired well with my frustration while peeling and dicing that damn butternut squash.  I am not a fan of that process.  But in the end, friends, it was all worth it.  Oh. yes. it. was.

Ah, and here it is deconstructed so that I can enjoy it again later tonight.  Most definitely with a glass of this.

by Ina Garten from her beautiful book Back to Basics


  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted*
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan*


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette* over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Cook's Notes:
*I toasted pecans (instead of walnuts because I love pecans, and walnuts, not so much) over a dry saute pan for about five minutes, stirring often.  I also made a lot more than suggested.  They are good to eat while you prep, plus I think the salad is better with more.
* I think the salad is better with less cheese.  (Rarely do I say that about cheese.)  
* The recipe makes a huge amount of dressing so you'll have leftovers for something else--always a good thing!

Don't forget to stop by to see Torrie's "new year, new recipe"-- Best Ever Boston Baked Beans.  (Something to make for that upcoming Sunday of Football!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

on the *end of an era

Over the weekend we moved G into her "big girl" bed and I couldn't stop the nostalgia from washing over me.  For the first time in almost 7 years, there wasn't a sleeping baby in the crib.

Now I realize that Georgia is not a baby, has not been a "baby" for quite some time.  She turns four in May!  She's been potty trained for well over a year.  She goes to school and writes her name in oversized uppercase.  She rides a two wheeler without training wheels.  (Yep, she's pretty much a stud!)  And in case I do forget, she tells me that she's a big girl and can "do it by myself!"  And by it, I mean everything. 

 And yet..."I hold you momma"-- that phrase, left-over from when she was first learning to form sentences, is spoken at least once a day.  Georgia climbs into my lap.  Or reaches her arms up.  Or wraps her legs around one of mine, looking up at me with the big blue eyes with the long dark lashes.  And she makes me STOP whatever it is I am doing simply to hold her.  The era of the crib is ending, but in those moments I am reminded that she will always be my baby.  Thank God for those moments.


Friday, January 20, 2012

have a weekend.

I'll be eating this.

Drinking this (the current {white}house pour.)

And listening to this.

Have a {fill in the blank} weekend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

what is it about a hot fireman...?

...that makes you want to get dressed and cook up something tasty?

New Year, New Recipe #2:  Mushroom Cream Sauce with Garlic Chicken Cutlets
8 chicken cutlets (or 4 skinless, boneless breasts pounded out and cut in half)
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound baby belle mushrooms, cut in half
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of dry white wine  (or chicken broth if you don't have a bottle open)
1 1/2 cups cream
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped dill (depending on your taste)

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, going heavy with the garlic powder.  Let sit for a few minutes.  Then LIGHTLY coat in flour.  (I pour flour on a plate and quickly "dip" both sides of chicken cutlets in the flour, shaking off excess.)  Over medium heat, cover your pan with a couple swirls (about 2 tablespoons) of olive oil.  Saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are soft and the mushrooms are golden about 10-15 minutes, stirring now and then.  Add the garlic and cook two more minutes.  Empty the mushroom mixture on to a plate.  Return pan to stove and add more olive oil.  When hot, saute chicken 2-3 minutes per side until chicken in golden brown and cooked through.  (You may need to cook chicken in batches depending on the size of your pan.  I did!)  Remove chicken to another plate.  Add white wine, scraping up the brown bits of goodness and simmer for one minute.  Stir in mushroom mixture, cream, and dill.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Pour over chicken cutlets.

Tyler, my husband's oldest and closest friend since babyhood, came for dinner and a sleepover (on our couch-- all 6 foot 6 of him) last week.  I love cooking for men who will eat whatever I put in front of them (as opposed to cooking for Finicky #1 and Finicky #2 AKA the six year old and the three year old.)  Since Torrie and I are determined to turn all those amazing recipes we collect into actual food this year, Tyler's visit seemed the perfect opportunity to make this ridiculously rich sauce I spotted on pinterest a while ago.  I adapted the recipe a bit for our household and created a chicken dish.  For the boys (men =) and girlies* I served the chicken and sauce over a bed of spaghetti with a side of broccoli.  I kept my plate low-carb. (Ya know--because cream is sooooooooo much better for you than a pile of pasta!)  I don't cook with cream much for the obvious reasons, but this sauce is SO WORTH IT.  I think it would be amazing over pretty much anything.  (Roasted asparagus comes to mind.)  I may or may not have poured all of the leftover sauce over some scrambled eggs the next morning.  Only my cardiologist knows for sure.

Be sure to visit ...a place to share to see the scrumptiousness Torrie created this week, a slow cooked chicken and mushroom pot pie.  (Apparently, we are channeling each other in both attitude and food choice. =)

(*Finicky version: I cut up the chicken, spaghetti, and broccoli into bite-size pieces, pouring strained sauce over the entire thing.  My littles want nothing to do with mushrooms.  They must be crazy.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

on not wanting to get dressed.

Since the third of January, when the hoopla of the holidays officially ceased, I've been struggling with the simple act of getting dressed in the morning.  I'd prefer to stay in my pajamas and mope (yes--mope) about the house most of the day.  Unfortunately, or rather fortunately I should say, the six and three year olds don't really allow for this kind of self indulgence (or mild depression.)  I think Sparky might take issue with it too, should he arrive home after a long kick-ass day at work to find me in my flannels eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia in bed while watching netflixed episodes of the Gilmore Girls.  (Oh, that entire scenario sounds divine.)

Am I the only one that ever feels this way?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

new year, new recipes: death by oreo cupcakes.

Last week, Miss Torrie inspired me with her facebook status resolving to dig through her extensive library of cookbooks and "cook up a storm" this new year.   I'm joining her in her quest and also making this one of my (many) New Year's resolutions.  I too have an abundance of cookbooks with shiny tempting photographs.  I think I have five separate boards on Pinterest devoted to food I'd like to eat.  And what about those (hundreds of) magazine tearings from the last ten years?  I'm delving into all the collected recipes, and I'm actually going to COOK something, instead of, well, admiring all the pretty pictures.  (Oh but I do love a pretty picture... I digress.)  Torrie and I thought we'd attempt and post (at least) one new recipe a week.  Care to cook along with us?

For this week's recipe I'm sharing a ridiculously sinful oreo cupcake (which is pinned on my "frost me" board.)  I made them for a baby shower for G's teacher.  And in full disclosure, I want you to know I baked them back in December so I'm already cheating as far as the resolution goes... How apropos, yes?

All the mommies, teachers, and littles loved the cupcakes.  There's an entire oreo on the bottom; what's not to love?  I frosted them with an amazing butter cream, LOADED with pulverized oreos.  Oh man.  Really, just a scoopful of that with a large glass of milk, and call it a day for me.  You can find the recipe for the cupcake here.  And here's the frosting recipe:

Oreo Loaded Buttercream 
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream
Oreos, finely crushed in food processor (I used what was left over in the package after making the cupcakes, you can adjust accordingly to taste.  In my opinion MORE is better. =)

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together the sugar and butter on low speed until well blended.  Increase speed to medium, beating for another 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and milk, beating for 1 more minute.  Stir in crushed oreos.  Try not to eat too much of it or you won't have enough to frost the cupcakes.  Or better yet, double the recipe.  (That's what I did.)

 Georgia, enjoying the fruits of her mother's labor.

Torrie's baked up a lovely lemon cupcake for her first "new" recipe.  (We both have cake on the brain!)  Pop on over and see the deliciousness, which by the way, I've now pinned!

*The author of the cupcake recipe, Camber from Food Snots, uses a cream cheese frosting, but because my main audience for these cupcakes was a roomful of three year olds, I thought it best to stick with a butter cream!