Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Monday, July 7th, 2014

I remember watching TV once when I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, it was 7th Heaven, but I can’t say with any real authority.  Sorry.  Anyway, one of the characters said something about how they made a vegetarian lasagna, and I (stupidly) said, “ew… gross!”  My mom got a little offended, or maybe she was just calling me on my picky eating BS (it’s hard to call, really), and responded with “My lasagna is vegetarian, is it gross?”

And in my stupid little preteen brain, when I thought of vegetarian, I wasn’t thinking meatless.  I was thinking veggie-full.  And my stupid little preteen brain told me that veggies were gross.

This lasagna is the polar opposite of my mom’s lasagna from back then (although since getting this recipe from my sister-in-law, she only makes her lasagna this way).  There are tons of veggies.  And meat.  It makes no sense, really.  You could make it meatless, sure.  But I prefer not to.

Lasagna Done

And it doesn’t have veggies like my stupid preteen brain was picturing.  It doesn’t have mushrooms and olives, which I still maintain are pretty disgusting.  It doesn’t even have spinach, which even my preteen self was ok with in lasagna (primarily, I’ve stopped eating spinach because I’m pretty sure I was having an allergic reaction to it, at least in the large quantities that I was eating it).  It has a really sneaky vegetable masquerading as noodles.

Say what?!

Yep.  That’s how this thing is gluten free.  Zero pasta.  We could call into question its validity as a “lasagna” at all at this point, but once you see how yummy it is, I’m not sure you’ll want to.

I like to make it in little loaf pans because that’s about exactly right to feed me and my husband for dinner.  But when I’ve had it with my family, I’ve made it in 13×9 pans, and since that’s a more typical amount of lasagna, I’ve made the recipe thus.

On this particular occasion, I made a quadruple recipe and froze a ton of little loaf pans.  My husband and I are the proud owners of a new to us freezer that is currently sitting in our living room.  More on that later.  In the meantime, know that this meal freezes extraordinarily well.  I’ll even tell you how.

Lasagna Prep

Here’s how this lasagna goes down.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 pound ground beef (optional)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 jars spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Brown the ground beef with the onions.  Add in the spaghetti sauce.  You can leave the sauce alone at this point.  Or I like to add some black pepper and fresh herbs and then just let it simmer.  This is all optional.

Peel the squash, then cut the skinnier part into thin round disks (about a quarter of an inch or less, try to be as uniform as possible).  Then cut the larger part in half vertically if it’s standing on its butt.  (I have no idea the technical terms for a butternut squash, so just go with me on this…)  Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds and what not.  Now cut these into moon shaped disks.

Spoon a bit of sauce into your pan.  Then cover with a layer of butternut squash.  Top with sauce.  Then cheese.  Then repeat.  And again.  Until all the ingredients are used up.

Here’s where you cover with foil and freeze if you’re into that.  Then you just pull it out of the freezer, thaw, and follow these other directions when you’re ready to eat.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until the squash is fork tender.  Then bake uncovered until the cheese is just slightly blistered.

P.S. The butternut squash really dried out my skin today, a problem I haven’t had when I’ve made this in the past.  I mean, we’re talking peeling skin dried out.  It’s gross.  If you have a similar problem, you should know that a bowl of sugar to rub your hands in and an episode of house hunters should do the trick.

A Time for Everything

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

When I was a kid, I was so obsessed with ketchup.  It went on/in everything.  From mac’n’cheese to the more conventional french fry, I was obsessed.  And then, with no real warning, our sordid love affair was over.  Ketchup was disgusting, and I didn’t want it on my hamburger, let alone my mac’n’cheese.  Everything was barbecue, those days.  And really, barbecue is an ideal dipping sauce: spicy, sweet, with a little tanginess thrown in for good measure.

And then Joel and I went to the Old Salt Restaurant in Beaufort, NC.  First, let me begin by saying that they have a fantastic gluten free menu and a staff that’s actually educated on it.  Second, they have these sea salt brined fries…

I recognize the fact that in creating a food blog, I’m signing on to be able to write about food.  But sometimes… the texture and the flavor are just absolutely so amazing, that you don’t even have words for them.  And to be honest, I’ve been chasing that sea salt brined high ever since.

Five Guys fries are not a bad stand in when I’m back in Durham.  They’ve got the flavor just right, but the texture isn’t quite there.

But the thing is, the fries weren’t even it.  They serve them with their own homemade ketchup that is unbelievable.  I just… words…. not there…

And ever since, I’m back on the ketchup wagon.  I knew I was going to have the house to myself on Friday night with a new season of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix (I recognize that I should be watching Orange is the New Black, but that’s a together show while Joel doesn’t really care for PLL).  I was out running errands, and I thought some fries with some sort of fancy ketchup would exactly do the trick.

Balsamic Ketchup

Oh man, did they ever!  Heinz has this ketchup with balsamic vinegar.  The fries were everything that prepackaged frozen fries are, but this ketchup is a game changer.

When I told Joel about it after, he wanted in on that mess.  So we manufactured an excuse to use it again: corndog muffins with tater tots (a preference of his I’ll never understand).

Corndog Muffin

Corndog muffins were a pinterest find from forever ago.  They’re the easiest way to satisfy a corndog craving, which, if you’re anything like me, come fairly regularly.  The recipe is from Iowa Girl Eats, and while I like the concept, her method simply doesn’t work for me.  A) I don’t have a mini muffin tin.  B) I have found the best gluten free cornbread mix in the whole wide world, and I really don’t see any reason to mess with that.  C) I also think we can do a smidgen better than regular ol’ hot dogs.

So let’s simplify this a bit.

Corndog Muffins

  • Prepared cornbread batter*
  • Kielbasa sausage, cut into 12 equal pieces

Pour batter into muffin tins as the recipe directs (do not overfill).  Insert a sausage piece into the middle of each filled muffin tin.  If there is batter leftover, I like to pour it into a small pan and bake plain to have with butter and honey for dessert.

* My personal favorite of the gluten free varieties is Pamela’s.  My homemade cornbread isn’t that good.  I figure if I’m having corndogs for dinner, I might as well go whole hog and treat myself with my favorite cornbread (see what I did there?).

P.S.  The combo with the ketchup.  Absolutely divine.

The easiest gluten free anything ever made

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

This is my first week of summer, except only kind of and not really.  The organization that I used to work for has invited me back to teach a workshop this week, which is way cool, and only sort of a bummer that I’m still having to work when I should be in summer mode.  That said, my mornings are still fully mine, and I’m really enjoying them.  I’m still waking up early, partly because my body clock has adjusted yet, and partly because I think it makes it easier for my husband who is very much not a morning person to get up.

I’m also really enjoying making breakfast (something beyond a bowl of chex).  But also, my mom just moved, and because she’s a rockstar and because I’ve consistently had a lot of trouble eating food from her kitchen, even when it’s theoretically gluten free, my mom is trying to maintain a mostly gluten free kitchen, or at least a gluten conscious kitchen.  So she asked me for a super easy, impossible to mess up recipe for some kind of gluten free baked good.  And I have a recipe that I’ve been meaning to tell you guys about for… well… over a year.  It’s my go to muffin to take into work when I’m a little grumpy.  I figure either it’ll get me out of my funk or sharing muffins with coworkers will at least make me tolerable when I am grumpy.  It’s one or the other, for sure.  It’s the sort of recipe that you can totally make on a weekday morning.  And it looks like this.

Chocolate Muffin

But my absolute favorite part about these muffins is that they don’t require that much in the way of “gluten free” ingredients.  They have a mere three-fourths cup of gluten free all-purpose flour.  My favorite for this is King Arthur, but Bob’s Red Mill will certainly do.  Whole grain variations have worked, but not nearly as well.  It’s important that you not use a “cup4cup” style flour blend, as the batter will be too runny then.

I also love how willingly these muffins take mix-ins.  Often, I’ll mix in nuts or chocolate chips (of the white, milk, or dark variety… all are amazing).  Get creative.  They are a blank canvas of chocolate-y goodness.

Chocolate Muffin from above

So mix up a dozen of these babies, dress them up in Bill Cosby cupcake papers, and share with your friends.  You won’t regret it.

Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins

  • 1 c. unsweetened applesauce (if all you have is sweetened, that’s fine, just reduce the sugar to 1/4 c.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. oil (I usually use coconut, melted, but any vegetable oil will work)
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c. gluten free all purpose flour (like King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt

Mix first four ingredients until well blended.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Spoon into prepared muffin tins.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Don’t Stop Believing

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

When I started thinking through this post, I was fixing myself breakfast.  I was letting my dog out to go be with her boyfriend (she normally doesn’t want to go out until at least 6:30, but at 5:45, I can hear his bark next door, and she’s got to be out there, running along the fence with him).  I was singing this song in my head.  No, let’s just be honest, I was singing it out loud.  But it has nothing to do with the major point of this post, which is this:

Let’s just stop pretending that anything ever is perfect.  I know, I know.  This is a food blog.  Where the author eats loads of cupcakes and pies and never gets fat.  Where the dirty dishes created by cooking a) don’t exist, b) never appear in the background of photos, and c) never stress us out.  (I don’t have a dishwasher, so… you know… ha!)  Where we totally compost because like… omg, who doesn’t? but said compost NEVER attracts fruit flies.  Where you totally have a marble counter top, or, at the very least, something substantially better than white laminate.

Let’s just get something straight.  I’m pretty sure nobody ever has had a marble countertop.  It’s all angles, smoke, and mirrors.  Or more simply, a marble cutting board.  I often trick you into believing I have a wood countertop.  I don’t.  I just have a bamboo tray that a lot of my food ends up on because I rarely eat at a table.

But I really enjoy tricking the whole world into thinking my life is perfect, especially my food.  I never make mistakes.  I never run out of eggs mid-recipe at 5 in the morning.  I never get a tornado warning on my phone while I’m cooking that tells me to “take shelter now!”  It just never happens.  Not to me, anyway.

Baby Shower Cake

But this cake.  It happened.  It was undeniable.  It fell over during my walk to the car in the morning.  I fixed it.  It fell over in the car.  I fixed it.  And then it fell over while I was trying to find room for it in the fridge at work.  I cried.  And my coworker fixed it.

I had worked the whole thing up in my head.  Like anything I bake can make or break a baby shower.  Not one person said, “ew… who made the cake?”  Because not one single person was there for the cake.  Duh!  I’m just not that important to the whole world.

So go on over to Joy the Baker and make this cake.  Make some whipped cream and layer the cake with the cream and assorted berries.  Take it to a party.  Have a good time.  But whatever you do, don’t cry over it.  Perfection wasn’t going to happen anyway.  And nobody expected it.

Mr. Goodbar Pie

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

At school, I have a “work husband” named Mr. Williams.  We teach the same students, but different subjects.  He’s my partner in crime and has been an amazing mentor to me these last two years.  He’s patient with me, answers all my questions, and complements my strengths and weaknesses exactly perfectly.  He takes care of me.  So obviously, I take care of him.  But I’m not nearly as good at the whole knowing what to do in completely unpredictable situations thing.  I’m good at the cooking thing.

So I bake him muffins, cookies, brownies, whatever.  Because he deserves to be treated right.  Especially on his birthday, which was earlier this week.  And while Mr. Williams loves every kind of food (no really, I sometimes take him recipe fail rejects, and he eats them up happily), I wanted to make him something he would really enjoy.  I know that his favorite candy bar is Mr. Goodbar.  … so I set out to make a Mr. Goodbar inspired pie.

Creamy chocolate custard is layered on a crunchy peanut crust.  If you’ve never made a nut crust for a pie or cheesecake, you should really get on it.  It’s a great gluten free alternative to a graham cracker crust, and honestly, I think it’s substantially tastier.  Gluten-full folks just think you’re incredibly creative and don’t miss the gluten in the slightest.  You also don’t have to spend all that money on gluten free graham crackers.

And if you think that any recipe that requires you to separate eggs is high maintenance (I’ll admit it, I totes did until just a few years ago) and a recipe that calls for only the egg yolks OR the egg whites but not both is completely out of reach, I really want you to reconsider.  Really, it’s just an excuse to make key lime pie with the egg whites.  Who doesn’t love a good excuse to make key lime pie?  The egg whites can go into a ziploc bag and into the freezer until you’re ready.  Then you just thaw and use like you normally would.

Really and truly, this whole thing took me about half an hour to whip up, although it was in a couple different stages.  Don’t be afraid.

Mr. Goodbar Pie

Teacher birthday parties tend to happen on tables littered with math homework and pencil boxes.  Don’t mind the background of the photo.

So let’s get to this recipe.  I made two 8-inch pies, but I think it would go great into a large spring form pan instead.  Bottom line is… it makes a lot.  Feel free to half the recipe according to your needs/desires.

Mr. Goodbar Pie

For the crust:

  • one 12oz. container of roasted, unsalted peanuts (or about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted

In a food processor, pulse peanuts until finely chopped.  Add the sugar and pulse until combined.  Pour in the butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles wet sand.  Press into the bottom of two 8-inch greased pie pans and up the sides.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until just starting to brown on the edges.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool while you put together the filling.

For the filling:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or baking chocolate roughly chopped)
  • 2 cups cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  While that’s slowly melting, whisk the egg yolks until pale yellow.  Then mix in the sugar, vanilla, and 1 cup of the cream.  Set aside.

At this point, your chocolate is probably well on its way to getting all melty.  When it’s thoroughly melted, mix in the remaining 1 cup of cream.  Slowly pour some of the egg mixture into the chocolate cream mixture, whisking constantly.  Now pour the egg/chocolate mixture into the remainder of the egg mixture, again whisking constantly.

At this point, I like to pour the whole mixture through a fine sieve, just to ensure a thoroughly creamy texture with no chocolate chunks or eggy bits.  I suppose you could skip this step, if that’s not really a thing for you.

Pour into the prepared peanut crusts, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the middle of the pie is no longer wobbly.  If you choose to bake this in something other than 8-inch pie pans, cooking time will vary.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before topping.

For the topping:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 T. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. chopped Mr. Goodbar

Using a mixer (or a very dedicated arm), whip up the cream and powdered sugar until you reach stiff peaks.  Spread evenly over cooled pie.  Sprinkle Mr. Goodbar pieces over that.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

And then get ready… because people are gonna lurv you.