Brandy, Brown Sugar and Dried Berry Acorn Squash

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This is a side dish that I usually make for Thanksgiving. I love this acorn squash, it is such a warm, cozy side dish … filled with some of the wonderful flavors of fall and winter.

I used two acorn squash and cut them each in half. Once they were cut in half, I sprinkled 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and 4-5 grinds of fresh pepper over each one, followed by a half tablespoon of butter.

On top of the butter, I placed 1 teaspoon of brown sugar into the bowl of the squash, followed by one tablespoon of mixed dried berries.

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Once the berries were placed into the squash, I poured a tablespoon of brandy on top. I wanted the brandy poured on top of the berries so that they would soak up some of the liquid and plump a bit before I placed my dish into the oven.

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Once the brandy was poured into the squash, I added 1 tablespoon of chopped sweet and spicy pecans. I buy these at Trader Joe’s quite often. They are good on a salad as well! You can use regular pecans or walnuts, if you prefer.

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I melted 1 tablespoon of butter that I brushed over the edges of the acorn squash. Basically 1/4 tablespoon of melted butter was brushed on each squash.

I placed my squash into a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour. It turned out perfectly. Dennis loved this dish, and he doesn’t normally enjoy squash. He asked if he can have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow and again for dinner. I’ll be out with friends tomorrow night for our annual Secret Santa dinner so having leftovers will work out perfectly for him.

Ingredients

2 acorn squash

1 tablespoon of melted butter, plus 2 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 tablespoon per squash half)

1/4 cup sweet and spicy pecans, chopped

4 tablespoons dried berry medley (1 tablespoon per acorn squash half)

1 teaspon kosher salt (divided, 1/4 teaspoon per squash half)

fresh ground pepper (4-5 grinds per squash half)

4 teaspoons brown sugar (1 per acorn half)

4 tablespoons dried berry medley

8 teaspoons brandy (2 per acorn squash)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut each acorn squash in half, remove seeds.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper over acorn squash.
  4. Place 1/2 tablespoon butter in each acorn squash half.
  5. Place brown sugar and berries in squash.
  6. Pour brandy over berries.
  7. Top with chopped pecans.
  8. Brush melted butter around edges of squash.
  9. Bake for one hour.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

 

 

Tuscan Antipasto Bowtie Pasta

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Last Monday, I hosted my annual book club Christmas Party. While I was putting things away after the festivities and was placing the lid back on the jar of Tuscan Antipasto I had as part of my cheese platter, I came to the conclusion that this would make an excellent sauce and topping for pasta. I placed the jar in the refrigerator with the intention of making that dish last week. Well, last week was super busy, probably the busiest I’ve had in the last 52 weeks … but, I loved every minute of it. I love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s a time for friends and family to be together and enjoy each other’s company … there’s nothing better.

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I loved the way this jar looked when I found it at Trader Joe’s. I immediately knew it had to be part of my cheese platter and didn’t think further than that on what else I’d do with it. There are so many ways you could use this wonderful antipasto mix … over chicken, in pasta, by itself on a cheese platter with cheeses and Italian meats. All of it good, and good for you.

Below are a couple of pictures of how it looked on my cheese platter.

 

This jar contains a mixture of olives, artichokes, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes that are marinated in herbs – yum!

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I poured this right over my hot, drained bowtie pasta and mixed it together.

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The oil that the antipasto was packed in was all that was needed for this pasta sauce, I added no extra olive oil.

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I added shards of parmesan and a pinch of crushed pepper flakes before serving.

 

This is about the easiest dinner you can make. It comes together in less than 20 minutes. It’s great for serving after a busy day as well as for serving to guests at a dinner party. It’s sure to impress! All you’d need to serve along with this dish is a nice, rustic, crusty loaf and a Caesar salad – your guests will surely love it, as will your family.

Note: Make sure to be careful of pits in the olives. I did have one olive that had a pit in it.

Ingredients

  • 1 jar Tuscan Antipasto
  • kosher salt for pasta water
  • 1 package bowtie pasta
  • shards of parmesan

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Drain pasta and return to pot.
  3. Pour jar of antipasto over pasta and mix together.
  4. Top with parmesan.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

Olive Balls

 

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Last night was my annual Christmas party that I host each and every December. I look forward to this party as it starts my holiday season off with much happiness and good cheer.

I love to cook a nice dinner for my friends, along with having an array of appetizers and sweet treats. Sometimes, I order Bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes as my dessert, but last night some of my friends offered to bring treats ranging from brownies (thank you, Pam!), snickerdoodle cookies (thank you, Sandy – and thank you, also, for the chicken sausages … yum!), lemon bars (thank you, Jen!), and array of chocolates and caramels – so yummy! My friend, Marie, brought a wonderful salad (thank you, Marie!) and my friend, JoAnne brought an amazing vegetable platter with asparagus, mushrooms, etc. It was divine (thank you, JoAnne!). My friend, Ethel, brought two wonderful puff pastry shell appetizers … one was stuffed with cheese and a little tiny meatball and the other had caramelized onion jam and cheese, OMG – yum (thank you, Ethel!)

One of the appetizers I make each year is my olive balls. My friend and neighbor, Lauren, loves my olive balls. The first time I made them is when I hosted our Neighborhood Book Club for the first time … this was also our inaugural meeting – and also the very first time some of us met. I remember walking through Trader Joe’s a few days before that first meeting deciding on what I’d make to serve my friends and new friends. I saw puff pastry in the freezer aisle and spotted stuffed olives in the olive aisle. I figured I’d buy them both and come up with a plan …. that turned out to be one of the best plans ever! Not only does Lauren love the olive balls, but my daughter, Kylie does as well. She looks forward to the leftover olive balls each time I make them.

To make the olive balls, I thawed my puff pastry, per the package directions. Once the puff pastry was thawed enough that I could unfold it without it breaking (about 40 minutes), I drained my jar of olives. The olives I chose to use for yesterday were the blue cheese stuffed olives.  I cut my puff pastry into squares (about 3 inches each) and place an olive in the middle of each square. I then wrap the pastry around the olive and roll it in my hands to form a ball. I then place them on baking sheets (I usually need two) that I sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Once the olives are on my baking sheet, I brush them with a little olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on each one. After that, I sprinkle fresh minced rosemary and grated parmesan on each olive ball. I then bake them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they are lightly browned.

Note: Feel free to use garlic stuffed olives if you’d like or any other type of stuffed olive that appeals to you. If I use the garlic stuffed olives, I add crumbled blue cheese to the “package”. I place a little on top of the olive before rolling it together into a ball.

Once again, my olive balls did not disappoint. I’m sure they will make an appearance at my next gathering … perhaps the Ugly Christmas Party I’m hosting on December 22nd!

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Ingredients

  • 1 package puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 jar stuffed olives
  • 5 sprigs rosemary, minced
  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • sea salt, a pinch per olive ball
  • olive oil, for brushing

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Thaw puff pastry per package directions.
  3. Drain olives.
  4. Cut puff pastry like you would cut a pan of brownies (make them about 2-1/2 – 3  inches square).
  5. Place olive in the middle of each square and fold pastry around olive. Roll in your hands until the pastry looks like a small ball.
  6. Place on a baking sheet.
  7. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  8. Sprinkle each olive ball with rosemary and parmesan.
  9. Bake 20 minutes, or until browned nicely.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

 

Chili, Cinnamon, and Oregano Boneless Pork Loin Roast

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Today was a fabulous day! The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is the day my cousin, Molly, arrives at my house so we can prep for the big day together. I look forward to this day each and every year. Molly and I have such a wonderful time getting ready for Thanksgiving together. Today, Molly brought her niece, Ava, along. Molly was at her sister, Katie’s, house last night. They will all be here for Thanksgiving and Ava wanted to come early with Aunt Molly to hang out with us. Ava is such a sweet girl, I’m loving spending today with her.  Our day started at Smashburger in Del Mar, where we met for lunch. I enjoyed their Harvest Salad with grilled chicken (I love that one!). I know, it’s a burger place, but they have good salads and I knew I’d be making a nice dinner for all of us and wanted to be a bit on the hungry side.

I’d been planning on making a boneless pork loin roast for dinner tonight using fall flavorings. To me that meant starting with cinnamon and going from there. I ended up mixing chili powder, oregano, kosher salt and pepper to to make up my dry rub. While I was in the shower, an idea to make a glaze out of orange juice and honey came to me. I usually do my thinking on my morning walks while I’m exercising, but this week is a busy one, so I haven’t been out walking … I seem to be coming up with my recipes in the shower instead.

I started with a 2-1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast. I made several small slits with a paring knife in the top of my roast. I like to do this so the flavoring seeps into the meat a bit. I minced three garlic cloves and set them aside. Next, I mixed together the seasonings I’d be using for the dry rub. I combined 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

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I poured 2 tablespoons olive oil in my cast iron skillet. I rubbed half the spice mixture on the bottom of the roast and placed it in the pan. To the top of the roast, I added the minced garlic and then the dry rub.

I seared the meat on the bottom for 4 minutes, turned it and seared the top for 3 minutes. I turned it back over so the garlic was on top. My pan seemed a little dry, so I added 2 additional tablespoons of olive oil to the pan before placing my cast iron skillet in a preheated 375 degree oven for 55 minutes.

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I pulled the roast out of the oven to rest.

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While it was resting, I mixed orange juice and honey together and brought it to a boil on my cooktop, whisking it periodically. This only took a few minutes. I then drizzled the orange juice and honey glaze over the rested pork before slicing.

This was a delicious pork roast! I hope if you try this recipe, you will enjoy it as well as we did.

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Ingredients

2-1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus 2 more, if needed)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons honey

Directions

  1. Place olive oil in cast iron skillet
  2. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, chili powder, oregano, kosher salt, and pepper.
  3. Rub bottom half of pork with half the dry rub.
  4. Pierce several slits in top of pork and sprinkle minced garlic over roast. Add rest of dry rub.
  5. Heat olive oil and place roast in skillet.
  6. Sear for 4 minutes on bottom, turn and sear 3 minutes on top.
  7. Place in preheated 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.
  8. In a small skillet, bring orange juice and honey to a boil.
  9. Drizzle over pork before slicing.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

Cast Iron Skillet Tri-Tip

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For Sunday night’s supper, I chose to make a tri-tip seasoned with brown sugar, chili powder, dried rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder and kosher salt. I was in the mood for a spice rub that was a little fall-like in flavor. I had my mind set on using brown sugar and chili powder together and the rest fell into place.

I started by mixing my seasonings in a small glass bowl and then rubbing it over both sides of my meat. When adding dried rosemary to any spice mix, I rub the herb between my palms to break up the pieces a bit. This also helps to release the oils in the rosemary.

I placed my meat in the refrigerator to marinate for 4 hours.

I started cooking the meat by searing it in on the cooktop in my cast iron skillet. After 4-5 minutes per side, I felt my tri-tip had the crust I was looking for.

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I then placed the cast iron skillet, with the meat in it, into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Dennis likes his meat cooked medium. If you like yours rare, or medium-rare, check it at 20 or 25 minutes. (Internal temperature should be 120 degrees for rare, 130 degrees for medium-rare and 140 degrees for medium.)

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I served the tri-tip with broccolini that I roasted in the oven at the same time the meat was cooking.

Dennis ended up taking the leftovers for lunch today and made a sandwich out of the meat. He loved it as a sandwich as well!

Ingredients

2-1/2 pound tri-tip

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Mix spices together in a small dish.
  2. Rub spices on both sides of the meat. Set in refrigerator to marinate for 3-4 hours.
  3. Take meat out of refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
  4. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Place meat into skillet and sear on each side 4-5 minutes.
  6. Place skillet into preheated 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. (Internal temperature should be 120 degrees for rare, 130 degrees for medium-rare and 140 degrees for medium.)
  7. Let tri-tip rest for 5 minutes before slicing. This ensures the juices can redistribute.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary and Prosciutto Pizza

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I haven’t made homemade pizza in a long time, so I took advantage of a Saturday spent at home and decided that last night was the perfect evening for homemade pizza. Fall flavors are so warming and wonderful. I wanted to incorporate them into my pizza … starting with roasted butternut squash. It’s easy to use butternut squash that’s already been precut and packaged. I bought a 16 ounce package of precut butternut squash at Vons. This package had two sprigs of rosemary sitting on top of the squash, so I decided to mince them and add them to the pizza.

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I started by roasting my squash in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. I did nothing more than drizzle olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt and pepper onto the squash before placing into the oven. While the squash was roasting, I let my store bought pizza dough rise on my bread board.

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Once the dough had risen (30 minutes is all it takes for the store bought dough), I formed my crust. I find that if I bake the crust for 10 minutes before topping it, I end up with a crisper crust, which I like. I did purchase a couple pizza pans with little holes in them, which I believe also helps with crisping the crust. After I baked the crust at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, I was able to add my toppings.

While my crust was in the first 10 minutes of baking, I caramelized half a small yellow onion (that I cut very thin).

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Red sauce didn’t sound appealing to me for this pizza, so I drizzled a little olive oil on the crust as my “sauce” … not too much oil though, just a heavy drizzle.

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On top of the oil, I sprinkled a pinch of kosher salt, before placing mozzarella cheese that I cut, thinly. I did not want shredded cheese melted over the entire pizza. There’s a pizza place in Del Mar that I love, called Urban Pi. Oh my goodness, I love their pizza. They make individual pizzas and I will always share one with Dennis. When I go with my friends, JoAnne and I like to share a pizza and salad and we always ask for extra sauce – yum! You go through a line and pick your toppings and you can choose sliced cheese instead of shredded if you like. I feel this is a little fancy, it makes my pizza seem a little more high end, a little more modern … sort of.

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On top of the cheese slices, I placed the roasted butternut squash. After that, I laid down the caramelized onions and sprinkled the minced rosemary.

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Once the rosemary was on the pizza, I laid slices of prosciutto down.

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I baked my pizza for an additional 15 minutes, checking it after 10. After 10 minutes, I thought the crust was a little soft yet, so kept it in the additional 5. You may not need an additional 5 minutes. Just make sure to check it and then you can decide if you’d like it to bake just a bit longer.

I think this may be my favorite pizza yet! I’m looking forward to lunch today when I heat up the leftovers.

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Here is a picture of the crust, done just the way I like it.

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This pizza will be one I make in my fall pizza rotation for years to come. It was really good!

Ingredients

  • 1 store bought refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
  • 3 slices prosciutto, torn into smaller pieces
  • mozzarella cheese, 10-12 thin slices
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, minced
  • olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon, plus a drizzle for the dough and a drizzle for the squash
  • butter, 1/2 tablespoon
  • kosher salt 1 teaspoon for squash, plus a pinch for the crust
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • red pepper flakes, for serving (if desired)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place dough on breadboard to rise, per package instructions.
  3. Place butternut squash on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Bake squash for 30 minutes. (Once squash is done roasting, remove from oven and raise oven temperature to 425 degrees.)
  5. Melt together olive oil and butter in a small saucepan. Add onions and caramelize, 3-5 minutes.
  6. Stretch dough and form onto pizza pan.
  7. Bake dough for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
  8. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt onto crust.
  9. Place mozzarella slices onto crust.
  10. Lay butternut squash onto crust, along with onions and rosemary.
  11. Place prosciutto onto pizza.
  12. Bake for 10-15 additional minutes, until cheese starts to melt and crust has reached your desired crispiness.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

Pumpkin Spice Coffee

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Yesterday morning, I had the Food Network on while I was in the shower and getting ready for my day. I love “The Kitchen” which is on the Food Network on Saturday mornings. If I happen to be getting ready at the same time “The Kitchen” is on, I make sure to have it on.

Yesterday, someone was using pumpkin pie spice for a recipe and Katie (who is one of the hosts on the show) mentioned that she likes to add pumpkin pie spice to her morning coffee. I do head to Starbucks for at least one Pumpkin Spice Latté between October and November. That day for me was last week. It was a little drizzly here and was the perfect warm-up on a chilly morning. I usually get a hot tea or plain coffee when I’m at Starbucks because I try not to drink my calories (except in wine … they say red wine is good for us, who am I to question, LOL?! I do enjoy a glass of red wine when I’m at book club or out with friends. I have a few book clubs, and a lot of friends, so I know I’m doing good things for my heart … a glass of red wine, great discussions and lots of laughs, also good for my heart.)

Anyway, back to my morning cup of coffee today. I remembered what Katie mentioned on “The Kitchen” yesterday morning and I really wanted to try that in my coffee today. Katie didn’t say whether she added creamer or not, but I always do.

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I always add my creamer to my cup before adding the coffee. This ensures the creamer gets mixed in while the coffee is being poured in the cup. No need to stir! Today, I added the creamer and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice to my cup, poured the coffee in and enjoyed a wonderful cup of coffee.

I thank Katie for this fine tip yesterday morning, I’m now enjoying my second cup of coffee.

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Ingredients

  • Creamer (I use fat free vanilla today, sometimes I use sugar free)
  • Large pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • Coffee

Directions

  1. Add creamer and pumpkin pie spice to your favorite coffee mug.
  2. Pour in coffee.
  3. Stir, if you’d like.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris