Farro Risotto with Roasted Squash, Apple and Kale

I love this time of year.  I’m ready after the humid, muggy summer to breathe in some fresh crisp air.  I long for my sweaters and log fires to warm the evenings.  With the falling leaves comes the desire of using the abundance of fall flavors such as sage, pumpkins, squash and apples.

Did I mention I love fall?

I’m obsessed with apples right now.  I brought several different types of apples home with me the other day from the market, preparing for an all out apple fest.  I dove in, ready to conquer the sweet to the savory. The only thing I was missing was the road side apple cider stand.

So I have my apples, I love the fall and now I have to do something with all of it.  Well, that’s easy.  I decided to make this combination of a couple of recipes I had seen…  it was everything the autumn season is all about.  Farro Risotto with Apples, Squash, Kale and Sage.  My husband is loving me so much right now.  This meal is on his diet plan since it’s fairly healthy, but it’s also got flavor, texture and comfort, and it doesn’t taste like it’s a diet plan.

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I paired this with crispy chicken thighs and an apple cider gravy which will be coming in my next post, but for now try this out.   It’s in the top ten of my husband’s all time favorites, so I think you will like it.

Put on a sweater and fill your belly with the taste of fall.  It’s a yum on the food meter!

Farro Risotto with Roasted Squash, Apple and Kale

Course Entree, Side Dish
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced butternut squash
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup farro
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons diced bacon
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 dice and peeled Granny Smith apple
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Toss squash with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and cook for approximately 7-10 minutes or until squash starts to brown. Remove and set aside.

  3. Soak the farro in cold water to cover for 20-30 minutes. Drain and combine with the chicken stock in a medium heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to the farro is bubbling gently; cook until just tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain the farro over a bowl so that you can reserve the cooking liquid and set both aside in a warm place.

  4. In the same saucepan, cook bacon until mostly crisp. Add butter and oil and melt slightly and then add shallots, and garlic and cook about 3 more minutes or until fragrant.

  5. Pour in the wine and turn up the heat a little and simmer until the wine has reduced by about two-thirds, another 5 minutes or so.

  6. Add the faro, the apples, and squash and enough of the reserved chicken stock to get a slightly creamy consistency.

  7. Add the kale, sage leaves and more Parmesan and/or salt if necessary and several grinds of black pepper.

  8. Serve immediately or cover and reheat gently before serving, adding more liquid if necessary.

Changes in Life

Life Changes.   None of us want them because I think we all hate change.  If it’s a good life change, we’ll take it begrudgingly, but if it’s something that’s scary or undesirable, we avoid it like the plague.  Perhaps that is why so many of us cling to what we know and what is comfortable.

I am one of those people.  I get comfortable and want to stay with what I know.  Even if it makes me unhappy.  I sit and think how different life could be if I would just try something new, but it’s scary so I stay where I am.  Sometimes, however, you get a kick in the butt that forces you to make that change and you go with your heels dug in…. and then you realize that it was something you should have done so much sooner.   Yes, that’s me.  Kicking and fighting and holding on to the door jam until my knuckles turn blue.  And that is where the story begins.

To start with, I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything.  It’s only been a couple of months but when you stop doing what you love, it can seem like forever.  I stopped for several reasons.  It was a time of drudgery and unhappiness and I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything that gave me pleasure.  I was trying to figure out life’s destiny due in part to the untimely death of my brother, due in part to the fact I didn’t want to get up and do what I had done for the last sixteen years….mortgages.  Life wasn’t fun anymore.

My bosses talked to me…they were worried.  My friends and family talked to me.  I talked to myself.  I decided after several conversations and long bouts of thinking that I was going to make a HUGE change and leave my “I knew where I was going everyday” job.  I was going to concentrate on my blog and so the next change was to redo everything to make it more exciting and fun to look at. I went to a food writing seminar and hung out with chefs and other foodie writers and thought I was super cool.  But then I added in food safety courses and menus and decided to take on the catering business.  At this point I am sure my husband thought I had lost my mind and for the first few days I was almost in agreement with him.  But as time wore on and I was doing what I loved and I didn’t have the stress of my job any longer…I realized this was a dream come true and yes, why hadn’t I done this years ago?

But just as you think everything is going right with the world,  along comes another change that slaps you upside the head and wakes you up.  Out of state and only one day into our mini vacation, my husband has a heart attack.  Luckily for both of us, with fortuitous timing and excellent care, everything turned out well with no damage to the heart.  But what a wake up call for both of us!

We had to take a look at our lifestyle, our way of eating and what we were eating.  It was time for another change.  We realized how lucky we were to receive this “second chance” and made the choice to eat smaller portions, heart healthy meals, exercise and even cut down on the wine that we love to enjoy.  Some of it has been easy, and some of it has been a kicking and screaming change.

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One of the fun things is discovering foods that are good for you and still amazingly good to eat.  The day of the heart attack we had eaten that morning at the bed and breakfast we were staying at and they had been so nice to share their granola recipe with me that I had enjoyed with my yogurt.  It was one of the first things I made for my husband to make a change to his breakfast.

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Sometimes changes are good and sometimes not so good.  But it’s all about how we deal with them and how we embrace that change.  I for one am loving life right now and hope that it keeps being as exciting as it’s been the last couple of months.  And I hope you stick with me…together we’ll embrace the storm.

 

Almond Coconut Granola

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 bag (6 ounces) frozen coconut
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 6 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruits I used dried cherries, blueberries, apricots and banana chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. Stir together oats, almonds, coconut, flaxseed, and salt.

  3. Melt butter, oil and honey and cinnamon over low heat.

  4. Pour liquid mixture over oat mixture until well combined.

  5. Spread granola evenly in a large rimmed baking sheet.

  6. Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring halfway through the baking process.

  7. Cool granola in pan on wire rack and stir in dried fruits.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Green TomatoesI grew up in the North where things like okra, hush puppies and fried green tomatoes were a foreign language.  The first time I even heard about fried green tomatoes was when the movie by the same name came out.  I watched it, and I saw the things she was putting on the plates and I wondered at the time why anyone in their right mind would want to eat something like that.  Fried tomatoes?

Living in the south you have to adjust….most times in a good way.  What’s that saying?  When in Rome…..?  I’ve been here long enough that I feel I am a southerner, so when the time came a few years ago and I saw Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu, I had to try them.  Well, either the southern humidity finally got to me or we were on to something good.  Fried Green Tomatoes?  OH YES!

As it usually is in my world, once I like something, I have to try to make it.  And it has must right.  I have tried many recipes but I believe I have finally got one that has become my favorite.  With a few tweaks here and there I have adapted this from Southern Living to a point where I think it’s worth sharing.   It’s got a nice tang, a little spice and a lot of crunch and you can always add a garlic aioli or basil mayonnaise for added enjoyment.

So for you Yankees…..you may have won the war, but you’re missing out on some good eating.   I hope you try this because you will be glad you did.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Course Entree, Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • Canola or Vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine eggs and next 3 ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup all purpose flour and , panko, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pan.
  3. Dredge tomato slices in remaining 1/2 cup flour, dip in egg mixture, and dredge in panko mixture.
  4. Pour oil to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in a large cast iron skillet, heat to 375 degrees. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels or a rack. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt.
  5. (You can keep cooked tomatoes warm at 250 degrees in the oven).

Fantastic Fig Spread

When I was growing up my closest connection to figs were in the Fig Newtons my mom used to buy.  I wasn’t a big fan.

Then came the bunko game a few years ago.  We all brought a dish to share and the only thing I remember from that night of eating was the basket my friend Leigh brought.  It had a small dish of fig jam in it and I don’t recall, but I’m sure I ate the entire thing myself.  I could not believe that was what figs really tasted like.

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After that I became obsessed with figs.  We bought a small fig tree the first year, with no results.  The next year we bought more fig trees and solicited advice from the sales rep.   He knew more than we did apparently, because that year I harvested five figs.  (yes, I did say the number five).  This year, we tried netting, something for the bugs and some fertilizer and we have a bumper crop!  I have so many that I can make Fantastic Fig Spread!

I don’t know where Leigh got this recipe from but I’ve made it before and it truly is fantastic.  In the past when I have made it (from store-bought figs) I have followed the recipe exactly.  This year I opted to add a little orange flavor to it and it was…..dare I say it?…FANTASTIC!!

This is an easy recipe and if you’ve never canned anything before this would be the one to start with.  Give it a try.  You will love it so much that next year you’ll be planting fig trees like I did.

As Ina Garten would say, “How easy is that?”  Enjoy!

Fantastic Fig Spread

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh figs, trimmed and quartered (I would chop a little smaller)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 12 ounces dried figs, stems trimmed and chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest

Note: you can add 2 tablespoons orange zest and 1/2 orange juice to the above ingredients if desired.

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover, and cool overnight.

  2. Stir jam, and bring to a boil over medium-high het. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until jam is thick, stirring often.

  3. Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids: Submerge jars in a large pot filled halfway with simmering water, and lids in a small pot of simmering water. Keep jars and lids in hot water until ready to use.

  4. Remove jars one at a time from hot water and fill with jam, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Seal with lids. Place canning rack or cake rack in bottom of a large pot, and return sealed jars to pot, adding extra water to cover jars by 1 inch, if necessary. Bring water to a boil and boil ten minutes. Remove jars from water and cool completely.

  5. **Once cool, check lids. They won’t have that “pop” in the center. If they do, use them immediately or throw away.

Tomato and Onion Pie

There is nothing better than tomatoes.  I love walking to the garden and picking a sun-kissed tomato off the vine, sprinkle it with a little salt and bite into it, tasting the acidic sweetness and feel the juices run down my chin.  Or, I slice them and place them between two pieces of bread with gobs of mayonnaise.  I purée them into sauce or bake them into a dessert tart tatin.  There are just so many ways to enjoy ripe tomatoes.

And now we have tomato pie.

I remember a few years ago at a girls’ night having my first taste of a tomato pie.  A friend had brought it and I’m ashamed (or happy?)  to say I went back for seconds and wanted thirds, it was that good.  After that night I never really thought of it again unless I’d see a recipe about it.  I would rip it out of the magazine and add it to the stack of “someday I’m going to make this” pile.

This year was different.  From the moment we planted the garden, I decided I was going to make a tomato pie.  Of course every time I thought about it we were eating something else or not at home.  Finally however, last weekend I put my foot down and I made ” The Pie.”

It was like the sun had risen, the stars came out and fireworks lit up the sky.  I don’t think a word was spoken between us because we were just too busy eating.  In fact with my son and husband at the helm, leftovers didn’t exist since the entire pie had been eaten.  This definitely is one of those recipes that you will make over and over and always get rave reviews on.

So, while you’re standing in your garden and feeling the warmth of the sun,  tomato juices running down your chin and staining your shirt, remember to save yourself a few of those tomatoes so you can make a Tomato Pie.  It will be well worth the sacrifice.

Tomato and Onion Pie

Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

PIECRUST

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3-4 Tablespoons ice cold water

(optional- you can add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese)

FILLING

  • 6 or about 2 1/4 pounds large tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 leeks, whites only sliced thin
  • 10 sundried tomatoes chopped
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, and divided
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded, and divided
  • 1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • assorted herbs, minced (basil, thyme, chives, oregano, etc)

Instructions

  1. TO PREPARE PIE CRUST

Process first 4 ingredients in a food processor until mixture resembles a coarse meal. With processor running, gradually add 3 tablespoons ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Process until dough forms a ball and leaves the side of the bowl. Add up to 1 tablespoon more water if necessary. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.

  1. Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness.

  2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Press dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough 1 inch larger than the diameter of the pie plate. Fold overhanging dough under along the rim of the pie plate. Chill 30 more minutes until firm.

  3. Line pie crust with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights and foil. (this will keep the crust from bubbling up) Place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil. Bake 5 minutes or until browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

  4. ***see note below

TO PREPARE FILLING

  1. Place sliced tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand for 15-20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, sauté onions and leeks and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper each in hot oil over medium heat until they are tender and lightly browned.

  3. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Layer tomatoes, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 of the cheese and herbs. Repeat.

  4. Combine the remainder 1/2 cups of cheeses with the mayonnaise and spread over pie.

  5. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes until lightly browned. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

  6. ***note*** for a quicker process you can use refrigerated dough or frozen dough by following package directions.

  7. you can also drizzle pie with a pesto sauce or vinaigrette if desired.

Roasted Beets from the Farmer’s Market

There is really only one reason I will get up early on a Saturday morning and venture out before 9AM.  It’s all about the Farmer’s Markets.  The feeling I have is almost like when I was a child and the fair was coming to town.  The sights, the smells, the people all make the morning of the farmer’s market visit so appealing and so euphoric.  When I leave it I have the feeling I’ve just finished a massage and left behind a very good friend, but I know that they will be there waiting for me the following Saturday, so it’s all okay.

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The market makes it so easy to follow the adage of From Farm To Table.  You walk around and everything is so beautiful, it makes you want to buy the freshest and the healthiest of what you will be eating.  I remember not to long ago my friend Erin and I were at the market and she told me how she loved a roasted beet salad.  I, never being a fan of beets, ended up taking some home and making a roast beet salad.  Both my husband and I became instant beet lovers!

 

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For me, it’s almost like going to an organic mini mall.  You can buy flowers, herbs, homemade breads and cheeses.  There are jewelery vendors, crafts and of course all the freshest vegetables around.  Can it get any better than that?  On our last Saturday outing, my husband said as we were leaving how much fun it was.  And that, my dear friend, is exactly what I’ve been talking about!

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So next Saturday get up early and go to your local Farmer’s Market.

Buy fresh, buy local….and make a roasted beet salad.  From farm to table, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

There are those days where nothing seems to go the way you want them to.  Sometimes the world is caving in around you and all you want is a good book, a blanket, probably a glass of wine and that comfort food you always turn to in times of trouble.  For me, that comfort has always been macaroni and cheese.

It was always one of my favorite meals when i was little.  Maybe because I didn’t like a lot of what my mom would cook, but this was one thing that I really did.  When I went off to school, I didn’t cook myself, so when I wanted to feel like I was home again, I would make that mac and cheese in a box.  Economically delicious, with that touch of home that I needed.

So last weekend, I was seriously thinking macaroni and cheese when my husband suggested we buy a lobster for dinner.  Of course I always love lobster, but I wanted my comfort food.  And then the light bulb went off over my head and I realized I could have my cake and eat it too, or in this case make Lobster Mac and Cheese.   It was delightfully decadent and comfy all at the same time.

There is nothing better than a good book, a blanket and a glass of wine to make me feel better.  Oh yes…and a nice bowl of Lobster Mac and Cheese.   It’s just like a big hug from your mom, telling you that everything will be okay.

And it will.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Prep Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 2 pound lobster or two 1 1/4 lb lobsters
  • 1 pound penne or pasta of your choice
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 cups Gruyere cheese, plus more for topping
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Hot sauce (to taste, I use Frank’s Hot Sauce)
  • Worchestershire sauce, to taste
  • 1/2-1 cup crushed potato chips

Instructions

  1. Cook lobster(s) in boiling salted water approximately 10 minutes. Remove lobster and reserve 1 cup of the water. Discard the rest of the water and allow lobster to cool to room temperature, remove shell and chop lobster meat into large chunks. Set aside.

  2. Add enough salt (I usually add about a palm full of salt) to 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. Drain and set aside.

  3. In the same pot, add the heavy cream. the crushed garlic and the reserved water.. Bring to a simmer and add Gruyère cheese and Dijon mustard, stirring until cheese is well blended. Add cheddar and parmesan and continue stirring until all cheeses have melted and are blended with the cream. Add hot sauce and Worcestershire, adding more for personal taste. Season with salt and white pepper. (you can use black pepper but I don’t like to see the specks in this dish) Add pasta and remove from heat. Let rest for 10-15 minutes. Remove garlic and add lobster meat, stirring to mix.

  4. Place in either a casserole dish or individual au gratin dishes and top with more cheese and crushed potato chips. Heat in oven until bubbly, approximately 15-20 minutes.

  5. Serve immediately.

Potato Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon

Summer is right around the corner and with that comes the parties and picnics and family get-togethers.  And of course you always have to have that proverbial dish to pass.  Most people bring a potato salad.  I have to say I never did because I just didn’t like potato salad.  Potatoes and mayonnaise….not what I would call an appetizing combination.

Now I have to eat my words…or potato salad in this case.   I’ve had this recipe for such a long time,  I want to be honest and tell you I don’t really remember where I copied it from.  Perhaps it was from a Southern Living magazine?  I know it sounded good at the time which is probably why I wrote it down in the first place, but it was potato salad and therefore, it was filed and forgotten.  I have since pulled it out and made it several times and wondered,  how is it I never liked potato salad?!

This salad has an amazing punch of flavor.  You know the potatoes are there, they enhance the salad.  And yet, they hang back and it’s okay they aren’t the only star in the dish.  They share the limelight, and they’re fine with it.  Every bite seems to taste a bit of savory, tangy, crunch and creamy.  It’s made a potato salad believer out of me.

So bring on the picnics and the family get-together.  I have the proverbial pass the dish potato salad that will be the star of the party.

Potato Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds baby red potatoes or fingerling potatoes, cut i half
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (I use an Applewood thick sliced bacon)

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to 350 to 400 degrees. (medium high heat) Place potatoes in a single layer in center of a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring up foil sides over the potatoes, double fold top and side edges to seal.

  2. Grill potatoes in foil packet, covered with grill lid, 15 minutes each side. Remove packet from grill. Carefully open packet, using tongs, and let potatoes cool 5 minutes.

  3. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl, add potatoes, tossing gently to coat. Stir in onion, blue cheese and bacon.

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