A New Squash Appreciation

When I was a little girl and was given squash for dinner, I had a couple of different ideas on how to handle this undesirable vegetable.  None of them included eating it.  I either dropped it on the floor for the dog to eat, left it on my plate until it was much to cold to eat or my favorite was to mix it with cranberry sauce and pretend I was eating peanut butter and jelly.  I said it was my favorite idea, just not a good tasting one.

Over the years, I tried in vain to acquire a taste for it.  I would think I liked the way it was prepared but when I ate it or tried to make it myself it had that same appeal that it had when I was a child.  I felt I would never grow to like squash, in any form.

Lately, however, I have been venturing out and a desire for different types of squash is burning.  I have had it pan-fried in hash and roasted in soups.  When I was at the market the other day, I went totally out of the box and picked up a spaghetti squash.  I didn’t even know how I was going to prepare it, but I knew I was going to do something!

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Imagine the odds when a couple of days later I came across this recipe from Half Baked Harvest’s blog for Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.  I immediately went out, bought my ingredients and prepared my version of her recipe.

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I was totally amazed!  This had everything I loved about lasagna but was made with squash.  Could it be?  Could I actually have found a squash that I really loved?  I think the answer was a big yes.  I can’t really call this a healthy meal because of the cheese in it, but I do have to say it’s slightly better than eating a dish of lasagna.  Squash versus pasta equals a healthy alternative, so we have a partial win with this one.

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To make this easier if you’re in a pinch you can always use your favorite jarred sauce and for the cheese sauce, just layer parmesan and mozzarella cheese as you would in the traditional recipe.  If you do have the time however, go all out and do it as the recipe states.  It is so worth it.

Take it from a former squash hater.  This is one recipe you’ll keep!

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Apple Cider Gravy

There are always those times when you want something easy but a bit more than a soup and sandwich.  Maybe it’s mid-week busy night or a Saturday evening with friends.  And of course it has to turn out right every time.

In conjunction with my last post this Crispy Chicken Thigh recipe from Bon Appétit goes very well with the Farro Risotto.  I have made this chicken several times and it comes out perfect every time.  If you aren’t confident in the kitchen you can still pull this off looking like a pro and the flavors will make everyone think you spent all day in the kitchen.

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The sauce is interchangeable.  If you don’t want it as sweet, use a tart apple and add more mustard.  It is really all about what you like.  Just have fun with it.  You can start with the basics of what I’ve given you and make it your own.  This is the reason I love cooking so much.

Have fun and invite friends over.  Let them think you worked all day.  Share what you love because this is what it is all about.

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Apple Cider Gravey

Course Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs about 2 1/4 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup apple jelly
  • 2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons apple brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

Instructions

  1. Heat apple cider over medium high heat and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until reduced by half and thickened. Set aside to cool.

  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Season chicken wit salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12″ cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Nestle chicken in skillet, skin side down, and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium high; continue cooking skin side down, occasionally rearranging chicken thighs and rotating pan to evenly distribute heat, until fat renders and skin is golden brown, about 12 minutes.

  3. Transfer skillet to oven and cook 13 minutes. Flip chicken; continue cooking until skin crisps and meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate; let rest 5 minutes before serving.

  4. In the meantime, combine 2 Tablespoons of the apple cider (reserve remainder for another use), 2/3 cup apple jelly, Dijon mustard, apple brandy and grated ginger in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

  5. Pour over chicken and serve.

The Best Meatloaf

Meatloaf.  We all have our favorites.  The funny thing is our favorite is typically the one we make ourselves.  If someone makes a meatloaf, it’s always the best and you can’t tell them any different.  I have to include myself in that segment of the population.  My husband and I each have our own meatloaf recipe and of course we each think ours, individually,  is the best.

Until last night that is.  We have thrown away our respective recipes and we now have the best meatloaf recipe.  Ev-VER-rrrrr!  Well, in our own humble opinion, that is.

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Meatloaf is as subjective a topic as a macaroni and cheese recipe.  We all have that recipe that our mom made, one that has passed down through the generations, or even one that we have created ourselves based on what we like and don’t like to add in.  There is not one recipe that is exactly the same as someone else’s.  Meatloaf is a personal odyssey of originality and taste, a symphony of meats, cheeses and vegetables.  That is why we all love it and we all love the one we make ourselves.

This particular recipe, adapted from a show I saw on the Food Network, was in a category of the best eaten comfort foods. The meatloaf had been selected by Ina Garten  from Tavern 1770..  Since it was meatloaf it seemed almost mandatory that I make my own personal stamp on it, and so I did.

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Although my husband thoroughly coated his with a layer of ketchup, we both agreed that this was the best we had ever made or had.  I will, however, have to be understanding of the fact you may not agree with our opinion..  You may not even want to try this recipe because you might still hold on to the fact that yours is the best….and perhaps it is.  But I would challenge you to give this a try….just for something different.  It’s full of flavor, moist and hearty all at the same time. And,  I can assure you, that while you may not think it’s the “best” in your home,  you will still want to keep it as a really good back-up.

Be forewarned, the next time someone asks me if I have a good recipe for meatloaf, I am going to say yes.  Yes, I actually do have the best meatloaf recipe.

The Best Meatloaf

Course Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground veal (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 pound ground pork (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 3 large eggs (preferably organic)
  • 1 1/3 cups finely ground Panko
  • 2/3 cup whole milk I used goat's milk
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery finely diced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 8-10 roasted garlic cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Place the veal, pork, beef, chives, thyme, parsley, eggs, Panko, milk, roasted garlic, Pecorino Romano, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat and film it with extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the celery and onion to the pan and cook, stirring until softened. When the mixture is cooled, add it to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl.

  4. Using clean hands, mix the ingredients until well combined and everything is evenly distributed. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high.

  5. Place the meat on the sheet pan and pat it and punch it down to reduce any air pockets. Shape the meat into a loaf (about 14 1/2 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches high.)

  6. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a meat thermometer indicates an internal temperature of 155 to 160 degrees. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile for the sauce, combine the broth, roasted garlic cloves and butter over medium-high heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly thickened. Add 1 teaspoon each of the chopped chives, parsley and thyme.

  8. Slice the meatloaf and place pieces in the sauce for 3 to 4 minutes. Place on serving plates and top with sauce.

Rowena’s Jam, My Pork

Sometimes you think that it’s going to be just a standard dinner but it ends up being one of those dinners when you want to lick the plate.  I had such an experience the other night.

It started off with our usual discussion on what we were going to have for dinner.  We had driven all afternoon from my daughter’s house and honestly I really didn’t want to do any cooking.  My husband suggested a pork tenderloin we had in the freezer so reluctantly I agreed.  My mind was spinning for the rest of the drive home on how I could make this semi appealing.  I remembered I had a jar of Peach, Orange and Clove jam from ROWENA’S KITCHEN.  I could probably do something with that.

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It didn’t begin well.  I opened the jar and the scent of clove was quite apparent.  I love cloves, but my husband does not.  He doesn’t even like the smell.  I had to make sure that it wasn’t going to be the predominant factor or I would never hear the end of it.   I added a bit of this and a little of that and to my delight when he stopped by the stove and stuck his nose in the pot, his only comment was “that smells delicious!”  And it was!  We poured it over the grilled pork and our easy no fuss meal turned into a pork devouring, plate licking event.

This was so good and it made our bland little pork tenderloin so much more appealing.  I would also recommend basting a ham with this, or pouring it on the ham after.  I think it would still end up with the same clean plate results the pork had.

Try it and I bet you’ll lick the plate too.

Rowena's Jam, My Pork

Prep Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon jamacian jerk seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 jar (9 oz) ROWENA’S PEACH, ORANGE AND CLOVE JAM
  • 1/4 cup dijion mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons rum
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to 350-400 degrees. Remove silver skin and excess fat from tenderloins. Brush tenderloins with oil and rub with jamacian jerk seasoning, salt and pepper.

  2. Grill tenderloins, covered with grill lid, 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 155 degrees. Remove from grill and let stand 10 minutes.

  3. While tenderloin is on the grill, combine ROWENA’S jam, dijion mustard, ginger, and rum and heat on medium heat until mixture thickens slightly. Season to taste with a pinch of salt and pepper.

  4. Slice pork and place on serving dish. Pour sauce over pork.

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