Monday, November 1, 2010

Butternut Lasagne

Today I am revisiting a recipe from last year. This was the one I was so excited about that I made it 3 times in one month, which I wouldn't recommend because it took a whole year to get to the point where I wanted it again. And now that I've had it for dinner and leftovers, I am anxious to make it again.....but I really don't want to burn out again, so I will wait.

But seriously, this is good. Really good. This time I made a few changes - I added a layer of spinach and also grated some onion into the bechamel. I just love the sweet roasted squash mixed with the savory browned sausage and veggies. If you have the time, make this! I made the butternut puree and browned the sausage the night before to cut down on my time in the kitchen during the day, when elusive crawling baby tends to get out of eyesight and chews on shoes or video game cords.

Butternut and Sausage Lasagna


1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
Freshy grated nutmeg
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
4 tablespoons butter
2 T. grated onion
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
10-12 leaves fresh sage, very thinly sliced
1 box no boil, flat edged lasagna sheets
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup other sauteed veggies (spinach, mushrooms, eggplant, etc.)


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Drizzle squash with a little EVOO and season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Roast cut-side down until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool enough to handle, then scoop flesh out of skin and add to food processor. Puree squash with stock and brown sugar, in 2 batches if necessary, and reserve.

Heat a drizzle of EVOO in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage, crumbling it into very small bits as it cooks, about 7-8 minutes.

While the sausage cooks, heat a pot over medium heat. Add butter and grated onion until melty and fragrant. Whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper, a little freshly grated nutmeg and the sage. Cook until thickened, about 7-8 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Spread about 1/3 white sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish then add a layer of pasta. Top with the cooked sausage and cover with 1/2 of the butternut puree and some Parmigiano. Cover with another layer of pasta, butternut sauce, other veggie of choice and Parmigiano. Add the last layer of pasta, remaining white sauce and more Parm cheese. Cover with foil and bake lasagna about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes or more to brown the top.

And now I want to give a product shout out of the day. This is a picture of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix (I threw the box away before thinking about taking a picture of it, but you can find it in huge quantities right next to the other bread and muffin mixes). It was so easy to make - just add eggs, oil and water. Y U M. Just yum.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bloody Eyeballs

Halloween Week is here and I love it!! We are trying to eat Halloween-y all week so here is what we made last night. They came out so cute and the boys loved calling their dinner "bloody eyeballs" with questions like this all through dinner: Where did you get the bloody eyeballs mom? The graveyard? Mmmm...these bloody eyeballs are really yummy. Is there blood inside? Let me check. Are these eyballs sitting on top of brains? Mmmm, I love to eat brains.

Okay so super easy recipe which is perfect for this hectic week. I'm sure everyone has their favorite meatball recipe, so use that or feel free to use mine. Thank you to Monica at for inspiration!!

Bloody Eyballs (Turkey Meatballs in Sauce)

1 1/2 jars spaghetti sauce
1 pkg. ground turkey

1/4 c. chicken broth
1 egg
2 T grated onion
1 t. minced garlic (or a frozen cube from TJ's)
3 T. parmesan
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each salt & pepper
1 T. fresh chopped basil (or 2 frozen cubes from TJ's)

Mix broth through basil until well blended. Then add turkey and gently fold with your hands until it is evenly mixed. Make into meatballs.

First put the sauce in the pan, about halfway up. Add an olive to each raw meatball, pushing it down a bit. Plop them in the sauce and voila! Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. It's actually much simpler than the browning process I do for regular meatballs.

Nom nom!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

My parents were here helping me out while Tall Guy was away on a business trip the past 5 days. I really don't think I could have gotten through that time without them here. Seriously. Even with all three of us, taking care of these kids and their messes sometimes seems like shoveling the driveway while its snowing. The good part though, is that when the grandparents are here, kids hone in on the fact that any pleads to read a book, play tickle monster, "jungle", puzzles, Transformers or even "night soccer" will be happily obliged. So, thanks again Mom and Dad. We are already missing you!

With the extra arms in the house, I had some free time for a little cooking and decided to make some pumpkin ravioli in honor of Halloween Week. I actually used Kabocha Squash, which has a dense pumpkin texture and sweet flavor when roasted. I looked at some recipes, but ended up just eyeballing the filling mixture. I was really happy with the way it turned out and I think everyone else enjoyed it too! The picture does not do it justice - these early dark nights are bad for photography!

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

1 Sugar Pumpkin or Kabocha Squash
1 T. olive oil
2 T brown sugar
salt/pepper to taste

1 small container Ricotta cheese
1 clove minced garlic
2 T. grated onion
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 T. chopped herbs (basil/thyme/parsley)

1 package wonton wrappers

1 stick butter
12-15 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
squeeze of lemon

Heat oven to 400. Cut squash in half horizontally, drizzle with oil, salt, pepper and rub in the brown sugar. Roast on baking sheet, cut side down, for about 30-40 minutes, or until very tender. Scoop out flesh into a bowl and mash down until the lumps are gone.

Add ricotta, parmesan, egg, onion, garlic, brown sugar and salt/pepper and mix until smooth.

Lay out the wontons on a large work surface and add about a teaspoon of the filling to each. Use water to seal the wrappers in half, taking care not to squish the filling out the sides. Really press down the edges!!

Okay, so now you are ready to roll. Get that water boiling.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once it is all melted, add the sage and cook on high until the butter is brown and the sage is crispy. Turn off heat. Add the squeeze of lemon juice and stir in.

Gently place the raviolis into boiling water. Watch close, you only want to warm them up. Once they rise to the top and get a bit translucent, about 2-3 minutes, take them out with a slotted spoon right onto your serving plate. Add the sauce.

Get ready for a party in your mouth (as Giada would say)!

This makes a TON of ravioli. I only boiled half and also had a bunch of leftover filling. The rest is now in the freezer ready for another gourmet meal. Hopefully Tall Guy will appreciate that when I pull it out next week!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Banana Bread

I don't have any stories about this recipe except that it comes from my mom and that I've been eating it for 30+ years. Sometimes perfection does not need to be messed with! (Oh, okay, I DID add the cinnamon to her recipe because I LOVE cinnamon!!) Thanks, mom. Someday we will get that cookbook put together!

Best Banana Bread (my mom's recipe)

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs well beaten
2 cups flour
1/2 t. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sour milk (add 1 tsp vinegar to milk)
1 cup banana pulp (about 2 large bananas)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and beat well.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
4. Stir in dry ingredients alternately with sour milk and banana pulp. Don't overmix.
5. Stir in nuts.
6. Bake in greased loaf pan for 50-60 minutes.

For 4 mini loaves, bake for 25 minutes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Risotto Cakes

It's a rare day when we actually have leftover risotto, but today happens to be that day. I've had these little puppies on the back of my mind for quite some time after seeing them on a recent episode of The Next Iron Chef. Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside....delish.

I did not follow a recipe so here is what I did:

Risotto Cakes

Leftover Mushroom Risotto (it was about 2 cups)
1 egg
2 T. flour
2 T. Parmesan
1 T. grated onion
1/2 clove minced garlic
salt/pepper to taste

Mix everything together and form patties. Fry in oil until the sides are crispy and brown, about 5 minutes per side. Serve hot*!

* Because of the baby, I usually try to cook dinner during the day when she is asleep, so I cooked these in the morning and plan to re-heat in the oven and serve them with Chicken Piccata and a green salad. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Adventures in my Kitchen

Hey I've been cooking, really. Here's proof:

This is a little late night snack I made for our "date night" at the Dave Matthews Band concert a couple weeks ago (first night out together since the birth of our daughter.....5 months ago!). I ran out of time and did not get a picture of the finished sandwich, but it was incredibly yummy. I still think about it! I roasted eggplant and red peppers at 450 for 25 minutes with olive oil, salt & pepper. Carmelized the onions in a saute pan with a half teaspoon of sugar (to hasten things up) for about 20 minutes. I added goat cheese and fresh basil to this awesome roasted veggie sandwich on whole wheat!

Tried this new recipe called an Upside Down Pizza. Basically layered meat sauce, broccoli, mozzarella and pizza dough on top. It was quite tasty but probably more work than it was worth and harder to eat than the real right-side-up edition. Also, the kids saw the green layer and decided to snub their noses. Erg!

Here is shiny fresh tomato sauce straight from the garden! I had about 6 tomatoes sitting on the counter and decided this was the day I would finally try a fresh tomato sauce. Blanched and peeled the tomatoes first. Sauteed onion, garlic & red pepper flakes until soft, added chopped tomatoes, basil and salt. Simmered for half hour over low heat. Sweet and tangy goodness! The picture is very early on in the turned into a nice red-orange chunky sauce. Added fresh basil, extra salt and olive oil to finish.

And finally, my second time making a green chile enchilada entirely from scratch. I made the green sauce the day before, roasting green hatch chiles then peeling, seeding and chopping them for the sauce. Inside the corn tortillas are shredded poached chicken and jack cheese. I LOVE the clean fresh taste of the sauce and think this simple recipe from a recent local paper is a keeper!

If anyone wants this recipe, please comment and I will post it.

See, I told you I was still cooking. I also made Martha Stewart's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars that were dense, balanced and incredibly addicting! Bon Apetit...until next time. -Deanna

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alevropita (Feta Tart)

Hi again, it's me, trying to touch base with my neglected blog. I am super excited and wanted to share this recipe I found in my new August issue of Saveur magazine called "The Greece Issue." I am really looking forward to trying more of the recipes because they all look fabulous. This tart was super easy to make and delish! The olive oil in the bottom of the pan gives it a nice crispy crust and the charred feta is both creamy and tangy. Although this was lovely as is, I think that it can be played around time I might add some oregano or diced olives.

I love Saveur because it is not just a recipe magazine, but contains many stories about world travel centered around food. Each and every time I find the time to sit down and read, it ignites my fire to someday experience this kind of travel and get to the heart of a different culture by way of food. This particular dish was described by the writer as coming into the taverna after a morning of hiking the hills above a small village and finding her Greek hostess offering this straight from the oven. She found that the alevropita "might as well have been sent down by gods from Mount Olympus - nourishing, elemental and satisying to the soul." I heartily agree and all I did today was change diapers and pick up toys (not quite hiking the hills above a quaint Greek village - but oh well!)

I made this along with some baked chicken and a Greek salad for dinner, thinking the kids would not touch it, but they loved it and asked for seconds!! Give it a try as a side dish or appetizer...yum!!


6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. vodka
1 egg
1 1⁄4 cups flour, sifted
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄8 tsp. baking powder
10 oz. feta, crumbled
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1. Heat oven to 500°. Put an 18" x 13" x 1" rimmed baking sheet into oven for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tbsp. oil, vodka, egg, and 1 cup water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.

3. Brush remaining oil over bottom of hot pan and add batter, smoothing batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary. Distribute cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Monkey Bread

Mmmmmmm...this recipe came to fruition due to my recent obsession with clipping coupons and saving tons of money on groceries. I found a great deal on the Sunday SF Chronicle just for the purpose of getting those extra coupons. I've been reading the Contra Costa Times for so long, that I forgot the Chronicle has a food section on Sundays....BONUS!

Love love love how this turned was not your basic muffin recipe where you whip it up in a few minutes, but well worth the effort. I've always been a little scared of yeast for some seems so mysterious. All that foamy business, and then waiting around for the dough to rise and stuff. Luckily the recipe was very precise (and long-winded) for newbies like me. Here it is verbatim:

Monkey Bread

Instant yeast streamlines yeasted baking because you don't need to "proof" it by first dissolving the yeast it in water, then waiting for tiny bubbles to appear on the surface. The rising times are also shorter. This bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but can be prepared a day ahead (see instructions).

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast ( 1/4-ounce packet)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the dough: Using a rubber spatula or whisk, thoroughly combine 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast, salt, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside.

In a small heavy saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter melts (150°-160° on a candy thermometer). Remove from the heat; add 1/4 cup cold water and set aside until the milk-butter mixture cools to 120°-130°, about 1 minute. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and mix well with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Attach the bowl and the flat paddle attachment to the mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add 1 egg and mix just until incorporated, stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Repeat with the second egg, then add the vanilla. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup more flour and resume mixing on low speed until smooth, about 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons additional flour and raise the mixer to medium speed for about 45 seconds, or until the dough is smooth, still soft and slightly sticky.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with 1 tablespoon flour. Place dough in the center of the flour-dusted area. Knead the dough gently for about 1 minute, or until it is smooth and still just slightly sticky; add additional flour (1 to 2 tablespoons) only if necessary. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place (75° to 80°) until it is about 1 1/2 times its original size, 45 to 60 minutes. (No need to grease the bowl since covering it with plastic wrap keeps the dough surface moist.) The dough is ready if an indentation remains when touched.

For the coating: Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Reserve the butter in a separate bowl. Assembly: Lightly spray or grease a 10- to 12-cup nonstick tube or Bundt pan. Gently push down the dough to deflate it, divide it in half, then divide each half into 17 equal-size pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Coat each ball in melted butter, then roll in the spicy sugar mixture. Arrange the balls in the prepared pan, layering them evenly on top of each other. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour, or until about 1 1/2 times in size.

To bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375° at least 30 minutes before baking. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cover the pan with a serving plate and invert the bread onto it. Carefully lift the pan off the bread. Let the bread cool for 15 to 30 minutes to serve warm, or let cool even longer (up to 6 hours) to serve at room temperature.

To do ahead: Up to 24 hours before baking, prepare the dough as directed up to the point of assembly. Gently deflate the dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use, but remove from the refrigerator at least one hour before assembly to let dough come to room temperature. Continue assembly and baking as directed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chicken Marbella

It's funny how convoluted life can be.....all these twisty roads that somehow always bring us back to what we love to do the most. For me one of those things is cooking (the other is pool, which I happen to be starting back up tonight!!) So while we have a precious new addition in our family and schedules have changed dramatically, I am determined to keep doing the things I love so that I can stay a happy mama.

Lately the adventurous and time consuming meals have been far and few between, but I finally feel that I am slowly able to try new recipes while the little one is sleeping happily in her swing. Most of the work on this one is making the marinade the night before, and then a little basting while it cooks. I served it with a salad and roasted red potatoes. YUM!

I love the combination of sweet, salty and tangy in this chicken. I found it in People magazine touted as Matt Lauer's favorite recipe that he's eaten on the Today show. I really liked the subtle meditteranean flavors of the olives, capers and prunes mixed together with oregano and wine. Give it a try if you are feeling like something a little different!

Chicken Marbella


1 whole chicken, 5 lbs. cut into 8 pieces
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and pureed
2 T. dried oregano
2 T. coarse salt
2 T. ground pepper
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/4 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
1 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T. fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

1. Combine chicken, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes olives, capers and bay leaves in a large bowl. Cover and marinate in fridge overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Place chicken in large, shallow pan and spoon marinade over it evenly.

4. Pour white wine over the chicken, and sprinkle with brown sugar.

5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, basting frequently with pan juices.

6. Transfer chicken, prunes olives and capers to serving platter with a slotted spoon. Moisten with pan juices and sprinkle with parsley or cilantro.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

All of us have colds here and I thought some old fashioned comfort food would hit the spot right about now. I remember visiting my grandma during my childhood and one of the dinners she would always make was Chicken and Dumplings.....the fluffy doughy biscuits floating at the top would try to melt away if I didn't gobble them up first. And then the thick stew filled with chicken and other tidbits would be next down the hatch. If there was any left, seconds were usually not out of the question. I remember her process was an all afternoon affair. She boiled the whole the chicken first while making her own stock, and then picked the meat off the bones for the soup. I'm sure that is what made it so special.

What's great about this recipe is that it takes literally 25 minutes tops and is so tasty and satisfying. I even had that flashback moment like in the movie Ratatouille, where Ego, the nasty food critic, tastes the dish and is sucked back in time to when he was a kid. Isn't that what food is about anyways? Making memories with your family and enjoying each other's company? It always amazes me what tastes and smells can bring me right back to being a kid.

Give this a try before the warm weather won't be disappointed and may even add it to your winter menu rotation like I am going to do!

Chicken and Dumplings by Rachael Ray


1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into small bite size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 turn of the pan
2 tablespoons butter
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced or thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, (I also added 1/4 t. dried thyme)
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart chicken broth or stock, canned or paper container
2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup milk
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas

Dice tenders into bite size pieces and set aside. Wash hands.
Place a large pot on stove over medium high heat. Add oil, butter, vegetables and bay leaf and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season mixture with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Add flour to the pan and cook 2 minutes. Stir broth or stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken to the broth and stir.
Place biscuit mix in a bowl. Combine with 1/2 cup milk and parsley until a dough consistency forms. Drop tablespoonfuls of prepared mix into the pot, spacing dumplings evenly. Cover pot tightly and reduce heat to medium low. Steam dumplings 8 to 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir chicken and dumplings to thicken sauce a bit. Stir peas into the pan, remove chicken and dumplings from heat and serve in shallow bowls.