My stuffed squash comes with quite the story, as so many of my recipes do! The flavors for this dish are sweet, tart, rich, and perfect to prepare for a brunch gathering with your best group of storytellers.
The story behind this recipe is a long one, but considering I survived, I am compelled to tell it!
On a trip that started in Russia, continued through Denmark, and ended in the UK, Sue and I found ourselves on a day trip to visit the city of Cork in Ireland.
The main attraction in Cork is the Blarney Stone, which we set of to see amid a swarm of fellow tourists. We arrived at the Blarney Castle, which is a tower that some describe as majestic or looming, depending on your mood. After traveling up the very narrow (I mean EXTREMELY narrow), four-story, windowless, and very claustrophobic staircase, Sue coaxed me through my one and only panic attack. I hadn’t even known I was claustrophobic until I met Blarney Castle.
When we finally burst out of the tower and onto the top of the castle, we found ourselves still in the queue to finally kiss the stone. Tradition has it that in order to receive the gift of eloquence, one has to bend over backwards to kiss the stone.
This means lowering your head (backwards!) from the parapet walk over an opening in the tower that leads all the way down to the ground below. There were two very, very young and scrawny teens that were on either side of the hole in the floor – to make sure you don’t fall through, but they were not enough to persuade me.
Needless to say, after narrowly escaping death in the tower (a bit of an exaggeration), I sprinted past Sue and that stone, down the castle’s back stairs, and found my way to the closest pub. I took refuge in a pint and comfort in a dish called Cheshire Pie, which combines chunky pork and sautéed apples in a flaky crust.
My recipe for stuffed acorn squash is a twist on that pie (minus the flaky crust). The flavors are sweet, tart, and rich. It’s super for a mid-week meal and awesome for a brunch gathering.
Actually, it’s a pretty perfect dish if you are just in need of a bit of calm after the storm!!
Apple, Sausage and Cheddar Stuffed Acorn Squash
30 – 40 minutes
For Squash: 2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
For Stuffing: 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 small onion, peeled and diced 1 small poblano pepper, seeded and diced 1 pound mild Italian sausage 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced 1 teaspoon apple pie spice ½ teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated, about 1 cup Sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400°. Drizzle the cut side of the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with apple pie spice. Place the squash, cut-side-down into a baking pan. Bake until the squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion and pepper and cook until the veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until brown and crumbly, about 5 minutes more.
Add the apples to the pan. Season with 1 more teaspoon apple pie spice and some of the salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese. Pull the baking dish from the oven. Turn the squash so they are cut side up. Stuff the squash with the apple-sausage filling.
Place the dish back into the oven and cook until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more. Garnish the stuffed squash with a dollop of sour cream.
Don’t mean to hassle you…I’ve got your hasselback – so many puns, so little time as we run out the clock on fall and celebrate Thanksgiving THIS THURSDAY! Having considered all the sides that might possibly grace the turkey, here’s what I want to share with you this week: the art of hasslebacking!
Some may ask, what the heck is a hassleback potato? I thought hassleback was that woman who left The View a few years back.
Nope, it’s a legitimate cooking technique and sooooo tasty!
The method of thinly slicing – but not all the way through – and marinating the nooks and crannies in between, with all kinds of luscious and savory flavors was invented the same year I was born.
Hasselback potatoes or Potato à la Hasselbacken was Leif Ellison’s creation. It was 1953 in Sweden, and he was a trainee chef at restaurant Hasselbacken in Stockholm. You can actually buy a hasslebacking kitchen gadget, but carefully making slices with a large knife is just as effective.
More than just potatoes, the hassleback method works with butternut squash, apples, pears and carrots.
Go online, and you can make Bon Appetite’s AWESOME butternut squash recipe, which is an incredibly good side for the Thanksgiving table. I also find when hasslebacking carrots, that sriracha and cinnamon work well in the cracks.
I’m sure your Thanksgiving will be an utter delight, no matter what. Wishing you a happy gobble gobble day, and sharing this book signing event with my Charlotte friends before signing off. I will be at Park Road Books on Black Friday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on November 29th. Come by and see me when you’re done shopping 🙂
Hassleback Sweet Potatoes
with Honey, Pecans & Goat Cheese
10 minutes to prep and up to 1 hour to bake
4 sweet potatoes, skins peeled
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup Orange Blossom honey
4 to 6 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Juice of a naval orange
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel 4 sweet potatoes, cutting off the rough ends.
Make slices all along the sweet potato as shown in the photo.
In a separate bowl, whisk together cinnamon, honey, butter, orange juice and salt. Drizzle the mixture into the slices of each sweet potato.
Using a cheese spreader or small spoon put a dollop (or two!) of goat cheese into each incision on the sweet potato. Garnish the insides of the sweet potatoes with chopped pecans.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the sweet potatoes can be easily poked with a fork.
Optional: add whip cream to each potato before serving.
This was so going to be a post about Thanksgiving side dishes…. And then… I had the blessing of having both granddaughters join me on what happened to be National Bread Day this Sunday.
Mallory, 13 and Bookie, 2 have a huge age difference between them, but share a common love for me – reminds me of Sally Field in Soapdish and that line, “they really, really love me!…”
Here’s how making our precious memories together went down. I was looking for something to write about for Monday’s blog, and Mallory inspired me by her quest to bake something. She was looking for edible cookie dough or at the very least, a chocolate cookie skillet.
But Jorj.com just posted a bunch of cookie stuff….soooo, we decided on baking bread instead. Thanks to just placing an order with Carolina Ground, and having a lot of flour on hand, we had an absolute blast.
We baked my recipe, A Tale of Two Loves from Canvas and Cuisine and swirled the bread with a layer of my last jar of highly coveted apple butter.
Totally worth it!
Sweet Mallory spent hours with Brooke in between dough rises, and sweet Brooke abandoned her nap to rise to the grown-girl challenge. Does it get any better than this? I’m not sure. Coming into Thanksgiving, this is what I give thanks for. And I hope you cherish your family moments too.
Oh, and P.S. When you bake this bread, feel free to add a tablespoon of your favorite spice mix to the flour, like apple pie spice, gingerbread spice, or pumpkin pie spice!
A Tale of Two Loaves
makes 2 yummy loaves
20 minute cuisine, plus 2 hours to rise and 30 minutes to bake
2 cups milk, warmed on the stove top
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 ½ cups white or whole-wheat bread flour
2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir the beaten egg into the warm milk. Stir in the sugars. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Place the melted butter, salt and whole-wheat flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the wet ingredients. Stir, on slow to medium speed, until the flour and milk are combined. Add the all-purpose flour, about ½ cup at a time gradually increasing the speed of the mixer to form a soft, wet dough. This process will take you about 5 minutes. Once the dough wraps around the hook, continue mixing until you have a smooth, shiny ball of dough wrapped around the dough hook, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1 ½ hours to rise. I use my warming drawer set on the proof setting for this.
Coat 2 (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch) loaf pans with vegetable oil. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If the pans are larger, your dough may not rise. If your pans are smaller, the dough may not cook properly.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Punch the dough down and shape into two round loaves. Place each loaf into a pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 to 45 minutes. If you are adding mix-ins into your loaf, now is the time. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board. Fold in your favorite items. (Mine is a brushing of melted butter with cinnamon and brown sugar.) Shape the dough into a loaf and continue with the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread until the tops are golden and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
This is breaking news! Did you know the pumpkin puree you got at the grocery store is NOT pumpkin? Apparently, it is a combination of all types of squash. WHO KNEW? I feel betrayed, lied-to, conspired against! Well, not really. The canned stuff is still pretty good, and has been a staple for all my pumpkin treats for as long as I can remember.
Now, you can make your own puree, from your very own pumpkins, but this seems just a little bit too over-the top for me.
So…. BRING IT ON, SQUASH… I can take it! Let’s open a can of puree and dive right in, shall we? I CANNOT WAIT, as home baked bread is a real holiday treat for me! I remember my early days in the catering business. Our signature corporate holiday baskets included at least one mini-loaf of pumpkin quick bread.
We baked hundreds of these each season. But I also love yeast bread, especially when it is laced with a bit of sweetness. I’ve told you the story of Sammy’s favorite “Sammy Bread”, a loaf of sour dough bread, sweetened with cinnamon-sugar and frosted with a sugary glaze. We look forward to placing a loaf in our basket every week from the Farmer’s Market.
I recreated it at home, with a can of fake pumpkin puree, wink wink. It’s SO YUMMY, toasted and slathered with butter, or battered and fried ala French toast. Use leftovers to create a toasted crouton for your bowl of ice cream, or as the lead ingredient in custardy pumpkin bread pudding.
But first, make this bread – it’s a recipe born of two cravings: pumpkin bread and cinnamon bread, married together in the sweetest fall recipe you could possibly imagine.
With Hazelnuts and Chocolate
Yield 1 loaf, about 12 slices
2 ½ hours before you can eat the bread!
¼ cup maple syrup, room temperature
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 ¼ cups bread flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
Pour the maple syrup into a measuring cup. Sprinkle with yeast. Add I cup warm water. Allow the yeast to bloom (foam) about 10 to 15 minutes.
Whisk together the flours, nuts, chocolate, spices and salt in a large bowl.
Place the pumpkin into a bowl. Whisk in the bloomed yeast. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to bring the dough together. Sprinkle your work surface with a generous amount of flour. Pour (the sticky) dough onto the flour and knead the dough until it comes together, and no flour shows through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic wrap and move to a warm place to rise for 1 hour. I use the warming drawer on the proof setting for this.
After an hour, remove the dough from its cozy hide-out and use a spatula to fold the dough onto itself while your turn the bowl, about 8 to 10 turns. Cover again with plastic and move the bowl back to the warm place to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat an 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch with vegetable oil spray. Use a spatula to transfer the (still pretty sticky) dough to the loaf pan. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 31 to 40 minutes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! I just can’t get enough of Fall Festival time in the mountains. There is a festival weekend for October Fest (with sausages and kraut), one for Wooley Worms (these furry insects race UP a tight rope!), one for pumpkin patches and corn mazes, one whole month dedicated to the Wizard of Oz and my personal favorite, a festival dedicated to apples!
The Valle Country Fair in Banner Elk is such a place. I visited on a cool, crisp autumn day where my breath blew out steam, and my hands were shoved into my pockets. I didn’t shiver long.
As soon as my gal pals and I walked into the fair, we beelined for the home made apple cider station and helped ourselves to a heaping cup of warm cider. It’s produced the old-fashioned way using a wooden press and aluminum wash bowls to collect the juice.
After that we wandered through the rows of craft booths spying everything from hand carved wooden bowls and cutting boards, to personalized nursery rhyme music CD’s, to gourds turned into Santa faces, to ceramic treasures like those of Triple C Pottery where I bought a set of the cutest bowls…
But, the absolute best, longest wait in line, and most expensive item at the fair is a fresh, warm jar of apple butter, lovingly prepared by the members of the church in huge, steaming pots over wood fires.
The cinnamon-gingery aroma lures you to the booth, where you queue up to spend $8 a jar. Along the way, you make new friends, exchange recipes and meet a guy with a chicken hat on his head (the legs move up and down!) You are only allowed several jars of the golden apple butter, and I usually max out the limit.
Apple butter is terrific on a warm biscuit, sensational on banana bread, exceptional as a condiment alongside roasted pork and delicioso in my apple butter cake that I dedicate to the hard-working church members and schoolteachers of Holy Cross Episcopal Church.
1 to 2 tablespoons milk (as needed to thin frosting)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat two 9 x 9-inch (you can certainly change the size of the pan if you choose) cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a layer of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and coat the paper.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with both sugars until fluffy. Mix in the eggs. Pour in ⅓ of the flour mixture followed by ½ cup of the apple butter. Mix well and continue alternating ingredients until all the flour and apple butter are mixed into the batter. Spread the batter into the two pans. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes onto a rack. Remove the parchment paper and cool the cakes completely.
Use an electric mixer to combine confectioners’ sugar with the cream cheese, ½ cup butter and the vanilla until smooth and creamy. You can mix in a teaspoon or two of milk to get the consistency that you prefer for frosting. Place one cake onto your serving platter. Slather the cake with frosting. Top with the remaining cake. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped walnuts.