Welcoming October with Stuffed Squash!

Welcoming October with Stuffed Squash!

 

In the Canvas & Cuisine cookbook, “apples” and “squash” appear over 80 times in the manuscript! During the fall season, we want them more than ever – that’s why I was so happy to dust off a double whammy of an autumn recipe: Apple, Sausage & Cheddar Stuffed Acorn Squash. In this version, I took a few calorie saving shortcuts.

I substituted the Italian sausage with turkey bacon, and served it sans nuts and cheese. For the fall-ish flavor bouquet, I sautéed Granny Smith Apples and bacon in a shallow bath of butter and pure cranberry juice.  There was enough left over in the pan to drizzle savory cranberry sauce over the finished product, making the baked squash extra yummy!

The thing with a gutted gourd, is that it’s a blank canvas to stuff with virtually anything you see fit.

But allow me to digress…The stuffed squash comes with quite the story, as so many of my recipes do.

I was on a trip with my artist friend, Sue, Canvas & Cuisine’s co-author. We visited Blarney Castle in Ireland, and…well…I wasn’t feeling quite lucky enough to brave its narrow (I mean EXTREMELY narrow), four-story, windowless and very claustrophobic staircase.

I barely survived 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, Sue and I found ourselves in-line to kiss the famous stone. Tradition has it that in order to kiss the stone to receive the gift of eloquence, one has to bend over backwards lowering your head from the parapet walk over an opening in the tower that leads all the way down to the ground below.

There are two very, very young, very, very scrawny teens, on either side of the hole in the floor to make sure you don’t fall, but they were not convincing enough for me! I ended up sprinting 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.

The Canvas & Cuisine recipe for stuffed acorn squash was born shortly thereafter. The recipe posted below is a modified version. In both recipes, the flavors are sweet, tart and rich. It’s super for a mid-week meal and awesome for a brunch gathering before your next sight-seeing trip. Just make sure that you check out the sight to avoid unnecessary fright!

Apple & Candied Bacon Squash

serves 4

30 to 40 minute cuisine

For Squash:

2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For Stuffing:

1 tablespoon butter

½ pound turkey bacon, finely chopped

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup 100 percent cranberry juice

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup cheddar cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°. Drizzle the cut side of the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place the squash, cut-side-down into a baking pan. Bake until the squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cranberry juice. Add the apples and bacon, and cook until fruit is soft, and bacon brown and crumbly, about 8 minutes. Season with 1 more teaspoon cinnamon spice and some of the salt and pepper.

Pull the baking dish from the oven. Turn the squash so they are cut side up. Stuff the squash with the apple/bacon filling. Use any remaining cranberry/bacon syrup to drizzle over the top.

For the Decadent Cook:

Add cheddar cheese if desired, by placing the dish back into the oven, and cooking until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more. Garnish the stuffed squash with a dollop of sour cream.

 

 

How to “Pumpkin-Spice” Everything as Though It Were a Verb!

How to “Pumpkin-Spice” Everything as Though It Were a Verb!

How can tell when the Fall season approaches? Is it the cool breeze, shorter days, leaves changing colors? Heck no! You can tell that it’s Fall because absolutely everything is pumpkin-spiced.

Not too long ago I wrote a recipe for pumpkin donuts in my Sunday Best cookbook. It’s easier than you think it is to make these delicious donuts at home. The downside is that unless you have a lot of friends, you may just eat all of them yourself! Check out the yield from this recipe in the photo below:

Aren’t those donuts gorgeous? They should be…for I added a new dimension this time! I pumpkin-spiced up some granulated sugar for dipping, and created a maple glaze for dunking. The results were… well, can I say sooooo Fall inspired. Give these a try… or move next door to me, and ask to borrow a cup of pumpkin-spiced latte for total pumpkin immersion!

Pumpkin-Spiced Donuts

with Maple Glaze for Dunking

For donuts

3 cups unbleached all-purpose four

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup buttermilk

¼ cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Canola oil for frying

For spiced sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

For glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 to 2 teaspoons heavy cream

 Whisk together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine the eggs, pumpkin puree, sugar, buttermilk, brown sugar and butter. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in batches. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours.

Unwrap the chilled dough onto a floured work surface. Roll out the dough to ½-inch thickness. Use a donut cutter to cut out donuts and holes, reusing the scraps until all the dough has been used. Transfer each one onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Pour enough canola oil in a deep fry pan to come up the sides two inches. This should be less than half of the depth of the pan as oil expands when heated. Heat the oil over medium high heat between 365° and 375°. Fry the donuts in batches until golden brown on one side. Turn to brown the other side, about 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet pan.

Mix together the spiced sugar ingredients in a shallow bowl. Whisk together the glaze ingredients in a shallow bowl. Place the donuts into either the glaze or the sugar.

 

Draft Day… Baby! NFL Party Ideas + Best Loaded Nachos Ever!

Draft Day… Baby! NFL Party Ideas + Best Loaded Nachos Ever!

What’s worse than a bunch of gals getting together to kibbitz? It’s a bunch of gals getting together to draft their fantasy football team. It’s a trash talkin’, elbow diggin’, name callin’ scene right out of the movie Sweet Magnolias. I mean it’s “bless her heart” on steroids.

Oh, the catcalls from the table when I drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round (especially when ESPN claimed he was at best a top second round choice)! Oh, the high fives that went around the table when I picked up Robert Woods in the 6th round when he should have been snatched in the 4th. And, the simultaneous, gentle nods of understanding when our dear friend picked up Baker Mayfield in an early round. We all understand her husband’s devotion to OU…. Bless her heart – now that’s love!

The only way to bring our fragile (fantasy football) bonds back from the edge of friendship destruction was to create a spread that satisfies both the winners and the losers. And, that I did.

Ladies and gentleman: the draft party!

My draft party fare included my favorite pimento cheese with seasoned crackers. I added sun-dried tomatoes instead of pimentos and brushed the crackers with seasonings stirred into melted butter before I toast them in the oven. It’s a TD!

I included blistered shishito peppers that I cooked in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, garlic and pepper. I made little skewers of baby tomatoes, mozzarella and globe basil leaves from the farmers market. These were drizzled with just a bit of aged balsamic vinegar. I roasted shrimp with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper and served them at room temperature with a spiced remoulade sauce.

But the dish that tamed the angry fantasy football beast and totally scored in overtime, was my sausage and refried bean nachos. I mean these are truly a punched up bit of nacho cheesiness. I serve these on every game day, regardless of the success of my quarterback.

Just a little note of confession here. I am in two fantasy leagues, one with the girls and one with the family. Having scored a loser C- in my draft evaluation with the gals, I promptly drafted Baker in round two of the family league. Let’s just see how it goes… and bless my heart!

Sausage and Refried Bean Nachos

serves a crowd

30 minute cuisine

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ medium red onion, peeled and finely diced

1 poblano pepper, deveined and finely diced

1 pound Italian sausage

1 (15-ounce) can refried beans

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper.

1 package tortilla chips (such as Scoops®)

1 (15-ounce) jar medium salsa

¼ cup pickled jalapeno slices, drained and chopped

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Hot pepper sauce

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the sausage to the pan. Use a potato masher to break up the sausage into very little pieces. Cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.

Lay the chips onto a microwaveable plate or platter. You will have enough ingredients to make at least two plates full of chips. Spoon the sausage and cheese filling into the chips. Spoon some of the salsa over the chips. Drizzle the jalapeno pieces over the salsa. Cover with shredded cheese. Place the plate into the microwave oven and cook on high power until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Remove (the hot!) platter from the oven. Top with dollops of sour cream and chopped cilantro. Offer hot pepper sauce on the side.

 

Blackberry Season Calls for a Jam Session!

Blackberry Season Calls for a Jam Session!

It’s that time of year, mid-summer, when blackberries are ripe for the pickin’! Just last week, I found blackberries the size of quail eggs at the local farm stand. When I went back this week, sadly they were gone. I guess all those berry pickers have scarfed up the ones, so recently come to market…To stop my wails, the very kind lady let me know the berries will make a return in three weeks! Yay oh yay!

In the meantime, she suggested homemade preserves to see me through the dry spell. That’s when I found a lovely jar of blackberry jam! I gathered up all the jam I could hold, and came home to my kitchen to create a snack treat for my nieces and nephews, coming for a visit.

The result was this lovely, crumbly, streusel-like bar with the richness of farm grown blackberries. And, yes, they were a hit!

If you’re in the North Carolina area, check out these local U-pick farms with berries galore!

 

Blackberry Jam Oat Bars

Yield about 16 (2-inch) bars

30 minute cuisine

 

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup unsalted butter, melted, 2 sticks

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Zest from 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

2 cups Blackberry Jam

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a square baking pan with vegetable oil spray.

Stir together flour, oats, melted butter, sugars, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a bowl. The dough will be coarse and crumbly.

Stir together the jam and cornstarch in a bowl.

Press half of the dough into the bottom of the pan. Spread the jam/cornstarch mixture over the top. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the jam. Bake until the top of the bars begin to turn golden brown and the jam is bubbling, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the bars in the pan. Cut into squares.

 

 

My First Supper from Farmer’s Market Opening Day!

My First Supper from Farmer’s Market Opening Day!

My friends, the farmers, are all over social media promising the fruits of their spring labors – I start drooling and reaching for my tote bags every time I go online. I couldn’t wait to get to my favorite place in the mountains, Watauga Farmers Market, which opened for the season on May 4th.  Over the last few weekends, I’ve gotten my hands on those lovely purple spring onions and the coils of garlic scapes, painted and cooked a lot within the pages of CANVAS & CUISINE: the art of the fresh market.

Watauga will have early (greenhouse) tomatoes this year and the tender leaves of baby greens. Here I come, and will continue to come through October!

After my first visit this year, I created a dish that pulls together some of my favorite farmer’s market finds: tender collard greens and rich pork belly. It makes for a lovely first course or a wonderful side dish…once you’ve chopped up the belly and stir it into the greens. Either way, it’s sure to delight and perhaps motivate you to find a fresh farmer’s market opening near you. If you find a new one in your neighborhood, please share the experience with us! I love posting scrumptious possibilities to my social media @jorjmorgancooking.

Now, please excuse me while I simmer my greens…

Collard Greens with Slow Roasted Pork Belly

serves 6 or more

30 minute cuisine plus slow cooking

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 (1 ½ pound) piece pork belly

3 bunches collard greens, stemmed, rolled and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

3 to 4 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Mix together the onion, garlic and chili powder with salt and pepper. Season both sides of the pork belly with some of the seasoning. Reserve about a tablespoon for the collards. Heat your slow cooker (or Dutch oven) over medium high heat. Place the pork belly into the cooker and brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the pork and brown on the second side, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the pork belly to a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and cook on low heat (about 275 to 300°) for several hours until the meat falls apart when pulled with a fork.

Place the onion into the bottom of the slow cooker and cook until soft. Add the chopped collard greens and stir. Season with the remaining spices. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock. Set your slow cooker on high and place the lid on to top. If you are using a Dutch oven, place the lid on top and move it into the oven with the pork belly.  Continue cooking adding more liquid as needed to produce soft, syrupy greens. Before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar.

Serve the collard greens on a plate with pieces of tender pork belly on the top. Drizzle the juices from the pork belly pan over the top.

Break Bread on Mardi Gras Day with This Twist on King Cake

Break Bread on Mardi Gras Day with This Twist on King Cake

This year, New Orleans is striking up the Mardi Gras band on March 5th, and you know what that means: Lent is starting and Easter is just 40 days away. I love the colors, flavor, parades and pageantry surrounding this time of year – but I can’t get to Louisiana for Fat Tuesday this go around. That’s why I’m devoting this week’s post and next Monday’s to the signature dish on Mardi Gras Day: KING CAKE!!!!

Instead of that classic cake, I took its yummy ingredients and turned it into something perfect for sharing with family and friends. Today it’s bread and next Monday, get ready for some King Cake Cookies, Jorj style!

The Fancy Sprinkles Company was my muse.

A while back I ordered some Fancy Sprinkles made just for Mardi Gras. I put on my thinking cap on what to do with them, and came up with my own Mardi Gras Bread recipe. It’s a sweet treat you can serve at breakfast with cinnamon honey butter, for lunch with peanut butter and jam, or after dinner for a late night snack. Anytime is the perfect time for this bread.

This recipe makes two loaves – one for you and one to wrap up and give to a lucky friend. Give them a big hug and wish them a happy Mardi Gras! Spring is on the way!

 

Mardis Gras Bread

Yield 2 loaves

2 ½ hour cuisine

For Bread:

2 envelopes active dry yeast (about 4 ½ teaspoons)

5 ½ cups bread flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

For Filling:

8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 egg

½ teaspoon dried grated lemon peel

For Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yellow, purple and green sprinkles

Stir the yeast in a bowl with ½ cup warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Place the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to combine. With the motor running on slow, add the yeast and 1 ½ cups more warm water. Once the flour is moistened, increase the speed and mix until the dough forms around the hook, about 5 to 8 minutes. Increase the speed again and continue to mix adding in the butter just a bit at a time. Mix until the dough is tight and shiny, about another 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead for about 2 to 3 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a bowl sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic and set in a warm, dry place to rise.

Place the cream cheese, ½ cup granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, egg and lemon peel into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix to combine.

Spray two 9x5x5” loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Check the dough after 45 minutes. The dough should spring back slowly when you poke your finger into it. Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Take one ball of dough and use your hands to spread into a 10×6” rectangle. Spread half of the filling onto the dough. Roll the dough (jelly-roll style) over the filling. Place the rolled dough into the loaf pan. Repeat with the second ball of dough. Again, cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Check the dough after 30 to 45 minutes. The dough should rise to about ½-inch from the top of the loaf pan. Place the pans into the oven and bake until the tops are deeply golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer from the pan to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and buttermilk. Stir in vanilla extract. The glaze should be thick yet pourable. Drizzle the glaze over the loaves. Shake sprinkles over the glaze.