Reading Is Funny: Apple, Squash, Sausage, and the Blarney Castle

Reading Is Funny: Apple, Squash, Sausage, and the Blarney Castle

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

Ready In:

30 – 40 minutes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

Welcoming October with Stuffed Squash!

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My Thanksgiving Recipe Planner for 2021 (And BEYOND!)

My Thanksgiving Recipe Planner for 2021 (And BEYOND!)

thanksgiving dinner ideas 2021

It’s TURKEY TIME and we’re together again…finally! Extraordinary times call for extraordinary meals, and this year is especially filled with gratitude and good meals at the family dinner table.

When is Thanksgiving in 2021?  Thursday, November 25th!  That’s right around the corner.

Whether you’re hosting a family gathering, a Friendsgiving or a neighborhood potluck, we come to gather and give thanks at this time of year and this year is special.

We may not have seen each other in a while, so this Thanksgiving it’s more important than ever that you, the host, enjoy your day as much as everyone else does!

I have a sure-fire plan that allows you to make sure that you have as much FUN on Thanksgiving as your guests.

Here’s how we’ll do it!

 

Turkey Day Planning

Avoid Shortages: Order Ahead

This year especially you want to make sure that you reserve the items that you need for your menu and that you pick them up in plenty of time. Pick up your frozen turkey as soon as you can (and put it on your calendar to order ahead for festivities in December).

If you’re choosing a fresh turkey, make sure you reserve it at the grocery store for pick up several days in advance. The same is true if you are getting your turkey from the farm or market.

Make sure you are ready to pick up your reserved turkey when the farmer is ready to deliver.

Accept Help!

 

If Aunt Edna’s offers her pumpkin pie, accept!! If Cousin Ben offers to bring an appy, accept!!

If your best friend offers to help with the dishes, accept!!

You are the host, not the restaurant owner. This meal is about being thankful for our blessings and friends and family are those blessings.

 

Turkey Day Take-Alongs

Plan Your Menu

Turkey is the star, of course.

But choose the sides based on your oven space. If you have one oven, having six casserole dishes that need heated at the last minute won’t work out well.

Make use of your slow cooker, Instapot or warming drawer for extra help.

 

Break Down Everything into Its Smallest Part

 

If your appy is a cheese platter, have everything chopped and rolled so that all you have to do is assemble it.

Make your desserts ahead. Assemble your casserole dishes ahead, so all you have to do is bake them.

Make your gravy ahead and heat it on the stove while you carve the turkey.

Set your table in advance. If you are tackling a centerpiece, do this in advance.

Have a plan that lets you wake on Thanksgiving morning to a day with very few chores left to do!

 

Take a look at these ideas to get you started:

The Best Gravy Recipe EVER

 

My gift to you this holiday season is a foolproof, make-ahead recipe for the best, most delicious gravy…ever. This full proof make-ahead gravy recipe not only saves you time but is also the most flavorful gravy you’ve ever made!

Out of time or inspiration? Get my very best Thanksgiving recipes with easy-to-follow instructions to make this the most tasty holiday yet!

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Countdown to Turkey Day!

Countdown to Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving is nearly here!  Get inspired with menu inspiration from my kitchen to yours.

 

 

 

It’s mere weeks before Thanksgiving, and we’re getting excited!

Whether you are traveling, staying put, or just looking to perk up this holiday’s menu, we have delicious dishes to inspire this season’s menu, from tasty take-alongs to tablescapes.

Let’s celebrate!

Yum! Monte Cristo Sandwiches after Thanksgiving!

Yum! Monte Cristo Sandwiches after Thanksgiving!

 

Hello again friends, and happy December! I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving and wonderful Black Friday. I was feeling a lot of gratitude at my book signing event at Park Road Books in Charlotte on November 29th. To all who came out and might be reading this, thank you!

This week, my recipe is meant to make the most of those Thanksgiving leftovers, packed away in Tupperware and just begging to be used in something more inspired. For me that’s the Monte Cristo sandwich, a sweet-meets-savory classic that’s yummy enough, it’s been on Disneyland’s Blue Bayou and Tahitian Terrace menus since 1966.

My recipe calls for turkey and ham – or just one of the two – generous amounts of sweet cranberry sauce, and slices of Muenster cheese – made in a cast iron skillet as you would French toast, with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar at the end of the recipe prep.

In my France travels, I’ve known this sandwich to be called the croque monsieur, and understand it originated in Paris around 1910. It’s cute to think the French also have a “croque madame”, basically a baked or broiled ham and cheese sandwich made with sweet bread just like monsieur, but topped with a fried egg.

You can keep it lower cal, by forgoing the skillet and using a panini press. You can also keep it vegetarian and enjoy your Monte Cristo sans turkey. I love the tang of cranberry sauce and savory cheese on sweet French toast. No matter what kind of cheese you use: Fontina, goat, Gruyere, Brie or Muenster, it’s all good!

Post-Thanksgiving Monte Cristo’s

15 minute Cuisine

Recipe makes 4 sandwiches

2 French loaves, cut into 8 slices

2 ½ cups cranberry sauce

12 ounces any cheese you like, thinly sliced or evenly spread

Several slices leftover turkey and ham (one of these meats is fine)

4 eggs

3 cups whole milk

6 Tablespoons butter

Confectioners’ sugar for garnish

Slather each bread slice with cranberry sauce; use as much or as little as you like. Add slices of cheese, then turkey/ham to each slice, and top with final slice of bread, cranberry sauce-side down.

In a shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until just combined. Soak each sandwich in the mixture, about 25 seconds per side, saturated but not soggy.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a cast iron skillet. Batch cook the sandwiches until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip sandwiches and cook the other sides until they are also golden, like French Toast.

Add more butter as needed to cook remaining sandwiches.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving the sammies nice n’ warm.

Hassleback Sweet Potatoes on Thanksgiving

Hassleback Sweet Potatoes on Thanksgiving

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

Serves 4

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

Salt

Chopped pecans

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.

 

Sweet Traditions in the Making

Sweet Traditions in the Making

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.