I visited my family over Thanksgiving break. We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner together at my parents house. On Friday, not wanting to go shopping but wanting to get out of the house, we took a ride to Ritter’s Cider Mill to enjoy some hot apple cider doughnuts and get a basket of apples.
This is one of my most favorite meals for fall. It is creamy, delicious and can be made so many ways!
I got the original recipe from Giada DeLorentis, from the food network. Her version was made to be a side dish and didn’t include meat or other vegetables, so you could leave those out if you want a simpler version of this lasagna. I haven’t actually read that recipe in a while because I have been tweaking this recipe ever since I started making it. I added in some things to the layers to take it from a side dish to a hearty main dish. There are a few components to this dish that you must prepare before you layer it all together; the cream sauce, the butternut squash puree, and the sautéed kale (If you choose to add it). You make each one separately and then layer them in a large baking dish with cheese and lasagna noodles.
For the creme sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small chopped onion
2 large cloves minced garlic
4 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 cups whole milk
salt and pepper
a piece of whole nutmeg (or about 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg)
1/2 cup packed fresh basil
Add 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil to a large saute pan. Add the chopped onions and 2 cloves of the minced garlic and saute just for a minute. Add 4 tbsp Flour and whisk while cooking for a few minutes to make a roux. Whisk until the four mixture turns a golden color. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and whisk until it is absorbed by the roux. Add the warmed milk 1 cup at a time and whisk until the sauce starts to thicken. Add each cup while whisking and simmer on low until sauce is a nice creamy consistency. Season with salt, pepper and about 1/2 of a freshly grated nutmeg. Put the fresh basil into a blender and ladle about two cups of the white creme sauce into the blender. Blend until the basil is fully incorporated, pour the mixture back into the rest of the sauce and stir to incorporate.
For the butternut squash puree:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-sized butternut squash
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper
4-5 small Amaretti cookies
In a sauce pot, heat the olive oil and saute the butternut squash until some are lightly golden. Add in the chicken stock, cover and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender. Blend the squash in a food processor until smooth and add in 4-5 Amaretti cookies and blend until they are crushed and mixed in.
For the sautéed kale:
1 bunch of purple kale
2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper
a piece of whole nutmeg (or about 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg)
Clean and cut up the kale. In a large saute pan, heat the oil and begin to saute the kale, add in the garlic when the kale starts to wilt. Saute the kale until it is wilted and soft and season it with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
To assemble the lasagna:
24 No-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla makes this and they are pretty easy to find)
1 lb Ricotta Cheese
1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese – or you can use your favorite blend of any Italian cheeses
Basil creme sauce
Butternut squash pure
1 lb of you favorite turkey sausage
Sautéed the sausage and brake it into small pieces until it is cooked through – I like the cranberry sausage, apple sausage, or sage sausage from The Turkey Lady in the Lancaster Central Market. I would choose a sweeter sausage rather than a spicy one for this dish.
In a 9×13 inch baking dish, begin with a layer of creme sauce (a little less than 1/3 of the sauce), top it with about 6 noodles, depending on how they fit, just make sure you make a solid layer. Add about half of the butternut squash puree and about half of the ricotta cheese to the next layer. Top that with the turkey sausage and cover it with another layer of noodles. Cover those noodles with another third of the creme sauce. Add the sauteed kale in the next layer and about half of the shredded cheese. Add another layer of noodles, the rest of the butternut squash puree and the rest of the ricotta cheese. Top it with another layer of noodles and cover them with the rest of the creme sauce. Make sure the whole top layer of noodles is covered or they might not get fully soft. Top the whole thing with the rest of the shredded cheese.
Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until the cheese on top starts to get brown and bubbly. Let the lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before cutting – otherwise the layers might slide and the pieces might fall apart.
I hope you enjoy this dish! It does have a lot of steps but it is delicious. I bet it will become one of your favorite fall foods!
A note about freezing this lasagna:
*You can use a 9×13 inch baking dish or two smaller baking dishes to build this lasagna. It freezes great – both uncooked and cooked!
If you baked a large pan and you have any left over, you can cut it into single portions and wrap the pieces tightly in plastic wrap. You’ll have single servings that you can unwrap and reheat it in the microwave easily.
If you don’t bake a large pan, split it into two baking dishes and freeze one. It is nice to have it on hand to bake it when you need it. It does take a long time to bake when it is frozen… but it tastes like you just made it, even after two months in the freezer! Just make sure you really wrap it up good to prevent freezer burn. You could defrost it in the refrigerator over night or put it in the oven frozen. It may take up to 4 hours to bake through if it is frozen when you pop it in the oven. So plan ahead a little bit.
Butternut Squash and Leek Macaroni and Cheese
This is a great fall dinner. It is perfect for a chilly night and it can be deliciously paired with a spicy pumpkin ale.
2 lb. butternut squash
1/2 sweet onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
1 lb. pasta – shells, or your other favorite smaller shape
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. flour
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
a handful of basil, chiffonade
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Clean and cut the butternut squash into smaller chunks, about the same size as the pasta you chose to use. Saute the squash, onion and half the garlic in 1 tbsp. butter. Cook until the squash is close to being soft all the way through – check it by sticking a fork through it.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Save some of the pasta water to thin out your sauce in case it gets too thick.
Saute the leeks and the other half of the garlic in 3 tbsp. of butter until tender. Add in the flour and whisk in until smooth. Add in half the chicken stock, whisk until smooth again. Warm the milk (in the microwave or on the stove) and add it into the sauce, whisk until creamy. Let the sauce cook down until it is a little thick – keep whisking it so the bottom doesn’t burn. When the sauce thickens add in the cheddar and Gruyere cheese and whisk until all the cheese is melted.
Mix the sauce, cooked pasta, basil and squash mixture together. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with a little bit of pasta water. Pour it all into a buttered 9×13 inch baking dish.
Make a mixture of 2 tbsp butter cut into small pieces, the Panko breadcrumbs and the parmesan cheese. Mix it with your finger tips to separate the butter. Sprinkle it on top of the pasta and bake in the over at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until your breadcrumbs look toasted.
For all you bacon lovers out there – try adding some bacon crumbles to the top before you bake it…. mmmm!
This soup was kind of an accident. I don’t know what made me want to turn sweet potatoes into soup – but I am glad that I tried it because it has quickly turned into one of my favorites. I have made it twice now, with and without leeks, both were delicious.
Sweet Potato and Bacon Soup
4 slices bacon
1/2 medium-sized sweet onion
3 ribs celery
3 cloves of garlic
1 large or 2 thin leeks
1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
a hand full of chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup light cream
Cut the bacon in small pieces and cook over medium high heat. Allow the fat to render and remove the crispy bacon bits that remain in the pan. *The bacon bits will get soggy in the soup so make sure you remove them at this point.
Dice the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery stalks and saute them in the bacon fat for a few minutes. Clean and slice the leeks and add them to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste and saute until all veggies are tender.
*Here’s a little hint about slicing the leeks. Most recipes tell you to slice the leeks into half-moons. We are going to blend this soup with a hand blender. I find that when the leeks are sliced like this they tend to get stuck in the hand blender and leave stringy pieces in the soup. If you slice the leeks lengthwise and then cut them across, you get very small square pieces that do not get stuck in the hand blender. If you are going to use a regular blender and spoon your soup into it, it probably doesn’t matter which way you slice the leeks. Here’s what they looks like cut up small:
After the veggies are tender, add the sweet potatoes and saute about 5 minutes. Add in the stock and bring to a boil, simmer until the potatoes are tender.
Chop the basil and add it into the pot. Turn off the heat and use a hand blender to blend the soup until creamy. Add in the light cream and stir. You can thin the soup with more broth if you like it a little thinner.
My friend asked me about recipes for spaghetti squash the other day and I though I would post a small collection of some of my favorites.
If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash… you should! It’s a good substitute for actual spaghetti if you are trying to lay off the carbs. I personally can’t give up pasta or I will starve to death, but I do like to eat different things once in a while…
There are a few different ways to cook the squash. It is pretty neat once it is cooked and the flesh turns soft. The flesh turns into long fibrous strings that you can remove just by scraping with a fork. Check out what they look like:
I cooked this squash in the microwave by cutting it in half and placing it in a baking dish upside down with a small amount of water. Though I don’t usually cook many things in the microwave, it is the quickest method to cook the squash. It takes about ten minutes to get soft and you can’t really screw it up. If you bake it in the oven it will take 30-40 minutes, you should still add water to the baking dish and cook it cut side down. You could also boil it, which does take longer and tastes the same so I don’t really think it’s worth it.
No matter which way you cook it, you should try to let it drain once you have scooped it out of the skin. It will make whatever you are adding to it watery if you don’t drain off the extra water.
I usually just add my favorite sauce on top, just like spaghetti. If you mix in a little butter, salt, and parmesan cheese to the plain squash it makes it even better! You could also add crime fraiche if you want to get fancy…and delicious.
We had beef short rib ragu on top of spaghetti squash tonight for dinner, along with a mixture of fall veggies.
Here are some of my other favorite recipes from around the web:
I can’t seem to find my favorite recipe online, but I will tell you all about it. I’ll have to cook it up next time I get a spaghetti squash at market and write out the exact quantities. I don’t think it should be too hard to figure out. I made a very creamy casserole out of a pretty big squash one time – cooking the squash in the microwave, scraping it out, draining it, and then mixing it with a few simple but delicious ingredients. I included creme fraiche, fresh thyme, crushed pink peppercorns, nutmeg, butter, and the squash strands all in a bowl and mixed. Everything went into a casserole dish and into the oven until it bubbled. It was a rich and delicious side dish, perfect for a fall meal.
Experiment yourself! You could add pretty much anything to this squash. It takes the flavors of whatever you add to it, so it is super versatile!
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love making costumes, dressing up, and going to a party where everyone else is in costume too! There are so many fun things to do around this time and so many fun foods and special dishes to make for parties.
I took some time to carve a pumpkin…
I added some feathers to make it really look like an owl! It was pretty fun. I think next year I am going to get some better pumpkin carving tools and make a better carving. If you have any good ideas let me know. I want to make something interesting.
From this pumpkin project, I pulled out 1 cup of pumpkin seeds.
I decided to roast them and try something new this year. I made a mixture of sugar spices to coat the seeds. Here’s the recipe to my spiced up roasted pumpkin seeds.
Sweet and Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (all pulp removed and washed)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. organic cane sugar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. smoked sweet paprika
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. water
Spread the cleaned seeds out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil and 1/4 tsp. of the sea salt over the seeds and stir them so that all of them are coated.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until they are golden and crispy.
You can eat the seeds just like this. This simple roast is how I usually eat them. They are really good- nice and simple just roasted and salted.
To spice them up, mix the other 1/4 tsp of salt in with the rest of the spices and the 2 tsp. sugar in a small bowl. Toss the seeds in and add the 1 tbsp. of water – just to help the spices stick to the seeds. Mix it well to make sure all of the seeds are coated.
Spread the seeds out on the baking sheet in a single layer again and bake for about 10 minutes (you want to try to get them dry again so they don’t all stick together). They come out kind of caramelized or candied but they have a nice little spice to them.
Make sure you save your pumpkin seeds! They make a great Fall snack and it’s kind of fun to pick them out of the pumpkin.
Well there certainly has been a lack of pumpkin beers available this year. I have been looking every time I go to get beer. I guess it is so popular that distributors and stores can’t keep it on the shelves. The past few years I have been able to get a bunch of different kinds from breweries all over the place. This year I have had only a few!
I was very happy when my friend Janeen brought me some Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. This is my number 1 favorite pumpkin beer! I thought I was going to miss out on it this year because I could not find it anywhere.
We had a crazy snowstorm yesterday, so here’s the punkin ale next to my snowy pumpkins. Good thing it’s a really good beer to enjoy in the cooler weather.
Punkin ale is a brown ale with real pumpkins, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s much lighter in color than other brown ales but it has big bold flavors. It’s perfect to pair with fall comfort foods. It is really well-balanced and does not have that overly spicy pumpkin pie flavor. I think it is awesome! It definitely gets my pick as the best of the pumpkin beers every year.
I think they is my favorite punkin beer because it has nutmeg in it. I love nutmeg – It’s my secret ingredient in some of my pasta sauces, it is great with greens like kale, and I like to add a little into some of my treats when I bake. The brown sugar also adds a little something special to this brew.
I hope you can find this pumpkin beer this year if you haven’t tried it yet. Good Luck!
A simple, quick Fall dinner!
Pork Loin and Apple Cider Sauce:
one small pork loin (about 1 lb.)
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1 cup apple cider
1 tbsp. creme fraiche (one of my favorite ingredients!)
1 tsp. chopped fresh chives
Rub the cumin, salt and pepper evenly over the pork loin. Heat an oven safe skillet on high heat. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the pan, allow to heat up (but be careful to not let the oil start to smoke!). Sear the pork loin on all sides to form a nice golden brown crust. Place the pork loin (in the skillet) into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. About half way through cooking, pour 1/2 cup of the apple cider into the pan and leave it in the over to finish cooking (the apple cider will keep it nice and moist). Remove the pork when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 140 degrees. Let the pork rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.
To create the sauce, place the skillet on the stove top over medium high heat. pour the other 1/2 cup of apple cider into the pan to deglaze it. Make sure you scrape up all of the yummy little brown bits off the pan! Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce by half. Add in 1 tbsp. creme fraiche, stirring until melted, and 1 tsp. chopped scallions.
Beer Braised Cabbage:
1/2 head purple cabbage (about 1 lb.)
2 apples peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 bottle of Fall seasonal beer (I used Organic Pumpkin Ale, but you could use an Oktoberfest or something similar)
1/2 a medium-sized sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. celery salt
salt and pepper to taste
Core and thinly slice the purple cabbage. Heat a pan to medium high heat and add two tbsp. olive oil. Saute the onion for a few minutes, until it begins to turn translucent. Add the cabbage and saute a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the apples and saute a few minutes more. Pour in the apple cider and the beer and allow it to come up to a bubble. Cover the pot ad let the cabbage cook down until it is soft, stirring occasionally.
Simple Butternut Squash Soup:
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and diced small
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp. fresh chopped chives
creme fraiche, for serving
Saute the onions and garlic in a small soup pot until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add in the butternut squash and saute for a few minutes, add salt and pepper to taste. Add about three cups of chicken stock (make sure the squash is submerged). bring to a boil and cover. Allow the soup to cook until the butternut squash is soft and cooked through. Use a hand blender to blend the soup until smooth. Add in extra chicken stock to thin out the soup if desired. Bring the soup back up to a slow bubble (if you added more chicken stock) and add in the chives. Serve the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.
There you have it – a simple delicious Fall meal made from seasonal veggies. yum!
Fall veggies are plentiful and the air is getting chilly. This dish is perfect for this time of year and really easy to make. It’s a one pot meal so the clean up is minimal, which makes it great for weeknights after work because it doesn’t take much time!
You can choose what ever sausage you like. I have made this with sage turkey sausage (from The Turkey Lady), chicken apple sausage, and sweet Italian pork sausage. I think my favorite was the sweet Italian pork sausage.
1 lb. sausage (your choice!)
1 large sweet potato
2 medium beets (I like golden beets because they do not turn the whole dish pink)
1 medium sweet onion
I medium carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 can cannellini beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 bunch swiss chard or kale
salt and pepper to taste
Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a dutch oven set to medium high heat. Sear the sausages and remove from the pot.
Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and cut the sweet potato, carrot and beets in to 1/4 inch cubes (to match the size of the beans).
Saute the vegetables in the dutch oven for about 5 minutes, until the onions turn translucent.
I used red beets this time, so my final dish turned out pink. I also had to substitute chick peas to the cannellini beans because I didn’t have any cannellini beans left. You can substitute with pink beans as well but I think the cannellini work best in this recipe.
Chop your swiss chard or Kale into smaller pieces. If you decide to use kale, remove the tough stems and use only the leaves. I chose to use black kale this time because it was available at market and it is slightly softer than the regular kale that I usually find. After experimenting a bit, I still really like using the swiss chard.You can use the stems of the Swiss chard too, the red and yellow colors are a nice addition.
Use 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock to deglaze your pot, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the swiss chard or kale and season with salt and pepper. Place the lid on the pot and allow the liquid to boil and cook down the greens (about 7 minutes).
When the greens have reduced in volume, add in the beans. replace the lid and bring the liquid back up to a bubble.
Nestle the sausages back in the pot vegetables. Try to submerge it under the liquid and cover the pot again, bringing the liquid back up to a boil. Allow the sausages finish cooking (about 5-10 minutes, depending on size).
Remove the sausages and slice them into pieces, add the sausages back into the pot and serve…. comfort food for a chilly day.