Sage & Butternut Squash Crostini

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I for one am beyond excited for its arrival. I love the simplicity of the holiday and what it stands for: to be thankful. It doesn’t revolve around gifts or some cutesy stuffed character who will deliver any sort of gift; rather it’s a rare holiday in which we reflect upon everything we have, be it tangible or emotional and practice gratitude. The older I become, the more I’ve found this holiday to be one of my absolute favorites.

It also is a fantastic opportunity to grub on some pretty spectacular food with the people we love.

Whether you are hosting or dining at someone’s house, this simple and flavorful appetizer is reminiscent of all things autumn, thanksgiving and delicious. No host or hostess would ever deny a guest the opportunity to contribute to the menu, why not wow them with something that will compliment the entree so wonderfully?

The puree can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator a few days early, then spread atop freshly toasted slices of baguette the day of your gathering. Top with shavings of parmesan cheese (grated would be lovely as well) and serve.

Final yield of the puree depends on the size of the butternut squash. I used an average size squash and it produced about 1 cup; plenty for spreading atop 1-1.5 sliced baguettes. Hosting a smaller gathering? Use larger bread & garnish as you would a slice of bruschetta.

Happy Thanksgiving from my kitchen to yours!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 1″ cubes
  • 4 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbsp for roasting & 2 for the puree. I used California Olive Ranch.
  • 6 medium/large sage leaves
  • 3 oz. grated parmesan cheese + shaved pieces to garnish
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1-2 baguette loaves, toasted

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Peel the squash & remove the stalk. Cut in half and remove the seeds. Dice into 1″ cubes and lay out the cubes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. Drizzle the squash with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil & add the garlic salt + pepper. Toss together using clean hands and roast 45-55 minutes on the center rack of your oven. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  3. Using your food processor, blend together the roasted squash, sage leaves, grated parmesan cheese + remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil. Taste & season more per your preference with garlic salt or pepper.
  4. Slice the baguette loaf (loaves) into 1.5″ circles. Lay them onto a baking sheet and place under the broiler until toasted.
  5. Spread the puree atop each piece of bread + garnish with the shaved parmesan.

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Pumpkin Spice Caramel Rolls

Whether you’ve followed me for a brief or long amount of time, you have read about my husband’s affinity for sweets. Rolls of the caramel or cinnamon realm specifically appeal to his love language, and quite frankly my love language for him beckons me to oblige his request for such simplicities – be it verbal or not. 

This week, Minnesota is showing off from a weather perspective. Indian Summer is here and folks all over the state are out enjoying the beauty of it all. They’re more than likely drinking some sort of pumpkin coffee drink, as well. It’s what we do in autumn, and we do it well. Truth be told, the PSL had a bit of inspiration for these beauties, in addition to my husband’s sweet tooth. I’d like to think these are a far more indulgent way to enjoy autumn and all things pumpkin, however. 

I had a good amount of leftover caramel sauce from my Caramel Apple Bread (find it a few posts back here) that I adapted from The Pioneer Woman and decided it to be a great fit for topping the rolls. You could also go a traditional cream cheese frosting route if you so choose.

I may even throw caution to the wind and bake these for Thanksgiving in lieu of a pumpkin pie. My instincts, paired with careful research with a one and four year old taste tester suggest it would be a wise decision. Happy autumn, from my kitchen to yours!

Ingredients:

(For the Dough)

  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (not hot water, as it will kill the yeast)
  • 1/4 cup raw, organic honey
  • 1 packet quick rise yeast
  • 1/3 cup pure organic pumpkin
  • 3 cups AP unbleached flour, plus more for rolling the dough (I used King Arthur)
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour 

(For the Filling)

  • 1/2 cup pure organic pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

(Sprinkle atop the rolls prior to rising)

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

(For the Caramel Sauce)

  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. organic butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Method:

  1. In your Kitchen-Aid mixer fitted with the hook attachment, add the warm water, yeast and honey. Let sit 5-10 minutes until the yeast activates/foam appears.
  2. Add the pumpkin and flours and knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be tacky to the touch, yet doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl when mixing.
  3. Lightly brush the bottom of the bowl with olive oil, place the dough in the bowl and cover with a towel to allow the dough to double in size for one hour.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the filling. Set aside. 
  6. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
  7. On a clean, lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangular shape, approximately 10×14.
  8. Thinly spread the filling from edge to edge and tightly roll the dough from one edge to the other, horizontally.
  9. Grease a 9×13 glass pan and cut the rolled dough into 1.5-2″ sections. Place them 4×3 in the pan and cover for 15-20 minutes to let rise again. 
  10. Sprinkle with the sugar/pumpkin pie spice mixture and bake for 20-25 minutes. 
  11. Generously pour the caramel sauce over each roll and serve warm or allow to cool and store for up to 2 days.

Caramel Apple Bread

I remember making caramel apples as a child with my mom in the kitchen. Unwrapping what seemed like an endless pile of caramels, dipping large green apples into a gooey bowl of it melted down, and finally adding whatever toppings to them that suited the mood at the time. Caramel apples are a treat synonymous with autumn and found in every orchard or grocery store around this time of year. 

While the real deal will always remind me of childhood – there’s something to be said about putting all of those flavors into a loaf pan and enjoying the fragrance of it baking away in the oven. The house smelled like an apple orchard for hours – a complete added bonus. 

I wanted to make a bread that looked as pretty as the inspiration, so I thinly sliced the apples and placed them upright in the batter prior to baking. When the cooled bread is sliced, the upright apple slices look so cozy nestled into a piece of the bread and the caramel sauce completes the package. This truly does taste like a caramel apple, and is an acceptable form of eating one for breakfast. Or any other meal of the day.

The sauce is an adapted recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s caramel sauce, found here.

Rather than using half & half, I substituted whole milk. The sauce is incredibly simple and exactly the right sauce for this bread. 

As an added bonus, this bread is refined sugar free if you omit the caramel sauce.

Happy baking, and thanks for stopping by!

Ingredients:

(For the Bread)

  • 1/2 cup room temp organic butter (I used Hope Creamery)
  • 1 cup organic, Grade A light amber maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1 tbsp whole milk
  • 8 oz all natural, no sugar added applesauce
  • 2 cups unbleached, AP flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 honeycrisp or granny smith apples, cut width wise in 1/4″ sections

(For the Caramel Sauce)

  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. organic butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325.
  2. Wash the apples and cut 1/4″ slices width wise on either side of the core. This will yield two quarters of each apple unused. Go ahead and enjoy those pieces while the cake bakes! (See above photo)
  3. In a large bowl or Kitchen-Aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all wet ingredients. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Add the batter into a greased loaf pan. Gently nestle in each apple slice across the batter. Depending on the size of the apples, the tops may sit above the batter. Bake 50-60 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
  5. While the bread is baking, in a medium sized pan atop your stovetop, add the brown sugar, butter, milk and salt to the pan and gently whisk over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the vanilla and whisk another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Place the sauce into a glass container and allow to cool further in the fridge. 
  6. Allow the bread to cool completely before removing from the loaf pan! Drizzle with the caramel sauce and serve the remaining sauce on the side for yourself (ahem, I mean your guests.)

Cranberry Apple Sauce

Autumn in Minnesota this year has been incredible. The colors, the smells & the weather have all collaborated so perfectly – it’s truly one of the best I can recall. Another part of what makes autumn so great is the bounty of local harvesters. We recently joined a co-op and have enjoyed so much local produce, and we love knowing we are supporting as many local (or regional) growers as possible.

Last week I picked up some organic cranberries, and decided to pair them with some of the best apples Minnesota has produced in its time: Honeycrisp. The combination is perfect. A bit sweet, a bit tart and bursting with flavors of fall.

This is good food, simply made in under 30 minutes. If you love these seasonal items as much as we do, you’ll love this cranberry apple sauce. Prep time is about 10 minutes, and cook time 15-20. The recipe yields 2 pint sized jars.

Ingredients:

  • 5 large Honeycrisp apples, peeled and roughly diced (approximately 5 cups)
  • 1.5 cups fresh, organic cranberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup grade A, light Amber organic maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • The juice of 1 medium sized lemon

 Method:
  • Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot on stovetop and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer 20 minutes until the fruit is soft and thickens.
  • Mash to desired consistency with a potato masher or food processor.
  • Store in 2 mason sized pint jars & refrigerate once cooled.

Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers

Potstickers. No, seriously:: POTSTICKERS! What day couldn’t be turned around by inhaling aaaaaaaall the potstickers? There’s a reason why these little pillows of flavor are so good; they are a complete labor of love. That being said, they are completely worth the time. 

Because they are so tedious, I make them in huge quantities. This recipe makes 48 potstickers. Forty eight little individually wrapped presents for you to eat. Share them if you want to. Or don’t.

Part of the reason why I take the time to make my own is that I really haven’t found a takeout restaurant in the ‘burbs that makes a good potsticker. Another is that one order typically yields around five, which creates an awkward scenario if you’re sharing them with another person. Who gets the odd-numbered potsticker? Do you split it? Who gets the filling when you cut it in half and it doesn’t split equally? First world takeout problems solved – make these and you’ll have enough for everyone (ooooor, yourself.)

They heat up nicely in the oven and create an additional crunchiness – or they can be consumed cold if you lack the patience. Like me. 

Feel free to substitute any ingredients you’d like – ground pork would be lovely as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground chicken 
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped carrots (make it easier on yourself and purchase the matchstick bagged version)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup (approximately 6) diced green onions
  • 2 tbsp grape seed oil
  • 1.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers (contains 48 wrappers)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 egg + 2 tbsp water for egg wash 

Method:

  1. Add the ground chicken, grape seed oil, diced vegetables and all seasonings in a large bowl. Combine ingredients with a fork. 
  2. On a clean surface, lay out a few wonton wrappers at a time and spoon 1 tsp of the filling in the center of each wrapper. Whisk together the egg & water in a small bowl and brush the four inner edges of the wrapper with egg wash using your finger.
  3. There are undoubtedly multiple ways (most prettier than mine) to fold a potsticker. The method I used was what made sense to me and relatively quick and simple. I folded it into a triangle, then folded each corner over and crimped all the edges with a fork. I completed the process until all 48 were complete and put them in a dish so that I could fry them in large batches.
  4. In a large skillet on your stove top, add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil on medium heat. Once the oil has become hot (drop a small amount of water to the oil, if it sizzles the oil is ready) add the potstickers to the pan. I did mine in batches of 10.
  5. Saute on both sides about 1 minute, or until a light golden brown color appears. 
  6. Add 1/3 cup water to the hot pan and put the lid atop. Let steam for 3-4 minutes and remove from the pan. Complete the process until all dumplings are cooked. Consume. Eat happy!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

October is my second favorite month of the year. The weather is perfection, the leaves peak in vibrancy, and it’s the month in which we celebrate my husband’s birthday. 

He has a soft spot for pumpkin baked items, and – well, I have a soft spot for him. So these were made with him in mind. They’re soft, chewy and perfectly capture Autumn in each bite. They pair really nicely with a hot cup of coffee as well!

I added in some quick oats for good measure, and I enjoy the texture – but you can certainly omit them – just cut back about 1/4 cup of the pumpkin. I also always add a bit more cinnamon than what’s noted below – only for good measure. My grandma always told me to do the same with pure vanilla extract. She said it was her secret to making the flavors pop in whatever she was baking. It’s stuck with me since I was a child, and every time I bake I add a little extra of those ingredients and smile in her memory.

Yields about 18-24 cookies. Happy baking!

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • 1/2 cup organic butter, room temp
  • 1 cup pure organic maple syrup, grade A light Amber
  • 1/3 cup all natural no sugar added applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1.5 cups oats

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powder sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp whole milk

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  1. Mix together butter, maple syrup, applesauce, vanilla extract and egg, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add pumpkin and mix until combined.
  3. Add in all dry ingredients (sans oats) and blend until just combined. Stir in oats. Do not over mix.
  4. Spoon out 1 tbsp sized dollops into the parchment lined baking sheets – bake 15-18 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a cooling rack after 5 minutes, then drizzle or dollop the glaze atop each cookie.

Cheese & Herb Pull Apart Bread

As autumn creeps into Minnesota, menus tend to shift from BBQ’s and salads to soups and heartier dishes that warm both the body and the soul. To accompany those meals, what could be better than a soft and herbaceous bread filled with cheese in every layer?

Food really is a love language for some people – clearly me being one of those folks. I once read a statement made by a blogger that said something to the affect that people who get excited take pictures of their food are usually happy people. The process of baking, prepping and serving food to people is filled with love and nostalgia for me, and I try to fill my family with an experience of all of that at every meal. Sometimes it’s messy and a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese – but the point is I want those sitting round my table to know they are loved, valued and welcomed – just as they are.

This bread is a whole lotta love! The beauty of the recipe is how interchangeable you can make it, depending on the meal of which you’re serving. On my next go of it, I plan to stuff it with jalapeños and cheese to kick it up as a side dish for chili. Use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Sage and chives are two of my favorite, so I chose those two and the punch of herbs really made a difference. I also used a mild cheddar, but once again – use whatever ingredients are to your liking. Yields one loaf pan of bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet quick rise yeast
  • 1.5 cups warm water (not hot water as it will kill the yeast)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups unbleached, AP flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped sage
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped chives
  • 2 tbsp melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 6 oz grated cheddar cheese

Method:

  1. In your Kitchen-Aid mixer, fitted with the hook attachment, add the yeast and warm water to the bowl and let sit for 10 minutes, until the yeast begins to bubble. Add olive oil, spices, salt, sage, chives & flour and at a low speed, knead the dough for 5 minutes. The dough should pull away from the bowl and be tacky to the touch, but not stick to your fingers.
  2. Lightly brush olive oil around the bottom of the bowl and cover the bowl with a towel – allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  4. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the dough into a long rectangle.
  5. Cut the dough into 6 strips horizontally.
  6. Add the grated cheese onto each layer, and stack them atop one another. 
  7. Cut the layers into 5 sections horizontally, then place the sections in the greased loaf pan. Some of the cheese will fall out, but reserve it for topping the dough once in the pan.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the loaf pan & serve hot. Each section will pull apart beautifully, bursting with cheesy, herb flavor. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Muffins

The other night I was walking down the stairs and the minute my feet hit the ground my oldest and husband, grins wide, began chanting “we want pumpkin bread! We want pumpkin bread!” A few things are irresistible, you see – and their sweet smiles are one of those things. Pumpkin bread is another.
Immediate check-mate.

The simplest things bring me to happiness, really. I find joy in the every day, laughter and making those in my life feel valued. Sometimes it’s a step outside my comfort zone, and other times it’s something that comes quite naturally {like baking.} 

These smell good, taste good and make my loved ones feel good. They’re refined sugar free so they make me feel good too. I can hardly wait to feed them to the family and hug them silly, just because. You can make these in the form of muffins, or mini/large loaves of bread. Enjoy autumn and these tasty treats!

 Ingredients:
  • 1.5 cups pure, grade A light Amber maple syrup
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached AP flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup natural, no sugar added apple sauce

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pan or line with parchment liners. (If using a loaf pan, grease pan.)
  2. In your kitchen aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the maple syrup, canola oil, eggs and pumpkin until mixed.
  3. Add flour, spices, baking powder and salt and mix until combined. Finally, add in the apple sauce and using a spatula, scrape the edges of the bowl to ensure all the ingredients are mixed together well.
  4. Add the batter into desired pan and bake. 20-25 minutes for muffins, 25-28 minutes for a mini loaf pan (the one yielding 8 mini loaves) or 50-60 minutes for large loaf pan.

Yields approximately 15-16 muffins.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Butter Scones

These scones may make any English tea lover cringe, but they are ranking pretty high in my book for a sweet breakfast indulgence. If you’ve never had cookie butter from Trader Joes – do yourself a favor and run there ASAP and buy two jars. The first one you will notice disappears with only a spoon in hand, thus your need for two. The second you can use in these treats.

They’ll disappear quickly – my 4 year old turned her nose up when I said I was baking scones…and then she saw them. After her eyes grew in delight and she asked if she could try them, she proceeded to tell me what a good “cooker and baker” I was – better than Baker Aker on her favorite PBS cartoon show. I filed it as a huge compliment then kissed her chocolate covered cheeks in thanks.

The smell from you oven alone will be reason enough for your family to thank you. There’s just something about this cookie butter that is quite intoxicating and delicious. Consider yourself warned!

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups unbleached, AP flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup organic whole milk
  • 6 tbsp cold organic butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup (heaped) cookie butter
  • 2/3 cups chocolate chips, divided in half – half for baking in the scones and half for drizzling melted atop the baked scones
 Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Using your food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, diced butter and cookie butter until it forms a powder. Gradually add in the milk and pulse until the mixture begins to combine and form inside the processor.
  3. Lightly flour your countertop and remove the dough from the processor, forming into a ball. Lightly flour the top of the dough and form into a round disc. Add the 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and gently fold into the dough.
  4. Cut into 8 pie shaped pieces and transfer them to the parchment lined baking sheet.

  5. Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

  6. Melt the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips and drizzle atop the hot scones. Serve Warm or cooled.

Spiced Pumpkin Smoothie

It’s mid-September, which means it’s been at least a month since the onset of pumpkin everywhere drinks or treats at coffee shops and bakeries. I love autumn and all of the flavors that come with it – but I like to wait until the weather cools a bit and let summer run its course before I jump on the pumpkin bandwagon. 

That being said, school has begun, the weather is trending towards cooler temps and the sun is setting earlier. Autumn is creeping into Minnesota and I feel we payed the appropriate homage to the end of a gorgeous summer. Let the pumpkin indulgences begin! 

As a mom of two, I’m always in search of healthy snacks that are quick and easy, but appeals to their sweet tooth without all the refined sugars. {okay, I’d like those kind of snacks as well!} It’s our responsibility to teach our girls healthy eating habits – and I am a firm believer of everything in moderation. These smoothies are protein packed with a lot of flavor and nothing to leave me cringing about from an ingredients standpoint. They also taste good. 

These taste like pumpkin pie in a glass. If you must, add a wafer and whip cream on top to complete the package. But these are a great way to start your day, or as a midday snack for any member of the family. {and they’re vegan | refined sugar free.} 

 Ingredients:
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup all natural, no sugar added apple sauce 
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
  • 2 tbsp organic, pure grade A maple syrup
  • 4 ice cubes  

 Method:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix until combined. Serve and enjoy! 
  2. Yields 2 medium sized smoothies.

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