Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brownie Truffles

This is your face after eating one of these.
For real.
I mentioned in a previous post that last week I went on a staff retreat and decided to bring snacks. Partly because I've completely failed in bringing them goodies on a regular basis (word's out about the blog!) and partly because it gave me an opportunity to try out a few "crowd pleaser" snacks that we really don't need sitting around our house. Ahem.
These were a HUGE hit. When we got back, they each snagged "just one more" before we all went our seperate ways. If you've made the ever-famous Oreo Truffles, these are made about the same way. While it takes a little bit of work to roll and dip each one, it's definitely worth it (and makes a huge batch!). You can use made from scratch brownies (one of my favorite recipes) or cheat and go with a box mix, doesn't matter. Just make sure they are cooked through but still soft.
Keep these in the freezer and let them soften just 5 or so minutes before taking a bite.
Brownie Truffles
1 9x13 pan of brownies, baked and cooled (don't overcook!)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sprinkles or chopped candy for topping, optional
With a spoon, scoop out the cooked and cooled brownies into a large bowl. Leave the hard edge behind. Add the cream cheese to the bowl and mix well.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. With your hands, roll the brownie/cream cheese mixture into 1 inch balls and place on the sheet. When the entire bowl is rolled, place the sheet in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes.
Melt your chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth. Using a fork, dip each brownie ball into the chocolate, tap lightly to knock off the additional chocolate, and set back on the parchment paper. Add sprinkles or chopped candy before it sets.
Place pan back into freezer to harden before moving to another container. Best kept in freezer and served cold.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Recipe Index Update & Super Bowl Ideas!

Happy Tuesday! I spent HOURS last night updating the recipe index. It had gotten so big that I knew it was pretty much impossible to navigate. Some of the changes:
  • Main dishes are now broken down to beef, chicken, pork, turkey, pasta, rice, sausage, seafood, and vegetarian
  • Sweets are broken down a bit more
  • Beans, potatoes, rice/quinoa as a side dish, and pasta as a side dish are now seperate
  • I added a section of Texas Favorites
  • I added a section of Quick and Easy meals, which should all be {start to finish} 30 minute meals 
I know it'll help me find what I'm looking for and I hope it helps you, too! Feel free to pass on any suggestions you have in making it even easier to navigate.

I haven't heard much buzz about the Super Bowl this weekend - maybe because I'm fairly removed from the location of the two teams? Buzz or no buzz, more than likely you're hosting or attending a Super Bowl party this Sunday - which typically means bringing a dish to share!

Here are some suggestions from my archives:

Mushroom Swiss Sliders

Everything Shrimp with Scallion Cream Cheese Dip

Creamy Baked Chicken Taquitos
Edamole {Edamame + Guacamole} and Fried Wonton Strips
Buffalo Chicken Dip

Crockpot Chex Mix
Pretzel Dogs

Here are a few ideas from around the web!

Spicy Feta Dip with Roasted Red Peppers from A Spicy Perspective

Potato Skins from Closet Cooking
Sticky Mustard and Ginger Cocktail Sausages by Girlichef
Cranberry, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Dip by Beantown Baker

Shrimp & Pork Potstickers from Juanita's Cocina


Monday, January 28, 2013

Cuban Burgers

Just a note regarding comments... for whatever reason, Blogger and my laptop don't get along most days and it won't let me reply to comments on the blog. I promise I'm not ignoring you; I read each and every one and so desperately want to respond as soon as I see it but instead, I have to wait until I can jump on my husband's laptop. Weird, right? If someone knows how I could fix this, I'd LOVE to hear from you. Otherwise, forgive me?


Last spring, we made what seems to have become a yearly trek to the Orlando area. This time, however, my husband couldn't get enough of the Cuban sandwich. Cuban sandwiches are fairly rare back home (at the time, home was Texas but even now in North Carolina it's a rare sight!) and they are so darn tasty. We capitalized on the Cuban influence in Florida and enjoyed them while we could.

If you've never had a Cuban sandwich, they are fairly simple: ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. A Cuban twist on the ham and cheese sandwich, if you will. This burger takes the essence of a Cuban sandwich and smooshes it into burger format. And it's a total win.

The ground pork is heavily flavored with garlic, cilantro, oregano, cumin, and a healthy dose of fresh lime. To that patty, you add the traditional ham, swiss cheese, and pickle but also throw in some dijon mustard and garlic roasted mayo.

Your mouth watering yet?

Cuban Burgers

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
4 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 hamburger buns
4 slices swiss cheese
4 slices smoked ham
dill pickle slices (for topping)
dijon mustard (for topping)

Mix the garlic, cilantro, lime zest, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper into the pork. Form the pork into 4 patties about 3/4 of an inch thick. Grill or pan fry the burgers until cooked, about 3-5 minutes per side. When almost finished, top each patty with a slice of ham and slice of swiss; allow cheese to melt.

Mix the roasted garlic and into the mayonnaise.

To the bun, add dijon mustard, garlic mayo, and pickles. Add patty and enjoy.

Source: Closet Cooking

Linked up at What's In Your Kitchen Wednesday @ Kitchen Meets Girl

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pretzel Dogs

Mark this day in history ~ I, Aimee _____, used yeast in the kitchen and lived to tell about it.

Since I'm not much of a baker, yeast completely freaks me out. Anything that grows on my kitchen counter is not typically something I want to stick around. But the intrigue of a pretzel dog forced me to give it a shot and while my pretzel dogs aren't nearly as pretty as others, I'm darn proud of them. Good looking or not, they were DELICIOUS.

The pretzel dough tastes exactly like a pretzel at Disney World (except there is no castle in the background, which admittedly makes pretzels at Disney taste better than anyplace else). It's chewy and soft and amazing. I was so impressed with myself.

While intimidating to those of us unexperienced in yeast, they really aren't that complicated. The dough comes together very easily, you let it rise about an hour, divide and wrap your hot dogs, boil quickly in a baking soda mixture, and bake. Not so bad, right?

I don't have a stand mixer so I did the dough by hand and it was very easy. Plus dough is sorta fun to play with :)

This makes a big batch; I made 16 pretzel dogs PLUS 6 pretzel sticks with the leftover dough.

Pretzel Dogs
For the dough:
22 oz (about 4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 F)
2 oz (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
8 hot dogs, halved
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)
pretzel salt or coarse salt

Add the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, water, and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until the dough comes into a rough ball. Knead on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic (it should pull away from the sides of the bowl). Transfer the dough to a large bowl that's been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 50 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the 10 cups of water and the baking soda in a large stockpot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto your work surface. Divide it into 16 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into approximately a 12-inch rope. Wrap the rope around one halved hot dog - be sure to pinch the ends very well to seal (to reduce the likelihood that the dough unravels when you boil in the next step). Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough until you've wrapped all of the dogs.

One at a time, boil the pretzel dogs in the baking soda/water mixture for 30 seconds, transferring them to a wire rack afterward using a slotted spoon or spider strainer. Repeat with all 16 pretzel dogs. Transfer the dogs to the parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the pretzels are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with mustard or your favorite dipping sauce.

Source: Tracey's Culinary Adventures

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crockpot Chex Mix

Confession: I've never made Chex Mix before. I've eaten it, sure, but never made it.

And really, the phrase "made it" is sorta overkill. While there is a recipe to follow, it's fool proof and so simple a cave man could do it.

Sometimes, aren't the most basic dishes the best? Basic or not, Chex Mix rocks. It's crunchy, flavorful, and salty. Being able to toss it into the crockpot is the icing on the cake.

Tomorrow, I'm heading to the mountains (this Texas girl still takes joy in being able to say that!) for a staff retreat. I made this batch to take and share (along with a few other things that I'll be sharing soon!).

Note: with measurements below, this will take your largest crockpot.

Crockpot Chex Mix
9 cups Chex cereal (any mix of rice, corn, and wheat)
1 cup Cherrios cereal
1-2 cups pretzels
1-2 cup nuts
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons seasoned salt
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
Set crockpot to high and add butter. Cover and let melt. 
Once melted, add in Worcestershire, onion powder, garlic powder, and seasoned salt. Stir to combine.
Add the rest of ingredients and stir well to coat.
Turn down to low.
Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring every 45 minutes or so. As the slow cooker gets hotter, you will need to stir more often so the bottom ingredients don’t burn. 
Once the Chex mix is toasty brown, pour onto a baking sheet to cool. Store in a sealed bag or covered container.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Above is one of my favorite quotes from the great MLK, Jr. While it was lovely to have a three day weekend, I hope you'll join me in taking a moment to honor the life and work of a man who greatly shaped the society in which we live in today. His courage inspires me.


When you're married to a food blogger, you don't get repeat meals often. And while I doubt he minds this very often, there are occasions when, after asking if he's craving anything specific, he'll request something "in the archives" so to speak. Since sour cream chicken enchiladas are pretty much non-existant here, it came as no surprise that he was craving it. And honestly, so was I.

If you haven't had them before, you're missing out. They are creamy, mild in heat, and a bit tangy. Corn tortillas are typically used but I opted for flour this time. Corn made for a very white dish but sort of punctuated the creamy texture we were craving (and are a heck of a lot easier to roll!).

This recipe was originally posted on September 19, 2011.

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

For the filling:
Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR shredded meat from a rotisserie chicken
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium-sized onion, diced (optional)
*if using rotisserie chicken, omit salt and pepper

For the sour cream sauce:
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Serrano chiles, diced
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of sour cream
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
8 fresh tomatillos, husks removed or one 10 oz. can of tomatillos
Dash of cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste

For the enchiladas
12 corn or flour tortillas
1 tablespoon of canola oil
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If not using rotisserie chicken, sprinkle the chicken breasts on each side with the salt and black pepper. In a large cast-iron set on medium heat, and cook the chicken breasts on each side for three minutes. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. When the chicken is done, take the chicken out of the oven and let cool. Then shred with two forks. Keep the oven on.

While the chicken is baking, in a pot melt the butter. Throw in the diced Serrano chiles and cook until soft, about three or four minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the flour and cook for one more minute. Pour the chicken broth into the pot, and whisking constantly cook until chicken broth has thickened. Stir in the sour cream, cumin, cayenne and cilantro. Remove from heat.

If using fresh tomatillos, place them under the broiler on a foil-lined sheet and cook on each side until blackened, about four minutes per side. Place in a blender or food processor along with the sour cream sauce and puree until smooth. If using canned tomatillos, just skip the broiler step.

Heat the canola oil in a skillet and cook the corn tortillas on each side a couple of minutes until soft. Wrap in a cloth to keep warm as you continue to cook all 12. If using flour, skip this step.

To assemble the enchiladas, pour one cup of the sour cream sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Take each corn tortilla and place in the middle about 1/3 cup of shredded chicken, 1 teaspoon of diced onions and 1 tablespoon of cheese.

Roll the tortillas around the filling and place the rolled tortillas seam side down in the casserole dish. Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce and cheese and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling.

Serve topped with chopped cilantro. Makes 12 enchiladas.

Source: Homesick Texan

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bacon, Cheddar, and Beer Risotto

I adore risotto - in any form. There was a time where I was scared of making risotto... I think because it sounds complicated and pretentious. I mean, it is usually served at higher end restaurants... that makes it more elite, right? Nah. It's actually fairly simple if you're willing to babysit the pot for a good 30-45 minutes. To be honest, stirring risotto is somewhat theraputic ~ and you get a bowl of delicious risotto in the end! A win-win!

Traditional risotto is made with a blend of stock and wine. One of my favorite risottos uses chicken stock and white wine. This risotto is a delicious twist on the expected - it uses beer! And what goes better with beer than sharp cheddar cheese and bacon? What you get is a creamy, tangy, and smoky bowl of goodness that will disappear from the pot in record time. It was such a hit in my house that I only got one bowl out of the entire pot {there are only 2 of us here... and this makes 6-8 servings!}

If you haven't made risotto yet, conquer your fear and spend some time in the kitchen. You may even come away more relaxed in the end... and if not, at least you'll have a great meal when you finish!

Bacon, Cheddar, and Beer Risotto
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
12 oz bottle of beer
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1.5-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and broken into small pieces

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook 3-5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute, or until fragrant. Add the rice and stir to combine. Cook for 2 additional minutes, stirring throughout.

Pour in the beer and turn heat to high until the beer begins to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and add 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Stir occasionally until the liquid is absorbed and add another 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Repeat this process until all 6 cups of chicken broth have been added and the rice is creamy.

Remove from heat and add cheeses and bacon. Stir until well combined and serve.

Adapted from: Emily Bites


Monday, January 14, 2013

Hearty Vodka Sauce

Creamy and smooth vodka sauce is one of my favorite pasta sauces but sometimes you want something with a bit more umph... more bite... more... hearty. This sauce starts with a basic tomato sauce, brimming with veggies and meat, then topped off with the traditional vodka and cream. What you get is a satisfying and delicious bowl of pasta. Yum!

Psst - let this simmer while you're watching TV, throw the pot in the fridge before bed, and finish it off the next night - you'll have dinner on the table in under 30!

Hearty Vodka Sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus more if needed)
1 pound ground pork (or beef/turkey)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ground pork and brown. Once browned, remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Next, add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes (adding more oil if needed). Add celery and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add reserved browned pork, tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until thick.
Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning, adding more salt/pepper if needed.
{At this point, you can let cool and then move to the fridge until later or finish making the sauce.}
Add vodka to the tomato sauce and simmer until the mixture reduces, stirring often, around 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer over low heat until heated through. Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.
Serve over your favorite penne pasta.
Adapted from: Giada De Laurentiis 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Crispy Ginger Chicken

Chicken is such a standard dish for weeknights and this dish is a tasty twist on a typical chicken dinner. It's easy to throw together, uses pantry staples, and tastes better than take-out!

Instead of coating the chicken in a standard egg wash/flour dredge mixture, you do all the mixing in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. I loved this method! Less dishes and less mess!

The chicken is pan fried until crispy and then drizzled with sauce. Unlike some Asian dishes, where the flavor is all in the sauce, this chicken is delicious all on it's own.

Crispy Ginger Chicken
1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into small strips
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon grated gnger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons corn or rice flour
1 egg white
2" x 1" piece of ginger, cut into fine strips
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons sherry or Chinese wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn or rice flour
Place the chicken in a gallon sized Ziplock bag. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, crushed garlic, grated ginger, and salt. Shake to combine. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of corn/rice flour and shake to coat. Beat the egg white in a small bowl and add to the bag. Shake. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of corn/rice flour and shake again until the chicken is well coated.
Heat some cooking oil in a shallow pan. Fry the ginger strips on low heat until golden and crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
Fry the chicken in the same pan, over medium heat until golden brown.
For the sauce, in a small saucepan combine all ingredients but the water and corn/rice flour. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup water and about 1 tablespoon corn/rice flour to make a slurry. Add to the saucepan and heat until thickened and well combined. 
Drizzle the sauce over the fried chicken pieces, then sprinkle with crispy ginger strips.
Source: Adora's Box

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Crockpot Chicken & Bean Tostadas

Have you noticed that tostada and chalupa are often used interchangeably? I typically think of a crispy tortilla piled with toppings as a tostada but I know others consider it a chalupa. We went out to dinner over the weekend at a new restaurant and I ordered a combination plate that had both a chalupa AND a tostada; I wanted to see what they considered to be the difference! My dinner came... and they were exactly the same. Only difference was the toppings. So, my quest was a big fail - but the food was good.

{but really not as good as this}

See the steam coming off the top? I was holding back from taking a big bite as I snapped pictures.

Let me tell you why this is worth making:

1. It's a crockpot meal {easiest meal you'll make all week}
2. It's tasty.
3. It's inexpensive, thanks to the dried beans.
4. It makes a huge amount, perfect for a crowd. Or lunches.
5. It's made in a crockpot.
6. Who doesn't like cheese covered food on a crispy tortilla?

Crockpot Chicken & Bean Tostadas
1 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. dry pinto beans (rinsed)
6 ounces light beer (I used Corona)
1 15-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced (ribs and seeds removed)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons taco seasoning (easy recipe here)
generous pinch or two of salt
1½ cups water
¾ cup shredded cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
12+ corn tortillas

Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Cover with dry pinto beans, beer, tomatoes, garlic, jalapenos, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, taco seasoning, salt, and 1½ cup water. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high heat for 4-6 hours. 
Remove the lid after the cooking time and shred the chicken using two forks. You can do this directly in the slow cooker. If it’s too runny, continue to cook with the cover off for a little while. If it’s too dry, add more water.
Sprinkle cheese on top, replace the lid, and cook for another 30 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place tortillas directly on the oven rack and bake for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the tortillas and bake for another 1-2 minutes under golden brown and crunchy. Be careful because they burn easily! Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Top each tortilla with pork and bean mixture.
Source: Pinch of Yum

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Corona Beer-Braised Brisket Tacos

Brisket tacos are hands down my favorite kind.

To me, they need nothing more than a slice of avocado and some caramelized onions to create perfection. Lettuce, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa - all things that complicate a brisket taco. Though I know some people love all the extras (I'm looking at you, husband).

In Texas, taco shops are pretty common. In addition to storefronts, there are also some amazing food trucks that serve up unique and tasty tacos. In North Carolina? Not as common, but can be found. It's just... different. But, I did find one spot that has a pretty darn good brisket taco and while they say it's a limited time item, I'm hoping it stays on the menu!

Brisket can be cooked several different ways but since it's winter, and we don't have a smoker anymore, the oven is the best route. This recipe is a total winner in my book. The beer injects it with a load of flavor and of course the onions soak up all the juices while they cook low and slow. Good brisket is never rushed, but always worth the wait.

{if you're a small family like us, this will create a boatload of meat so just freeze the rest in smaller portions!}

I apologize that the picture isn't the greatest; I was working with a double slammer of a dark wintery day + brisket, which never looks all that appealing in the best of light. Please don't let that deter you.

This is a make-the-night-before meals so plan ahead! Let it cook while you're watching TV one night and have it for dinner the next!

Corona Beer-Braised Brisket
Vegetable or olive oil
sea salt and pepper
2-3 pounds beef brisket
3 onions, sliced into half moons
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bottle of Corona beer
Corn or flour tortillas
Sour cream, avocado, pico de gallo, guacamole, etc (whatever your choice toppings are)

Position a rack in the lowest part of your oven and preheat to 300.

Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the brisket. When the oil is hot, brown the brisket on all sides. Once well browned, remove and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add onions and garlic to the pot, scraping the brown bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add more oil as needed. Cook a few minutes then add 3/4 of the bottle of beer. Scrape the bottom again and make sure nothing is left behind. Turn off the heat and put the meat back in the pot. The beer should be about 1/3 up the side of the brisket. If it's not, add more beer.

Tear off a piece of parchment paper and press it down into your pot, directly on the brisket. This will help keep the moisture down in the meat.

Cover your pot with a lid and put it in the oven. Wait 15 minutes and check to see if it's simmering.  If it's not, adjust the temp.

Cook for 2 to 2.5 hours, flipping the meat over occasionally. It's ready when it falls apart with a gentle push from your wooden spoon. Let it cool in the pot, with the lid on, for a couple of hours. Once cool, shred the meat, mix it back into the onion/juices, and put it all in the fridge.

To reheat, preheat oven to 350. Put the meat in a casserole dish with some of the juices, cover with foil, and warm for 30-45 minutes. Serve with tortillas and desired toppings.

Source: Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent by Ellise Pierce

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

This was our first Christmas in North Carolina and we opted to stay put this year and not travel to see family. Some friends invited us to join their family Christmas lunch and, when I asked what I could bring, they requested another veggie. Their meal was already going to be delicious - beef tenderloin, crab bisque, green beans, cranberry relish, mac and cheese, and a bajillion homemade desserts. I thought a simple roasted squash would be the perfect addition.

I'm the type of person who tries out new recipes for company. I know, I know... thankfully, this recipe not only didn't bomb, it was actually really delicious! Roasting is my #1 way of preparing veggies (esp in the winter) and of course anything roasted alongside pancetta, sage, and garlic can't be wrong.

Don't push these off as holiday only; they would be perfect paired with just about any main course. If you just grab a package of already peeled and cubed butternut squash at the store, this recipe becomes ridiculously easy. (Those packages are typically 2 pounds worth; pictured above is 4 pounds).

Who would turn their nose up to vegetables that taste like candy? {plus they're pretty!}

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
1 large butternut squash OR 1 2-pound package already cubed butternut squash
1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
2 Tbsp. good olive oil
2 1/2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
16 whole fresh sage leaves

Preheat oven to 400°.

Peel and seed butternut squash and then cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes. Place squash and whole unpeeled garlic cloves in a baking dish or sheet pan large enough to hold them all in one layer. Toss with olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until squash begins to brown, turning once during baking.

Sprinkle pancetta and sage leaves evenly over squash and continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until squash and garlic are tender and caramelized. Squeeze garlic cloves out of their peel before serving. Season to taste and serve hot.

Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten

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