Sausage and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash

This is my second try with this recipe concept.  The first time was a few months ago, using this kale and sausage recipe from Epicurious.  While it was good, I felt like it was lacking..something. This week I took another run at it, and I really like what I ended up with.   It would make a nice dinner party entree, and the recipe scales easily.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 acorn squash (medium or large, just aim for two about the same size)
  • 12 oz pork sausage (Italian or breakfast works well)
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed stuffing mix
  • Thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage
  • Pinch red pepper flake (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, or chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Halve squash, and slice a small round of the back of each half (so it has a stable base to sit on when stuffed.  Scrape out seeds (and save those for roasting later).  Place cavity side down in oven safe tray with 1/4″ of water in the bottom. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the flesh can be easily pierced with a fork.

While the squash are baking, prepare the filling.  Brown sausage, then add butter, onion and mushrooms to pan.  As those sauté, add your herbs and salt and pepper.  If you have fresh rosemary, that is a particularly nice addition here, but not required.  When the sausage, mushrooms, and onions have cooked through, kill the heat and add the stuffing mix.  Stir mix in, trying to soak up any juices in the pan as you go.  Add the wine, and let the stuffing absorb that too.  If it looks dry still, add some stock or water until your stuffing is no longer crunchy.  Add a couple of tablespoons of parmesan to the mixture.

For actually stuffing your squash, drain the water from the tray and flip the squash cavity side up.  Sprinkle some salt, pepper and parmesan onto each squash.  Fill the cavity with your stuffing mixture (I’d say I got about a cup of stuffing into each squash, but that will depend on the size of your squash). As you fill, gently press the filling into the cavity.  You don’t want to pack it tightly, but make sure you don’t have large unfilled pockets in there.  Top each filled squash with more parmesan, and broil for a few minutes, until your parmesan toasts to golden brown.

These are great right out of the oven, but I think they get even better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two.  They reheat well in the microwave, so feel free to make an extra squash for leftovers.

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Skillet Meatloaf

Meatloaf is always one of those dishes that ends up tasting far better than it sounds.  This skillet variation cooks more quickly than baking alone, and it leaves you with easy to use drippings for a gravy.  The ingredients presented are for a pretty standard American meatloaf, but feel free to use your favorite recipe.  I have a suspicion would be an outstanding method for a Cajun flavored meatloaf as well (which is what I’m going to try the next time we make this).

Ingredients

For meatloaf:

  • 1 lb ground beef (I use 90% lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup small diced onion
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp season salt
  • Dash granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp sriracha (optional)
  • 1 pinch celery seed
  • 1/2-3/4 cup bread crumbs (as needed)
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large pinch thyme
  • Genergous dash of worcestershire sauce

Other ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Beef stock (2-3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion

Method 

Mix ingredients for meatloaf together until combined.  Shape into 4 patties. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat oil in pan over medium heat.  Brown meatloaf patties, about 4-5 minutes aside.  Adjust heat as needed to keep them from burning.  Place patties in a oven safe greased tray, and brush with chili sauce, ketchup, or ketchup and sriracha mixture (my preference).  Bake for 10 minutes.

 

While the meatloaf finishes in the oven, make the gravy.  Melt butter in skillet, and stir flour in to make a roux.  When the roux hits a light khaki color, add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add beef stock, stirring constantly until you hit the consistency you like.  Adjust seasoning, turn heat down and stir regularly.

 

At this point, I recommend turning the oven to broil, raising the oven rack and broiling the meatloaf for a couple of minutes to really get the ketchup coating to bubble and glaze.  This is optional. but highly recommended.

Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

 

Tikka Meatballs

This recipe is one that I have used several times without posting (oops).  We both love Indian food, but to really get that fantastic flavor with the meat, it needs to be stewed with spices, or marinated, and we usually don’t plan well enough for that.  That’s where the meatball can be a meal saver.  Just dump in some spices, mix it up, and bake, and in less than an hour, you have wonderfully seasoned meat ready for the curry of your choice.  I have made these with turkey, chicken and with a lamb and beef mixture, and they’re all wonderful.  In the images shown, I was making turkey meatballs for a tikka masala.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb ground meat (turkey, chicken, lamb or beef)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup curry paste*
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-1 cup breadcrumbs (as needed for texture)
  • Juice of 1 lime (when using poultry)

*The specific curry pastes used will depend on what meat your making, and what the final destination curry will be.  For poultry, I like tandoori pastes:

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We picked up both of these at the local Indian market, but the larger Kroger’s in our area also will carry some of the Patak’s products.  For red meat, I use a mixture of mild curry paste and a rogan josh paste, and omit the lime.

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large bowl by hand, until well mixed, and the meat sticks to itself, rather than the sides of the bowl.

Portion into walnut sized balls, and place on greased sheet tray.

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Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the meatballs over around the 20 minute mark. Remove from oven, and try not to eat them all before they can get into the tikka masala.

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At this point, you can either toss them into your sauce, serve with grilled onion and pepper and naan for a lazy tikka or tandoori meal, or bag and freeze them for future curries.img_5405

Recently, we’ve been using recipes from The Curry Guy, and have been thoroughly pleased with the results (as can be seen in the tikka masala above).  The curry sauce base he recommends is a little time consuming initially, but absolutely worth making and freezing if you plan on making Indian at home regularly. Once you have the sauce base, assembling the curry is no more difficult than opening a jar of pre-made sauce and dumping that in the saucepan. I grabbed the e-book on Kindle, and it’s now our go-to curry cookbook.  It’s a particularly useful resource for folks like us, who have only really been exposed to restaurant style Indian, which is different than the regional Indian recipes and cookbooks we’ve tried.

Serve with rice, naan, chapati, or just a fork and a straw (we won’t judge).

Steak and Mushroom Pie

This dish has been one of those ideas that I have wanted to be able to make for years, but each time I attempted a version of it, it was horribly disappointing.  Raw crust, soupy filling, bland flavor, I experienced all of the problems trying to make this dish work. I made a treacle tart for the first time earlier this week, and that recipe used a crust ratio of 2:1 flour to butter, so I decided to try out that ratio and see what happened. They also blind baked their crust, and egg washed it, so I decided to give that a go too.  At long last, I have unlocked the meat pie achievement for a pie lives up to every one of my hopes, dreams and aspirations for this dish.  I mean, look at it!

No runny filling, the crust is sturdy, yet not cardboardy or tough.

 

 

Since this has been a ten year search for this method, I am going to be sure to save this for future pie purposes.  Most of this recipe will be focused on the construction methods-the specific filling and flavor profile is your call, but what makes this work is the crust method and the filling consistency.

 

Ingredients

For crust (it’s in metric, because that’s what I used for this.   Feel free to convert as needed):

  • 226g butter (two sticks, cold)
  • 50 g shortening
  • 550g AP flour
  • Big pinch salt
  • Ice water
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)

For filling (or use a very thick stew of your choice):

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2.5 lbs beef roast, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2/3 cup peas
  • 2 tbsp butter or bacon drippings
  • 4 tbsp flour (plus more, to thicken)
  • Herbs, salt, pepper and garlic, as needed
  • Stock, as needed

Method

Prepare the filling. Toss the beef in the flour, season as desired.  Melt butter in large skillet, and brown beef.  Add onions, saute until translucent. Add carrots and mushrooms.  Season again (this will be a theme).  You need enough liquid in here to cook the carrots, but you don’t want it runny.  The mushrooms and beef should give off enough so you don’t need to add stock, but if it’s really dry at this stage, add stock (or wine or beer).  Cover and simmer 1 hour.  Add peas, adjust seasoning.   Cook another 30 minutes. Remove lid, check thickness.  If you can’t make a pile of the filling on one side of the pan and have it stay there, it’s not thick enough.  Make a flour and cold water (or cold stock) slurry, and thicken up your stew until it’s as thick as possible.  You won’t get a ton of thickening while it bakes, so now is the time to hit this consistency.  Once the stew is thickened, and the flavors are as you like them, let the filling cool slightly.

While your filling cooks, make your crust.  Cut butter into flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add salt, and slowly add water until the mixture holds together.  Wrap in plastic and stash in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (this can be done up to 24 hours ahead of time).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 9″ deep dish pie pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Take crust out of fridge, and use 2/3rds of it for the bottom crust.   Roll crust out to at least 1/4″ thick (thicker is better-you need the structural support).  Place crust into pan, dock bottom and sides.  Line crust bottom with parchment and use pie weights.  Blind bake crust for 15-20 minutes.  Scramble egg with 1 tbsp water. Remove from oven, remove weights and parchment, and brush with egg wash. Bake another 5 minutes.  Roll remaining 1/3rd of the crust out for the top crust.

Fill blind baked crust with your stew until it’s level with the top of the dish.  Brush edges with egg wash, and place top crust on pie, gently pressing the edge closed.  Brush top crust with egg wash, and make vent slits.  Bake 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.  Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

At this point, I am now planning all of the different kinds of pies I can make with this method.  It would make a fantastic crust for chicken pot pie, so long as the filling is thick enough.

 

Spoon bread (healthy, easy version)

For those of you who haven’t gotten to experience spoon bread yet, I highly recommend it.  It’s basically corn and sour cream baked into a corn bread.  The fancier versions treat it like a soufflé, with whipped egg whites and everything, but for weeknights, that’s just a little intense for me.  This can be made as complicated or as simply as you want.  For this variant, I’m going with a super easy, pantry friendly version, but feel free to make this as indulgent as you want.  

Ingredients*

  • 1 box (8.5oz) Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 (15oz) can corn kernels (we used the corn off of 3 cooked cobs, and it was just right)
  • 1 (15oz) can creamed corn
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (most recipes call for 1 stick, but we didn’t miss it with only half that)
  • 5 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 oz sour cream (could omit the Greek yogurt and just use 1 cup of sour cream, but the yogurt does save some calories, and gives you a lighter texture without whipping eggs)
  • 3 eggs

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix ingredients in a large bowl.  Dump into greased baking dish (I used 8″x8″).  Bake until set, 40-45 minutes.  If desired, brown the top under the broiler. Cool, and serve.

*Note on additions-you can add pretty much any additional flavoring agent you could want to this.  Bacon? Go for it.  Jalapeños? Absolutely.  Cheese? Go nuts. Green onions? Why not?  Think of it as a blank corn-based canvas.

This is a really nice side dish with baked barbecue sauce chicken (as seen here), or anywhere you might otherwise serve corn.  This will probably make it into the rotation for side dishes for those days we’re running the smoker.

 

 

 

Venison Meatballs

Here in Kansas, deer season can result in some pretty tasty venison, if you happen to know someone who hunts.  Luckily, we do.  While Chris grew up eating venison (although mostly in summer sausage or chili form), I came to venison eating later in life and quite enjoy it.  As with any game meat, it can vary in flavor and intensity depending on the specific animal, but the meat we used for this recipe was quite mild.  If you’re sensitive to gamy flavors, you have a couple of options.  You can either try to cover up the meat flavor with spices, at which point you might as well just skip the venison and use beef, or you can use intensely savory flavors for the sauce (as we did here) that actually pair well with a slightly gamy flavor.  The seasoning options presented here are only a guideline-take this any direction that suits you. They would play equally well as a Swedish meatball, or as a standard red-checkered tablecloth spaghetti and meatball.

image

 

Ingredients

2 lbs ground venison

1 lb ground pork (80% lean)

3/4-1 cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs

2/3 cup parmesan (in the can, yes I know. Shameful, but it’s the best for meatballs. I’ve tried putting the good stuff in there instead, but it just doesn’t work as well.  Must be the cellulose).

1 tbsp Italian seasoning (use your favorite-we used a bread dipping mix I grabbed at a local spice shop)

1 tbsp steak seasoning or season salt

1 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp salt

Dash Worcestershire sauce

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients by hand until well mixed.  If the mixture is too sticky, add more breadcrumbs until the meat mixture sticks to itself, not to you.  On an oiled baking sheet, roll out your desired size of meatball.  I like the 2-3 tbsp size range, so I ended up with about 50 meatballs from this mixture.  Bake for 25 minutes. At this point you can either use them in a dish, or cool, then stash in a freezer safe bag until you have a hankering for more venison.

For the red wine mushroom sauce in the picture, I’m afraid I don’t have an exact recipe for it, but I can provide some general guidelines.  We used our standard roux based sauce method, where we make a roux, when it starts to darken, add the veggies (onion and mushrooms here).  Sauté off for a few minutes, then deglaze with some booze (we started with marsala, but ran out.  oops).  2-3 cups of mixed meat broth then goes in, along with garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  We let it simmer covered for a few minutes to let the mushrooms give up their juice, and then added some Shiraz we had open (along with a shot of brandy, because at this point, why not?).  Meatballs went in, and we simmered it for another few minutes to warm the meatballs up again, and to let that flavor mix with the sauce a bit.  I wasn’t really keeping track of the amounts of anything we used, but that’s the joy of cooking for fun.

Weeknight dinner rolls

I am going to start this post with an entirely banal statement.  Homemade bread is amazing.  I know I’m not staking out a highly contentious position with this, but I feel like I need to make my position on this topic clear from the beginning.  Unfortunately, good yeast breads tend to take longer than I want to devote to cooking on a week night, so I’ve been relying on the take and bake loaves of bread from the local Kroger.  These are all well and good for the crusty bread fix, but there’s nothing quite like a fresh pan of rolls.  On a whim, I looked around on Pinterest and found a one hour buttermilk dinner rolls recipe and decided to try it out last week.  The results were promising, but a little dense and pale in our oven. I made the recipe again yesterday with a few tweaks, and we have a winner.

Buttermilk dinner rolls

Buttermilk dinner rolls

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups AP flour
    • (EDIT: For wheat rolls, use 3 cups AP flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Method

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all of the dry ingredients (including yeast), and stir briefly to combine.  In a microwave-safe container, mix the buttermilk, butter (sliced into smaller pieces) and water.  Heat until butter is melted.  With the dough hook attached and mixer running, slowly add in the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.  When combined, turn speed up to medium low until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If it’s too dry after a couple of minutes, add another tablespoon of buttermilk, and if it’s too wet, add some flour.  It is better to err on the side of sticky.  When the dough has had about 5 minutes on the mixer, remove the hook, cover the bowl and stash in a warm place for 10 minutes.  This allows the dough to relax a little bit before you shape the rolls.  While you’re rising the dough, preheat the oven to 170 degrees F, or as low as it will go.  After your 10 minutes are up, turn the dough out onto an oiled board, and shape into rolls (I like breaking it into twelve rolls).  Place rolls in a greased 9″x13″ pan, turn OFF the oven, cover the tray and allow the rolls to rise in the oven for 20-25 minutes. When the rolls have risen, remove them from the oven (VERY IMPORTANT) and preheat to 400 degrees F.   Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, covering them loosely with aluminum foil if they start to brown too much.  Remove from the oven and allow them to cool as long as you can before consuming in a frenzy of butter and crumbs.

 

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While they do take a little longer than an hour with these modifications (about 75 minutes), the results are worth it.  These are light, fluffy rolls that are great with dinner, or as rolls for sandwiches.  This is definitely going to be entering our bread rotation in a big way.   It’s also a short enough process that I can make the dough, and let them rise and bake while we’re working on the rest of dinner, which makes these absolutely manageable as a weeknight bread option.