Lasagna-Stuffed Portabellas

Inspiration: I can never seem to figure out how to use up a tub of ricotta. I don’t buy it often, but every now and then a recipe that includes it strikes my fancy, so I throw a tub into the grocery cart and figure that I’ll use it up somehow. Then most of it sits in my fridge and stresses me out. (Yes, the thought of something going bad nearly sends me into a panic.) Since we don’t eat pasta, there just aren’t a whole lot of day-to-day recipes that I’ve found that even make use of ricotta, and one can only eat it mixed into scrambled eggs so many days in a row. The day after I made these portabella pizzas, I saw this recipe for lasagna-stuffed portabellas and knew that since the pizzas were such a success, I’d definitely have to try the lasagnas out. And as luck would have it, that tub of ricotta in the fridge was not getting any younger.

What We Loved: I’m not sure which I loved more, the portabella pizzas or these lasagna-stuffed portabellas. Both were incredible. With these, the intensely rich flavor of the dish as a whole was just outstanding. The ricotta filling was so creamy and had a wonderful basil taste; the tomato sauce was bright and rich; and the melted mozzarella on top was the finishing gooey touch. The mushrooms themselves were so earthy and had an intense browned garlic flavor that we just loved.  These really did taste quite a bit like lasagna, which was certainly a welcome thing.

Tips: I think that these would be great with a nice dollop of pesto on top. I almost threw some on this time, but I wanted to try the recipe as it was first. But I do think that it would be a great addition.

Lasagna-Stuffed Portabellas
Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa, originally from Pink Parsley
Serves: 2

2 portabella mushroom caps
Olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
Handful fresh basil, minced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. Drizzle the mushroom caps with olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 clove of the minced garlic. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Place cap-side down in a saute pan, and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the caps begin to brown and release some moisture.

2. Mix the ricotta with the second clove of minced garlic, the basil, and a couple tablespoons of the mozzarella cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

3. Place the mushroom caps into a baking dish. Top each with a spoonful of marinara sauce, the ricotta filling, and then the rest of the marinara. Top with shredded mozzarella and additional Italian seasoning.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are cooked through.

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Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Soup

Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Soup

Inspiration: This recipe came to us via Dayna, one of our blog readers (thanks again, Dayna!). As soon as I read the ingredient list and saw that the soup included cream cheese, I was completely sold. I already love butternut squash – especially in the form of butternut squash soup – so once cream cheese was thrown into the mix, there was no way that I wasn’t whipping this up. What a fantastic and interesting combination of ingredients.

What We Loved: This soup instantly became one of our favorites. The best thing about it for me was the texture, which was amazingly, velvety smooth. It really was the creamiest soup that I’ve ever had. We loved how you could really taste the rich cream cheese in every bite (what’s not to love about that?), and of course the backbone flavor of the butternut squash was hearty and delicious. To finish it all off, the roasted squash seeds on top added salty and crunchy bursts of flavor. I really couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers of this soup for lunches, and I already can’t wait to make it again.

Tips: I had quite a bit of trouble peeling the skin from the squash after baking it (without security cameras, it’ll run away from you), since the squash was so tender and took a while to cool. Next time, I’ll probably use a vegetable peeler and peel the squash before putting it into the oven.

Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Soup
Source: Dayna and Brian

2 medium sized butternut squash
Raw butternut squash seeds
Olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons chopped onion
3 cups chicken stock (use vegetable to keep the recipe vegetarian)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 8 oz package cream cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, placing the seeds into a sieve. Clean the seeds and spread them onto a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Place the squash on another baking sheet. Drizzle the flesh with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. After you remove the squash from the oven, bake the seeds for about 15 minutes until nice and browned, stirring occasionally.

4. When the squash is cooled, remove the skin.

5. Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the onion, and cook until softened. Add the stock, squash, marjoram, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.

6. Add the cream cheese, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until melted.

7. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or food processor.

8. Season to taste with Kosher salt.

9. Serve topped with the roasted squash seeds.

Broccoli Leek Soup with Broccoli Chips

Inspiration: I make so much homemade stock that I’m constantly up to my shoulders in it. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, we get two beautiful chickens per month from our CSA, and I make about 12 cups of stock with each of those chickens to stash in my freezer. Then, we sometimes pick up a random goose or duck from the farm that we end up making stock with, and every now and then our share includes a nice batch of beef soup bones. With those numbers, if I don’t keep up with making a lot of soups (and I never do, in the summer time), I quickly find myself running out of freezer space. Thank goodness for this fall weather that has me craving soups and stews!

What We Loved: Well, this soup is basically a thick and hearty bowl full of vegetables. That’s a very nice thing indeed. Plus, it tastes great, too. The soup has a very lovely and fresh vegetable flavor (predominantly that of broccoli, of course), and the little browned bits of broccoli on top are a nice touch. I don’t know about you, but I just love that flavor that comes from browning anything in butter. The soup as a whole is very light, making it a great lunch option, first course for a fancy dinner, or main dinner entree when you’re not feeling like a whole lot of food.

Tips: The recipe as written in the cookbook calls for sour cream as a topping. It’s not pictured here, but we did use creme fraiche as a topping at the table. We loved the cool flavor that the creme fraiche added, so we’d recommend using either creme fraiche or sour cream as a topping in addition to the broccoli chips.

Broccoli Leek Soup
Source: Soup from Williams Sonoma Soup Cookbook; Idea for broccoli chips from Flip Cookbook

2 leeks, white and light green portions only, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 1/2 lbs broccoli, stems thinly sliced and tops cut into small florets (reserve a few stem slices to saute for a topping)
4 cups chicken stock (use vegetable to keep this vegetarian)
Kosher salt and black pepper
Sour cream or creme fraiche for topping, if desired

1. Heat some butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, and saute for a few minutes until softened.

2. Add the broccoli, mix together, and saute for a few minutes longer.

3. Add the stock and plenty of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli is softened.

4. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Keep warm over low heat.

5. Saute a few of the thin broccoli stem slices in butter until nicely browned.

6. Serve the soup topped with the sauteed broccoli slices and sour cream/creme fraiche, if desired.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Inspiration: The beginning of fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Summer will always win out for me, but there’s something so wonderful and comforting about the leaves turning, the wind blowing, the holidays approaching, and of course, fall food. I absolutely adore cooking with fall squash (butternut is my favorite, but spaghetti squash is pretty awesome, too), so as soon as the first fall day hits, I’ve probably got squash on the menu. I first discovered this recipe and blogged about it a couple of years ago, and it has since become one of our favorite spaghetti squash recipes that we make all of the time. When fall hit this year, I simply couldn’t wait to redo my old post and encourage everyone to try out this wonderful dish ASAP.

What we Loved: This meal is the definition of comfort food to me. Any dish that is as rich and as cheesy as this one is just has to fall into that category.  The sour cream mixed together with the squash results in such a fantastic creamy texture, and the Parmesan cheese adds that great nutty flavor that I love so much about Parmesan. The cheese on top of the casserole browns just a bit, which results in loads more flavor and just a bit of an awesome crunch. And as if that wasn’t enough, the sauteed onions add a lovely browned onion flavor that is killer and absolutely essential to the dish.  With a beautiful in-season squash (I just love its bright, fresh taste), browned onions, cheesy Parmesan, and plenty of sour cream, what’s not to love?

Tips: This dish works really well in a multitude of ways. I most often serve it as a main vegetarian entree alongside a green vegetable for a light meal, but it’s also excellent topped with sauteed and sliced chicken breasts for some protein (as shown at the end of the post).  It works great as a side dish, and leftovers reheat well and are one of my favorite work week lunches. I also have a feeling that any number of mix-ins would be good to throw in, too. Sauteed mushrooms, spinach, or crumbled Italian sausage all sound like great additions to me.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
Source: Adapted from Daily Unadventures in Cooking

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1/2 Vidalia or sweet onion, chopped
About 1 cup sour cream
About 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (or more, to preference)
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Cook the spaghetti squash. Poke it all over with a fork, and bake at 400 degrees for one hour or in the microwave for about 15 minutes.

2. While the squash is cooking, heat a pat of butter in a saute pan, and add the onion. Cook until softened and browned.

3. When the squash is done cooking, let it cool until you are able to handle, and then cut it in half. Remove the seeds from the center of the squash.

3. Scrape the squash strands into a mixing bowl. Mix with the sour cream, half of the cheese, the sauteed onions, and a healthy amount of salt and pepper.

4. Pour the mixture into a baking dish, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Tomato- Rosemary- and White Bean Soup

Tomato, Rosemary, and White Bean Soup

Tomato- Rosemary- and White Bean Soup

*Photo Updated December 2012*

Inspiration: Tomato soup is really a go-to soup for me, because it’s so easy to make and so versatile. I always stick with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and stock, and from there I throw anything that I happen to have on hand into the pot. Any leftover herbs or vegetables; a cup or two of cream or milk that has no use; whatever spices, sauces, or salsas that are sitting around. Some of my creations end up great, and some of them end up not so great, but it’s always fun to mix up the flavor combinations and see what happens. Every once in a while, though, I’ll buy the ingredients for this specific soup. When I first started developing a real love for cooking, this is one of the first recipes that I remember falling in love with, and it was one of my earliest blog posts. All of these years later, it’s still one of my favorite soups – which I think makes it deserving of a shiny new post.

What We Loved: I love this soup so much because it’s so unique. It’s a cross between a creamy white bean soup and a standard tomato soup, and the resulting flavor is very rich and complex. There are a lot of Italian notes from the rosemary and tomato (almost making me want to liken this aspect of the soup to a marinara), and the second level of earthy, buttery white bean flavors competes so well with the tomato flavors. Really, this is like two soups in one. The inclusion of protein in the form of white beans also makes this soup much thicker and more filling than a standard tomato soup, which is another bonus. A thermos of this soup works really great as a work week lunch.

Tips: Giada’s original recipe calls for the soup to be topped with creme fraiche and lemon, but sadly, I haven’t tried this yet for one reason or another. It really sounds great, though, so I would suggest giving it a go if you have the ingredients on hand.

Rosemary Tomato Soup
Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

I made some minor changes to the ingredient list and doubled the recipe so that the soup can last all week for work lunches. Here’s my version:

2 small onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 15-ounce cans navy or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable, to keep the dish vegetarian)
2 bay leaves
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, minced, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. In a large pot, add the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.

2. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.

3. Remove the bay leaves. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a food processor.

4. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.

5. Serve the soup with minced rosemary on top.

Chile Relleno Frittata

Inspiration: Like most people, we have our favorite places in town. For us, one of those places is a brightly outfitted Mexican-American spot where we sit in striped booths, eat tortilla chips from a red basket, and sip our beverages of choice – usually margaritas for me (and strong ones at that!) and a tall frosted mug of Dos Equis for Brandon. This is the only place that I’ve ever been where it’s sometimes unwise of me to order a second margarita, so that = yes. Anyway, this restaurant serves up chile rellenos in the most delicious form – piping hot, oozing with melted cheese, covered in a smoky sauce. Yes, yes, and yes again. Frittatas are significantly less exciting fare, but you know what? A frittata based on one of my favorite Mexican dishes can’t be a bad thing.

What we Loved: This frittata had all of the flavors that I expect from a chile relleno, just in a rearranged form. Spicy, earthy poblano peppers, browned onions, fresh cilantro, perfectly melted cheese, and a smoky, spicy red sauce. It’s a wonderful combination of Mexican flavors and spices, and probably as similar to a chile relleno that you can get in frittata form. We ate this both for dinner and for breakfast, and while I loved it in each setting, I preferred it for breakfast because it made me feel like I was eating a Mexican treat first thing out of bed. I can get behind that! Now if only I can sneak a margarita into breakfast? ;)

Helpful Hints: Chihuahua cheese is my favorite melting cheese, particularly for use in Mexican dishes. It melts like no other cheese that I’ve found, so if you can find it, I would definitely recommend using it. I find ours at the cheese section at Whole Foods.

Chile Relleno Frittata
Source: Original Recipe

For the Frittata
1 tablespoon butter
3 medium poblano peppers, seeded and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 eggs
Handful fresh cilantro, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup chihuahua cheese, shredded

1. Melt the butter in a large saute pan, and then add the peppers and onions. Saute until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more.

2. Whisk the eggs, cilantro, and 1/4 cup cheese together. Season well with salt and pepper.

3. Pour the eggs into the pan, and place into a 350 degree oven. Cook until the eggs are just set, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the eggs, and bake for 3-4 minutes more, until the cheese melts.

4. Serve topped with the chipotle sauce.

For the Chipotle Sauce
This will make a lot more than needed (~2 cups), but you can freeze the extra and it makes a great chile relleno or enchilada sauce.

1-2 chipotle chiles, diced, and 2 teaspoons of adobo sauce (be cautious here, depending on how much spice you like)
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup stock (I used chicken; use vegetable to keep this vegetarian)

1. Heat  a drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano, and stir to combine, cooking a minute longer.

2. Add the chiles, adobo sauce, tomatoes, and chicken stock. Simmer 20 minutes.

3. Pour the sauce mixture into a food processor and process until smooth.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Almond Frittata

Inspiration: Since making a Tuscan frittata a few weeks ago, I’ve been in the mood to try out all different kinds. They really make for such frugal and interesting dinners! This recipe is actually a very old recipe from my blog that was adapted from a tapas cookbook and meant to be part of a tapas meal. I increased the ingredient amounts here to make a full supper, but this recipe is good cut in half and served as a tapa as well.

What we Loved: This recipe is packed full of nutrients and interesting flavors/textures. Earthy mushrooms and spinach, crunchy almonds, and nutty Parmesan make for a great combination in our book! I feel like mushrooms and spinach always pair beautifully because their dark, earthy flavors complement each other, and the addition of almonds in a frittata is a crunchy, unexpected surprise. This is a solid and light weeknight supper.

Helpful Hints: This is a very dense frittata the way that I prepared it (using only four eggs). I would suggest using at least six eggs, and anywhere from 6-10 would probably work. My frittata needed a little more structure, as there wasn’t quite enough egg to seep down around all the vegetables. I’ll indicate to use six eggs below, but use even more if you’d like – the only thing that it will vary is how packed together the vegetables are in final dish.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Almond Frittata
Source: Adapted from The Tapas Cookbook: A Classic Collection of Spanish-Style Recipes

Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
6-8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
10 oz package frozen spinach
1/3 cup roasted almonds, finely chopped
6 eggs (can vary to 8-10)
2 tablespoons cold water
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions and cook until tender, and then add the mushrooms. Cook until the water released from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender and starting to brown, approximately 5-10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until the moisture evaporates, and then add the almonds. Mix all of the ingredients until well combined.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water, salt, and pepper. Pour the mixture into the pan.

3. Add the grated Parmesan to the top of the frittata, and place it in a preheated 450 degree oven. Cook until the eggs are set and the cheese is melted, approximately 10-15 minutes. Broil for an additional 2-3 minutes if desired (I did not).