Mushroom & Cheddar Polenta Stuffed Squash

I guess it's Fall now. I have broken out the gourds and the oven warming the house is no longer a nightmare. So a combination of the 2 would only be right for a fall time dish, right? This twist on a stuffed vegetable is a much needed change from a stuffed bell pepper or tomato. If you have never cooked polenta before, prepare for an arm workout. The constant stirring is a bit tedious, and really prevents any picture taking, but creamy cheddar polenta is worth it! If you can't find polenta, coarse ground corn meal works well, and cooks much faster. So bring on the yellow leaves and cool nights, because cooking winter squash is now acceptable. 

Mushroom & Cheddar Polenta Stuffed Squash
1 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup polenta or corn meal
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup mushrooms
3 green onions
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small butternut squash or large acorn squash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Slice squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and place cut side up in a baking dish. Brush lightly with olive oil and cover tightly with foil. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. 

While squash is cooking start on your polenta. First mince garlic and chop mushrooms, and add to a small pan along with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Saute until mushrooms release their liquid. Remove from heat and stir in sliced green onions. 

In a small pot bring chicken or vegetable stock to a boil. Slowly add polenta or cornmeal whisking quickly to prevent clumps. Cook according to direction until polenta is done, remove from heat and whisk is cheese and mushroom mixture. 

Remove squash from oven and spoon polenta into the holes where seeds used to be. Place back into oven, and bake uncovered for 15-20 more minutes, or until squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. 

Sprinkle with parsley, more cheese, or breadcrumbs and enjoy this delicious Fall dish!


Cheddar, Apple, & Spinach Grilled Cheese

This week my father-in-law brought home about 15 apples from British Columbia. And while I love fresh produce as much as the next guy... I needed to find a way to use all of these apples! Apples and cheddar are such a classic flavor combination, so why not combine them in a sandwich and add a little green? These turned out amazing! Tangy apples, sharp cheddar, and crispy, toasted bread are a great way to start fall. Or if you are avoiding fall....a great way to have every food group in a sandwich? 

Cheddar, Apple, & Spinach Grilled Cheese
1 medium apple
1/2 cup grated low fat cheddar cheese
6-7 leaves spinach
1 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoons spicy brown or dijon mustard
1 tablespoon butter

Below is a step-by-step directions in pictures!

Spread 1 tablespoon of mayo and 1 tablespoon or spicy brown (or dijon) mustard on whole wheat bread.

Add 1/2 of your cheese, and spread evenly. 

Very thinly slice your apple and layer on bread, slightly overlapping. 

Top with a few layers of spinach leaves, and the remaining cheddar cheese. 

Top with your other slice of bread and seat aside. 

Heat medium pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the butter and spread in the shape of a slice of bread. Place sandwich on the butter and cover pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Remove from heat, add remaining butter and replace sandwich on opposite side, cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and enjoy your taste of fall! 


Caramalized Brussel Sprouts & Pearl Onions

Before you run away screaming, let me say that I have never had brussel sprouts. I always thought of them as a childhood nightmare, that you would see kids in cartoons scream over. So I never tried to cook them, and since you usually don't see brussel sprouts on the menu at your favorite restaurant, I have never even tasted one!

Expecting the worst, I gave these babies a go. They are so cute, and look like little baby cabbages. So I decided to pair them with pearl onions, which are little baby onions. And make the tiniest, most frustrating dish ever. In the end it was so tasty, and definitely worth the trouble!

Caramalized Brussel Sprouts & Pearl Onions

2 cups brussel sprouts
1 cup pearl onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper

Start by preparing your brussel sprouts. This was a totally new experience for me, but it is very similar to how you would prepare cabbage or a head of lettuce. Peel away any outer leaves that may be damaged. Trim the thick base of with a sharp knife, then cut in half length-wise. 

Prepare the onions in a similar fashion. This is a little more difficult because onion skin is thin and not so easily peeled. By more difficult I mean this: by the end I was sobbing from the onions and never wanted to see another pearl onion in my life. 

Miniature devil vegetables.
Place brussel sprouts in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, along with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to coat. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a medium pan. Once oil is hot, add brussel sprouts, cut side down, placing larger sprouts towards the middle and smaller sprouts towards the outside. 

Cover pan and let cook for about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 5, turning brussel sprouts over half way. 

Remove from pan and set aside. Add peeled onions to pan, and if oil is low, add a bit more. Sautee' onions for about 10 minutes on low, until brown and nicely caramelized. Add onions to brussel sprouts and toss to combine! 



Caprese Panzanella Salad

Panzanella is a salad made of bread. Those Italians weren't a big fan of vegetables were they? And while I think your salad should normally consist of leafy greens, having this every now and then won't hurt. A traditional panzanella salad had olives, cucumbers, and no cheese. This twist combines two of my favorite salads that aren't green. Caprese and Panzanella! 

Caprese Panzanella Salad

Loaf of stale or fresh crusty bread (3 to 4 cups)
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup bocconcini mozzarella
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bread into small 1 inch cubes. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bread is toasted brown. Shake 2-3 times throughout toasting process. 

While bread is toasting, roughly chop basil and add to a large bowl. Half cherry tomatoes and mozzarella and add to bowl, along with chopped onion.

In a small bowl combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. 

Remove bread from oven and add to bowl of basil, tomatoes, and cheese. Pour small bowl of vinaigrette over bread salad. Toss to coat and serve immediately. 


Eggs in a Basket with Havarti & Cherry Tomatoes

I don't know if I have ever had eggs in a basket. I have definitely seen them before. Super cute. But while white bread with a fried egg in the middle may cut it for a kid, not going to cut it for me. Or you. Unless you are really advanced 5 year old who is super awesome and reads my blog.

I decided to try and make an eggs in the basket adult version. By adult I don't mean not suitable for children under 18, in the back of the store, late-night adult eggs in the basket. Too much? LOL anyways, I mean a delicious breakfast dish that will leave you full and ready to start your day! Fresh herbs, tasty vegetables, and not-so-cheddar cheese make this dish suitable for any breakfast lover, who has had one too many bowls of cereal.

Eggs in a Basket with Havarti & Cherry Tomatoes

1 loaf of fresh artisan bread
4 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 cup cherry tomatoes
4 slices of Havarti cheese
Sea Salt
Butter or Oil to grease the pan

Slice bread into thick 1 inch slices, then using a sharp knife cut a 2 inch hole in the middle of the bread. In a large pan heat butter or oil over medium heat. 

Place bread in the pan, and crack egg into the hole. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then place under broiler for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from oven and lay sliced Havarti (I used tomato basil Havarti) over top. Place under broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until egg is cooked and cheese is melted and bubbly.

While egg is under the broiler, cut cherry tomatoes into quarters. Place in a small bowl. Roughly chop parsley and add to tomatoes, along with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and set aside.

Remove egg and bread from oven and transfer to a large plate. Top with heaping spoonful of tomatoes and then feel really grown-up eating your breakfast.

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