Winter Squash & Wild Mushroom Curry

This dish was quick to prepare and was absolutely fabulous. The biggest mistake I made was not doubling the recipe! I made it for an early birthday celebration dinner for my mom. We topped it off with a birthday pear snacking cake for dessert. 🙂 It was a great autumn comfort food meal.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Vegetarian India,” contributed by David Tanis. I increased the amount of squash, mushrooms, and garlic. Any type of wild or cultivated mushrooms could be used such as royal trumpets, oyster, shiitakes, chanterelles, or cremini mushrooms; I used a combination of cremini and shiitake mushrooms. The recipe below is double the original recipe. We ate it served over brown Basmati rice with warm naan on the side.

Yield: 8 Servings

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 20 to 28 ounces butternut or other winter squash, peeled and diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 small whole green chiles, such as jalapeño or serrano
  • 6 medium shallots or 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • handful of fresh or frozen curry leaves, optional (basil leaves could also be substituted)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • pinch of cayenne, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 1/4 pounds mushrooms, preferably a mix of cultivated and wild, trimmed and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 15 oz can coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • cilantro sprigs, for garnish
  1. In a wide skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add squash cubes in one layer. Season with salt and pepper. (This may be done in batches.) Cook for about 2 minutes, letting cubes brown slightly, then flip and cook for 2 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to lift squash out, and set aside.
  2. Cut a lengthwise slit in each chile to open it, but leave whole. (This allows the heat and flavor of the chile to release into the sauce without making it too spicy.)
  3. Add shallots to skillet, salt lightly and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry/basil leaves and let sizzle for 30 seconds, then add garlic, coriander, cayenne, turmeric and chiles. Stir well and cook for 30 seconds more.
  5. Add mushrooms to pan, season with salt and toss to coat. Continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  6. Return squash cubes to pan, stir in coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
  7. Lower heat to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  8. If mixture looks dry, thin with a little water. Taste and season with salt.
  9. Just before serving, stir in lime juice. Transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with cilantro leaves.

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Soft-Baked Funfetti Cookies

While I’m sharing kid-friendly treats loaded with colorful sprinkles, it seems like the perfect time to post these funfetti cookies! 🙂 I made these for a special annual lunch that I have with friends from my former job. I miss them. ❀  All of our kids have known each other since they were babies- it is also wonderful to get them all together at least a few times a year.

This recipe was adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I doubled the recipe and reduced the baking time. They were a big hit. 🙂

Yield: 42 cookies

  • 1 cup (230 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (380 g) spoon & leveled all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (80 g) sprinkles, plus more for sprinkle on top before baking
  1. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the softened butter for about 1 minute on medium speed. Get it nice and smooth, then add the sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed. Set aside.
  3. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
  4. With the mixer running on low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 different parts. The dough is quite thick and you may have to stir the rest by hand.
  5. Once combined, fold in 1 cup sprinkles.
  6. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Make sure the balls are taller, rather than wide. Add a few more sprinkles on top of each ball dough.
  7. Chill the balls of dough on the cookie sheet for at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. This step will prevent spreading in the oven. (I chilled the balls of dough for 22 hours prior to baking.)
  8. Preheat oven to 350F, preferably on convection.
  9. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mats.
  10. Bake chilled cookie dough for 9 to 10 minutes. The cookies will appear undone and very soft. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 3 to 5 minutes and move to wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Cookies stay soft & fresh for up to 1 week at room temperature. They also freeze well. Cookies may be rolled into balls and frozen up to 3 months to bake at a later date.

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Iceberg Wedge Salad with Green Goddess Ranch Dressing

This post is belated because I’m still recovering from my husband’s extravagant birthday feast. Recovering from preparing it… and from eating it (for many, many days!). 😉 I must say that it was well worth every minute AND every bite.

His special celebratory feast usually involves fried chicken with biscuits and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. I have made Caesar salad as our “vegetable” in the past, but this year he requested a wedge salad. Yay! I love a change.

This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn, via Martha Stewart Living. I used 4 tablespoons of buttermilk to adjust the consistency of the dressing. I also adapted the way the iceberg lettuce was sliced to modify the serving size and simplify the eating process. We all LOVED it!

For the Green Goddess Ranch Salad Dressing:

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives and/or scallions, plus more for garnish, optional
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mild vinegar, such as white-wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • buttermilk or milk (optional)
  1. In a large bowl or blender, whisk or blend all the ingredients except the buttermilk.
  2. Add just enough buttermilk to thin to the desired consistency, if needed. (I used 4 tablespoons.)
  3. Pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to combine. Shake well before using.

Note: Dressing will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Complete the Salad:

Yield: 4 Servings

  • Green Goddess Ranch Dressing (recipe above)
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into thick slices or wedges
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
  • English cucumber, cut into slices
  1. Prepare Green Goddess dressing and set aside.
  2. In a 9 x 13-inch pyrex baking dish, bake bacon at 350 degrees for 20 to 3o minutes, until crispy.
  3. Place 1 iceberg lettuce slice/wedge and 4 to 6 cucumber wedges on each plate.
  4. Pour some dressing over top with crumbled bacon and minced chives over each serving, as desired.

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CrÚme Brûlée

My son wanted a dessert that he could “light on fire” to celebrate his 12th birthday. I hope that this is age appropriate. 😉

After rejecting my suggestion of Bananas Foster, he chose a classic crÚme brûlée. andyes, with close supervision, he torched his dessert!

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, slightly adapted the method and increased the baking time. Special and delicious.

Yield: Makes 6 ramekins/servings

  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low-speed until just combined.
  3. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it’s very hot to the touch but not boiled.
  4. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. (I transferred the hot cream to a liquid measuring cup to ease adding it into the mixer bowl.)
  5. Add the vanilla and liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
  6. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 pyrex baking pan (I placed a square silicone pot holder underneath the ramekins so that they didn’t shift in the pan.)
  7. Glide the oven rack out of the oven cavity and place the pan on the rack. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (I used a tea kettle.)
  8. Slowly glide rack into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken.
  9. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm. (I refrigerated them overnight.)
  10. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly.
  11. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

and…

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday in our house without also having Number Cookies. 🙂 I had to make a couple of numeric “12’s” to go along with my son’s Roman Numeral “XII’s”. 🙂 They were swimming pool blue for my swimmer this year. ❀

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Birthday Lasagna

I am partial to lasagna laden with mushrooms and spinach… with plenty of cheese, of course. 🙂

When requesting his birthday menu, my son wanted “regular” lasagna, “you know, with just meat and cheese!” His wish was my command. 🙂 It was delicious!

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart. I used ground turkey and chicken sausage, added red pepper flakes, and increased the amount of garlic. We ate it with garlic bread and Caesar salad. He absolutely loved it. It was even more celebratory for him to eat it with our special “Happy Birthday” fork. 🙂

  • 1/2 sprig basil, (3 tablespoons coarsely chopped)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, (1 cup finely grated)
  • 14 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella (5 cups grated)
  • 1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (I needed 2 additional sheets.)
  • 28 ounces canned, diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-2 dashes red pepper flakes, optional, or to taste
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (casings removed) or sun-dried tomato-basil chicken sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make the sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook onion, garlic, salt, and pepper 1 minute.
  3. Add turkey and sausage; cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Reduce heat; simmer 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasonings, as necessary.
  6. Coat baking dish with cooking spray or oil; spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  7. Top with a layer of noodles. (I used 6 noodles per layer.)
  8. Next, spread a third of the ricotta, then 1 1/2 cups sauce, on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Repeat these steps 2 more times.
  9. Top with a layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.
  10. Cover with parchment paper topped with foil; bake 20 minutes.
  11. Remove foil and parchment; bake 20 minutes more. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Vegetarian Variation: Clean and trim 8 ounces button mushrooms; finely chop in a food processor. Follow the recipe, but in step 2, cook onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. In step 3, add mushrooms, 1 cup diced zucchini, and 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper instead of turkey and sausage; cook, stirring, until just tender, about 6 minutes. After simmering with the tomatoes and oregano in step 4, stir in 4 cups chopped spinach along with basil.

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Rainbow Sprinkle Cake & a Festive “Candy Shop” Themed Birthday Party

The lollipop candles on this birthday cake inspired the theme for my daughter’s 10th birthday party. As soon as she saw them, about ten months before her birthday, she started planning a “Candy Shop” themed party.

Knowing we would have the guests watch the most classic candy movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we invited her guests by hand delivering a “Golden Ticket” wrapped with a giant rainbow swirl lollipop. (The biggest ones we could find, of course.) 🙂

She imagined an abundant display of colorful candy and rainbow balloons. We had bowls of Skittles, M&M’s, mini-Starbursts, jelly beans, gummy bears, mini-marshmallows, mini-Twix (her favorite candy), and varieties of sprinkles. The centerpiece was a DumDum lollipop “topiary.”

The girls ate a lot of candy :/ , but they also used it to decorate chocolate covered marshmallows and chocolate-caramel apple slices. We also had pretzels for toppings- so yummy with chocolate. We tried to coat Oreos with chocolate as well, but had technical difficulties.

We had other candy-themed activities at the party including making candy necklaces on kitchen twine. They used Fruit Loops, gummy pendants, and gummy lifesavers as “beads.” They also played a game with Jelly Belly jelly beans- identifying the flavors by taste alone. Even though is wasn’t a candy-themed activity, the kids probably had the most fun having an iMovie competition.

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We had our traditional celebratory Number Cookies too. 🙂

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Having a cake covered in a mound of sprinkles seemed to work with our theme! The Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cake is a homemade take on a “Funfetti” cake mix cake. It was so colorful and fun, but also really REALLY delicious- super moist with fabulous vanilla flavor. The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. I weighed the ingredients, increased the amount of frosting, and modified the decorating techniques.

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake

Yield: 8-12 Servings (1 layer cake or 12 cupcakes)

For the Cake:

  • Âœ cup/110 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), slightly softened, more for pans
  • 1 Âœ cups/190 grams all-purpose flour, more for pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ÂŒ teaspoon baking soda
  • ÂŒ teaspoon fine salt
  • ⅔ cup/158 ml whole milk
  • 1 Âœ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/200 grams sugar
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites
  • ⅓ cup rainbow sprinkles (not pastel, or naturally colored)


For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup/165 grams unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), slightly softened
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
  • 4 1/2 cups/450 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted, more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles (not pastel, or naturally colored), or more, as desired
  1. img_7880Make the cake: Heat oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection, and place a rack in the center.
  2. Butter and line the bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter the parchment. Flour the pans, coating the bottom and sides, then tap out any excess flour.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together milk and vanilla.
  5. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add egg and whites and beat until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl.
  7. Add half the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture, beating to blend after each addition.
  8. Scrape down bowl and blend once more.
  9. Remove bowl and use a spatula or spoon to fold in sprinkles by hand.
  10. Divide batter evenly between the pans (approximately 400 g per pan), and bake until the tops are just dry to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
  11. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 2 to 4 hours, before turning out.
  12. Make the frosting: In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, butter and salt together at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
  13. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add sugar and beat until smooth.
  14. Beat in vanilla just until incorporated.
  15. Taste frosting; you should be able to taste the cream cheese and a little bit of saltiness, as well as the sweetness. If desired, add more salt or sugar. Keep refrigerated.
  16. Turn cooled cakes out of pans.
  17. Using a bread knife, cut off any domed or uneven parts of each cake to make flat surfaces.
  18. Place one of the cakes on a platter or a cake stand, cut side up.
  19. Using an offset spatula, frost the top.
  20. Stack the other layer on top, cut side down.
  21. Place remaining frosting on top of the cake and, working from the center outward, frost the top and sides of the cake, as desired. I piped a border around the perimeter of the top of the cake to keep the thick coating of sprinkles on top in place.
  22. Sprinkle the top with a thick layer of sprinkles. Coat the sides with sprinkles as well, if desired.
  23. Refrigerate cake 30 minutes or longer to set. Serve cool.

Note: This recipe would also work well for cupcakes. Fill batter in 12 cupcake liners and bake 17-20 minutes, on convection.

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It was so tasty, I’ve already made it again! 🙂 I think it might need THREE layers next time. We all absolutely love it.

Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Most people make carrot cake in the springtime… I make it in the fall to celebrate my mom’s birthday. 🙂 It’s one of her absolute favorites. I have made this yummy version several times- they are special and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties that are Really Fun by Ina Garten. I cut the recipe in half to make 12 cupcakes, adjusted the baking times for a convection oven, and used the orange cream-cheese frosting from my favorite (springtime) orange chiffon bunny cake.

Fabulous! A true gold standard. Happy Birthday, Mom. ❀ ❀

Yield: Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg plus 2 T beaten egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (less than 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 stick, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated orange zest, from about 1/3 of a large orange, about 3/4 tsp
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the egg, mix to combine. Repeat with the additional 2 T of beaten egg.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  6. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
  7. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  8. Using a cookie scoop,  scoop the batter into 12 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. Cook an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Add the zest and salt, beat to combine.
  3. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: If the recipe is doubled, 3 large eggs can be used to make 22 to 24 cupcakes.

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