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Maple Glazed Baby Carrots

I developed this simple recipe years ago but never put it into Let’s Eat. I am sure your guests will love it even those finicky kids.

You will need:

Baby Carrots — 1 lb bag, alternatively you can use large carrots cut diagonally into bite size pieces.
Maple Syrup — Approximately 1 cup – use the real stuff here folks not that “pancake syrup” you find in stores, it’s all high fructose corn syrup with no maple anything in it.
Butter — 5 TBSP make sure you use unsalted.
Sea Salt/Pepper — to taste.

The first step is to steam the carrots. Steam until a sharp knife goes in easily about 1/4 way through to what is called just “al dente”. You want to maintain the some of the crunch. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the carrots in a single layer heat the butter until just melted. Add the carrots simmer on low until the butter coats the vegetables. Add the maple syrup and simmer until the syrup reduces by half.<.p>

If you don’t have equipment to steam the carrots add enough water to the sauté pan to just above half their thickness, cover and let cook until most of the water has evaporated add the butter and maple syrup then proceed as stated above. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can do them ahead of time, keep at room temperature until you are about to serve, return to the sauté pan and heat them up.

Sausage/Mushroom Ragu

A good ragu is always a welcome addition to anyone’s repertoire. This recipe comes from my desire to use a portion of the Maitake mushrooms that I had freeze dried from the past seasons harvest. Of course if you are fortunate enough to have a fresh supple they can be used as well, additionally a good substitute would be portabella. For purpose of this recipe I’ll use the generic term mushroom(s) instead of being specific. Make a batch and then use some and freeze the rest.

You will need:

Italian Sausage — 1½ lbs bulk.
Fresh Mushrooms — ½ lb. chopped.
Shallot — 1 medium size finely diced.
Fresh Oregano — 2 TBSP
Fresh Marjoram — 2 TBSP
Olive Oil — 4 TBSP
White Wine — ¼ cup – a good Chardonnay works well
Heavy Cream — ¼ cup
Tomato — 1 26oz can diced or crushed – San Marzano Plum work best.
Sea Salt/Ground Pepper — to taste

In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients heat two tablespoons of olive oil until it dances/shimmers. Add bulk sausage (if you can’t find bulk at your grocer purchase links and remove from casing) and using a potato masher start breaking up the meat continue sautéing until most of the pink is gone do not brown completely or the sauce will be too dry.

Remove sausage from the pan, drain and set aside. Add 1 TBSP to the sauté pan heat to shimmer then add the mushrooms. Cook until all of the moisture exuded from them is evaporated. NB: Not all mushrooms have the same moisture content for instance Maitake and Portabella have less than Button or Crimini.

Remove mushrooms fro the pan and set aside. Add 1 TBSP Olive oil and sauté the shallots until they are just translucent then add the sausage and mushroom to the pan stir to combine. Add the herbs, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Turn heat to medium high and add the white wine, cook until the mixture is somewhat dry. Add the heavy cream, stir well to combine and cook until the mixture is somewhat dry. Add the tomatoes, stirring to combine and cook until they break apart. If you think the ragu is too dry you can add some tomato sauce but not enough to make it soupy.

Easy Squash Ravioli with Sage/Cream Sauce

First in our Holiday Series. You can use the search box on this site to find other Holiday recipes.

Making a great squash ravioli can be a daunting task. Making homemade pasta isn’t in most peoples repetoire so here is a simple way to enjoy the great taste of homemade without the hassle.

What makes this so easy you may ask, simple we used won ton wrappers instead of homemade pasta. Won Ton wrappers after all are a flour based product not unlike Italian pasta just a tad thinner. The only thing you need to worry about is keeping them covered when using so they don’t dry out, simply put a damp towel over the exposed wrappers then when finished wrap the unused portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

At the bottom of this recipe see a couple of alternative seasoning options for a totally different ravioli.

NB: The ingredients list do not show quantities as the portions will depend on the size of the squash you are using.

For the filing:

  • Wonton Wrappers
  • One medium sized Butternut squash
  • Ricotta Cheese — enough to equal ⅓ the volume of squash.
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh Nutmeg
  • Sea Salt/Pepper
  • Pecan Pieces

For the sauce:

  • Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Sage — chiffonade
  • Sea Salt/Pepper
  • Fresh Nutmeg

A medium sized squash should produce 3 dozen ravioli.

Using a very heavy knife cut off a small slice on the round bottom of the squash. Place the squash upright on a board and carefully cut it in half down the middle, lengthwise. Butternut squash has a thick skin so it might take a little muscle. With a spoon scoop out all of the seeds, coat lightly with olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Place the squash in a preheated 350° oven and bake until it is very soft, the time needed will depend on the size of your squash. While the squash is baking place ricotta cheese in a strainer and place over a bowl to remove excess liquid. When the squash is fully baked remove from the oven and let cool completely.

In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients add the squash, the cheese, ¼ cup pecan pieces, Fresh Ground nutmeg (use sparingly so as not to overpower the squash) about ¼ tsp. Mix well. On a flat surface place two rows of wonton wrappers, place one tablespoon of the squash mixture in the middle of each wrapper in the first row, with a brush or your finger coat all of the edges with water. Take a wrapper from the second row and place over filling pressing down around the filing to eliminate any air pockets. Continue with remaining wrappers and filling.

At this stage you can either cook the ravioli and add to the sauce or place on a cookie sheet, freeze for future use.

In a stock pot large enough to hold the ravioli, boil well salted water, add the ravioli and cook until they float. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the ravioli place heavy cream and heat until it simmers slightly, add a dash or two of fresh ground nutmeg, the sage and continue to cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Once the sauce thickens add the cooked ravioli spooning the sauce over each.

Alternative herbs and seasonings.

  • Replace the nutmeg in the mixture with fresh ground ginger.
  • Replace the nutmeg and pecan pieces with crushed Amaretti Cookies.
  • Replace the nutmeg and pecan pieces with curry powder

Ragu alla Bolognese

One of my all time favorite sauces for pasta is a rich bolognese. Originated in Bologna, Italy the traditional version incorporates beef with pancetta and according to Accademia Italiana della Cucina there is an official recipe that should be followed. My version however kicks it up a bit by mingling beef, veal and pork which to me creates a distinct taste and texture.

One of basic items used is a basic battuto or you may have heard it called sofrito which is a simple combination of onion, carrot and celery, not unlike the French Mirepoix it’s used to give a sweet underlying flavor.

As with some of my other recipes this one is great to make a large batch as it freezes well and can be used in a lasagna or as a gravy for pasta such as tagliatelle or rigatoni.

You will need:

Beef Chuck — One pound, ground to medium in a food processor, you can purchase pre-ground but I find the texture too smooth.
Pork Shoulder — One pound, ground to medium in a food processor, again you can purchase pre-ground.
Veal Shoulder — One pound, ground to medium or pre-ground. Alternatively you can use ground turkey
Onion — One large sweet or about one cup, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia
Carrot — Two large or about one cup
Celery — three stalks or about one cup
Garlic — Two cloves
Tomato Paste — four TBSP
White Wine — use a good dry such as Chardonnay, two cups
Whole Milk &#151 Two cups
Dried Oregano &#151 One TBSP
Olive Oil &#151 Two TBSP
Sea Salt/Pepper — Two tsp each

Rough chop the onion, carrot and celery, place in a food processor and grind to a fine dice, set aside. In a large bowl place the beef, pork and veal/turkey and mix until well combined. Dice the pancetta to about ⅛” dice, set aside.

Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the protein to medium high add the olive oil. Sauté the meat(s) until most of the pink is gone. Remove the meat from the pan and strain out all of the juice left, set aside. In the same pan add the pancetta and sauté until crisp then add the battuto and sauté until translucent.

If there isn’t enough fat left from the pancetta add a little olive oil. Make an opening in the center of the pan and add the crushed garlic, sauté until the garlic is just softened. Stir well to combine, make an opening in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste, sauté until it loosens up a bit and then stir all to combine. Return the meat to the pan, add the oregano and mix well, sauté until warmed through. Spread the meat out into a level layer and add the white wine. Cook through until the wine is dissipated add the milk and cook until most of the milk is gone. If there isn’t enough liquid in the sauce you can adjust with some pasta water.

Serve immediately reserving some to cool and freeze for another day. Enjoy!

Bologna/Onion Sandwich

Have you ever harkened back to time and place where you had a sandwich unlike those that have come before? A time long ago while attending a parochial elementary school where lunches were served no matter what the family needs might have been is one such occasion. A sandwich that has stuck in my mind but for whatever reason hadn’t come to the forefront of my taste buds until recently is a Fried Bologna and Onion Sandwich. What say you? Fried Bologna and Onion? Yes, a simple yet tasty creation that I hope you will try and enjoy.

You will need:

Bologna – cut on the thick side – approximately 1/8 pound/serving
Onion – use a sweet one such as Vidalia or Walla Walla however a good yellow onion will work just fine.
Butter – unsalted, approximately one TBSP/serving
Yellow Mustard: – enough to coat one side of one slice of bread
Bread (of course) – I used a cracked wheat but please use your favorite.

Stack three or four slices of bologna and cut into quarters. Slice the onion into two or three 1/8 inch pieces. In a sauté pan large enough to hold the onion and bologna heat butter until just foaming, reduce the heat and add the onions and sauté until translucent, you don’t want much color on them. When the onion is about half way cooked add the bologna, stir to combine and continue cooking. You know it’s done when the bologna takes on a little color. Spread the mustard over the bread and add the bologna/onion mixture.

Try it, you’ll like it. Enjoy!

Salsiccia (Sausage) Bolognese

Johnsonville Bolognese

I’ve always liked making a good bolognese and decided to change my basic recipe around a tad. I had some Italian sausage that wasn’t quite enough to serve on it’s own but enough to use for a great bolognese. It’s an easy recipe but does take a little TLC and time.

You will need:

Italian Sausage – 1 LB. Bulk or you can use link sausages and remove from the casings.
Fire Roasted Tomatoes – 3 – 14.5 oz cans – You can use any tomato but the fire roasted adds a little extra. If you have the time you can fire roast your own for a truly homemade meal.
Oregano – approx. 1 TBSP – I used fresh if you use dried cut the amount in half.
White Wine – 1 cup
Whole Milk – 1 cup

In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the sausage in one layer heat one or two TBSP olive oil until it shimmers. Add sausage and break it up, I use a potato masher, it’s quick that way. Once the sausage has lost all or most of it’s pink color drain off all fat. Add the wine to the pan and cook until it is all absorbed. Add the milk to the pan and cook until it too is all absorbed. Add the tomatoes along with the oregano and salt and pepper to taste.

Bolognese is a thick sauce to begin with so watch the tomatoes to make sure it doesn’t get too thick. You can adjust the consistency by adding some of the water you used to cook the pasta. I recommend using a large pasta such as rigatoni or such due to the thickness of the sauce any smaller noodle with just be a waste.

White Bean/Corn Soup

Sorry folks this isn’t a quick recipe, it’s going to take a day or two but the results will be great. The good thing about this one is that you actually get 2 for 1 deal. First the beans then the soup. The beans work well as a side dish or main meal and using them to create a this Bean/Corn Soup you can’t go wrong.

You will need:

One pound dry white beans (I used pinto).
Two large bay leaves.
Four sprigs fresh thyme
Sea Salt/Fresh Pepper
Two smoked ham hock/shanks (I used a Hungarian Style Shank).
Two medium sized sweet onions – 1/4 inch dice.
Two medium sized red bell pepper – 1/8 inch dice.
One small habanero pepper, seeds removed – finely diced.
One large package frozen corn kernels
Low sodium chicken broth

Start with the beans, in a container large enough to hold the entire package and enough water to cover soak beans for 12 hours or overnight.

Once soaked drain them and place in a large stock pot with enough water to cover by at least two inches. Add all the remaining ingredients except the corn kernels and chicken stock. Bring pot to a slow boil and turn heat down to a low setting. It will take a while to cook but this slow method will help to thicken the final product without the need for a roux or other thickener.

The beans should be done when the ham hock/shank meat separates from the bone. You can also tell by taking a few out of the pot and taste, they should be just at the al denté stage. At this point you have a great pot of beans. You can portion out several meals using some for a side and some for the soup.

Now the soup part. Depending on how many servings you want to make remove a sufficient quantity of the beans and place in another stock pot. Add the packaged corn kernels and chicken stock. How much chicken stock to use is a personal choice. The more stock you use will produce a thinner soup. Some recipes might suggest that you blend a portion of the soup however I find that this is an unnecessary step.


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