Sunday, October 24, 2021

ChezCindy: Versatile Potato Gratin


As soon as the weather turns a bit cooler, approaching fall and winter, I get the urge to make a potato gratin dish.  This is a favorite in our house.  It is a bit indulgent with the cream and cheese, but so good by itself and pairs well with other vegetables and meat.  

This version is made with potatoes and butternut squash.  I had just made my butternut soup recipe, and had leftover squash.  It seemed like a good use to slice the squash thinly and add it to the potato gratin.  The squash not only added beautiful color, but also added a sweetness in contrast to the rich potatoes and cheese.  

Gratins in general are most often made with just potatoes and usually cheese, the standard cream or milk, and seasoning.  I often use other vegetables that can be sliced thinly like the potatoes, such as sweet potatoes, turnips, or rutabaga.  All are good.  Cheeses can also be varied using parmesan, cheddar, gruyere, or a mix of whatever you have available.  Put it all together and bake at the temperature of choice if you happen to be roasting a chicken or braising something fabulous.  The temperature can range from 325 up to 425, with the length of cooking time adjusted accordingly.  If using a high temperature and the top gets too brown, simply cover with foil and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender and the cream has thickened.  Use the recipe below as your guide, adjusting to your preference and whims.  

Versatile Potato Gratin

2-3 pounds potatoes, Russets or Yukon Golds
2 cups heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons butter for preparing the casserole dish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Using a food processor with the slicing disk, or a mandolin, or just a sharp knife, thinly slice the potatoes.  If using Russets, I scrub and peel these potatoes.  Yukons have thin skin so I usually just scrub these really well and do not peel.  

Place the heavy cream and the minced garlic into a small sauce pan.  Gently warm the cream and garlic for a about 5 minutes, but do not boil.  Turn off the heat.  Add in the fresh thyme leaves.  

Prepare a 10-inch ceramic or Pyrex glass casserole dish by generously buttering the sides and bottom of the dish.  Begin to build layers of potatoes by placing a layer of the thinly sliced potatoes on the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt.  Ladle a quarter of the cream/garlic/thyme mixture over the potatoes.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese over the potatoes.  Continue building with 3 additional layers. For the top layer, add all of the remaining potatoes, making this your prettiest layer, using all of the cream and the remaining cheese.   

Place the casserole dish into the hot oven, baking for 45 - 50 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, the cream has thickened, and the gratin is bubbly and golden brown.  Let stand for 10 - 20 minutes before serving.  

Monday, October 11, 2021

ChezCindy: Pumpkin Pie Spice Granola


Wonderful to have on hand for the season is this delicious Pumpkin Pie Spice Granola.  All the flavor notes of autumn with pumpkin seeds and warm spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.  Great to eat as a snack, or for breakfast with your favorite milk, or as a topping over yogurt.  Try making your own mix of pumpkin pie spice with this easy recipe.  Or purchase from your grocer in the baking aisle.  

Pumpkin Pie Spice Granola
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted 
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup pepitas, raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheet pans with parchment paper. 

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil; cool.  Add in the maple syrup and vanilla.  Whisk to combine. 

In a large bowl, add the oats, pepitas, pecans, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt.  Stir to combine.  Pour the coconut oil syrup mixture over the oats, stirring well to coat the oat ingredients.  Wait to add the dried cranberries until granola is baked.  Adding the dried fruit during the baking time makes the fruit tough and over-dried.  

Transfer the oat mixture to the lined sheet pans, spreading into a even layer.  Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until lightly browned without stirring.  Remove from the oven.  Add the dried cranberries at this time.  Allow the granola to cool on the sheet pans.  When completely cool, break the granola into pieces and transfer to an airtight container, such as mason jars or zip-lock bags.  Granola will stay fresh in your pantry for 3-4 weeks.  The granola can also be frozen for later use.  

Sunday, October 10, 2021

ChezCindy: Easy Blueberry Crisp - Gluten Free


Fruit crisps are a favorite in this house.  Easy to put together with any fruit available for the season.  In a pinch, frozen fruit can also be used.  

I often play around with different flours to create a gluten free recipe.  I recently discovered cassava flour from another recipe I was interested in.  Cassava flour is made from the tropical root vegetable, dried and pulverized into flour.  It can substitute 1:1 for wheat flour, providing a good alternative for those seeking a gluten-free diet.  I have used it in other recipes with a blend of other flours to make delicious cookies.  Fruit crisp recipes do not require much flour, so it is an easy swap.  If gluten free is not for you, then regular all-purpose flour can be used.  

Blueberry Crisp Desserts - Gluten Free
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cassava flour
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 teaspoons orange juice

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Makes 4 ramekins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.  Lightly grease 4 ramekins for baking the fruit crisps.  

Combine the blueberries, sugar, cassava flour, and juices in a medium bowl, tossing all to coat the berries.  Divide the fruit mixture between the 4 prepared ramekins, placing the ramekins onto the lined sheet tray,

To make the topping, in a second medium bowl, combine the butter, sugar, almond flour, oats, almonds and cinnamon.  Using a fork, work in the butter to mix with the rest of the ingredients to create a crumbly topping.  

Generously top each of the filled ramekins with the crumb topping to cover the blueberries.  Place the sheet tray in the oven, baking for 35-40 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the fruit is bubbling through the topping.  Cool slightly before serving.  Serve warm.  

Sunday, October 3, 2021

ChezCindy: Sheet Pan Roasted Autumn Vegetables


Making the transition from summer to fall is easy to navigate with this recipe of Roasted Autumn Vegetables.  Actually it is a mix of fruit and vegetables.  Beautiful crisp apples, fresh cranberries, butternut squash and red onions.  All of this produce lends to a bit of sweetness when roasted, combined with an herbed olive oil.  When I tossed these vegetables onto the sheet pan, it looked like autumn.  I just had to capture a photograph.  

The roasted vegetables can be center of plate served with farro, an ancient grain with a nutty chewy texture.  Or, add Italian sausage links to the sheet pan before roasting for a delicious dinner.  

Sheet Pan Roasted Autumn Vegetables
1/2 cup olive oil
3 sprigs of fresh herbs - thyme, rosemary and/or sage

1 medium butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 large red onion
2 firm-tart apples, such as granny smith
1/2 cup fresh cranberries*
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

4 fresh mild Italian sausages, optional
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Grill Seasoning, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  

Combine the olive oil and the fresh herbs in a small saucepan.  Place over medium heat, bringing the oil to a simmer.  Heat the oil for about 3 minutes until the herbs have wilted slightly and the oil is fragrant.  Remove from the heat, setting aside.  

Prepare the produce:  Cut the squash into 2 pieces separating the large bulbous part from the long thin portion of the squash.  Set the seeded bulb section aside for another use.  Peel the remaining squash section.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Cutting crosswise, cut each half into 1/2-inch planks - the planks will look like half-moon shape.  Remove the skin from the red onion, cutting the onion into 1/2-thick wedges.  Cut the apples, unpeeled, into quarters, remove the core from each quarter.  Cut each quarter into 1/2-inch wedges.  Place the cut vegetables/apples, plus the fresh cranberries into a large bowl.  Pour half of the oil over the vegetables and fruit.  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Toss together.  Transfer all to the sheet pan, spreading into an even layer, scraping the oil from the bowl onto the sheet pan.  Top the produce with the sprigs of herbs that were wilted with the olive oil.  Save the remaining herbed olive oil for another use.  It will be delicious with toasted ciabatta bread for bruschetta.  

If using the optional Italian sausage:  using a fork, prick each sausage several times to keep them from splitting while roasting.  Place the sausage on top of the vegetables/fruit.  Drizzle a bit of the herbed oil over the sausages.  Sprinkle the McCormick seasoning over the sausages.  

Place the sheet pan into the hot oven, roasting for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables/apples are tender and lightly browned, and if using, the sausages are cooked through (internal temperature of 160 degrees).  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a drizzle of the herbed olive oil.   Serve hot.  

* dried cranberries can be substituted for fresh.  The dried berries will need to be added to the sheet tray at the end of the roasting time, about 10 minutes remaining in the cook time.  

Recipe adapted from The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso