Winter squash salad

Winter squash salad

Who says you can’t eat a salad when the weather cools down? Well, it’s cooled down for most of the country but the warm sunny weather seems to be hanging on here in Los Angeles, but I can pretend it’s chilly outside. Since we are deep into holiday season, I love that you can incorporate the flavors of the season into a salad.  Butternut squash roasted with salt and pepper. Maple glazed pecans, blue cheese, sweet honey crisp apple over fresh spinach, dressed with an orange vinaigrette. You had me at maple glazed pecans.

Maple glazed pecans

I must warn you in advance, it will take all your strength not snack on these sweet crunchy nutty bites of perfection while you are assembling this salad. I had to quickly snap this photo before I ruined the shot.
Roasting butternut squash really is the best, and only way to cook this beautiful vegetable. In addition to it’s creamy flavor, roasting brings out it’s naturally sweetness, so it doesn’t need much seasoning at all. Just olive oil, salt, pepper and dried sage.

Roasted butternut squash

Ingredients (4 servings)         print recipe

For the vinaigrette

  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup orange 
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the salad

  • 6 ounces of raw pecan halves
  • 1 whole butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 tablespoons Maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons fine baking sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large honey crisp apples, sliced
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
  • 6 oz fresh spinach


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 minutes (keep your eye on them to prevent burning).
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
  5. In a small mixing bowl add the orange zest, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and agave nectar. 
  6. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil until mixed. Set aside.
  7. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise and take out the seeds. 
  8. Slice the squash across into 1/4 slices.
  9. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. 
  10. Mix the salt, pepper and dried sage together and sprinkle over the butternut squash. Use your hands to rub, making sure both sides are covered.
  11. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until browned. Set aside to cool.
  12. In a mixing bowl add the maple syrup, fine sugar and pinch of salt.
  13. Add the cooled pecans and mix well until all pecans are coated.
  14. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  15. Add the pecans to the pan in a single layer and cook for 2 minutes. Stir until they start to smell like caramel.
  16. Remove from heat and allow to cool in a single layer on a baking sheet. Separate so they don’t stick together.
  17. In a large mixing bowl, add the spinach and drizzle with the vinaigrette, toss to coat.
  18. Serve the spinach topped with the butternut squash, pecans, sliced apple and crumbled blue cheese.
  19. Drizzle more vinaigrette if needed.

Baked gnocchi with sage and cheese sauce

Baked gnocchi with sage and cheese sauce

Home made gnocchi, not as scary as you might think and when they are right, they are nuggets of soft pillowy goodness that just melt in your mouth. The word ‘gnocchi’, derived from the Italian word ‘nocchio’,  which means a knot is in wood. But it’s not only a dish served in Italy, gnocchi are served in France, known as ‘gnocchis à la parisienne, Croatia, called ‘njoki’, and South America, called ‘nhoque’.

Homemade gnocchi

With only 3 ingredients, potato, flour and salt, makes them easy to prepare and there’s not really anywhere you can make a mistake.

Homemade gnocchi

Other than super soft potatoes, the other key to soft fluffy dough is to only add enough flour to bring the dough together, but to not over knead the dough which will develop the gluten in the flour and make them tough. Rolling the gnocchi over a gnocchi board or fork to make the ridges, helps sauce to adhere to the them. 

Homemade gnocchi
What you will notice in the cheese sauce recipe is that it does not call for cream or milk. By using chicken stock it adds more flavor, but milk or cream can be substituted.

Ingredients (6 servings)               print recipe

For the gnocchi

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into large pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the cheese sauce

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock (recipe) or vegetable stock (recipe), warmed
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Small pinch fresh nutmeg


For the gnocchi
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Fill a large saucepan with water.
  3. Add the potatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.
  4. Boil the potatoes until they are very soft.
  5. Drain and set run through a food mill, or ricer for nice smooth potato.
  6. Put the potatoes in the fridge until they are cool, this will help keep them fluffy.
  7. Prepare 2 sheet pans by dusting them with flour, set aside.
  8. On a clean work surface mix together the potato and the flour and knead for about 4-5 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. Only add enough flour so the dough comes together and is not tacky.
  9. Cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll one 1 quarter of the dough into a 3/4 inch log.
  10. Cut the log into 3/4 inch pieces.
  11. Roll the pieces over a gnocchi board or the back of a fork to create ridges onto the floured sheet pan in a single layer.
  12. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  13. Let the rolled gnocchi dry out for about 1 hour before cooking.
  14. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.
  15. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat to a gently boil, so you don’t break up the gnocchi.
  16. Add the gnocchi and boil for about 3 minutes, or until they rise to the top.
For the cheese sauce (while the gnocchi is cooking)
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.
  2. Whisk in the flour and whisk until flour turns golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the warm stock and continue to whisk until it thickens, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the fontina and parmesan cheese and stir with a spoon until melted.
  5. Stir in the chopped sage and nutmeg.
  6. Stir in the cooked gnocchi and transfer to a casserole or baking dish.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

    Baked gnocchi with sage and cheese sauce
    Baked gnocchi with sage and cheese sauce

    Other recipes you might enjoy:

    Pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms

    Pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms

    I know I said in an earlier post that I think that sage is my favorite herb, well I must be proving this to myself  because this is the 3rd recipe in about a week where I’ve used it and the perfect meat for sage is  pork tenderloin. Quite a lean cut of meat, but you have to be careful not to overcook it because no one wants to eat pork resembling shoe leather. The beauty of the pork tenderloin is that it’s quick cooking. In this recipe, I sauteed cremini mushrooms with sage and port wine and used that as a stuffing for the tenderloin, that really helps keep it moist. For securing the rolled pork, usually use kitchen twine but I did not have enough, so in an emergency used toothpicks. It’s not as pretty as it should be, but certainly worked in an emergency. I have a picture of it, but chose to save from looking at it. No animals were hurt during the cooking of this recipe.

     Pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms

    Ingredients (4-6 servings)    metric conversion        print recipe

    For the mushroom stuffing
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced small
    • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, diced small
    • 1 clove garlic, grated
    • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
    • Pinch of salt
    • Pinch of ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon of tawny port wine

    For the pork tenderloin

    • 1 boneless pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 17 toothpicks (you may end up using less)
    • 2 tablespoon olive oil


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

    For the mushroom stuffing
    1. In a large saute pan heat the olive oil over medium heat.
    2. Add the chopped onions and cook until softened.
    3. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook until they are softened, about 10 minutes.
    4. Add the grated garlic, pinch of salt and pinch of ground black pepper.
    5. Add the chopped sage and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    6. Add the port wine and cook until reduced.
    7. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl and allow to cool in the fridge. The mixture needs to be cool because you will be stuffing it into the cold pork tenderloin.
    For the pork tenderloin
    1. Soak the toothpicks in  small bowl of water so they won’t burn in the oven.
    2. Lay the pork tenderloin out onto a cutting board, using a sharp knife, slice down the entire length of the tenderloin, without cutting all the way through, this is butterflying. 
    3. Spread the cooled mushroom mixture over the entire tenderloin (shown below).
    Pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms

         4. Drain the toothpicks and have them close to your work surface for easy reach in a few minutes.
         5. In a mortar and pestle, grind the dried sage, fennel seeds, dried rosemary, salt and pepper until 

             fine. You can also use a spice grinder. Set the mixture aside.
         6. Start at one end and take the edge of the tenderloin that is closest to you and start to roll it tight so
             the stuffing is on the inside. 
         7. Once you have it tight, secure with a toothpick and continue this way all the way down the length      
             of the meat, pushing any stuffing back in that escaped.
         8. Drizzle the rolled tenderloin with olive oil, take the spice mix and rub it evenly all of the meat.
         9. Heat a heavy or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
       10. Sear the tenderloin on all sides until it is evenly browned.
       11. If your skillet is ovenproof*, cover with foil and put the pan in the preheated oven. 
       12. Roast the tenderloin in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 
             145-150 degrees F. 
       13. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove toothpicks, or twine.

      *Note: If your skillet is not ovenproof, you can use a sheet pan or roasting pan.
      A delicious condiment for this rich pork tenderloin is my cranberry orange sauce that takes only minutes to make (recipe).

      Pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms

      Quick cranberry orange sauce

      Cranberry orange sauce
      Tis the season for cranberry’s, those pretty little berries are everywhere. If you’ve ever been tempted while cooking to pop one of those juicy looking berries into your mouth, DON’T! You will be puckered up for some time and regret it forever. 
      Again, I go back to my from scratch theory, if you are in the supermarket you can easily pick up the 4 ingredients for this easy recipe than pick up cans of the pre-made cranberry sauce. You can wow your dinner guests with this home made recipe that looks like it had to stew for hours and tastes oh, so much better.

      Ingredients (4-6 servings)   metric conversion             print recipe

      • 12oz fresh cranberries, washed and sorted for mushy or bad ones
      • 1 cup fine sugar
      • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest 
      • 1 cup fresh orange juice
      Cranberry orange chutney


      1. In a medium saucepan add all the ingredients.
      2. As the liquid starts to heat up, you will hear popping, that’s just the skins of the cranberries.
      3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until you see the cranberries start to break down.
      4. If you see that some of the cranberries are not softening or haven’t popped, give them a little help by mashing them with your spoon.
      5. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
      6. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

      Cranberry orange sauce

      Mashed gold and sweet potato

      Mashed potato

      Yukon gold potatoes make the creamiest mashed potatoes. What I like is they have thin skins and it’s nice to keep the skin on for the nutrients, so as you mash the potatoes, the skins seem to disintegrate into the potato. I’m always looking for new ways to spruce up regular mash, I’ve added turnip or rutabaga and parsnip. In this case, to go with last nights roast chicken dinner (recipe), I decided to add a sweet potato into the mix. 

      alt Mashed gold and sweet potato

      The combination of the creamy yukon gold potato and the sweetness of the sweet potato had me snacking on it (I mean, I was testing for seasoning), before dinner was even served. This mash is so comforting, I could have made a meal of it all by itself.

      Ingredients (4 servings)      metric conversion        print recipe

      • 1lb dutch yellow potatoes
      • 1 large sweet potato
      • 2 tablespoons of whipped butter (or regular if that is what you have)
      • Ground black pepper


      1. Peel the sweet potato and cut into cubes. 
      2. Quarter the dutch gold potatoes, no need to peel, there’s nutrients in the peel, but you can if you don’t like it. 
      3. Add to a large pot of salted cold water, the potatoes will cook evenly if you start them in cold water. 
      4. Boil the potatoes for 10-12 minutes until tender and drain. 
      5. Return them to the pan to dry up any water that might be left. 
      6. Press the potatoes through a potato ricer into a large bowl, add the  whipped butter but you can use regular butter. No need to add salt, there is salt in the butter, but you can if you wish.
      7. Add the ground black pepper and mix. If you find the potatoes are dry, you can add warm milk or broth, add in small amounts so you don’t make them too wet.
      Other recipes you might enjoy:

            Rosemary roasted chicken                                    Roasted brussels sprouts

      Rosemary roasted chicken with delicious gravy