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Roasted Butternut Squash and Pears

I bought a butternut squash recently and didn't want to do the usual with butter, maple, and brown sugar.

I cheated a bit and nuked the squash for about 4 mins in the microwave so that it didn't need to roast as long in the oven - it worked great! I also used grapeseed oil instead of butter to cut down on the fat a bit.

My family eats squash, but does not go out of their way to eat it and they even liked it!

I decided to make a soup out of the leftovers - I added some half and half and used my immersion blender. Absolutely amazing soup!

I really love this recipe!

Nov 06, 2013
cooking_geek in Recipes

The Basics: How to Make Bananas Foster

I tried making this the other night, and I could not get the rum to ignite. I used Myer's Dark Rum. What did I do wrong...?

Jan 20, 2012
cooking_geek in Features

I want to love my slow cooker, can you help?

I just took the big baker potatoes, washed them, and wrapped them in foil just like I would in the oven. Pierced them a couple of times with a fork and left them cooking on low all day! I don't much care for the microwaved version of baked potatoes - but these turned out great!

Jan 11, 2012
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

I want to love my slow cooker, can you help?

OMG! I absolutely LOVE my slow cooker! In fact, I just upgraded and got a fancier one for Christmas (one with a probe that will shut off to 'warm' when it's at the right temp). Anyway - I have a recipe for Lemon Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless with a creamy lemon sauce) (they do require a little browning, but you can do it the night before and stick it in the fridge), chili, pot roast (put a pot roast in the cooker sprinkled with an envelope of lipton onion soup mix and a can or two of cream of mushroom soup - you can add some baby potatoes (whole) too!), stewing chicken (when I get home, I pull the whole pieces of chicken out and let them cool enough to handle) - I put the broth on the stove and add curly noodles and peas and cook til done - adding de-boned chicken pieces back in), ribs in bbq sauce, pulled pork (I usually just sprinkle with my favorite seasoning and add a can of coke, root beef, or dr pepper - let it go all day and pull apart with fork and add my fav bbq sauce), whole butt portion ham. All of these things are put in the crock pot in the morning around 7, and we dont' eat until 6ish (although mine does go to a warm setting after the number of cooking hours is done). I also have a choc lava cake and creme brulee recipe for the crock pot that I haven't tried yet. Cooking big baker potatoes all day also works for a baked potato bar!

Jan 03, 2012
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

When Did Thanksgiving Turn Into a Potluck?

Hooray! I am not the only jerk in town! One year I assigned some very simple things like rolls and drinks - I ended up with one dozen rolls and a 2 liter of Pepsi - for 25 people! (and they knew how many people were coming) I take a lot of pride in the meals that I host - flavor, presentation, quantity. I feel like it's a reflection on me when there is all of this beautiful food, and a 1970's pyrex container with some unidentifiable food product in it. I have a few friends and family members that understand cooking - but if I let them bring something, then the rest of the guests feel shunned. Sigh....it's a no-win situation!

To Dinermite - please don't bring a dessert unless asked. THe hosts will feel obligated to serve it at Thanksgiving and may prove to be an uncomfortable situation. I like the idea of a coffee cake or something that you can hand them as a host gift and tell them it's for a leisurly breakfast the next morning! No strings attached!

Nov 15, 2011
cooking_geek in Features

Restaurant recs near Keller Auditorium?

Oh, yes, forgot about Higgins. Exquisite food and incredible service. Not too far from Keller. :-)

Dec 21, 2010
cooking_geek in Metro Portland

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

The spice mix sounds very interesting! I looked on the Penzey's website to see if they had anything similar, but they do not (www.penzeys.com). :-( BTW - the Vietnamese Cinnamon from Penzey's is an absolute MUST. I never really liked cinnamon very well - but almost crave this one. If you are lucky enough to be in the Portland, OR area, you can visit them in person.

I found this tidbit online when I searched for 7-spice: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/ind...
"Of course, these days the specific combination of spices used to make up five-spice powder varies. In fact, some brands could more accurately be labeled "seven-spice powder," since they contain seven ingredients. A standard recipe calls for fennel, cloves, and cinnamon, along with star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. However, you'll also find five-spice powder made with cassia (a member of the same family as cinnamon), ginger, nutmeg, and even licorice (star anise has a wonderful licorice flavor). Feel free to experiment with different varieties until you find the one you like best."

And you are definitely welcome to be my best friend. Maybe you can teach me how to invent...I've never been brave enough to try. Only tweeks of tried and true recipes. :-)

Dec 21, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Restaurant recs near Keller Auditorium?

Morton's for incredible steaks. Pretty spendy.

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Metro Portland

Need a name for this snack mix...any suggestions?

Winter wonderland mix?

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

How funny is that! Of course, if it's on the internet, it must be true, eh? ;-)

I have to admit that I didn't do any research - I did a search on sea salt caramels and these sounded good. They were incredibly delicious - just a little soft!

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

Wow - incredibly gorgeous cookies! One of these days, I will take the time and patience to do this - WOW!!!

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

Oh - and I had many of these marked as gluten-free too, as I have several friends that are gluten free. I wasn't able to edit my original post, so here is the list again with GF marked as appropriate....

Dark Chocolate Fudge (GF)
Dark Chocolate Walnut Fudge (GF)
White chocolate almond fudge with candied fruit (GF)
Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing (some with mini choc chips)
Cranberry Pear Bars with Orange Frosting
Peanut Butter Fudge (GF)
Chocolate Pecan Tassies
Mint Oreo White Chcolate Fudge
Reindeer Turds (coconut bonbons) (GF)
Frosted sugar cookies
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Chocolate Crinkles
Peanut Butter Kisses (GF)
Flourless Almond Torte topped with fresh lemon curd (GF)
Cookie Dough Truffles
Spiced Walnuts (GF)
Dark Chocolate ganache mini tarts
Lemon Curd mini tarts
Key Lime mini tarts
Cherry Mini tarts
Magic Cookie Bars
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Tuxedo Brownies (brownies layered with raspberry jam, raspberries, white chocolate 'mousse'
Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles (GF)
Amaretto Chocolate Truffles (GF)
Peppermint Chocolate Truffles (GF)
Raspberry and White Chocolate/Mascarpone Whoopie Pies
Oreo Truffles
Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Meringue Kisses (GF)
Butterscott Cornflake Cookies
Pumpkin Pie Bars with oatnut crust
Caramel Apple Bars
Mini Cheesecakes topped with homemade raspberry jam and fresh raspberry
Mini cheesecakes topped with homemade blackberry jam and fresh blackberry
Mini cheesecakes topped with homemade strawberry jam and fresh strawberry
Mini Flourless Chocolate Torte (GF)
Individual Bread Pudding with Dark Rum/Dried Tart Cherries
Mini cinnamon rolls
Banana Purses
Raspberry Mascarpone Walnut Phyllo Purses
Blueberry fans
Strawberry fans

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

I actually came across this blog, and it had lots of useful information. I was hoping to just cut them into squares and serve on a plate, but they were so soft, that I had to wrap them in waxed paper, they would not hold a firm form. I cooked it really slowly and it ended up with a very rich flavor. I'm not sure that I would have wanted to cook to any further firmness, tho, as they melted in your mouth. The salt that the recipe mentions is pretty expensive (a little hard to find, $9 for about a 1/2 cup worth at QFC ), but it was extremely good salt!

http://open.salon.com/blog/sarah_fide...

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

I started by doing a little at a time - with things that can go in the freezer - like the fudges, tart shells, most of the cookies, truffles, etc. I had a spreadsheet that I had sorted by what could go in the freezer and worked my way through it, also making note of things that would have to be done at the end (frosting, etc) even if the item was already baked. The last week, and especially the last two days were pretty insane - filling tarts, making bars, topping, garnishing, etc. Also, early in the process, I chopped bags and bags of nuts and things that could be prepped ahead of time and just set aside for later. I actually had a pretty big list, and had to nix about 3 or 4 things at the end. But I was happy with what I made it through.... And the best part....it was FUN!!!!! :-) I even tried lots of new recipes - some are definitely keepers, and others I would pass for next time. My husband thinks I am a little insane...

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

I haven't been on for a couple of months - have been busy baking! My big holiday party (125 people) was a huge success! Here is what I ended up making - thanks to everyone one that answered all of my questions a couple of months ago. I started about a week before Halloween:
Caramels with Sea Salt (Ina Garten - these were a HUGE hit - people were filling their pockets as they were leaving!)
Dark Chocolate Fudge
Dark Chocolate Walnut Fudge
White chocolate almond fudge with candied fruit
Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing (some with mini choc chips)
Cranberry Pear Bars with Orange Frosting
Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Pecan Tassies
Mint Oreo White Chcolate Fudge
Reindeer Turds (coconut bonbons)
Frosted sugar cookies
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Chocolate Crinkles
Peanut Butter Kisses
Flourless Almond Torte topped with fresh lemon curd
Cookie Dough Truffles
Spiced Walnuts
Dark Chocolate ganache mini tarts
Lemon Curd mini tarts
Key Lime mini tarts
Cherry Mini tarts
Magic Cookie Bars
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Tuxedo Brownies (brownies layered with raspberry jam, raspberries, white chocolate 'mousse'
Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles
Amaretto Chocolate Truffles
Peppermint Chocolate Truffles
Raspberry and White Chocolate/Mascarpone Whoopie Pies
Oreo Truffles
Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Meringue Kisses
Butterscott Cornflake Cookies
Pumpkin Pie Bars with oatnut crust
Caramel Apple Bars
Mini Cheesecakes topped with homemade raspberry jam and fresh raspberry
Mini cheesecakes topped with homemade blackberry jam and fresh blackberry
Mini cheesecakes topped with homemade strawberry jam and fresh strawberry
Mini Flourless Chocolate Torte
Individual Bread Pudding with Dark Rum/Dried Tart Cherries
Mini cinnamon rolls
Banana Purses
Raspberry Mascarpone Walnut Phyllo Purses
Blueberry fans
Strawberry fans

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What Christmas cookies are you baking this year?

Boy scout bars?

Dec 20, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What is your most amazing chicken breast recipe?

I tried using butter once in this recipe, but it burns so easily. If you are talented, you can do it without scorching the butter. :-) I use Nucoa margarine - I like it best for the frying pan - it doesn't burn easily.

Nov 17, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Chocolate - I need educated!

I'm happy to say that I successfully used the Trader Joe's "Pounder" in place of the chocolate chips. My son (who didn't know I had done anything different) told me the fudge was the best I'd ever made!

Nov 17, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

What is your most amazing chicken breast recipe?

Pound out boneless, skinless chicken breasts to 1/4" thickness (or use tenderloin pieces). Dredge in flour and brown in margarine.

Place in shallow baking dish or crockpot, overlapping as necessary.

Add a little more margarine to the frying pan and add some salt and pepper to taste, ~1/2 cup cream or half/half (I have even used fat-free half/half), and ~2 cups of chicken broth (sometimes I double this part for extra sauce). Pour over the chicken and bake 50-60 mins or leave in crock pot for a few hours on low. After chicken is done, remove it from sauce and thicken with a paste of about 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 water. Squeeze in lemon juice from 2-5 lemons (to taste). Garnish with lemon slices and fresh chopped parsley. Great with rice or noodles. I especially like to serve it with asparagus - the lemony sauce goes great!

Nov 04, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Chocolate - I need educated!

A more specific chocolate question. I usually make the Fantasy Fudge (Marshmallow Cream - original version). This recipe calls for chocolate chips. If I chop up some Trader Joe's chocolate, will it set up properly since it doesn't have that extra 'agent' that the chips have? I'm also open to other good foolproof fudge recipes! :-)

Nov 03, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Your Favorite Pumpkin Recipe

Pulled out another of my favorite pumpkin recipes - Quick and Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes. http://www.meals.com/Recipes/Quick--E...

This has to be one of the easiest cupcakes I have ever made and they *melt* in your mouth. I overbeat the mixture a bit - the pumpkin and the oil create so much air that the batter is almost a mousse-like texture.

A couple of my preferences:
I bake them in baking cups in a mini-muffin pan
Sometimes I add mini choc chips to the batter
I typically will make my own cream cheese frosting (it's a little less sweet than the pre-made variety)

Nov 02, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

I would love some Vegetable Recipes, please

Glad it sounded good - hope you enjoyed it!

Oct 17, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Your favorite recipes using Trader Joe's products

mahi mahi tacos - pre-marinated TJ's mahi mahi - saute, grill or bake. Top with a salsa made from finely chopped cukes, green onions, red peppers, jalepeno, garlic, mango, pineapple tossed with a little rice vinegar and fresh cilantro - use your imagination. Serve with warm flatbread, fresh spinach leaves and TJ's pre-cooked brown rice! Very easy weeknight meal!

Oct 14, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Chocolate - I need educated!

Thanks again, buttertart - I just ordered a used copy from Amazon! :-)

Oct 14, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Chocolate - I need educated!

awesome information - thanks buttertart!

Oct 14, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Your Favorite Pumpkin Recipe

Made another of my favorites last night - Roasted Pumpkin/Garlic Soup! Although, I demoralized it a bit....it's actually a vegan recipe....but I used chicken broth this time instead of vegetable broth, and added some italian sausage too. tsk tsk

Roast sweet pumpkin cubes (or butternut squash - Costco already has it cubed up and ready to go!) with garlic (several cloves or some elephant garlic), drizzled with some olive oil. Meanwhile, saute some chopped leeks (or onions) (I also added some fresh chopped sage with the sauteeing onions). When squash/garlic are lightly browned, put in food processsor with leeks or onions and puree with broth. Then I added the cooked, crumbled italian sausage after pureed.

Good basic soup to which you could add lots of flavors, herbs, and other veggies!

Oct 14, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Chocolate - I need educated!

Wow - lots of GREAT information from everyone! I had no idea that chocolates could almost be like wine in terms of vintage, etc. How funny is that!? I really *could* become a chocolate snob - haha!

@Hank - so, the percentages you are talking about - like 64% and 54% - that's not the percentage we typically see on the front of the bar, is it? (like 72% is pretty dark chocolate...and 85% is pretty bitter). You're talking about percentages of cocoa butter? Is that usually on package somewhere?

Thanks for all of the replies!

Oct 14, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Chocolate - I need educated!

I've seen tons of different chocolate bars at Trader Joe's - and have even sampled many of them (I tend to love dark chocolate - almost bitter!). Are those bars meant for baking - or just eating?

Oct 13, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Best way to make apple sauce?

I grew up canning applesauce every fall with my mom and grandma - they always used Gravenstein apples - and always tons of sugar as they are a tart apple!

Now that I do my own canning, I have started using Melrose apples - they cook down very quickly (really good baking apples like Fuji do not really break down completely). The Melrose have tremendous taste and absolutely no sugar required! Sometimes, I throw in a few Honeycrisp or Galas to change the texture and flavor a bit.

I have a Victorio Strainer that I use when I can applesauce (you quarter the apples, steam them in a pot (with just enough water to coat the bottom) until mushy, then throw it all through the strainer - it spits out the seeds, stems, cores, peels) and you have perfectly smooth applesauce.

If I am just making a small batch to eat fresh, I usually peel and core them and once soft, just mash slightly with a masher. I like it chunky. It is excellent warm served on top of a spice cake and/or vanilla ice cream. A touch of cinnamon is yummy too. My son loves to heat it up on a cold night and sprinkle with cinnamon. It's also excellent to use as a fat substitute in some recipes - and also stirred into a bowl of oatmeal! And you can't forget the "porkchops and applesauce!"

Oct 13, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking

Chocolate - I need educated!

Ok...who doesn't love chocolate - any kind.....it really doesn't matter (ok...maybe not the cheap chocolate). But when it comes to baking and cooking with it, can someone give me a lesson as to the different types of chocolate, and when it's ok to sub other kinds? (for example, baking bits/chips, bars, baking bars, etc) (like, can you chop up a chocolate bar and use it in place of chips? Can you sub chocolate chips for a baking bar?) Also, I see lots of recipes that say "get the best chocolate you can find". Where does one usually find these sorts of chcolate? I know the major grocery chains are usually not the supplier of these fine cooking/baking chocolates.....what do the chocolatiers usually use? Thanks!
PS - I was up waaaay too late last night trying to find this topic using the search feature, but never found anything - so please let me know if I missed it!)

Oct 13, 2010
cooking_geek in Home Cooking