Pumpkin Lasagna

And continuing with my Fall squash obsession...

I have explored quite a few different ways to use squash this season. And by quite a few, let's just say I read all of my 40-something food blogs all day at work every day this Fall (well, I guess not all day...but close!) At least there is no harm in the obsession. It can't hurt me. It'll actually probably help me out...in numerous ways. 1. It's healthy. Most helpful during the holiday season considering the amount of cookies we will all consume!! 2. It's cheap and I can get at least 2 meals out of like 1 butternut squash. I actually got a lot of meals out of the one can of pumpkin that I used below (Luckily, pasta is also cheap. Too bad its not as healthy as squash). 3. It's simple. Anyone could make squash, even if you claim that you do not go near kitchens/ovens/stoves/etc. Usually you can just chop them up, scoop out the seeds and other gook, and throw them in the oven. 4. It's good. Duh.

Anyway, this Pumpkin Lasagna was a favorite. It is possible that it may have had something to do with all the cheese that was used, but I'd really rather just ignore that thought.

Pumpkin Lasagna Adapted from Food Mayhem

Pumpkin Lasagna
~about 9 servings

* 1 pound 5 ounces (or 21 ounces) fresh mozzarella, divided
* 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in a few pieces
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
* 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon maple syrup (preferably grade B)
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* pinch white pepper
* 1 (1 lb) box lasagna sheets

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Shred 12 ounces of mozzarella and mix with the ricotta in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In a 2 quart pot, melt butter on low heat. Add garlic and brown lightly. Stir in pumpkin, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir until it’s all warm. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Smear a thin layer of pumpkin mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish.

5. Place 3 lasagna sheets across. Smooth a layer of ricotta/mozzarella on. Smooth a layer of pumpkin mixture on top. Repeat until you have 5 layers of pasta, cheese, pumpkin. (You will use 15 lasagna sheets in total so there may be extra sheets in the box.)

6.Slice the remaining 9 ounces of mozzarella. Arrange in one layer on top.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Thanksgiving 2009

I may be a week late, but oh well...better late than never.

Heres a taste of my Thanksgiving! First things first...the turkey, obviously...



My mom stuffs the turkey every year with stuffing, which she makes with sausage, celery and onion. It is A-mazing!

Then there's the mashed potatoes, which I tried a little differently this year in an attempt to be slightly healthier (which is really unnecessary during THanksgiving...I know!). I used 3 of your standard white potatoes and 1 sweet potato. Which of course, is way too many mashed potatoes for 5 people, but its Thanksgiving...might as well go all out. I mixed in a little bit of butter, milk, sour cream, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, parsley, and A LOT of garlic.

We also had a sweet potato dish that was a hit. It was your standard canned sweet potatoes, pineapple, pineapple juice, cinnamon, brown sugar, and marshmallows. Sooo good!

Turkey's best friend: Cranberry sauce. I have to admit, I DO really love canned cranberry sauce. It will always be a standard on my Thanksgiving menu, despite the fact that its clearly no culinary masterpiece. I also like to dilly-dally around and make my own. Last year I made more of a cranberry relish. This year, I made my own cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries, apples, clementines, orange juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and, unfotunately, way too many cloves. If I had done without the cloves, it would have been great. There's always next year!

Every year my dad makes his special celery salad that is a recipe thats been passed down. It's very simple. He puts chopped celery, sliced black olives, cherry peppers, anchovies, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar in a big tupperware bowl and shakes it all together. It's best if made the night before and kept in the refrigerator so it can marinate. I love it, minus the anchovies but my dad is very opposed to leaving them out! So I work my way around them! I've never been able to enjoy an anchovy, unless its been pureed into a Ceasar dressing.

A new dish we tried this year was like a green bean casserole-y thing. We decided it was good, but not very Thanksgiving-like. We probably won't be doing it again on Thanksgiving. First we sauteed onions and garlic in some olive oil, and then poured in canned tomatoes with oregano. We let it simmer for a little while and then threw in fresh green beans and put the lid on. Once the beans cooked for a little while (I prefer mine to be cooked lightly), put them in a glass casserole dish. And then the best part...put feta on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes!

And last but not least, my mom's Strawberry Pretzel Jello. Which I am sure is not HERS...but she introduced it to me and makes it every year...so I like to consider it hers! It's the perfect combination of sweet and salty.

Strawberry Pretzel Jello:

2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tub (9 ounce size) Cool Whip
1 cup sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
2 packages (3 ounce size) strawberry Jello gelatin
1 package (16 ounce size) frozen sweetened strawberries
1 cup boiling water


For Crust: Combine pretzels, butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Press into 9 x 13 baking dish and bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

For White Layer: Cream together cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread over pretzel crust.

For Red Layer: Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in frozen strawberries, Chill until partially set, about 1 hour and spread over white layer. Chill until set and serve.

Actually, I lied. Pie is last! Always! Our favorites at home: Banana pudding, Chocolate pudding, Pumpkin and Apple. My personal favorite: Banana pudding!

My niece certainly enjoyed them..thats for sure!



I don't love popcorn. It is definitely not my favorite snack but I do know that its a better alternative to many other snacks...aka chips! I was actually reading an article in Women's Health Magazine (one of my favorites) and it was giving tips on healthy snacks that would satisfy an unhealthy craving. And not that this is major breaking news to anyone really, but popcorn does just that! Actually, sometimes it does. It's no chip, but sometimes it will do the job...it has a bit of a crunch. And if you are trying to watch your calorie intake, popcorn is a smart choice. You can eat an entire 3 cups of it, which is quite a bit, and its only 100 calories. (AND, if you want a sweeter snack, there is always kettle corn, which I prefer.)

I just made myself some popcorn...for the first time in years probably. I was at the grocery store and remembered this "recipe" that I saw someone use one time and wanted to try. The flavor was not intense, but just enough to give the popcorn an extra little kick. So of course I asked what was in it so that I could steal her crowd pleasing snack idea and call it my own (kidding...sort of). Simple...Garlic, Salt and Oregano. Thats all. Nothing fancy. Just 3 simple spices that everyone has in their spice cabinet. There is just something about the Oregano that really caught my attention. Obviously, there are numerous ways to dress up your popcorn, but I thought I would share this in case you're in dire need of a popcorn idea.

Also, in case you were wondering, I do realize that I did not post during the most important food holiday. How could I, right? Well, in my defense, I was at my parents, in Massachusetts, and did not want to drag my computer through security so I left it at home. And yes, my parents own a computer, but it is slightly ancient and slow. I'm no technical snob or anything, but no thanks. I like my Macbook and its quickness.

Thanksgiving food coming soon....


Comfort Food: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Picture courtesy of Savory Spicy Sweet

Mac and Cheese may possibly be the best comfort food. Maybe? Pasta and cheese? Can't really go wrong there. This recipe that I found on Savory Spicy Sweet sparked my interest...I love squash, I love pasta, and I love cheese. A while back, I had tried another lighter version of Mac and Cheese that used carrots. It was good and I may make it again, but it was not spectacular. I am not sure I would necessarily even consider it a Mac and Cheese dish. It was more just like another variety of pasta. The cheese wasn't really that prevalent, and I think that for Mac and Cheese, you should definitely be able to taste the cheese! Seems pretty reasonable, right? So I came across this recipe and wanted to give it a go. The butternut squash is a much better match with the cheese. It is more potato-like which blends well with the cheeses that are used (ricotta, cheddar and Parmesan) and gives the dish a smoother texture than the carrots had.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese adapted from Savory Spicy Sweet


* 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound) , peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
* 1 cup homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock, skimmed of fat
* 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
* Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
* Pinch of cayenne pepper
* 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 1 pound elbow macaroni
* 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
* 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 ounce)
* 2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
* 1 teaspoon olive oil
* Olive-oil cooking spray
* 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine squash, stock, and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper. Stir to combine.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
3. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish (4 inches deep) with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.
4. Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more. Serve immediately.

I altered a few things. For one..I made this for myself, so I cut the recipe in half. I used both ricotta and cottage cheese, and also added extra cayenne pepper for a little extra kick. When you are ready to serve it, you may want to consider ketchup. I grew up putting ketchup on my Mac and Cheese. (I don't think that's weird? Maybe it is? Oh well.) It adds a tomato-y sweetness to this savory dish.

I will definitely make this again...and hopefully share it with others!



Greek Yogurt, Sour Cream and Mayo

I know...its been a while. Turns out, making your blog look cool is tough. I am not computer savvy, so when directions start talking about "configuring the coding" I panic a little. And then, I mess things up. Which is what I have been doing for the last week...messing it all up. Hence my new design...random colors...simplicity. Please note, my colors may change often as I may be the worst person ever at making decisions. One day, hopefully, I will be able to figure out how to have a pretty template. Or maybe someone will do it for me. Until then...bare with me.

Moving on....

I love Greek Yogurt.

Today for lunch I had carrots with ranch dressing. I love ranch....good ranch. And I am picky about it. I do not like Kraft or Wishbone; they have a strange tang to them. Personally, I think they are gross. I think you get the idea. Anyway, my favorite kinds are always homemade and mayonnaise based...go figure. I worked at a Michigan Koney Island for few years in high school, and they have the best ranch EVER. But I will tell you, I've had to make it and when you have to lug out a 3 or 4 gallon tub of mayo, it will make you cringe.

So I try to avoid mayo when cooking, unless its essential (or I just really want it, because lets be serious, its good). Solution: Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt.
The ranch I made for lunch was made with 0% Fage Greek Yogurt (which I love, but will admit that the 2% is better but the difference is small) and part of a Hidden Valley Ranch Packet (Dips, not dressing). You can also use Sour Cream, which is what the directions suggest, but Yogurt is ultimately the healthier choice. More times than not, Greek yogurt can be used in place of sour cream or mayo. There are times I would avoid it, though. For example, mixing canned tuna with Greek Yogurt is not really my cup of tea. The health benefits will not outweigh the taste. It's really not even a pleasant thought.

I would say that 9 times out of 10, Greek yogurt will work.

Try these options:

* Replace the sour cream on your tacos for a dollop of Greek Yogurt. You won't even notice the difference.

* Use a generous amount as a spread in a wrap and don't feel guilty.

* Add it to your soups to make them creamy.

* Use it in all sorts of dips such as Spinach and Artichoke dips.

* Instead of a heavy cream Alfredo sauce on your pasta, try replacing the cream with Greek yogurt.

* Make healthy, protein rich smoothies with Greek Yogurt, Tofu, ice and your choice of fruit.

* Replace your cottage cheese chip dip ;) with a spiced-up Greek Yogurt.

* Use it in place of oils when backing banana bread or brownies.

* Add granola, cranberries and almonds or honey and walnuts to enjoy a great mid-morning snack.

* Make Tzatziki sauce by adding cucumbers, lemon juice, dill, garlic and salt and pepper. One of my personal favorites.

* Add a spoonful to your favorite chili.

* Mix it with applesauce.

Or...just enjoy it all on its own!


Manic Mondays

I can't create Bibimbap everyday. Some days I am not incredibly motivated to make something that requires turning on the stove. I like my microwave...and quite frankly, I'm not too concerned with the bad rep it gets. (My co-worker, Sarah, told me that if I just don't stand in front of it when I open the door, the radiation won't get me. Hope you're right, Sarah!!) Anyway, so instead of having to brainstorm, turn on the stove, and wash dishes, I simply made some leftovers using my microwave (I also wrote this on Tuesday). Who doesn't love leftovers? I know I certainly do. In fact, I even love most of them cold (especially cold pizza). I decided though, that leftover chili, specifically Pumpkin Turkey chili...in the winter, is best served warm.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili adapted from Serious Eats


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can red kidney beans
2 cups (1 14.5 ounce can) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste (at least 3 good shakes)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Saute onion, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper (I actually used a whole yellow pepper), green chiles, and garlic until tender, about 10 minutes. Make room in the center of the skillet, add turkey, and brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and pumpkin. Season with chili powder, cumin, pepper, salt, and cayenne.

3. Reduce heat and simmer at least 20 minutes. Stir in fresh cilantro. You can serve topped with Cheddar cheese and sour cream. However, I did not have sour cream so I used cottage cheese (totally acceptable, and really..are you surprised?) I also used leftover chip crumbs for a little crunch. I used Garden Salsa Sunchips.

I love fall. It is most likely my favorite season. One of its perks is that squash is widely abundant. This fall I've been trying to incorporate squash into a lot of my meals because it is delicious, filling and really healthy. I did not LOVE the pumpkin in this dish because it didn't provide a strong pumpkin taste. It may have added a bit of a sweeter bite, but had I not told anyone it was there, they probably would not have realized. It definitely was a texture thing. Usually it is the canned tomatoes that give chili it's almost-soup like texture, but this recipe calls for less tomato while the pumpkin makes up for the rest. However, while it may not have satisfied my need for squash, the chili was definitely still a good, hearty meal on a chilly night (pun intended).



The other night I went to dinner with a few friends at a Korean restaurant, downtown DC (which is, by the way, where I live!). They took me to this place called Mandu. Turns out, I had been before...on a first date. But on the date I didn't focus on the food at all...I was way too nervous and concentrated on finding things to talk about! I wish I would have though, especially considering how the date went. The food was great! My friends introduced me first to an Aloe Sojutini (a Korean Martini), which was incredibly refreshing and delicious - a must try! Then they insisted that I get this dish called Bibimbap for my entree. Bibimbap reminds me of a Korean fried rice. I like fried rice and I trusted their judgement - and could not ignore the way they raved about it. They were right! It was delicious. This is what it should look like (sorry that this pciture does not really do the dish justice):

So good that I had to recreate it for myself. So after rolling out of bed this morning, I went to Whole Foods to get everything I needed for the dish...and maybe a few extra things (I can't walk in there and not spend more than I need to)! I had a few staples: sesame seed oil, carrots, salt, eggs and Sriracha Hot Sauce (definitely a staple for those that love spicy food). Things I had to buy:

White Rice
Shiitake Mushrooms
Bean Sprouts

The only thing that I could not recreate was the hot stone bowl. At the restaurant, the entire dish was served in this hot bowl which continued to cook the rice, making it crunchy....mmm! I, unfortunately, do not own stone bowls! I am sure I could eventually figure out another way to mimic the idea though. Anyway, I just decided I would live without crunchy rice...it was still going to be delicious (at least, I hoped!). To begin, I prepared the rice. I used Thai Jasmine rice, but I think any white rice would work well. Sadly, rice is not my specialty. I am really just not good with rice. And of course, I managed to burn it, but luckily, not enough to ruin it. Wheww!

Then it was on to preparing the vegetables. I used an entire bag, figuring that a) it would cook down to about a cup and b) too many veggies can't hurt and c) I need lunch for work tomorrow! I sautéed the entire bag, 2 tsp. of sesame seed oil and a few shakes of salt and few sesame seeds.

While my spinach was cooking down, I started grating a few carrots. I could have probably saved myself the trouble and bought grated carrots, but I didn't. In fact, I was even stuck grating baby carrots. Oh well.

I managed. I then sautéed the carrots in the same pan I used for the spinach, using the leftover sesame seed oil. Then I prepared the bean sprouts. I used about 1.5 cups and added some sesame seed oil (I hate measuring..and rarely do so...I apologize), salt and sesame seeds. Just eyeball it. You can do it..trust me.

Also, I put the bean sprouts in the microwave for a minute once I mixed everything together. I wanted them to be warm when I added them to the dish. After the sprouts, I sautéed the shiitake mushrooms (these are my favorite part), like everything else, in the same pan with the leftover sesame seed oil. Almost there....

For the zucchini, I did some more grating. However, grating a zucchini is much easier than baby carrots. You are less likely to grate your fingers! Always a plus. And then...take a wild guess...thats right, sauté...

Tofu is not necessarily a traditional Bibimbap ingredient; beef is the most common. At the restaurant, I had pork, and loved it. However, they did offer the option of Tofu...so I thought I would test it out. Tofu can be tricky; no matter the firmness, it always manages to fall apart on me. I used it anyway. I used approximately 1 cup of Tofu, cut into small cubes. I put it in the pan with some sesame seed oil, salt and sesame seeds. It went from this:

To this, aka, started to turn brown on all sides:

The only thing left that requires the pan is the egg, which adds the perfect touch to this dish. An over easy egg is quick and easy. The runny yolk mixes with all the ingredients and gives the dish the "fried rice" feeling.

And we're done with the pan! The last step is to make the spicy red sauce. Bibimbap usually comes with a red pepper paste. I could not find any spicy pastes at Whole Foods. Maybe I didn't look hard enough? Instead, I mixed together about 1 Tbsp. of Sriracha hot sauce and 1 Tsp. of sesame seed oil and added some salt. It did the trick!

Just sprinkle as much sauce as you want on top...depending on how much spice you can handle! I prefer a lot...

Mix everything all together and there you have it...Bibimbap! I have to say...I did a good job. You should try it!

First recipe on my food blog..CHECK!


Remember the Name

I have told a bazillion people that my favorite food is cottage cheese. (Preferably two percent, small curd...and I am starting to believe that Breakstone's is my favorite brand.) I tend to get looks of disgust and faces that say "really? that's kind of weird." I quickly tell them that my other favorite food is chips, with hopes of slightly redeeming myself. But really...I love chips! I am clearly on Team Salty. But whats even better? Well it turns out, cottage cheese is a fantastic chip dip. Yup, chips and cottage cheese. I have a bizarre obsession with it! In fact, when I'm down, unlike most people who go out and buy themselves a pint of Ben & Jerrys, I buy chips and a pint of cottage cheese. Usually, during these down times, I will splurge with my favorite Doritos, Blazin' Buffalo. During non-sad times, I like to go with a healthier choice, SunChips (they're healthier, right?). Sometimes I even dress-up the cottage cheese. You can pretty much add anything your little heart desires to cottage cheese (or vice versa)...garlic, salt and pepper, hot sauce, dill, mustard, pineapple, flavored yogurt, jam...you name it!

So TA-DA... the title of my blog! I had been sharing a few suggestions with my friend over g-chat and most of my suggestions got a "Really? No!" I wanted to incorporate numerous aspects of my life like the fact that I'm from Michigan/Midwest or the fact that I lived in Singapore and love Asian food. One of my ideas was Midwestern Mai Tai. I liked it. She didn't like that...at all. The title "Chips and Cottage Cheese" automatically reigned supreme when after sharing this suggestion with my friend I got a "TOTALLY. hahaha. you have to!" I've known her for years, and she will probably tell you that my love for chips and cottage cheese is my oddest quirk.

Don't knock it till you've tried it!


"The first quality that is needed is audacity."

I needed a neat way to start my blog. So what do I do? I googled "first quotes"...as in quotes that have to deal with firsts or new beginnings. This quote by Winston Churchill was the winner. But actually, thats not true, it wasn't the winner before I googled the definition of "audacity." In my defense, I had an inkling of an idea, but I wanted to be 100 percent sure. Also in my defense, my inkling of an idea was correct! Therefore, Churchill was deemed the winner.

So....the definition of audacity: Fearless daring; intrepidity. Thats what this first blog is: audacious. Today, I am putting myself out there. Why? The other day I was reading through my endless list of food blogs that I have tagged on my Google Reader. I started reading Orangette, written by Molly Wizenberg. I started getting really into it and was reading how she got started. She started her blog about 5 years ago and since has published a book, writes a monthly column for Bon Appetit, and is now opening a restaurant. Thats when the jealously set in.

Right after that, my head started spinning with ideas. I spent the rest of my day at work (yes, at work!) making a list of ideas. That was yesterday. Today, right now, I am at work, typing my first entry of what I hope can be a really cool - if you will - food blog. As for the rest of my day, I am going to figure out how all this blog stuff works...aka, I am going to play around with my font and colors until it looks cool!

Also, just so no one thinks that this is just a ploy (or just a pathetic attempt) at being famous in the food blogging world....I really do love food. Ask anyone I know.