Bacon & Butternut Squash with Rice

We’re wrapping up one of the most gorgeous fall weekends in Wisconsin – end of October is always up for grabs, and I am thankful that I got to spend this time on my cousins farm, looking at the view of Vernon County. My cousins all farm, and boy, did I reap the benefits – I brought home a car full of beef (not all for my freezer!), beautiful canned pickles, tomatoes, sauces, and beef tips, and end-of-season butternut squash, fall squash, apples and onions from Tucker & Becky’s Pumpkin Patch.

I was pretty tired when I got home, but decided to start roasting some butternut squash and see if I could figure out a recipe for lunch this week. One episode of “Chopped” later, I remembered that I had bacon in the fridge and maple balsamic vinegar had been pushed to the back of the cupboard waiting for inspiration.


And inspired I was! This fall dish indicates that my palate is changing a bit, too – I can’t think of a better comfort food, and for some reason the mild squash and rice combo is agreeing with my constitution, helping me feel good physically.

Bacon Butternut Squash & Rice

2 small to medium butternut squash
1 pkg. bacon (I used Neuske’s smoked bacon)
1.5 c. Jasmine rice, cooked
3 tbsp. maple balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. honey

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Poke your squash with a knife and roast for one hour. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle. Slice open and remove seeds and stringy innards. Cube squash and put in bowl.

While your rice is cooking, chop bacon into 1/4″ slices and cook until crispy.


Do not drain your bacon! Put it into the bowl with your squash and add rice. Add honey and vinegar; mix well. If you need a little more oil, use your bacon drippings.


Serve warm and enjoy! Would it be too untraditional to make this for thanksgiving? I think it would taste great as a side dish to my turkey!


Fall Pheasant Flatbread

I had an unexpectedly quiet weekend, which was awesome, and for me meant roasting everything in sight and playing at one of the last farmers markets of the season. I happened to have a pheasant taking up space in the freezer, so this recipe is my little ode to a beautiful fall day.

Give yourself a little time on this one (like all day Sunday) if you’re starting from square one and actually roasting your pheasant. You could also brine the bird overnight, but I didn’t.

1 whole pheasant
1 apple
1 onion
Handful of herbs – your choice, fresh is best
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 acorn squash
2 pints mushrooms – your choice
2 tbsp. butter
1 Molly’s Gluten Free Bakery flatbread
3 tbsp. pesto
4 oz. LaClare Farms cheddar goat cheese


First things first, preheat your oven to 500 degrees, then chop up an onion and an apple into big chunks, and grab some of those end of season herbs (that I can never keep alive inside over the winter, so I might as well use up) – I used sage and rosemary. Stuff that bird and if you have too much filling, just put the pieces around it. Drizzle olive oil over it and rub in to all of the crevasses and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Roast for 15 minutes at this hot temperature, the take out of the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees – you can leave the door open to cool it down, which is so great on a cool fall day! Cut your acorn squash in half and remove the seeds while the oven is cooling. Put your pheasant back in and have the squash join it for about 45 minutes at the lower temperature, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes when you take it out of the oven. (The squash might need an additional 15-20 minutes after the pheasant is done – just poke it with a fork to see if it’s soft).

Remove the meat from the pheasant and set aside to use. Throw the bones, apples and onions in a pot and make broth. Seriously, fill it up with water and boil for a couple hours. It’s so flavorful!



Heat butter in a pan over medium high heat. Chop up mushrooms and add to pan. Sauté until soft – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.


Heat the oven back up to 450 degrees. Put your flatbread on a baking stone and spread the pesto over it out to edges. Top with pieces of pheasant, chunks of squash, and sautéed mushrooms. Shred the cheese over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Bake for 8 minutes. You are going to love this. Enjoy hot out of the oven!


Life comes together with Roasted Squash

It’s been too long since I posted! Life has been busy, and for a while, I lost a bit of my cooking passion. This summer and early fall I’ve been working hard to get my health on track and cleaning up my diet is a big part of that. I’ve learned a lot about my own body and how it reacts to different foods, and how I can nourish not only my body but my mind and soul through cooking.

Right now, the best things for me seems to be beans and fall vegetables. I adapted this recipe from a salad that I pinned a while back. Raw roughage has been a challenge for me, so I made this into a tasty sauté.


Butternut squash is a fall gem! I can’t stop roasting things right now.


Fresh organic kale came in my Brewers Organics box this week – perfect timing.


It seems decadent – even though it’s full of great, healthy stuff!

Butternut Squash Sauté – 4 servings

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed
3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 sm. sweet onion, chopped
1 can black beans
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh kale, chopped
2 tbsp. spicy mustard
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cubed squash on a baking dish; drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 40 minutes, tossing after 20.

In a large sauté pan or wok, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and garlic about 4 minutes or until soft. Add beans and kale and sauté until kale is wilted. Add roasted squash, mustard and honey; mix well and remove from heat.

Garnish with a sprinkle of goat cheese and eat warm.

Coconut Salmon Crab cakes

This is a rendition of one of my favorite recipes from Practical Paleo. I was inspired by a recent exotic purchase at Oro di Oliva – coconut it is!


14 oz can pink salmon
1/2 package imitation crab meat, coarsely chopped
4 eggs
3 green onions, chopped
3 tsp. mustard (I always use Ringhand’s Beer Mustard)
1/4 c. Unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tbsp seasoning (I used Beautiful Briny Sea Salt French Picnic blend)
2-3 tbsp. coconut flour
2 tbsp. butter
Salad greens (your choice – I love arugula)
White coconut balsamic vinegar and Parisian lime olive oil from Oro di Oliva

Put all ingredients except butter, greens, oil, and vinegar into food processor. Pulse until mixed well and easy to form into cakes. Make cakes whatever size you like – I do a medium handful so I can have 2 or 3 on a salad, if you make them smaller they’re a great appetizer as well.

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add cakes and cook about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown.

Put greens on a plate and top with hot cakes. Mix equal parts oil and vinegar, use as dressing on top. I also added sunflower seeds.

This makes a great salad, and I also love making a breakfast Benedict – put a cake on an English muffin and top with a poached egg and the same dressing. Yum!

Deep Dish Cauliflower Pizza

This might be the answer to my pizza addiction. I combined the ideas from a couple of recipes I found on Pinterest, and I’ve been devouring it. I’m getting a couple of servings of veggies with every piece, and I kept it gluten free. Hope you enjoy as much as I am!


1/2 of a large spaghetti squash
1 egg
1/4 c. Gluten free bread crumbs
2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. half and half
4 oz. pepperoni
1 red pepper, chopped
4 oz. sun dried tomatoes
2 c. Mozzarella
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake squash for 60 minutes; let cool until you can handle. Cut in half, remove seeds, and scrape squash into a bowl with a fork. Mix egg, bread crumbs and Parmesan into spaghetti squash. Press into bottom and sides of a deep dish pie plate. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly browned.

While baking crust, place cauliflower, butter, half and half, salt and pepper in a glass bowl. Microwave for 10 minutes, stir, and microwave for another 6 minutes. Put cauliflower mixture, half of the pepperoni, half of the sun dried tomatoes and 1 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese in food processor. Pulse until smooth. Stir in red pepper and remaining sun dried tomatoes; scoop cauliflower mixture into crust. Top with remaining cheese and pepperoni. Bake for another 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Let sit for a few minutes before serving. These leftovers are even better the second day!

7 Courses: A late-winter dinner party

Last weekend I spent some time at my parents’ house, enjoying lots of wine and cooking in their beautiful kitchen. Entertaining in a space like theirs is truly a joy – plenty of elbow room, enough dishes for seven courses, and what a treat to cook with my mom washing dishes behind me!

table setting 2

There were no big secrets to my recipes – lots of good ingredients, and let’s be honest – butter and cheese make everything great! Each recipe is scaled to serve small-plates for 12 people. So here it is – seven courses to lust after!

Course 1: Cheese Plate

cheese plate

I love cheese, and we all know it goes well with wine. My wine guy, Cliff, wanted to pair this course with a white wine, so we focused on milder cheeses with a sweeter twist. My selections included a scoop of plain goat cheese, slice of brie with Quince and Apple Shallot Confit with Red Wine, slices of Sartori Raspberry BellaVitano, cranberry walnut bread from Rocket Baby Bakery, dried apricots and sea salt roasted almonds.

Course 2: Salmon Cakes over mixed green with Balsamic Vinaigrette

salmon cakes

This recipe is based on one of my favorites from Practical Paleo. The dressing is my own, made with my favorite 18 year balsamic vinegar from Oro di Oliva. This course was served with a wonderful chardonnay – not my usual pick, but wow, it was incredible with this. I bought a couple of bottles looking forward to serving this on a hot summer afternoon in my yard!

24 oz. canned salmon

4 eggs, beaten

6 tbsp. minced shallots

4 cloves garlic, pressed

4 tbsp. green onions, minced

1 tsp. tarragon

salt & pepper to taste

4 tsp. mustard (I used beer mustard)

2-4 tsp. coconut flour

1/2 stick butter

1 package salad greens

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. 18 year aged balsamic vinegar

Combine the salmon, eggs, shallots, garlic, green onion, tarragon, salt, pepper and mustard in the food processor. Pulse until combined. Add coconut flour 1 tsp. at a time and pulse until a dough forms. Make dough into 12 cakes using hands.

Melt butter in a large, flat-bottom skillet over medium high heat. Place cakes in and cook until golden brown on each side – about 4-6 minutes per side.

Whisk oil, vinegar, more tarragon, salt and pepper together to make dressing. Place one cake on a bed of salad greens and drizzle dressing on top. Serve while cakes are warm.

Course 3: Corn Salad with Cilantro Dressing


This is a recipe passed on to me from my good friend Kaity Swanson. She made it for me once, and I was hooked. I love using recipes that are hand written by a friend! This one is a favorite.

16 oz. frozen corn, thawed

1 package mini mozzarella pearls, drained

1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

3 avocados, diced

1 bunch cilantro

1/4-1/2 c. olive oil

salt & peper to taste

Mix corn, mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado in a large bowl. Place cilantro, salt, and pepper in food processor. Process on low and gradually add olive oil until consistency is that of a salad dressing. Pour over salad and mix to coat. Serve immediately so avocado doesn’t discolor.

Course 4: Zuppa Soup


I found this recipe on Pinterest, it’s from a blog called 365 Days of Slow Cooking. You can find the recipe HERE. I appreciated this because I could prep it hours ahead of time and it was ready to serve when my guests were ready for it. I did use real bacon in my recipe, and I substituted half and half for the heavy cream. I also used spinach instead of kale.

Course 5: Pork Tenderloin, bourbon bacon sweet potatoes with a Maple Garlic Sauce

pork tenderloin 2

This dish had a lot of flavors going on – it’s rich, it’s delicious. Served with a beautiful red Syrah, it was perfect.

3 lb. pork tenderloin (I used two smaller tenderloins)

4 tbsp. mustard

2 tsp. sesame oil

6 cloves garlic, pressed

black pepper to taste

2 c. maple syrup

Whisk all ingredients (except pork) together and pour over pork. Marinade for 24 hours. When ready to cook, heat a grill to medium high heat. Pull pork out of marinade and place on grill. Turn every 5 minutes for a total cooking time of 30-40 minutes. In the meantime, place remaining marinade in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook down to create sauce.

You can find the mashed potato recipe HERE on a blog called How Sweet It Is. I discovered this one using Pinterest. I had a tough time with getting the sage for the topping to crisp up, so I just used dried sage in the actual mash to get the flavor.

Course 6: Roasted Vegetable Bake with Cheddar and Gorgonzola

veggie bake

This is a winner of a recipe. It’s adapted from Curtis Stone’s What’s For Dinner cookbook, and it gets rave reviews every time I serve it.

1 medium spaghetti squash

6 tbsp. olive oil

1 head cauliflower cut into bite-sized florets

salt and pepper to taste

8 c. broccoli florets

4 oz. pancetta, chopped

1 sm. yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp. thyme

1 tbsp. flour

2 c. whole milk

1 c. half and half

1.5 c. white cheddar, shredded

4 oz. gorgonzola, crumbled

1 c. bread crumbs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower and broccoli florets on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Place this sheet and spaghetti squash (whole) on separate oven racks. Bake for 60 minutes total, turning the squash and tossing the other veggies once.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. Add pancetta and cook until it’s brown and crisp (about 4 minutes). Add onion and thyme and cook a couple of minutes until onion is softened. Sprinkle the flour over the entire mixture and stir for about a minute until everything is golden. Gradually stir in the milk and half and half increasing the heat a bit; keep stirring and simmer for about 4 minutes until sauce thickens a bit. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the cheeses, stirring until melted.

When the cauliflower and broccoli are done roasting, add to the cheese sauce. When the squash is done, let it cool until you can handle it. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Using a fork, pull the rest of the squash out in spaghetti strands and add to sauce mixture. Place equal amounts of mixture into individual baking dishes, or into one large baking pan.

Toss the bread crumbs with about 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Spread evenly over the top of the vegetable mixture. Bake the entire thing for about 10 minutes, until the crumbs become golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Course 7: Rum Raisin Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

bread pudding

This last course was rich and delicious, warm out of the oven. Of course you’d expect this type of thing from a recipe from the Neely’s of the Food Network. You can get the recipe HERE. I didn’t alter a thing about their recipe – although I couldn’t find brioche bread, so I used an egg bread instead. Our meal finished nicely with a port wine and I think everyone was stuffed!

table setting

Blue Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard dressing

Today’s lunch was just what I needed – a healthy salad that felt a little bit like spring (I’m having the winter blues). The chicken and dressing have some interesting spice choices, and it really hit the spot. Enjoy!


3 tbsp. almond butter
1 tbsp. macadamia nut oil
Juice of one orange
1 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. brown mustard
3 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. dried garlic

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenders
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Mixed greens
1 qt. blueberries
2 c. Red grapes, halved
4 oz. feta cheese

Heat the olive oil on medium high in a sauté pan. Slice chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to pan with chili powder, salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from heat.

Place a bed of mixed greens on four plates (the recipe serves four, but of course you can make them individually and save the ingredients in the fridge for the next meal). Top with blueberries, grapes, feta, and chicken.

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl. Spoon dressing over salad.


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