Roasted Butternut Squash, Bacon and Spinach Pizza

If your mouth didn’t start watering when you read that title, well, then, something is wrong with you. Sorry to be blunt but it’s the truth in this case.

butternutsquashpizza

I feel like I am always saying something is my new favorite (probably because I always am??) but this pizza is quite possibly my new favorite. Or at least it’s my new favorite fall pizza.

Yes, you can have a favorite pizza for each season.

Oh, you don’t? Really? Well, you should. And you should start with this one for fall.

Besides the squash, bacon and spinach, there is also roasted garlic, caramelized onions and goat cheese involved. Now are you interested?

By the way, J claims to not like goat cheese but when I made this pizza for him, he devoured 3/4 of it in two days. No joke.

That means you will probably like it, too!

J planted butternut squash in his garden this year (with a little prodding from me) and I spent the better part of a morning late this summer peeling, dicing and freezing the squash. Have you ever cut up a butternut squash? It’s miserable (yes, miserable) and a job I despise but one that is necessary. But now, I have bags of frozen butternut squash to use! Yay!

Enough of the rambling- on to the recipe!  This may seem like a lot of steps for a pizza but I promise it’s not bad at all if you are organized. A few notes on how to tackle it here:

Once you have peeled and cubed your squash (or you purchased it like that, which is not a bad idea- see above), toss with a few tablespoons olive oil and spread out on a lined baking sheet. I roast mine at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.

Also roast your garlic at this time. Remove most of the papery white stuff from the outside of a head of garlic. Then, carefully cut off the top of the head, so that each bulb has an end exposed. Drizzle this with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and place in the oven with the butternut squash. Let it roast for 40-45 minutes. When it is finished, open the foil and let the garlic cool slightly, until you can handle it. The garlic should now be very soft and will come out easily when squeezed. Squeeze all of the garlic out into a bowl and set aside.

After the butternut squash is in the oven, you can start on the onions. I used a red onion because I thought it would work well with the other flavors but a yellow onion would work fine, too. Heat a covered skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Slice the onion and cook in the skilled for ~15 minutes, stirring as necessary. Begin frying the bacon in a different skillet, until it is crispy, then set aside. After the bacon has finished, cook the spinach briefly until it wilts.

Check Best Crock Pots - Cooking with Crock pots are very easy

Back to the butternut squash- Once the 30 minutes are up, remove 1/2 – 2/3 of the squash to a large bowl. At this point, I returned the remaining squash to the oven to get a little more crispy, but that’s up to you. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the squash with roasted garlic (I used about half of the whole head of garlic, use as much or a little as you want). You can also add some goat cheese in at this point, like I did (J had no idea!).

At this point you should be ready to assemble the pizza. If using a homemade crust (I suggest this one!), prebake the crust for 4-5 minutes. Then, spread the mashed squash, garlic and cheese mixture evenly over the crust, like a thick sauce. Top with the caramelized onions, followed by the remaining diced squash, bacon, spinach and goat cheese.  Place back in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Time to eat! Nom. Nom.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Bacon and Spinach Pizza

  • whole wheat pizza crust
  • 1 medium butternut squash (approx. 2 lbs.)
  • 1 head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Red onion, sliced
  • 6-8 slices bacon
  • 2 c. lightly packed spinach
  • 4 oz. goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube the butternut squash into one inch pieces. Place the squash on a lined baking sheet and toss with a few tablespoons olive oil. Roast the squash for approximately 30 minutes. Also roast the garlic at this time. Remove most of the papery white stuff from the outside of a head of garlic. Then, carefully cut off the top of the head, so that each bulb has an end exposed. Drizzle this with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and place in the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes. When it is finished, open the foil and let the garlic cool slightly, until you can handle it. The garlic should now be very soft and will come out easily when squeezed. Squeeze all of the garlic out into a bowl and set aside.

2. After the butternut squash is in the oven, start on the onion. Heat a covered skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Slice the onion and cook in the skilled for ~15 minutes, stirring as necessary.

3. Begin frying the bacon in a different skillet, until it is crispy, then set aside. After the bacon has finished, cook the spinach briefly until it wilts.

4. After the squash has finished roasting, remove 1/2 – 2/3 of the squash to a large bowl. At this point, I returned the remaining squash to the oven to get a little more crispy, but that’s up to you. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the squash with roasted garlic (use as much or as little as you would like, I used about half). You can also add some goat cheese in at this point.

5. Assemble the pizza. If using a homemade crust, prebake the crust for 4-5 minutes. Then, spread the mashed squash, garlic and cheese mixture evenly over the crust, like a thick sauce. Top with the caramelized onions, followed by the remaining diced squash, bacon, spinach and goat cheese.  Place back in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

New York City, Part 2

nyc8

 

The food. Oh, the food. Half of our time spent in the city was time spent eating and drinking. Thank goodness we did a lot of walking to help at least a little.

The first restaurant I officially ate at after arriving in the city was Juniors in Times Square. I’ll be honest- I wasn’t blown away by my lunch. Fortunately, that was short lived. Since we stayed in Times Square, we returned to the bakery next to the restaurant before we left to try the cheesecake. Best. decision. ever. They are famous for their cheesecakes and this one certainly did not disappoint. I actually bought their cookbook after I got home! I can’t wait to give some of the recipes a try.

For bruch on Saturday we visited Southern Hospitality, a.k.a. Justin Timberlake’s restaurant, in Hell’s Kitchen. For a group of former (current?) boy-band-loving gals, we were all about visiting JT’s restaurant. That, and the fact that the restaurant offers $12 unlimited mimosas and bellinis during brunch. Actually, it was more about the booze than JT. I’m just being honest here. Stupid amounts of mimosas and bellinis aside, the food was actually really good. Some foods tasted like cooked for long time in a best slow cooker, full of flavors and juicy.

Tony DiNapoli’s: This was the one reservation we made for the entire trip. Family style Italian food and it was awesome. It’s right off of Times Square, so I imagine it’s a hot spot for people attending shows. One of the best parts of the meal wasn’t even the food- our waiter was hilarious and made the experience so enjoyable.

I’m glad we were given a recommendation for Shake Shack because I would not had a clue about it. Apparently it’s a popular NYC destination. But I’m from the Midwest, people, and I was clueless. There’s nothing more than burgers, fries and shakes here but they are so, so good. Especially after you spend the night out and about in the city (ahem) and you need something solid the next morning. Excuse the bite of my burger, but I simply couldn’t wait any longer.

photo-4-001

Speaking of out and about in the city, on our last night we went to The View, the restaurant at the top of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, to start out the night. It actually spins and provides great views of the city. The food there is a little pricey for someone like me (a.k.a not that far removed from college and not making a fortune- yet), but we decided having a drink there before dinner was the perfect way to start out the night. And it was!

So that’s NYC according to my nutshell. It was the perfect girls weekend and I can’t wait to go back!

New York City, Part 1

nyc5

 

Earlier this summer I had the chance to spend four fabulous days in the city that never sleeps. The one and only, New York City.

I’ve been to the East Coast a number of times for vacations and school-related trips, but this was my first time visiting the Big Apple. And not that I had any doubt concerning how I would feel about it, but I absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to go back.

I was lucky enough to get together with a group of college girlfriends, some of which I don’t see that often because some of us live in different cities. This is a perfect excuse, though, to arrange a girls weekend away from either hometown.

Over 8 million people live in NYC and millions more visit the city each year. I don’t think I need to start gushing about how great the city is and what everyone should see and do there. I am hardly the expert after four days. However, I will share some of the favorites from my trip for whomever might be interested.

The picture of the Statue of Liberty was actually taken from the Staten Island Ferry. Unbeknownst to naive-midwestern-me, the ferry is actually free to anyone and everyone.

I think I am still a little shocked by this. Free? In New York City?

Anyway, we definitely took advantage of this. It is a perfect way to see the skyline of lower Manhattan on the return trip from the island and if it’s a nice day out, well who doesn’t want to take advantage of a free boat ride? It’s also a great way to see the Statue of Liberty if you’re not going to take the trip to Liberty Island (as we did- with the short amount of time we were in the city we didn’t want to devote that much time to seeing the landmark. I’ll leave that for my next trip!)

Once across the ferry, we found a local pizza place for lunch, Pier 76. Fantastic pizza! And, ahem, beer- it was after noon! And we were on vacation!

nyc6

We also visited the World Trade Center Memorial. There’s not much to say about this one, or I guess I should say, no amount of words or pictures from me can do it justice. You really have to see if for yourself to get the full experience. I am so happy we visited and definitely recommend it. FYI, you do have to reserve tickets online before you go (but they’re also free!).

nyc2

Visiting the memorial was one of the few things for which we actually had a timetable. For the majority of the trip we simply roamed around the city and tried to take as much of it in as we could.

One of my favorite spots was the Chelsea Market. If I lived in the city within any reasonable distance of the market, I would definitely shop there. It appealed to the foodie in me in every way possible. Bakeries, a small grocery store, even a lobster shop (I didn’t realize there were whole shops dedicated to lobster). There are also small restaurants and other retail shops. I think I could spend a whole day here and be very content.

I did find these at one of the bakeries in the market. HOW AWESOME?!? Challenge accepted.

photo-2

One of my favorite ways to see a city is to do so by going for a run in the morning. It may sound crazy to some, but I run a decent amount when I am not traveling so why not get my exercise in and see parts of a new city all at the same time? Here are a few of my favorite photos from my mornings around NYC. These were all taken with my iPhone, so the quality isn’t quite as good as my camera but you get the idea.

Central Park. I only saw a small portion of it on the morning I was running there but I loved it. There really wasn’t anything I didn’t love about NYC. Except maybe the garbage on the streets. Actually, I definitely did not love the garbage. Moving on.

photo-3

As you can see, I’m standing in the middle of the street for this picture. And no, I’m not crazy enough to stand in the middle of the street to take a picture, at least while cars are present. Every Saturday in August, the city closed down a number of streets for bikers, runners and walkers, the main one being Park Avenue. My friend Mary happened to see a sign advertising the days and pointed it out to me. When else am I going to get a chance to run down the middle of a Park Avenue in NYC? So off to Park Ave. I went.

photo-4

 

While I was on my way to the street, I happened to stumble across Rockefeller Center. Really. I had no clue where I was at the time and just happened to find myself there. Pretty cool.

For those of you still reading (all two of you), tomorrow I’ll feature some of the restaurants we visited! We didn’t even scratch the surface on eating at great restaurants in the city but I’ll share the ones we visited anyway.

German Chocolate Brownies

germanchocolatebrownies1

 

I was looking for something sweet to bring to a get-together of J’s family earlier this summer. I didn’t have a ton of time and therefore didn’t want to run around like crazy to trying to make something (I do that enough, trust me). I liked the idea of brownies but wanted to dress them up a little bit.

Enter the German Chocolate twist. To say that J’s dad loves German chocolate cake is a severe understatement. Do not stand between this man and his cake.

germanchocolatebrownies2

I would consider these a “deconstructed” German Chocolate brownie based on the topping. Instead of making a traditional German Chocolate frosting and slapping it on top, I added the ingredients separately. Pour on the caramel, then top with toasted coconut, pecans and mini chocolate chips (Yes, I realize that these are not included in a typical frosting but, well, I like chocolate. The end.)

These are pretty sweet, especially with the use of German chocolate instead of unsweetened chocolate, so they are great in small bites!

I included the caramel recipe that I used when making these. I didn’t have any heavy cream to make a typical caramel sauce but I did have all the necessary ingredients for this recipe. And it tasted great! I will definitely use this recipe again.

German Chocolate Brownies

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 4 ounces German chocolate, finely chopped
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • Caramel (recipe below or store bought), slightly warmed
  • Chopped pecans
  • Toasted coconut
  • Mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8″ pan with aluminum foil, so enough foil extends over the edges to create handles. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together the butter and chocolate until the mixture is melted and smooth. Whisk in the sugar, then let the mixture cool slightly.

3. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Finally, stir in the salt and flour.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

5. Let the brownies cool for ~30 minutes. Pour caramel on top of the brownies, the sprinkle the pecans, coconut and chocolate chips over top.

6. Leave the brownies in the pan for at least another hour to let the caramel and toppings cool. Then, lift the brownies out of the pan using the aluminum foil, cut and serve.

Caramel  (From the Daily Herald)

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients, but vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, being careful to avoid burning. Stir until mixture comes to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to low, stir in vanilla and continue stirring until caramel reaches 244 degrees on a candy thermometer.

3. Pour into a glass container. Cool to use.

Check best crock pots @http://www.bestcrockpot365.com