A Hearty Fall Dinner….

Fall is in the air….well up north it is.  Here in Florida we do the best we can….Pumpkin Spice Latte’s, pumpkin doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts, burning a fall scented candle and finding recipes like the one I tried tonight.  I was inspired by the fall season to make this delicious dish from the October 2012 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  My weakness is cheese, especially good cheese and when I saw that the recipe called for  smoked Gruyere,  I nearly fell out of my chair!  This recipe was so good we all went back for seconds and my husband went for thirds!  Pair this with a good Merlot or Cabernet and you are all set.  Comfort food at it’s best!


12  ounces dried rigatoni
1  1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (3 1/2 cups)
2 3/4  cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces smoked Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 cups)
8 slices bacon (you could easily substitute the bacon with tempeh bacon, bacon bits, or the Morning Star Farm Veggie Bacon)
2 small sweet onions, cut into chunks
3 ounces sourdough bread (I used bread crumbs that I already had in the pantry)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly butter a 3-quart au gratin or baking dish; set aside. I didn’t have a 3 qt. dish so I used 2 2qt. dishes. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.


Meanwhile, in a large saucepan combine the squash and 2 1/2 cups of the milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir together remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the Gruyere until melted; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a very large skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels. Crumble; set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons bacon drippings. Return skillet to the heat.

Add onions to skillet; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden.

Add squash-cheese mixture, onions, salt,  pepper and  bacon to the bowl with the pasta. Toss well to combine, then transfer to prepared baking dish.

Place bread in a food processor and pulse with two or three on/off turns to form large coarse crumbs (you should have about 2 cups). Transfer to a small bowl; mix with melted butter. Sprinkle remaining Gruyere and the bread crumbs over pasta mixture.  Bake until top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This recipe made so much it filled 2 2qt. dishes.  And was more than enough for my family of 4.   We had another whole dish for left overs.

butternut squash recipe

So so yummy!  Enjoy

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A Farmer’s Market Soup….

I was recently contacted by a friend to be in a photo shoot with my family,  for his company at a local farmer’s market.   Since they were highlighting tomatoes, bell peppers and corn in the photos and we were handling them, we were able to take a lot home with us .  I think we had about 18 tomatoes,  12 bell peppers and 10 ears of corn.  This was the perfect bonus for my vegetarian family.   We couldn’t decide what to do with it all….salsa, tomato sauce, stuffed peppers?  Soup was the answer!   Marc was behind the wheel on this one and created it as he went.



Our farmer’s market bounty!  We used just about all of the tomatoes and peppers, but we roasted the corn and ate it with some Boca Burgers a few nights ago.


Roasted Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup


15 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, quartered

2 red bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into quarters

2 yellow bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into quarters

6-8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 tbsp olive oil

3 medium onions, roughly chopped

water as needed

1 quart of vegetable stock

1/2 cup of soy creamer

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning blend

1 tablespoon garlic powder

basil cut into ribbons (chiffonade style)


1.  Preheat oven to 450.  On a foil lined baking sheet, place peppers and tomatoes.  Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and garlic powder.  Roast until the edges become slightly charred, 45 min. to 1 hour.


2.  When the veggies have about 30 minutes left in the oven, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil in a large stock pot.

3.  When the tomatoes and peppers are done, transfer them to the pot (along with their juices) with the onions and garlic and add the vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add soy creamer.

4.   With an immersion or stick blender, blend everything together.  Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning to taste.

tomato and red pepper soup

5.  Pour the soup through a mesh colander to remove any tomato seeds and pepper skin.

tomato and red pepper soup

Garnish with basil and serve with toast or bread….Enjoy!

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Gettin’ Buggy…..

This week was all about bugs!  Crawling bugs, creepy bugs, flying bugs, you name it and we learned about it.  We had fun reading lots of buggy books, learning a fun new song and making a craft all centered on bugs.

I used our plastic bugs from our science center in the song below.  I held them up when we sang about them.

plastic bugs

Do You See Bugs?

(to the tune of “The Muffin Man”)

Do you see a grasshopper, a grasshopper, a grasshopper?

Do you see a grasshopper? It leaps around like this…

Do you see a butterfly, a butterfly, a butterfly?

Do you see a butterfly?  It flits around like this…

Do you see a brown spider, a brown spider, a brown spider?

Do you see a brown spider?  It creeps around like this…

Do yo see a bumble bee, a bumble bee, a bumble bee?

Do you see a bumble bee?  It flies around like this…

preschool bug books

We read “The Best Book of Bugs” by Claire Llewellyn  and “Bugs!  Bugs!  Bugs!” by Bob Barner.  The Best Book of Bugs is a great scientific book that takes an in depth look at bugs and their natural habitats.  We learned so much about bugs and that they are not just creepy.  They are all creatures of God and have important jobs to do.   We talked about how bugs are not mean and only bite because they are looking for food or they might feel threatened and to never touch bugs for that reason.

preschool bumble bee craft

Our happy little bees that we made out of  small paper plates and wax paper for the wings.

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