Monthly Archives

January 2010

Cooking School: Butternut Squash

January 16, 2010

If you’re like me, it took you a while to attempt to cook a butternut squash. Maybe it’s something you reserve only for the holidays, or maybe, you would rather just run away and not think about these mysterious looking winter squash. I’m right there with you, because for years I preferred to leave the cutting and roasting of squash in more capable hands. Fortunately, you all can learn from my mistake, because there is no reason not to make butternut squash a part of your every week. And thankfully they store for up to a couple months in a cool pantry, which is how they got the name winter squash in the first place since they store very well throughout the winter.

Butternut squash are notoriously hard to cut, as are many squash varieties. Start by preheating your oven to 400*F. Then, to make this task easier, pierce the squash with the tip of your knife 6 or 7 times. Place the squash in a microwave, on high, for 3 minutes. This will soften the squash and make it easier to cut.

Remove the squash from the microwave, and bring to a cutting board. Starting at the top of the squash and working with the tip of your knife first, make a vertical cut through the middle of the squash. Remember: keep the tip of your knife down. This will make your work easier and safer. Work your way down one side and up the back. The squash should split right open.

Scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon and discard. Place the squash halves in a baking dish or on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with either salt and pepper or brown sugar.

I prefer to draw out the savory side, so I use salt and pepper, but if you’re looking for a sweet treat, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and a dusting of ground cinnamon is the way to go. In my squash, I placed three cloves of whole, peeled garlic in the centers of each half, then discarded them after baking. If you’re embracing the sweet side, go ahead and skip the garlic.

Bake your squash for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until you can easily pierce it with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes. At this point you can either scoop out the pulp with a spoon, mix with a little extra butter, and salt/pepper or brown sugar. Or, eat it like I did, straight out of the shell with a fork.

Happy cooking!


Homemade Cranberry-Almond Granola

January 14, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for specialty grocery stores and the health-food sections of regular grocery stores. Countless hours of my life have been spent wandering through isles, transfixed by pretty packaging and obscure, high-quality ingredients. There are many instances when I believe it’s worth the splurge. Cheese, seafood, olive oil, certain cuts of meat? Totally worth the splurge.

But no matter where I buy my groceries, the absurdly high price of granola (even the cheapest option) never ceases to amaze me. I mean, you’re basically paying for oats, mixed with some sort of sweetener, typically honey, with a few nuts and dried fruits tossed in. Companies give this granola all types of labels: “Protein Packed” “Antioxidant Rich” “A Full Serving of Fruit!” Truth be told, if you know one basic granola recipe, you can customize it to fit your needs.

Start with the recipe listed here, but don’t get caught up in the fruit and nuts I added. If you want a few more antioxidants, add some dried blueberries to the mix, for additional protein just bump up the nuts. Need a few more omega-3s in your diet? Try walnuts! (I think you get the picture) Basically, just have fun with it! And enjoy spending a whole lot less.

Homemade Cranberry-Almond Granola
Adapted from

*3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
*2 Tbsp. brown sugar
*1 tsp. ground cinnamon
*1/4 tsp. salt
*1/3 cup honey
*1/4 cup canola oil
*1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract
*3/4 cup dried cranberries
*1/2 cup golden raisins
*1/2 cup chopped almonds

*Preheat oven to 300*F.
*In large bowl combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, combine honey, oil, and extract and stir until well combined. Pour mixture over oat mixture. Stir until well-combine. Use hands, if necessary.
*Pour mixture into a large baking sheet or pan. Spread into a thin, even layer. Bake 45 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir the mixture once or twice while it cools (it will harden as it cools). Once cooled, add in cranberries, raisins, and almonds. Store in an airtight container or zip top bag.

Happy cooking!

Spiced Cranberry Shortbread

January 10, 2010

Settled in to life in the new apartment? Check. Job started and life in full-swing? Check. Living budget established? Check. Mastering the art of grocery shopping on a budget while being a foodie? Well, let’s just say I’m working on it. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are many great things about growing up, graduating, and living on my own, but one thing I’m really going to miss? The charge account at our grocery store back home, billed directly to mom. Long grocery lists for whatever recipe that struck me as delicious accounted for a pretty hefty monthly grocery bill, I’m sure. If nothing else, my mom deserves credit for teaching me how to cook since she played the role of financier. 

What I really love, if you can’t tell by now, are simple recipes. So simple that after making them a couple times you remember them by heart and feel comfortable enough to mix it up to suit your tastes, or whatever might be in the pantry. Another perk of simple recipes? They usually end up being inexpensive, allowing you to create something sinfully delicious with ordinary ingredients. Case in point? Spiced Cranberry Shortbread. If you don’t have dried cranberries, skip them or substitute something else like nuts, raisins, or chocolate chips. What I won’t try to do is health-ify this up. It’s flour, sugar, a few spices, and lots of butter. Embrace the butter, and enjoy in moderation. Trust me, it’s more difficult that it sounds. 

Pre-baked shortbread 

Cooling shortbread 

*2 cups all-purpose flour
*1/2 cup sugar
*1 cup dried cranberries 
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1 tsp. ground cinnamon
*1/2 tsp. ground allspice
*2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened 

*Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease a 10-inch tart pan (you can use an 8-inch cake pan if needed, just increase the baking time by 5 minutes).
*In bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the ingredients, except the butter. Stir until dry ingredients are well-combined. Add in butter and beat until coarse crumbs form. (mixture will not form a ball or combine completely) 
*Pour mixture into pan. Press dough with your fingertips into the pan, paying close attention to the edges. 
*Bake shortbread for 30 minutes or until sides of the shortbread are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack (or, if you’re me, balance the pan on a coffee cup!) for 30 minutes. Cut shortbread into pizza-shaped wedges. 

Happy baking!


Spiced Black Bean and Turkey Soup

January 8, 2010

Winter is here in, in a BIG way, and based on the weather forecast for the rest of the country, chances are temperatures have been lingering well below average no mater where you are. It’s so terribly cold here that even making a trip to the grocery store (which for me is less than a half a mile) takes an extra kick in the pants, usually from my stomach growling ‘feed me!’

Not all too long ago, I used to be intimidated by the idea of making soup. Something about soup, in all its deliciousness, seemed intimidating. But truth be told, soup is one of the easiest meals to make. Of course I’m going to give you the recipe of this Spiced Black Bean and Turkey Soup, but don’t get frustrated thinking you need all the ingredients listed; make do with ingredients in your pantry.

This soup recipe makes enough for 4-6 people. Since there’s no way I will be able to eat that much soup before it goes bad, I’m freezing half in case friends drop by and I need a homemade meal quick. Anyone else out there have a great soup recipe or family favorite they go to when the temperatures drop?


*1 (32 oz.) container reduced-sodium chicken broth
*1 can white beans or butter beans
*1 cup milk
*1/2 tsp. ground marjoram or oregano
*1 tsp. salt
*1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
*1/2 tsp. paprika
*1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
*1/2 tsp. dried thyme
*1 tsp. dried parsley
*1 lb. ground turkey or ground chicken, browned
*1 can black beans
*1/2 cup sliced black olives
Extra parsley and paprika for garnishing (optional)


*In a blender, combine half of the broth and the white beans. Blend until smooth. In large pot, combine broth/bean mixture, remaining broth, milk, and spices. Whisk until well-combined.
*Heat mixture over medium-high heat until hot but not boiling. Add in ground turkey, black beans, and olives.
*Garnish with additional parsley and paprika, if desired.



Everyday Meatloaf

January 6, 2010

Last night I had one of my friends over for dinner to catch up, and while we were together the subject of my blog got brought up. If you knew my friend Cassie, and maybe some reading do, she would probably tell you that she can not cook. Personally I think she is probably being a bit too hard on herself, but one thing is for certain: she would never brag about her cooking skills or knowledge of anything kitchen-related.

But really the reason I am telling you all this is because it makes her comment so much more meaningful. While browsing through the recipes posted on Espresso + Cream, Cassie said, “These are things that I can make!” That’s exactly the way I hope all of you feel about the recipes posted here. They may not be the fanciest of recipes, but they are delicious, and easy enough for all the “Cassies” out there.

That said, I give you Everyday Meatloaf. Yes, meatloaf, one of the world’s most underestimated foods that has unfortunately gotten a bad rap. But there’s really nothing not to love. It’s economical, hands-off, easy, and with magazines like Bon Appetit naming meatballs the recipe of the year, you have every right to call it gourmet, too. So warm up the oven, crack and egg or two, get your hands a little dirty, and treat everyone to a taste of home.

*1 lb. ground chuck or ground sirloin
*2 Tbsp. Red Wine (any type of broth will also work)
*1/2 cup cooked oatmeal (about 1/4 cup uncooked plus equal amount of water)
*1 egg
*1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper
*1 tsp. dried parsley
*1 tsp. dried thyme
*2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

*1/4 cup ketchup
*1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
*1 tsp. brown sugar

*Preheat oven to 350F.
*In large bowl, gently mix together all the above ingredients until well-combined, besides the glaze. Transfer meatloaf mixture to a greased baking dish (8×8 or larger). Form into a loaf shape, with a ‘dome’ shape on top.
*Mix together ingredients for glaze. Brush on top of loaf (you may have some glaze left over). Bake for 1 hour.

Happy Cooking!