Dinner Menu: Bacon Squash Campanelle and Panna Cotta Parfait

I’m always looking for something different to do with pasta that is flavorful and moves away from the traditional tomato based sauces of my childhood. Tonight’s main course is just that. Butternut squash with a bit of heat and a bit of sweet, all brought together by smoky bacon and creamy chèvre. Finish off  the meal with a light, sweet Panna Cotta Parfait. Panna Cottas are traditionally molded desserts, but I think we been doing this together long enough that you know I’m all about keeping it simple. And Panna Cotta is as simple as it gets, unless of course you choose to mold it, then a thousand things can go wrong between placing it in the ramekin and serving it to your guests. Thanks but no thanks, it looks quite elegant in a wine glass, topped with a pretty berry topping. And I don’t have to worry that the last 5 minutes of prep are going to leave me with a blob of great tasting shapelessness on a plate. But that’s just me.

On the board tonight:

  1. Bacon and Squash Campanelle
  2. Tossed Salad (try these)
  3. Panna Cotta Parfait

Bacon and Squash Campanelle

  • 10-12 oz campanelle or penne pasta
  • 4 slices thick pepper bacon (usually find at the deli counter), cut into 1/4” piecesCampanelle
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small tart apple, cored and diced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz chèvre cheese (or similar), crumbled.
  • Fresh grated parmesan

Large saucepan, large, deep skillet

In saucepan cook pasta according to package directions, well. While pasta is cooking, brown bacon in skillet, remove to paper towel. Drain all but 2 tbsp of bacon drippings (or use all of it if you desire and reduce olive oil – you’ll want a 1/4 cup total). Add olive oil and sauté onion, rosemary and garlic until onions are translucent. Add squash, apple, pepper flakes and chicken broth. Simmer over medium heat until squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove rosemary, add bacon, chèvre and salt and pepper to taste, stir until cheese is melted. Toss squash mixture and pasta together and serve with parmesan.

Panna Cotta Parfait

  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod (or one tsp vanilla extract)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 lb blueberries (or other berries)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

2 saucepans, 6 wine glasses or other stemware

Change it up, use a variety of stemware

Change it up, use a variety of stemware

Panna Cotta:

Place 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over. Add lemon juice to remaining milk. Let both mixtures stand for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour gelatin milk mixture into a heavy saucepan and stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil. Add the lemon milk mixture, cream, sugar, and salt. Split vanilla pod lengthwise and add to mixture. Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove bean pod. Pour mixture into 6 wine glasses so that they are 1/2 full. Cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours, overnight is better.

Berry Topping:

In saucepan add berries, sugar and water. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, add cornstarch and stir in completely. Reduce heat and let simmer until berries are soft and sauce coats the back of the spoon. Cool completely.

Spoon the berries mixture over the top the panna cotta and serve.



Shopping List:

  • 10-12 oz campanelle or penne pasta
  • 4 slices thick pepper bacon (usually find at the deli counter)
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 small tart apple
  • 12 oz chicken broth
  • 4 oz chèvre cheese (or similar)
  • Fresh grated parmesan
  • Salad fixin’s
  • Salad dressing (Italian or oil & vinegar goes well with this recipe)
  • 12 oz whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 16 oz heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod (or one tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 lb blueberries (or other berries)

Also: crushed garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, cornstarch


South of the Border Chicken & Rice

Sometimes it just has to be quick and easy.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t flavorful.

South of the Border Chicken & Rice

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 tbsp pickled sliced jalapeños
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 oz can sliced black olives (opt)

large saucepan or dutch oven

Heat ½  oil in pan, add chicken and cook until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Add remaining oil, onion, peppers & jalapenos to pan and sauté. Stir in uncooked rice and stir for 1 minute. Add water, chicken broth, tomatoes to pan. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Add chicken and olives, simmer for 5 minutes and serve.  Serves 4 – 6

Quick Dinner

It was one of those days.  When everything is stressful I need to cook.  And I love to take what I have on hand and see what I can make of it.  Creative cooking and quiet time in the kitchen busts stress and improves my outlook.

Tonight I had 4 tomatoes that were past eating in a salad or such and needed to be cooked soon.  Some leftover fresh mozzarella from a recipe last week and some brown rice pasta.  I knew the mozzarella was going to be my star here, so I whipped up a quick sauce with some ground beef and my fresh tomatoes, very light with lots of oregano balanced with a bit of basil and garlic.  When you have fresh tomatoes, you don’t really need to dress a sauce up with much. I spread the cooked pasta in an oiled baking dish, topped with the sauce and covered it all generously with mozzarella and topped with grated Parmesan.

Baked it at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the cheese was browned and bubbly.  Served with carrots for a quick dinner.

Luckily there is leftover strawberry bread for dessert, so I didn’t have to give that much thought

Looks like JeffW has something delicious cooking in his kitchen.  He’s up next, stay tuned….

Golden Curried Beef

Serve with couscous, peas and fruit yogurt for dessert for a quick dinner. This curried beef is as easy to make as it is tasty.

Golden Curried Beef

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sirloin, London broil or flank steak, cubed
  • 2 tbsp or more of flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 large apple, finely diced
  • 1 cup drained diced tomatoes
  • ½ green pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 8 oz beef broth or equivalent (water & bouillon cube)


Season flour with salt & pepper, and dredge beef in mixture. Heat oil in skillet. Add beef and brown on all sides, remove and set aside. Add butter, apple, tomatoes, pepper & garlic to skillet and sauté until apples are tender. Add spices, water and bouillon, stir and add meat. Cover and let simmer 20 minutes.

Kid Friendly: Fruit Crepes

It’s snowing here….3 inches an hour according to the local weather guru. I have bread baking and got to work from home today, so it is all good. It’ll be 60 degrees by Sunday, so I’m enjoying the last (hopefully!) of the snow. With the promise of spring, I’m still all about fresh fruits and vegetables, so the kid’s recipe tonight is for crepes.  They’re light and fresh.

Do the idea of crepes scare you?! They did me until I decided to brave the waters for this recipe. They are unbelievably easy. The only difference between this and making pancakes is how you manipulate the pan. Make sure after you’ve lightly greased the pan and heated it, you remove it from the heat before adding the batter. Then you need to swirl the batter thinly around the pan and up the sides, until it sets. Return to the heat to let it cook. Immediately begin to loosen the top edges with a butter knife, so when it’s time to flip, it’s easy to do.

I found flipping it by hand easiest. Gently loosen the edges completely and gingerly pickup by the edge and flip it over when the bottom is golden. You may need to loosen the bottom with a spatula before flipping. If you’re feeling daring…you can try flipping them. Just remember, they don’t have to look perfect or be paper thin to work!

Fruit Crepes

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon


  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 oz sliced strawberries
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 2 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • powdered sugar

10-inch skillet with sloped sides or crepe pan, 2 bowls, plate & parchment or wax paper

Whisk together eggs, flour, milk, butter, ¼ tsp cinnamon. Mix well and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes while you prepare fruit.

In medium bowl, combine ¼ tsp cinnamon, berries, banana, kiwi, granola & yogurt. Cover & refrigerate. Lightly grease skillet and heat over medium heat. Just before adding batter, remove from heat. Add ½ cup of batter for each crepe. Immediately after adding it, swirl pan until batter is spread completely around the pan and up the sides. Return to heat and cook until golden on the bottom, flip and cook until other side is golden. About 2 minutes each side, but watch carefully. Remove to plate. Repeat for each crepe. Place parchment paper between crepes.

To assemble, put ¼ fruit mixture in each crepe and roll up. Top with garnish of powdered sugar. Makes 8 crepes.

Crispy Potato Chicken for Sunday Dinner

This is really quick to put together for something a bit different for dinner.  Add some buttered carrots and you’ve got a great dinner.

Crispy Potato Chicken

  • 2 large potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • ½ tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ice water

2 bowls

baking dish (8×8), lightly oiled

Shred potato, transfer to bowl of ice water. Rinse & dry breasts, place in baking dish and spread with garlic. Drain potatoes, pat dry and mix with oil & seasonings in bowl. Spread mixture over the top of the chicken pieces. Bake at 425° for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown and chicken’s internal temperature is 185°