I must have been in a generous (and adventurous) mood when I first tried this recipe, because Winter Squash Casserole is a little more adventurous than I usually am. However, the entire family liked it – even the previously winter-squash-and-green-pepper-hating ME. It was simple to prepare, and, surprisingly, the only complaint was that we wanted MORE.
Squash Feta Casserole
- 2 cups winter squash, cut in half
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 4 green onions, chopped
- ½ – 2/3 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
- 2 strips bacon, chopped
- cracked black pepper to taste
- *optional* sliced tomato
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Lightly grease a medium (9×9) casserole dish. In microwave, heat squash for 9 minutes to soften. Remove from microwave, peel and cube. In a medium bowl, blend the eggs and heavy cream. Mix in the squash, green onions, bell pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Top with feta cheese and sliced tomato, if desired. Season with pepper. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned. If desired, top with cheese.
Johnny Carino’s is one of my favorite Italian restaurants. The really strange thing is that my favorite thing there is a salad (?!?!?), specifically, I LOVE Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad. It has the most amazing blend of contrasting tastes – tangy sweet apples and candied pecans contrast offset the bitter cheese and salty bacon. They offset the tomatoes perfectly, and I don’t even like tomatoes! Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed when the Carino’s near us in Sandy closed. Disappointed may be too mild a word. I howled and acted like a drama queen, which I usually try not to be. Since, driving 25 minutes to the nearest remaining restaurant wasn’t going to happen very often, I immediately went home and tried to find a knock-off recipe that I could duplicate. There are a few out there that were close, but none that had all the ingredients AND the right dressing. So, I made up my own salad recipe and found one for the dressing. Here for your eating enjoyment, are directions to re-create the full Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad experience in your own home.
Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad
- 1 head of iceberg lettuce
- bacon crumbles (save yourself some time and get the pre-cooked bacon, it is so very worth it)
- candied pecans (NOT sugared pecans- there is a difference!)
- Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
- diced Granny Smith apples
- diced roma tomatoes
Directions: Wash and dry lettuce. Remove core and cut head into 6-8 equal wedges. Top with bacon, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple pieces, and tomatoes. Drizzle with Garlic Ranch dressing (recipe below).
This recipe for Spinach Feta Empanadas originally comes from the Food Network. The pastry dough is a little different than usual, but let me tell you, it makes all the difference! I tried making these using my regular pie dough instead, and the results were good. The cream cheese dough, however, makes them amazing! To add a little more flavor, we used1/2 cup Feta cheese and 1/2 of the cottage cheese. We thought it was awesome this way, but we do love Feta at our house. If you don’t care for it, follow the original recipe is below and does not use Feta. The other change I made was to grate the onions instead of chopping them. Many people in our house don’t like too many contrasting textures in their food, so this method satisfies both the need for taste and the desire for “no crunchies!”
Spinach Feta Empanadas
- 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
- 6 TB butter, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3-4 TB bacon drippings or butter
- 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 1/2 lbs fresh spinach, washed
- 1/3 cup onion, grated
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup Feta cheese
- salt & pepper
Directions: In a mixer, cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Reduce speed to low and add the flour and salt until just combines. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.
Heat skillet and add 2 TB bacon drippings or butter. Add the spinach and heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach leaves wilt and release their juices. Transfer to a colander to drain. When cooled enough to handle, transfer to cutting board and chop finely. Add remaining bacon drippings or butter to skilled and add the garlic and onion. Cook until softened, but not browned. Add spinach, cheeses, and salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly, remove from heat, and allow to cool.
Remove pastry dough from fridge and preheat oven to 450 F. Roll dough to 1/8″ thickness. Using a small bowl or saucer as a guide, cut the dough into as many 5-inch circles as possible. Gather the scraps of dough together and knead lightly to reform the dough into a disk. Roll out as before and again cut as many rounds as you can. You should be able to get 10 to 12 rounds. Divide the spinach filling evenly among the dough circles. Using your fingers, lightly moisten the edges with water, then fold 1 side over so that the edges meet, and press to seal. Crimp the edges using the tines of a fork and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of the empanadas are assembled. Bake uncovered until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
Original Spinach Empanada Recipe