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Mac N’ Cheese with Butternut Squash

  • November 19, 2015

 There’s nothing like the intense flavor of summer vegetables – juicy, red tomatoes, crunchy, sweet Jersey corn and more … but when autumn comes, I’m in love all over again with squash. This fall, I came back from Europe to a plethora of ripe butternut squash in the garden. 

They were used for roasting, for soups and before they were all gone, for this pasta dish that I saw on my friend Stacey’s blog, originally from Cooking Light magazine.
If you’ve got vegetarians sharing the table at Thanksgiving, you could eliminate the bacon, and they’d never miss the turkey if you present this dish. The only problem is that the vegetarians will be fighting off the rest of the meat eaters who want a second helping of this mac n’ cheese.
Instead of the traditional elbow macaroni, I wanted something a little more festive, so I used torcinelli, from an artisanal pasta maker, found at a local Italian grocery store.
The vegetables and the bacon were roasted together. I used another pan to roast the onions and mushrooms that were cut in half. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking, then mix everything together, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and pop it in the oven.
To see more of what I’m cooking up everyday, pop on over to Ciao Chow Linda’s Instagram feed:

Butternut Squash Mac N’Cheese
Serves 6-8

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
1 red onion, sliced 
3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 lb. mushrooms, halved
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut up into cubes
about six slices of bacon 
olive oil
kosher salt 
hot pepper flakes 
12 oz. pasta
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 T. butter
fresh sage leaves for garnish, optional


1 cup milk
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or your favorite cheese)
small bunch of sage leaves, chopped

Using 2 baking sheets, lay out the squash cubes, the brussels sprouts and the bacon. 
Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and kosher salt.
Roast in a 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bacon is crispy.
If the bacon is crispy before the vegetables are tender, remove from the pan first.

On another pan, lay out the red onion slices and the 3 large unpeeled garlic cloves and the halved mushrooms. Drizzle w/ some olive oil and place the in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. 

Crumble the bacon and set aside. 
Remove the garlic cloves to a cutting board and set aside.
Using an 8″ x 10″ casserole pan, lay out the sprouts and cooked squash.
Using a fork or potato masher, mash down on the squash cubes to create a puree or mash. I like to leave some texture so I didn’t make it a really smooth puree.

Add in the cooked onions, mushrooms and bacon pieces. Mix the vegetables together in the baking dish.
While your pasta is boiling, make the cheese sauce.

Smash the roasted garlic cloves with the back of a knife to remove the skins. Cut the garlic into pieces.

In a heavy saucepan, add the milk, roasted garlic cloves, cheese, butter, sage leaves and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and whisk until it is a nice even consistency, only a few minutes. It won’t be really thick, but don’t worry, once it’s in the casserole, the other ingredients will absorb the sauce and thicken it.

Season the sauce with a pinch of salt, black pepper and hot pepper flakes.

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the casserole pan with the vegetables. Mix together.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and vegetables and mix together.
Melt the 2 T. butter and mix in the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Lower the oven temperature to 375F.

Place casserole back into the oven for 20 more minutes, until everything is blended and melted and bread crumbs are browned.
Garnish with sage leaves, if desired.


Cherry Almond Cake

  • August 3, 2015

 I do love cake but it’s been a while since I posted one here on Ciao Chow Linda. I’ve been feasting on summertime fruits and (sh!) an occasional ice cream when I’ve had the urge for something sweet. But after picking up a package of frozen cherries at Trader Joe’s and simultaneously noticing a post from Stacey Snacks on a cake using frozen cherries, I knew I had to make this recipe. 

Make sure to pat the cherries dry before placing them in the batter. I used about 3/4 of the package, or 12 ounces. Use the remaining frozen cherries for a smoothie, as Stacey did.
If you can’t find the frozen cherries, I’m sure the recipe works equally well with fresh cherries (pitted of course), or any other fruit. It’s moist, has a tender crumb and a delicious almond flavor.
Sprinkle almonds and some sugar on top before baking. If you’ve got coarse sugar, it’s more decorative than table sugar, but not crucial.
I used a springform pan, but the original recipe, from Martha Stewart, shows it baked in a pie pan. Either one works.
Give it a little dusting of powdered sugar, and enjoy.

Cherry Almond Cake
courtesy of Stacey Snacks by way of Martha Stewart
printable recipe here

8 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
12 oz. bag of defrosted frozen cherries (pat them dry)
sliced almonds for the top
sugar for the top

Cream the butter with the sugar, eggs, extract and sour cream.

Add in the flour, baking powder, salt & almond meal.

The mixture will be nice and fluffy and yellow.

Pour into a buttered 9″ pie dish (I used a springform pan) and dot the top with the defrosted cherries. almonds and a tablespoon of sugar for the top.

Bake 40-45 minutes at 350F.


Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

  • February 2, 2015

 Snow and freezing rain are in the forecast here in New Jersey for today — not exactly the warm beaches of the Caribbean or the shores of the Mediterranean. But if you buy a bunch of these blood oranges while they’re still in season, you can bring a little bit of Florida or Sicily into your home with this beautiful and delicious upside down cake. Just looking at these jewel-like slices brings a smile to my face. 

The recipe comes from Coffee and Crumpets, but I first saw this cake posted on my friend Stacey’s blog and I knew right away it had to be in my future. I made it in a cast iron skillet, but the recipe calls for a traditional cake tin. Use whichever you like. The brown sugar and butter go in first, then the slices. Overlap them a bit, since they tend to shrink somewhat. Make sure you spread a little butter along the sides of the pan too.
Then spread the thick batter evenly over the slices.
Bake it in the oven for the allotted time. 
Then flip it over and stare at your beautiful plate of sunshine.
But not for too long. Dig in (with a serrated knife so you can cut through the caramelized orange slices) and enjoy. My favorite way to eat it is while it’s still warm from the oven. It may not be Capri or even Miami, but it will be a welcome treat from shoveling snow.



Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
The Cake Part
1½ cups/225g all purpose/plain flour
¾ cup/110g cornmeal, organic
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup/200g cane sugar
1½ sticks/170g butter, softened
¼ cup/60ml oil, neutral flavor
½ cup/120ml blood orange juice
3 eggs, large and organic
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. The “Upside Down” Part
  2. 1 or 2 blood oranges, scrubbed and dried, sliced thinly with peel (I used three)
  3. ⅓ cup/70g brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup brown sugar)
  4. 4 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
  2. In a 10″ round cake tin preferably, place the butter and sugar.
  3. Place in the oven to allow the butter to melt, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and arrange the sliced oranges into the melted butter and sugar.
  5. The orange slices will shrink so you can slightly overlap them to get better coverage on top of the cake. I only used one orange so mine are spaced out quite a bit.
  6. Keep aside and make the cake batter.
  7. Mix the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and keep aside.
  8. In a mixer bowl or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, oil and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  9. Add the orange zest and vanilla.
  10. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  11. Add half the flour mixture and mix gently.
  12. Add the blood orange juice.
  13. Add the remaining flour and mix until well incorporated.
  14. Spread the batter into the cake pan, carefully.
  15. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and the cake is golden and puffy.
  16. Check the cake at 45 minutes and leave a bit longer if still wet in the centre.
  17. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  18. Run a knife around the sides of the cake if necessary.
  19. Unmold the cake while still warm onto a cake plate and allow to cool completely.
  20. Serve as is, or with a dollop of sweetened cream.
  1. Make sure to cut the orange slices quite thinly without tearing the insides. The thin slices candy nicely and become soft and sweet and accompany the cake perfectly.

Breton Apple Cake

  • November 1, 2013

 When I saw this cake on my friend Stacey’s blog, I knew it was in my future. The cake alone – so moist and redolent of butter and apples – is worth making. But served with the salted caramel sauce, it becomes irresistible. That’s why it’s best  to wait till company comes or you’ll be eating it all yourself and swiping your finger into the pot to get every last drop of the caramel sauce. (guilty as charged on that last one.)

Normally, I bake with granny smith apples, but this time I used a combination of those and honey crisp, and it was terrific.
You have to sauté the apples in butter first.
Then spread them out in a single layer in a buttered pan.
Cover with a layer of the batter, then repeat the process.
I sprinkled the whole thing with cinnamon sugar.
It will be a huge hit, especially if you drizzle that decadent caramel sauce on the side –
Or pour it all over the top into a puddle of goodness.
 Gateau Breton aux Pommes avec Beurre Salé (adapted from Bon Appetit):

As found on Stacey Snacks’ blog
Printable Recipe here

For the cake:

10 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled, plus 2 tbsp for the apples
1 1/4 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt (not regular table salt)
1 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided
zest of a lemon
3 eggs
4 firm apples (I mixed varieties), peeled, cored and thickly sliced

Butter and flour an 8″ cake pan (I used my springform, of course).

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar and 10 tbsp. of melted butter and lemon zest.
Add in the dry ingredients and mix to form a batter.

In a heavy medium skillet, heat the 2 tbsp of butter and add in the apple slices. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar and cook for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat until the apples are juicy and caramelized. Keep stirring, so the apples don’t stick.

Lay half the cooked apples on the bottom of the prepared cake pan and spoon half the batter over them. Don’t worry if the batter doesn’t seem to cover the apples.

Layer with the rest of the apples, then the rest of the batter. It’s easiest if you have a rubber spatula to spread the batter.

I sprinkled my cake with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 35-45 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness.

Salted Caramel (beurre salé):

1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt (not regular salt)

In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the water and sugar on medium boil until turning golden, 8-10 minutes.
You can scrape the brown bits on the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush.
Take the golden liquid off the heat and carefully add in the cream, it will bubble and boil, so be careful not to splatter yourself.

Place back on the stove and stir for 2 minutes.

Add in 3 tbsp butter and salt and cook another minute or two until the butter and mixture is nice and smooth.

Transfer to a heat resistant vessel, and place in the fridge to cool. You can make the caramel sauce 5 days in advance.

Apple Sharlotka and Apple Muffins

  • January 22, 2012
 When you leave for a trip, are you like me — down to the wire trying to finish it all? Wash clothes and pack suitcase … check. Water plants … check. Halt mail and newspaper … check. Pay bills … check. Send itinerary to family … check. Type out instructions for neighbor … check. Empty out fridge of perishables … um, okay, but wait, I can’t just throw out that cheese, that bulb of fennel, those apples, etc. And they won’t be edible when I get back either, so I find myself squeezing in some last minute baking and cooking that adds to my whirlwind of chores. I really hate to waste food, and my friends would much rather have baked offerings rather than raw apples on the precipice of rottendom.

This apple sharlotka from Smitten Kitchen was a great way to get rid of a lot of apples that otherwise would have met their demise in the fridge while I traveled from Princeton, N.J. to warmer climes last week. (Note to self: When returning to snowy New Jersey, stay longer in warm Scottsdale, Arizona if you’re likely to be stranded overnight in snowy Chicago.)

The recipe called for six apples, but I used eight, since I wanted to bring them all the way to the top of the pan, as Smitten Kitchen had in her photo.

The batter is supposed to be beaten until very thick, then poured over the apples and baked. I followed the directions, but the batter was so thick, it had trouble oozing its way to the bottom of the pan. I figured it would drizzle down, but even before placing the pan in the oven, there was no way all that batter was going to fit inside. Of course, I had increased the amounts of batter ingredients since I had also increased the number of apples too. I should have known better than to tamper with a new recipe the first time out.
Here’s what the pan looked like when it came out of the oven. The top had developed into a lightly browned crunchy disk that was difficult to cut without making a mess. A serrated knife kept the mess to a minimum. But the top was supposed to look more like a lunar landscape, with bumps of apples peeking through, rather than a flat plane of beige.
Before placing the large pan in the oven, I had scooped out some of the apples and mixed them in the bowl with the leftover batter. I poured this leftover batter and apples into two small buttered ramekins. These little beauties turned out much better in texture than the sharlotka in the larger pan, since the batter was distributed much more evenly. (Is this making any sense to you?)
I was also able to flip the small cakes out onto a plate, reverse them, and serve them neatly without any problem, something that Smitten Kitchen suggests with the larger sharlotka. But had I tried this with the larger sharlotka, mine wouldn’t have held together since there wasn’t enough batter dispersed with the apples to help it retain its shape.
Here’s a photo of a slice from the large sharlotka. It’s got a good “cake-like” consistency at the edges but not in the center, where it’s nearly all apples and no cake. It was good, but not as good as the small sharlotkas, whose apples were mixed in the bowl with the batter.
Have a look for yourself at the interior of the small sharlotkas. The apples and cake are distributed evenly throughout. Next time I make this (and I will because it’s a delicious dessert that uses no butter, no milk or cream – i.e. almost dietetic!) I’ll make it in the large pan, but will fold the apple slices into the batter.
 I still had a couple of hours (and two apples) left before leaving for the airport, so I made these apple muffins at the last minute, using a recipe I found on the blog of my good friend, Stacey Snacks. She made it as a cake, but I’ve baked them as muffins a few times and they always turn out great.





They were still warm when I wrapped them and left for the airport.  The smell kept tempting me throughout the flight, during which no snacks or food was served. I’d like to report that I had strong enough will power to resist, and delivered the box intact to my friend in Scottsdale. I said I’d like to, but alas no… During a wait for a connecting flight in Dallas, the symmetrical box of nine muffins was reduced by one as I gave in to temptation. Sure wish I’d had one with me when I got stuck in Chicago on the way back home.



Apple Sharlotka
From Smitten Kitchen

My changes are in red.
Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths (I used 8 winesap apples)
3 large eggs (4 eggs)
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar (1 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (1 1/4 tsp)
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cup)
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (I would say forget the parchment paper. It makes it messy when it comes time to slice, since the apples are moist and you don’t really need it.) Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (I cut each half into four “strips” then sliced them fairly thinly — about 1/4-inch — in the other direction.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.
Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter so that it covers all exposed apples. (I had leftover batter and mixed in some remaining apple slices into the batter, then placed in two small ramekins. This technique works better in getting the batter distributed than just pouring it over the apples, as I did with the larger pan. Next time I make this recipe, I will fold the apples into the batter with the large pan rather than placing the apples in the pan and pouring the batter over the apples.) Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. (The large pan needed about 1 1/4 hours in the oven. The small pans only about 50 minutes.) Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. (Good luck with the flipping part. It worked great for the little ones but the large one was just too juicy on the bottom to try without courting disaster.) Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar. Eat it plain, or with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped or sour cream.

Apple Cake (or Muffins)
From Stacey Snacks
My Favorite Easy Apple Cake:

Printable Recipe Here

1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp whole milk or heavy cream
1 tsp bourbon vanilla (or 1/2 tsp of bourbon + 1/2 tsp vanilla)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 small apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp cold water

Mix the egg, oil, milk and bourbon vanilla in a bowl and gradually add the rest of the ingredients, adding the apples and nuts last. Mix with a wooden spoon.

In an 8″ springform pan, cut a piece of round parchment paper for the bottom of the pan, and butter the sides of the pan. (I used a muffin pan and got 10.)

Spread the batter into the pan and bake 45 minutes at 350F.
While the cake is in the oven, make the icing. Mix with a fork in a bowl until it reaches the consistency you like.

Drizzle the icing with a fork while the cake is still warm. (The icing is delicious but they’re also good just with a dusting of powdered sugar.)
Let rest in the pan 20 minutes before removing sides.

This cake is delicious warm out of the oven, and also excellent the next day.

Fig and Lemon Olive Oil Cake and a photo tip

  • May 2, 2009

After conversing over the blogosphere with her for the last several months, I finally met Stacey of “Stacey Snacks” face-to-face.
Stacey’s recipes and photos gets me drooling first thing every morning, and I borrowed this recipe for fig and lemon cake from her blog. Lucky for me she lives in New Jersey and comes to Princeton fairly often for business. She was also kind enough to teach me a new function on my little point and shoot Canon camera that I’ll share with you now.

This shot of a bowl of frozen figs thawing out was taken indoors in my kitchen at night, with regular tungsten light bulbs overhead. Little did I know that you could change your camera’s setting to adjust for the light source, including florescent lighting. Here’s what my photo looked like before I changed it to the tungsten light bulb setting. It had been set on the default setting that came with the camera and doesn’t look so great with that yellow-y overtone does it?
A couple of little clicks on the back of the camera where you set it to a little icon that looks like a lightbulb and you’ve got this instead. What a difference. Thanks Stacey.
Now that it stays light longer into the evening, I will try to use natural light more often, but it’s great to know that my camera has this function for those times when I’m relying on indoor lights. If you’ve got Photoshop (which I don’t), you may also be able to change the white balance in the editing.

On to the cake! Stacey used dried figs for her cake, but I had stashed some fresh figs in the freezer last September and I figured it was time to use some of them. I had both the purple and the green kind put away and used a little of each variety. The cake was delicious with the fresh figs, but I have a feeling that for this recipe, the dried figs might be even better, with their concentrated sweet flavor and chewiness.Here’s the finished cake. Stacey’s recipe follows.Fig & Lemon Olive Oil Cake: (inspired by Martha Stewart)
Stacey’s recipe calls for a removable bottom tart pan, but I used a ceramic tart pan instead. Just make sure to grease it thoroughly first.

2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for pan
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

8 oz. package of dried figs, chopped (I used about 1 1/2 cups of frozen figs that had been thawed)
zest of one lemon
1 tsp of fresh chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (or a cake pan lined with parchment paper) with oil; set aside.

In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together oil, milk, and egg; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk mixture, and stir with a rubber spatula just until smooth (do not over mix).

Gently fold in figs and lemon zest and rosemary.
Spread batter in prepared pan; set pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.