Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

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Roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions form a perfect union atop a thin flatbread crust with dressed arugula. Fall is fully upon us, and while we don’t enjoy the changing seasons in Florida, we can at least jump on board with fall inspired recipes. Butternut squash is much easier to prepare than some of the other squash varieties. The skin peels off easily, it cuts like a dream, and its sweet rich flesh is quite versatile.

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I have always had a deep love for caramelized onions, and I find that their natural sweetness plays well with the creamy squash and salty reggiano. My local grocery store, Publix, sells awesome freshly made pizza dough which I buy on the regular to use in recipes like my German Flammkuchen. I figured roasting the squash and caramelizing all those onions was enough effort! If your grocery store doesn’t sell fresh pizza dough, I would recommend following a recipe like this one from Smitten Kitchen instead of buying the canned Pillsbury variety.

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The caramelized onions and squash can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator making assembly that much easier when you are preparing this meal for guests. I thought about also adding bacon and kale, but I figured simpler is better, and boy was I right! This pizza was sweet and savory complimented by the peppery arugula salad on top. I would recommend enjoying this butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread with a crisp German Riesling or an old world white wine.

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Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

  • Fresh pizza dough
  • Flour for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¾ pound or 4 medium sized yellow onions thinly sliced
  • ½ medium sized butternut squash
  • 1 cup grated reggiano
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 teaspoon stone ground Dijon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Thinly slice onions and caramelize on low heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil for 45 minutes or so. Heat the olive oil first on low heat and add the onions, making sure to separate them as you drop them in. You should barely stir the onions; I stirred them 3 times only because I cannot resist the urge to stir them a few times. One of my chef instructors at FIU, Chef Moran, said caramelized onions should never be stirred, rather just let them sit on low heat and they will cook beautifully.

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While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 400F, halve the butternut squash and scoop the insides and discard. Rub olive oil on the outside and inside of the butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper and place the butternut squash cut side up on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

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Allow the butternut squash to cool down and come to room temperature before handling. Turn the squash over when cool and use a spoon to gently scrape off the outer skin. The skin will generally peel off quite easily, but around the thin neck of the squash I had to softly scrape the skin off. At this point you can store the squash in the refrigerator in a sealed container if preparing a day in advance, or thinly slice the squash horizontally to prep for the flatbread.

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Preheat the oven to 400F. Grate the cheese and set aside. Roll out the pizza dough on a clean countertop surface to create a thin crust using flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Next, evenly spread the caramelized onions over the rolled out dough. Layer with thin slices of butternut squash and season with a little bit of pepper. Next sprinkle the reggiano cheese on top.

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Bake the butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Whisk together 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to use as a light dressing for the arugula. Top the butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread with the lightly dressed arugula, slice, and serve.

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Healthy Chicken Salad

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Healthy chicken salad is wonderful on toasted multigrain or baguette, served over a green salad, in a wrap, or on crisp celery stalks. There is nothing like a fresh and healthy chicken salad. I love chicken salads, but I generally shy away from ordering them or making them because they are usually loaded with globs of mayonnaise. This is a recipe I have been thinking about for a while, and I was inspired by my favorite local bakery Chocolate Fashion.

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This bakery is seriously divine. The celebrated chef, Georges Berger, is renowned for his pastry skills both locally and nationally. Not only is this South Florida French bakery charming and welcoming, but the delicious daily lunch specials, homemade sandwiches and salads, and picture perfect pastries make this local spot a real Coral Gables gem.

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Poached chicken in mirepoix and herbs tastes wonderful tossed in my tangy tarragon lemon vinaigrette with crunchy apple, celery, roasted red peppers, and walnut. This recipe is perfect year-round with audible crunch and bright flavors.

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Poached Chicken Breasts inspired by Martha Stewart:

  • 2 Split Chicken Breasts bone-in and skin-on
  • 1 celery stalk quartered
  • 1 medium carrot quartered
  • ½ a small onion
  • Small bunch fresh parsley
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a pot and add enough water to cover the ingredients by an inch. Bring to a gentle boil/simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low cooking for about 15-18 minutes. I ended up turning the chicken breasts upside down so the thick part could cook through. Place the chicken in a Pyrex dish, and strain the remaining liquid over the breasts. This will keep them moist as they cool.

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Homemade Chicken Salad:

  • 1 celery stalk finely diced
  • 1 apple diced
  • ½ small onion finely diced
  • 1 roasted red pepper packed in water; diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts chopped into ‘chips’

Tarragon Lemon Vinaigrette:

Dice the celery, apple, onion, red pepper, and walnuts while the chicken is cooling and set aside. Toast the walnuts in the oven and allow them to cool. In a large bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, tarragon, finely chopped onion, Worcestershire, brown mustard, and salt and pepper. I like to whisk the onions with the dressing so they can soften up and take on the wonderful flavors of the dressing and reduce their pungent raw flavor which some find offensive (I personally love raw onions!). Feel free to taste the dressing and adjust any flavors as needed to suit your palate. Remember cooking is about enjoying things the way you like them, and only you know what you like!

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Now skin and debone the cooled poached chicken breasts, and dice evenly. Put the kitchen in the bowl with the tarragon lemon vinaigrette, and add the celery, apple, walnuts, and red peppers and toss well in the dressing. Serve the homemade chicken salad over greens or on toasted multigrain or baguette.

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Hint: If serving on a multigrain roll or baguette scoop both the top and bottom buns so the healthy chicken salad will fit nicely inside and not fall out of the bun between bites!    

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Honey Banana Bread

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Honey banana bread will have you questioning all other banana breads that came before this recipe. Honey banana bread is oh-so-moist, sweet, healthy, and delicious. I have been trying to perfect this recipe for weeks with no such luck- my test recipes for the honey banana bread varied from excessively dense and overtly sweet to dry and bouncy. At long last I finally perfected the ratio of honey: sugar: bananas to create the ultimate banana bread.

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This honey banana bread is inspired from a classic banana bread recipe from Cooking Light magazine that I have been making for years. I still have the original tattered magazine featuring dozens of banana bread recipes. While I have loved this recipe for years, I have felt like it needed some tweaking and could use a little less sugar. It began to taste dull and dry over the years, and I felt like orange blossom honey would be the answer to my banana bread woes.

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I tried this recipe for honey banana bread using 2, 3, or 4 ripe bananas. Perfection was achieved with 4 very ripe medium sized bananas. When the bananas are very ripe you are able to use less sugar while still maintaining the right balance of moisture and sweetness. Serve this delectable and moist honey banana bread with homemade honey butter for a real breakfast treat.

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Honey Banana Bread

¾ cup sugar
¼ cup orange blossom honey
¼ cup butter; softened
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup vanilla yogurt

Honey Butter

¼ cup softened butter
2 tablespoons orange blossom honey

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a separate bowl add the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir together; set aside. Add the softened butter, honey, and sugar to a bowl and mix well. I used my KitchenAid mixer which mixes everything incredibly well.  Now add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated, followed by the bananas one by one, vanilla yogurt, and vanilla extract.

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Next add the flour mixture slowly to the batter until just mixed. Scrape along the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients are incorporated. If you like nuts in your banana bread feel free to add a handful of chopped walnuts at this point. Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan or greased muffin tins.

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Bake the honey banana bread for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. I had to cook the honey banana bread for an hour and 10 minutes. While the bread was baking I placed the half stick of butter for the honey butter on the counter so it would soften. Mix in the honey with the softened butter and slather on fresh warm slices of moist honey banana bread and enjoy with a steaming cup of coffee or black tea.

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