Category Archives: Casseroles & Gratins

Baked Patty Pan and Ricotta


I don’t know what it is about patty pans but they are my favorite when it comes to summer squash varieties.  I love the vibrant color, the texture of the flesh, the seeds, the shape, and of course the flavor.  For whatever reason they inspire me, and while in season we enjoy them weekly.  Typically, I sauté or stew them with other veggies and fresh herbs.  And by this I mean something quick and easy.


But this week I decided to change it up.  I made a casserole of patty pan, ricotta cheese, and plenty of fresh basil from our garden!  I don’t eat much cheese (cow) these days but I love ricotta baked with squash, so here’s my seasonal indulgence.  And it was worth every bite!  I served this casserole with local baked kalamata bread and a black trim tomato from the garden.  Good eats!!

Baked Patty Pan and Ricotta

Baked Patty Pan and Ricotta


  • 2 large patty pans, sliced in half and into 1/4" wedges
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • s&p
  • 1/3 cup panko
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pecorino romano


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease a 9x9 baking dish.
  3. Place chopped patty pan in a large bowl. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with s&p.
  4. In another bowl mix the ricotta cheese, egg, and basil. Season with s&p.
  5. Add the ricotta mixture to the patty pan and mix well.
  6. Arrange squash in the baking dish.
  7. Mix panko and garlic powder, season with s&p, and sprinkle on top of squash. Grate a bit of pecorino romano over the panko.
  8. Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes until squash is almost tender. Remove foil and cook another 10-15 minutes to brown panko.

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Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Cauliflower


I made this dish on a wet and rainy day. We’ve been lucky enough to have lots of warm dry days so we were definitely due for the wet spring weather. I’m not complaining, this was perfect for me to spend a little time playing in the kitchen. I try to get the kids out as much as possible when the weather permits so my go to meals are ones that take minimal prep and cook time. This was a nice change of pace. Nothing fancy here but rather a dish with a handful of steps to create the finished product. I was thoroughly enjoying myself making a pile of dirty dishes in the process. Especially with no time constraints around dinner hour, baths, bed time, etc..


The thing I love about sepherd’s pie is there are plenty of opportunities for variety. For instance, here I use ground beef, but you could use ground chicken or turkey instead. Or even ground lamb. Also I don’t love mashed potatoes so normally when I make shepherd’s pie I use mashed sweet potatoes. This time I switched it up to mashed cauliflower. I’ll be the first one to admit this doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as sweet or regular potatoes. But trust me, it works. So well in fact Josh didn’t realize he had eaten mashed cauliflower (and not mashed potatoes) until I mentioned it to him. I added in plenty of other vegetables to the mix – onion, garlic, celery, carrot, yellow squash, zucchini, and asparagus. I try to keep our meals loaded with veggies, and we all know I’m all about the one pot meal! I seasoned this version with fresh rosemary and coconut aminos. But use what you like – thyme, oregano, or even cinnamon and all spice. Make it your own.


Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Cauliflower, serves 8

  • 1 very large head of cauliflower
  • s&p
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (canned)
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2-3 carrot stalks, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • 2 small yellow squash, chopped
  • small handful of asparagus spears, chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (~1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • s&p
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil or bacon grease
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Chop cauliflower into florets and steam until very tender. Place cauliflower in a bowl and add ghee, coconut milk, garlic powder, and s&p. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile heat up a teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and brown ground beef. Season with s&p and set aside.
  4. In same skillet add another tablespoon of olive oil and add the onion cooking for a few minutes until fragrant. Stir in the garlic, celery, carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, and rosemary. Season with s&p and cook for 5 minutes until veggies are just starting to soften. Mix in parsley, coconut aminos, and tomato paste. Lastly add the browned beef to the veggies mixing well.
  5. Grease a 9×13 pan with coconut oil or bacon grease. Add the veggie beef mixture to the dish. Top with the mashed cauliflower.
  6. Bake 30 minutes until top is browned and sides are bubbling.

* Side note: due to using plenty of vegetables my filling was not dry. But if yours appears to be, mix in 1/4 cup of beef broth before baking.

* Also I made this dairy free due to being on the Whole30, but don’t hesitate to add grated pecorino romano to the mashed cauliflower or grated cheddar cheese on top.


Orange Chicken Mash


Hello hello!  I’m finally peaking my head back into the world of blogging.  I haven’t shared one meal since my Thanksgiving dish.  Eeek!  I was hoping to check back in sooner but no such luck.  It seems I am in my  groove and once again finding the time.  In my defense we traveled for just over three weeks and were sick forever – like really – over 8 weeks of sicknesses.  And to be honest, the end of last year was busy with the holidays approaching and us leaving town, that I felt the need to minimize my responsibilities to some extent.  But here I am.  Happy New Year two months late.  Now let’s talk food!

We still follow the Whole30 approach for most meals.  Yes I drink beer and eat chocolate.  I don’t restrict myself so I indulge when I desire.  But as time goes on, I realize more and more which foods don’t treat me well.  It’s learning to find the balance of pleasing your body and not your mind.  I love being in this place.  I do not have food allergies so I technically don’t have to avoid any foods.  But I have come to be in tune with myself – dairy does leave my bloated and uncomfortable so I use it sparingly, beans and legumes I don’t digest too well, and wheat products (carbs) also leave me bloated and mess with my digestion so I rarely eat these.  Even nuts can upset my system.  Discovering these sensitivities has reduced processed food from my diet, along with watching unnecessary sugar.  Of course there are snacks around for the kids, which I munch on from time to time, but they really don’t make up any part of my diet.  And I can easily skip them as they don’t offer me much in terms of fulfillment.  The buzz word here is clean eating.  I’m glad to see so many people jumping on board with this concept.


Now for this dish.  Those who know me know I’m no stranger to one pot meals.  I prefer cooking this way, blending flavors and textures.  And on the plus side it’s less clean up and quicker cooking, most of the time anyway.  These are things I definitely appreciate living the family life.  I roasted a butternut squash and some sweet potatoes and created a mash flavored with orange juice, ginger, Chinese five spice and cayenne.  My protein of choice was shredded chicken, I used a rotisserie – for simplicity and quickness.  Most meals I try to incorporate something green, so baby spinach fulfilled this.  For added flare I incorporated toasted coconut flakes and pecans and creamed it all together with a bit of coconut milk.  Super tasty and super filling.  We enjoyed this for dinner but leftovers with a fried egg on top would be great for breakfast.  And it’s kid approved!


Orange Chicken Mash

  • 3 cups shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie)
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 large sweet potato
  • 1 whole orange
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • s&p
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp chinese five spice
  • dash cayenne,  or as much as you like
  • baby spinach
  • 1/4 – 1/3 coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Slice squash in half lengthwise and season the inside with s&p.  Lay face down in a large 9×13 pyrex dish.  Peel sweet potatoes and chop into large chunks (3-4”).  Place in pyrex dish around squash and season with s&p.  Zest orange and set aside.  Slice orange in half and juice one half over sweet potatoes.  Set other half aside.  Cover dish with foil and bake ~45 minutes until sweet potato and squash are very tender.
  3. Meanwhile thinly slice onion into half moons.  Heat up coconut oil over low heat in a large pot and slowly cook onions to caramelize.
  4. Toast coconut flakes in a saucepan over low heat until fragrant.  Set aside.
  5. Toast pecan pieces in a saucepan over low heat until fragrant and lightly browned.  Set aside.
  6. Add chicken to the cooked onions and squeeze the juice from the other half of the orange into the pot.  Continue to cook over low heat to warm the chicken through.
  7. Scoop squash flesh from skins and add to onion mixture along with sweet potato.  Season with salt, pepper, ground ginger, Chinese five spice, and cayenne.  Stir/mix well to break down the squash and sweet potato.
  8. Next add the spinach in batches to wilt, while stirring.
  9. Lastly stir in coconut milk, pecans, coconut, and orange zest – reserving some of the coconut to garnish.  Serve once fully heated through.

Turkey Leg ‘Coq’ au Vin


This was our delicious Thanksgiving feast.  I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to make for us this year and chose turkey leg ‘coq’ au vin, blanc.  A one pot meal cooked in my crockpot.  It’s the first time in years I’ve incorporated turkey into my Thanksgiving day cooking.  I decided it was about time.  But I was not into cooking a whole bird, and being in or near the kitchen for most of the day.  So I chose to use my favorite part of a turkey, the legs.  Thank you Whole Foods for selling them!  And I am so glad I made this meal in my crockpot.  It allowed me to spend the day with my family, both relaxing at home and goofing off at the playground.

I find a lot of pressure surrounding Thanksgiving day.  Last year I remember saying how much I hated the holiday.  Seriously.  It was six+ years building this negativity and I’m glad to say I finally escaped it.  I let go of all my expectations and took it at face value.  Plus we had no schedule or obligations.  It was perfect for us.  Having children has really brought out my festive side for each holiday!  I love creating traditions and sharing this joy with them.


I’ve never made coq au vin before and didn’t have an exact recipe to follow.  Instead I stayed true to my style and winged it.  Yes I did have a concept in mind but I’ve never cooked with wine in my crockpot.  I was coming off a week of successful cooking and in all honesty I was a bit worried that the grand finale, Thanksgiving, would be mediocre.  But it was perfect.  I will be making this again and I’m more than pleased to share this recipe with you all.  It does take a bit of prep work before everything enters the crock pot but it pays off in the end!  It’s a crowd pleaser and would be great served at a dinner party.

Traditionally coq au vin uses red wine and chicken broth.  For some reason using white wine with beef broth seemed more appealing.  I liked the thought of a floral/fruit flavor coming from the wine while using a beef broth to add richness.  Plus I was going for a kid friendly version, and I was concerned Cia might not be into red stained turkey.  This dish made plenty and the four of us enjoyed it 3 nights in a row for dinner.  Yum!


I hope everyone enjoyed love and happiness filled weekend!



Turkey Leg ‘Coq au Vin’

  • ~5lbs turkey legs, skin on – for me this was 2 turkey legs (or use chicken legs/thighs)
  • s&p
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 5 slices bacon
  • 16 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2” rounds
  • 3 cups turnips – I used a small variety and left them whole, otherwise chop them into large chunks
  • 1 lb cipollini onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 1/2 cups dry pinot grigio
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • egg noodles
  1. The night before you plan to make this dish place turkey legs in a ziploc bag and add the chopped garlic, 1 1/2 cups of the wine, thyme, and bay leaf.  Seal bag and place in the fridge overnight.  It’s a good idea to place the bag in a bowl just in case of any leaks.
  2. The next morning the thyme and bay leaf from the bag and place them in the crockpot.  Drain the turkey legs and discard marinade.
  3. Cook bacon strips over low heat flipping on occasion as the fat renders out.  Once cooked through set bacon aside.  Drain most of the grease out of the pan and reserve.
  4. Season turkey thighs with s&p and dredge in flour.  Brown in the bacon grease over medium high heat until nicely golden on all sides.  Place in the crock pot.
  5. Add two tablespoons of the bacon grease and brown the onions, carrots, turnips, and mushrooms.  I did this in two batches as to not overcrowd the pan.  Season with s&p and place vegetables in crockpot .
  6. Crumble bacon into the crockpot and add beef broth and remaining 1 cup of wine.
  7. Cook on low 8 hours.
  8. Take out the turkey legs, remove skin, and pull the meat off the bones.  It will fall right off.  Stir turkey back into the stew.
  9. Cook egg noodles according to package.
  10. Serve stew over noodles.


Rustic Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brussel Sprouts


“That was really good, we’ve had Thanksgiving every night this week,” smiling while looking at me. “I know, said me.”

Yes! Yes! Yes! This exactly what I wanted to hear. My plan this year was to enjoy a bit of Thanksgiving everyday during the holiday week. This way when I didn’t cook a huge feast on Thanksgiving there would be no sad feelings. I’ve already explained how much I do love the flavors of Thanksgiving but I have no desire to spend a full day in the kitchen cooking. So I think my plan to enjoy a bit of Thanksgiving all week is the perfect solution!

This sweet potato mash is rustic. I left the skins on, added roasted brussel sprouts, applewood smoked goat cheese, and buttermilk. I typically cook ‘clean’, but I chose to make this dish a bit decadent. Yes goat cheese and buttermilk qualify as decadent in my diet these days. These sweet potatoes were really delicious. I can honestly say I’m loving my Thanksgiving creations this season. I can only hope my actual Thanksgiving dinner will match what I’ve already made. Wish me luck!



Rustic Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brussel Sprouts

  • ~2 lbs sweet potatoes, 3 large
  • 10 oz sliced brussel sprouts (you can buy these pre-sliced from Trader Joe’s)
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2-3 oz applewood smoked goat cheese
  • s&p
  • pomegranate seeds, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Stab sweet potatoes with a fork and roast for 1 hour or more, until fully tender. Set aside.
  3. Turn oven up to 425º.
  4. Place sliced brussel sprouts in a large skillet, coat with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, and season with s&p. Place in oven and roast for ~25 until lightly browned and tender. Set aside.
  5. In a pot heat up buttermilk and most of the goat cheese over medium heat until goat cheese is melted. Chop sweet potatoes and add to pot. Mix well to ‘mash’ sweet potatoes. Add roasted brussel sprouts and season with s&p. Continue to heat until warmed through.
  6. Serve top with a remaining goat cheese and pomegranate seeds.