Flavors of Fall: Squash and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Acorn squash and ricotta stuffed shells

Every September I can tell when autumn is on its way because my friend Jenna is on Pinterest constantly. After months of being pin-free she’ll suddenly show up in my feed, pinning anything and everything that has to do with Halloween crafts, autumn foods and yes, even Christmas cookies.

I’d give her a harder time about it, but I am a year-round Pinterest user. There is not a month that goes by that I am not pinning pumpkin-spice treats, summer BBQ ideas or yet another macaroni and cheese recipe. One such pin, from early this spring, was a dish that I have been determined to make the second the weather turned cold:  jumbo pasta shells, stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach and roasted squash, topped with sage and brown butter.

From the cheesy baked pasta to the brown butter sauce, it’s practically impossible to come up with a more “autumn” dish. (Unless you’re the guy who wrote this — I’m sure he could come up with something.)

And let me tell you, with every bite I found myself missing the sunshine a little less and looking forward to Halloween, roasted chicken and cuddling on my couch with my kitties. The squash adds the right hint of the season without being too sweet, the lemon zest brings some brightness and the copious amounts of cheese are there just to make you feel loved.

So if you’re still having a hard time adjusting to the fact that it’s almost October, you should make this very soon. I promise it will help!

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Inverting the Gratin

Upside Down Potato Onion Tart

When in doubt about what to cook for large family gatherings, I’ve found that anything combining cheese and potatoes is sure to be a hit. My favorite crowd-pleasing side dishes include twice-baked potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes and creamy potatoes au gratin, all made with copious amounts of cheesy goodness.

Keeping that in mind, I decided to make this gorgeous-looking upside down potato onion tart to go with last Sunday’s Easter ham. That decision was a difficult one as I had never made the recipe before and cooking something for a group of people without a trial run is a little unusual for me. I’m a firm believer in trying recipes out before subjecting people to them!

But this recipe looked fairly simple to make and just reading the ingredient list gave me confidence: potatoes, onions, cheese, butter, herbs. With such humble and tasty ingredients, how could it not turn out delicious?

Happily, it was everything I wanted it to be — the potato layers were sandwiched between caramelized onions and sharp pecorino, making this a truly decadent dish. The edges (my favorite part) were crisp and cheesy and the center was creamy and luxurious. Surprisingly though, for all that flavor, the recipe used only a bit of butter and didn’t even call for cream!

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The Obsession Continues… Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Candy Corn Dreams

Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been trapped in my own private horror film, something along the lines of Children of the Candy Corn. While I am rather meh on eating them, the sugary little treats that epitomize fall have clearly infiltrated my brain this month. Over the last three weeks, I have painted a candy corn pumpkin and made candy corn krispie treats, and yet still my dreams have been flooded with the colors yellow, orange and white. So last week, in an effort to satisfy the demons, I made some adorable candy corn sugar cookies.

I couldn’t help it! I swear. I had to make them.

On the bright side, they really are adorable. I mean, really. Look at them.

Just don’t look at the wonky one in the back…I have no idea what happened there.

These cookies are the perfect treats to make when Halloween is around the corner. To counteract all the usual chocolate decadence, they are delicate and lemon-y. And, as a bonus, they are small enough that you can eat a couple without guilt.

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Rice Krispie Candy Corns…and my inability to resist Pinterest

What can I say? I am a slave to my desire to make adorable, autumn-inspired things. In the past few weeks I’ve painted a pumpkin to look like a candy corn and hand-crafted my own Halloween door hanger…and there’s no end in sight! I can’t help it, it’s a sickness.

My inspiration this month has clearly been brought by the colors yellow, orange and white!

So when I spotted these cute Rice Krispie treats, dyed and shaped to look like candy corn, I knew that I would have to make them sometime soon. And that sometime turned out to be last Sunday.

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DIY: Spooking Up the Neighborhood

I have been on a crafting kick lately. It must be the nip in the air — finally it doesn’t seem wasteful to be inside!

So even though I’m sure it would have been just as cheap cheaper to have bought a cute Halloween door hanger from Target, I decided to make my own. I was inspired by this blog post, discovered through Pinterest (full tutorial at the link). It seemed like an easy enough craft and it was! I started last Monday and it was done by Tuesday — the hardest part is waiting for the coats of Modpodge to dry.

I hit up Joann’s and bought the wooden letters, some cute scrapbook paper, a bottle of Modpodge and a few fun stickers. Then it was on to the crafting!

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Pressed Sandwiches and a Day of Disappointments

My husband decided to whisk me away to the beach this past Sunday, which in theory sounds like an amazing idea. I’m originally from a small island in Alaska so I love the beach, water and ocean air. However, being from Alaska, I know that the beach can be cold, and as we’ve established, I love to be hot — I wanted to go to the river where I knew I could bake in the sun.

But he promised me the coast would be perfect. Less people, the promise of salt water taffy and maybe a visit to the Rogue Brewery. And, he said tantalizingly, on Saturday the coast had hit record high temperatures, somewhere in the mid-80s.

“Fine,” I said, giving in. “I’ll make some sandwiches.”

* It was a perfect opportunity to make a sandwich that seems to be incredibly trendy right now — the pressed sandwich. I had seen it all over Pinterest and had seen recipes posted on Martha Stewart’s website as well as on numerous blogs. So, basically, I was just dying for a chance to make these:

But back to the story:

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