Grain-Free Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan-Crumble Crust

Grain-Free Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan-Crumble Crust

There are too many good recipes to share with you all this month! I usually only post two recipes a week, but this month I just couldn't get everything to fit into that schedule. My options were to ditch a recipe or publish an extra, and well, the answer was clear once we had a bite of this butternut squash pie with pecan crumble crust. 

I've been obsessing over butternut squash pie for over a year now. This obsession has inspired quite a few desserts, including this butternut squash crème brûlée. My good friend had a butternut squash pie making craze last year, and while he seems to now be over that caramelly, cinnamon-y flavor, I'm still stuck on it. 

What I needed, though, to really make the ultimate butternut squash pie was an alternate crust. I've always been partial to graham cracker crusts (the kind you find on many cheesecakes) but wanted to keep this recipe from-scratch and grain-free.

Grain-Free Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan-Crumble Crust

Pondering this crust dilemma brought me to pecans. It wasn't sure pecans would work in place of graham crackers, but I had a hunch. I was nervous about it, putting the pie into the oven. A few friends stopped by and I explained to them it was just an experiment and could go terribly wrong. 

Out of the oven it came and I was, even then, a little nervous. I took pictures, serving everyone else, and then grabbed the last piece for myself, topping it with an oversized dollop of whipped cream.

Grain-Free Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan-Crumble Crust

It was my butternut-pie-making-friend who said it first: a crust made of pecans is like a butternut pie inside of a pecan pie. A custardy filling nestled inside a crunchy, sweet, nutty shell. 

He was right: it was a butternut squash pie inside of a pecan pie. The butter and sugar caramelized in the oven while the pecans toasted, making something so delicious it stole the show, even from the pie filling itself. 

In this pie, crust is no longer just a vehicle for transporting filling. It's a part of the experience, as must as every other ingredient. 

Grain-Free Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan-Crumble Crust

Grain-Free Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan-Crumble Crust

Published December 15, 2017 by
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Serves: 8   |    Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes



Ingredients:


    For the crust:
  • 2 cups pecans 
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

  • For the filling:
  • 10 ounces frozen cubed butternut squash, thawed
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

  • To serve:
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease an 9-inch ceramic or glass pie pan .
  2. Put pecans in a food processor and pulse to grind them into a fine crumb. Scrape sides frequently to ensure even chopping. Few larger chunks should remain (several are ok but for the most part you are looking for an even, fine crumb). Scrape pecan crumbs into a bowl, and add sugar and melted butter. Use a spatula to stir until everything is combined and crumb should stick together when squeezed between two fingers. Now, press crumb mixture into prepared pie pan, working it up the sides and into an even layer along the bottom to form a crust. Tip: use the flat bottom of a glass to make a smooth bottom. Make sure there are no gaps or cracks, and then set aside.
  3. In a blender, combine: thawed butternut squash, sugar, honey, half-and-half, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. Puree until completely smooth, scraping sides down as needed. Then, allow mixture to rest for 5 minutes so any air bubbles have time to float to the top.
  4. Pour butternut mixture into prepared pie shell, filling it until almost—but not quite- full (shoot for 90-95% full). Place in oven and bake for 45-55 minutes, until custard filling jiggles slightly in the middle but not at the edges. Turn heat off, and allow pie to cook in oven with the door open for 10-15 minutes. This super slow cooling method will prevent the custard filling from cracking.
  5. While the pie cools, make the whipped cream. Add heavy cream to a bowl and whip with an electric mixture until it beings to hold peaks. Add vanilla, and beat 30 more seconds.
  6. Serve pie with dollops of whipped cream (ice cream would be good as well!).

Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans

Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans

South Boulder Peak is mountain just outside of Boulder that tops out at 8,549 feet above sea level. Compared to the range of Rockies behind it, it's a baby peak, but it's a peak nonetheless. On Thanksgiving Day we started up it's trail around noon, after a light breakfast. Getting our bodies moving before a really big meal is sort of our thing. 

It was two hours to the summit and two hours down, the descent rocky and slow. By the time we were an hour from the car, it was three, and our light breakfast wore thin. "I could eat a vat of jell-o," Oliver said, though he's not a fan of jell-o, and shortly there after, "Let's make Cornish Hens." That's when I piped in about stuffing. Stuffing!! It's the secret star of the show, right? Stuffing, boxed or homemade, is what everyone goes back to get more of. 

We made it to the car, and that evening we dined like royalty on my mom's cooking. We had salmon and two types of cheese, fresh salad, and even pie. It wasn't meant to be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, just an evening with family. (That's what it's about anyhow, right?) 

Gluten-free Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans
Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans

Still, that stuffing craving lived on. It wasn't four days later and I was in the kitchen, stuffing Cornish Hens with cornbread dressing. 

When I sat down to write this post, I toyed with the fact that Thanksgiving has already passed, and that it's likely no one in the world is looking for a cornbread stuffing recipe anymore. I thought to myself: But stuffing could be eaten at Christmas (or whatever other winter holiday) right? And yea, the answer is you can eat stuffing whenever you please. It makes a great addition to a Christmas menu (some may even make this a tradition) or a Sunday feast. The leftovers make for a pretty happy desk lunch, or even breakfast. 

This recipe calls for gluten-free cornbread. I share a link to my go-to gluten-free cornbread recipe below. I asked a crowd of you on Instagram Stories if I should make this recipe grain-free before sharing, but most of you love stuffing as much as I do, and said to share it now! You get me.

This stuffing is pretty simple, but the addition of fresh cranberries gives it a tart burst of flavor and a hint of red color, and toasted pecans add extra crunch. 

For those of you who are looking to make this grain-free, I would encourage you to experiment with using a grain-free (almond flour based) cornbread in this recipe. Report back on how it works! I'll be running my own experiments. A long time ago, I also shared a meat-based stuffing here

Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans

Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Cranberries and Pecans

Published December 14, 2017 by
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Serves: 8   |    Total Time: 50 minutes



Ingredients:

  • 1 8x8 inch pan of cool cornbread, this is my favorite cornbread recipe, but feel free to use your favorite recipe (day-old cornbread works well!)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup whole pecans 
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chicken stock 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease an 8x8inch baking pan.
  2. Sauté the diced onion and celery with the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent Then, scrape onion and celery into a mixing bowl.
  3. Dice cornbread into 1/2-inch or 1-inch cubes, and add to mixing bowl. Then, add cranberries, pecans, and sage. Season with salt & pepper.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and broth together until combined. Then, pour the broth mixture into the cornbread mixture. Use a spatula to fold the cornbread mixture until all of the ingredients are equally distributed and the broth is well incorporated.
  5. Scrape stuffing into prepared baking dish, patting down into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, or until stuffing is golden on top. Allow to cool 5 minutes and then serve warm.

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Roasted Eggplant Salad  with pomegranate, pine nuts, and tahini sauce

Remember how I told you that I didn’t know how to cook eggplant? Well, I’ve been practicing a lot since then. I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve discovered along the way you with, and an easy recipe! 

How to roast perfect eggplant: 

  • Whether dicing or slicing, make each piece the same size. This will ensure everything is done cooking at the same time! 

  • Use plenty of oil. Don’t skimp. Eggplant is like a sponge and will soak it up plenty of oil, but that makes it get crispy in the outside. Use a Silpat (affiliate link) to keep the eggplant from sticking to your pans. Parchment works too.

  • Since you’ll be using plenty, use an oil with a taste you enjoy. While it’s not a high heat oil, we like the flavor of olive oil roasted eggplant more than others. Experiment with an oil that tastes good to you! (I also like avocado oil.)

  • Season with salt, pepper, and garlic before you roast. (Or harissa. Harissa is amazing.)

  • Cook with a high heat: when in doubt, I go to 450°F for eggplant, but if you’re looking to char your eggplant (i.e., for babba ganoush) you’ll want to go hotter or use your grill.

  • Have patience. Wait until the eggplant is super soft when you bite into it. Set a timer, leave the kitchen, and do something else. No foamy eggplant, ok?! 

  • Top it with a sauce or something fresh. A drizzle of yogurt and a scoop of tomato-cucumber salad is great, but this roasted eggplant salad calls for a creamy tahini sauce.

Now, on to why I love this recipe! 

Roasted Eggplant Salad  with pomegranate, pine nuts, and tahini sauce
Roasted Eggplant Salad  with pomegranate, pine nuts, and tahini sauce

Put on some classical music and thrown on your apron. Cooking this salad makes me feel like Ottlenghi, and you will too if you're in the right mindset. 

Why I love this recipe: While eggplant is a summer crop, I like it best when it’s been roasted in the oven for sometime, making it something I prefer to cook when it's a bit cooler. Biting into a forkful of cold romaine lettuce on a snowy day? No thanks! We can do better, and in this case, better is roasted. This roasted eggplant salad is exactly the kind of thing I want to make for lunch when there’s a chill in the air.

Topped with parsley, pomegranate, and a creamy tahini sauce, it’s also vibrant with wintry colors: red, green, and soft white. It goes great with the side of roasted chicken, quinoa, or hummus… buuuut we eat this as a whole meal, split between two people. 

Roasted Eggplant Salad  with pomegranate, pine nuts, and tahini sauce
Roasted Eggplant Salad  with pomegranate, pine nuts, and tahini sauce

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Published December 7, 2017 by
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Serves: 2 as a main course, 4 as a side   |    Total Time: 45-50 minutes



Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplants (Italian variety) 
  • 2 large shallots 
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil (or cooking oil of choice)
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Sprinkle of garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley 
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate perils 
  • 1/3 cup toasted pinenuts 

  • For the Tahini Sauce, inspired by Budget Bytes:  
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/16 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Slice eggplants into 1/2 inch thick rounds, and arrange in an even layer on a baking sheet (or two). Slice shallots into wedges, and add to baking sheet. Brush everything with olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until eggplant is golden and cooked through. TIP: You can add the pinenuts in the last 3-5 minutes to get them nice and toasted if they are not already. Watch them closely to avoid burning.
  2. While the eggplant is cooking, make the tahini sauce: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth, seasoning with salt to taste.
  3. Assembly: use a spatula to transfer cooked eggplant and shallots to a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley, pomegranate, and pinenuts. Then, drizzle with tahini sauce. Serve warm.