Butternut Squash Grilled Pizza with Blue Cheese and Bacon

I am one of those pumpkin-crazed people who embraces all things, from lattes to ravioli and lip balm to candles. Fall squash is also one of my favorite things to cook with, and I particularly love sweet and creamy butternut squash, which is the star of my grilled pizza. A touch of maple syrup enhances the sweetness of mashed butternut squash, which is smothered on top of the crust and topped with sharp blue cheese, crispy bacon and toasted pecans. Cooler fall evenings are perfect for firing up the grill and enjoying dinner on the patio with your favorite beverage. Round out the meal with a fall salad, like spinach with apples or roasted beets.

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
⅓ cup blue cheese crumbles
5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a small baking sheet, place squash halves flesh side up. Place 1 teaspoon of butter in the hollow of each squash. Roast until flesh is tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to touch. This step can be done several hours earlier or the day before.
  2. Scoop inside flesh of squash from skin and place in a food processor or blender. Add maple syrup and puree until velvety smooth, without any lumps.
  3. Roll and stretch pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel is handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom. Remove crust from the grill and place on a workable surface.
  5. Spread a thick layer of butternut squash on top of the cooked side of the crust. Top with mozzarella, blue cheese, bacon and pecans. Return pizza to the grill and continue cooking for about five minutes, until cheese has melted and light grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust. Remove from the grill, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

Servings: 4

B-Kale-T Bites

Move over lettuce, sautéed kale is a new match for crispy bacon and juicy tomato slices. Served over toasted baguette slices, these bites make a hardy appetizer that is easy to eat with your hands. It’s an easy dish to make with two farm-fresh ingredients from your Community Supported Agriculture share or with summer favorites from the Farmers’ Market. This dish pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Oregon. Just make this simple recipe, open a bottle of vino and you are ready to entertain.

Ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for serving
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ whole grain baguette, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
10 slices bacon, cooked to desired level of crispy

Directions:

  1. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat broiler to high. Broil for about one to two minutes per side, until lightly browned on the edges.
  3. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar. Spread balsamic mayonnaise on baguette slices and top with bacon, kale and tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt to the tomato on these B-Kale-T Bites and serve.

Servings: 4

Grilled Cabbage Wedge Salads

There’s something so beautiful about a wedge salad where you can see layers of green produce decorated with your favorite toppings. Instead of lettuce, I used cabbage grilled in foil packs with an orange-sage marinade that doubles as a warmed dressing. Crunchy bacon and melt-in-your-mouth blue cheese round out my Grilled Cabbage Wedge Salads. These are elegant enough for entertaining and simple enough to make on a busy night.

Ingredients:
1 medium head green cabbage, cored and cut into 4 wedges
1 orange
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Place cabbage wedges in a shallow dish and zest orange on top of cabbage.
  2. In a small bowl, juice the orange. Whisk in olive oil, sage, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over cabbage wedges and marinade for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Place each cabbage wedge over a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle any marinade from the bottom of the dish over the cabbage. Seal foil tightly around wedges and grill for 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  4. Remove from grill, unwrap and serve with bacon and blue cheese crumbles.

Servings: 4

Steak and BLT Salad

Meat lovers rejoice for this salad that was made for you. The classic bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) sandwich is one of my favorite meals to make with farm fresh tomatoes. As an alternative to this time-honored dish, I created a salad and took it up a notch by topping it with grilled steak and blue cheese dressing. This hearty salad is perfect for a relaxing summer weekend and pairs well with your favorite red wine.

Ingredients:

2 (4 to 6 ounce) boneless rib-eye steaks, well-trimmed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons blue cheese, divided
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups spring mix lettuce
2 medium tomatoes, diced

Directions:

  1. Bring steak to room temperature and season with salt and pepper. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat and cook steak to desired doneness. Remove from grill and let rest for a few minutes before carving into thin strips.
  2. Combine yogurt, vinegar and 2 tablespoons blue cheese in a mason jar with a lid and shake until salad dressing is well combined.
  3. Add equal amounts of bacon, lettuce and tomatoes to two plates. Top with steak, remaining blue cheese and salad dressing.

Servings: 2

Bacon and Apple Peanut Butter Dip

The inspiration for this dish came from a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky that serves a honey bourbon and sugar glazed bacon appetizer with peanut butter. My version is lighter, but still captures the wonderful combination of bacon and peanut butter. I know it sounds a little odd, but once you have tasted it you will forget all about peanut butter’s famous sidekick — jelly. Peanut butter and bacon is the new duo in town.

This appetizer is a perfect pairing with your favorite Kentucky bourbon. It brings out the whiskey’s sweet notes of vanilla, caramel and honey. Cheers to good bourbon, an appetizer your friends will love and adventurous food combinations.

Ingredients:
1 pound center cut bacon, cooked
1 large apple, sliced
2 tablespoons peanut butter
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon skim milk

Directions:
1. In a blender or food process, combine peanut butter, Greek yogurt, honey, vanilla and milk. Blend or process until smooth.
2. Serve immediately with bacon and apple slices or refrigerating until ready to serve.

Servings: 6 ~ Serving size: 2 bacon slices, 4 apple slices and  1½ tablespoons dip