Monday, September 28, 2015

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Lemon Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Even though it’s still 90 degrees outside, I love fall flavors, so this week we had an autumn inspired pasta dish – butternut squash stuffed shells with lemon sage brown butter sauce.  

I’ve actually made this recipe a few other times in the past – but the other times I actually made it with manicotti shells instead.  I actually think I prefer the manicotti since it seems to hold the filling better – the shells are a bit messier.  But either way, it tastes great. 

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Lemon Sage Brown Butter Sauce
 (adapted from Proud Italian Cook)

Shells & Filling:
  • 12 jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 cups butternut squash (I used prepared pre-cut squash which is easier, but you could peel & chop it yourself)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup fresh spinach (or ¼ cup frozen chopped spinach thawed & squeezed dry)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 lemon – zest and juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup butter
  • 10 sage leaves
1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.  

2. Toss squash in olive oil and arrange on baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta shells according to the directions on the package.   

4. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool.  Reset the oven to 400ºF.

5. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, garlic, spinach, egg, cooled squash, and zest of 1 lemon.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

6. Stuff the cooked shells with the cheese & squash mixture and arrange on a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. 

7. For the sauce, melt butter in a sauté pan until golden brown and bubbly. Add sage leaves and fry until slightly crispy. 

8. Remove from heat and squeeze in juice of 1 lemon. 

9. Remove the baked shells from the oven and spoon the sauce evenly over the pasta.  Top with grated parmesan cheese.  We enjoyed ours with red wine & caprese salad! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Keel & Curley Winery and Two Henrys Brewing – Plant City, FL

We’ve been making our way to as many local breweries as possible when we have days off together.  We had bought a CL Deal for Keel & Curley winery awhile ago and finally had a day off recently to go check it out.  They specialize in fruit-infused wines – but also a few years back launched a brewery on site as well called Two Henrys Brewing (named for Henry B. Plant and Henry Flagler). 

The winery/brewery is located on a pretty big property with a large back patio overlooking a lake and vineyards.  We visited pretty early in the afternoon so it was pretty quiet, but the crowds started showing up and filling the tasting room as the day went on. 

I had a wine flight and Lance sampled their beers.  Their most popular wines are their blueberry varieties, but I also tried flavors like Key West Key Lime, Black Raspberry Merlot, Tangerine Zinfandel, and Peach Chardonnay.   

Personally I actually preferred their beers.  The wines were much too sweet for me (I probably would have liked them more a few years back, but I’m starting to enjoy beer more than wine at this point.  But my favorite of the wines was the semi-dry blueberry. 

Of the beers, the one that stood out to me was their Roasted Jalapeño Blueberry Porter – it didn’t seem too spicy at first, but you could taste the jalapeño kick in the aftertaste. 

They offer a tour around their property by tractor – they do charge, but since we had plenty to spend with our CL Deal, we decided to take a ride.  Our guide told us all about the history of the winery and we got a backstage tour of their facilities. 

For a local stay-cation, I think it’s definitely worth heading to Plant City to check this place out. 

Keel & Curley Winery and Two Henrys Brewing is located at 5210 Thonotosassa Rd, Plant City, FL 33565 and is open 2pm – 7pm Monday – Wednesday, 2pm – 9pm on Thursday, 10am – 11pm Friday – Saturday, and 11am – 7pm on Sunday. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Cask & Larder – Winter Park, FL

On our way home from Mount Dora (see this post), we stopped for dinner in Winter Park.  It is one of my favorite cities – I love the hometown feel and they have such a great range of restaurants to pick from!  Last time we were there, we ate at The Ravenous Pig, which was awesome! 

This time, we decided to try Cask & Larder Southern Public House, which is owned by the same chefs that run The Ravenous Pig – James and Julie Petrakis.  Both restaurants focus on seasonal ingredients and have constantly changing menus.  I really love places that update their menus regularly because it’s a different experience every time you dine, and that way they can use the freshest ingredients.  

We were a little early for dinner, so we walked around Swine & Sons Provisions next door first – which just opened a few months ago.  It is a market that features many of the concepts from Cask & Larder and The Ravenous Pig, but more casual.  They products like their homemade IPA mustard and you can purchase sandwiches or have charcuterie to-go.  We really want to try their food next time we’re in the area – I’m sure it’s just as great as their sister restaurants.  

When we walked into Cask & Larder for dinner, they were just about to start their happy hour specials.  We grabbed a seat in a window nook near the bar since the main dining room wasn’t quite open yet and browsed the menu.  The graphic design is really fantastic – Hatchet Design did all the branding for the restaurant, and you can see it carried throughout their daily-printed menus and signage throughout.    

While waiting for the kitchen to open, I sipped on a Bee’s Knees cocktail & Lance enjoyed an IPA.  They brew their beers in-house, so we also got a flight with the meal. 

We took advantage of their Happy Hour and ordered a few appetizers – the Sewansecott Oysters with mignonette sauce and Fried Chicken Sausage on a Hawaiian sweet roll with honey and watermelon.  I think I still prefer the oysters at The Oyster Bar, but they were good for only $1! The sausage was a really interesting fresh combination of flavors. 

After that we split a salad with fresh beets, figs, toasted almonds and a mix of greens along with their Country Ham platter – with Benton’s, Newsom’s, and Father’s smoked & cured hams, ale mustard, pepper jelly, and biscuits.  This is probably one of the best salads I’ve had at a restaurant – you could tell they used ingredients at the peak of their season.  The ham platter was really tasty as well and each had a different flavor (from sweet to smoky).  

We finished off the meal with their house-made almond waffle cone, malted bourbon semifreddo, and spiced caramel corn.  Again, it reminded us of our favorite popcorn sundae dessert at Canoe in Atlanta.  Still nothing beats Canoe, but this was close. 

I’m hoping that the owners of Cask & Larder decide to expand their company to Tampa, because I’d eat at their restaurants every week if they were closer to us!

Swine & Sons Provisions is located at 595 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789 and is open 9am – 4pm Monday – Tuesday and Thursday – Friday, and 7am – 5pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm Saturday, and 11am – 4pm on Sunday.    

Cask & Larder is located right next door at 565 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789 and is open 4pm – 10pm Monday – Saturday and 10:30am – 9:30pm on Sunday. 

The Ravenous Pig is located at 1234 N Orange Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789 and is open 4:30pm – 9:30pm on Mondays, 11:30am – 2:30pm and 4:30 – 9:30pm Tuesdays – Thursdays, 11:30am – 2:30pm and 4:30pm – 10:30pm on Fridays – Saturdays and closed on Sundays.  

Mount Dora Restaurants

Since I started a new job, Lance and I haven’t had days off together (I have Saturday/Sundays off and he has Tuesday/Wednesdays).  But a few weekends ago, he took a couple days off so we could spend some time together.  We wanted to find a town we hadn’t been to before, so we took a mini-vacation to Mount Dora. 

It’s a really little town north of Orlando – very laid back and quaint.  We headed up on Friday night and started off with dinner at Mount Dora Brewing/Rocking Rabbit Brewery (it seemed to go by two names…) True to their name, there is a giant rocking horse-style rabbit in the main dining area.  

It was crowded, so we sat out in their beer garden.  It was pretty with hanging lights and flowers, but we actually had to move into their screened in porch after a few minutes because the mosquitoes like me too much – I must have gotten 20 bug bites in the 5 minutes we sat out there, even with the citronella candles and fan on the patio. 

The patio was filled with unusual junk art and found objects – and they had a projector screen showing the live music & dancing in the bar area next door.

We ordered a flight of beers – their beer list was a little unusual because it appeared that they brew only 3 different beers, then blend them together to create their 3 other beers.  For instance, the “Dirty Blonde” was a blend of their porter and blonde ales, and their “Rabbit Pellet Porter” was a blend of their red and porter.  I think the red/porter blend was my favorite. 

For dinner, I enjoyed the coconut & panko crusted salmon filet and Lance had the prime rib salad with crispy onions.  Both tasty – unfortunately the dim lighting didn’t do my photos justice.  I think the crowd was a bit out of our age range – we were half the age of the rest of the diners, but it seems to be a popular local hangout. 

We stayed at the Lakeside Inn, a historic Victorian hotel that’s been around for over 130 years.  The room was very small, but the inn property was beautiful and they had a nice big porch lined with rocking chairs.  Pretty much everything in Mount Dora is within walking distance, so we just kept the car parked at the hotel and wandered the town.  

We headed to the Windsor Rose Tea Room & Restaurant for breakfast.  I think this was my favorite part of Mount Dora – such a charming little restaurant and incredibly welcoming.  It is very British – with artwork and trinkets depicting the royal family throughout.  We started off with tea and coffee – their tea is served in mismatching bone china cups & saucers made in England and they even brought out a tea cozy to keep my teapot warm. 

I ordered the Benedict Arnold eggs & hash browns and Lance had their Billy Bunter breakfast - two strips of bacon, Banger sausage, eggs, baked beans, and sautéed mushrooms.  I would come back to this place in a heartbeat…the whole experience was wonderful.  

The rest of the day we spent meandering through local shops – I found a cool adult coloring book that I’m pretty excited about at a store called Barrels of Books and Games.  

Then we drove to Renninger’s, a huge flea market and antique center.  It’s so enormous that we could have spent the whole day there.  Part of it was outdoors, so we cooled off from the August heat with snow cones.  There were plenty of really cool vintage furniture pieces, but we don’t really have space for anything in our little condo. 
Mount Dora is a great getaway for a day or weekend trip – we probably couldn’t have found much to do if we were there a whole week, but we really enjoyed our stay. 

Mount Dora Brewing/Rocking Rabbit Brewery is 405 S. Highland Street, Mount Dora, FL 32757 and is open 11am – 11pm Mondays and Fridays, 11am – 3pm Tuesdays – Thursdays, and 8am – 11pm on Saturdays - Sundays. 

Windsor Rose Tea Room & Restaurant is located at 142 W. 4th Avenue, Mount Dora, FL 32757 and is open 9am – 4pm Monday – Tuesday and Thursday – Friday, and 9am – 4:30pm on Saturdays - Sundays (they are closed on Wednesdays).