Smitten with Squash // written by Amanda Paa

Pinch me. It’s starting to become real.

Smitten with Squash is now available for pre-order! When my editor emailed me the links to see it live on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I went through a whole world of emotions in about 9.2 seconds. Joyful, grateful, shocked, and even a little scared. But most of all I’m tingly excited to share my passion for all things squash with you.

In addition to giving you new ideas for well-known varieties like zucchini, butternut and acorn, I wanted this book to be a useful resource & guide for your trip to the farmer’s market. There are probably other varieties that catch your eye as you stroll down the aisles, but you pass them by, not quite sure what their names are or what to do with them.

Some shockingly beautiful on the outside, others a little “Beauty and the Beast” like, but underneath their skin lies a world of possibilities. From savory to sweet and cuisines of all kinds, this family of vegetables is truly amazing. 

Garam Masala Dusted Pattypan Squash with Crispy ChickpeasWhen talking to others as I was writing the book, I found that many were intimidated by the preparation of winter squash, as they can be quite awkward and sometimes a bear to crack open. With that in mind, I spent lots of time experimenting to make this easier and safer. In the book you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks for becoming a jedi master of cutting & peeling squash.

Similar to my blog, the 85 recipes are a little bit of everything from small bites & snacks, main dishes (with plenty of meatless options), side dishes, fresh salads and sweet treats, all with a focus on real food that tastes really good.  I also added a “One Easy Dish” recipe for each variety with minimal ingredients and instructions for making something totally delicious that lets the flavors and texture of the squash shine. Oh, and all of the recipes are either naturally gluten-free or have slight adaptations to make them this way, even the baked goods.

I’m anxiously waiting for all sorts of delicate, fresh summer squash to appear so I can make a few of the dishes from the book like Garam Masala Dusted Pattypans with Crispy Chickpeas (above) and these Fluffy Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes, moist and filled with shreds of yellow squash!

Pancakes from Smitten with Squash // heartbeet kitchenI have so many people to thank for making this book happen, the overwhelming support and enthusiasm has been amazing. I couldn’t have done it without your presence.

So from the bottom of my heart, big hugs and love to all. I hope you enjoy the book and have all sorts of delicious fun with squash!

And even better, if you pre-order the book right now it’s about $4 less than retail price. It will be shipped out on July 14th when it’s officially on bookstands. Here are the links to pre-order the book:

Barnes & Noble
Powell’s Books

16 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Favorite Things, Featured Recipes, Recipe Box, Seasonal

Enjoying the Flavors of Life

by Amanda Paa on May 1, 2014

taste the rainbow of life // heartbeet kitchenApril, where did you go? You sure brought the showers, so listen up May, you better be bringing the flowers.

Amidst the work meetings, social events, a vacation, final editing of the book, celebrating Easter, a fun little TV appearance and too many gray days to count, the month flew by. The days seem to jumble together in my mind. Today I’m finally taking some time to breathe and reflect, with a cat purring on my lap and Norah Jones playing in the backround. And a few bright and cheerful candies to sweeten the deal.

When I started thinking about how fast life seems to go lately, I feel like some of that comes from not taking time to appreciate both the big and small things that fill it. It’s easy to get swept into our culture’s fast-track, where the belief that the more things you can get done in a day, the better. The more money you can make, the better. The more friends you have, the better. Truth is that none of these result in happiness with staying power. Ironically, they’re all fleeting too, just like the days.

It’s not that we don’t know this, but sometimes we get caught up, myself included. I realize that I’ve been trying to do too much, pushing myself to take on this and that and every other thing. Kind of like when your car is on E and you say to yourself “but I know its got 10 more miles before it actually runs out”. I told myself today that it’s time to pause….. this pace is just not sustainable.

I want to see make sure I’m enjoying my days, not letting them pass me by. I want to see, touch, feel, hear and taste every part of them.

I want to enjoy all the flavors of life.

Torie and Howard Heart2-1
And I’m starting this weekend, heading out of town to see some of my best girlfriends in Madison, Wisconsin. Our friendship has survived moves, divorces and health issues, and even though we don’t see other often, I know we’ll pick up right where we left off. I’m looking forward to relaxing, laughing and letting go of the hustle.

Surely a snack bag with some feel-good treats will be packed for the solo road trip including these bright, cheerful, and tasty organic candies from Torie & Howard. The first time I tried the d’anjou pear & cinnamon variety, I nearly thought I had bitten into a real juicy pear, fresh off the vine. The pink grapefruit & tupelo honey is so refreshing and reminds of a terrific drink I had in Aruba called a Sea Breeze.

And to find a candy with only these ingredients: Organic Sugar, Organic Rice Syrup, Non-GMO Citric Acid, Natural Flavors – well, that’s a real gem. Oh, where do those beautiful colors come from? Vegetables! For instance, the grapefruit gets it color with red cabbage and purple carrots. So cool.

They’re little jewels all right, simple yet satisfying, a taste of how life can be.

Torie & Howard Candy And I’m excited to share some of these treats with you! The folks from Torie and Howard were gracious enough to give me one of their cute “purses” filled with a bundle of their candy for one lucky reader. Enter below through one of the options – and if you feel like it, tell me what you kinds of things you do to slow down and embrace each day as it comes. I could use some tips :) Giveaway ends on Wednesday, May 7th at midnight. xo
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclosure: Torie and Howard supplied me with the products to do this post and the giveaway, but opinions about their delicious candy are my own.

17 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Favorite Things, Product, Recipe Box, Sweets

Naturally Gluten-Free Spring Brunch Recipes!

by Amanda Paa on April 28, 2014

Caramelize Mushroom & Shallot Quiche with Polenta Crust

Hi everyone! Here’s a little recap the Spring Brunch fun I had on Twin Cities Live today, talking about taking the stress and difficulty out of cooking for someone with a gluten allergy – no special ingredients needed. Instead, these recipes are all naturally gluten-free and simple enough for anyone to make. And best of all, they showcase the entrance of Spring!

Caramelized Mushroom & Shallot Quiche
with a Polenta Crust

Frittatas are a great gluten-free brunch option, but there’s something about having a crust that I missed. I decided to try my hand at a naturally gluten-free polenta crust after drooling over this post by The Wednesday Chef. Made with polenta instead of a pastry crust, I tested it a few times with slightly different adaptations and decided on this version – leaving out the egg and adding gruyere cheese along with fresh rosemary. Then I filled it with caramelized mushrooms and shallots, ever so slightly browned and deep with flavor.

Soft eggs, gooey cheese and springtime vegetables encased like a gorgeous savory pie – yes please.

Caramelized Mushroom & Shallot Quiche with Polenta Crust // heartbeet kitchenCaramelized Mushroom & Shallot Quiche with Polenta Crust
serves 5

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups (about 5 ounces) thinly sliced mushrooms (I like Baby Bella/Cremini mushrooms)
½ cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 small)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
black pepper
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
5 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
2/3 cup grated gruyere

Polenta Crust (adapted from The Wednesday Chef):
3 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup medium ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons grated gruyere

Begin by making the filling. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add butter. Let melt and swirl to coat bottom of the pan, then add shallots. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt. Let cook for 5 minutes over medium heat without stirring. You want the mushroom and shallots to get slightly browned. Stir, then cook for another 10 or so minutes until all liquid is evaporated and vegetables are caramelized. Stir in balsamic vinegar and pinch of black pepper, then taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from heat and let cool. At this point, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust, lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan (or cake pan) with nonstick spray. In a saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil, then whisk in cornmeal slowly. Turn heat down to a simmer, so the polenta is barely sputtering. Stir every couple of minutes and it will start to thicken. After about 15 minutes it should be quite thick and the liquid absorbed, almost pulling away from the sides of pot. Turn off the heat and stir in cheese and rosemary, then taste for salt and pepper. Reserve ¾ cup polenta (will not need, can use for another meal), then pour the remaining into a lightly greased springform pan. Let polenta cool for 5 minutes, then cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap and slowly begin pressing the polenta out to the corners of the dish, continuing up the sides. You want the polenta to fill in the corners and to be evenly spread across the bottom and halfway up the side of the pan. Set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, remaining ½ teaspoon salt and pepper in a separate bowl, then stir in cheese. Pour over mushrooms and shallots. Baked on middle rack until the mixture is completely set in the middle and lightly browned, about 35-40 minutes depending on your oven. Allow to rest for 10 or so minutes before cutting. Can be made a day in advance, then warmed at 300 degrees for 15 minutes before serving.

Caramelized Mushroom & Shallot Quiche with Polenta Crust {gluten free} Polenta Crust-1

Meyer Lemon Fool

I’m not really sure why desserts like this are called a “fool”, but essentially they’re just fresh whipped cream with a fruit puree of your choice folded in. I went semi-homemade with this version, using the Williams Sonoma Meyer Lemon Curd (to die for – not too sweet, a little tart & you can even see the flakes of lemon zest scattered throughout!) mixed with some limoncello, which helps make the curd a perfect consistency for swirling. Plus it isn’t a real brunch without a little booze, right? The addition of thyme adds a savory note, complimenting the brightness of the lemon.

Light, creamy, and almost too pretty to eat. A simple, yet elegant dessert that will have you looking like the hostess with the mostess in no time.

Lemon Thyme Fool // heartbeet kitchenLemon Thyme Fool {gluten-free}
Lemon Thyme Fool
Serves 4 to 5

2/3 cup lemon curd (I recommend this one from Williams Sonoma)
3 tablespoons limoncello
1 ½ cups cold, heavy whipping cream
¼ cup plain greek yogurt
5 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves removed and minced
Extra lemon curd & lemon zest for garnish

30 minutes before making whipped cream, put a large bowl and beaters (or whisk) in the freezer to chill. Meanwhile, mix together curd and limoncello until smooth. Set aside.

Pour cream into chilled bowl and beat until you have glossy, stiff peaks. Stir in yogurt. Add the lemon curd mixture to the middle of the whipped cream and very gently fold in, leaving some streaks and swirls. To serve, fill the glasses you will be using halfway up with the whipped cream mixture, then sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of minced thyme. Add another layer of the whipped cream mixture, then top with a dollop of lemon curd, sprinkle of fresh thyme and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made 5 hours ahead of time.

Lemon Thyme Fool3-1
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
Chicken Wild Rice Salad with Spring Vegetables and Avocado (pictures soon!)
Serves 4 to 5

1 cup dry wild rice (about 3 cups of cooked wild rice)
3 1/2 cups of water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping cup of asparagus that have been cut on the diagonal
1 ½ cups cooked and diced chicken tossed with 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or cilantro
1 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage
¾ cup julienned radishes
1 large avocado, cubed

1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

To make the dressing, whisk together all of the ingredients besides the olive oil. In a slow stream, add the olive oil while whisking rapidly to ensure it emulsifies. I also find that using an immersion blender works well for this. Set dressing aside.

To make rice, bring water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Wash rice thoroughly then empty into boiling water with ½ teaspoon of salt. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover pot, and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until grains just start to puff open and are tender to the bite but not mushy.

*Before draining the rice you will blanch the asparagus in the hot water. To do this, put asparagus spears in a small strainer (or colander) and dip into the hot water to cover the asparagus. Hold it in the water for 1 minute. Remove strainer and rinse asparagus with cold water. Then drain wild rice and place it in a large bowl along with the asparagus.

Mix in chicken, cabbage and radishes, then stir in dressing to coat everything. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Top with diced avocado and serve.

8 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Breakfast, Featured Recipes, Recipe Box, Salad, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Sweets, Vegetarian

Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

by Amanda Paa on April 23, 2014

Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

“Sometimes you need to take a departure from what you do to in order to get inspiration.”
Tori Amos

There are several wonderful, beautiful and honestly written blogs that I habitually read amongst the chatter of the internet. What I love about each of them is how they jog my brain and create conversation within my inner walls. They allow me to travel to places I will likely never get to. And they spur inspiration, which is exactly how this Homemade Butterscotch Pudding came to be.

One of my favorites is The Bojon Gourmet written by Alanna, who has incredible skills when it comes to gluten-free baking, photography, and cooking in general. Looking at her recipe for what looks to be the perfect Gluten-Free Pie Crust, I was dreaming of the glossy rhubarb pie I could make, but alas, Spring has yet to arrive here in Minnesota. Instead, my wandering sweet tooth found her Butterscotch Pudding and without skipping a beat, I was off to the kitchen.

Homemade Butterscotch Pudding {gluten free}

It turned out perfectly buttery and caramelesque, reminding me of my absolute favorite ice cream – local Izzy’s Salted Caramel. As I took a spoonful of the warm, creamy pudding I sank into one of those “close your eyes and escape” moment, where you feel like you’re in food heaven. The deep brown sugar, sweet cream, and flecks of vanilla bean scattered throughout make for one amazing naturally gluten-free dessert. And yet another perk – it comes together in less than 20 minutes.

I’m thankful for the inspiration Alanna gave me, and I’m also thankful for her dedication to retesting and evolving recipes to get them right, as she talks about with both the pudding (which she tested 9 times!) and pie crust. I’m not sure people know that as recipe developers, we don’t always get things right the first time, which honestly is part of the fun. Plenty of my “great” ideas have become squirrel food, or I attempt to salvage them by turning transforming them into something else – always a shot in the dark. We may not have a culinary degree or a professional kitchen, but part of our passion lies within the intricacies and science that comes with cooking.

We also enjoy scraping every last bit of something as delicious as this butterscotch heaven.

Homemade Butterscotch Pudding - {gluten free}

You can find this recipe on The Bojon Gourmet, which I barely adapted. My only changes being:

  • Using soy milk in place of the milk and half & half in place of the cream because that’s what I had on hand. The texture turned out perfect – smooth and creamy, not too thin nor too thick.
  • Garnishing the pudding with shards of top notch 85% dark chocolate, a perfect complement to the buttery, caramel flavor.

I hope you all have a great rest of the week and if you have sources of inspirations, I’d love to hear about them!

7 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Fall, Recipe Box, Spring, Summer, Sweets, Winter

Gluten Free Ravioli in a Lemon Dill Sauce

April in Minnesota can be quite unpredictable. Sunny and 70 degrees one day, snowing and gusty winds the next. Like the day we left for Aruba and it snowed 8 inches. Talk about perfect timing.  But either way, we know warmer, brighter days are ahead, believing in the promises of asparagus, ramps, pea shoots and rhubarb. This gluten-free ravioli stuffed with ground goat from Singing Hills and ricotta in a simple lemon dill butter sauce, was my grasp for spring’s nearness.

A few weeks ago I made a batch of fresh gluten-free pasta from Robin Asbell’s new cookbook, so wonderfully soft and supple, a dream come true.  With the remaining half of dough I was dying to make ravioli. I wanted to make a special filling (but not complicated), matching the handmade sheets that would hold it. That meant using a “new to me” meat: goat.

Handmade Gluten Free Ravioli

It might surprise you that I would eat goat, not only because it is a bit hard to find, but also because most people know me as a passionate animal lover. It’s true that when I can’t fall asleep, I pin all sorts of cuteness to my Animal Friends board. My dream is to have a hobby farm with chickens, sheep, cats, a miniature horse, more cats, and LOTS of goats. I am completely enamored with how they frolic without abandon. Their adorable faces steal my heart every time.

I would wake up everyday with the biggest smile……. feeding them, loving them, playing with them.

But also respecting them for the food they would nourish my body with.

Gluten-Free Ravioli

Despite my love for animals, I am not a vegetarian, but more a “flexitarian”, meaning I eat mostly plant-based along with a small amount of meat.  I thoroughly enjoy the taste of meat, but it is extremely important to me to know the story of the farmers who have raised the animals, ensuring that they were treated humanely and with love, just as I would do if they were my own.

It can sometimes be difficult to find meat or eggs that I trust, as well as a little more expensive, but that just means those meals are valued and savored even more.


Last year when I met Lynne Reeck and Kathryn Wall of Singing Hills Dairy at the Mill City Farmers Market, I could just hear the passion they had for their goats, raising them with the utmost care and respect. They are free to roam the pastures, and given top top quality feed to ensure their lives are healthy. “We don’t use anything on them that we wouldn’t use on us,” Lynne says. Singing Hills makes some of the creamiest, richest goat cheese I’ve ever tasted, along with their to-die-for dilly cheese curds. And after this first try with their goat meat, I will surely be incorporating it into my cooking more often.

When I know those things, that they were happy goats (or whatever it may be), I believe that enjoying the food they provide us with is just another part of the cycle.

                       Singing Hills Goats - Minnesota

Photo courtesy of Singing Hills

A little about this recipe: When cooking with meats like lamb or goat, stronger herbs help mellow some of the gaminess, which is why I used ground fennel and basil. I found the fennel to be particularly complimenting, adding just a hint of sweetness. The sauce was a hodgepodge of what I had sitting in my fridge that I ended up loving! Just fresh lemon juice, butter, dill, and a few stray kale leaves sliced very thinly. Simple, refreshing, and light enough to let the ravioli stuffing shine. I rolled my sheets of pasta by hand, but as Robin suggests in her book, it can also be done with a rolling pin.

homemade gluten-free ravioli with lemon dill sauce // heartbeet kitchen

Gluten-Free Ravioli with Meat & Ricotta in a Lemon Dill Sauce

serves 3 to 4

1/2 batch of this gluten-free pasta dough from “Gluten-Free Pasta”
1/2 pound of ground lamb, goat, or beef
1 T minced basil
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Fresh ricotta cheese

2 1/2 tablespoons butter
juice of one lemon + zest
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 leaves of kale, sliced thinly chiffonade style
salt to taste

Heat non-stick saute pan over medium heat and add ground meat, fennel, salt, and pepper. Use wooden spoon or spatula to stir and break up the meat, making it crumble, until cooked through. Stir in basil, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove meat with slotted spoon, place in a bowl, and set aside.

Make dough using these instructions, stopping at the point when you have long, flat sheets of pasta. Dust your work space with any gluten free flour and spread the sheets across. Using a ruler, cut the sheets into even squares, mine being about 2×3 inches. In the middle of one square, place about 2 heaping teaspoons of both ricotta and lamb, then brush cool water on the pasta around the filling. Place another square on top and carefully press the dough around the filling. Press firmly to seal, using a little more water if needed. Use the tines of a fork to create indentations around the edges. Use a metal spatula to transfer the finished ravioli to a sheet pan (they shouldn’t touch) and put plastic wrap over the top. Finish making additional squares of ravioli. It can be kept covered on the sheet in the refrigerator for 2 days tightly wrapped.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then drop several ravioli into the boiling water and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the ravioli, and place in a colander and drizzle with a little olive oil to coat so they don’t stick. Repeat until all ravioli is boiled, then toss sliced kale into hot water for a minute to soften and drain. Add ravioli and kale to sauce pan with butter sauce and stir gently to coat. Serve with a garnish of fresh lemon zest.

6 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Fall, Main Dish, Recipe Box, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Winter