Fall Medley of Recipes

This week I bring you some really nice recipes for the fall. The Florentine dish is a nice change of pace to spaghetti meals and isn’t difficult to make. It’s healthy for you, too. I also enjoy the dish with shrimp or scallops.

The lemon mini cakes are very refreshing and can be made in orange or lime, but use half the amounts for the lime because limes are more tart than the lemons or oranges.

Peaches are still in season, so this peach dessert is a treat as we go into the fall, but strawberries or blueberries may be substituted. 

I’m very fond of creamed spinach and this dish works well with special occasions and meals. 

Try the spaghetti squash this fall. It looks like spaghetti after it’s cooked and has a pleasant taste to it. Tomato sauce may or may not be used with it. I use a little cinnamon and sometimes a little half and half, but not with the tomato sauce, this is when I’m cooking it plain. Enjoy!


Chicken Florentine Spaghetti

Flash cooked shrimp may be substituted for the chicken in this recipe.

2 6-ounce boned chicken breasts, skinned

8 ounces fresh white mushrooms, sliced

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

8 ounces uncooked thin spaghetti

2 tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cloves garlic, minced then mashed

1 cup whole milk

1 cup chicken broth

¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

Grill, broil or sauté chicken breast until cooked through, but not overdone, they should be moist inside. Set aside and let cool, then slice into thin slices.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain well and keep warm.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, swirl oil to coat bottom. Add mushrooms and sauté until golden about 3 to 4 minutes, remove to a plate, and set aside. Add flour and garlic and more olive oil if needed; cook until garlic is browned about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk. Bring it to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and spinach. Stir until spinach wilts, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add pasta, sautéed mushrooms, and cooked chicken slices and toss to combine.


Microwaved Spaghetti Squash

1 medium firm spaghetti squash

3 tablespoons butter, melted

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup prepared tomato sauce, or more, if desired (optional)

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place squash cut side down in baking dish with ½ cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes. With a fork remove spaghetti-like strands and put into a bowl. Drizzle with butter, mix with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add prepared tomato sauce if desired.


Eggplant and Squash Casserole

3 tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

1 Vidalia or sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 medium, firm eggplant, sliced then cut into small cubes

1 medium zucchini, sliced into coins

1 yellow squash, seeds removed, sliced into coins

3 cloves garlic, minced then mashed

3 eggs

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, more if desired

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat 2-tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onion and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender and golden brown. Add eggplant, and cook for about 4 minutes, then add zucchini, yellow squash, and garlic, sauté until tender. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cool.  Set aside.

With a whisk, in a bowl, beat 1-tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, eggs, cream and Parmesan cheese, add black pepper if desired. Stir in sautéed vegetables and spoon mixture into an ovenproof baking dish or casserole bowl. Cover with foil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until just set. Remove foil and sprinkle with 3-tablespoons Parmesan cheese and broil until golden. This dish can also be eaten cold.


2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and tough stems removed

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup finely chopped shallots or sweet onion

1 clove fresh garlic, minced and mashed

½ cup heavy cream, half and half or beef broth

½ cup mozzarella or Swiss cheese, shredded

¼ cup Italian flavored bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse spinach off and place in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook, covered with just the water that is on the leaves, stirring occasionally. Cook about 3 minutes until spinach is wilted. Pour into a colander or strainer. Immediately fill pot with very cold water and transfer cooked spinach to the pot so the spinach will stop cooking. Then drain again and squeeze all the water out of spinach. Coarsely chop the spinach; you should have about 2 cups of spinach.

Wipe out the pot then melt butter over medium heat and stir in shallots or onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add chopped spinach. Cook for about 3 minutes. Lower heat and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour and stir, cooking for 2 minutes more. Add cream, half and half or broth, a little at a time, scraping up any stuck spinach. Simmer on low heat for just 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Lightly butter a shallow 1-quart rectangular or circular baking dish. Fold in mozzarella cheese and pour into prepared baking dish. In a glass measuring cup melt 2 tablespoons butter, stir in Italian flavored breadcrumbs forming crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over top of spinach. Bake in 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes until heated through and golden brown on the top.

Helpful Hint: For ease frozen, cooked, and pressed dry chopped spinach may be substituted.


Glazed Lemon Mini-cakes

Makes at least 24 mini cakes. These can be converted to orange or lime cakes by substituting orange or lime (use half the measurements when using limes) for the ingredients of lemon.

3 sticks butter, softened

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

2 ¼ cups granulated sugar

5 eggs

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon rind

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt


2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat oven to 325 degree. Vegetable spray with floured baking spray a 12-cup muffin pan, you’ll do this three separate times or use 3-cupcake pans. Set aside.

With an electric mixer beat butter, cream cheese and sugar in a bowl until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Stir in lemon juice, lemon extract, and lemon peel.

On low speed beat in flour baking powder and salt. Spoon mixture in muffin cups about 1/3 full. This will make 24 mini cakes. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes in a 325-degree oven.

To make glaze, n a bowl whisk together confectioners’ sugar, milk and lemon extract until very smooth. Dip top of each mini cake into glaze and place on waxed paper to dry.


2 cups finely crumbled vanilla wafers

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup vanilla baking chips

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

4 cups ½-inch sliced fresh peaches or nectarines, peeled if desired

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

To make crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl cream together sugar and butter until light. Mix in cookie crumbs and vanilla. Dough should be soft and clump together when pressed together with your fingers.

Place dough in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan, and press it up the sides making sure that the layer on the bottom is even. Bake crust for 24 to 28 minutes, until crust is set and firm at the edges, and is a golden brown. Cool completely then fill with filling and bake as recipe directs.

To make filling: In a microwavable bowl, microwave white vanilla baking chips uncovered for 45 to 60 seconds or until chips are melted and can be stirred smooth. In another bowl, with an electric mixer beat cream cheese until smooth. Stir in melted vanilla chips until blended. Spread mixture over crust. Cover and refrigerate.

To make topping: In a bowl crush 1-cup sliced peaches. In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together sugar and cornstarch, add crushed peaches and ¼ cup water. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Add lemon juice, stir and cool for 10 to 12 minutes. Gently fold in remaining 3 cups of peach slices. Evenly spoon topping over filling, forming the peach slices in circles or rows across the top for a nice design. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set, serve within 3 to 4 hours.

Helpful Hint: This recipe can be made with blueberries or strawberries instead of peaches or nectarines.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.