Zehnder’s Squashtoberfest Chefs Transform Pumpkin and Squash into Culinary Masterpieces

Oct 21, 2015

On Tuesday, October 24th, Zehnder’s welcomed talented cooking competitors to Zehnder’s annual Squashtoberfest – a day long, three event cooking competition which brought about delightfully creative pumpkin and squash recipes such as Squash Tacos with Hot Sausage, Herbed Cream of Zucchini Soup and Enchanted Pumpkin Cake.

Chefs competed in four categories including Savory Main Dishes, the Great Soup Challenge, Sweet Surprises and Jams, Jellies and Preserves. First place took home $200, 40 lbs. of Pioneer Sugar and 4 tickets to the Zehnder’s Christmas Dinner Show (a value of $192). Second place won $100, 20 lbs. of Pioneer Sugar and dinner for 4 at Zehnder’s Restaurant. Third place received a $50 gift card, 10 lbs. of Pioneer Sugar and dinner for 2 at Zehnder’s Restaurant. The winning recipes are below:

Savory Category:

1st Place: Connie Vaughn, Sterling Heights, MI – Zucchini Spinach Lasagna Rolls
Makes 8 – 10 servings
Olive oil cooking spray
2 Large zucchini, sliced lengthwise with a mandolin into 1/4″ slices – need 8 to 10 slices total
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Big garlic cloves
1/2 Teaspoon oregano, dried
1/2 Teaspoon parsley, dried
1 Red onion, chopped
1 Cup spinach, firmly packed
3/4 Cup Ricotta cheese (low fat)
1 1/4 Cups marinara sauce mixed with 1/3 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Black pepper and salt (to your taste)
1/2 Cup shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese (or you can use Mozzarella)
3/8 Cup Parmesan cheese, greated

For Garnish:
Fresh Mozzarella cheese balls – cut in half

• Rinse, pat dry and slice the zucchini – about 8-10 slices from zucchinis. Heat a grill pan on medium heat and spray, when pan it hot, placed the sliced zucchini on it, cook till the slices become soft enough to fold (around 2-3 minutes) on each side. Repeat until all the slices are grilled, set aside.
• Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in another pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add chopped garlic to it, cook a minute and then add the chopped onion. Saute for another 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach to the pan, add salt and pepper to taste, cook till moisture dries out and there isn’t much moisture left from spinach; remove from heat.
• In a bowl, add together Ricotta cheese, cooked spinach mixture, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, dried oregano, dried parsley, salt and pepper. Mix till everything is well combined.
• Arrange all the grilled zucchini slices on a cutting board and spread 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of the prepared mixture on each slice; starting from one end, roll each of the sliced zucchini – repeat until all slices are filled and rolled.
• In a 9 x 13-inch pan, place 1/2 cup of marinara sauce with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on bottom of pan. Arrange rolls on top of sauce; top with remaining sauce, shredded cheese finishing with remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese; bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is nice and bubbly.
• Garnish each roll with a basil leaf and a half fresh Mozzarella ball.

2nd Place: Pamela Gibeau, Dearborn, MI – Squash Stew
Makes 8-10 servings
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
6 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Medium potatoes, diced 1 inch cubes
3 Carrots, diced 1 inch cubes
1 Cup acorn squash, 1 inch cubes
1 Cup butternut squash, 1 inch cubes
1 Zucchini, 1 inch cubes
1 Yellow (summer) 1 inch cubes
1 Large can tomatoes; undrained
2 Teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon 7 spice mix
2 Teaspoon Pioneer granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon dried mint
1 Teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Teaspoon oregano
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Can chickpeas; drained (about 2 cups)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Add shallots and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes until garlic is lightly browned. Add potatoes, carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, making sure that all the pieces are coated in olive oil; and well incorporated with the onions and garlic. Add acorn and butternut squash. Cook 10 minutes then add zucchini and yellow summer squash, season with 2 teaspoons of salt. Saute together for 10-15 minutes or until the squash pieces are softened and tender.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, dried mint, dried parsley, sugar pepper flakes, 7 spice mix. Simmer the mixture uncovered for 20-25 minutes. Add chickpeas at this time and oregano, cook until chickpeas are tender. Add water if needed.

Stew should be thick and juicy.
Serve on bed of rice pilaf (optional) garnish with parsley.

3rd Place: Julia Jones, Bay City, MI – Squash Tacos with Hot Sausage
1 Butternut squash
1 Roll Bob Evans Hot Sausage
Pico de gallo
Shredded cheddar cheese
Corn tortillas
Flour tortillas

Cut in squash in half – clean out seeds. Bake squash at 350 degrees until tender. Scoop out and mash with butter; set aside; fry sausage until done; heat tortillas until warm. Lay flour tortilla out flat; set corn tortilla (like peanut butter); add sausage and cheese.
Fold tortillas in half; heat until tortillas are warm. (I use a microwave about 30-45 seconds). Add pico de gallo, lettuce and olives.

Note: the squash and corn tortillas go very well together and the hot sausage adds an extra zing.

Sweet Category:

1st Place: Susan Nickels, Farmington Hills, MI – Pumpkin Ginger Crumb Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
4 Eggs
1 2/3 Pioneer granulated Sugar
1 Cup vegetable oil
2 Cups cooked or canned pumpkin
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon ginger
1/4 Teaspoon cloves
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg

Crunch Topping:
1 1/2 Cups walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 Cups Ginger Snap Cookies
1 1/2 Cup Pioneer Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Sticks butter (3/4 cup)

Cinnamon Whipped Topping:
2 Cups whipping cream
1/2 Cup Pioneer Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tsp. cinnamon

Crunch Topping Directions (make first):
1. Melt butter; set aside. In a food processor, pulse cookies to a fine crumb. Remove from processor and put into a medium bowl. Then pulse walnuts to very small pieces. Add walnuts to the bowl with the cookie crumbs.
2. Add in brown sugar and mix well. Add in melted butter and mix until completely blended.
3. Place one very full cup of the mixture into 3 greased 8 or 9-inch cake pans, pressing into bottom and spreading it evenly into the cake pans. Reserve about 1 cup of the mixture to use on top of the cake. Set pans aside and begin cake.

2nd Place: Carol Socier, Bay City, MI – Praline Pumpkin Zucchini Torte with Caramel Creme Filling and Topping
Serves 15
3/4 Cup packed Pioneer Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup salted butter
3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 Cup pecan pieces
4 Large eggs
1 2/3 Pioneer granulated Sugar
1 Cup canola oil
1 Cup pumpkin puree
1 Cup well drained shredded zucchini
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

8 Ounces cream cheese
1/2 Cup hot caramel topping
1 3/4 Cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 Teaspoon clear vanilla extract
Glazed pecan halves, optional

In a heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter and cream. Cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Divide evenly between two well-greased 9-inch round or square baking pans. Sprinkle with pecan pieces. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and oil. Add pumpkin, zucchini and vanilla. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk to combine. Gradually add to pumpkin mixture just until blended. Carefully spoon batter over the brown sugar pecan layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

Topping: In a medium sized bowl, beat cream cheese, hot caramel topping and heavy whipping cream until soft peaks from. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form. Place one layer, praline side up, on a serving plate. Spread with half of the whipped topping mixture. Top with second layer. Pipe or spread remaining whipped cream on top of second layer. Garnish with glazed pecan halves. Keep refrigerated.

3rd Place: Donna Bardocz, Howell, MI – Enchanted Pumpkin Cake
A delicious cake anytime of the year, but it’s especially good in the fall when you can use sweet cooked fresh sugar pumpkins! You can vary the type of cookie you use as well. There are four layers of pumpkin cake that are each lined with a yummy crunch. The mascarpone/cream cheese frosting with a hint of maple, along with that crunchy topping, makes for a cake that you won’t soon forget! It looks as pretty as it tastes too! A real showstopper!

2 Sticks (one cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 Cups toasted walnuts, finely chopped
3 Cups crushed Dulce de Leche filled sandwich cookies (I used Pepperidge Farms Dulce de Leche Milano Cookies)
2 Cups Pioneer light Brown Sugar
Dash of table salt

1 1/4 Cups Pioneer granulated Sugar
3/4 Cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 (15 Ounce) can solid pack pumpkin (or use 1 3/4 cups of fresh cooked pumpkin puree)
1/2 Cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla
2 1/2 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Saigon cinnamon
2 1/4 Teaspoons baking powder
3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon table salt
4 Large eggs

8 Ounce mascarpone cheese, softened to room temperature
8 Ounce cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 Cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 Cups Pioneer powdered Sugar
1 Tablespoon Pure Michigan maple syrup
Dash table salt

Note: you will also need non-stick baking spray to cat pans, as well as parchment paper to cut out for each cake pan bottom.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the four 9-inch cake pans by tracing and then cutting a piece of parchment to line the bottom of each cake pan. Spray each pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour until well coated. Push the parchment circles to the bottom of each pan and then spray them again.

Note: if you don’t have four pans, you can do two at a time with keeping the batter in the refrigerator in between baking.

Crunch: Melt butter, set aside. In a food processor or blender, pulverize cookies to a fine crumb. Then add the walnuts and process until they are chopped and blended into cookies. Add in the brown sugar and a dash of salt and pulse just until blended. Add in the melted butter and pulse until mixed. Press 1 cup of crunch mixture into each cake pan, pressing down into the bottom (like you would make a cheesecake) and spreading evenly onto the bottom of each cake pan. Reserve the rest of the crunch for the outside of the finished cake.

Cake: Beat the granulated sugar and softened butter until light and fluffy making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently. Add the pumpkin, sour cream and pure vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add the eggs to the wet ingredients, one at a time just until blended. Next take all the measured cake dry ingredients and put them into a large bowl. Use a whisk to combine. Add all the dry ingredients together and mix into the wet ingredients and beat just until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the four cake pans being careful not to dislodge the crunch bottom. Smooth tops out as evenly as possible. Bake in the 350 degrees in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester comes out of center clean. If you used two racks to bake on, rotate pans at the half way done mark to be sure they bake evenly. Allow the cakes to cool on a cooling rack in cake pans for 5 minutes and then turn them out onto a wire rack to allow them to cool completely.

Frosting: Whip the softened mascarpone/cream cheese and the unsalted butter until very smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar on a low mixer setting as to not make a big dust mess. Once mixed in, scrape down sides of mixer bowl and mix once again until nice and smooth. Add in the pure maple syrup and a dash of salt and mix well. Set aside until needed.

Cake Assembly: After your cakes are completely cooled (you can even refrigerate for a few hours, if desired) begin the frosting the layers and putting the cake together. When you have assembled all four of the layers with some frosting between them, start to spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Coat the sides and top with the extra crunch mixture you had set aside, with using your hand to gently push into the frosting. Feel free to drizzle salted caramel over your finished cake, if desired.

Put into refrigerator and let it get nice and cold before you cut into it for a beautiful looking slice. If you can’t wait, for it! Enjoy!

Store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

Soup Category:

1st Place: Laura Allen, Coldwater, MI – Sweet and Smokey Squash and Ham Chowder
This soup’s delightful flavor is a delicous mixture of sweetness from the squash and corn mixed with smokiness from the ham. It is a very colorful soup from the vegetable mixture.

Makes 8 servings

1/2 Pound bacon
1 Cup onion, diced
2 (15.5 Ounce) cans sweet corn, drained
3/4 Cup red, green and yellow peppers, diced
3/4 Pound smokey ham, shaved and chopped
2 1/2 Cups vegetable broth
2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 1/2 Cups diced red potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
5 to 6 Tablespoons flour
3 Cups milk
8 to 12 Ounces choice shredded cheese
Garnish as desired

In a large pot cook bacon and onions until bacon is crumbly and onions are tender. Add corn, peppers, and ham. Cook until slightly browned. Stir in broth, squash, potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover, simmer until vegetables are tender. Whisk flour into milk until smooth. Add to pot. Bring just to edge of boil; stir until thickened. Reduce heat. Add cheese; stir until cheese is melted. Garnish as desired.

I personally like to serve this soup in small bread bowls.

2nd Place: Caressa Trice, Saginaw, MI – Cheesy Butternut Squash Chili with Hot Water Cornbread
6 Cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Large onion, diced3 (15 Ounce) cans black bean, rinsed and drained (OR any favorite chili bean)
1 (15 Ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
4 Cups beef broth
1 Cup heavy cream
2 to 3 Bell peppers – red, yellow, green and orange, chopped
1 (15 Ounce) can stewed tomatoes
2 Tablespoons dry parsley
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon pepper
1 Teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2-3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 (10 Ounce) bag baby spinach, stems removed
8-10 Ounces shredded cheddar cheese (any favorite cheese)

For Garnish:
Bacon bits, shredded cheese (Gouda, cheddar, Mozzarella or any favorite), sour cream, chives
Note: for more depth and filling flavor, add a femur bone to the liquid stock when simmering or cooked ground meat.

In a large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat and saute onions and bell peppers until slightly tender. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add squash, broth, beans, tomatoes and all seasonings. Cover pot and let cook on a medium heat for 45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add cream and spinach. Let soup cook for an additional 15 minutes then stir in 8 ounces of cheese. Ladle soup bowls and garnish with hot water cornbread (recipe below), cheese, sour cream, bacon bits and chives. Enjoy!

Hot Water Cornbread:
2 Cups water
1/2 Cups self-rising cornmeal
1/2 Cup flour
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon pepper
1 Cup vegetable oil

In a small pan, add water and cook until it reaches a bubbling boil. When water begins to boil, remove from heat. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Slowly add hot water to flour mixture and stir batter until it resembles a thick dense consistency. Let batter cool enough to handle. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet. Spoon out desired amount of batter and with a spoon slowly drop into hot oil, or with hands make into patties. Cook on both sides until each side is a golden brown.

3rd Place: Betty Timreck, Eau Claire, MI – Bountiful Harvest Zucchini Chowder
3 Medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 Medium onion, chopped
1 Clove garlic, chopped
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric
1 Teaspoon dried basil
1/3 Cup butter, cubed
1/3 Cup flour
1/4 Teaspoon black pepper
1 Pound smoked kielbasa sausage, sliced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (32 Ounce) container chicken broth
1 (12 Ounce) can evaporated milk
2 Cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley

In a large frying pan, saute the onion, garlic, butter, turmeric and basil. In another frying pan, fry sausage until browned. In a soup kettle, heat the chicken broth, tomatoes and milk. Stir in flour, black pepper and sauteed ingredients. Add the corn, potatoes and sausage. Bring to a boil then add the zucchini. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Add cheeses and continue to simmer until they are melted. Stir until blended. Pour into serving bowls and garnish with parsley.


1st Place: Martie McCartin, Brighton, MI – Peach Palooza Jam
2nd Place: Pamela Hornbacher-Retzler, Caro, MI – Christmas Jam
3rd Place: Lois Spruytte, Richmond, MI – Farmhouse Fig and Pear Jam

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