Southern Squash Casserole, Hazelnut Cookies and a Thanksgiving Belly!

As I mentioned in the last post,  I have started cooking from Molly O’Neill’s book, One Big Table. The Family Thanksgiving dinner provided a great opportunity to use some recipes and give them a try.

And as I was cooking, I learned a couple of fun facts about Thanksgiving. In addition to giving recipes for great American dishes, One Big Table also documents some of the accompanying traditions, telling their history. I didn’t know that green bean casserole originally was not considered as a Thanksgiving dish until  the 1950s, when Campbell’s Soups came up with the green bean casserole recipe in their test kitchen. Even then, according to the book, the manager of the test kitchen said, it was not an especially outstanding dish to remember… She was surprised about how it took off and became a staple in many people’s Thanksgiving menu over the years! I call that good marketing!

Another piece of information that I did not know and I read it in the newspaper on Thursday, was that Thanksgiving used to be in the last week of November. Then in the 30’s the big business owners lobbied President Roosevelt to move the date to the fourth Thursday, so that when there are five Thursdays in the month there would be one more week of Christmas shopping! Today, of course, the businesses don’t even wait for Thanksgiving to start the Christmas shopping! And radio stations switch to Christmas music days before Thanksgiving! Seriously, we know that it is  the most serious “buying” season, please don’t shove it down our throats and make us cringe when we see Santa!

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving… Every year, we meet at  the house of a family member and we do it potluck style. Mom brings her famous turkey dressing, and homemade cranberry sauce. My sister-in-law, Elizabeth, makes a yummy broccoli salad and green bean casserole. My other sister-in-law, Jennifer, who has hosted Thanksgiving for the past a couple of years, has a killer butternut squash and sweet potato casseroles. And her mom’s deviled eggs are to die for!

I, on the other hand, always struggle with Thanksgiving dishes, because I want to add something new to the menu, but I also feel like I should be making the traditional dishes… After all, it happens once a year, and everyone expects to eat these dishes on that specific day!  Seems like the Christmas menu has more flexibility but Thanksgiving menu is set. What do you think? Am I making this up?

So I decided to go  with the familiar dishes for dinner and add something different to the dessert table… Stuffed grape leaves will have to wait for some other occasion. But I added hazelnut cookies! Not very imposing, little cookies that leave a big hazelnut taste in your mouth when you bite into them!

I made Southern squash casserole and corn pudding from One Big Table, asparagus casserole from a church cookbook my mother-in-law gave me, and Italian hazelnut cookies from a Mediterranean cookbook I have.

Asparagus in a can, to me, is a very, very sorry vegetable. When you hold asparagus that came out of a can in your hand, it kinda dissolves in your hands, there is no structure to that once-a-great-veggie!. I think it is a crime to can that slim, slender, good looking vegetable.  Once you do it, it looks like they have given up on this life! A very sad view!

But it’s my husband’s favorite Thanksgiving dish, so I made the casserole! It took 3 cans of asparagus to layer on the bottom on a 9×13 dish. Cut up 7 hard boiled eggs in slices and covered ever inch of the pan. Then I relied heavily on black pepper and paprika to spice up the dish. After I covered the egg slices in these spices, poured a big can of cream of mushroom soup, and sprinkled french fried onion pieces yet from another box. I am not too crazy about this dish, but it is so easy: Open five cans of something, it is ready!

On the other hand, I really liked the squash casserole! It was cheesy, crunchy and squash did not lose its integrity at all in the dish. I do not think I will make the corn pudding again, as it was really egg-y for my tastes. Don’t know why. It has only four eggs, and I have been known to eat dishes with a whole lot more than that. Not sure, what happened there but I guess it just did not hit the spot for me. Or by the time I could get to the corn pudding, I might have been already full with all the other casseroles and turkey! (First picture below is the squash and the following one is the corn pudding.)

It was a great Thanksgiving, seeing all the kids together, watching them play (or not play but discuss about whose turn  it is to use that specific toy among ten thousand other toys laying around)… But when we got home, we realized how much we ate and could not go to sleep for A LONG time! I guess it was the case with everyone, so I don’t feel guilty! (Tell me it was the same for you, too!! Please!!)

It is once a year, after all.. Just don’t make the mistake I made and start reading health and fitness magazines after a big meal. Made me feel guilty… made me rewind and think back every single bite I took from my plate… I agonized over the pumpkin cheesecake for a while, thought about getting on a treadmill the next day. Just vaguely though… Calories are precious things to spend!

Now it is time to gear up for Christmas :)

Maureen Walther’s Southern Squash Casserole (From One Big Table)

  • 4 tablespoons butter (more for greasing the baking dish)
  • 1 small finely chopped onion (Vidalia or other sweet onion)
  • 4 medium yellow summer squash (about 2 pounds) cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese ( this amount goes into the casserole. I couldn’t help myself and used another 1/4 to 1/3 cup in the topping as well)
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese(3/4 cup for the casserole, 1/4 cup for the topping)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs ( I used the boxed one, it turned out good)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Melt half of the butter in a pan and add onions. Cook until onions are softened.

2. Add the sliced squash and cook until squash is tender. Cover the pan and stir often.

3. After the squash is tender, turn the heat off and let it cool for 5-10 min. Then add the Parmesan, cheddar cheese, and half of the bread crumbs.

4. Add the lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper, pour it into a 8 inch square baking dish.

5. Combine the 1/4 cup of cheddar and the remaining bread crumbs and scatter over the casserole. (I added more Parmesan as well)

6. Bake for 30 min in preheated 375-degree oven, until the top is brown.

Italian Hazelnut Cookies (From a cookbook I picked up in Turkey: I think it is the Turkish translation of “Mediterranean Cooking” by Carla Bardi)

  • 1 stick of butter (4 oz)
  • 150 gr (~3/4 cup) of sugar
  • 150 gr (~1 – 1/4 cup) of toasted, peeled, ground hazelnut
  • 125 gr (~ 3/4 cup) of all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Beat sugar and butter well.

2. Stir ground hazelnut, flour and salt with a spatula. (The picture below shows how it looks like after I toasted, peeled and put them all the coffee grinder!)

3. Once it is combined well, make walnut sizes balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Bake for 25-30 min at 300 degree preheated oven.

5. After it bakes, let it cool before you touch it…because it crumbles big time when it is still hot!

6. The recipe calls for chocolate dip (90 gr of chocolate melted in 6 tablespoon of heavy cream) which you can dip the bottom of one cookie and press it onto the bottom of a second cookie,making a kind of a sandwich. I did not have time to go into that step and cookies looked big for this step anyway. Next time, I will roll smaller balls and try to make bite size chocolate sandwich cookies.


  1. by briarrose
    11:30 am
    Nov 29, 2010

    Yummy! What a simple and lovely little cookie. Sometimes it’s the simple things that really hit the spot.

  2. by Amy
    8:13 pm
    Nov 29, 2010

    I love that these cookies are so simple with only a few ingredients, allowing the hazelnuts to shine through…personally, I would not miss the chocolate, they sound wonderful the way you made them :)!

  3. by Ilke
    8:45 pm
    Nov 29, 2010

    Thanks for your comment, Amy! That is what sold me on those cookies too, it took a couple minutes to make the dough, simple!

  4. by Pete
    2:57 pm
    Nov 30, 2010

    Very nice!

  5. by Ilke
    6:59 pm
    Nov 30, 2010

    Thanks Pete, I appreciate you visiting!

  6. by Jennifer McAliley
    9:30 pm
    Dec 3, 2010

    THank you so much for leaving these with me on Thanksgiving. I love them And now that I see the recipe, and how simple it is, I can make them myself! Yummy! The new site looks great!

  7. by Suzanne P
    12:39 pm
    Dec 12, 2010

    can’t wait to taste these – sound delish. What temp did you bake at?
    Love your blog btw – photos are amazing – better than a cookbook!

  8. by Ilke
    5:35 pm
    Dec 12, 2010

    Hi Suzanne :) I baked the casserole at 375 and the cookies at 300F. I was thinking about you today. I made another batch of hazelnut cookies and it gave me a little bit trouble to bring everything into a ball. If you made it for your cookie swap, I hope you had a better time! :)
    Thanks a lot for visiting! :)

  9. by Jem of the South
    11:36 pm
    Dec 4, 2011

    I am definitely going to try this cookie. I’ve never baked with hazelnut, but I enjoy the flavor in coffee. :-)

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