Tag Archives: squash

Saute the Squash

30 Jul

I am always looking for something new with my side dishes. At meals, I like to feature more protein, veggies, and fruits than starches. Oh sure, starches are super yummy,  but I tend to opt for fresher options. Since i enjoy cooking, I also like to keep up with food trends and techniques.

That said, I work full-time, am a mom, and have a pretty packed lifestyle. Time is my most valuable commodity. I usually save my big new cooking adventures for weekends when I have more time to tinker in the kitchen. Sometimes I luck out and trying something new can be added into my weeknight “quick cooking” repertoire. Which is exactly what happened recently.

I had a gift card for a cookware store from my sweet sister in law Kathy. What fun! Going into a kitchen store, for me, is delightful and indulgant. But even with a gift card I look for the biggest bang for my buck. In a kitchen store, that means that I would not invest in a “single use” kitchen gadget. What I mean by that is if a kitchen tool only has one use, it has no place in my kitchen. Unitl now…..

I had seen the new trend with sprializing zucchini and squash. “Zucchetti” was the clever moniker, and this new technique for zucchini resembled pasta like spaghetti and lasagna noodles.  So naturally I was drawn to this cool new kitchen tool, and sought it out gift card in hand. Bingo! I found one and couldnt wait to get home and try it.

This gadget was a snap to work from the get go. I spiralized large and small width “Zucchetti”. I sauteed tomatoes to pair with it, and it turned out so well it is now on the dinner table (and lunch leftovers at the office!) quite often. Let me show you what I did.

 

I placed some freshly washed grape tomatoes into a small saucepan with a bit of olive oil, and let that simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes. The tomatoes got saucy, fragrant, and creamy. After that,  I simply sautéed the spiraled squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I then combined the two, and voila! I finished it off with some fresh parsley and basil from my summer garden. With a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese it was a complete, and completely delicious, side dish.

 

 

Zuchetti has become so much more than a simple side dish this summer. I have used this with marinara sauce, a bright lemony shrimp sauce, and other pasta sauces using zuchetti instead of pasta noodles. Whether using this as a side dish or a feature in the center of the plate item, this is a tasty replacement for starchy rice or pasta.

So even though I purchased a kitchen gadget that had basically one function, the flexibility of what can be done with the spriralized zucchini is endless.  Now my zuchetti is a mainstay for light and tasty meals. What can you do with it?

 

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Zucchini-Grilled

30 Mar

I really like vegetables. Even more than fruit.  Eating seasonally and taking advantage of farm fresh vegetables all year long not only provides great flavor and variety, but eating seasonally is budget friendly. My kids and I are adventurous when it comes to food, so I am challenged to find new ways to cook veggies.

Since it is winter, root vegetables have been the staple lately.  Luckily, my family enjoys carrots, potatoes, squash,beets…all the delicious colorful winter vegetables.  Did I say all?  Um, I meant most.  My kids aren’t crazy about one winter vegetable…brussel sprouts.

My kids tend to delight in normal kid stuff like, well, farts.  Brussel sprouts, closely related to cabbage, are notoriously gas producing.  Shouldn’t that be my number one selling point in adding brussel sprouts to our dinner repertoire?  I mean, what could be more fun than that for my kids….seriously.  With their competitive nature, I see this as a win win food offering, if you catch my drift (waft, hang time…).

And that’s how I tried to sell it to my kids. They know enough to know what a cruciferous vegetable is, and what that produces.  Slow roasted fresh brussel sprouts gently browning in the oven smell, well, cabbage like.  Rats.  That wasn’t going to sell my kids on these delicious sprouts.  Of course my mouth is watering, but the kids are scrunching their nose up.  So in the interest of family peace, I now reserve brussel spouts for when I dine at a restaurant.   So I took the sprouts out of the family dinner rotation, but continue on a quest for a fresh seasonal change.

Still wanting variety, I reverted back to another inexpensive vegetable…zucchini.  I like to roast these with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with perhaps a few shreds of fresh parmesan.  But on this particular night, I was pinched for time and looking for a quick veggie option.  I still used zucchini, but took it in a super quick and easy direction.

Splitting the zucchini down the middle, I then pulled my cast iron grill pan out and heated it up.  I drizzled with zucchini with olive oil, and onto the grill pan it went.  I seared it much like a piece of meat, not quite knowing how it would end up.   After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side.  I then put a bit of fresh parmesan cheese on top.  The result was fantastic.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum!

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan. It was sizzling and searing. Yum!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and oh so tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

Oh, and  you may want to take a page out of my book and order your brussel sprouts out at your favorite place Saturday night!

 

 

Roasted Veggies-3 ways

7 Dec

The other day I had two things:  a lot of good fresh fall vegetables and a little extra time.  So I went to my happy place…the kitchen.  I decided to roast the vegetables.  I started peeling, chopping and layering.  This was going to be a big honking batch of veggies!  Mushrooms, bell peppers, butternut squash, onions, celery…Yum!

A big batch it was.  After they were chopped, I dusted the vegetables with salt, pepper, basil, and parsley then sprinkled olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar on them as well.  After a good healthy stir, I poured them onto a lined baking dish and placed them in a preheated 400 degree oven.  Almost immediately, warm succulent aromas began to fill the house.  My mouth began to water with those decadent scents wafting though the air.

I checked the vegetables after 15 minutes in the oven and couldn’t resist sneaking a taste. Ooh!  What a delicious bite!  Back into the oven for a few minutes, and then they were ready.  We enjoyed the roasted  veggies with lovely grilled salmon.

Did I mention that it was a big ol’ batch of fall veggies?  And that I love leftovers?  Did we ever have leftovers!  But that’s okay.  They were fantastic to have around.  And like spaghetti, the vegetables were more flavorful as leftovers.

Leftovers day one: Roasted veggies made an amazing addition to an omelet the next morning.

Leftovers day two:  I cooked quinoa to mix into the vegetables.  That created  a powerhouse side dish of veggies and quinoa.

Leftovers day three: Roasted veggies piled on a turkey sandwich.  Who needs mayo??

And that is what you do with leftovers my friends.  I used a little extra time to cook big, and had nutritious  leftovers to launch other dishes.

True Story…

5 Dec

It is turning REALLY chilly.  I have soup on the brain…again!  But I also have yummy fresh fall produce on the brain too.  Gosh…can those two be related?  Oh yeah!

So true story.  This morning leaving for work I catch a glimpse of a big butternut squash sitting on the kitchen table (I always have a platter of fresh fruits and veggies on the kitchen table ready to go).  I hung on to that thought.  Once I got to work the thought of that big flavorful squash was pushed from the front to the back of my mind while I concentrated on work, but it was still there.

I really had food on the brain, and that was going to make its way out to a yummy dinner for my family.  I kept thinking…what could I do with that squash?  Then it struck me.  I had some beautiful lump crabmeat in the fridge to use up too, and I was determined to get those two things together.

Denis has been talking about making soup lately, and any soup he ever makes is fabulous.  Hey, how about soup with butternut squash and crab? Yes!  that was it.  I thought my head would explode because it sounded so good (plus I’d had a tiny breakfast and was hungry!!).  I texted Denis.  I knew one text would hook him on the idea too.  And it did.

I walked into the house after work.  Even thought my dog was happy to see me and jumping around my ankles in joy at my return, I stopped dead in my tracks.  I did not bend down and talk to her as I usually do.  My head went back.  My eyes closed.  I breathed in deep.  I knew instantly that Denis was there and cooking.  It smelled amazing.  I had to take it all in.  The house smelled incredible.

After a minute of taking the scents and aromas in, I gave my sweet dog some attention.  Then off I went in the direction of the kitchen.  Dinner was fantastic.  Soup was perfect for that chilly night!  What do you have on hand to  make soup with tonight?

 

The butternut squash crab soup and a glass of wine made the perfect cold night dinner!  See the beautiful plate of veggies on the table?  It is great to be veg ready!

The butternut squash crab soup and a glass of wine made the perfect cold night dinner! See the beautiful plate of veggies on the table? It is great to be veg ready!

CSA

5 Oct

The first fall CSA box was ready this week.  What a wonderful fall bounty to kick off the fall farm season! It is time to continue making comfort food, switching from summer light and airy salads to more chowders and hearty pasta sauces.  And my fall CSA is feeding directly into that.  What is a CSA you say?  Well only the best thing since sliced bread!  If you aren’t involved with a CSA, now is time to get involved.

A CSA is a way to support a local farm that participates in Consumer Supported Agriculture.  Participating in a CSA is a fantastic way to become engaged with local farms. Supporting local organizations through attending and purchasing from local farmers markets is a wonderful connect to the community, and participating in a CSA is an extension of that support.

The farm that I support with the CSA program offers either a half or whole share per season, and there is a financial commitment.  You pay for your seasonal share ahead of time.  The amount of produce in the share is the difference in size.  Fall is very busy for my family, so this fall I opted for a half share.  What does that mean?

A share is a portion of local produce that the farm is seasonally harvesting.  With a CSA, the member goes to the farm or designated community location once a week to pick up their share of fresh produce.  The produce is fresh, local, and intended to be used within a few days.  By the time the produce is used, its time to go back to the farm for another share.

This week, my share included cucumbers, turnips, potatoes, an acorn squash, corn on the cob, and the bonus of a late season watermelon.   Last night, I used the potatoes and turnips to make a potato turnip gratin.  My children had not ever had turnips before, and making a warm hearty potato dish with turnips added was a great way to introduce the vegetable to them (for the record, the boys loved it, my daughter not so much…).

I used the cucumbers to make some refreshing cucumber water to keep in the fridge.  With the acorn squash, I simply cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and baked it in a 400 degree oven.  I put a little butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in the center before baking.  Easy and delicious.  I served it along side a baked chicken.  It is fun to be creative with the ingredients.

I can’t wait to see what is in my CSA share this week.  I pick my share up on the actual farm that grows and harvests the produce.  Leaving my office during a busy day, driving 10-15 minutes down the road to the farm, and having a chance to talk to the farmers while getting my share is something I look forward to all week.  My family is excited to see what I bring home, and we have a blast with the ingredients.  Best of all, I get a chance to support local farmers and have fresh, healthy seasonal produce.

If I am delayed and don’t make it to the farm one week to retrieve my share, it is donated to the local community food pantry or food bank.  Look for a CSA in your community and let me know what you come up with!

My CSA share this week.  I am having a blast experimenting.

My CSA share this week. I am having a blast experimenting.

Sweet fragrant and decadent  late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Sweet fragrant and decadent late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Just Squash it!

30 Oct

It is fall and time to cook up some squash!  And I am not talking about the little summer squash.  I am talking about the big honking fall squash, like acorn squash and my all time fav…spaghetti squash!

Squash is budget friendly, especially this time of year, so it is time to make the most of our food dollars!  Spaghetti squash is pretty big, and there are lots of ways to cook it.  I just plop it into a big soup pot, cover it with water, get it to boiling, toss the lid on, and then figure out what I am going to do with it while it simmers.

Spaghetti squash has a pretty neutral flavor profile, making it perfect to use in a million different ways.  It is packed with nutrition. low in fat, (if you allow it to stay that way) and wonderfully versatile!  Tonight I am making spaghetti squash bake with roasted vegetables.  You need a little time to do this because cooking a big squash cannot be rushed.  So pour a glass of Pinot Noir, and lets figure this out.

As I mentioned, I just boil my squash.  While that squash is simmering, I cut up 2 green zucchini. I had a package of precut mushrooms and some grape tomatoes too.  I placed the veggies on a parchment covered baking sheet, then added the mushrooms and tomatoes.  I doused this with a little olive oil, some vinegar, (true confessions…I love acidic food!), and dusted it with salt, pepper and herb de Provence.  The veggies cooked in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

When the veggies were done, so was the squash.  It was out of the water, on the counter, and cut in half cooling.  I spooned out the seeds, much like cleaning out a pumpkin.  Only the flesh remained.  I raked it into strands and put that into a baking dish.  A little tomato sauce went on top.  Then the roasted veggies.  And here is when I got a bit naughty (sorry mom!). I sprinkled it with cheese.  Back into a 350 degree oven it went.

It baked for about 25 minutes, with lightly seasoned chicken breasts in the oven too.  The squash and chicken were ready at the same time.  Dinner was delicious!  Look at my story in pictures.

The strands of spaghetti squash.

The strands of spaghetti squash.

The roasted vegetables!  Yum!

The roasted vegetables! Yum!

spaghetti squab went into a baking dish and was topped with tomato sauce.

spaghetti squab went into a baking dish and was topped with tomato sauce.

Roasted veggies topped the tomato sauce, and cheese was sprinkled to finish it!

Roasted veggies topped the tomato sauce, and cheese was sprinkled to finish it!

You can’t beat a beet!

12 Jun

Beautiful roasted beets!

I have always enjoyed beets.  But for some reason, I have totally gotten into them lately.  Maybe its just that they are in season, inexpensive, and just so darn delicious!  They are amazing grilled.  Roasted in the oven makes them sweeter!  They can even simply be boiled, cooled, peeled, sliced, and chilled.  They can then be enjoyed in a salad.

First, let’s chat about the nutritional value of a beet.  Beets are a root vegetable like a carrot.  They are in season right now.  They contain significant amounts of folate and vitamin C.  Beets are also rich in niacin, vitamin B6, iron, potassium and magnesium.  In other words, beets are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  And bonus!  The red color is a fabulous antioxidant!  (Gentle reminder…antioxidants are great for cell rejuvenation, which can help our organs function better and keep wrinkles at bay!).

Now, onto getting the beets from the garden or market to the table.  If you grab beets in the grocery store, look for firm round beets with nice green stems and leaves.  When you get ready to cook them, wash them up and cut off the greens.  Do not throw those greens away though!  Chop them up and toss them into a salad.  If a salad is not on the menu that day, wrap the greens in a damp paper towel and put them in the fridge.  They will make the most flavorful addition to your next salad!  Promise!

OK.  Back to cooking the beets.  The beets can be peeled, cut into quarters, and spread out onto a baking sheet.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on then, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss into a 400 degree oven until tender, about  35-45 minute, depending on the size of the beet.  Check doneness with a fork.

Beets are also fantastic on the grill.  Simply grill them on a little pan or some foil.  Again, just wash, peel, and quarter them, add a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss them on.  Close the grill lid and let the grill do its job.  I have also tossed beets onto the grill in a pouch made from tin foil.  I literally made a loose pouch around the beets out of tin foil and placed on the grill.

Beets with crumbled goat cheese and walnuts.

I have served beets right off the grill.  I have also added a little crumbled goat cheese and walnuts over the top of warm beets.  I have taken leftover beets and added them to a cold lettuce salad.  Some mandarin oranges are also a great addition to a salad of greens and beets.  Sweet surprise…I have gotten fresh ravioli stuffed with beets at the farmers market.  3 minutes in boiling water, a little parmesan cheese or a simple white sauce over the top, and call it a big huge yum!

Any way you cook them, beets are packed with flavor, nutrition, and antioxidants.  As you can see below, I have grilled them with summer squash.  The colors together are fantastic and make a beautiful presentation.  Get creative or go easy and simple.  Any way you decide to prepare beets, it will be a winning dish.

Simple Grilled Beets! Yum!