Winter squashes are really rewarding to grow. And they just keep growing, and growing and growing, and pretty soon everyone in the neighborhood is bringing them over is baskets and buckets to share them with you. Now I really love squash, so I wouldn’t want them to stop offering to share the bounty, but I’m running out of room. I mean there’s squash everywhere in the kitchen, a few in the garage, and I just can’t stand the idea of any of it going to waste. So when there’s too much of anything I bag it and put it in the freezer. Fortunately, squash freezes beautifully, and I just peel it, cut it into bite size chunks and freeze a few bags for roasting later in the winter. I also cook some in the microwave until tender, puree it and freeze flat in bags for using in pie, breads, and even souffles.
Still, my favorite way to enjoy squash is stuffed and baked in the oven. This delicious, flexible recipe is one I got from my sister-in-law, Skye Morgan O’Malley. You can use any kind of winter squash including pumpkin, and make either sweet or savory variations. Below is the sweet recipe which is a good choice for those of us who grew up eating sweet potatoes and squash with butter and brown sugar, but you can give it a savory twist by cutting back on the sugar and adding a some browned sausage.
Baked Curried Squash
Baked Curried Squash
The recipe below is for 4 servings.
2 butternut or acorn squash, or small pumpkins
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 tsp curry powder (you can adjust this to taste)
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup each dried fruit like cherries, cranberries and golden raisins
3/4 cup diced apple
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (strictly optional)
1/8 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmet, ginger, allspice and cardamon, or (2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1 cup of browned crumbled sausage (vegetarian option – Leave it out or substitute curmbled up Morningstar breakfast patties)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Lightly oil a baking pan and set aside.
In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter with all of the stuffing ingredients. (You can substitute a tablespoon of vegetable broth for the oil). Set aside.
With a sharp knife or other suitable instrument, split the squash or pumpkin in half, or cut the top off and remove all of the seeds and fibers.Scrap clean.
Fill the hollowed out squash or pumpkin with the stuffing ingredients and place in the baking pan.
Lightly spray the squash with cooking spray or oil, place in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the flesh is fork tender.
Helpful Tip:Slice just enough of the rind off the bottom of the squash so it will sit flat in the pan.
One of the things most people worry about when contemplating a vegetarian diet is getting enough to eat. There’s this myth that if we’re not eating meat, we’re going to be hungry. It’s not true, but we build our meals around that idea. Most traditional meals have three main components: meat main dish, starch side dish and a token vegetable of some variety. On the other hand, vegetarian eating is a lot more interesting and isn’t limited to three dishes. You can spread the protein part of the meal through several different dishes, and there can be four or even five different dishes in the meal. It’s about color and texture and taste. The main thing is that each dish should be healthy, nutritious and even fun. Below is one of my favorite savory dishes to brighten up the gray days in January. Add a bean salad, some broccoli with lemon butter, and some spiced tomatoes. I guarantee no one will leave the table hungry.
I love savory dishes and one of my favorites is a recipe I discovered recently for Carrot-Tarragon Tart. This is a beautiful dish and although it sounds too fancy for a midweek meal, it’s really pretty easy. I’ve added some of my own touches to this, so feel free to experiment a little.
Lisa’s No Fuss Crust
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cold milk
Sift flour into ungreased pie plate or tart pan.
In a cup, combine oil and milk and mix until cloudy. Pour onto the flour and mix with a fork.
When flour is combined and the mixture is somewhat lumpy, use your fingers to press the dough evenly toward the edges of the pie plate and up the sides to cover the plate and form a crust.
Or, you can take the easy way out and use a pre-cut pastry round from the super market.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the crust until set but not browned for about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or canola oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (thinner is better)
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (you can do this in the food processor)
2 tablespoons dry sherry (not cooking sherry, use dry sherry, the kind you would drink) or rice vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (you can experiment with other cheeses – not mozzarella)
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs (in a pinch I’ve used three medium eggs and it turned out just fine)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or 3/4 teaspoon dried (if your using dried be careful not to overdo it-tarragon is a strong herb)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté gently, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the grated carrots and 1 tablespoon sherry (or rice vinegar) and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Spread mustard over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with cheese and just a tiny sprinkle of dried tarragon and spread the carrot mixture evenly in the tart shell.
Whisk together 1/2 cup yogurt, milk, eggs, tarragon, the remaining 1 tablespoon sherry (or rice vinegar), 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling.
Bake the tart until the filling is firm and the edges are golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.
You can make this the day before. Just loosely cover and refrigerate the baked tart for up to a day.
Green Beans with Nuts and Berries
1 14-oz package frozen green beans (fresh is great if you can get it, but most of us use frozen in the wintertime)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry or rice wine vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries and/or cherries
1 small onion, thinly sliced (you can use a shallot if you’re so inclined)
2 ounces feta crumbles
Blanch the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender-crisp, 3 -5 minutes. Remove the green beans from the boiling water, run under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking, and then drain, dry and let cool.
Whisk together the olive oil, sherry or vinegar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Stir in the salt and pepper.
Add the cool green beans to a large bowl and toss in the walnuts, berries and onion and drizzle in the vinaigrette. Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with the feta cheese.
Broccoli with Lemon Butter
Steamed fresh broccoli is great, or you can use frozen. In a small sauce pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter, and add the juice of one fresh lemon and pour it over the broccoli (add the zest for some extra kick).
1 15 oz can of diced low sodium tomatoes
2 star anise
10 whole cloves
2 teaspoons sugar
freshly ground pepper
Use an extra teaball for the spices, or make a bag of cheesecloth. In a small sauce pan combine the tomatoes, sugar and spices. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 15-20 minutes or bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. The more it cooks down the better. Remove the spices and serve either warm or cold as a side dish or as a relish.
Color, texture, taste and nutrition. Anybody leaves the table hungry, it’s their own fault. Enjoy!
Now that the holidays are over I’m craving something simple, light but nourishing and that won’t be too much of a strain on the budget. After all that rich food, I’m opting for vegetarian.
Easy Black Bean Chili with Brown Basmati Rice
2 16-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. vegetable oil or vegetable broth
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp garam masala
⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
14-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
¾ cup water
1 cup frozen corn kernels
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
In large nonstick fry pan or sauce pan, heat onion, bell pepper, jalapeño and garlic in the oil or vegetable broth. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to
soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add spices, tomatoes, beans and water, and simmer 15
minutes. Stir in corn and cook 1 minute. Stir in cilantro and serve with Brown Rice and Loaded Corn Muffins (see below).
Loaded Corn Muffins
This is a really delicious way to pack in some more vegetables and the kids will love them, and since I’m taking the easy way out here, I’m using up that box of corn muffin mix I had sitting around. Prepare the mix as directed. Stir in 1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables, and spoon into a muffin pan. This recipe makes about six giant muffins. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. It just doesn’t get much easier.