A New Squash Appreciation

When I was a little girl and was given squash for dinner, I had a couple of different ideas on how to handle this undesirable vegetable.  None of them included eating it.  I either dropped it on the floor for the dog to eat, left it on my plate until it was much to cold to eat or my favorite was to mix it with cranberry sauce and pretend I was eating peanut butter and jelly.  I said it was my favorite idea, just not a good tasting one.

Over the years, I tried in vain to acquire a taste for it.  I would think I liked the way it was prepared but when I ate it or tried to make it myself it had that same appeal that it had when I was a child.  I felt I would never grow to like squash, in any form.

Lately, however, I have been venturing out and a desire for different types of squash is burning.  I have had it pan-fried in hash and roasted in soups.  When I was at the market the other day, I went totally out of the box and picked up a spaghetti squash.  I didn’t even know how I was going to prepare it, but I knew I was going to do something!

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Imagine the odds when a couple of days later I came across this recipe from Half Baked Harvest’s blog for Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.  I immediately went out, bought my ingredients and prepared my version of her recipe.

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I was totally amazed!  This had everything I loved about lasagna but was made with squash.  Could it be?  Could I actually have found a squash that I really loved?  I think the answer was a big yes.  I can’t really call this a healthy meal because of the cheese in it, but I do have to say it’s slightly better than eating a dish of lasagna.  Squash versus pasta equals a healthy alternative, so we have a partial win with this one.

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To make this easier if you’re in a pinch you can always use your favorite jarred sauce and for the cheese sauce, just layer parmesan and mozzarella cheese as you would in the traditional recipe.  If you do have the time however, go all out and do it as the recipe states.  It is so worth it.

Take it from a former squash hater.  This is one recipe you’ll keep!

 

 

Farro Risotto with Roasted Squash, Apple and Kale

I love this time of year.  I’m ready after the humid, muggy summer to breathe in some fresh crisp air.  I long for my sweaters and log fires to warm the evenings.  With the falling leaves comes the desire of using the abundance of fall flavors such as sage, pumpkins, squash and apples.

Did I mention I love fall?

I’m obsessed with apples right now.  I brought several different types of apples home with me the other day from the market, preparing for an all out apple fest.  I dove in, ready to conquer the sweet to the savory. The only thing I was missing was the road side apple cider stand.

So I have my apples, I love the fall and now I have to do something with all of it.  Well, that’s easy.  I decided to make this combination of a couple of recipes I had seen…  it was everything the autumn season is all about.  Farro Risotto with Apples, Squash, Kale and Sage.  My husband is loving me so much right now.  This meal is on his diet plan since it’s fairly healthy, but it’s also got flavor, texture and comfort, and it doesn’t taste like it’s a diet plan.

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I paired this with crispy chicken thighs and an apple cider gravy which will be coming in my next post, but for now try this out.   It’s in the top ten of my husband’s all time favorites, so I think you will like it.

Put on a sweater and fill your belly with the taste of fall.  It’s a yum on the food meter!

 

 

Cold Weather and Soup

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There comes a point in time when I am tired of the summer weather.  I know many of you won't agree with me but I long for sweaters and fires and cozy comfort.  That is probably one reason why I decided I needed to ignore the 75 degree weather in the beginning of October and make some soup.

I love soup.  It takes me back to those childhood days of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches my mom would make me.  It was soup out of a can but it still gave you the warmth and cozy home feeling after the chill of the autumn air.

I had seen this soup recipe in our local newspaper and of course I couldn't leave it alone...I had to put my own spin on it.  I am so glad I did because as we were sitting around the table in our shorts and flip-flops, my husband said to me that if we weren't already married, after eating this soup he would have married me!  How is that for a testimonial on how good this was?

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This is super easy to make so even on a busy day, you can have this for your family dinner.   A salad and some crusty bread will make it a complete meal.

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Cold weather will be here soon and I will be making this again.  Heavy socks, a warm sweater and a bowl of this soup will take me back to my mom's kitchen.  I don't know about you, but it doesn't get any better than that.

 

Dinner for one

There are all forms of entertaining.  Of course there are the big parties, dinners and events.  There are also smaller and more intimate settings when you have another couple over or it’s a special dinner just for the two of you. You plan, you do the shopping, the preparation and then hope everyone oohs and ahhs.  It’s validation for the work and time you put into it and you go to sleep thinking everything was worth all the effort.  But have you ever thought of putting that same effort into a dinner for one?

What do people do when they eat alone?  I know when I was single and just starting out, dinner usually consisted of a bowl of cereal or a bag of popcorn.  I never thought of making an effort for myself.  I’m going to assume that a lot of single people have the same way of looking at things as I do.  We just do whatever is the easiest.

Tonight however, I changed my mind about things.  My husband was going to play cards with the guys and I was going to be alone for the evening.  In the past I would have eaten something I could just grab.   Not that there is anything wrong with a bowl of cereal or grabbing what ever is in the refrigerator at the moment, but I decided with the lifestyle changes we are making in our home I should make the effort and do the same for myself as I would anyone else that would be eating dinner in my home.  I was going to make myself a real dinner.

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I was inspired by a recipe in Bon Appétit that sounded so good, but my husband wasn’t as excited about this meal as I was.  It calls for adding lobster to pasta.  What was I thinking?  Doing something with it other than boil it and dip it in butter?  It was the perfect opportunity to try this…and I’m so glad I did!   Not only was this very tasty, it was also relatively easy.  The lobster was still tender and sweet with a nice spicy complement from the pasta and sauce.

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You could of course do this meal for your guests and still get the oohs and ahhs.  They won’t know how easy it was or that most of it could be done in advance.  Or you could wait until that one night when you’re sitting all alone and don’t want a bag of popcorn for dinner.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your own company.  It’s worth the oohs and ahhs you’re going to give yourself.

 

Roasted Beets from the Farmer’s Market

There is really only one reason I will get up early on a Saturday morning and venture out before 9AM.  It’s all about the Farmer’s Markets.  The feeling I have is almost like when I was a child and the fair was coming to town.  The sights, the smells, the people all make the morning of the farmer’s market visit so appealing and so euphoric.  When I leave it I have the feeling I’ve just finished a massage and left behind a very good friend, but I know that they will be there waiting for me the following Saturday, so it’s all okay.

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The market makes it so easy to follow the adage of From Farm To Table.  You walk around and everything is so beautiful, it makes you want to buy the freshest and the healthiest of what you will be eating.  I remember not to long ago my friend Erin and I were at the market and she told me how she loved a roasted beet salad.  I, never being a fan of beets, ended up taking some home and making a roast beet salad.  Both my husband and I became instant beet lovers!

 

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For me, it’s almost like going to an organic mini mall.  You can buy flowers, herbs, homemade breads and cheeses.  There are jewelery vendors, crafts and of course all the freshest vegetables around.  Can it get any better than that?  On our last Saturday outing, my husband said as we were leaving how much fun it was.  And that, my dear friend, is exactly what I’ve been talking about!

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So next Saturday get up early and go to your local Farmer’s Market.

Buy fresh, buy local….and make a roasted beet salad.  From farm to table, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Roasted Fennel and Sausage Orecchiette

Pasta has always been one of my favorite go-to comfort foods.  it’s probably not the best thing for my diet, but on a cold night there is nothing better.  For someone like me, however,  the basic tomato sauce can be a bit boring so I’m always trying to find something that ranks a little higher on the taste thermometer.

I think I found something.

This had everything I was looking for…ingredients that could stand alone individually on flavor, lots of color and it was not your typical spaghetti and red sauce.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over with my husband…he is after all, a sauce man and you typically cannot change is mind.  The pressure was on…..

I adapted this from Giada’s cooking show.  One of the things I changed was the sausage.  You can use whatever sausage you like but I opted for a sausage made at Whole Foods.  Chicken sausage with red peppers and garlic..  One of their best in my opinion with a lot of zest and flavor.  And for me, I roasted the fennel just a bit longer than the time given, only because I like mine a bit more charred.

The aroma when cooking this meal was amazing, the colors were beautiful and the taste was so flavorful.  I don’t think my husband even realized there wasn’t a sauce.  I must have changed his way of thinking because he went back for more!

I love this meal and I think you will too.  Pair it with a nice salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got a comfort food that your guests will all enjoy!

Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Valentine’s Day.  Most people are going out to dinner, sending flowers or eating pounds of chocolate.  In my earlier life, I may have wanted all that but I have to say as I’ve gotten older it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  Sorry Hallmark….but I think you should show the people in your life that you love them every day of the year and not just one.  With that said, I still wanted to do something nice for my husband so I decided to make a dinner that I thought he would enjoy.  Throw in a little candlelight, a nice bottle of wine and voilà!

I decided on seasoned beef tenderloin, roasted pepper salsa and stuffed gorgonzola tomatoes.  I am not a beef lover, but my husband certainly is and we both felt the tenderloin turned out quite nice.  The salsa, with it’s tangy bite  was a nice compliment to the savory tenderness of the meat.  What surprised me however, was that the tomato turned out to be the star of the evening.  It was so easy to do and yet such an elegant addition to the meal.

I was telling my friends what I had done a day or two later and I was amazed that everyone seemed interested in my sharing of this recipe.   It was one I found in a magazine,  inspired by Giada. I think this is really great if you’re having a dinner party, if it’s just a couple of people or even if you’re eating alone.  It’s very easy and very good.  I highly recommend this.

So, make this for someone you love, including yourself…. and it can be any day of the year.

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