Though it’s getting warmer now, I’m still saying goodbye to winter.

whole wheat

I had an impulse buy in the grocery store this week – I picked up a can of organic butternut squash puree. I had no idea what I would do with it. After assessing the other impulse buys in my pantry, I decided to pair the squash with some orecchiette pasta.


My husband normally doesn’t care too much for the squash/pasta dinners I’ve tried in the past… or squash used as a sauce (chicken and pumpkin enchiladas I made a few years ago is one of the few meals he’s actually turned down!). He did, however, enjoy this recipe!


The squash makes the pasta a little sweet, but it’s not an overpowering taste. The onions, garlic and rosemary balance the sweetness a bit, and the ricotta I added to the squash makes it a little creamier. I would probably prefer this made as a side dish (maybe served with chicken breast?), just because there’s not enough flavor complexity here to really hold my interest for an entire meal. But we all know I’m a finnicky eater 🙂 I highly recommend using orecchiette if you have it at your grocery store – it’s a neat little pasta and works great with non-marinara type sauces!

prebaking with bread

Goodbye winter and cold weather squash – I’ll miss you!

Baked Orecchiette with Organic Butternut Squash

Baked Orecchiette with Organic Butternut Squash
inspired by Martha’s Winter Squash and Shells

2 small/medium onions, thinly sliced
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1/3 cup low-fat ricotta
2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted and cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F and butter a 13×9 casserole/baking dish. Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add onions. Season the onions with salt, pepper and rosemary, and toss occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir and cook onions until browned and soft, approximately 15-20 minutes.

While onions are cooking, heat water for pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain pasta when done, reserving one cup of the pasta water.

Add squash, ricotta and pasta water to onions, simmering for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to casserole dish and sprinkle with toasted whole wheat bread. Season with additional salt and pepper, and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

I do, on occasion, try to eat a meatless dinner. Flipping through Giada De Laurentiis’s Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites always helps to make me feel good about veggies again. Italian cooking has a lot of great vegetables and healthy things about it, but in restaurants the food just seems to get so bogged down with cheeses and oil. Giada unearths the good food under all the excess.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese1

I was drawn to her Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Pamesan Crust recipe… but with a few changes, of course!

I traded in the new potatoes for two small to medium sized Russet potatoes. I also added in two yellow squash in addition to the zucchini, and I used a bit of shredded Vermont White Cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan. Instead of buying fresh herbs (which are wonderful, but just not that accessible for a quick weeknight dinner) I used dried. I thought the result was pretty awesome.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese2

Since I had more vegetables than the original recipe, I added in a little more unsalted butter to cook them in. So that I didn’t turn a relatively healthy meal into a butter fiesta, I used 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons of Smart Balance butter. I would also recommend that you cook the veggies in batches in your skillet; I had a giant skillet to use and even with that things were just a little too crowded. The vegetables taste great, with a tiny bit of salt, cheese and butter giving it just enough zip to turn a veggiephobe into a new friend for life.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese3

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 small/medium size Russet potatoes, cleaned and quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch pieces
2 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch pieces
Pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Vermont white cheddar

Boil a medium pot of water on high heat. Add quartered potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into 2 inch pieces when cooled.

Over medium heat, place a medium saute pan with butter, garlic, thyme and rosemary – heat until the butter melts. Meanwhile, lightly salt the cut surfaces of the zucchini, squash and potatoes. Place the cut side down in the melted butter and cook for about 15 minutes when golden brown.

Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the sheet with the cut side facing up. Sprinkle with Vermont cheddar. Broil until cheese melts (about 4 minutes). Serve while hot!

Not Quite Rice Noodles – Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry

The massive snow storm of 2010 appears to have abetted, finally. Forecast predicts a wee bit more snow (argh) but we should returning to normal soon. Have I mentioned that I hate winter? I hate winter. At least there’s squash.

Spaghetti Squash Broccoli Wokly!

Another adventure with spaghetti squash! At 89 cents a pound it’s rather hard to pass up. I didn’t feel like going pasta style and had a hankering for stir fry. I think broccoli is my favorite vegetable. I kinda just ran with this one not knowing where it’d end up. Overall, pretty happy; though I’d leave out the bean sprouts next time. They just didn’t add anything, and took away a bit. Still, quite proud and I shall do it again!


Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry With Broccoli

1 small spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large onion; quartered and sliced
1 green bell pepper; cut into slices
4 cloves garlic; minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 jalapeno pepper; diced
8 ounces broccoli; cut into small florets

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Pierce the squash several times and cook at 350° for an hour. Once done, let cool and cut in half lengthwise. Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Cook the onion and green pepper with the peanut oil in a large wok under high heat for several minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper and cook, constantly stirring until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, add 1/3 cup of water and the broccoli. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until all the water boils away. Add the remaining ingredients and toss, mixing well, and serve.


Detoxing from Halloween with Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

Good morning! I hope you had a great Halloween. I spent much of the day watching scary movies, reformatting my computer from Vista to Windows 7 and going to bed by 10:30 PM in order to be up at 5 AM for an early hospital shift – riveting, I know!


You’ve probably had enough of Halloween candy and sweets for a little while (I haven’t, but the scale says otherwise), so this recipe should help if you need some detox along the way.

scoopedseedspost roasting

The other day I made an Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup. It’s a little bit sweet and very tasty. It would make a great appetizer soup for a Thanksgiving dinner party to introduce the meal, or you can have it for weeknight dinner and enjoy the leftovers for a few more nights (like my husband and I did).


I changed a few things from the original recipe including leaving out shallots and chives. Because the squash and sweet potato would already be sweet, I didn’t want to introduce the sweet onion shallot flavor as well. Shallots can also be a little expensive.


I’d never worked with acorn squash before this actually, and it’s very easy. My trick to scoop out the insides after roasting the squash was to use a melon baller – the squash flesh came apart easily and without a lot of mess.


Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper to garnish.


Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Pumpkins & Squashes

1 large sweet potato
1 medium acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup light cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut sweet potato and squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out squash seeds and brush cut sides with oil

Place cut squash and sweet potato halves cut-side down in a shallow roasting pan (I used an old brownie pan). Add unpeeled garlic cloves around the vegetables. Roast for 40 minutes until tender.

When cool, pin down one end of the squash with a fork and scoop flesh (ie, the insides) from potato and squash with a melon baller, leaving the skins behind. Peel garlic and add soft insides and scooped flesh to a large saucepan.

Add the chicken broth and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for approximately 30 minutes, until vegetables are very tender. Stir occasionally.

Cool slightly and transfer to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Work in batches so that you do not overflow your machine. If using a food processor, strain off the cooking liquid and reserve. Process the veggies with only enough liquid to moisten it, then combine with remaining liquid when fully processed.

Return soup to rinsed pan and stir in light cream. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes or until heated through. Garnish as desired and serve!\

I never saw the movie Ratatouille when it came out, despite its rave reviews and the insistence of my friends. “You love food! Why haven’t you seen it!?” Add it to the long long list of movies I’ve never gotten around to. After insisting I see the movie, many people insisted I make the actual dish it’s named after, believing the veggie maniac in me would love it. Oh, how little they know me!

Anti-Zucchini Ratatouille With Rice

The dish in the movie was not actually ratatouille (gasp!). It was in fact a dish called confit byaldi, which is a variation of the original French dish (actually, it’s a variation of the classic confit byaldi, so really it’s a variation of a variation, but I digress). There were a bunch of tweaks here and there to the recipe but one of the most notable for me was the prominent role zucchini played. Summer squash and I, we’re not friends. You add that sucker to just about any dish and it’s a good chance it’ll ruin it for me. I once made a vegetarian chili with a good deal of this foul ingredient and it was so bad I had to throw it out (and I hate wasting food).

Mmmm Veggies

I do, however, enjoy winter squashes; being far less bitter than their warm weather counterparts. I decided to try a variation because the idea of a meal so rich in delicious vegetables was very enticing. So I threw in acorn squash and while I was at it I replaced the juicier tomatoes with cherry tomatoes (which, I acknowledge, is a bit of a pain in the butt to chop when you have a pound of them) so the individual ingredients could have a chance to express themselves. Maybe it’s just me, but often I feel like tomato sauce is just too strong to play nicely with mild flavors. Don’t like your meatloaf? Drown it in ketchup!

Buncha Cherry Tomatoes

I was pretty pleased with the results, though I doubt this could be considered any more authentic than the movie version. The vegetables definitely kept their identity and the versatility of this dish is a big plus. You can use it as a side, the main course, over rice, over couscous… If you prefer a more “wet” dish, just replace the cherry tomatoes with plum or canned.

Onion and Cherry Tomatoes Anti-Zucchini Ratatouille

Anti-Zucchini Ratatouille

1 eggplant; chopped into 1/2-1 inch cubes
1 acorn squash; cut into fourths
2 bell peppers of any kind (I recommend at least one sweet: red, yellow, orage)
1 lb cherry tomatoes; chopped
2 onion; chopped
4 garlic cloves; minced
Leaves from one sprig of thyme; chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf.

Preheat the oven to 450. Place your eggplant in a bowl with about 4 tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon of salt (this is approximate, assuming a pound of eggplant) and mix to combine. Spread onto baking sheets so they have a little space between them. Using a brush (or your hands), lightly coat the acorn squash with olive oil and place in its own baking pan. Deseed and cut in half your beller peppers and place in their own baking pan. Roast everything for 15-20 minutes until the bell pepper skins are beginning to loosen. Leave the acorn squash in for another 10-15 minutes until the flesh is tender. Let everything cool until it can be handled.

Chop the bell peppers and place in a bowl along with the eggplant. After removing the skin from the squash, chop and add to the bowl. Set aside.

In a large (LARGE. Everything’s gonna end up in this sucker) pan under low to medium low heat, cook your onions and garlic with the herbs and spices with two tablespoons of oil until the onions are very soft; approximately 8-10 minutes. You’re cooking under low heat to avoid browning, so be sure to watch and stir on occasion.

Add the tomatoes, raise the temperature oh so slightly and cook until the tomatoes have begun to soften but still have their shape; approximately 10 minutes. Add your bowl of vegetables along with the salt and pepper to taste. Cook to reduce some of the liquid out and so that all the ingredients have a chance to mingle; approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat, server and enjoy.

Season Of Soups – Winter Minestrone with Fennel

Winter is officially here in DC, and by officially I mean it has been decided by me. It didn’t feel like we had much of an autumn this year, which is a shame. Autumn is a beautiful time of the year, with the mild cold adding a crispness to the air without being harsh enough to shuffle you indoors and into a quasi-hibernation state (I’m talking about you winter). Alas, all good things must come to an end.

For me, winter lends itself to old-fashioned meals; comfort foods. Slow, languid cooking just seems right. The crock pot and dutch oven become the stars this season, using their special skills to transform the bitter winter vegetables into a sweet and savory meal. Yes, it is the season of soups and stews; some of my favorite food.

Big Pot O' Soup

While volunteering for chef Christine Illich at L’Academie de Cuisine a few months ago I picked up a delicious minestrone recipe, perfect for the winter. This soup freezes well and like all good soups is flexible with regard to the ingredients used. Feel free the experiment. You’re sure to come up with delicious results.

Winter Minestrone Soup with Fennel

Winter Minestrone with Fennel
adapted from Christine Illich
If you enjoy the fennel flavoring, consider chopping some of the fronds leftover and adding it in addition to the rosemary.

parmesan (optional)
1/4 pound spiral pasta (fusilli, rigatoni, etc)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion; chopped
2 large carrots; chopped
4 stalks of celery; chopped
1 fennel bulb; chopped
2 large leeks; chopped
8 cups of water
1 medium-sized winter squash (I recommend butternut); peeled and chopped
10 ounces spinach (if frozen, drained); chopped
1 large sweet potato; peeled and chopped
1 can great northern beans; drained
1 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs of rosemary; chopped

Boil the pasta as per the package’s instructions.

Sweat the onion, carrots and celery for ten minutes. Add the leeks and fennel for another 10. Add the water, squash, spinach, sweet potato, beans, salt and rosemary and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Add additional salt to taste.

To service, place a spoonful or more of pasta into a bowl and pour the soup over. Grate parmesan on top.

This has got to be the craziest vegetable I’ve ever worked with. My friend Lindsay and I were rock climbing and somehow the conversation transitioned to food. Why, I have no idea. I feel a study should be conducted on how often I talk about food in comparison to how often I talk about… anything else. Anyway, Lindsay told me of this magical vegetable called spaghetti squash, aptly named because its flesh falls away in strands similar to spaghetti. This blew my mind. “So you can make spaghetti with squash? Madness!” So of course being the vegetable freak I am I had to try it.

Spaghetti Squash Close Up

Like just about every vegetable, spaghetti squash has high nutritious value, being a good source for folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene (thank you Wikipedia). It’s also a low calorie food making it a great option for post Thanksgiving meals. I recommend going with the smaller sizes which are much easier to work with (I’m sporting a nice burn on my left hand right now) and more flavorful.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce

To be fair, spaghetti squash will never truly compete with pasta for the same dishes. You can’t get a true al dente texture with spaghetti squash, but instead a crunch. Still, it’s a nice variation that I will be revisiting again. This is something that might go great with a flavorful butter sage sauce or a garlic pesto.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce

1 small spaghetti squash; approximately 2 pounds in weight
8 ounces of your favorite spaghetti sauce

While bringing a large part of water to a boil, piece the squash in several places. This will help the insides cook. Add the squash carefully to the pot, preferably with tongs and boil for approximately 25 minutes until the skin is tender. If the pot isn’t large enough to cover the squash in water, then occasionally rotate with your tongs 3-4 times during the cooking process.

While the squash is cooking, prepare your spaghetti sauce or heat your premade sauce in a medium sized pot. Once the squash is ready, strain in a colander and let sit to cool down and continue to drain. After a few minutes, transfer to a cutting board and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous center. Then, pull the fork lengthwise through the flesh of the squash to separate it into strands. Either throw in with your tomato sauce or serve into a bowl and add the sauce separately.