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Cooking Ripe! 2012 Review and 2013 Preview

What to do with all of those little yummies?Cooking Ripe! has moved to: CookingRipe.com – please join us on the new site!

Cooking Ripe! was launched in late August of 2012 and has had just under 3000 views so far. It’s been very exciting to get to share my garden-to-table recipes with so many people in such a short time. I’ve been learning a lot about this whole food blogging business and I am ready to take things to next level!

Coming in 2013: Cooking Ripe! will be moving to a new hosting site where we’ll have our very own domain name: CookingRipe.com. YAY! Our very own dot com address. Legit, right? With this change, you’ll notice that the blog will undergo some spiffing up and will get a new overall look. I hope to make it a little more user friendly by adding some slick tools that will make things like recipe printing and pinning a little easier. We’ll likely have a little downtime while we complete the migration process, but don’t worry – I’ll give you plenty of warning when it’s time. Stay tuned for more details on the New & Improved Cooking Ripe!

Tops in 2012: In our few short months online, I’ve had great traffic and feedback on the blog posts. Below is a list of the five most viewed posts on Cooking Ripe! in 2012. Have you tried all of these yet? If not, you better get cookin!

1. The number 1 most viewed post on the blog is Homemade Pumpkin Puree. I had a whole crop of volunteer pie pumpkins in the garden this year, so I had to learn to make my own puree. I’ll never go back to canned! It tastes so fresh and it’s so versatile. Try the many other Cooking Ripe! pumpkin recipes, too.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

2. The runner-up as the most viewed post is the Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup. I LOVE soup and LOVE orange food, and apparently my readers share my love of soup and orange since it was the second most popular post. This is a simple and creamy cold weather soup with a little ginger kick. Check out the other Cooking Ripe! soup lover recipes.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

3. Number 3 is my personal favorite, as you can tell by its title: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta – the BEST pasta you’ll ever eat! Really. You have to try this recipe if you haven’t yet. I got an eggplant in my Bountiful Basket last time and I am thrilled to get to make this recipe again this week. The Hubs doesn’t even mind repeats of this one!

Roasted Eggplant Pasta

4. One would assume this next post would have been number 1 since it includes BACON! and everything is better with bacon, right? Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with BACON! I try not to cook or eat it very often, but once in awhile you gotta live, right? Brussels sprout lovers and haters can unite to love this recipe, I promise!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

5. Last, but certainly not least in the round-up of most viewed posts is the Southwestern Green Chile and Corn Potato Chowder. Yes, another soup made the list! This one is creamy and spicy without any heavy cream at all. This is a great recipe to use up your preserved roasted green chiles and warm up on a cool night.

Hatch Green Chile and Potato Corn Chowder

Remember, you can go to Cooking Ripe’s Recipe Index for a complete list of all of the recipes. Also, if you haven’t joined me on Pinterest yet, it’s high time! And, finally – like Cooking Ripe! on Facebook to stay up to date on all blog updates and other tasty tidbits. Stay tuned for a great new year of growing and cooking!

Thank you all for your support. Cheers to a delectable 2013!

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Easy Vegetable Stock

Homemade Vegetable Stock

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One of my favorite ways to prevent food waste, save money and improve the nutritional value of my recipes is to make my own homemade vegetable stock. If you’re like me, you buy cans or cartons of veg and/or chicken stock to have on hand to make soup, stews and other recipes. I like to use both in place of water to add flavor to all sorts of thing including rice, quinoa, potatoes and other veggies and when cooking meat. But, it seems that a lot of those prepared stocks contain loads of sodium and a lot of those other unpronounceable chemicals so they’re not as wholesome as we might think. Yes, there are some nice organic varieties, but they are usually pretty spendy, so why not make it a home using our own leftovers?

It’s so simple, I can’t believe I wasn’t doing it sooner. I wish I could take credit for the simple idea, but I learned it from this post on Simple Bites.  I follow her quickie version and make a new batch of stock about once a month.

I compost a lot of my kitchen waste, but sometimes my compost pile can’t keep up with my new scraps, so I learned to keep some large freezer bags in my extra freezer. Each time I cook and have some veg scraps, I set them aside as I’m chopping and cooking, then I throw them in the freezer bag. I usually wait until I have about three full bags and then I split the scraps between two of my dutch ovens. I fill the pots with water and then bring to a boil, then simmer on the stove for about an hour or so.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Homemade Vegetable Stock

After the stock cools, I strain it using coffee filters in my colander (cheesecloth also works) and then container it for the freezer (and I must reserve some for pouring over the Hounds’ food, also).

This is Daisy, my best sous chef

This is Daisy, my best sous chef

Since I use different quantities of stock for various recipes, I freeze it in a variable quantities. I have used ice trays for when I need just a little stock, like to saute some veggies or to add a few spoonfuls to sauce or gravy. I also use muffin tins to make cup sized quantities. I use those to add to rice, quinoa, couscous, and some pastas.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Finally, I freeze larger quantities in quart-sized mason jars, or large plastic yogurt containers (usually about 32 oz). The larger quantities are perfect for soup and stews and anytime you want to boil something but add more flavor than using plain water. I LOVE making mashed potatoes by boiling the potatoes in veg stock or chicken broth. All kinds of extra flavor! When I use the ice cube trays or muffin tins, I freeze in the trays then pop them out and put them all in a large freezer bag. Then I just grab a hunk of stock from the freezer as needed.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

What kind of scraps to save for stock:

  • Stems and ends of any veggie – think of all the parts you cut off and discard from veggies like carrots, zucchini, onions, greens, etc.
  • Veggie peels, from vegetables like potatoes, carrots, eggplant, etc. (be sure to thoroughly wash before peeling so you don’t end up with gritty stock)
  • Herb stems – fresh or dried both work well
  • Seeds and inside “goop” removed from pumpkins and squash

I try to ensure that I end up with a good variety of veg parts when I put them into my pots to boil, so if one vegetable is a little bitter, like eggplant, another one will balance it with some sweetness, like carrots or sweet potatoes. The addition of leftover herb stems really pumps up the flavor of the stock like no store-bought kind you’ve had. I also personally like to ensure there are some tomato and potato parts in my stock – I’m not sure why, but I just think the stock needs those basic flavors.

Tomato canning waste made a nice stock ingredient

Tomato canning waste made a nice stock ingredient

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Leftover parts from roasted pumpkins went in my stock recently

Inner strings and seeds from roasted acorn squash is now veg stock

Inner strings and seeds from roasted acorn squash is now veg stock

The boiled waste can still be composted, if desired, so you’ll be getting double duty from those scraps – cool, right?

I hope you’ll give the homemade stock trick a try. It really doesn’t take much extra time because you can boil it while you’re doing other kitchen duties, then you just have to strain and store it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get a little charge out of making it yourself instead of buying it because you’ll know exactly what’s in it and you’ll know you took a little time to make something healthy and yummy for your family.

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Homemade Fresh Italian Salad Dressing

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Tis the season for over indulgence so it’s really hard to remember to eat some healthy food occasionally. It’s also really tough to slow down long enough to make a balanced meal. But, with a little planning and some simple recipes, we can maintain some semblance of a healthy diet through the holiday season. Really! Here’s an easy dressing recipe to make and use all week long.

I always thought there was some sort of secret voodoo involved in making fresh salad dressing. I don’t know why I thought it was difficult, but it seemed like something that was unnecessarily complicated when there’s an entire aisle in the grocery store devoted to the bottled stuff – and a lot of healthy bottled varieties at that. My opinion on those bottled dressings totally changed this summer when I started trying some homemade dressings.

I had such a bumper crop of fresh lettuce I HAD to get creative with it. I figured I couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of different dressings to top our plethora of greens, so I better learn to make some homemade versions. I also had some fresh herbs from the garden and also from my Bountiful Baskets, so I decided to dive in and give it a spin. I’ll never go back. Well, I tried when I was too lazy to make some dressing for a salad one night. YUCK. It just is not the same. All those…extra preservatives really do change the flavor of the whole salad.

One of my favorites this Martha Stewart recipe for Fresh Italian Dressing. I keep the basic recipe, but fiddle with the herbs and the amounts a little. The trick is in the preparation, which isn’t hard, but just something you may not know if you haven’t made your own dressing before.

Here’s how:

Gather your ingredients, so they’re all handy to make the process super quick. Start by chopping your garlic and fresh herbs. The original recipe calls for basil, oregano and marjoram. I never have fresh marjoram, so I use thyme instead. I would imagine that any kitchen herb, except maybe mint or cilantro, would work with this dressing, so don’t worry if you don’t have exactly these herbs. Can you use dry herbs instead of fresh? Sure, but use one teaspoon of dried herbs for one tablespoon of fresh herbs and know that it may not end up with the amazingly fresh taste that the fresh herbs create. Still, it will be better than the bottled stuff, so go for it. As always, I’m not that precise in my measurements with the herbs and it doesn’t seem to matter.

Left to right: thyme, garlic, oregano, basil

Next, whisk the vinegar with the garlic, sugar, mustard, pepper flakes and salt & pepper. Let’s pause and talk about the whisk itself. I bought this cool springy whisk at a yard sale recently and it’s quickly become one of my favorite kitchen tools. It is the perfect thing to get a great emulsification going with a salad dressing.

In a separate bowl, whisk the two oils together. I always feel like it’s more oil than I need, so I have cut down on both by equal amounts and it’s worked out fine, also.

Vinegar mixture on left; oil mixture on right

Ok, here’s the part you want to pay attention to because it’s the one critical step! Emulsification. Martha explains that’s when you suspend the oil in the vinegar. This happens when you slowly add the oil into the vinegar while you whisk away. If you just dump, it won’t do that suspension thing, so take a minute and slowly pour and whisk and then BAM! Emulsification happens!

Finally, whisk in the herbs and viola, it’s dressing! I like to let it sit for a few hours, if possible, before serving because it allows the flavors to develop more completely.

I make dressing so often now that I invested in this little cruet that I found on Ebay to store it. Isn’t it cute?

Homemade Fresh Italian Dressing

Yield: about 1 1/3 cup

Ingredients (directly from original recipe):

  • Two small garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh marjoram (I used thyme), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Chop fresh herbs and mince garlic.
  2. in a small, but deep bowl, combine and whisk together vinegar with mustard, red pepper flakes, sugar, 1.5 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and garlic.
  3. In another small bowl, whisk together the two oils.
  4. Slowly drizzle the oil into the vinegar mixture, whisking continuously until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Whisk in the herbs.

Serve immediately, or let sit for a few hours while flavors marry. Refrigerate for up to one 1 week (I have gone longer, but that’s Martha’s suggested shelf life). Be sure to give it a vigorous shake before serving.

Notes for next time:

As I mentioned above, I use less oil than called for and it works out fine. If you don’t think you’ll use up the dressing within a week, try halving the recipe. I have also added a little lemon juice to brighten it up a bit. I think I tried balsamic vinegar once and it was also very good. Otherwise, I really like this dressing as is.

The fresh herbs with the oil and vinegar really are so spectacular. You won’t believe how much tastier your salad is with a fresh dressing on top. I also like to use Italian dressing when cooking veggies. Instead of just drizzling in some olive oil when sauteing or roasting, drizzle on this dressing for more flavor. Imagine tossing some fresh tomatoes in this dressing and then roasting it in the oven. Oh my!

See my Dips, Dressings and Sauces board on Pinterest for more fresh dressings.

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Roasted Shrimp and Vegetables – Simple elegance

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When I go out to dinner, I ALWAYS order seafood – usually shrimp. When I was a picky-eater kid I drove my parents bananas when we went to a restaurant because I didn’t like any of the “grown-up” food. Like all bad normal parents, they would sometimes default to ordering me a plate of french fries for dinner. But somewhere along the way, mom or dad had a brainstorm and ordered some fried shrimp for me to try. Turns out, fried shrimp was not so far from french fries and I liked it! Ah… parental bliss. The kid can eat shrimp everywhere we go now – and I did! And I still do, only now I don’t order the battered and fried stuff (ok, maybe once in a great while when I’m really hungry and there’s no other seafood option). I love it prepared pretty much any which way: baked, broiled, grilled, raw, boiled, sauteed, stuffed, and I like it over pasta, in salad, barbecued, with rice, in tacos, in soup, with steak, with cocktail sauce – or any sauce! So, I kinda adore shrimp.

It’s also pretty easy to cook – and not horrendously expensive if you buy the frozen kind which works fine for most recipes. I know, fresh is better, but here in my land-locked state of Colorado, out in the middle of nowhere, fresh is just not happening.

BUT (there’s always a but, right?), the Hubs doesn’t adore shrimp like I do. Something about it can’t be touching any other ingredients or food because he says it makes everything else taste fishy. What? *rolls eyes* He will eat shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi (no noodles, just shrimp and a gallon of butter) and the deep fried variety of my childhood. This causes me heartburn because I could eat it daily, but that would mean I would need to prepare two dishes – or two versions of the same dish, which I do occasionally.

So one day last week I was surveying the options in the freezer and spied a bag of shrimp that had been there for over a month. Hmm…I thought, I bet if I just prepared it right, he’d like it and then we could move on and have shrimp everyday. I decided to go for it. Since he likes scampi, I thought maybe I’d try something along those lines. I had a beautiful picture of a shrimp dish on my seafood Pinterest board that I took for my inspiration. The recipe, Roasted Tomatoes with Shrimp and Feta from Real Simple is actually really simple and the picture made me want to lick the computer screen. He HAD to love it, right?

Here’s what I did:

Clean, de-vein and remove the tails of 1 pound of shrimp. Mine were the 51-60 size, but use any size you like. Chop up about half an onion, about 1/2 a bell pepper and about 5 small tomatoes (mine are plum size).  Chop up some marinated artichokes, also. Toss the veggies, along with a few cloves of garlic, in a few healthy glugs of extra virgin olive oil and spread out in a glass baking pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the veggies are nearly finished, then stir in the shrimp, another healthy squeeze of lemon, the parsley and feta. Cook another 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and firm.

I simply served it over some leafy green lettuce with some warm crusty bread. DONE! So simple and yet so amazingly delicious. I really thought is was restaurant-worthy, and remember, I’m an expert. It’s rich and filling, while being a light dish. I was stuffed when I finished my plate. So, I know you are dying to know if I was able to lure the Hubs over to team shrimp-lover. Well…mission not quite accomplished. He was dismayed when he saw the mixture of shrimp and other ingredients all together on the same bed of lettuce. To his credit, he ended up eating most of the shrimp, but wasn’t able to eat the veggies or lettuce – because it might have tasted “shrimpy.” You can’t win ’em all. I didn’t take it personally since I knew going in he was shrimp-phobic. I tried.

However, I LOVED it and I’m sure the daughter, a fellow shrimp freak, will love it, so I’ll make it for her sometime when we have a girls’ night. If you love shrimp, this recipe is for you and it is fit to serve to company as either a main or side dish. It goes together super fast and there’s plenty of room for versatility and creativity.

Roasted Shrimp and Vegetables

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

(This is not a fussy recipe; use ingredients you have and enjoy)

  • 1 lb raw fresh or frozen shrimp (I used 31-60 frozen)
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 small tomatoes, quartered (or 2-3 larger tomatoes)
  • 3 cloves garlic (I roasted them whole, then sliced after roasting)
  • 3-4 marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
  • Juice of a half a lemon
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley (basil would also work)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional: pinch red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice onion, chop bell pepper. Chop artichoke hearts. Place veggies in a rectangular baking pan with whole garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil. Toss mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place baking pan in oven. Cook for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are nearly done – a little less than fork-tender.
  4. While veggies roast, clean and prepare shrimp.
  5. Add shrimp, lemon, chopped parsley and feta to veggie mixture, stir, and return to oven. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until shrimp is pink, firm (not hard) and cooked through.
  6. Remove garlic cloves from mixture and mash/mince and stir back into mixture.
  7. Spoon shrimp mixture over a bed of greens. Serve immediately.

Notes for next time:

This is another very versatile dish. You could really use whatever veggies you have on hand – broccoli, Brussels, squash, etc. It would be super pretty to use multiple bell pepper colors. You can also play with the spices – the addition of more Italian flavors seems logical – and some pesto would also be nice. I didn’t spice it up much, since I was trying to convince the Hubs to like it and I sometimes overheat things for him. That said, for me, I would add the red pepper, or maybe some chili powder. This could also go more Mexican flavor with some green chiles and cumin with some chili powder.  Or, go Asian with some Chinese five-spice, ginger, green onions and bok choy (YUM – going to try that). Instead of serving over lettuce, it would also be super spectacular over pasta or rice. It makes its own sauce, so it’s ready to add to anything, really.

Leave a comment letting me know how you liked it and how you tweaked it!

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Pumpkin, Rice and Bean Burritos

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The ghosts and goblins have retired for another year, but I bet you still have some sweet pumpkins hanging around the house or you have some frozen or canned pumpkin puree. If you’ve got some puree on hand, this is a super fast, super easy, and super flavorful meal the whole family will adore. You can make it as spicy as you like – or not – and you can get it on the table in a flash! Oh, and the nutritional content is simply amazing: all sorts of fiber from beans and pumpkin, lots of vitamins and it’s very low carb and low fat!

I promise (fingers crossed behind my back) this will be the last pumpkin recipe I’ll share – for a little while, anyway. I have almost used up all of my pumpkin from my little patch, so I actually bought four more little sweet pumpkins during the after-Halloween sale because I just can’t get enough! The Hubs rolled his eyes when we saw the new ones arrive from the store. “Oh… more pumpkin,” he said less-than-gleefully. Whatever. I love the stuff, so I’m going to keep roasting, pureeing and putting it in anything and everything. Hands up if you’re with me!

You might think that a pumpkin burrito would be sweet – which it could be if you made it that way – but these burritos are savory and spicy and definitely not reminiscent of pumpkin pie. I got the idea when I had a pumpkin burrito at a local hole-in-the-wall Mexican kitchen in Durango where the daughter now lives. It was pretty simple: pumpkin and green chile, so I thought I’d whip up my own version of it at home.

Here’s how:

It’s really simple if you have some puree and some rice ready. I swear it was ready in about 15 minutes. I use a rice cooker, so I made some short grain brown rice earlier in the day. Then, simply saute the onions until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Finally, add the rest of the ingredients to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat until hot throughout. If you let it sit a little while, the flavors will improve, but if you need to get the troops fed, just move it along. I decided to crisp the burritos in a little canola oil – not a total deep fry – to add a little crunch, but you could serve the burritos soft or you could pour some red or green chile enchilada sauce over the top for an “enchilada style” burrito.

Pumpkin, Rice and Bean Burritos

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients: (don’t be fussy about the ingredients; play around with the flavors to suit your tastes)

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup cooked rice (I used short grain brown rice)
  • 1 can pinto (or whatever beans you prefer) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 tsp chopped green chiles (I used some of my frozen Hatch chiles)
  • 1 tsp chipotle in adobo (I keep leftovers frozen in ice cube trays)
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I used one of my frozen discs from this recipe) – skip if you are cilantro averse. Parsley’s always a good substitute.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 12″ flour or whole wheat tortillas
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil (optional)
  • Garnish options: shredded cheese, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce, raw onion, chopped tomatoes
  • Optional: red or green enchilada sauce for “enchilada style” version

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and cook one more minute.
  2. Lower heat to medium-low, then add pumpkin, beans, rice, green chile, spices, and cilantro. Simmer and stir until the mixture is hot throughout. Keep the heat fairly low so it doesn’t scorch or dry out.
  3. Spoon two large scoops of pumpkin mixture into center of a tortilla and fold ends towards center, then roll up from one side.
  4. If you want to make crispy burritos, heat up about another skillet with about 1/2″ of canola oil over medium-high heat. Place burrito in pan, cook for a couple of minutes until golden, then flip over and cook the other side until golden. (Note that mine got a little overdone when I became distracted feeding the hounds – oops). Drain on paper towels.
  5. If you want enchilada style, spoon sauce over burritos, then warm in oven or microwave.
  6. Garnish and serve.

These are pretty spicy, so dial back the chipotle and green chiles if you’re not a heat freak like me – or if you’re serving small children. The Hubs said they were a little too spicy for him, but it was just right for me. He would have enjoyed some meat, like ground beef, in his but overall gave the meal a thumbs up. He was surprised to learn that one of the main ingredients was pumpkin since it just takes on the flavors of the other ingredients.

Notes for next time: this recipe is so versatile that the possibilities are endless – really. You could add some cooked meat, as the Hubs suggested: beef, pork or chicken would work. You could also use a simple taco seasoning combo instead of the spices listed above. Of course, you could use other types of beans – or a combo of more than one type. I might add some enchilada sauce inside the burrito, too. To increase the veg content, I might add some corn or spinach. Basically, anything you’d do to any other burrito, you could do here. I also think the mixture would be awesome as a tostada topper, too! PS: this stuff is even better the next day for a leftover lunch. Mhmm.

I’d love to hear your variations on this simple recipe. Leave a comment!

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Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta

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I admit it; I was pretty doubtful about this recipe the first time I tried it. I had some acorn squash from my Bountiful Basket order and I wanted to do something more interesting with it than roasting with brown sugar and maple syrup, so I turned to Pinterest, as usual. I found some interesting recipes, but since I’m a sucker for pasta dishes, I was drawn to Healthy Happy Life’s recipe for Acorn Squash Vegan Alfredo Sauce. Well, I’m not vegan, but the idea of making pasta sauce from squash sounded fun, so after careful consideration, I decided to give it whirl. I viewed it as an experimental recipe, fully prepared to go to plan B if it didn’t work out. (In our house, plan B is cereal for me and frozen burger patty for the Hubs).

The first issue I had with the recipe was that it calls for nutritional yeast flakes. I have no idea what that ingredient is, so I wasn’t sure what to sub for it. In reading through some of the comments on the post, I learned that cheese might be a good substitute, so I decided to try using some Parmesan and asiago cheese, since that’s what I had on hand. I only had vanilla flavored soy milk and worried that the vanilla flavor wouldn’t go well with the savory flavor of the sauce, so I used skim milk instead. Otherwise, I made a few other minor adjustments and the results were truly surprising. It was creamy and it didn’t taste odd – or squashy. The flavors are deep in their Italian savory roots. It’s not sweet, like you might think, either. I added some cooked chicken breast to the dish, mostly because I was afraid that the Hubs would reject a meatless meal – especially when he found out that the main ingredient was squash.

When the Hubs arrived home for dinner, I nonchalantly served up the squash pasta and commenced eating my own, waiting for his reaction. He started eating without asking questions and then said the magic words: “This is really good.” I asked him if he knew what it was. Then he gave me that look – the one that says, “Oh Lord, what has she fed me this time?” I told him the sauce was made from acorn squash and he was pretty surprised and said he really liked it.

BUT, the real test came later when a family friend’s 18 year old son dropped by and we offered him dinner, but didn’t tell him what it was, other than pasta. He ate two plates before we told him he was eating squash sauce with the pasta. Didn’t faze him. Kids: you never know.

I was happy to receive a couple of acorn squash in my Bountiful Basket again recently so I could try this recipe again. Here’s how I made it, but play with the ingredients to suit your own tastes:

Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole acorn squash
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil (I used some frozen I had from the garden)
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (or Asiago, etc.)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard (I used the whole wheat variety, but recommend the smoother kind)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (use the good stuff)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 box penne pasta
  • Optional: protein such as diced cooked chicken or cooked shrimp (this time I used some chicken sausage, sliced)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice squash in half, horizontally. Place cut side down in a baking dish. Add about an inch of water to the pan. Roast for about an hour, but check for doneness at 45 minutes. The skin peels away easily when it’s done. Allow squash to cool enough to handle.
  3. Set salted pasta water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente. (I also added my sliced chicken sausage to the pot while pasta was cooking). Reserve a cup of pasta water when you drain the pasta, to add to the sauce to thin, as needed.
  4. While pasta cooks, remove squash skin and seeds, then place the pulp in the food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend until all ingredients are creamy. Taste and adjust spices to taste. If you need to thin it, add some pasta water a little at a time and blend then check consistency.
  5. Toss pasta with sauce. Serve immediately.

Notes for next time:

The first time I made this, I used both parm and asiago cheese and I liked that better than just the parm. Another thought – to make a little more creamier, I think I might add a little Greek yogurt next time. I love shrimp, so I would add some cooked shrimp instead of chicken, but the Hubs doesn’t love shrimp (well, he doesn’t love shrimp touching anything other than deep frying batter and cocktail sauce). Instead of protein, you could also up the veg quotient with some steamed broccoli or some sautéed bell pepper or zucchini. The apple cider vinegar creates a nice tang in the background, but I almost tried some red wine vinegar, instead. I think it goes with Italian better. Finally, I want to add some caramelized onions to the mixture for a little more savoriness.

Try this! I bet, like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you love it and how different it tastes than you expect.

For my other squash pins see my Squash Board on Pinterest.

Related posts: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta


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Southwestern Green Chile and Corn Potato Chowder

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I took a break from my pumpkin recipes long enough to cook up a new harvest meal. I’ve been thinking about a green chile soup since we roasted our Hatch green chiles last month (how to roast and preserve Hatch chiles), but hadn’t gotten to it yet. Then today I was thinking about an easy meal I could prepare early in the day so the daughter could take some home and then we could reheat later for dinner. The daughter loves potato soup and since I got several ginormous potatoes in my Bountiful Basket yesterday, so I decided it was time to make a green chile and potato soup – or chowder.

What exactly is the difference between a soup and a chowder? I didn’t know either, so I did a little research via Google. I learned that while the traditional definition of chowder is a thick seafood soup (ie. clam chowder), the modern definition seems to be a chunky soup thickened by potatoes, onions, milk or cream (ie. corn chowder). So, because I’m using potatoes to as a thickener I’ve decided to call this recipe a chowder instead of a soup (mostly because I’ve posted two soup recipes recently and I’m proving that I’m not in a rut).

This is an easy, free-form recipe (like the rest of my recipes, right?). It came together pretty quickly and would make an easy weeknight meal. It’s also pretty healthified as we only used a tablespoon or two of butter and no cream, flour or milk – and honestly, I think you could skip the butter and it would be just as good! The daughter took home a container for her dinner and the Hubs and I finished the rest ourselves. The Hubs loved the soup, I mean chowder. He liked the heat and creaminess, but lamented that the addition of bacon or ham would have made it that much better. I rolled my eyes, but feel free to take his advice and add some cooked bacon or ham to make a heartier soup chowder.

Dice onions, garlic, green chiles and potatoes to start chowder

Simmer potatoes with the rest of the ingredients

My frozen disc of cilantro sauce – I use this stuff in EVERYTHING

Hatch Green Chile and Potato Corn Chowder

Southwestern Green Chile & Corn Potato Chowder

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

(Don’t be fussy about measuring anything and add more or less spices or ingredients to taste)

  • 3-6 russet potatoes, peeled and diced (I used three HUGE potatoes)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded (sub Anaheim or poblano chiles if you don’t have Hatch chiles)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth (I used my homemade veg stock)
  • 2-3 cups water, reserved from boiling potatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2-4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (I used some of my frozen cilantro sauce that I learned to make from this genius post) – optional if you aren’t a cilantro-lover
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 glug of Worcestershire sauce (optional, but I think it adds richness)
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add potatoes and boil until fork tender. Drain, reserving 2-3 cups of the water.
  2. While potatoes drain in a colander, cover the bottom of the pan with with EVOO and warm over medium heat. Add onion and cook until they begin to soften. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the vegetable stock or chicken broth to the pan, and bring to a soft boil. Stir in the green chiles, salt, cumin and coriander. Reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Return potatoes to the pot and stir. Add reserved potato water, 1 cup at a time until potatoes are covered. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, cilantro and pepper and simmer another 5-10 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from heat. Add butter, if using. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to desired consistency (or pulse in batches in a blender). Our family likes a few chunks, so I don’t blend it very long.
  6. Stir in the corn and lime juice and let simmer for a few minutes to heat the corn.

Serve with some crusty bread or warmed tortillas. Garnish with some parsley or cilantro.

Great soup chowder the next day, but you may need to add more stock or water to thin a bit as the potatoes continue to soak up the liquid. If you want a little more creaminess, you could add more butter or even some milk and blend into the mixture.

Notes for next time:

When the soup chowder was almost finished, I realized I should have included some little diced carrots, which would have added some nice color, but also even more texture and flavor. I think I might also play around with adding other peppers – a jalapeno, maybe, or a sweet red bell pepper. Also, I might play with the spices by adding some chile powder or a smidge of chipotle in adobo. Another twist might be to throw in some diced tomatoes, but that might change the chowder back to soup.

Leave a comment and let me know how your soup chowder turns out.

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