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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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All Natural Dog Treats

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This post is dedicated to my best friends: my Basset Hounds, Daisy and Lola. They have become more than the family dogs; they are our children. They were both rescue dogs who found their forever homes with us and have lived long and happy spoiled lives with our family. Sadly, with long lives comes geriatric health issues. In mid-November, Daisy was diagnosed with Lymphoma and is not expected to have more than a few more months with us. While we were still adjusting to that sad news, Lola was diagnosed with a liver condition and she declined very quickly, so we said goodbye to her just last week.

Lola

Lola

Daisy

Daisy

So, in their honor, I write this post about making their homemade doggie treats. I make these about every two or three weeks and have meant to post the recipe and pictures, but just haven’t taken the time until now. I started making these when we realized that our cheaper dog food and treats were causing some digestion issues for both dogs, but especially Lola. I started reading about and buying healthier grain-free foods for them and then I found some recipes for dog treats and figured that if I made them, I would know what was in them and it would likely be less expensive than the store-bought fancy kind.

I use a version of the Woofies recipe found on the Kitchen Muse blog. I add carrots and usually use about 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat flour. I have also used mashed sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash in place of the pumpkin when I had those leftovers. Dogs can eat many of our household veggies and fruits, but be careful as some are not safe. According to WebMd, we should NOT feed our dogs the following vegetables or fruits:

  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Grapes (or raisins)
  • Persimmons
  • Peaches
  • Plums

On the safer side, we can share these:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Banannas
  • Watermelon
  • Carrots
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Cooked potato

Here’s how to make All Natural Dog Treats:

Since I do this every two weeks, I’m not fussy about ingredient amounts and I don’t worry about presentation (no, I don’t have the bone-shaped cookie cutter!). I’ll show you my no fuss, simple method.

Roughly chop up a couple of carrots. I was using up some late garden baby carrots, and left the peels on and some of the stringy roots because the hounds don’t care :).

All Natural Dog Treats

Spray your food processor bowl, lid, blade, etc. with some non-stick cooking spray. This is a sticky dough so this helps with cleaning up. Throw the carrots in the food processor with the blade attachment and give it a whirl or three. Alternately, you could grate the carrots for a finer consistency if you’re not sure your pooch is a carrot lover.

All Natural Dog Treats

Dump in the rest of the ingredients and turn on the processor and let it go until you have a soft dough ball. If it’s looking more wet and sticky than doughy, add more flour. If it’s super stiff, add a little more pumpkin or some water. You want to end up with something a little firmer than pie dough because you’re going to roll it out and don’t want it too sticky.

All Natural Dog Treats

Flour your workspace and roll out half of the dough. I don’t care if it’s symmetrical, I just care that it fits on the baking sheet. I learned that it’s easier to cut it into smaller pieces after I move it to the baking sheet.

All Natural Dog Treats

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats.

Then…..(I think I’m pretty genius to think of this one) I use a pizza cutter to slice it up into bite-sized pieces. Brilliant, right? Again, I’m so not fussy about size and shape – and neither are the pups. I don’t spread out the pieces or anything because they don’t really expand in the oven.

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats

I pop them in the oven for about 45 minutes. They are done when they are pretty hard. If they are softer, they won’t last in a container on the counter as long. If you cut yours larger, they may also take longer to harden. Admittedly, this batch went a little too long because I got distracted and left them in a little long, so they’re a little darker than usual. Daisy said she didn’t mind.

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats

Let them cool, snap the pieces apart and toss into a jar and you and poochie are all set!

All Natural Dog Treats:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 3/4 cup flour (I use half white and half wheat) + a handful for rolling out dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (I usually have homemade in the freezer, but canned works also) – or sub sweet potato or squash puree
  • 2 TBSP peanut butter (I use crunchy)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Non-stick cooking spray (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray food processor parts with non-stick spray for easier clean up later.

2. Rough chop carrots, then place in food processor with blade attachment. Whirl for a few seconds until carrots are finely diced.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until a firm dough ball forms. Add flour or pumpkin/water to mixture as needed to get to the desired consistency.

4. Place half the mixture on a well-floured surface, then roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Transfer rolled dough to a baking sheet. Use a floured pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice the dough into about 1 inch pieces.

5. Repeat with the second half of the mixture, placing onto a second baking sheet.

6. Bake for about 45 minutes until pieces are hardened. Cool, then snap pieces apart and place in air-tight container.

Your pup will ADORE you even more now! Mine know when I’m making these now and hover about my feet while I’m mixing up the dough. Lola used to be against carrots, but once she got used to the carrots in the treats – because they were TREATS – she decided she liked them and I added them periodically to her food, too. Pumpkin is good for digestion – in people and dogs – so if your pooches have delicate stomachs, these treats may help settle them when they get indigestion.

For other doggie treat recipes, check out my “Doggies” board on Pinterest.

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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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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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Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with BACON!

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Today was a Bountiful Basket day, which is always a good day. I get so excited to see what arrives on the truck. Today’s haul was really exceptional because it included a few things I haven’t tried to cook with yet: water chestnuts and spaghetti squash. I’ll keep you posted on how those work out, but while I was helping at the pick-up site, I heard several people grumbling that they were not excited about the very large bag of Brussels sprouts we were getting.

Why, oh why can’t we get past the sprout hating, people? Just because grandma boiled them to death and made you eat those slimy things, doesn’t mean they are inherently yucky.

After all, they’re just mini cabbages – do you like cabbage? Ok, if you said yes, then you like Brussels sprouts. The end.

I know my fellow Bountiful Basketeers are scrambling to find recipes to try with their bag o’ sprouts, so I thought I better get this one posted ASAP.

I like Brussels best when they are crispy, and while I have oven roasted them in a few different ways (see Crispy Parmy Sprouties), I haven’t tried them on the stove-top before tonight. Since the oven was busy making a meatloaf (yeah, my carnivorous husband insisted I feed him meat “for a change”), I decided to make some skillet sprouts. I was hoping to attain some crispiness, so I opted for a caramelizing technique…and to do that, I did something I almost never do: I used BACON. Only two strips, though!

The result was just what I wanted: crispy, tasty, salty and savory. Mhmmm…I can pretty much guarantee that your whole family will jump on-board the Brussels flavor train with this recipe. You can’t go wrong when you’re cooking with bacon, right?

Here’s what I did:

Slice up about half an onion – more or less to suit your tastes. Place two slices of bacon in the skillet set to medium heat. After it cooks for a few minutes, add the onions. Keep the heat to medium, or medium-low, so they don’t cook to fast.

Quarter the Brussels by slicing them lengthwise. I started with about 10 large sprouts.

When the bacon is cooked through, but not crispy, remove from the skillet so it doesn’t overcook. Chop it up to add back to the skillet later.

Add the quartered sprouts to the pan and continue cooking on medium-low heat. Depending on how much bacon grease remains in the pan, you might need to add some extra virgin olive oil to the pan. My bacon wasn’t very thick, so I needed to add a good drizzle. I probably left my skillet cooking for about 20 minutes. It’s important not to rush the cooking, or they’ll end up cooked on the outside and still hard and uncooked on the inside. Stir occasionally.

Once your onions and sprouts start getting that happy caramel brown color, go ahead and add the bacon pieces back in. Once the bacon is crisp and the sprouts are sufficiently caramelized (dark golden brown), they are done and ready to eat!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with Bacon!

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 10-14 fresh Brussels sprouts, quartered
  • ½ large onion, sliced
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat skillet to medium heat. Add bacon, then onions after a few minutes.
  2. Quarter the Brussels sprouts, lengthwise.
  3. When bacon is cooked through, but not yet crispy, remove from pan and chop up, reserving for later.
  4. Add Brussels to skillet and continue cooking over medium-low heat. Add a drizzle or two of olive oil, as needed, depending on amount of bacon grease remaining in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Once onions and Brussels turn a dark golden brown (about 20 minutes), add the bacon back into the pan and cook until it crisps up.
  6. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Notes for next time:

The Hubs and I were pretty pleased with how these turned out, so I wouldn’t change much. I did think that it might have been pretty to add some carrots, which would also taste great with bacon and onions. Another idea: instead of bacon, you might use diced ham and make it more of a skillet meal.

Simple, right? I do feel a little bad about the bacon, but it was only two slices – and, honestly, it would have been fine with only one slice. I am pretty certain that even the sprout haters will like this recipe, so give it go and see how it goes over at your dinner table.

Related posts:

See my Brussels Sprouts board on Pinterest for more sprout recipes.


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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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Homemade Fresh Marinara Sauce: The No-Waste Method

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Tomato season is ending in most of the U.S. (unless you live in the desert like many of my friends who are now planting their winter gardens! **jealous**), so it’s time to use up the last of the season’s crop of ‘maters.This is a pretty simple, no fuss, no waste way to make some delicious marinara sauce – for dinner tonight and/or to preserve for the winter.

The first time I canned diced tomatoes, I was pretty appalled by the amount of tomato waste I had afterwards. By the time you skin and seed the tomatoes, you end up with bowl o’ leftover tomato parts. While I was ok with composting my waste, it seemed silly (and also ironic) to have grown all of those tomatoes, only to waste so much of them in the preserving process. I felt like I was burying my children in the compost pile (cue dramatic music).

I went on a search for recipes to use the rest of the tomato parts, so I wouldn’t have to loose so much in my future processing. I found recipes for paste, juice, etc. and plan to try some of those next year when I have a larger crop. But, the one that struck me as oh so simple and also so obvious is this recipe for Fresh Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce on The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, a blog I love. Ali and Tom, the authors, keep it simple with their recipe and I love simplicity.

I followed their recipe, but only made half a batch because I had about 10 pounds of tomatoes, so this is the recipe for the half batch version of their recipe. Note that while I usually tell you not to be fussy about ingredient amounts, if you are going to can this recipe, as I did, you really need to stick to the recipe for food safety purposes. However, if you’re going to eat it tonight and freeze any leftovers, feel free to play around with the ingredients to your personal tastes.

* Because I made this sauce on a super-harvest-preserving kitchen day and had many projects going on at once, I didn’t photo-document the whole process this time.

Fresh Whole Tomato Marinara Sauce:

Servings: 9 half-pints

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  1/2 large onions, minced
  • 1/2 whole head garlic, minced
  • 10 pounds fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cups fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (optional) – (I used regular white sugar)
  • 1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoons sea salt

Directions (directly from original recipe):

1. Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and then the minced onions and garlic. Saute for about 10 minutes.

2. Remove the stem-end of the tomatoes (this is the only waste and I put mine in my homemade veg stock storage in the freezer). Process some of them in a food processor, leaving them a little chunky. Blend the remaining tomatoes until smooth.

3. Then begin to add the tomatoes to the pot of onions in batches as you puree them. (Don’t be alarmed if your tomato mixture looks more pink than red at this stage. The color darkens as it simmers).

4. Add the chopped basil, vinegar, sugar, Italian seasoning, and sea salt.

5. Cook, uncovered, for about 3 hours or until sauce has cooked down and thickened. Be sure to stir it on occasion and keep it on a rapid simmer. Keep cooking until sauce has thickened to your liking (my smaller batch was ready in about two hours).

6. Taste and add more salt if needed.

7. If you are going to can the sauce, prep your jars and lids, according to accepted rules for sterilization. I waterbath canned mine and I use The Ball Blue Book for a reference. See their Intro to Canning article for safe water bath canning techniques. Be sure to add a 1/2 Tbsp of lemon juice to each 1/2 pint jar (1 Tbsp for quarts) before processing. Process your jars according to the timing chart for your altitude on page 6.

I chose to can my sauce in half-pint jars because I felt that the smaller quantities fit our two-person household better, but you may prefer to use quarts, especially if you make a larger batch.

SAUCE! This is a very tasty sauce that the whole family will really love. You will never notice that the skins and seeds have been left intact because they are obliterated in the blending process and then cooked down and softened during the simmering process. I also heard that the seeds are the most nutritious part of the tomato, housing tons of vitamin C, so this sauce must be more healthy than the non-skin-and-seed variety, right?  The picky-eater-daughter, who doesn’t like chunks of onions and such, fully approved and took a jar home to her new apartment and later commented that she needs a larger jar in the future. Note taken.

Now, what to make with this great sauce? Pasta is the obvious choice, but I have also used it as a pizza sauce and I keep a jar in the fridge, ready to throw a dollop of it in whatever skillet or casserole dish I might be cooking. Since I adore all tomato saucy recipes, you can bet that my little stash of sauce will not last until Christmas.

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