What’s Cooking Wednesday: Baked Butternut Squash

2013 soybeans, landscape

Butternut squash receives much less fanfare than it’s botanical cousin, the preeminent and ever-popular pumpkin. And while pumpkin will like remain king of fall flavors for the foreseeable future, one taste of this baked squash recipe just might cause you to rethink your palate priorities.

My freshman year of college, I took my roommate to my parent’s house for a home-cooked meal and baked butternut squash was on the menu. In my roommate’s words it ‘made her believe in the possibilities of squash,’ a vegetable she had never previously liked.

This recipe for baked squash came from my grandmother and is a perennial fall favorite for my family. The combination of squash, apples, sugar and spices make for a delicious side dish almost good enough to be called dessert and one that pairs particularly well with pork.

One warning: this is one dish that doesn’t taste as good as leftovers, so only make what you plan to have eaten….not that eating all of it should be a problem!

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Baked Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 -2 medium apples
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With a knife, cut the neck off of the butternut squash. Cut off the top and peel. Cut into slices about 1″ thick. Peel the bottom and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1″ slices/pieces.
  3. Arrange all your slices into a glass baking dish.
  4. Core, peel & slice your apple into rings. Arrange on top of the squash pieces.
  5. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in brown sugar, cinnamon & flour.
  6. Immediately pour the sauce over the apples & squash.
  7. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes until squash is fork tender.
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What’s Cooking Wednesday: Ratatouille

2013 soybeans, landscape

Ratatouille may roll off the tongue, but it’s not that easy to spell – I hardly ever get it right on the first try. Fortunately, this recipe is much easier to make than spell.

Eggplant is the star of this delicious combination of vegetables sauteed to perfection in a tasty tomato-based sauce. Ratatouille can be a great side dish or center piece for lunch or dinner.

My version of ratatouille is ‘low fuss.’ I use one skillet & cook it on the stove top – no need to heat up the oven & just one pan to clean! The veggies are added one at a time, so while one is cooking you can slice/dice the next one.

Also, the measurements for this recipe DO NOT have to be exact. Add more or less of anything to suit your taste.

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Ratatouille

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup sliced & quartered eggplant (peel if desired)
  • 1 cup sliced & quartered zucchini (and/or yellow summer squash)
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce or tomato juice

Instructions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on low for a minute or two
  2. Add diced onion and saute over medium heat until they start to turn translucent. Add garlic, basil & oregano.
  3. Add eggplant and saute until it starts to soften, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add zucchini and saute until it starts to soften, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add diced tomato and tomato sauce/juice. Stir and cook until eggplant starts to turn translucent and sauce thickens.
  6. Serve hot.

Makes about 1 cup.

Fun fact: Did you know that the vegetable we call ‘eggplant,’ the British call ‘aubergine’? I learned that recently while talking with an acquaintance from across the pond.

Have you come across any unique or unusual names for food?

The Friday Five: Bacon & Eggs & Breakfast

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Bacon lovers rejoice! The object of your meat affection could be about to get even better. If you want a side of eggs with your bacon, however; it might cost you a little bit more – at least for the time being.

Here’s look at those stories plus a few other breakfast related tidbits fresh picked for this week’s Friday Five:

  1. What’s shakin’ bacon? Researchers at Kansas State University are looking at ways to improve the bacon flavor we love to savor and improve the shelf life of this marvelous meat treat, as reported by Feedstuffs newspaper. By the way, tomorrow is International Bacon Day. So fry up a few strips to celebrate!
  2. Are you scrambling to adjust your breakfast menu since eggs are more expensive? It’s the lingering effects of a deadly flu virus that devastated a large number of chickens (don’t worry it’s not a virus that humans can get). But you may be dishing out more per dozen for awhile, especially after the big breakfast announcement that hit the news this week, as CBS News reports.
  3. Like cheddar cheese on your eggs? Find out what makes cheddar cheese orange in this post from a Michigan dairy farmer on the Food Dialogues website.
  4. How about some fruit salad on the side? Be sure to thank plant breeders for your selection, as today’s fruit varieties are thanks to their efforts over hundreds of years. Check out this fun quiz to test your skills at matching modern fruits (and a few vegetables) with their plant ancestors.
  5. Like milk on your cereal? Share the love. For every share of this ‘Strength in Numbers’ image on with #milkdrive during the month of September the Great American Milk Drive will donate one gallon of milk to Feeding America food banks. Click here to share on Facebook or Twitter.

What’s your favorite breakfast food?

The Friday Five: A Better Look at Beef

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Did you know that yesterday (Aug. 27) was #NationalBurgerDay? Thank you, social media for the heads up.

Coincidentally, there’s also a headline grabbing story floating around this week about the safety of ground beef. Let’s take a better look:

  1. From Food Insights, here’s a few facts and myths to explore about the safety of ground beef. Bottom line: bacteria doesn’t care where your beef came from – wash your hands & cook it to the right temperature (160 degrees)!
  2. For another perspective, check out this article from High Plains Journal. The good news: almost all of the bacteria found in the “study” was not the kind that cause serious foodbourne illnesses
  3. Reading past the headlines is important, especially when it comes to blurbs about scientific studies, as pointed out in this LA Times article.
  4. And here’s an article from Business Insider that looks at some potential problems with the ground beef safety “study”.
  5. For some tips on ways to safely store, handle, thaw & cook beef check here.

What’s your favorite way to eat a hamburger?

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Zucchini Stacks

2013 soybeans, landscape

Layers of veggies in a tasty cheese sauce make this a perfect late summer side dish to pair with pretty much anything. And as a bonus it’s super easy to make!

This is a recipe I grew up eating with veggies fresh from our home garden. My mom always called this ‘Zucchini Side Dish’ but I decided to label it ‘Zucchini Stacks’ because I think it’s a little better description what your dish will look like.

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Zucchini Stacks

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium green zucchini, sliced in thin rounds (about 1/4″ thick)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced in thin rounds (about 1/4″ thick)
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced in rings
  • 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • About 9 slices of American or mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. basil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a 8 x 8 glass baking dish.
  3. Fill the bottom with zucchini slices (use the bigger slices for the bottom). Usually about 9 slices, but it depends on the size of your zucchini.
  4. Add an onion slice, then a tomato slice and then a green pepper ring on top of each zucchini slice.
  5. Sprinkle with garlic, basil & flour.
  6. Place 1/2 a slice of cheese on each stack.
  7. Add a second layer of veggies: zucchini, onion, tomato, pepper & then a second 1/2 slice of cheese.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes until veggies are fork tender and cheese is golden brown.
  9. Serve your stacks & enjoy!

As it cooks, the juices from the vegetables combine with the flour, spices and melted cheese to make the tasty sauce.

What main dish will you pair it with?