Baked Rice with Butternut Squash

I’ll confess: baking with squashes other than spaghetti squash intimidate me. I don’t know why; maybe there’s this subconscious worry that anything I make using it will make it taste, well…squashy. Kind of like the butternut squash soup I made awhile back. Ick.

I have some squashes leftover from my CSA that are juuuuust at the end of their shelf life, and need to be cooked up quickly, before they start to go to waste. This was one recipe that I found that utilized a butternut squash that I had, and I really enjoyed the end rest. It’s great for a chilly, snowy evening.

The rice that the recipe calls for is actually the risotto (Arborio) rice that many of you know and love. However, any type of short-grain rice will work, too.

Baked Rice with Butternut Squash – adapted from myrecipes.com

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock works okay too)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Place the squash (whole) on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes until tender. Let cool. Meanwhile turn the oven up to 400*.
  2. Peel the squash, & cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the goop, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth, water, and sage to a simmer (do not let it boil). Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. To the skillet, add the onion; sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté for about two minutes (be careful not to let it brown too much. Add rice& toast for about 1 minute. Stir in the squash, broth mixture, wine, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the rice mixture. Bake for 30 minutes in the oven (already preheated at 400).
  6. Remove from oven & stir mixture gently. Sprinkle with cheese; bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

 

Delicious. Savory. Not squashy.

Delicious. Savory. Not squashy.

This would also be a great dish to bring to a fall/winter potluck or family dinner. I served this with baked chicken; the leftovers reheated very well also.

One of the things that most impressed me with this recipe how you baked the squash before cutting it up. Before, I’d grab the sharpest knife in my house, say a prayer, and start hacking away at the gourd. Baking it will soften it up so that the knife will go through easily, and you’re less likely to cut off the tip of your thumb! 😉 If you ever are cooking with an entire squash again, try this technique!

I’m very pleased with how this turned out, and am glad that I finally found a successful recipe for butternut squash. It’s no longer a stranger lurking in my pantry, and I’m very confident that I can make other delicious dishes with it now.

Cheesy Eggplant Casserole

The only eggplant dish that most people (myself included) learn/try to make is eggplant parmesan. It’s not fast, but it’s easy and a crowd-pleaser. If you can get past the name and the texture – eggplants have little seeds – you can find that it’s actually a pretty tasty vegetable, especially smothered in tomato sauce and cheese.

We got a few eggplant in our CSA this past week and I wanted to cook them up, rather than try to freeze them – AND, I wanted to make something other than eggplant parmesan. Furthermore, with the change in the weather, I was craving something oven-baked, that would pair well with the breaded chicken I was making as the main dish.

I found this recipe on an old-favorite of mine, Allrecipes.com*. I tell ya, if you’ve never tried this website before, do so! It’s a great hub of tried & true recipes (and some terrible ones, to be honest) that people all over the world post, cook, and rate. It’s a great go-to when you have a vegetable and/or ingredients and you’re just not sure how to pair them together. That being said…here’s a great side dish & casserole that helps you use that eggplant you receive in your CSA, when eggplant parm just won’t do!

Cheesy Eggplant Casserole – adapted from Allrecipes.com

  • 1 eggplant (or several smaller ones), peeled and diced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (not pictured, oops! I used a new cheddar blend from Sargento*)
  • 1 cup dry bread stuffing mix
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • dried Italian seasoning, to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes  (not pictured, read review below!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Place eggplant in a medium microwave-safe dish. Cook for 3 minutes, stir, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a square baking dish.
  3. Mix in tomatoes, stuffing, garlic, onion, egg, and 1/2 cup cheese. Season with Italian herbs, salt & pepper.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes in the oven. Top with remaining cheese, and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

You will notice right away that there isn’t any tomatoes in my casserole. This was an addition that should have happened, but realized after the fact. While the original recipe does leave this out, the original recipe also turns out decently dry; I read several reviews on the website that all stated that this addition was a good idea.

Still…the end result of this dish, tomatoes or not, is delicious! All the flavors blend really well together and it was a nice compliment to the breaded chicken I had baked.  Don’t be afraid to add too much spices or garlic, as they really make the dish pop. The cheddar blend I used was also really great. Furthermore – the casserole was filling! Always a plus 🙂

If you’re weary about making eggplant, or are in need of a new idea for it…try this recipe! You won’t be disappointed.

Cheesy eggplant casserole, and breaded chicken. Great dinner on a rainy night!

* NOTE: I was not asked nor paid to talk about Allrecipes.com, nor mention the Sargento brand. These opinions are solely my own and for the enjoyment of my readers.

Asian Rice Salad

Last night we decided to finally grill the chicken kabobs that we had marinating in our refrigerator. One of my most favorite meals during the summertime is shish kabobs of some sort; I make them almost weekly. I knew I wanted to serve rice with them, but wanted something different than just plain boring white rice. Mike suggested, “What about a rice salad?” I had no idea what he meant, but it sounded pretty delicious, so over to the computer I went. In about 2 minutes, I found something that could work. Thanks, Internet 😉

Asian Rice Salad – adapted from About.com (written by Jolinda Hackett)

  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (or peanut oil if you have it on hand, which I did not)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame-chili oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley (I used dried)
  • any other vegetables that work with Asian cuisine
  1. In a small bowl, combine oils, vinegar, salt & pepper, and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the rice in a larger bowl. Toss gently to coat, then set aside.
  2. Steam the carrot & peas for one minute. Drain & stir into rice.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Let cool.

Enjoying a summery Sunday evening

This recipe was originally written to be served cold. However, for the sake of time in our house (we were pretty hungry!), I served it warm. The vinaigrette that you mix in with the rice adds a really nice, subtle flavor to the rice, without overpowering whatever you are serving the salad with. You can even add a touch of soy sauce if you wish. The original recipe also calls for a few more vegetables. I omitted those simply because we were making shish kabob and grilling vegetables anyways.

When making this again, I would add sweet peppers, maybe some bok choy, or bean sprouts. The possibilities are endless! With more vegetables and some protein, this could also be a really easy, filling main dish. We do have a significant amount of leftovers, so this will most likely get made into fried rice for lunches.

The salad paired perfectly with our kabobs, and was thoroughly enjoyed as we dined in our backyard. I love summer 🙂

Radicchi-oh?

Radicchio. The only encounters I’ve ever had with this vegetable have been in those prewashed, prepackaged salad mixes that you buy when you’re too lazy to hack up a head of lettuce, or simply because it’s convenient. I recall that it tasted crunchier, but much more bitter.

Thus, I was a bit perplexed when it arrived, green & purple, in my CSA box this past week. I began searching the Internet & Pinterest, to get inspired. Immediately, a recipe popped up that seemed somewhat doable, and bearable – and would also use the snap peas still lurking in my fridge. I had to give it a try.

Snap Pea & Radicchio Slaw – adapted from Real Simple

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (not pictured)
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • sugar snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 small head radicchio, washed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp bacon bits (not pictured)

In a medium bowl, combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and a dash of salt & pepper. Add peas, radicchio, and bacon bits; toss to combine.

You can see when comparing the two recipes that mine is slightly different. When making this recipe originally, I thought that the dressing was much too sour (this is coming from a girl who loves her dill pickles and salt&vinegar anything!) and was missing ‘something’. I added the lemon juice and it seemed to mellow out the vinegar while sweetening the greens. The bacon bits were also added to give a sort of pseudo-smoky flavor to the slaw. Both additions I feel really rounded out the dish.

I enjoy the contrast of colors ! Very summery.

Before coming across this recipe, I would never think that snap peas and radicchio would be a good combination. But it works, it’s tasty, and a pretty good dish for this time of year – very light and crisp. I hope that this will help someone out there feel a little less intimidated by the head they find in their weekly CSA box!

Italian Potato Salad

This recipe is one that I grew up with (thanks, Mom!). It’s simple, really, and is one of those dishes that reminds me of summer. I served this the other night with some baked chicken, though it goes with pretty much anything.

For this, I used the red potatoes that came with this week’s CSA.

Italian Potato Salad – adapted from my mom 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-2 lbs small red potatoes
  • 2-4 scallions
  • 2-4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano

* Please note: my measurements are a little vague, simply because up until blogging I never really measured when making this dish. Rather, I relied on my own personal taste. This time around, I measured a bit and included what I thought would be the best crowd-pleaser.

  1. Cut potatoes into halves, if needed. Boil in a large saucepan until cooked. Drain & put into large bowl.
  2. Slice scallions & add to bowl. Add remaining ingredients & mix to combine.
  3. Do a taste test to determine if you need anymore vinegar, oil or spices.
  4. Chill for at least a 1/2 hour.

I almost forgot to snap a picture before eating it! There’s a few spoonfuls on my dinner plate, set aside.

This salad is good warm, or chilled (I prefer a slight chill to it). Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts: The New Frontier

Growing up, I loathed fruits and vegetables. Fruits moreso than vegetables, but that’s a whole other blog post. My parents were successful in getting me to eat the basic veggies that any kid would eat, but given the choice between carrot sticks or a bag of chips, I’d go for the chips and wouldn’t look back. So needless to say, any strange vegetable at my dinner table was scary, and gross!

I had to be about nine years old (mid-1990s) when my mom had cooked brussels sprouts as another vegetable on our dinner table one night. I could smell them all the way from my bedroom; when overcooked, the sprouts give off almost a rotten-egg smell, due to the sulphur content they have. Just by the smell of them alone, I swore that I was never, ever  going to eat brussels sprouts. Scary, gross, and stinky! And truthfully – until today I had not touched, nor eaten one brussels sprout.

Fast-forward to 2012. Married for almost four years to a man who is no stranger to his fruits & veggies. Over Easter, we got to discussing food with my family, and brussels sprouts were mentioned. My mom stated that she really enjoys them-thus prompting the flashback to the stinky sprouts – and Mike also chimed in that he liked them as well.

This week I was challenged to try a new fruit or vegetable that I had never tried before.  To some, this may seem like an exciting adventure, and they’d be willing to jump right in and try something exotic. I, however, knew that this would be a bit intimidating. Then I thought back to my mom, and my husband, and decided to take on the brussels sprout.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts – adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 lbs brussels sprouts
  • olive oil (eyeball about 3 tbsp)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400*. Wash brussels sprouts, then cut off the brown ends, as well as any discolored exterior leaves.

2. In a bowl, toss sprouts & olive oil. Add salt & pepper.

3. Place sprouts, cut side down, on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in oven for 35 minutes, periodically shaking the pan evenly so that the sprouts brown evenly. Serve immediately.

Ready to eat!

The Verdict: I liked them!

Looks can be deceiving. While preparing this dish, I was skeptical as to how the end result would actually taste. While trimming the sprouts, the child in me suggested that they looked like mini-brains – almost preparing myself to hate them already. After a few minutes in the oven, however, I was taken aback by the savory smell in my kitchen from not only the pork chops in my oven, but the brussels sprouts. A fresh, healthy, roasted-veggie smell that got my mouth watering.

I was impressed, mostly because they did not smell like rotten eggs this time around. Maybe it was the slow roasting, maybe it was the maturity. The flavor was very simple, and I found that the smaller sprouts tasted a bit sweeter than the larger ones.

So, I suppose that I can officially say that brussels sprouts will be making their way into our home another time soon for dinner…I am impressed that the challenge was successful, and even more impressed that I didn’t hate them. Eh…live and learn, I suppose 🙂