Spaghetti Squash

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There’s a special place in my heart for spaghetti squash. I love all squashes, and my locally available winter squashes like butternut and acorn are great for stuffing or for soups. But spaghetti squash can be used like noodles! After cooking the squash, you use a fork to scrape out the strands of spaghetti, except they’re actually squash strands.

Now I have nothing against pasta, but of course a vegetable, even a starchy squash, will always be healthier, especially over traditional white pasta. Plus the texture is fun and different. It’s just an option. And you don’t need a spiralizer!

There are many ways to cook a spaghetti squash, but I’ll show you the one I now stick with because it’s foolproof.
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And I mostly love it served spaghetti and meatball style!

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Baked Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a cleaver, cut the squash lengthwise in half. (My halves aren’t perfectly matched, but I am always concerned for my fingers when I’m wielding a cleaver!)


Remove all of the seeds from inside the squashes. Then place cut-side up in a baking pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

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Cover with foil, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. If you want the squash to brown a little, remove the foil from the pan and continue baking for about 15 minutes.

Let the squash cool, then scrape at the squash halves with a fork to free up the lovely spaghetti strands. That’s it!


Try spaghetti squash as you would spaghetti, or with a Puttanesca, or underneath grilled chicken and peppers.
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Or you can stuff the squash halves!


I prefer spaghetti squash used as noodles. You can stuff other squashes!

Sausages and Zucchini

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This recipe comes from a cookbook I was gifted by my family, Kitchen Garden, published for Williams-Sonoma. It’s exactly what you’d expect with that title – seasonal recipes using fresh garden fruits and vegetables, plus a chapter on chicken coops and bee hives. The author is Jeanne Kelley.
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Now, every one has enjoyed grilled sausages and zucchini, I’m sure, but this recipe caught my eye for a specific reason. After the sausages and zucchini are grilled, they are tossed with a green sauce. The sauce it not unlike a chimichurri, if you use that term loosely, but with the addition of fresh basil, oregano, and capers.

My husband hates capers and everything pickled. So for today’s recipe I’m omitting them. But I’ll probably toss a few on my sausages and zucchini when I sit down for dinner tonight.

Grilled Zucchini and Sausages with Sauce Verte
Adapted from Kitchen Garden Cookbook

Sauce Verte:
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 green onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons packed parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers (or not)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pound zucchini, trimmed and halved, or a variety of squashes
Olive oil, for brushing
Salt
Pepper
Italian sausages
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves

First make the green sauce by adding all of the ingredients to a food processor, except the oil. Process some, and then add the olive oil. I left it with some texture to it, but you can alternatively make a smooth puree. Although, if you want it really smooth, I’d use a blender.

Prepare a charcoal grill, electric grill, or whatever you’re going to use to cook the sausages and zucchini. I’m using my oven for the “grilling” because I have a wonderful roast setting on it that roasts both meat and veggies perfectly.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, if you don’t have a roast setting and want to use your oven.
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Place the sausages and zucchini in a roasting pan and drizzle some olive oil over everything. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the sausages are no longer pink, and the zucchini are fully cooked as well.
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Pour some of the sauce over the sausages and zucchini, and serve with extra sauce.

And add capers, if you’ve been forced to omit them from the sauce. I completely forgot about the capers, and it was delicious without them.
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I served the sausages and zucchini with slices of a ripe garden tomato sprinkled with salt. A lovely meal!
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Buttternut Squash Aigre Doux

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If any of you have been following my blog for a year, and merci for that, you might remember when I made something called cranberry aigre doux. I made three jars of these cranberries essentially cooked in wine and vinegar. The recipe came from a very interesting book on canning called the Preservation Kitchen, by Paul Virant.

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In a follow-up post, I strained the cranberries from the liquid, reduced the liquid, and then poured everything over a room temperature block of cream cheese. My daughter claimed it tasted like Christmas! It was indeed good, and I’d also made the blueberry version of his in the summer before I started blogging so it’s not documented; it was equally delicious.

These posts no longer exist because I need to re-do them.

But I became even more intrigued with whatever Mr. Virant means by his terminology of aigre doux when I saw his recipe for butternut squash aigre doux. Okay, now I get it for cranberries and blueberries. But now for a winter squash? A vegetable? Of course, I had to make it. So here it is.

Butternut Squash Aigre Doux

1 good-sized butternut squash
1 large white onion, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sherry
1 cup maple syrup

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I used this sherry. It wasn’t good for drinking because I prefer sweeter sherry.

Have all of your canning supplies available and ready to go. I used one large jar that held the whole butternut squash, but you can use smaller jars, of course. make sure everything is sterilized.

Peel the squash, cut off the ends, and then slice it once lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Then cut each half lengthwise again.

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Slice 1/4″ slices crosswise and place in a large Dutch oven. Slice the onion crosswise into thin slices and add to the squash in the pot, and add the salt.

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Then pour on the sherry and maple syrup.
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Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat. Simmer the squash for about 30 minutes, stirring it around one time during the cooking process. You want it tender, but not mush. Let everything cool with the lid off.

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Using a slotted spoon, place the squash and onions in your sterilized jar.

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Add the sherry vinegar to the remaining liquid in the pot. Cook the liquid gently for about 10 minutes. I actually placed all the liquid in a different pan that had a pourable side.

Using a funnel with a strainer at the bottom, pour in the liquid until it comes no more than 1″ from the base of the lid. Cover the lid, but not too tightly.

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Process the jar or jars, under 1″ of water, at the correct temperature according to the thermostat on your canning pot, for 10 minutes. Remove the jar from the water, and let it cool.

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Store it as you would any thing that you’ve canned before, preferably a cool, dark place like a cellar or basement.

So then, what in the world to do with this butternut squash? Well, for me, the answer was simple. A salad! But a hearty salad. I’ve been making lots of bean and lentil salads lately, being that it’s winter time, so I reached for orzo instead.

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I put together a salad of spinach, purple cabbage, tomatoes, purple onion, orzo, butternut squash aigre-doux style, and some toasted pine nuts. Of course, I added a little salt and pepper.
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And the dressing? Simply some delicious balsamic vinegar and olive oil – both of which my daughters had bought me as Christmas presents! The vinegar matched beautifully with the somewhat maple syrup-sweetened butternut squash. I wish I could have shared.

verdict: I’ll probably not make this again. But that’s not to say it isn’t good, because it is. Mostly, the butternut squash slices taste like they were infused with maple syrup, although, fortunately, they’re not too sweet. Honestly, it was a waste of a lot of good sherry, maple syrup, and sherry vinegar. And some time that I’ll never get back. But if you’re feeling adventurous, go for it!

Cooking in Autumn

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Pumpkins. I think about them a lot in the summer. It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees out – I’m thinking of pumpkins.

I love autumn and all of the foods that it brings to life. I do love the summer months for fresh tomatoes and lovely ripe fruit, but seriously, there’s nothing quite like pumpkins. I think it’s not just about pumpkins themselves, but more about what they represent to me.

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it’s maybe my favorite eating season. I have a daughter like myself. We’re not too fond of the extreme heat of our summers, and pretty much count the hours until that first cool brisk day of autumn. We like wearing cardigans, we love pretty fall leaves, fireplaces, football games, hazelnuts, pears, gourds, and we love our pumpkins.

I started my blog at the end of September, 2012. WordPress tells me that I started it in August, but that’s when I purchased my wordpress theme. Then we left for a lovely three-week trek through Scotland, and it was right when we were back that I published my first post.

It was perfect timing, because fall was about to arrive where I live. Over the following months I wrote posts on pumpkin polenta, butternut squash soup, pumpkin pancakes, sweet potato risotto, pumpkin spazele, and acorn squash dip. I was definitely excited to write about autumnal dishes. Not the greatest photos – but fortunately, those have improved.

So now here it is 2013. I finished up my summer posts, and scheduled some that fit in quite nicely into the “shoulder” season between summer and fall. And then we took a long road trip through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. As much as I love cooking, it was a nice break from the kitchen, as well as from the computer.

But during the whole time I was gone, I was receiving my weekly posts from hundreds of fellow bloggers. It was like they stole all of my pumpkin ideas, and beat me to the punch! It wasn’t even cold out yet! I seriously thought I was the only cooking pumpkin freak on earth! I was reading about pumpkin breads, pumpkin dips, and pumpkin smoothies. I was in shock! There were also pumpkin falafels and crepes! Why did I never think to make those?!!!

It took me a while to realize that it’s not just autumn that cooks and food bloggers love – it’s every season. And why not? If you love food, then you’re most likely seasonally driven.

Since it’s just the two of us eating at home now, I really don’t need to go too crazy on making everything pumpkin, although I will kind of miss it. In the past I’ve made the requisite pumpkin butter and as a result, I still have too many in my freezer. At some point, maybe for company, I’ll throw some canned pumpkin into a savory bread, or maybe in some sweet scones for a fun breakfast food. But I really can’t be too obsessed with turning everything pumpkin like I’ve done in the past. And based on the expansion of my waistline since I started blogging a year ago, this is probably a good thing.

If you do want some ideas for using pumpkin, either fresh or a good canned variety, here is a post I wrote this past February. I was obviously obsessed with winter squashes and resisting spring!

And speaking of spring, when it comes, I will most likely forget about pumpkins and renew my love affair with all things strawberry and asparagus. Happy Fall, folks!

Squash and Corn Pancakes

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I happen to love savory pancakes. By that, I mean potato pancakes, wild rice pancakes, and vegetable pancakes like a sweet potato pancake.

This recipe would classify under vegetable pancakes, made from seasonal vegetables. Most of us who have a garden have an overabundance of one of two vegetables at least for a few weeks or longer at one point during the summer. For me, it’s been summer squash.

I recently made a soup from a combination of summer squash and fresh corn, flavored with coconut oil, curry powder, and hot sauce. It was so good I want to continue this vegetable combo, and so I decided to make these pancakes.

The fun thing about making savory pancakes is that you can create the recipe as you go along. Just about anything works. But I settled on summer squash, zucchini, purple onion, walnuts, and cilantro.

It’s really all about making the batter light enough to not make the pancakes doughy, but also holding everything together. So here’s what I did.

Summer Savory Pancakes

2 large ears corn
2 medium summer squash
2 medium zucchini
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 cup walnut halves, chopped
1 bunch cilantro or parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream, evaporated milk, coconut milk, almond milk, etc.
Approximately 1 cup white flour, or any flour
Butter or olive oil

Cook the corn for 7-8 minutes in boiling water, then drain. Let them cool
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Grate the squashes and place them in a large bowl.
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Then add the onion and walnuts
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Slice off the corn kernels and add them to the bowl, along with the cilantro and the seasoning.
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In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream, and pour the mixture over the vegetables. Stir to combine.
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Add a little at a time, begin incorporating the flour into the vegetable mixture until no liquid remains. Stop then. These are vegetable pancakes, not doughy pancakes with a little bit of squash thrown in. There’s a difference.
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By the way, any flour works with these pancakes. Gluten is not a necessary factor in making these pancakes cook, so if you prefer barley flour, go for it. Whole wheat flour works as well as any whole-grain flour, if you prefer.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Form two 4″ wide pancakes and smooth them as much as possible. Let them cook for about 1 minute, so they get nice and golden brown.
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Then turn the pancakes over. Immediately cover the pan and lower the heat as much as possible, so they brown on the other side, but also cook though. You don’t want the insides uncooked.

I have a gas stove. On an electric stove, I would just take the skillet off of that burner to let the inside heat cook the pancakes through.
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After about two minutes, place the pancakes on a serving tray, add a little more oil, and continue with the rest of the batter. This recipe made 14 pancakes.

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These are best served warm. They’re crisp on the outside and the walnuts add a bit of crunch. The pancakes make a very good side dish with any kind of meat or fish, but they’re also good served with a tomato salad for a light lunch.

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note: One thing I like about making pancakes like these, is that no pre-preparation is required. Except for cooking the corn some, but that doesn’t take long. I’ve seen similar recipes out there in the blogosphere, sometimes called fritters instead of pancakes, where the onions are sautéed, and the squash is prepped to remove its water. Unless you really don’t like the flavor of fresh onion or shallots, then I can see only using them sautéed, but it seems silly to me. And as far as the water in the squash, I just use it to my favor. The wetness of the squash just means I don’t have to add that much liquid to the bowl of vegetables. They don’t have to be squeezed and dried first. Just FYI!