Penne with Butternut Squash and Kale

14 Jun

OMG, so far all I have written is the title of this post, and my stomach is already growling. Penne with Butternut Squash and Kale is my new favorite pasta! And I am a pasta fanatic, so that’s saying something.It’s so different from all of the other pasta recipes I’ve tried, which are typically tomato based (and often have ample cheese).

Butternut squash kale pasta
In this recipe, the butternut squash and caramelized onions give the dish a magnificent sweetness that that complements the savory kale and Parmesan. And dare I say this pasta is healthy? I think so! Butternut squash and kale are both superfoods, and sauce is made from a little white wine, not oil.

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I admit, this recipe is a little time-consuming (the caramelized onions and squash take a while), but not necessarily labor intensive– you just have to plan ahead. I tend to get the onions and squash started, go do things around the house for a while, and then resume. Once the onions, squash, and pasta are cooked, it all comes together quickly. And oh my goodness, is it worth the wait!! If you love it half as much as I do, you’ll be very pleased.

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Pasta with Butternut Squash and Kale

(recipe by Rikki Snyder)

Ingredients:

  • Butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 8 oz penne pasta
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan, to taste

Preparation:

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until completely caramelized, stirring occasionally at first, then more often as the onions begin to brown. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to up to an hour. Season with pepper and remove from skillet when done.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss butternut squash with 2 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • When onions, squash, and pasta are ready, add 1 tbsp oil to a large skillet (you can use the same one you had used for the onions to cut down on dishes). Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds.
  • Add kale and saute for 1 minute, then add wine to the skillet. Continue to cook until the kale has wilted, about 2-3  minutes.
  • Stir in pasta, onions, and squash; cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes more.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Oreo Truffles: A Dessert for those Without Time to Make Desserts

8 May

Um, hi, I’m still alive! It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted. I blame it on my daughter ;-) Ever since she was born in August, I have been seriously slacking in the cooking and baking department (and obviously even more so, in the BLOGGING about cooking and baking department). She pretty much consumes my whole evening, so dinner gets pushed to after her bedtime, when I’m also trying to shower, set out clothes and pack lunches for the next day, clean, and do all the other things that are difficult to impossible to do with an awake baby– all of this as fast as possible, because she is an early riser (and a night-time waker, usually), so I need to get to bed super early to ensure at least a few solid hours of sleep! So in that small sliver of time that is now relegated to dinner-making, I’m now prone to make fast, easy meals like refrigerated ravioli, frozen pizza, and the like. I highly doubt you want my recipes for those :-\ I am so ashamed. BUT now that my graduate school classes are done forever (HOORAY!!!), I’ll try to do better.

Speaking of graduate school, we had a picnic last night to celebrate the end of the year. It was a potluck, so I seized the opportunity to get back into baking, though I eased myself into it with something easy enough to whip up during one of my daughter’s naps. I give you: Oreo Truffles. They’re SO  SO SO easy to make. The best part? They don’t LOOK like they were easy to make. I had everyone fooled into thinking they were those notoriously labor-intensive cake pops! :) Oh, and did I mention they’re super yummy??

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On that note, you may want to make a couple of batches. Is it just me, or are Oreo packages much smaller than they used to be? I only bought one to make this recipe, but wished I had bought another to double the recipe because it only yielded about 30 truffles. Hey, if I’m going to cook/bake, I want leftovers!

Anyway…I’ll give you a little tutorial because I actually took pictures of the process for once:

1. Dump a package of Double Stuff oreos into a food processor.

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2. Process until the oreos have reached a fine consistency. Set aside just a bit of the oreo crumbs for topping.

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3. With your hands, squish (yes, that’s the technical term) 4 oz of softened cream cheese into the oreo crumbs until well combined. Try to use a bigger bowl than I did to avoid the mess on the counter.

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4. Roll the mixture into approximately 1-inch balls and place on a wax paper or silpat covered cookie sheet. Pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt a package of candy coating using package instructions.

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5. For easy dipping, pour the candy coating (in this case, vanilla bark) into a tall glass. Using a fork, dip each ball into the coating, gently tapping off excess on the side of the glass.

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6. Before the candy coating hardens, sprinkle some reserved oreo crumbs on top.

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7. Impress everyone with your oreo truffles!

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I’ll keep the fact that you didn’t spend all day on them a secret if you will do the same for me :) Now… I’m off to bed!

Oreo Truffles

(recipe by Chef in Training)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Double Stuff Oreos
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package candy coating (e.g., almond bark, dipping chocolate)

Preparation:

  • Chop oreos finely in a food processor. Reserve a small amount of oreo crumbs for garnish and set aside.
  • With hands or a spoon, mash softened cream cheese and oreo crumbs until well combined.
  • Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a wax or silpat-covered cookie sheet. Put in freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt candy coating according to package instructions.
  • Pull the balls out of the freezer and dip in candy coating. Before the coating hardens, garnish with oreo crumbs.

Makes about 30 truffles.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Couscous

14 Jul

You know it’s a heat wave when the temperature is in the high 80s and it’s a “cool” day. Yuck!  When it’s this hot outside, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven or stove. It’s the perfect time to grill! Grilling can take only a few minutes and doesn’t heat up the whole house. Plus, then I can get my husband to do most of the work :)

Today I’m sharing a recipe for my new favorite grilled dish. Adapted from a recipe by the grilling guru, Bobby Flay, it’s summer vegetables; marinated in a a delicious combination of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, EVOO, and garlic, grilled; and tossed with couscous and fresh herbs. Super easy and so tasty!

I love the adaptability of this recipe. The original recipe calls for toasted Israeli couscous, which is delicious, but after running out of that rather expensive ingredient, I’ve been using regular whole wheat couscous and it works just as well. You can also use whatever vegetables you have on hand. I love grilled asparagus in it, but after it jumped in price, I was OK with leaving it out. Last night when I made this recipe again, I discovered that my cherry tomatoes had gone bad. I was dismayed because they add a lot of brightness to the dish. But I had some extra carrots on hand, so I threw them in, and they gave the dish a really nice sweetness. So really no matter what substitutions you need to make, you can’t go wrong. Grilled veggies are just that good :)

It’s delicious served warm, or at room temperature. Feel free to serve as a side salad, or like I do, as a main dish with some yummy grilled bread.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Couscous

(adapted from recipe by Bobby Flay)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 green zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise
  • 4 carrots, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lb couscous

Preparation:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 the marinade over the vegetables and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium heat. Prepare the couscous as directed on package.
  • Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill the vegetables until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side (depending on the size of the veggies).
  • Cut the grilled vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces. Add them to the prepared couscous and herbs and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 main dish servings.

Banana Muffins and the Win-Win Fruit

6 Jul

OK, it has been several months. But I’m happy to report that I’m still alive and cooking…well, trying to, anyway, in this awful heat. 100-degree weather does not make me want to turn on the stove or oven. That’s how you know that the recipe I’m sharing with you today is good. It was worth the heat!

Today I baked my new favorite muffins. Starring what I consider the “win-win fruit”: bananas. You see, I am very picky about eating bananas. If they’ve got a slightly green peel and are served cold, YUM! Love them! But as soon as they turn yellow (or worse, yellow with brown spots), forget it. Something about bananas (perhaps the texture) beyond the slightly green stage makes me go, “bleh.”But would I let the fruit go to waste just because it passed the small window of time when I’ll eat them for a snack? Heck no! Then it’s time for banana bread, or better yet, banana muffins! You can’t go wrong :)

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And as a side note: I really think my husband decided to buy 6 bananas at the store this week instead of the usual 3 (which I can usually eat before they turn yellow) precisely because he knew it would motivate me to bake the rest. Yup, I’m onto him ;-)

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These muffins are my favorite because they have all the lovely flavors you’d expect in banana bread with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, but in every bite you get a bigger proportion of the slightly crispy, sweet top (which comes from the cinnamon-sugar coating I add just before baking). Everyone knows the top is the best part of any muffin or quick bread :) These muffins are also super moist and really easy to make. As long as you have bananas, you likely have everything you need on hand for spur-of-the-moment baking. Those are the most dangerous recipes, aren’t they? :) Enjoy!

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Banana Muffins

(adapted from recipe by Giada De Laurentiis)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed
  • Extra cinnamon & sugar for topping, if desired

Preparation:

  • Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.
  • Fill the cupcake liners with batter until each is almost full to the brim.
  • If desired, mix a little cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle each muffin with about a teaspoon of the topping.
  • Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly.

Makes about 24 cupcake-sized muffins.

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